Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Samsung delivers its opening statement, argues that Apple iPhone patents are invalid | The Verge:

Apple delivered its opening statement in the Apple v. Samsung trial this morning, and Samsung followed promptly thereafter, laying out its case that it was already headed in the design direction that the iPhone brought to market in 2007 — and that the utility patents Apple is claiming were infringed may not even be valid in the first place.
Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy: Terrible idea or geek opium? - Salon.com:

Does that sound alluring? A full-bore, geeked-out, three-part prequel to “Lord of the Rings,” drawn both from the text of “The Hobbit” and from Tolkien’s ancillary, explanatory material, that takes us all the way from the Englishy innocence of Hobbiton to Smaug’s horde and the Battle of Five Armies and back again, leaving us at the doorstep of Bag End and “The Fellowship of the Ring”? Sure, yeah, it does; I already have the evenings of Dec. 10 and 11 blocked out as probable dates for the press screening of the first film. But like a lot of other lifelong Tolkien fans, I’m not convinced this is a good idea. Stretching this rather modest novel over six to nine hours of movies in quest of an undeniable worldwide windfall is possibly or potentially dangerous, like the work of someone who has tasted the devil’s candy and survived and now wants more and more, someone filled with the arrogance of immense success who believes he cannot possibly fail. It sounds a bit – just a bit, mind you – like a case of someone who has held the Ring in his hands and now wants it back.
Jonah Lehrer throws it all away - Salon.com:

Lehrer certainly didn’t create this system, but he didn’t challenge the way it coddled him, either. That system is working overtime right now to justify what Lehrer has done, to vouch for his intelligence, his personality, his struggle, his genius, to explain how this debacle happened in ways that completely absolve the system and allow it to remain intact. This is how it works when you’re part of the system. When you’re not part of the system, when you’re a woman who self-destructs so spectacularly, for example, the system works overtime to excoriate, to shred all dignity. The system still stays intact.
Faces 5

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Hub Review: Wait, wait, don't edit me:

In fact, it happened yesterday; I heard it again on the radio, condensed down by three quarters, with my partner. We agreed the "live" show was nothing like the experience of the live show; not only had all the hesitations and boring bits been banished, but some sequences seemed slightly re-arranged, and audience responses were far quicker on the trigger; the laughs were roars, and the cues were like pounces. It was quite strange having the actual experience of the show fresh in the memory while listening to its new "live" version - but the remodel was also somehow re-assuring in its subdued sense of control; everyone knew what they were doing every single minute; there was no room for risk, or human error.
Stewart Lee: the slow death of the Edinburgh Fringe | Culture | The Guardian:

It can cost so much to perform in the Edinburgh Fringe now, and the very people being deterred by these costs are just the sort of independent minds we used to value as a society; the same people now, demonstrably, priced out of further education. It's another example of the erosion of access, the reversal of social mobility, the entrenchment of privilege, and the gradual silencing of diverse voices. British comedy is much healthier than TV and radio output suggests. But more interesting talents desert its traditional spawning ground, broke, as promoters and performers replicate familiar marketable models. Last year being a young funnyman in a T-shirt, following the currently proven Russell Howard trope, appeared the best way to minimise massive financial risk. And the cycle of Fringe debt makes loyal slaves of artists, perhaps paying off their loss by working for their management's own subsidiary production and promotion companies. Journalists, media types, and the delusive Edinburgh Comedy festival are complicit in supporting a broken system.
Multiple Strikes of lightning Hitting the CN Tower
Billionaire Jeff Greene on Democracy -- New York Magazine:

This past April, at the Milken Conference, the annual confab hosted by the felon turned philanthropist, Greene sat on a lunchtime panel with Charles Murray, the author of Coming Apart: The State of White America, and historian Niall Ferguson, whose recent book could have been called the same thing. “Do you see this?” Greene asked the audience, pointing to a slide that showed the widening income gap. The crowd, whose members had paid the $6,000 entry fee to get investing tips, not guilt trips, made restless noises. Then there was a smattering of impressed applause, followed by uneasy laughter. Greene blinked, surprised. “People look at Occupy Wall Street as, This is just a little kind of a disorganized joke,” he said, raising his voice. “If we take another 10 percent of middle-class America’s income, who knows what kind of other social unrest could happen in this country and the changes that could happen to our way of life?”
John Biggs, Foxconn apologist, has written a brief, content-free piece about the new version of AGONY/ECSTASY which he hasn't seen.

As is Biggs' style, he capitalizes on what he perceives as my weakness to score points for his world view.

We are in a post “magic” era, when we are beginning to understand two things: first, that the business of making hardware is difficult, dirty, and boring and second that we have outsourced so much of our manufacturing might and we are trying to understand the implications of walking it back.

This is soaking in neoliberal brine—I love the idea that we are "beginning to understand" these things, as though we aren't responsible for the years and years that we've been doing them up until now. The "magic" he's talking about here is simply the conventional denialism people use not to see where their shit comes from. One of the reasons we begin to understand these things is we finally feel called to account for the things we are doing: artists, activists, and radicals in our society often have the role of talking about things we don't want to speak about.

The first of the two things he identifies here, that the business of making hardware is "difficult, dirty, and boring" is true. The question is why is it this way—especially the dirty part? Why does it have to be dirty? It's self-evident that Apple has the margins to pay a living wage in the region for its workers, and the labor conditions that exist at Foxconn are in violation of China's own laws. No one can contest those facts. Apple has chosen, for years, to drag its feet—and helped enable Foxconn to do the same.

