No Good Deed


First off, thanks, Brad.

Albert, I would like to take the opportunity to respond point by point if you have the patience.

* You write: "There is, on one occasion, too much subjective bias based on psychological claptrap."

Please understand that there is no such thing as objective bias. And if you find psychology claptrap, not everyone else does. I say this only to call to your attention your own bias in reviewing an article such as this.

* You write that "early in the article," the author "implants on the reader's mind a picture of Bix as a pervert. The relevant example relates to Bix's arrest where the Wikipedia article quotes Lion, 'He [Lion] dismissed the seriousness of the charge, but speculated that the arrest might nevertheless have led Beiderbecke to "feel abandoned and ashamed: he saw himself as suspect of perversion."'

I'm not sure what you mean by "a picture of Bix as a pervert." I don't know what a pervert looks like. Do you? The article does, however, suggest that the charge of molestation was made and that according to one biographer, this may have had an effect on how Bix saw himself. You may disagree, but this is a perfectly reasonable point for the article to make. You may find it to be "claptrap," but until your name is on the spine of The Definitive Biography of a Jazz Legend, your opinion just won't count as much. This may not be fair, but when writing an encyclopedia article, it is absolutely true. I would add this: your penchant for dismissing opinions you don't like as being biased and claptrap only reduces your authority. It's the academic equivalent of banging on your desk in class.

* You write: "Alternative views are relegated to a footnote, but there is only a reference to Rich's book. In view of the extraordinary lengthy and in-depth discussions of the arrest in the Bixography Forum, it seems to me that, at least, a footnote with a reference to one or more of the threads on the arrest posted in the Forum should have been included to provide some balance to the quote from Lion's book."

I agree with you here, but it wasn't up to me. You will find, on the page linked below, me arguing on behalf of such an inclusion. In the end, the Wikipedia editors determined that you do not fit the Wiki criteria as an expert because you are not contributing scholarship in peer-reviewed, fact-checked journals. As I explained on the review page, I think it makes the article worse, but them's are the rules. I also said -- and I may as well confess it here if you're going to go and actually read the page -- that I wouldn't go to bat for you as a scholar. I said that in part because of your tendency to dismiss opinions you don't agree with as "claptrap" and your, I think, unseemly concern over Bix being seen as a "pervert." Protecting Bix in this way is not an act of scholarship but of public relations.

There are few references to Rich Johnson's book because a) while working on the article, I was not long in possession of the book; b) much of what I might have cited it for was either redundant or irrelevant to the article; and c) I find Johnson's scholarship on the arrest to be highly problematic. I'm happy to discuss that further with you, but this post is not the place.

Anyway, here's the link to the Wiki Feature Article review page:

* You write: "But the uninformed reader, righ[t] off the bat starts with the notion that Bix was a pervert. True, the article gives the phrase 'suspect of perversion' but we know that readers soon forget the word 'suspect' and remember the word perversion."

You seem to know what's in readers' minds while at the same time objecting to Lion claiming to know what's in Bix's. You also underestimate readers' intelligence. I happen to think that the possibilities raised by Lion are both interesting and important. That they are quoted accurately and in context suggests that your argument ought not to be with me, but with Lion.

* You write: "In the section 'Legend and Legacy,' the film 'Blackboard Jungle' is cited as is the British TV series (as well as Avati's film), but Brigitte Berman's important film and James Robert Grover's 'A Creative Aural History Thesis,' nine and a half hours of interviews of people who knew Bix and an in-depth analysis of his music, are not. I hasten to add that references to these two works are provided, but again relegated to footnotes. They should be highlighted in the main text."

No, they shouldn't, any more than an article on George Washington takes the time to acknowledge all of the people who did research on the man. The point of the "Legend and Legacy" section was to engage how Bix, after his death, transformed from an actual person into a Romantic legend, and how that legend entered the culture in various and interesting ways. The thesis and the documentary are perfectly good sources of information on the man, but they are not significant contributions to his cultural legacy (or reflections of said legacy) in the way that "Blackboard Jungle" and "The Beiderbecke Affair" are.

* You write: "It seems to me, and this applies not only to this example but to several others throughout the article, that this does not follow proper research and scholarly protocol: primary sources must be cited, not secondary sources that in turn give references to the primary sources. Also, this important reference should have been cited as a key reference in the section about Bix's musical style."

Then you should revise that section of the article . . . except that, as you stated yesterday, you don't actually believe in the Wikipedia enterprise. So it strikes me as unhelpful that you now feel like lecturing me -- who actually went to the trouble to improve the article -- on how I should have done it, and what sources I should have used. Wikipedia has its standards, but this is not a dissertation and you are not my director. I did not cite primary sources, but I did to the best of my ability -- when it was me writing -- cite reliable sources.

* You write: "It seems to me that an acknowledgment and/or dedication of the article to these leaders in the filed of Bixology [Sudhalter, Evans, and Johnson] would be appropriate. Without them, our knowledge and understanding of Bix, the man and the musician, would be considerably poorer."

The acknowledgment is in the citations, Albert. They're the people who are cited. Anyway, this is an encyclopedia article about Bix Beiderbecke; it's not a tribute to Dick Sudhalter, Phil Evans, and Rich Johnson.

* You write: "In the section about Bix recordings, I am shocked that 'Clementine' by Jean Goldkette, the last recording of Bix with Goldkette and a milestone in hot dance band history is not included."

I didn't make that list, and you or someone else is free to change it. I would only caution you that the list should be relatively short. In fact, I would encourage someone to create a new article with a full discography.

* You write: "Important tributes to Bix are missing in the legacy section, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society Festivals in Davenport, Phil Pospychala's Tribute to Bix in Racine, and the 24-hour Bix program by Phil Schaap over WKCR the Columbia University Radio Station. The BBMS is cited in the section as being founded in 1971, but the yearly festivals are not mentioned."

So the Bix Festival in Davenport is cited, and a link is duly inserted, taking the curious reader to a new Wikipedia article that will inform him or her that the festival is, indeed, yearly. This is how online encyclopedias work, and it strikes me as completely reasonable. These other things -- Racine, WKCR -- were not mentioned and I agree they should have been.

* You write: "It seems to me that the influence of Bix on other musicians is not accounted properly. For example, in discussing 'Singin' the Blues,' no reference is given to the two 1931 recordings of Fletcher Henderson, the first example in jazz history of a band playing homage to a musician by playing almost note for note the arrangement of the original recording."

The key word here, I think, is "properly." Properly to you. Many things could be added to this article -- we could add ad infinitum. But I believe it's a good article and one that is necessarily brief, and there is nothing improper about such an omission.

In the end, Albert, what bugs me is just the enormous lack of generosity that permeates your response. I won't speculate from whence it comes, but I want to say again: thank you to everyone who helped with the article over the years. And thank you to those who might be motivated to continue to make it better. The fact that it has gotten this far serves as a benefit, I think, to the legacy of Bix Beiderbecke and his music.

Posted on Oct 7, 2010, 1:02 PM

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