Published: Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Last Build Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2017 08:49:53 -0500
Sun, 11 Sep 2016 12:41:00 -0400On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I published an essay in Reason titled "Why Art Failed Us After 9/11." My basic argument was the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were ultimately so senseless and pointless that they mostly escaped our capacity to come to terms with them. A number of prominent artists, musicians, and writers—I focus on Bruce Springsteen and Don DeLillo at length—tried to process the attacks and failed, largely because they refused to inhabit the actual scene of the crime. Ground Zero, it seemed, was the one place no one could figuratively stay near because the mound of flesh, bone, and rubble was just too much to bear. At the same time, there were artists who I thought rose to the occasion, especially in terms of offering comfort in the aftermath of the attacks. From the essay: Two consciously artistic gestures stand out, one of them ephemeral and the other highly praised. In December 2001, Elton John performed a "Live by Request" concert on the A&E cable channel, in which fans could call in and ask the one-time Captain Fantastic to perform their favorite tunes. Like McCartney, Young, and Springsteen, John has seen far better days, both as an artist and as a seller of merchandise. No act dominated the '70s charts like Sir Elton, that rare pop star whose commercial success was surpassed only by his interest in pushing the envelope musically. Since that long-ago heyday, he has survived a sham marriage, cut-out bins full of regrettable albums, hair plugs gone bad, multiple addictions and near-bankruptcies, the almost total loss of one of the most memorable voices in rock, and worse. He soldiers on, touring well past middle age, fat, bald, off-key, and generally happy. A woman called in to John's concert and explained that her husband was a first responder who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. She said that his favorite song was John's 1972 hit "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long Long Time)." There John was at the piano looking uncomfortably from the side like Marlon Brando tickling the ivories in The Island of Dr. Moreau, wheezing his way through a song that all of us had heard a million times before, including unintentional and intentional parody versions by the likes of William Shatner, Chris Elliott, and Stewie from Family Guy. The song's scant lyrics can be charitably described as sub-literate ("Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids…and there's no one there to raise them if you did") yet in John's croaky reading they managed to capture a profound sense of isolation, fear, and loss eerily resonant with the moment: "I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife/It's lonely out in space/On such a timeless flight/…Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone." John was sweating profusely, his voice cracking on virtually every note, high and low. The song hushed the crowd, giving all who heard it four minutes of intense communion with the dead. I've searched for that particular performance online but haven't been able to locate it. The other brilliant meditation on 9/11 suffered no such fate. The 2008 documentary Man on Wire is readily available for sale online and can be streamed at sites such as Netflix and Amazon. The deserving winner of an Academy Award, James Marsh's film retells the story of the French aerialist Philippe Petit, who in 1974 strung a cable between the Twin Towers and spent the better part of an hour performing 1,300 feet above a sparse but rapidly growing audience in lower Manhattan before being taken into custody. No moving footage of the actual performance remains, so the narrative is told through period stills, newsreels, interviews, and dramatic reconstructions. As with 9/11, we know how the story ends, yet the tension throughout the film is almost unbearable. Time and again, Petit's grand, long-planned conspiracy almost fails to come together, and yet when he finally takes to the air, all those struggles melt away into a celebration of man's outer limits of possibility as Petit literally dances on thin air. The tig[...]