The second point appears to be about outsourcing, and what it would mean to bring those jobs back to America. This isn't something I'm particularly interested in with the electronics industry—my focus has been, and continues to be, on the conditions on the ground for the workers, not trying to take those jobs away from them.

Daisey built a fantasy that revolved around the idea of the Dickensian workhouse as written by Huxley. Realizing the banality of what manufacturing really was – long, boring hours spent doing the same thing over and over – he had to add dramatic spark.

That sounds great, except that I never do that. The monologue actually specifically addresses this image in the section on the factory floor:

And why wouldn’t there be? You know when we dream of a future when the regulations are washed away and the corporations are finally free to sail above us, you don’t have to dream about some sci-fi-dystopian-Blade-Runner-1984-bullshit.

What I describe is what the factory floors look like:

Industrial spaces with twenty, twenty-five, thirty thousand workers in a single enormous space, they can exert a kind of eerie fascination—there’s a beauty to industrialization on such a massive scale. You don’t have to deny it—there’s a wonder to seeing so much order laid out in front of you.

Tech writers like Biggs are constantly upset that I made a "Dickensian fantasy". When you read the NGO reports, and marinate in the accounts of companies throughout the Special Economic Zone, you come to realize quickly that it isn't a fucking fantasy. Someone wake me up when they can find I included a bunch of orphans getting gruel and singing that one awesome song from Oliver!

Daisey’s play runs until August 5 and it’s my sincere hope that he’s done with it after that date. It’s no longer topical – when ABC takes cameras into Foxconn, you’re pretty much past the mainstream and into irrelevancy – and it’s definitely not true.

John Biggs is an incredible fucking tool.

First, it isn't over August 5th—it's booked in the fall, in rep with other monologues I'm working on. And there have been over 30 productions already, in other theaters with other actors around the world, so it isn't going anywhere in any event.

Second, if you think "topical" has any part of this conversation—if you think this is an "issue" that goes "cold" and then we move on to jerking off to the iPhone 5 or the latest Olympic brouhaha—you're an even bigger fucking tool.

Third, I was doing this piece YEARS before Biggs went over there to suck at Foxconn's teat and run a series of TechCrunch pieces that praised its incredible efficiency, where he proudly didn't even blink. He loved Foxconn, and he swallowed everything they had to say without bothering to check in with any dissenting views.

And not true?

Biggs manages to write this entire piece about Foxconn and myself and somehow forget to mention the FLA audits from just months ago, and their findings. He doesn't mention the SACOM reports that show nothing changing at the plants. Omission is the favorite lie of the journalist, because they can never factcheck you for it.

While I agree that all workers everywhere should get a living wage, building a moral iPhone or Nexus 7 may cost us more than we can pay.

I love the weasel word "may".

Yes, all sorts of things "may" happen. But Biggs is well aware that the labor cost of an iPhone accounts for 1% of its cost, or around $6-$7. So if those costs *doubled*, or even *tripled*, you are talking about a $15 premium. But by using the word "may" he doesn't have to show any work, and he can simply shrug and say, "Well, the world is complex…and we will never know." Except that we do.

He closes with this:

Hardware manufacturers are strapped to a machine whose engine is commerce and whose fuel is neophilia. The machine has to move, no matter what any playwright has to say. How humanely it moves, however, is up to us.

First—when the fuck did this "playwright" try to stop the machine? I've been really fucking clear about what I'm looking for, and it has never involved throwing wrenches into the Great Machines and ending all the factories in a Glorious Revolution. Right after they charge me with being Dickensian, they like to imagine I'm actually storming the barricades on Bastille Day.

Second—I love that he ends with something I actually believe in: that how humanely it moves is up to us. This moment is one that humanizes Biggs to me, and it's better than some. I recognize Biggs—he wants living wages, but it's too much trouble to do the work to get them. He thinks things could be humane, but that will take effort, and it would be easier not to try.

Finally, I'd like to address this:

We’ve tried to invite Daisey back a few times to talk but near his spin-out he refused.

I was refusing long before that. I was refusing even when it looked like I'd have the advantage, but I could not imagine how it would be worthwhile.

John Biggs is the Thomas Friedman of tech journalism. I can barely imagine spending time in a room debating with the insufferable Mr. Friedman. Debating Mr. Biggs would be like spending time locked in a room with Mr. Friedman's less talented, less articulate younger brother.
The Hub Review: This is, like, chilling:

But she does remind me that what we often think of as theatre's great handicap in the digital age - that it's hard to record its essence, that it is essentially evanescent, that you have to be there to experience it - is, in some ways, a blessing in disguise. Theatre never depended on the business model that, for a time, so wildly expanded the music business (which is itself slowly being battered back into a dependence on live gigs for its very survival). Not that this model is a particularly healthy one - but at least Google and Microsoft aren't bleeding it dry. Although rest assured, I'm sure someone like Emily is dreaming of a way to destroy it, too.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

‘The Agony and The Ecstasy Of Steve Jobs’ by Erica Laxson | DC Metro Theater Arts:

Not only do we completely buy into Daisey’s narrative, we don’t even question the honesty of the entire evening until Daisey himself points out the possibility of his own potential unfaithfulness to us. At the very least, Daisey’s goal to educate and enlighten can only be helped by the day’s instant access to information. You can be sure you’ll spend the rest of your evening corroborating his anecdotes with New York Times articles and dozens of Google searches.

