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Aaron Barlow's blog

‘Stuck in the Middle’: Dance, Movement, and Reservoir Dogs

What follows is a presentation I will give at the Popular Culture Association annual meeting in New Orleans, LA this coming Wednesday:

"I don't see what the big deal is. Everybody steals from everybody; that's movies.” From Swingers (Doug Liman, 1996), that line comes just as homage to Reservoir Dogs commences. And it’s true, though the ‘if everybody does it, it must be OK’ logic is a little strained. It’s not the purpose of movies to be original, but to be entertaining. And to be entertaining, one must work with audience expectations, which means working with the successes of the past. Instead of creating something new, one must make the old new—itself an old piece of advice. ‘Make it new,’ ordered Ezra Pound, revitalize. That’s where art lies.

Pro/Am Collaboration In Reporting: Is It Really Needed?

What follows is a contribution written by Aaron Barlow for a roundtable at the the Southern States Communication Association annual meeting in Norfolk, VA on April 3, 2009:

Collaboration depends on acceptance of certain assumptions, of course, including that both parties bring something of value to the effort. Given that and my title, you might think that I am going to argue against collaboration, saying that the amateur journalist just doesn't bring enough, that he or she isn't needed, even in the contemporary atmosphere of change and expansion in journalism. But I am not claiming that. In fact, I am not going to propose anything about collaboration at all, for I don't know what the best route for the future is, or if collaboration might be part of it. What I do know is that the amateurs, right now, carry the power in interactions with professional journalists; it is they who control the situation. So, instead of arguing that amateurs are the ones in need (though they may well be), I am going to suggest what many bloggers and citizen journalists have already suggested, that it may be that the professional is no longer be needed, that the fears of journalists over the past decade concerning the future of their profession are justified. Collaboration in reporting, as many see it, may merely be a way of keeping on life support a profession that has seen its day. Perhaps we should, as some have suggested, lay it to rest along side carriage-makers, milkmen, and Linotype operators. Starkly put, what may be feared by journalists for their careers may not be something that the general public need find troubling. The reporter running around shouting “The end is near” may be rousing up nothing more than a yawn. And the public may even be right to yawn.

Exploding the Monolith: The Value of Teaching Appalachian Literature in Inner-City Environments

The following is a paper I will be presenting at the Appalachian Studies Association Annual Conference at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio on Friday, March 27.

There are, of course, similarities between the Appalachian college student and the Brooklyn one, but you won’t find them if you go looking for racial or ethnic parallels, religious ones, or even economic similarities. There may be a few superficial racial relationships, but these will prove about as significant as lumping together the Basque and the Belgian. Some of the Christian denominations may share names, but the individual churches struggle with problems distinct to their environments. And poverty in the city and in the country mean completely different things. The similarities, instead, lie in traditions of trouble and struggle, of loss, of the internal battle between desires to give up and push on, of fatalism that somehow still pushes one to fight against fate, of a ‘borderer’ toughness that Appalachia has retained and new immigrants must develop—at least until they assimilate or establish a strong enough enclave to maintain themselves by themselves—and, sadly enough, of failure. Oh, and one more: All of the groups have found themselves on the receiving end of stereotyping, insult, and discrimination.

The Daily Us

Perhaps Nicholas Kristof (whom I do admire) hasn't been keeping up with his John Dewey.
In today's New York Times, he writes:

When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about.
Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. has called this emerging news product The Daily Me. And if that’s the trend, God save us from ourselves.

He worries about this because "we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices" and implies that the situation is new to the Web--conveniently forgetting that New York City, a century ago, had more than a dozen major newspapers (not to mention all of the smaller ones, the newsletters, the magazines, the flyers) and that readers were feeling exactly the same then, and acting exactly the same.

The Product as Process: Implications of New-Media Publication

What follows is the text of a short talk I will give as part of a roundtable on Saturday, March 21 at the New Jersey College English Association Annual Conference, Jubilee Hall, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ at 2:30. The session is called "New Media and the Literary Artifact."


Rather than an extension of our old texts of granite, solid and unwavering, what we have gained, through new media, is a 'book of sand.' As in the Jorge Luis Borges story, it is now impossible to find the first or last page, or to return to a page one has found before. Or, at least, to be sure it is exactly the page we saw before. Text has lost its solidity, textual scholarship its underpinning. You may think I'm stretching the analogy, but think again—by the time you do, the world will be different. And text will be different, too.

