Category Archives: Events

Debut: Noyo River Review

If you’ve come here after seeing my Noyo River Review reading, welcome to Civilization Party! My travel essay “Dearest, the Shadows: The Exquisite Despair of a Hungarian Afternoon” has been excerpted in 2019’s Review, which was debuted at the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino on May 19.

Oddly enough I named the blog before learning that in Britain, people actually had “Civilisation parties” to gather and watch Kenneth Clark’s excellent (if flawed, and a product of its time) BBC TV series of the same name in 1969. Color television was new in England, so the epic scenery, monuments, and artifacts shown drew a remarkable 2.5 million viewers.

My idea with Civilization Party was to suggest it’s actually funner to think than you think it is. (Mostly it’s been an outlet for tart social criticism.)

It was my pleasure to attend August 2018’s Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference and meet writers, editors, and agents from all over Northern California and beyond in a such a naturally dramatic setting. Hopefully I’ll see many of you again.

You can find my full profile on LinkedIn. Thanks for visiting.

Jaron Lanier on June 17!

“Pop culture has entered into a nostalgic malaise. Online culture is dominated by trivial mashups of the culture that existed before the onset of mashups, and by fandom responding to the dwindling outposts of centralized mass media. It is a culture of reaction without action.” —Jaron Lanier, “You Are Not a Gadget,” Knopf, 2010

The New York Times’ “Your Brain on Computers” series last week gave me a sense of relief. So I wasn’t the only one who’s noticed that, well, everyone and everything in the last five-odd years has gone completely and utterly cuckoo.

Example: people spend wads of cash on concerts, only to spend the entire event ignoring the action onstage while they text, Twitter, phone, and email. They only time they pay attention to what they’ve paid good money to see is when they take photos of it, so they can immediately turn their experience into an uploadable commodity, with which they brand themselves online. “Hey everybody, here I am! My life is more exciting than yours!”

Nobody seems to notice that this dilutes the energy of live performance in the first place and makes the whole affair banal and rather depressing.

But just standing there and enjoying the music without gadgetizing it somehow? Nowadays? Unthinkable! The gadgets are what make live events “real,” because this is how people understand reality. Instead of “Be Here Now” we have “Be Nowhere All the Time.” At this point I’m nostalgic for two years ago.

Jaron Lanier’s “You Are Not a Gadget” addresses and affirms my discontent on so many different levels, I feel like grabbing a highlighter pen and dousing every word with it. One of the original architects of virtual reality, Lanier is not only deep in the pudding of Silicon Valley ideology (and yes, Virginia, you’d better believe there is a Silicon Valley ideology), he’s a hell of a writer.

You Are Not a Gadget unpacks what I’ve suspected for years: that the nerds who have made the world over in their image are driven by vast, sweeping theories of what people are, what reality is, and why we’re here on earth.

But unlike the ideologies that politicians espouse, nerd dogma reprograms the very architecture of how we think. We’re far more susceptible to it because we’re not even aware it’s in us.

Jaron Lanier will be speaking this week, June 17, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum here in San Francisco. It’s going to be an important and fascinating talk, and it’s free. Please join me!

Oct. 9: Street Reading Storms the Palace!

When: Friday, October 9, 7:45pm

Where: Outside San Francisco’s Green Room

(Bus shelter outside the Veterans’ Building at Van Ness and McAllister)

What: Jen Burke Anderson street reading outside the Black, White and Read Opening Gala of Litquake

This Friday night, look for me in ballroom attire outside the Black, White, and Read Gala as I hit the arriving Litquake crowds with some lit-guerrilla entertainings!

I’ll have my banner set up on the back of the glass bus shelter at McAllister and Van Ness in front of the Veterans Building, where the gala will be held in the Green Room upstairs. Guests will be filing past me and looking down at me from the balcony.

Please show up in numbers to this! Bring your friends in ballroom attire!! This is by far my most subversive, obnoxious Direct Lit Action in years!! The more support I have, the bigger an audience there is around me, the less likely they are to tell me to move on. (I think.)

Best of all, it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE!