Monday, November 19, 2012

Ken Burns Goes to the Dust Bowl

LAST night the first half of Ken Burns' latest docs, The Dust Bowl, went up; it concludes this evening.

By now, we have a pretty good sense of what a Burns doc will be like. That said, parts of this are quite ravishing. And while it is not exactly a work of polemic, this look back at this man-made disaster, coming so soon after the ravages of the storm Sandy, show us how we're really throwing the planet out of wack.

Here is my interview with the bowl-cutted auteur.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Publishing and the Creative Class

IT was easy to miss, because of the chaos created by Sandy, but publishing may be on the verge of a serious contraction or at least rearrangement. It's hard to tell what is going on -- a lot of only vaguely related issues are coming together at once -- but this is not good news for people working in the business.

Here is my story from Salon, the latest in my series on the pressure exerted on the creative class. For now, my focus is on the announced merger of Penguin and Random House, but there could be more.

I speak to a number of people here, including FSG boss Jonathan Galassi and publishing veteran Ira Silverberg, now at the NEA.

Please don't let the story's provocative headline distract you from my argument. Capitalism is part of the problem here, indeed, but capitalism also allowed publishing (and the creative class itself) to develop and thrive.

What I fear is the wrong kind of capitalism -- the kind that would trouble not just people on the left, but folks like Teddy Roosevelt in his trust-busting days -- is taking over.

Oliver Stone's History Lesson

ABOUT a week ago, I spent some time with Oliver Stone, and his co-writer, the historian Peter Kuznick, talking about their new "Untold History of the United States." The 10-part program, which goes up on Showtime starting tonight, is in a Howard Zinn/Noam Chomsky line in looking at international and domestic issues, starting with World War II.

Perhaps the key theme of the series is the idea of American exceptionalism, which the two see as quite dangerous, and tied to a Manichean worldview that dates back to the Puritans.

Of course, people on both sides of the aisle have reasons to be wary of Stone's view of history, American and otherwise. Check out my story, here, and let me know if you are persuaded.