Sun, 07 Jun 2015 10:00:00 -0400Al Pacino has withdrawn from a Danish stage version of Knut Hamsun's novel, Hunger, after learning that the Norwegian Nobel prize-winning author had been an ardent supporter of Nazi Germany. The move dismayed some of Hamsun's defenders, but it's also a reminder of the appalling state of intellectual life during the rise of fascism. So many writers and thinkers embraced fascism in those years that they constituted what came to be called a "fascist foreign legion." Hunger (1890) is considered a classic of psychological literature, and Hamsun himself is regarded by many critics and writers as one of the fathers of literary Modernism, and an important influence on such writers as Franz Kafka, Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann, and many others. In a 1987 introduction to Hunger, Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote that "The whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun." The head of Norway's Hamsun Society, Hege Faust, lamented Pacino's failure to distinguish Hamsun's writerly achievements from the politics he embraced as an old man. "If one looks at the impact Hunger made on Hemingway, Kafka, Hesse, Lindgren, Singer, and other prominent authors at the time, it is somewhat strange to see to what extent this differs from today's judgement" by Pacino, she told Britain's Telegraph. Hamsun's fascism was hardly a byproduct of hardening of the arteries. He lived for a time in the 1880s in the U.S., and came to dislike the country for its egalitarian principles, and because it had a large black population (even though that population wasn't benefitting much from the egalitarianism). His 1918 novel, Growth of the Soil, is a pretty good example of "blood and soil" lit. John Carey, a British critic, cites a passage from Hamsun's Kareno trilogy of dramas, written in the 1890s, as indicative of his outlook: "I believe in the born leader, the natural despot, the master, not the man who is chosen but the man who elects himself to be ruler over the masses. I believe in and hope for one thing, and that is the return of the great terrorist, the living essence of human power, the Caesar." Hamsun, who gave his Nobel to Hitler as a mark of his esteem, remained faithful to the fascist cause to the bitter end. Hamsun's most-often quoted words come from the brief eulogy for Hitler that he published in a collaborationist newspaper in May 1945, a week after the Fuehrer died. "Hitler was a warrior," wrote Hamsun, "a warrior for humankind and a preacher of the gospel of justice for all nations." Many of his fellow Norwegians reportedly chose to mark the end of the Nazi occupation by burning Hamsun's books. Hamsun was eventually fined, though a doctor asserted that his guilt should be understood in terms of the writer's "permanently impaired mental abilities." The supposedly impaired Hamsun was later to publish a book defending his collaboration. Something similar happened with Ezra Pound, the U.S. poet and champion of the avant-garde who delivered propaganda radio broadcasts on behalf of Mussolini ("the Boss," as Pound calls him in the Cantos). Instead of standing trial for treason, Pound presented a plea of insanity and ended up receiving Hemingway and other visitors in his book-lined room at St. Elizabeths asylum in Washington, with the connivance of the hospital staff. Neither Hamsun nor Pound were outliers; the list of admired (or once-admired) writers who in turn admired fascism is quite long; some later paid a price in terms of their reputations, others—in common with the large cadre of writers who embraced the Soviet Union—have had their embarrassing politics reduced to footnotes. "Who is the true friend of the people?" asked Louis-Ferdinand Celine. "Fascism is," he answered. "Who has done the most for the working man? The USSR or Hitler? Hitler has." That's the same Louis-Ferdinand Celine who revolutionized French writing with such novels as Journey to the End of the Night (1932), a work that has influenced even Anglophone artists from Charles Bukowski to Jim Morrison; Catch-22 is in some ways a tribut[...]
Sat, 31 May 2014 07:00:00 -0400
This month's cover image was created by Martin Ansin, an artist living in Montevideo, Uruguay. Ansin's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Rolling Stone, Fortune, Playboy, Wired, Entertainment Weekly, and The New Yorker. He has also created promotional images for the TV show Archer.
In addition to his magazine and television work, Ansin has produced more than a dozen posters for Mondo, a company that issues high-quality limited-edition poster prints for classic and popular films, often in conjunction with special screenings. Ansin got his start working with Mondo when the company saw some of his personal illustrations on his portfolio website. "The guys at Mondo liked them enough to give me a chance to do a poster for a special screening of Metropolis," Ansin says, "and we've been working together since."
Ansin's reason cover plays on imagery from Grand Theft Auto V, replacing the young, tattooed slacker-gamer with a be-suited grown-up who is more representative of the modern gamer demographic. Ansin tweaked the gamer's accoutrements as well, throwing in a can of Four Loko and a recursive edition of reason magazine, but leaving the bong intact.
The game is the best-selling video game of 2013 and one of the most commercially successful games of all time. Ansin is a fan. He says he's played "most of the Grand Theft Auto [games] through the years, but I didn't get to finish the last one yet. It's getting harder to find the time for the longer games."
