Small Spaces « PREV | NEXT »: Manouche

March 1, 2010

safe and unsafe places

Last thing I need in my life is another online platform for the musings in my head that I generally don't find the time to post in even my existing online platform. But when I lost Bob Christgau as my editor at the Voice I remember thinking--saying to him, actually, maybe-I'd write for you again on toilet paper in a dimly lit room. Well, Bob asked me to join the ARTicles community, which is a great deal more esteemed than two-ply-tissue and pretty well-lit, technologically speaking (yet the pay's pretty much the same).

The point is that what freelance writers like me like is a professionally mediated context that reflects well on our words and the presence of editors, or at least just writers and hopefully readers, that care about how those words are used and what ethics support them before we even get into what's good art.

So I'm in.

Reading Wendy Lesser's post in reference to Alex Ross's New Yorker piece on alternative spaces, I'm prompted to point out that even the spaces indelibly enshrined as the mainstream of this or that often started out as "alternative" ones. I was reminded of that last week when the Village Vanguard--the acoustically charmed, pie-slice shaped, iconic jazz club--celebrated its 75th anniversary. A short film by Deborah Gordon, daughter of founding owner Max and present doyenne Lorraine, focused on the joint's roots: established by literary types; placed on the map by a group of unknowns called the Revuers (actress-comedian Judy Holliday and the songwriting duo of Betty Comden and Adolphe Green); and home to performances by Lenny Bruce, "Professor" Irwin Corey, Miriam Makeba, Pete Seeger, Harry Belafonte, among others, early on. (At the party, Corey, who's 95, was as insightfully incoherent as a half-century ago; in the film, we got see Lenny Bruce as interviewed by Nat Hentoff, circa 1960s).

Though a place like the Vanguard once did and maybe still does attract the diversity of listeners drawn to jazz, there is no longer one solidly physical  "jazz scene"; witness the resurfacing of impresario George Wein's June jazz festival in Manhattan, which, this time around, includes the tiny Puppets Jazz Bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn and, yes, that very same club Alex Ross wrote about, Le Poisson Rouge, among its venues. Which supports my hunch that those who have been declaring jazz dead have been looking for it in all the wrong places. 

Scary tidbit #1: Laura's news from Dallas was chilling, huh? Yet we could see that stuff coming, announced as it was with wrongheaded intent. Here's one I didn't: Last week, someone pointed out to me that they'd found a piece of mine for the New Orleans Times Picayune on the paper's site, but underneath the byline of some woman I've never met. Huh? My inquiry was met with this:

"We "upgraded" our blogging platform in the fall, and when we did, the bylines switched to the name of the person who posted the story - usually XXXXX, the features online coordinator. Impossible to correct them all. I'll see if she can get to this one."

I've deleted her name, nor need I mention the editor, a genial guy who didn't take the buyout. And my polite demand for corrections to my work (more than just the one piece) was heeded. (What about all those other bylines that didn't get fixed?) I'm sure there was nothing intentional going on, but there was also no apparent alarm at such a serious glitch. Does anything beyond "getting the content up" matter online? This one I didn't see coming.

March 1, 2010 9:43 AM | | Comments (0)

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