8 May 2021

‘The impressive thing is the range of conversations he maintains, the catbird-seat view of a diverse and sometimes precipitously-changing small industry with outsize cultural impact. People do just like to talk to him, plainly enough, but I think he enjoys the wide respect and gets to pull so much story together, working alone, in large part because he’s built the thing out in a manifestly serious way. Not just being a swell fellow that’s earned all that trust. Anyway, for my part, this is what I’d love to hear him have occasion to talk about — building that up (and where he thinks he might go with it, insofar as the question applies).’

That’s from my note to Simon Owens suggesting that he invite David Harper, the guy who runs online comics journal SKTCHD and hosts linked weekly podcast Off Panel, to be a guest on his (previously mentioned) podcast The Business of Content.

Well, connection was made, and I indeed got to hear them have that chat. This was a couple of weeks ago, in fact; I’ve just been too busy to get in a post about it here.

There’s a degree of purely private satisfaction for me in listening to them talk, naturally. But it’s good to have a glimpse of Harper’s project through Owens’ viewfinder. Harper is maybe a little unusual as subject for Owens’ journalism — certainly not among the bigger media-pond fish he tackles, anyway. The total media marketplace in our digital age, though, obviously includes an awful lot of strictly organically-conceived and -grown, personality-driven ‘niche’ work that may well only ever amount to modest businesses. Harper’s is what I’d call a sweet example (as also in many respects is Owens’, for that matter). I know I’m far from alone in finding this layer of market ecosystem fascinating matter.

19 Apr 2021 | 2

The immediately previous post might lead someone to guess that when it comes to political and economic alternatives, I’m only about the ‘third-way.’ That isn’t really true. I am wary of labels, but I’d be happy to be thought of as a socialist on some understandings of the word, especially if what can be called the ‘early socialism’ of two centuries ago is acknowledged as viable tradition. I’d much rather be lumped in with the left than the right, generally, if we’re being sloppy about it.

This post isn’t for sorting out my views on anything, though, it’s just for observing that the DSA — of which I’m not a member — holds an event on religion and socialism this Saturday and Sunday. (I only learned of it over the weekend.)

Presenters are to include representatives of the DSA Muslim Caucus. I think of this and the previous post as complementaries to a degree.

19 Apr 2021 | 1

‘Yes, well, I’m neither capitalist nor socialist, I’m …’

In the circles I’ve moved in, the word you’d expect to follow is ’Catholic.’ The Catholics I know often readiest with something of a developed identity and a line of argument in this vein regard themselves as advocates of distributism, a term with some popularity a century ago, in the English-speaking world particularly, through the influence of G ⁠K ⁠Chesterton in association with his friend, Manchester M.P. Hilaire Belloc. If you know a bit about the history here, the term’s associations may be troubling. (It’s partly from acquaintance with this history over about a decade now that my own concerns about the problem of pinning down fascism have gradually grown.)

But it’s far from true that such a ‘neither capitalist nor socialist’ preface must come from a Christian perhaps on the slippery slope to one of the many forms of fascistic Western-civilizationism. The world’s more complicated than that.

I’m excited lately about a new podcast called Re-Envision Business, hosted by U.K.-based Sheeza Shah, whose roles include heading operations for the international anti-inequity business network Zebras United. For her most recent guest, Umar Nasser, it’s ‘I’m neither capitalist nor socialist, I’m a Muslim.’ Check out their conversation, which ended up long enough that it had to be presented in two parts.

(Update: See also the post that follows this one.)

18 Apr 2021

Ed Piskor & Jim Rugg, the Cartoonist Kayfabe guys, play host to notable cartoon collector and SPX exec director Warren Bernard in their YouTube chats of the past week. I’m highlighting one here, their ~20-⁠min. review of the history of the publishing business’s long-conventionalized but never very usefully defined category of the ‘graphic novel,’ illustrated with items from Bernard’s collection. You can learn plenty just by visiting Wikipedia’s page on the subject, but this is more fun.

