Posts Tagged ‘media’

RIP the village voice

22 August 2017

That one time I took a Sylvia Plachy picture.

I read the Village Voice every week of the seven years I lived in New York. Every single week. If I was out of town, I bought it at the nearest big newsstand, for it was distributed nationally. It cost $1 an issue when I moved there, and it always had a page of free or cheap things to do each day, some of which I did. During the years I lived in a 7 x 11 foot room in a single-room occupancy hotel, ten percent of the usable floor (ca $50 a month in rent) was devoted to stacks of the Voice [1]. It was an excellent use of space.

Because of the Voice, I regularly read long essays by black and Latinx writers on race and ethnicity, as well as reported articles on communities I would otherwise not have seen.

Because of the Voice (and Katha Pollitt of The Nation), I kept up with feminism through the dark years of “I’m not a feminist, but …”

I remember Paul Cowen’s first-person piece on dying of leukemia, which he was thought to have contracted covering Three Mile Island.

I remember a long article on drag balls, even before Paris Is Burning if I’m not mistaken.

I remember another long article on backup singers, decades before Twenty Feet from Stardom. I loved that article so much I probably still have it here in my file boxes.

I remember not understanding a damn word Robert Christgau wrote, or rather I understood all of the words but none of the propositions.

I remember not getting a single reference in Michael Musto’s gossip column (“La Dolce Musto”), even in the non-blind items, and not caring because it was so much fun.

I remember going to see films from Brazil and Iceland and a performance art festival featuring Penny Arcade because the Voice wrote about them.

I remember reading about the AIDS epidemic in some depth, before And the Band Played On was published and certainly before it was available in paperback.

I remember a review of rapper Schoolly D that was written in hiphop, more or less. This must have been about 1988.

I remember Murray Kempton and somebody else, Jack Newfield or Wayne Barrett or LynNell Hancock, alternating an inside-baseball column on city politics. I remember that the Voice covered low income housing and homelessness like the tenants and non-tenants were human, when nobody else seemed to. I remember the very nerdy quarterly book review supplement. I remember being impressed that the Voice writers were organized by the United Auto Workers when hardly any journalists were union members any more. I remember reading the listings in the back every week and feeling like I could become an air courier or move to Brooklyn or actually go on one of those Wildman Steve Brill tours to forage food in Central Park and it would all be all right.

That’s a great newspaper. I can’t believe it’s gone.

[0] Also, the Voice had the best comics. Not just Jules Feiffer and his annual “A Dance to Spring”, which I already knew about because my parents did. It was the golden age of Matt Groening’s pre-Simpsons Life in Hell, Lynda Barry’s Ernie Pook’s Comeek, Mark Alan Stamaty, and Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies (“All Dialogue Guaranteed Overheard”). (This is a standalone endnote.)

[1] And its shorter-lived uptown sibling, 7 Days. 7 Days was decried as fluff at the time, but compared with today’s promotion press it was the Whole Earth Review of middle-class Manhattan. Laurie Colwin wrote her cooking column there. Peter Schjeldahl covered art (is “Up the Damn Ramp” a great title for a piece about the Guggenheim or what?). It was Joan Acocella’s first big stage for her dance writing. For a while, New York actually had three strong alternapress weeklies, for there was New York Press as well, which was more of a self-conscious hipster editor-publisher production but did have great front-page essays.

[2] Yes, I know, it continues as a website. That’s like a well-served train line continuing as a “rail replacement” bus. (This too is a standalone endnote.)

alternative view

1 February 2015

Cory Doctorow, speaking at Assembly, gives another view of the last few years of British news, ca minute 47:

We have rampant visible corruption in our governments. The United Kingdom where I live, for example, it was just revealed that the national secret police, SOCA, or the British equivalent of the FBI, suppressed information about prominent law firms, rich individuals and major corporations that had hired criminals to illegally hack into the private information of their enemies, and that they suppressed this for years, and that they then went and disclosed it to a judge, Lord Justice Leveson? (D says Levinson) who conducted an inquiry into the newspapers doing this, and he suppressed it, and that they’ve given it to Parliament, and Parliament won’t publish the names of these corporations and high profile individuals who hired criminals to commit gross crimes. And this is not an example of technical incompetence in the police, and it’s not an example of technical incompetence in the judges, and it’s not an example of technical incompetence in Parliament. This is gross corruption. These are people who, in order to protect the Establishment, and its legitimacy, are unwilling to follow the laws.