Mon, 27 Jan 2014 12:06:00 -0500
(image) On Tuesday, January 28, please join me and the D.C.-based staff of Reason at a party for former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel’s new book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion.
Virginia’s latest work is a meditation on how our perception of glamour shapes our culture, determines the choices we make, and reveals our inner-selves. The book is an entertaining romp, analyzing the deeper significance of the glamorous people and places that have shaped the last century of American culture.
The Power of Glamour will be available for sale and signing by Virginia, a columnist for Bloomberg View who has been called "a master D.J. who sequences the latest riffs from the hard sciences, the social sciences, business, and technology, to name only a few sources."
(image) We're also welcoming the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to Washington, D.C., as the group sets up its first office in the Capital City (conspiracy theorists, please note that Postrel is on FIRE's board of trustees).
FIRE’s President Greg Lukianoff, whose own great book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate is coming out in paperback, will outline the group’s goals in D.C.
Light snacks, wine, beer, and soft drinks will be served.
What: Happy Hour with Virginia Postrel, FIRE, & Reason
When: Tuesday, January 28th from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Where: Reason DC headquarters, 1747 Connecticut Ave. NW (map)
Attendance is free but RSVPs are required. Please let us know if you can make it by filling out our Eventbrite form: http://bit.ly/1dw7Ni1
If you have questions about the event, please contact Cynthia Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thu, 09 Jan 2014 17:55:00 -0500
Amiri Baraka, the longtime activist and former poet laureate of New Jersey died today, officials confirmed. He was 79 years old.
Baraka was placed in intensive care at Beth Israel Medical Center last month for an unknown reason, but a spokesman for his son's mayoral campaign said his condition was improving late in December.
Newark Mayor Luis Quintana said Baraka will be sorely missed.
"I went to visit him at the hospital about two weeks ago," Quintana said by phone. "He was more than poet he was a leader in his own right. He's going to be missed and our condolences go out to his family today."
Thu, 26 Dec 2013 14:27:00 -0500
I get a weird pleasure of watching supporters of the obscure arts, whose fans lean overwhelmingly liberal-prog-commie, get increasingly bewildered as their heroes obdurately refuse to ratify their politics for them, forcing them to confront the unbelievable: decent worthwhile humans I admire might disagree with me about core elements of my politics!
I wrote amusingly of this when Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone spent round after round of questions trying to get Bob Dylan to admit he loved Obama.
Now it is classic avant-rocker David Thomas of the band Pere Ubu, in an interview in great punky-rocky interview zine Big Takeover, refusing to say he loves state subsidized art. The italics are the interviewer Allan MacInnis, the non-italics Thomas' answers:
I remember reading provocative quotes from you – and I’m sorry, I can’t pin down where – where you made statements about the vitality of art produced in free market societies, as opposed to art that is state funded. You came across as a bit of a libertarian. I try not to take anything you say at face value – I think of you as a provocateur – but I wonder if you actually still feel that way? (Because if so, there’s, umm, some irony to the band being mostly based in Europe these days, since state support of the arts is prevalent over there… and in Canada, I might add).
Yes, I still feel that way. I’ll take the dirty socialized art money but I prefer crummy little clubs where there’s a promoter who is risking his own money to put the show on. I feel no urge to thank an audience. I thank the promoter – as should the audience.
Follow up re “dirty socialized money” – is this less a matter of political principle for you, and more a matter of personal pride as an artist?
I think the government has no business in the arts at all.
Follow up: do you not think it valid, in countries that cannot compete on equal footing with the American entertainment industry, like Canada, to support their artists through government funding? I doubt there’s a Canadian musician, filmmaker, writer, or novelist who hasn’t received some government support along the way, be it scholarships, grants, fellowships, things like the Canada Council.
No, see above.
Follow-up: In a purely market driven entertainment landscape, which is mostly what we see in the States, doesn’t that lead to the proliferation of Miley Cyruses and Britney Spears and other such phenomenon? Isn’t it bad for art?
No, it’s good for them.