Director Jean-Michelle Gregory has worked with Daisey to temper his fiery passion into an audience pleasing engagement that clocks in at just under two hours. This is not just a one-man show; this is an in depth look at the type of social activism the average techie can only aspire to wrapped in pithy nerd jokes and several side splitting impersonations of hilarious stereotypes. Daisey is brutal and honest, not always at the same time.

Is "Highway to the Danger Zone" a Serious Song? | Line Out:

Jen Graves remembers a time when "Highway to the Danger Zone" was a serious song*. I do not remember this time, but I do remember back when Tom Cruise was a person, so it sounds like I just missed it. I took a re-listen and WHOA is this one seriously pumped-up Kenny Loggins testosteroney n' cheese fest! I didn't realize that: a) the airplane is a female who is "spreadin' out her wings tonight"; b) Kenny has affected a special accent just for this song; or that c) Kenny Loggins was born in Everett, WA??

The last one-and-a-half minutes of this three-and-a-half minute long song are just Kenny howling (in his special 80's Danger Zone accent) "hiiiiighwaaay to the daaaaangah zoooooooooooaaane." That is such a long time to repeat a chorus! Does this song pump you up? Are you serious about this song? Because let me tell you, "you'll never say hello to you until you get it on the red line overload."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Today a video is making the rounds of the web—it's a piece of cam test footage from inside an HP production line, accidentally left on the laptop so that it made it through to the end user. This is very similar to the pictures on iPhones I talk about in AGONY/ECSTASY, though this is the first piece of video I've seen.

The video is remarkable because of the way it comes to us, and the raw details are what make it compelling: the chatter of workers, the floating bits of opera music overheard, the stretching as workers wait for new devices to arrive on the assembly line.

When I watch TV, I see car ads that exalt the American auto worker, and I've been watching those commercials since I was a child, so I have a vague sense of how those are made and that they are made by actual humans (though probably with a lot less American flags and waving fields of grain).

But how our electronic devices are made has been largely invisible. Watching even a few moments reminds me intensely of visiting factories in Shenzhen in 2010.

What's interesting is how video can be used to frame labor discussions, because we feel like by watching a clip we then know the totality of their experience. (In fact, a link to this clip at the popular tech site Gizmodo claims that if you wondered what life is like inside a computer factory, watching it will "answer all your questions.”)

But while video of a production line can offer an illuminating glimpse, it doesn't show us how long shifts are, what the pay is, whether it is delivered equitably, what happens when workers are reprimanded—basically, everything that has shown itself to be points of intense tension at Foxconn and other manufacturing plants.

This reminds me of Rob Schmitz's video of a workers assembling iPads:

Schmitz used the access Apple granted him to make a great utopian video—workers are shown diligently building iPads, testing them, putting them together by hand in some steps, manipulating machines to insert batteries in others.

The shots are chosen and composed for maximum visual variety and style. The production line looks marvelous and a model of efficiency. It's fascinating to compare the unedited, unvarnished webcam video with the one composed and edited by Marketplace in terms of style, substance, and what kind of messaging is being communicated.

What is not apparent in either video is the context, though in one case it's more egregious than the other. The webcam video, by its nature, doesn't tell a story outside its frame--we do not know what these workers' conditions are, but we get as close as we can to an unfiltered glimpse of what we can literally see.

The context of the Marketplace video is more complex. It was posted just two weeks after the Fair Labor Association issued a devastating audit of Foxconn's systems, finding rampant overtime far beyond legal limits, underpaying of workers, unsafe work conditions, worker intimidation, attempts to deceive the auditors, and a litany of abuses far and wide.

The Marketplace video never mentions this.

It also never mentions that Mr. Schmitz was granted access to the iPad line by Apple after his pieces about me were aired—access granted to almost no other news organizations.

The Marketplace video never mentions this, either.

This access allowed Apple to reward Schmitz, and Schmitz created a piece that is absolutely factually accurate…but damningly omits the FLA reports, and the context and history of labor at Foxconn. In a brazen whitewashing, if one watched the video alone, one would have no idea that there had ever been labor issues at Foxconn.

Mr. Schmitz and Marketplace's video has been viewed by nearly two million people. It is embedded on tech sites across the web, which have adopted its narrative wholesale, despite ample reportage from other journalists.

Where I've fallen short is a matter of public record. I've reformed my work, and I'm proud of the story it tells. I'm a storyteller, and I'm good at my job.

Mr. Schmitz and Marketplace are storytellers, too. They have crafted a narrative, and it's important to see what is in the frame, and what has been omitted.

I'm Still Not Shopping at Amazon | Slog:

Not sure what others are thinking in the office, but I for one am not celebrating Jeff Bezos' $2.5 million contribution to the marriage equality campaign. Sure, I hope the campaign puts the money to good use, and I'd rather Bezos spend his money promoting marriage equality than defeating it, but quite frankly I'm simply fed up with the oversized role the super wealthy are playing in our initiative process, and in politics in general.

One of the rallying cries of the progressive movement is that "there are more of us than there are of them." Yeah, true. But they have more money. And as money increasingly becomes the determining factor in politics (as it clearly already is in the initiative process) it basically means that the rest of us are fucked.

Theater Talkback: 'The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Mike Daisey Tries Again - NYTimes.com:

And while I still believe Mr. Daisey was wrong to include falsified material in the show, a second encounter with “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” served to remind me that Mr. Daisey is indeed a raconteur whose material would not have had the impact it had – would never have been the subject of that fateful radio program – if he were not such an effective entertainer. Whether comically emulating the screech of an early dot-matrix printer, gleefully describing his own obsessive attachment to his Apple products, or darkly admonishing us for “indifference” to the plight of the workers who fashion these now-indispensable gadgets, he holds the audience fast for two straight hours, with no intermission.