30 Mar 2021

Fueling my ruminations about liberal and fascist forms of social & political order in familial relation, lately, has been Robert Elder’s new biography of John C. Calhoun (1782 – 1850) of South Carolina. Reading the book itself will have to wait, in my case, sadly. Till then, getting to know Elder’s subject and thesis a bit in his own words isn’t hard to do.

I first learned about the book from Elder’s friend and mine, my Solidarity Hall associate Elias Crim. One of the links below is Elder’s conversation with Elias and co-host Pete Davis for Solidarity Hall’s Dorothy’s Place podcast. It’s good.

Until pretty recently, the conventional story about slavery and the states in accelerating conflict in America’s 19th century has set an industrially and societally progress-oriented North opposite a tradition-anchored agrarian South in relatively tidy contrast. That story is itself increasingly folded into subsequent period history now, a new consensus view replacing it. Elder’s Calhoun develops this view and offers, among other things, a sharpened picture of the U.S. alongside its variously urgently-modernizing European sister polities.

Calhoun’s America is a large subject, needless to say. Each conversation here draws out something different in Elder’s approach to it.

27 Mar 2021

It shows how little on top of things I manage to stay that I wasn’t aware, until yesterday, of podcast (and Denver-Boulder-area radio show) Looks Like New, produced by U. Colorado Boulder’s MEDLab, which is directed by somebody I’m happy to know a little bit, Nathan Schneider. If I’d been listening to this show since it’s been on, I’d have known, for instance, of Ampled when I wrote about work and organizing in December. I might’ve learned about Ampled elsewhere, too, were I sharper-eyed, as they’ve gotten some decent press in the past year. Ampled is a platform-cooperativist project in the vein of Comradery, designed to offer the services of a Patreon but on an altogether different model, one in which the service’s users are its owners. And this one’s up and running, serving a modest but growing number of musicians.

Check out Nathan’s interview with Ampled co-founder Austin Robey. These things aren’t easy to put together (as the Comradery team’s effort toward a yet-to-be-announced launch attests), but it’s well beyond concept at this stage. It’s being done.

20 Mar 2021

CBLDF, the 35-year-old U.S. advocacy org for expression rights in comics publishing, appears to be emerging on its feet from a year in which it faced not only COVID’s wild effects on comics-connected commerce and consumption but a dramatic #metoo-spurred shakeup. Two February webinar events, styled as member meetings, are available for viewing on the org’s site and its YouTube channel. (Another, apparently open to all, is set for Mar. 25.) Both seem to me good for appreciating the state of an industry undergoing a lot of change on a lot of levels. The second, ‘Comics After COVID,’ appeals to me more particularly as something of a snapshot of the business as ecosystem of small-scale producers extensively interdependent and increasingly attentive to a common task of cultivation.

17 Mar 2021

‘When people invest at an early stage in a tech startup, usually they’re looking for an exit. Right? They’re looking for the company to sell, to IPO, to be acquired. And cooperatives really are going in a different direction. The goal is to create long-term ownership within that community, whether that community is workers or consumers or farmers or musicians. We’re not trying to sell the company. We’re trying to bring that company wealth and voice. … Basing the investment returns on appreciation of stock price is really different. So, instead, generally our investments have to be repaid out of actual company cash. … And so, you have to act like a real company. You have to actually generate cash in the business and profits in the business in order to pay back investors. And we don’t think that’s crazy, and neither do our investors.’

Start.coop is about rediscovering the business growth potential of cooperatives in N. America in the 21st-century. Co-directors Greg Brodsky and Jessica Mason explain in this 20-min. interview episode.

6 Mar 2021 | 3

Another item on the organizing media freelancers theme — this one a little in advance of the date, for a change. Representatives of the National Writers Union’s Freelance Solidarity Project (of which I’m a member) and the venerable IWW’s Freelance Journalist Union hold a joint online event this coming Tuesday, Mar. 9, titled ‘The Case for Solidarity.’