Sign Pere Ubu's non-alignment pact!
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Thu, 05 Dec 2013 10:59:00 -0500
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Today is Repeal Day, the day went alcohol prohibition went bust.
Check out the video above, from 2010, in which we interview documentarian Ken Burns, who just released a PBS documentary on "the noble experiment" and author Daniel Okrent, whose great history Last Call, was the basis for the series.
Since this is the week of Reason's annual webathon - during which we're trying to raise $100,000 in tax-deductible contributions from readers like you (hey, that sounds like PBS!) - let me point out that we don't just make interesting videos about issues that matter (though we do that, and in spades).
We also act as your voice in public debates over politics, culture, and ideas. To that point, check out this longer interview we did with Ken Burns in which he and I mix it up over public funding for the arts, market forces and the economics of art, and how political identity is formed (Burns is a self-declared "yellow-dog Democrat").
Across all of our journalistic platforms - the print mag, the website, Reason TV - we want to bring you the latest and most pressing stories from a libertarian perspective, we want to sharpen and refine and expand libertarian ideas and concepts, and we want to engage other thinkers, creators, policymakers, and influentials with our vision of Free Minds and Free Markets. That's what your contributions - not just tax-deductible but also fully voluntary (unlike PBS, which gets tax dollars) - go toward. Please think about giving to us over the next week.
Here's the Burns interview:
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Fri, 04 Oct 2013 16:01:00 -0400Yesterday, Science published a study, "Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind," that found that reading good literature helps one understand the mental states of other people. As the press release from Science explained: Recent research has charted the development of the skills that support inferences about what others are thinking and feeling, also known as "Theory of Mind," or ToM. A new study shows that reading literary fiction (works often thought of as being more serious or high-brow than mainstream fiction) recruits the emotional components of Theory of Mind in adults. In a series of experiments that involved participants reading short pieces of literary fiction, David Kidd and Emanuele Castano found that reading literary fiction can temporarily enhance ToM. The researchers selected literary works of fiction by award-winning or established writers and compared their effects on Theory of Mind to reading non-fiction, popular fiction, or nothing at all. For example, in one experiment participants were randomly assigned to read one of six short texts. Participants were then asked to look at photographs and identify the emotions of people with different facial expressions. Individuals who read literary fiction gauged the emotions of others more accurately compared with those who read non-fiction, popular fiction, or nothing at all. To explain these results, the authors contend that reading literary fiction seems to expand our knowledge of others’ lives, forces us to perceive the world simultaneously from different viewpoints, and helps us recognize our similarity to characters; all features that mimic Theory of Mind. This work provides evidence for the value of literary fiction to society, and it comes at a critical time as debates over the necessity of humanities and the arts in schools continue. The New York Times was so excited by the results that it ran a story about them on its front page today: In one experiment, some participants were given nonfiction excerpts, but we’re not talking “All the President’s Men.” To maximize the contrast, the researchers — looking for nonfiction that was well-written, but not literary or about people — turned to Smithsonian Magazine. “How the Potato Changed the World” was one selection. “Bamboo Steps Up” was another. After reading — or in some cases reading nothing — the participants took computerized tests that measure people’s ability to decode emotions or predict a person’s expectations or beliefs in a particular scenario. In one test, called “Reading the Mind in the Eyes,” subjects did just that: they studied 36 photographs of pairs of eyes and chose which of four adjectives best described the emotion each showed.... The researchers ... found that people who read literary fiction scored better than those who read popular fiction. This was true even though, when asked, subjects said they did not enjoy literary fiction as much. Literary fiction readers also scored better than nonfiction readers — and popular fiction readers made as many mistakes as people who read nothing. So there you have it, reading literature improves your soul. I do, however, want to pick a bone with the Times regarding its headline for the article: "For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov." I have recently seen productions of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and The Seagull, and by the end of each play, I wanted kill the characters and myself to put us all out of our collective miseries. Is that empathy? You decide. (On the other hand, I highly recommend the new Chekhov take-offs, Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike, and Stupid Fucking Bird.)[...]