The response to the performance I caught in Washington was no less enthusiastic than when I saw the show at the Public Theater last fall. I didn’t hear any catcalls, but then it’s unlikely that those who decried Mr. Daisey’s fabrications would pay the price of a ticket just to jeer him. There’s something of a sad irony in the fact that “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” Version 2.0 is, in my view, if anything more powerful, funny and engaging than the earlier production.

Most Americans Don't Know What Capitalism Is | Slog:

The fact that so many can't define it is a sign of the system's success. If you don't know what capitalism is, you won't be able to mentally separate it from reality. If you can't separate it from reality, you will not see it as what it truly is, historical, but as what it is truly not, natural. If see it as natural, will be incapable of imagining other alternatives, other forms of social relations, other possible worlds.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Agonizing Agony of Mike Daisey’s Agony « the 5th wall:

So lie, Mr. Daisey, lie unapologetically! And if you are chastised by the powers that be, remember, to pillory you for your lies simply allows them to ignore their own, and to scapegoat your flowery name. If the theatrical artists of the world castigate your words, know that they often love little more than the opportunity to knock others down, especially if that work has potentially achieved what they have not: an honest, albeit fictitious theatrical moment.

I wish there were a China, and an APPLE, and con-artist foxes because then surely we’d see that your loony story were simply a noble request for us to genuinely regard the exploited other, the downtrodden, the wretched. As it stands, all anyone will ever care about is pointing out your foibles that they themselves relate to so closely it makes their genitals ache. They will jump upon you like famished hyenas to a recently discovered gazelle cadaver. And they will win, because they scream the loudest.

sehening Ramadhan 1433h
The fractured brilliance of Alexander Cockburn | Jack Shafer:

“He is a talented, despicable writer who enjoys vicious teasing as a kind of journalistic blood sport,” film critic David Denby wrote in 1983, which I think shrinks the Cockburn method to its essence. Cockburn delighted in extracting pain from his adversaries, in searching the horizon for new enemies to attack, and in routinely converting friends into foes. But when I interviewed him in 1995, he disavowed the presence of bile in his work.

“Bile is something eating at you all the time,” Cockburn said. “Bilious people hate. I don’t hate.”

“I think I’m funnier than I am billier, if that’s a word,” he added. “After column after column of careful analytic work, you take a few swings and all that people remember are the vivid slaggings, and all the careful theory goes for naught.”

Redemption Play | Washington Post Express:

“We felt that there was a lot we had to get to the bottom of for ourselves, and that what was mistaken or exaggerated needed to be acknowledged and apologized for,” Shalwitz says. “And that what was great and brilliant and important and impactful about the piece did not need to be apologized for.”

The contested material has been removed from the show, but Shalwitz isn’t sure what effect Daisey’s reputation as a fabulist will have on ticket sales. (Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak will join a special discussion at the 8 p.m. performance on Sat., Aug. 4, which should help.)

“Mike Daisey’s more famous than he was before, but will people want to see it?” He bets they will. “I wish there were more people who had his guts.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Theater Spotlight: What Mike Daisey Thinks of You » We Love DC:

Daisey: I do have a strategy. The strategy is that I have no strategy. People are free. If they’re not comfortable and they don’t want to come, they shouldn’t come. Theater’s not an obligation; it’s a ritual that we experience together. I hope they’ll come back, but if certain people don’t feel comfortable, they shouldn’t come. It’s not my job to chase them. I’m not a carnival barker. I’m going to keep doing my work. If they don’t want to participate, they don’t need to feel tortured.

Boulevard Lights

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


The Washington City Paper
cover story by Chris Klimek uses a classic journalism storytelling technique: it asks a question at the end of its first movement that serves as the thesis around which the story turns. The question is:

“Why is Daisey still performing a play that brought him so much disgrace?”

It’s a great question. It’s an essential question, and despite all the interviews and writing around this run no one has actually directly asked me this question, so I thought I would do my best to answer it today.

It’s been a hard thing to look clearly at myself and see how I failed to live up to my expectations. I abused the trust of the public, let down my colleagues, and I failed to live up to my obligations to my craft. In the wake of the This American Life retraction, I posted a full apology for my behavior which you can read

After the public story went quieter, it was time to really begin to examine what I should do. Rather than go silent, I decided to remove all of the material that was contested in the TAL retraction and rebuild the show.

To some, this may seem absurd—after all, the show has been discredited, so why bother? I won’t lie and say that there wasn’t a strong temptation to simply cancel everything. It would have been much easier to drop everything and move on.

But this story was always much larger than I am, and the central tenet of the show’s work—to connect the audience empathically with the brutal circumstances under which the things they use every day are made—is absolutely true and always has been. No one contests that—not TAL, who
interviewed Charles Duhigg, not Apple’s own auditors, not the NGOs who have reported on these issues for years and years.

Simply put, my failure to live up to what this story needed from me doesn’t absolve me of the responsibility to tell it right.

It’s similar to what so many have been demanding from Apple—I want them to make it a priority to consider how they are building their devices, and to take real measures to consider human rights and living wages in the process of their manufacturing. Just as I expect Apple and other manufacturers to reform their ways, I needed to look to my own house and do the same.

If I expect them to build an ethical iPhone, then I had better build an ethical monologue.

