My new “Think Again” column is is called “The Murdoch Empire’s Heart of Darkness” and it’s here.
My new Nation column is called “The Twilight of Social Democracy” and it’s a report from the conference in honor of Tony Judt in Paris, and it’s here.
At dinner a while back, Sam Seder reminded me that I have the honor of being the only guest ever on “The Majority Report” to send a drink back on the air. We are at the HBO Comedy festival in Aspen with Janeane Garofalo back in 2005 here and the drink goes back at around 14:00. I think it had an olive instead of a twist or else it was straight up instead of on the rocks. (It’s always something.)
I have a bunch of reviews coming, I promise, but in the meantime here’s an Alter-review by Reed:
Our Media Ourselves
By Reed Richardson
I’ll be honest, I don’t quite know what to make of Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine. Gladstone, the longtime host of NPR’s weekend show “On the Media,” has written a book of media criticism that, it’s safe to say, looks unlike any other in the genre. That’s because, as she notes in the book’s Acknowledgements: “I wanted to write a comic book long before I wanted to write a book about the media.” So, when Gladstone, an admitted sci-fi geek, couldn’t make a futuristic graphic novel about the press work out, she turned back to her day job for inspiration.
That’s right, Gladstone’s book is a work of graphic nonfiction, which is a book category that has yet to reach its full potential, based on the great difficulty I had in locating it in my local bookstore and library. Illustrated in a semi-realist, two-color style by Brooklyn-based alternative cartoonist Josh Neufeld, “The Influencing Machine” delves into the history of the media in a series of set pieces fleshed out in typical cartoon balloon-text-and-panel fashion.
Some of these panels are fairly routine drawings of talking heads, but others, like the full-page image of a swirling stream of objective journalists forever stuck in Dante’s Limbo, are quite clever, well executed works of art. And, as appears on that page, Gladstone’s avatar—intentionally drawn as a plain black-haired, black-bespectacled, black-clad, and black-booted caricature—travels throughout the book as a sort of tour guide for the reader, interjecting commentary between the many experts and sources cited (the book has eight pages of endnotes), all while driving the narrative along.
Indeed, the continual presence of Gladstone’s image on the page and voice in the text strongly evokes the experience of listening to her radio show. (See what I mean?) And the fact that, at 156 pages, it’s roughly consumable in the time it would take to listen to a one-hour “On the Media” podcast only heightens that feeling. But because both radio and graphic nonfiction are, at their essence, storyteller’s media, tackling a topic comprised of abstract ideas and concepts poses a more difficult challenge. “It became a puzzle I wanted to solve,” she writes.