Fri, 08 Mar 2013 13:35:00 -0500
Burning Man, the annual experimental temporary city of over 50,000 attendees dedicated to art and community, already kicks over $4 million a year of its ticket price to various local, state, and federal governing authorities in Nevada, where the event is held.
But Nevada politcians gaze on its lucrative splendors and wonder: why can't we get more?
Some Democratic legislative leaders are looking at the ticket proceeds and wondering why the state doesn’t get a cut.
“It’s how many people and they pay how much?” Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said. “I definitely think we ought to look at that.”
That's the spirit of government, right there: someone is making money somewhere, and we need to look into how we get some. There should be statues to Rep. Denis in every legislature in the land, speaking that truth so bluntly and strongly.
Denis wants to try to impose the state's standard 5 percent live entertainment tax on the event, though it doesn't really qualify as paid entertainment (for the most part, the attendees are responsible for entertaining themselves) and even though the law as currently written does not apply to outdoor events.
Fri, 28 Dec 2012 17:51:00 -0500
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is publicizing an interesting little story out of Galloway Township in New Jersey:
When a 16-year-old New Jersey boy doodled in his notebook on Tuesday, December 18, he probably didn’t expect to be arrested by the end of the day. However, when school officials saw the sketches, which they state appeared to be of weapons, and the boy “demonstrated behavior that caused them to be concerned,” the police were called.
A subsequent search of the boy’s home led to his arrest because they found several electronic parts and chemicals. He was charged with the possession of an explosive device and put in juvenile detention.
The details on what was precisely in the drawings are sketchy, as are the details on the behavior that caused concern. The school claims the drawings were of weapons, but the boy’s mother told various press outlets that, “He drew a glove with flames coming out of it.” If true, then the drawing wouldn’t be out of place in the notebook of any teenager who loves comic books.
At no point in time did the boy threaten the school, school officials, or his classmates. He cooperated fully with authorities, and a search of the school itself found nothing dangerous....
Lest you think it is inherently suspicious a young man would have chemicals or electronic parts, note that his school is, according to a Press of Atlantic City account, "a magnet school with programs focusing on engineering and environmental sciences and specializing in hands-on learning." And his mom told MyFoxPhilly.com that her son had a "passion for collecting old stuff, taking it apart and rebuilding things."
Also of interest from that story, a school superintendent says he's:
"thankful that we had a staff member that (saw something that) caused her some concern, and that she had the sense to report it to school officials. These are things that teachers receive training on all the time."
Most interesting detail from that Press of Atlantic City story:
Police Chief Pat Moran stressed Tuesday night no threats were made by the student and there was no indication there was any danger posed to anyone or property at the school.
“There was no indication he was making a bomb, or using a bomb or detonating a bomb,” he said.
Sounds like a good collar to me, boys!
Thu, 13 Dec 2012 15:00:00 -0500
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"Why Copyright Law is so Mickey Mouse - And How to Fix It: Q&A with Jerry Brito" is the latest offering from ReasonTV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more Reason TV clips.