Classically, people go to ground in literary or journalism scandals that involve falsehoods and the betrayal of the public’s trust. But I am not a journalist, nor is this a book. It’s a piece of theater, which only exists when it is performed. As a consequence, the very thing that makes it ephemeral affords a unique opportunity to do the right thing, and make this story work ethically in the room.

One of the interesting things about theater is that it is not a broadcast medium—it is a communal undertaking. People choose to participate in theater, and my obligation is to those who are participating in the room. People who do not want to hear this work have a simple alternative—they can stay home.

This new version of THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS has been performed in five cities since the closing of the show at the Public. Based on deeply unscientific exit polling, audience surveying, and random questioning after shows, we believe that only about half our audiences are even aware of the TAL retraction. Many nights the number feels like it may actually be lower.

This creates a fascinating environment: What does an artist owe his audiences, especially when they are coming in with radically different expectations? How do we shape a show that works for most people in the room?

Peter Marks, the head critic for the Washington Post, said this in his review:

“Daisey does not use this revisit to Woolly to analyze his behavior in this affair, the unfortunate distraction that has turned Jobs’s “Agony” into Daisey’s. It’s a major disappointment…what’s missing is Daisey’s mind trained on the task of deconstructing his actions. Is that as important as the question of how thousands of Chinese workers are treated, making the products we love? Of course not. But it wasn’t Daisey’s listeners, or the media, that prompted this need. It’s unfortunate that some of us want the matter to intrude, however artfully this storyteller might weave it.”

While I can understand the desire for me to explain my actions, I think doing so in the course of AGONY/ECSTASY would be unethical because it would make the show more about me than about the very real issues and real people the show addresses.

Instead, in this new version, I try to make it very clear that I am a storyteller. I remind audiences, point blank, that they do not need to believe anything they hear on this stage, and urge them to find tools to investigate for themselves beyond the theater.

I think the new version also touches more deeply on the connections between rural China and the Special Economic Zones, and the circumstances that make work at Foxconn and other manufacturers an attractive option for many. It endeavors to humanize and complexify those relationships without letting the crimes that have been committed, and how we share that responsibility, off the hook.

The six minutes that were cut gave me the time to do this. Artists are thieves; this piece would have been nothing without the work of so many who know far more about China than I ever will and took the time to talk to me about it, or whose works I learned from. Time on stage is precious, and I have tried to make something that I hope does service to that time.

I do believe the work is stronger today than it was before; each audience member will make their own judgments, and that is wonderful. The show is not apologetic, because that would be terrible theater, and inappropriate in the show’s narrative arc. However, in the final moments of the show, at its climax, I do say this:

Steve Jobs, this genius of design and form, blinded himself to the most essential law of design: that the way in which a thing is made is a part of the design itself.

He forgot that.

And so did I.

It won’t be enough for many. That’s the way it is—it’s never enough, it can’t be. But I leave it there as part of the compact I have with those who choose to participate in it with me. And I say it because it is true.

Every night people walk in through the door who have never heard this story before, and I am honored to have the work of sharing it with them. When I talk to them after the show, and I can tell they are seeing their devices in a new way, I know that it would have been a crime to run away from my responsibilities and let this work die because of where I let it down.

The answer to why I am still performing this show that brought me so much disgrace is that now, when I tell it in the room, it brings me grace.

As an example of this tenacity, Remnick recalls the efforts of Seymour Hersh, “one of the greatest reporters I’ve ever known.” According to Remnick, Hersh “was working on the Watergate story. The New York Times needed to catch up with the Washington Post … it was killing them. He needed to get Charles Colson, one of the bad guys of Watergate, on the phone. How did he do that? He got to the office at eight a.m. — nobody gets to a newspaper at eight a.m. — and on a rotary phone, he called Chuck Colson’s home number every 15 minutes till seven p.m. Eight a.m. to seven p.m., every 15 minutes on a rotary-dial phone. … He got Chuck Colson, and there was the front page story.
Elsa Holmgren

Monday, July 23, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

'How to be a Foreign Correspondent' by Alexander Cockburn - Google Groups:

By and large avoid the UNDERDEVELOPED or THIRD WORLD or NEWLY
EMERGING WORLD. Reprting of famine and mass starvation holds little
consistent appeal for Western readers, and unrestrained speculation
about probable number of dead (one million, two million, ten million)
merely bewilders and depresses people. Stick to main highways of
Western diplomacy and American policy. Remember that your cliche hoard
is for CONSOLATION and AFFIRMATION, never be PREMATURE in any criticism
of your nation's policy. Remember that the world turns slowly and
that almost without exception what was true about a country ten years
ago is still true today. LIFE GOES ON AS USUAL. Bear in mind Lord
Northcliffe's sage advice to journalists: 'Never lose your sense of

McClatchy's Washington Bureau establishes no-alter quote policy | McClatchy:

As you are aware, reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg and others are agreeing to give government sources the right to clear and alter quotes as a prerequisite to granting an interview.

To be clear, it is the bureau’s policy that we do not alter accurate quotes from any source. And to the fullest extent possible, we do not make deals that we will clear quotes as a condition of interviews.

Friday, July 20, 2012

THE ORIENT EXPRESS (Or, the Value of Failure)


(Washington, DC) Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company presents a one-night-only workshop presentation of The Orient Express (Or, the Value of Failure). The performance will take place on Sunday, July 29 at 7pm. Tickets are free and open to the public.

Following workshop presentations at the Cape Cod Theatre Project, Arts/Emerson in Boston, and the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina, Mike Daisey and director Jean-Michele Gregory bring a workshop presentation of their latest monologue to Woolly Mammoth.

