Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Neighbourhood Snark

Speaking of blogging and the L train...

Over the weekend, while writerprocrastinating, I discovered nycbloggers.com, a New York City blogging map, which lists blogs by subway line and subway stop. Think of it as a sort of Gawker Stalker for bloggers. My subway stop, the Grand Street L stop, has 18 blogs listed. I haven't yet joined up because of their "New Yorkers Only" criteria, which made me stop and think about whether I could qualify as a New Yorker...and the next line on their form is "if you have to ask whether you qualify as a New Yorker, you're probably not." Huh. They also say ex-pats are welcome, but I don't think they mean Irish ex-pats, exactly...

Anyway. Forget all of that. My initial pleasure at finding a blogging map to poke around at was quickly curtailed and transformed into sheer terror. What kind of sheer terror, you ask? Well, the kind of sheer terror that only a writerprocrastinator - that is, only a trying-to-write-a-novelist - acquainted with the catty directness of Miss Snark, Literary Agent can understand. Miss Snark tells it like it is. She's an agent, who writes an anonymous blog in which she answsers questions from idiot (and not so idiot) writers about querying, agent-hunting, agent-pestering and publishing, and she doesn't mince her words. Witness her crapometers for synopses, query letters and first pages. Yeah, those sarky red notations she inserts into submissions as she tears them to shreds are funny. Catty. Hilarious. Until you find it's time to write a synopsis or a query letter yourself (NOT for Miss Snark...who would seriously put themselves through that ordeal?), and then you start to see her red notations in your dreams. She scares the bejaysus out of me.

So, you'll be wondering about the reason for my nycblogger.com-induced sheer terror. Turns out Miss Snark lives one subway stop away, at Montrose Avenue. That's less than ten blocks away. I probably see her on the subway every morning. Oh my god, what if she has seen me reading over print-outs of my bloody novel? Standing behind me during the morning rush and snarking silently over my shoulder? Aiming virtual red-pen squiggles at my every page?

Thanks a bunch, nycbloggers. Making me feel like a tourist in NY was bad enough. But this is just too much.


Caesar And Cassius With A Satellite Modem

I don't usually talk to people on the subway. Not even if I know them. Not even if I got on the subway with them. But this morning, on the L to Manhattan, I overheard a conversation which combined (in the space of two minutes): Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar, a daily videoblog and podcast, and a round-the-world-on-a-trawler trip starting tomorrow. I did the unthinkable and stuck my nose in. And here's what I got: a link to Bill Bowles's website, which kicked off in earnest yesterday and will kick off in a different form tomorrow, when he starts his world voyage (not in the cardboard vessel pictured here, I should clarify). He calls himself an "Interactive World Traveller" and has a background in film and theatre. Equipped with a satellite modem, he's planning to blog every day from tomorrow from wherever it is he ends up. Today, he podcasted from Brooklyn - somewhere in Bushwick, I think - where he and his actress sister gave Shakespeare his turn on the waterfront.

I know that videoblogging (vlogging) and video podcasting are well up and running by now in the blogosphere, but at the risk of sounding like a fogey (well, I am over 25...ancient in blogging terms), I don't know much about this type of blogging, and I don't have any video blogs on my blogroll. So, while it might be old hat by now, I was still really interested by what Bowles had to say about his project and about the ramifications of vlogging for traditional forms of journalism:

It dawned on me a few months ago, that if you had all the right gear, (camera, laptop, sat. phone, solar panels) a person could be a new sort of independent journalist; uploading video stories from anywhere in the world, while maintaining one’s creative freedom. I figure that within a few years, most travelers and bloggers will have this sort of gear, and we’ll have thousands of un-affiliated reporters roaming the globe, sending out news as part of a diverse open-source media network. I don’t really consider myself a journalist, but I’m interested in trying out the concept to see what happens.

I think it was the incredibly casual way his sister dropped into the conversation that he was about to sail around the world with his video camera that really piqued my interest. Even when I'm taking the subway to Manhattan, it feels like a major operation. Maybe that's the difference between the vlogger and the blogger. Or maybe it's just that they don't have wireless signals on the subway. Yet.

Any vlogs or video podcast recommendations out there?


