On This Day in 1947: Fred Allen Drops a Name

Well, it has been over five months now since I launched broadcastellan and began to broadcast my assorted musings to a potentially vast if largely abstract public. I am still doing what I set out to do, which is to dig up discarded pieces of western popular culture and return what has been drowned in or washed away by the busy mainstream of commerce to the multitude that owns and defines the popular. The first principle of popularity, after all, is presence; and even though universal accessibility alone is no guarantor of prominence (a fact to which my humble efforts are mute testimony), there’s nothing like a blog to keep alive what might otherwise rot in some cranial nook or linger in the obscurity of a private library.

My awareness of the promotional opportunities within the web notwithstanding, I have had to learn—and am learning still—that a blog is not merely a medium but a mode of communicating, a way of writing and sharing that has qualities distinct from other forms of publishing and follows different sets of conventions. So, like radio comedian Fred Allen, I would like to acknowledge a few of the individuals who have influenced the evolution of broadcastellan.

Where does Fred Allen fit into all this? Not that I need any particular reason or pretext to drop his name. Namedropping! That’s it. On this day, October 26, in 1947, Allen mentioned one of his former writers, one of those nameless if rather well remunerated gagmen of radio. That man was novelist Herman Wouk, who had just given up writing for Allen. With his first novel in print (a Book-of-the-Month Club recommendation, no less), Wouk was ready to announce his retirement from broadcasting. He did just that in an article that appeared in the November issue of the magazine ’47, as Allen and partner Portland Hoffa told their audience in their joke routine at the beginning of the Fred Allen Show.

When I heard this remark, I went in search of the article, found it, and found it quite interesting, too. This is what bloggers do, I realized at last. They not only post and recycle material, but share and comment by linking and tagging, by renting their blogs and surfing for credits, thereby contributing to the dissemination of thought while all along promoting themselves and others. Like today’s blogger, the pioneers of radio had to learn that the medium is not just a distribution apparatus but a distributive art.

So, I am no longer posting a series of essays. I have begun to open up the discourse, to make my blog more interactive. I no longer hide behind “The Magnificent Montague,” and, having quietly dropped my nominal cloak now feel at ease writing and mingling in the forum without donning such disguises. I am more comfortable now leaving comments on other sites, always, I hope in the spirit of sharing rather than blatant self-promotion.

I have edited my writing after receiving comments from Jim Widner, the host of Radio Days, for instance. I have added a reader poll (an idea I got from Brent McKee’s site) and have made attempts to encourage participation (something I noticed being done with some success by Cavan Terrill). Like Gertrude Stein, “I am writing for myself and strangers.” I am also writing with strangers and am being rewritten by them.

So, the initial confusion about blogging is pretty much gone and I continue this interactivity with greater confidence and considerable joy. Say, how interactive are you?

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