6 Mar 2021 | 2

The shortest month is behind us, but as PW Comics World editor and More To Come co-host Calvin Reid says, ‘We do [Black History] all the time.’ Well, I can’t claim to, maybe. But I am going to note that this week’s More To Come show goes nicely with previous brief item of Jan. 20. Reid talks to the three-person team behind a new graphic-novel account of an unjustly obscure episode of the federal-govt.-enforced — and notoriously short-lived — political overhaul of the American South in the aftermath of 1860s war, with focus on the life on its central figure, Oscar Dunn.

6 Mar 2021 | 1

I’ve been a listener to Simon Owens’ Business of Content podcast for a couple of years at least. I don’t get in every show, a lot of his material being outside my zone of more immediate concern, but if anything, I’d wish to spend more time with what he produces.

In November, Owens did an interview that dealt a good deal with Defector, the ex-Deadspin-staffer project figuring in my Dec. 9 ramble here. An interesting conversation, to be sure, but doesn’t go so much to where my thoughts were tending in that post. A more recent interview, up a little over a week ago, does, on the other hand. The guest is Mark Stenberg, whom I hadn’t been aware of but whose stuff I expect I’ll be paying some regular attention to.

Owens’ and Stenberg’s conversation doesn’t get anywhere close to the big question of economic transformation, to be clear. But it’s very interesting still for approaching and naming, in a context where base assumptions are pretty straightforwardly capitalist, problems of ownership and equity. I recommend a listen.

Also recommend checking out Stenberg’s newsletter ‘Medialyte,’ currently paywall-free. His most recent, Mar. 3, is a sort of retrospective intro to the ‘creator economy.’ I’m wary of where the expression seems to lead, I think — something I’ll have to come back to — but I guess we’re going to get used to hearing it.

27 Feb 2021

When I wrote that rambly December post to do with media & publishing, labor conflicts, ‘alternative economics,’ &c., I was unaware of something immediately relevant then in (or close to) inception: a project to convene people, semi-formally, who are dealing with or exploring journalism business and cooperative organization. It’s called simply the News Co-op Study Group. Its only representation on the web right now, as far as I know, is the wiki site indicated below. I was able to join the group’s third session last week. Chances are good that I’ll have more to say about this in future.

22 Jan 2021

Darrell Reimer, online friend of many years, is a great source of provocation and encouragement — by way of example — to keep consideration of the various Christianities of one’s experience (not necessarily to be read ‘adherence’) fresh. Something he gave only glancing mention to over the summer, an L.A. Review look at Tom Holland’s recent popular treatment of Western history as Christian history, has been particularly productive for me in the last couple of months, albeit in a funny sort of indirect way. Having Holland’s book’s appearance on the brain led me to borrowing it from the library (I have it next to me now, renewed several times if still, I confess, mostly unread). Having Holland’s book at hand made me more than perhaps usually attentive when my girlfriend mentioned that her dad was by coincidence just then reading Diarmaid MacCulloch’s popular history of Christianity. I’d never read MacCulloch (nor watched the hit BBC series based on that book), so I got to looking into him a bit. That led me to his 2012 Gifford lectures (also tied to a book). I’ve taken in those six talks now several times — he’s great to listen to, obviously finds some real delight in the form — and moved on since to the audio version (via Scribd) of his history of the Reformation / Counter-reformation period in Europe.

20 Jan 2021 | 2

Matt and Sam ask, ‘Did it happen here?’ — the ‘it’ in question being fascism, of course. Verging on the glib, maybe, but don’t let that put you off. As usual, they really dive in.

20 Jan 2021 | 1

In a nice coincidence last week, I came via ‘social’ to learn about two cases of prominent figures of ‘Reconstruction’-era Black American history whose stories are being told by descendants — the first (below) via Nate’s work bringing attention to Black Catholic experience, the second accidentally, by way of unrelated search inquiry.

Cashin, I want to note, objects, mildly and very reasonably, to Politico’s choice of title.