Priorities and People

Yesterday evening, I realized the mayor was coming.

It wasn’t hard: Department of Sanitation workers were cleaning the sidewalks in front of my house, my neighbors’, and across the street. Normally, that’s left for us homeowners to do. That, coupled with signs stapled to trees and posts stating “No Parking Saturday –Police Department,” made it clear that something unusual was happening.

The Economy, A Girl, and Her Dog

Bumped for more/better air time. Originally posted 2008-12-13 15:54:23 -0500. :)  -- GH And bumped again by Carol. I think it really is a discussion that we need to continue.

When times are good, when everyone seems to be making more than last year, the abundance seems so extensive that we don't really notice when certain people begin skimming off more than their share. When the growth, in general, is so much greater than can be reasonably expected, it's hard to imagine that it might even be greater, were not someone sneaking away with a part of what we know, in our hearts, is undeserved gain, anyway.

The Waltosphere

The Waltosphere: Walt Whitman's Preface to The Blogosphere

Crafted by Annie Seaton and Aaron Barlow

Digital America does not repel the past or what it has produced under its forms or amid other politics or the idea of castes or the old religions . . . . accepts the lesson with calmness . . . is not so impatient as has been supposed that the slough still sticks to opinions and manners and literature while the second life which served its requirements has passed into the new life of the virtual forms . . . perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from the eating and sleeping rooms of the house . . . perceives that it waits a little while in the door . . . that it was fittest for its days . . . that its action has descended to the stalwart and wellshaped avatar who approaches . . . and that he shall be fittest for his days.

Subpriming with Michael Lewis

When I returned to the United States in 1990 after spending most of the previous six years in Africa, one of the first books I read was Michael Lewis's Liar's Poker. I wanted to catch up with a culture that had moved away while I was away. It boggled my mind; all I could think of was Sammy Glick, in Budd Schulberg's classic What Makes Sammy Run? It turns out that I wasn't wrong to make that connection. Schulberg, who is now 94, has spent his life since creation of Sammy fending off those who would thank him for providing a roadmap to Hollywood success.


One of the interesting points in watching the conservative spin on this month’s election concerns the use of the phrase “new ideas.” Notice… no one actually has any, or ever lists the ones that so sparked the Republican “revolutions” of 1994 and 2000.

Another is the claim of “enjoying” the new minority role.

And a third is predicting that governors will “once again” show the brilliance of Republican leadership… without explaining just what they did that was so brilliant in the past.

Adults In Charge

Back in 2001, during the first days of the Bush presidency, Peggy Noonan (reflecting a Republican meme of the time) wrote:

It continues to look as if the adults are in charge, and Mr. Bush is looking like a young man who's up to it and maybe more than up to it.

Well, as we now know, they weren’t, he wasn’t, and he could never be. The childishness of his administration, it’s petulance and ego-centrism, wrecked our standing in the world and even spilled over into the campaign to replace Bush: All of those complaints that Obama would rather talk to an enemy than fight.

The Two Cultures

One of the things I was hoping for yesterday was a breakdown of the walls we have been building up in this country. Sure, one did fall—or crumble a bit, at least—the wall between the races, but there’s another one, much stronger, that the election only seems to have shored up.

Part for the Whole?

The showing of Synecdoche, New York I attended was packed.  Half the audience members were people my age and older (the more ancient end of the baby boom); half, as could be expected at the Sunshine Theater on Houston St. in Manhattan, were rather too cool to admit to looking more than, say, twenty-five.  All were rapt through the movie’s two hours and four minutes (about thirty-four minutes too long for the plot, I’d say).  Yet, when the final word of the movie was voiced (a word predictable from early in the scene), there was a collective sigh of relief.

The Public Good

Want to get depressed? Read Chris Hedges' piece over at TruthDig entitled “The Idiots Who Rule America.” His article resonates with me in part because of my interest in what Jürgen Habermas calls “the public sphere” (hell, my most recent book, Blogging America: The New Public Sphere even cites him in the title). Hedges writes:

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