The show’s description: “To escape scandal, Mike Daisey impulsively decides to recreate the Orient Express by traveling from London to Istanbul by rail. From an English village out of time to the glorious minarets of Istanbul, from the ghosts of the Berlin Wall to the broken statues and secret police of Budapest's recent past, Daisey draws out the hidden heart of failure, and how stories, myths, lies, and legends are the way we tell ourselves who we are. From the end of communism to the triumph of corporatism, Daisey walks the borderlands of fact and fiction, wrestling with what failure can teach him, and us, on the long, strange road East.”

“When people undergo a scandal the likes of which Mike went through, we are used to seeing them swathed in a cloak of public relations spin, if not completely disappearing from the public sphere,” says Woolly
Artistic Director, Howard Shalwitz. “Instead, Mike dives right into it, bringing his artistry to his predicament. With his trademark humor and thoughtfulness, Mike deftly weaves together the story of his travels through Europe with a deeply personal and highly vulnerable self-analysis. For long-time fans of Mike Daisey, this is the bravest and most revealing they will see him on stage.”

“We have a long history of developing new work at Woolly Mammoth, so I am very pleased we were able to find room in the schedule to add this performance,” says Mike Daisey. “It feels especially fitting to bring it here, the place where
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs was born.”
12 People Killed When Gunman Opens Fire During Batman Premiere - National - The Atlantic Wire:

Around 12:35 a.m. shortly after a showing of the The Dark Knight Rises began, a lone gunman entered the theater though an emergency exit door carrying several weapons, wearing some sort of body armor, and a gas mask. The man threw one or more canisters of some kind of gas, possibly tear gas or a smoke bomb. Then the man began opening fire with an automatic weapon. More than 50 were people hit — ten died in the theater, four more died after being transported to local hospitals. (Update: The total has since been revised down to 12.) Police responded quickly and found the gunman in the parking lot near his car. The suspect (Update: Now identified as 24-year-old James Holmes.) is in custody and there is "no evidence" that there was a second shooter. The man reportedly told police he had explosives in his apartment and police SWAT teams have surrounded and evacuated his apartment complex and are searching his car.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Second Look: Samsung Galaxy Nexus (yes, it can go toe-to-toe with the S III) | Stark Insider:

Speaking of the car dock, Google is not yet shipping one yet, so I ordered one direct from China off eBay for only $5.99 with free shipping. How can they pull that off? I fathom Mike Daisey knows the reason.
Val Patterson Obituary: View Val Patterson's Obituary by Salt Lake Tribune:

Now that I have gone to my reward, I have confessions and things I should now say. As it turns out, I AM the guy who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in June, 1971. I could have left that unsaid, but I wanted to get it off my chest. Also, I really am NOT a PhD. What happened was that the day I went to pay off my college student loan at the U of U, the girl working there put my receipt into the wrong stack, and two weeks later, a PhD diploma came in the mail. I didn't even graduate, I only had about 3 years of college credit. In fact, I never did even learn what the letters "PhD" even stood for. For all of the Electronic Engineers I have worked with, I'm sorry, but you have to admit my designs always worked very well, and were well engineered, and I always made you laugh at work. Now to that really mean Park Ranger; after all, it was me that rolled those rocks into your geyser and ruined it. I did notice a few years later that you did get Old Faithful working again. To Disneyland - you can now throw away that "Banned for Life" file you have on me, I'm not a problem anymore - and SeaWorld San Diego, too, if you read this.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The trouble with content — BuzzMachine:

When I went into the room to have a conversation with these speakers — Oprahing — I heard this from some of them: We create content. That content has value. Implicit in this: We don’t want to share the stage with the audience. And I would ask whether that means they don’t sufficiently value the audience and the wisdom it brings.

That is precisely what I have heard over the years from newspapers, magazine, and media people: We create content. We control content. It’s ours. Pay us for it. We don’t want to lose control of it by opening up.

This made me see this content worldview as a problem, a seduction.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nourishing the Commons: Rethinking Intellectual Property by Isaac Butler | HowlRound:

The recent example of Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz is particularly illustrative of how copyright and the values of exclusive ownership conspire to strangle creativity. ERS adapted a work that would have been in the public domain had the Copyright Term Extension act not passed in 1998 (it will enter the public domain in 2021 and is already there in many other countries). They entered into a multi-year negotiation with the Fitzgerald estate to be able to perform the show in their hometown because a commercial musical of Gatsby was in the works and had an exclusive option on the material in New York. No one was well served by this situation, neither audiences, nor artists, nor the source text itself.

Had the commercial production been a financial success rather than a turkey, Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz would have likely never opened in New York. If the Gatsby musical had toured, there is some chance ERS would have had to stop performing it in the U.S. period. This arrangement may have served the interests of the commercial producers. After all, they would no longer have any competition when it came to Gatsby adaptations. The interests of commercial producers, however, are not the same as those of artists or the art form in general. Perhaps, as we have different tax regimes for commercial and nonprofit art, we should have different intellectual property regimes as well.

