This week is Days of Remembrance. Remember? Perhaps not, if not, I’m about to remind you. You surely remember this: “We are known by the company we keep.” It’s the same with our culture. Our holidays, observances, all add up to identify our identity as a society, and the days we make special as individuals signal who we are as individuals. If you wish think about it this way; it’s about branding. Who and what we associate ourselves with personally and publicly matters. Take a holiday like Martin Luther King Day, mandated by Congress in 1983. Some Senators opposed it. It passed 338 to 90. It is still working to take hold. There are a number of reasons for this, some bearing on the face we put on as a nation. The Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust (DRVH) is an annual 8-day period designated by Congress for civic commemorations and special educational programs that help citizens remember and draw lessons from the Holocaust. The period begins on the Sunday before the Jewish observance of Yom HaShoah. It is still working to take hold. A Facebook post from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about the observance includes a reference to #DOR2015. The last time I checked there were but five posts associated with this hashtag, three of those from USHMM. Today is the first day of DRVH. Hardly trending. I’ll state it again: who and what we associate ourselves with personally and publicly matters. As a reminder, here’s a list of events. Here’s one reminder of mine, from my first visit to USHMM. It’s the Identification Card I was given as I entered. It is card #6706. The name on the card is that of Max Krakauer, born April 1, 1901, the same month the Days of Remembrance commemorate to the victims. At 41, Max died either in the forced-labor camp at Rejowiec or in an extermination camp in Poland. This, I will always remember. Note: On April 15, the start of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, On Being will present my essay “The Poetry of Bearing Witness” and my poem series “Terezin: Trilogy Of Names” — please share to help keep truth and memory alive. Here’s my reading of the final poem of the trilogy:
I started to write a tribute to Pete for this blog, having just learned today that he passed away last evening, Monday January 27, 2014. I probably will post such a tribute in due time, given some time to think about what I want to say about the life of this true American icon. In the meantime I want to share the reflections of Lawrence Bush, Editor of Jewish Currents Magazine:
My first experience of thrilling to live music was attending the 1963 Weavers at Carnegie Hall reunion concert. I was 12. The Beatles would arrive a year later and capture my aesthetic sensibility for the rest of my life, but Pete and the Weavers never went into exile for me. I would listen to him in his amazing productivity over the years and always, always be reminded of the fundamental values of international solidarity, love, humor, joy, justice, and faith in human potential that have informed and inspired my life — no matter how often I’ve wanted to retreat from them into a kind of uninspired safety.
Pete was one of the few great souls, and one of the greatest songwriters, of our lives.
I thank him for the Hudson River. I thank him for “Wimoweh” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “We Shall Overcome,” and “Sailing Down My Golden River,” and dozens more unforgettable songs that he either wrote or popularized and then used as organizing tools. I thank him for teaching my generation how to play the 5-string banjo and the 12-string guitar. I thank him for enduring everything from the blacklist to his unwelcome fame with equanimity and undaunted humanity. I thank him for touching my political soul over and over and over again.
Pete Seeger, of blessed, blessed memory.
June 25 would have been the 110th birthday of George Orwell. I was reminded of this by the article in Popsci which features some pretty odd photos, here’s an example:
So they say one picture is worth a thousand words; in this case that’s not the case. Facebook, Google, et.al. are taking your words (and pictures too), thousands, millions of them and crunching them into big data piles that then get analyzed and simonized and turned into the real truth about you, which then gets turned into “gold” for the data miners who make sure the information gets into the right hands. How important is all of this in the world of goods and services? Very important. McKinsey&Company, one of the “mining companies” that stands to gain by all of this makes it abundantly clear how critical the data is to our future as a society in the “picture” they paint in their post:
Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity
They’re not kidding around. The larger question is whether all of this manipulation and usage of personal information is innocuous, beneficent, or malevolent? It is not yet clear what the big picture will be.
This blog regrettably will have to rest on its laurels for an indeterminate period, until it can be resumed at the level of quality expected for its readers. Being engaged in a variety of major enterprises for the foreseeable future precludes adequate attention being paid to this blog for the time being. Microblogging or what has been characterized as “mindcasting” will continue unabated on Twitter.
