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By Michael J. Smith on Sunday January 31, 2010 02:00 PM

Of course I'm revealing my hopeless old-fartery here, but I don't get Twitter. The stuff is so ugly for one thing -- all those '@'s and '#'s; what's that about, anyway? And the abbreviations -- it's worse than IM.

Why follow anybody?

Why let yourself be followed?

I don't get it.

One of my favorite Pwog buffoons, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, gets it, though. A soul-mate of mine -- that is to say, another dyspeptic old fart -- recently emailed me:


That's Prof. Melissa Harris-Nieman-Marcus-Bloomingdales-Bergdorf-Goodman-Lacewell.

My theory is that all trendy "social software" is designed for and targeted at the most self-involved alpha consumers, with a view to harvesting their bootlickers. Her presence on that site is all the proof needed.

She has 10,000 "followers"! Why, for God's sake?

* * * * *

When your vein of invention runs dry --
When your Muse says you need not apply --
When the Kosniks are dull,
Yielding nothing to cull --
Time to give Harris-Lacewell a try.

And she never disappoints. Here's her Twit "bio" -- where you've got to confine yourself to your bare-bones most-essential characteristics:

Princeton Prof, MSNBC regular, contributor to The Nation.
Combing for a minute or two through the Twitcruft on her page did turn up this gem, sparkling in the riviere-des-diamants of gormless fatuity that is The Nation these days:
Watching Barack Obama become President of the United States made me proud and hopeful, but I also found the experience somewhat amusing. I think many of us who were his Hyde Park neighbors and Illinois state senate constituents feel the same way.

I don't know Barack Obama personally, but I had a kind of political intimacy with him during the years I lived in Chicago.

I distinctly remember the last time I had a personal interaction with him. We were both standing in line at the 55th Street Walgreens. He was wearing flip-flops, short basketball shorts, and an old t-shirt. He was buying ice for a family picnic. Hardly the icon of fashion cool he became within two years of that moment....

These early encounters with Obama remind me that he is President not solely, or even primarily, because of innate gifts, but because he moves up a learning curve more swiftly and fully than anyone else in public life....

Today, as I watched President Obama interact with Republicans during the televised Q&A I saw another Obama that I remember: the law professor.

During the years that I was on faculty at the University of Chicago, my graduate students in political science often took courses with Professor Obama. They universally reported that he was a fair, but exceedingly tough practitioner of the Socratic method. He was willing to entertain any idea, question or observation, no matter how outrageous. But he always subjected the students to a series of logical interventions and arguments that often left students exhausted and sometimes a bit embarrassed. They quickly learned to challenge Professor Obama only if they had fully considered the implications of their arguments and prepared significant evidence in support of their case.

That Barack Obama showed up today. The President put on a clinic in public discourse, political argument, intellectual dexterity and moral courage. It was a reminder of what democracy could be if we engaged our opponents with substance, patience and civility rather than invectives, gamesmanship and boorishness.

"Political intimacy"! You wish, Melissa. Those short-shorts certainly stuck in your mind, didn't they?

But of course what one loves best is that Obie's prime qualification for the presidency is that he's a) a good student and b) a tough teacher.

Comments (25)


"My theory is that all trendy "social software" is designed for and targeted at the most self-involved alpha consumers, with a view to harvesting their bootlickers. Her presence on that site is all the proof needed."

that passage
has a very familiar jazz box to it

the splendid little sure footed verse
by father crusty
shows promise ....abandoned
diffidence ....triumphant


it will be a wonderful prose tightener
like the telegram

our culture needs verbal tightening

the tedious scorn for
sound bites irks my utterly sub vocalic intake mmechanism

i suspect sam johnson could make use of it
and that recent cameo player here
oscar wilde could too of course

its not the bite
that palls the mind
its the taste of the bite


i say

we all start followin' father inkhorn

get a twitter page bro smiff


"Why follow anybody?

Why let yourself be followed? "
its al about your follow to followed ratio

btw i bet
at close quarters
lacey is demure ...no ??

what guess u snuffy ??

Unbekannter Dieb:

Fisch große, Fisch kleine,
Vornehm und gemeine,
Erheben die Köpfe
Wie verständge Geschöpfe:

Auf Gottes Begehren
Die Predigt anhören.

Die Predigt geendet,
Ein jeder sich wendet,
Die Hechte bleiben Diebe,
Die Aale viel lieben.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.


I wonder whether Melville knew this text. It reminds me of the Sermon to the Sharks.

To belabor the obvious, Americans are a silly people. Systematically denied their responsibility, their energies are channeled into endless opportunities for silliness, which they eagerly welcome. Without it they would despair, for they are unprepared for seriousness, and thus disinclined toward maturity.


Not demure at all, Comrade Paine, or so I suspect. In fact characterizations like "brassy" and "over-revved" come to mind. I doubt that the woman has relaxed for a second since she took her last nap in kindergarten.


in its retrogression
late capitalism moves ever onward
from pet rocks to pride in being a twit -

twit·ted, twit·ting, twits
To taunt, ridicule, or tease, especially for embarrassing mistakes or faults. See Synonyms at ridicule.
1. The act or an instance of twitting.
2. A reproach, gibe, or taunt.
3. Slang A foolishly annoying person.


"disinclined toward maturity"

that's me alright


late capitalism

never liked that expression

too optimistic
and supplied with no evidence

i prefer nth stage capitalism
you choose your number
so long as you figure
there are m stages all together
where m > 2n


"brassy" and "over-revved"

i guess your right father S

just me foolin' myself again

Princeton Prof, MSNBC regular, contributor to The Nation.

Say no more. Sign me up as a follower. What a resume!

Lunch Resumé:

May we have 3 minutes of your life please, SMBIVA.
You won't regret the expenditure.



"there are m stages all together
where m > 2n"

Does the p in op stand for Parmenides?


Actually I do have a Twitter presence -- though I have yet to send a tweet. However if anybody would like to help improve my follower-to-followed ratio, I'm @anacharsis (does one need the ampersand? I still don't get it.)

Who knows, maybe if I get some followers, I'll start tweeting like a canary. Coffee! Yum! Nap! Good!


i'm more
a minor
constipated heraclitian


anacharsis ??

i see the hill billy part
and the transport to the big city

but the rest....???


Well, yes. I suppose it's a little grandiose. But I get such a kick out of the name. And it isn't one that's been taken all over the place.

Phillip Allen:

Anacharsis is a great name, with the implied zest for disputation. Besides, you can also claim the status of Son of Gnurus, and that is several kinds of awesome.


'late capitalism

never liked that expression'

hows 'bout senile capitalism

once again we get back to limits
but not quite so hard as 'late'
or terminal

and a bit
more uneven
as the long slowing

and more reactions set in
v. destructive creationism




terminating market via internalization
terminating prof by struggle to pop the comp of cap

only builds larger and larger pertty commd mode in every giant urban

vast chunk of folks
not so connected
not tuned in

unless 'we' magine permanent
primitive cumulation sufficient
to valorize decades of overdoing



citizen horizontal networking
had senility like features
for sure ...pre internet

maybe that gadget's effect
will reversre this


muy gracias señor op

since cheap portable radios helped
in some cases

while in other even the dynamics
of internal migration
helped [self]

es posible the inter
net can play

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