In this time of resource scarcity, it’s tempting to adopt a bunker mentality in which we insist it’s every artist for herself and try with even greater fervency to “protect” our “property.” We must resist this temptation; it flies in the face of our lived experience and runs counter to our art form’s history. Almost every playwright I know has a script that’s an adaptation of something in the public domain—generally a story from The Bible, or the Greeks, or Shakespeare or Chekov—while almost every single person reading this has worked on a production of a show that used copyrighted music in its sound design without asking permission or paying royalties. I wouldn’t want to live in a world where only Aeschylus’s The Libation Barrers exists because he sued Sophocles and Euripides over their Electras, or where Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream never happened because some distant heir of Shakespeare’s forbade its radical design scheme. As Outrageous Fortune makes clear, intellectual property is also not where playwrights are actually making their money; the average playwright earns under $40,000 a year, with only 3% of that coming from licensing fees and only 9% coming from production royalties.

‘Three’s Company’ Lawyers Object to the Play ‘3C’ - NYTimes.com:

Mr. Adjmi said that after six sleepless nights he decided to give in, agreeing to the terms from the copyright owner, DLT Entertainment, that the New York production would not be extended and there would be no others. Like many full-time playwrights, Mr. Adjmi lives mostly on theater commissions and grants — for him, totaling $25,000 to $50,000 a year — in addition to royalties from productions of his work, which include the recent Off Broadway plays “Stunning” and “Elective Affinities.” He estimated that he earned from nothing to $25,000 in royalties annually, and that he made about $2,500 from the run of “3C,” which played the typical five-week run at the Rattlestick.

“I can’t afford a fancy lawyer,” Mr. Adjmi said, “and I was getting all sorts of conflicting advice from my agents at CAA and my producers, some of whom doubted that the play would meet the legal standards of parody.” (The producers declined to comment, citing advice from their lawyers.)

She Will Not Go Quietly, Ctd - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast:

A reader suggests a "bonus Quote for the Day", delivered yesterday by James Carville: "The only person who has seen Romney's taxes is John McCain and he took one look and picked Sarah Palin."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Monsoon over Mono
Mike Daisey on the truth and facts of ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’ - The Washington Post:

Inarguably, Daisey was timely about injecting himself into a pressing issue, putting himself out front in his own larger-than-life voice. It’s something too few artists can say in the country’s play-it-very-safe theater.

“If anybody’s going to get into trouble, Mike would be the one,” Shalwitz says with a laugh. Daisey, Shalwitz adds, is “an indispensable American artist” who is “only tackling huge topics now.”

The period of vilification led to what Daisey calls a “dark time,” when “everything was on the table” — quitting the theater, getting divorced, worse.

“One could argue easily that I’m still in it now,” Daisey says, picking his words carefully. “But at a certain point, when something is disruptive enough, you’re sort of in it forever, in the sense that there’s a new equilibrium. Part of figuring out where you’re at — you never come back to exactly where you were.”

Last month in Boston, Daisey workshopped a new monologue at the annual Theatre Communications Group conference.

“It was a nerve-racking group,” Daisey says, but Shalwitz, who was on hand to deliver a speech of his own, was heartened: “I saw him starting to get his courage back.”

Gregory says repairing relationships with audiences will take time, but that she feels she and Daisey are “through the tunnel”: “This whole thing, terrible as it’s been, I have a sense that it has renewed a fertility of ideas. I kind of wonder if this won’t be an explosive year where we do four new things. . . . Everything’s getting back on line.”

Mike Daisey, Unreliable Narrator: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs returns - Washington City Paper:

In my view, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs remains valuable not for the specific facts it imparts but for the way it makes us think, at least for two hours and hopefully for much longer, about the human cost of the devices we carry with us. Daisey lied about what he saw and heard, but he didn’t lie in portraying the circumstances within Foxconn as hellish.

I was outraged that Daisey would risk the reputation of This American Life by lying to Glass and producer Brian Reed (a former Washington City Paper staffer) so they wouldn’t discover his monologue did not hew to their standards. But I never felt outraged as a member of his audience. Unlike many of Daisey’s critics, apparently, I’ve never assumed that anything a stage storyteller tells me is as rigidly factual as what I read in the New York Times. I reserve those expectations for Charles Duhigg, David Barboza, and Keith Bradsher, whose “iEconomy” series I might not have devoured when it hit the Times in January had I not seen Daisey’s show nine months earlier.

the other side of the glass is half empty
Craft Is Not The Enemy, But It Ain't Everything. - Parabasis:

I believe craft is very important. I am not a craft-is-the-enemy type of person. As an artist, you should be striving to make your work ever better and working to expand your toolbox so that your work can do more. One hopes that writers are working on crafting great sentences. Certainly, on the book I'm working on, I'm working on doing this, and working fairly hard at it. But it worries me that Cunningham is so overly obsessed with sentences, because there's all sorts of things one misses when that's all they pay attention to. Particularly with the rise of the "lyric essay,"-- a form where, often, the nothing your essay has to say gains value by being said beautifully and where structural thorniness is its own reward regardless of what it has to do with content-- I worry that we're starting to value composition above all else. Furthermore, as craft can be taught easily while the ineffable action of a work cannot, I worry that we've started to judge work on the very checklist Cunningham articulates here as being inadequate rather than recognizing how few good-to-great books actually obey most of the craft works we're teaching.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

USA TODAY — Mike Daisey to bring reworked Apple show back to the stage:

Daisey’s scathing piece, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” described poor working conditions at Apple’s manufacturing plants.

After his work was featured on “This American Life,” the radio show retracted the story — a first for the popular Chicago-based program that airs on public radio stations. The retraction episode tracked down the translator who had worked with Daisey in China and contested many of Daisey’s accounts.

Daisey said in the retraction episode that he eventually felt trapped by the fact-checking process for “This American Life” and was worried that if he was honest his work would be derailed.

