Just remembered that I meant to follow-up on this. Anyway, The GC and I drove to Hartford with a mutual friend in this nor'easter from which the tri-state is still trying to recover. It wasn't the smartest thing we've ever done and when we got back to The GC's place at about 1 AM and saw the condition of the neighborhood I think we both realized that we'd lucked out, but I digress.
I really enjoyed the tour of the Mark Twain House. If you're ever near Hartford, you should check it out. The house is lovely and our docent, Mallory, was entertaining and chock full of fun facts about Mr. Clemens and his family. I was genuinely impressed when told I was standing the billiards room where The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (among others) was written and I realized that I really need to read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. I also saw this painting of a cat in a ruff, which I picked up in postcard form and mailed off to my plushie-loving pal. Did you know that Harriet Beecher Stowe lived across the way, too? The block parties must have been interesting.
Anyway, enjoyed the conversation, which was moderated by Colin McEnroe, who's got a lovely voice in addition to an understated Yankee wit. The guests talked about journalism (especially campaign journalism), among other topics. Pierce mentioned that he thought that sports journalists these days were able to serve their readers better than political journalists are, and given some of the horseshit you read from outfits like Politico you know what he's talking about. Taibbi talked about how utterly surreal (and maddening) it is to cover a campaign and not only do I believe him, but I think if I ever find myself covering a political campaign that I will do at least some of it on mushrooms, too.
One thing about these sorts of events always bugs me -- and this has absolutely nothing to do with Taibbi or Pierce -- is that when the inevitable Q&A arrives, the audience winds up beseeching the guests with cries of, "What can we do?" Why do people ask journalists this question? It's not that Messrs Taibbi and Pierce don't necessarily know what to do (maybe they do), but that's not why I read them or attend their talks. I do so for their reporting, for their ability to flesh out stories in a way that the simple-minded establishment hacks at, say, the NYT, refuse to do, and for their unique perspective. Do such skills and/or talents make journalists any better at prescriptions than anyone else? I read a profile of Noam Chomsky once in which his wife said that people always wanted to feel hopeful at the end of his talks. Given how depressing most of Chomsky's topics are, I can see that, but Chomsky's at least a part-time activist, so it makes more sense to ask him, "What do we do?"
Anyway, I'm quibbling. Saturday's was better than most of the Q&As I attend, which usually start with the moderator warning the audience not to make speeches and end immediately because the first question comes from some local nut who starts off by saying, "Before I get to my question I'd first like make a point on the Palestinian issue" or "I know you said no speeches, but I'd just like to say that there really are legitimate questions about the government's involvement in [insert historical calamity here]". I saw that happen at Town Hall in NYC at a Lawrence Wright talk once and at least half the audience (include yours truly) up and abandoned the joint before the woman had even got through one-third of her speech. I mean, her question.