Considering that the majority of pieces posted here, regardless of the passage of time, deal indeed with the verities of that which constitutes effective communication, it is hoped that they will remain “evergreen” and worthy of your perusal until the blog returns to active status. Adieu, sine die.
(one in a series of Strictly Opinion posts)
In June of 2006 Jay Rosen (journalism professor at NYU) punched out a blog piece for The Huffington Post under the title “The People Formerly Known as the Audience” originally aired on his own blog PressThink, which took Dan Gillmor’s (Director, Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at ASU) “former audience” idea from the book We the Media and punctuated the point.
It includes clenched fist verbiage. Those in the forefront of a revolution often need to express a point with an exclamation point. Now that a lot of the dust has settled – and the point itself has been settled – there can be no real question in February of 2010 that media communication needs to be a two-way street, irrespective of who initiates that communication, it seems appropriate to invite consideration of the basis for relationship/interaction models for now and the future .
The movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind demonstrates that music is quite literally a universal form of communication. With this in mind, I want to give some examples from the world of music to make a point about media communication and “audience” participation.
I have a passion for music, in most all its myriad forms, from tabla (type of drums played in India, more about these later) to banjo, from classical harp to jazz flugelhorn. In my youth I was very immersed in the American folk music revival of the time. Later I was part of a singing group called “The Evening’s Entertainment” with gigs ranging from charity events to nursing homes (not the big time to be sure but rewarding nonetheless). As a singer/songwriter I sent a demo tape into the great Nashville vortex never to be heard again. I have been on the stage and in the stands and it is from this perspective that I want to review the proceedings.
Speaking of folk music, when Pete Seeger, the folk music/activist icon “took” the stage, he never for a moment construed his goal as – be quiet and listen vis-a-vis those who sat or stood before him; his modus operandi has always been – get everybody singin’ – his intent is to ensure that everyone in the hall/on the shoreline, wherever, participates in the moment, creating a collective “experience” which by its very nature moves mind and emotion. This isn’t a just found “theory of practice”, it is an approach that comes naturally to a natural-born communicator who has been around the horn. The idea of participation of this sort is nothing new.
Many “primitive” types of music involve “call and response” in which one participant initiates a musical statement and this is answered by other participants. This has evolved into very sophisticated forms – but it all relates back to this basic one. There is the traditional jazz ensemble in which each instrument takes a turn with a lead solo of specified length, improvising – everyone knows the “changes” (the chord progressions and structures for a particular piece) – and “working around” the melody produces sometimes very innovative and novel results. In classical music, somewhat the same process is achieved through “variations on a theme”.
This musical interlude has been presented to show that, just as in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind an optimal way to generate communication – given varying circumstances and the desired outcome -can be achieved when there is a sincere motivation and commitment to do so.
What is touted as new is the application of these musically common approaches to another form of communication – but everybody is not in fact always equal in the endeavor. There are Andrea Bocelli moments in the world of journalism for instance, which warrant just “listening to”. To suggest we are all in this together is fine, but sometimes we – the people formerly known as the audience – can contribute most effectively by just clapping our hands in time to the music. The term “audience” is not yet ready to be relegated to the archaic. The audience defines itself and its role. An audience, as such, can be very much involved in any given instance. The performer requires an audience as much as the other way around – if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This is a well-known philosophical inquiry and applies in this case. Speaking of philosophy, there is another important concept that bears on the nature of participants and communication, that springs from this discipline. For Martin Buber the eminent philosopher, the idea of “dialogue” is an essential building block of community, and involves communication in which relationship and connection are achieved between the participants. It involves having regard for both self and the other. It is the difference between talking with someone and talking to someone.
Back to the tabla drums of India as mentioned earlier. The two tabla drums are played in combination to produce very complex rhythmic and melodic patterns which are steeped in long-standing tradition, and passed on from tabla master to disciple. (tabla example). Each of the two drums produces its own unique set of sounds and played together the blending of these sounds is equally unique. The tabla drums are a metaphor for any form of what might be termed interconnected communication, including media communication as it is evolving. This concept of interconnected communication stems from collaborative method theory which provides, along with the concepts of music and dialogue referred to here , an excellent basis for considering what is possible with media. In the end, the goal is that each “actor” brings their own value to the final result produced by the interconnection. Bravo!