Wed, 28 Nov 2012 14:09:00 -0500The New Republic for some reason features an extended but thin sour sneer at Kickstarter in its December 6 issue. That reason might be that magazine's founding dedication to elite power and control, nicely unwound by former Reason editor Virginia Postrel in these pages back in 1997. Kickstarter is the web site that allows people trying to do interesting things to fundraise via the Web. Specific financial goals are set, and premiums often offered for certain pledge levels. The pledges only go into effect if the total amount needed to actually make the thing happen are raised. Greg Beato noted Kickstarter's wonders in Reason's July issue, and back in February Katherine Mangu-Ward noted that in its decentralized, people-power, no-one-forced-to-contribute way, Kickstarter was funding creativity more than the federal government's National Endowment for the Arts. (And going on nearly twice as much.) Alas, that very decentralized, people-power, no-one-forced-to-contribute thing seems to be griping the gut of Noreen Malone of the New Republic. Her piece is "The False Promise of Kickstarter," which might lead one to think that it was a fraud, that it did not in fact provide a means for creators to find and raise money. Since it most assuredly does, with an impressive success rate of fully funded projects, that can't be her complaint. What is? It's a little hard to make sense of, but it seems to go something like this: a service that works by spreading ideas though the web (the more widely linked your plea is, the better the chances it will raise the money, other things being equal) is too undiverse and too tech-nerdy. Unlike, say, taking the time to write and publish a long feature article complaining about Kickstarter. As I'm sure has been pointed out, number one on any Stuff White People Like comedy list should be Stuff White People Like. In the closest thing to an actual complaint, she notes that especially when the project raises so much money that the creators of the thing have to deliver at a quantity larger than they anticipated, many projects deliver late. Then, the kicker, the heart of a heartless article, the meat of a meatless complaint: But the problem isn’t only on the supply side. How much of the demand is real, and how much is peer pressure or idle boredom, can be tough to sort out. For the vast majority of Kickstarter campaigns, much of the money comes from friends and friends of friends of friends. There is an enormous amount of social pressure applied: Entreaties are often made via personal e-mails.... Backing a small-scale Kickstarter campaign triggers the same emotional response that giving does: You have opened your pocket with little expectation of personal benefit. You have imagined yourself as a two-bit modern Medici, furthering the cause of Art or Innovation in society.... Sure, yes, yep, and "feature not bug" for anyone who isn't just inclined to frown pettily at the Golden Age of Mendicity that the web and crowdsourcing have allowed. (Not a week goes by that some, generally successful, rent party-type call doesn't go out from my extended circle of pals and acquaintances about helping with some sudden financial problem, and great!). Yes, there are a lot of different motives one might have to give to a Kickstarter project, and so what? Value is subjective, and why not celebrate motives beyond the purely pecuniary? But it's a problem! (Without a problem, Ms. Malone would have a problem selling her stupid article.) Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler told Reuters, this market ambivalence is woven into the very fabric of the service. “Of all the products launched on Kickstarter, very, very few would be a good investment. ... However, if the bar is lower—to simply, do I want this to exis[...]
Mon, 26 Nov 2012 11:42:00 -0500
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"The Future of Financing the Arts: An Interview with Adam Huttler of Fractured Atlas" is the latest offering from Reason TV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more Reason TV clips.
Mon, 26 Nov 2012 11:30:00 -0500
"The NEA's [National Endowment for the Arts] budget, did it go up or down this year? It's the simplest, most glaring metric out there, and it's a little reductionist," says Adam Huttler, the founder and executive director of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit organization that provides financial, logistical, and technological support for arts and culture.
Earlier this year, Huttler participated in a debate at The Economist, where he argued, "We must also abandon the notion that a strong arts policy begins and ends with public funding." Huttler spoke with Reason TV's Kennedy about how tax deductions for donations to the arts "dwarfs" NEA funding, and how "scrappy, DIY (do-it-yourself)" arts organizations are "breaking away from a lot of the old models of funding and support" with relatively new methods like crowdfunding and fiscal sponsorship.
About 5 minutes.
Produced by Anthony L. Fisher, shot by Jim Epstein and Fisher.
Scroll below for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to receive automatic notifications when new videos go live.
Sun, 04 Nov 2012 10:45:00 -0500
(image) Last week, we warned of the impending "Million Puppet March," a pro-public-broadcasting and anti-Mitt Romney demonstration whose goal "is to preserve the inalienable right of Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Ira Glass, and other folks to receive federal subsidies that are simultaneously so small as to be meaningless and so vast as to be irreplaceable." Click here to see the saddest pumpkin in the whole wide world.
The protest happened yesterday and drew "hundred" of folks, many clad in Sesame Street-themed garb. The semi-inspired chant, "El-Mo, We Won't Go!" rang through the air. "We're just making it clear that public media matters and it's something that we want to see supported and we still want to see federal funding of," said one of the organizers.
Of course, all media is "public media," in that it wants to be consumed by an audience larger than the people who create it. But never mind. Here's some pics from Buzz Feed to goggle at like a muppet.