The reworked show “cuts the contested material and addresses the controversy head on, using the struggle over fact and fiction to tell an even better story that pierces the hear of our human relationship with labor,” according to the listing from Woolly Mammoth Theater Company in Washington, D.C.

Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple says that he and a handful of other pundits — who each lambasted Daisey earlier this year for fabricating his story — were invited to the show. Wemple sees that as an attempt to call out the critics in person.

“It all smells like an attempt to put media critics on a firing line, the better to blast them in front of a rapt audience,” Wemple writes.

The new show runs from July 17 through August 5.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Editor’s Picks - Salon.com:

In the end nothing matters but the work. You can’t control how it’s taken, and the act of telling a story always involves a gap. Sometimes confusion is the risk of ambiguity–I say that to students all the time. It’s true at the fireside and it’s true in the parlor, and it’s true in made-up towns and New York. Two humans face one another, words come out of one, words go into the other mind through the ears and eyes of the listener. It’s a story. It’s simple. The gap is the thing. Make sure you build the bridge.
Drunk Literary Series Needs Host | Slog:

Nobody asked me, but here's what I think a great literary series host should do: Very little. A good host is brief above all else. (In fact, a good host should almost disappear. The only times I've ever left a readings series talking about the host was when the host fucked up: Got too drunk, was too insulting, talked way too much.) Then, from most important to least important, the necessary qualities are: Informative, funny, charismatic, humble, and imaginative.
Hyperallergic - Salon.com:

Deleting my Facebook account was a four-day affair. It took me that long to disentangle myself from the service and to let others know how else they could find me. “Disentangling” entailed deleting my photos, “unliking” everything and disconnecting all of the third-party services that used Facebook Connect to log me in. You may have seen these around the web, with the option to “log in with your Facebook account.” The problem is that, to my knowledge, there’s no way to get a list of the sites you’ve accessed with Facebook Connect. The reason these have to be disconnected is because in order to delete your account, you have to be completely logged out for 14 days. If you log in via any means (including Facebook Connect) during that time, you will have to start the process over, and wait another 14 days.

Social media is, in many ways, the mouthpiece for a new “me” generation. For years I’ve worked within this context, trying to find ways to poke at that conception — to subvert and manipulate it. But despite the common refrain that there are evils in all social media services, last week I found myself in a position where my principles overtook my apathy. Specifically, there were two relatively inconsequential things that precipitated my decision to leave Facebook.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Eyes for you - Explored
Covering Wicked Problems » Pressthink:

And that’s what I have for you today: a really juicy puzzle. It begins with a distinction that I have found useful. The distinction is between tame and wicked problems. Now given what’s happened to science writer Jonah Lehrer lately I should tell you that I’ve written about this issue before and since I said it about as well as I could say it then, I am going to say it in a similar way again… okay?

Here is a problem that anyone who has lived in New York City must wonder about: it’s impossible to get a cab at 5 pm. The cause is not a mystery: taxi drivers tend to change shifts around 4 to 5 pm. Too many cabs are headed to garages in Queens because when a taxi is operated by two drivers 24 hours a day, a fair division of shifts is to switch over at 5 o’clock. Now this is a problem for the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, it may even be a hard one to solve, but it is not a wicked problem. For one thing, it’s easy to describe, as I just showed you. That right there boots it from the category.

Wicked problems have these features: It is hard to say what the problem is, to define it clearly or to tell where it stops and starts. There is no “right” way to view the problem, no definitive formulation. There are many stakeholders, all with their own frames, which they tend to see as exclusively correct. Ask what the problem is and you will get a different answer from each. Someone can always say that the problem is just a symptom of another problem and that someone will not be wrong. The problem is inter-connected to a lot of other problems; pulling them apart is almost impossible. In a word: it’s a mess.

Obituary: Murray Kempton - People - News - The Independent:

New York is in mourning for Murray Kempton, the reporter on his bicycle, negotiating in his seventies the hazards of Manhattan's avenues, moving be- tween assignments as though they were his first and only and listening, always, to his classical compact discs that hung around his neck like some kind of tribal necklace, a sign that he was of a different caste. And what a caste it was. "The man has brought more honour to newspapers than anyone in my lifetime," said his fellow columnist Jimmy Breslin, who should know.

Kempton was H.L. Mencken, reborn. Different, apart. What he saw and what he reported, no one else saw and no else would have even spotted because they hadn't got his eye, though they struggled mightily. And that's the reason why most of us, most of the time, had to read his sentences over and over again. They might as well have been in Latin, or Greek, for all we could have written them, never mind the deciphering. But they glowed, that we knew. And they did sing.


My adventures in Journatic's new media landscape of outsourced hyperlocal news | Ryan Smith | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk:

The answer was no, and this phone call was the last straw for me. How could news stories with the Chicago Tribune's banner on them follow journalistic practices that would make a high-school newspaper reporter blush?

That's when I decided to pitch a story to This American Life. I'd just heard Mike Daisey's story on the NPR show and saw the positive impact it was having on Apple's questionable practices in China – even if that turned out to be full of fabrications and exaggeration.

The response to Sarah Koenig's excellent story on Journatic on This American Life called "Forgive Us Our Press Passes" has been dramatic. In the week since the story has aired, many of Journatic's clients conducted internal investigations and several of them found fake bylines. Meanwhile, GateHouse media and the Chicago Sun-Times both announced they were ending their contracts with Journatic. Free Press created a petition protesting the outsourcing of local news that's been signed by tens of thousands of people.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Monday, July 02, 2012