Friday, February 16, 2007

Tubridy The Theatre Pundit, Updated

Following Tuesday's post about Ryan Tubridy's thunderingly ignorant approach to theatre criticism (in summary: don't bother seeing the play, assume that writing about a subject is the same as endorsing it, imply that a dramatic exploration of a disturbing relationship is irresponsible because it will just encourage people to engage in such relationships in real life, I heard from the director of the Dublin production of Blackbird, Michael Barker-Caven. He told me that David Harrower, the playwright, was seriously shaken up after Tubridy's vigilante-style swoop, and that he had never experienced anything like it in the round of press interviews he had done for the play's runs in other cities, and he's wary about the prospect of doing any more live radio interviews about the play in the future. Which caution is understandable, I guess, but hopefully unnecessary - Harrower would probably have to find himself in the hotseat on Vatican Radio's Concerned Mothers Against Theatre talkshow before he'd come up against a presenter as narrow-minded and blinkered as Tubridy.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Yup, And The Editor In Chief Is Cathleen Ní Houlihan...

He runs one of the best literary blogs out there, and he's barely one to be fooled, but Mark Sarvas over at The Elegant Variation fell hook, line and sinker today for Newton Emerson's satirical take on Gerry Adams, Writer Extraordinaire, which was published in the Irish Times a (full) month ago (and covered by Blogorrah here).

In a post entitled "Why Didn't We Think Of That?", TEV faithfully quotes from Emerson's piece on Adams's refusal to publish the third volume of his memoirs without the guarantee of good reviews. The gag about how Adams is believed to have "serious reservations about the final chapter" is also taken as fact, as is the quote from "Ulysses Grant", Emerson's fictional Irish Times literary edtor:

Like most creative people, Gerry Adams is surprisingly sensitive...[h]e finds it difficult to finish anything unless he's absolutely sure that everyone will love it.

And TEV rounds it all off with a hilarious crack about a car bomb, before the commenters come in to rain on his parade.


Messenger, Bullet Wounds, Tubridy: Nothing New Here

Having listened yesterday to Ryan Tubridy pouring ill-informed fury upon David Harrower, the strangely-appropriately-named author of Blackbird, which opened at Dublin's Project last night in a production by the Landmark company, it's great to see a vastly more considered (not to mention professional) engagement with this controversial play already online at Irish Theatre Magazine's website. As the reviewer, Peter Crawley notes that Tubridy's screeching outrage at the very idea of a play which deals with a sexual encounter between a preteen girl and a forty-year-old man "is hardly an aberration":

In fact, it seemed a true measure of the level of cultural debate surrounding paedophilia, even – or perhaps especially – in a country so psychologically scarred by child sexual abuse.

True; most of the Tubridy interview sounded like an outtake from the Brasseye special on paedophilia six years ago. The same levels of stupidity, narrow-mindedness and hysteria were in evidence as Tubridy seemed practically to confuse Harrower with the male protagonist of his play. To write about such a thing as paedophilia, he implied, you must be somehow interested in it, which is sick. And anyway, how could you write about such a thing; how much do audiences really need to learn about this subject? Was Harrower just looking around for something scandalous to write about, Tubridy asked, in a tone which made clear that he, for one, had already made up his mind; did he have children himself? No, said Harrower, and the smug, disapproving little grunt which followed from Tubridy said it all, really. Naturally, he hadn't bothered to go to a preview of the very play he was not-very-subtly dismissing out of hand.

Crawley is right; this response speaks volumes about the level of cultural debate around the subject. But it also speaks volumes about the level and quality of debate and discussion around practically any arts-related subject on daytime Radio 1 programmes. With the new policy of distributing daytime arts interviews between Tubridy and Kenny, the notion of genuine engagement with a book, or a piece of theatre, has been utterly abandoned. It's gotten to the point where anything that sounds like a comment about the work itself, rather than about the personal life, interests and hobbies or (in this case) Virulent Paedophilia Obsession of the work's creator, sticks out embarrassingly, so that even the most fleeting attempt to talk in artistic terms about art sounds pretentious. Witness Harrower, yesterday, using the idea of his characters carrying narratives of their pasts around in their heads; in the face of Tubridy's flaming How Could You Do This assault, Harrower's response sounded like it belonged to a different era, a different realm. Which it did. It belonged to the realm of intelligent radio, where to discuss the arts, presenters didn't feel the need to mock or deride their subjects - or make clear their gleeful ignorance of their subject, another RTE speciality - before, or in lieu of, getting into a discussion of it. Wouldn't it be awful, after all, if their listeners thought they were actually interested in this arts rubbish? Good god, people would turn off their radios in droves.

Funny, then, that exactly this has been happening anyway, isn't it?