Enjoy the views of dystopian ranks of zoned-out hackers in the cutaways, too.

rip the things we forgot to save

12 May 2014

An emerging list of lost Internet value:

  • Television Without Pity, where the best posts ever were Stee’s reviews of the original Temptation Island
  • Fametracker‘s “Two Stars One Slot” feature. Where are we now supposed to go for verification that Leo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp are becoming the same actor?
  • Google Reader. Google Buzz (I was one of the three people who read it). The old, close-packed view of Google Mail where you could have the whole screen to write on. The clean Google search page, where the occasional appearance of a custom logo created a special occasion of its own. The clean design in general. Bring Marissa back!
  • On the bright side, Astronomy Photo of the Day is still running, at a higher resolution that makes everything look like Hollywood special effects.

    to tweet or not to tweet

    11 July 2013


    This flyer comes from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet. The quality of the production is not at issue here; Hamlet isn’t one of my favorite plays but I thought this was amazing and would see it again. I particularly enjoyed Jonathan Slinger’s performance – he starts out looking like a young banker who’s having a bad day on the markets, and then progressively goes nuts – as well as the masque at the end of the first act and the stormy supermarket lighting.

    The point is the Twitter blurbs.


    time and news

    22 December 2012

    I abused the backdate function of WordPress quite a lot on my old blog and I intend to continue. That is, the date on a post is not necessarily the day I pushed the “send” button, but more likely the day I took the notes for the post or started writing. It’s part of shedding the addiction to speed, which I believe we need to do.

    Years ago I wrote a story about the Xavier Society for the Blind in New York City, which produced Catholic books on tape. It also printed a weekly Braille summary of the New York Times for the deaf-blind. The subscribers were reading week-old news, which seems like an oxymoron but isn’t really. Browsing those dot-punched folios for them would have been the equivalent of reading a randomly aged newspaper for me – something I often do for the pleasure of accumulating knowledge or feeling time travel by. Any news that hasn’t been falsified by later events is still current and anything that has is historical data.

    At the other extreme, I worked for a wire service that pushes the limits of speed writing, trying to get everything out in seconds or minutes for the the financial markets, perhaps the only sector that can act on any bit of news immediately [1]. Now everyone can play that game with blogs and Twitter, the headline desk of the Internet. Everybody gets to race the clock and there’s no central desk to set a newsworthiness bar or prevent duplication of labor. The editorial function is transferred to the overloaded reader.

    Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying explores the consequences of speed mania and channel multiplication for journalism, via tales of hoodwinking topic-hungry bloggers to write about trends fabricated by marketers to boost brands (sometimes through reverse psychology). It’s difficult to bring myself to cite it because he claims authorship of many such hoaxes, constructing himself as the ultimate unreliable source. Yet the rubbish story examples ring true with wild goose chases I’ve watched on the tech blogs. If your skepticism is flagging about what you read on Wikipedia and other brand-name information websites (“Oh what the hell, it’s probably true”), this will restore it.

    Holiday is at his most credible when describing the economics of the blog market and the pressure on writers to post, which he compares to the competition of the 19th-century penny press (he calls it “yellow press”) when news became available to mass audiences and writers were paid by volume. Against that noise, the New York Times deliberately carved out a niche for itself in thoroughly reported, verified and thoughtful, if slower, news coverage – meeting this goal better in some decades than others, I can say after surveying its entire print run in my PhD thesis. Nevertheless, that’s the kind of spirit we need now.

    [1] Except for public safety, traffic and weather, it’s hard to think of news that the average citizen can use right away. At the same time, publishing a first take as soon as verified is the best practice in order to counter prior restraint and keep the reflexes sharp. That’s true even in a monopoly market and I’m not arguing with it; but I am arguing for taking more time to research, fact-check and contextualize, and letting opinion and features simmer a while longer.

    the third act begins

    14 December 2006

    Leslie Harpold, one of the early Internet colonists I encountered on alt.society.generation-x and its spinoffs, died this past weekend of natural but sudden causes. Most of you kids probably don’t remember what life was like back in the early Clinton Administration, when Al Gore and that guy at CERN were personally dragging the Web out of the Pleistocene of the Arpanet and Gopher. The standard webpage was stone grey with faux-incised division lines and a yellow “Under Construction” sign. Netscape was the browser of choice and Alta Vista was the search engine of choice. People were still arguing about whether it would be right to use the Internet for commerce, and if so how. Spam was a highly uncool food product, often mentioned in the same breath with marshmallow Jell-O molds.

    At some point in those years John Scalzi said he was going to start an online diary, and people scoffed. How could anyone come up with stuff of general interest to write about every day? Around the same time Leslie started her first webzine, Smug, and some of us were skeptical about that too. I think it’s fair to say that Leslie (and John) had the last laugh, and kept on innovating.

    I never met her, and I wasn’t in the center of the target market (a favorite eyeroll phrase at asg-x) for Smug, but I dearly loved Leslie’s posts and her Compulsion column. Almost ten years later, I am still looking for Ren Dan just because of the way she wrote about it. Many people have posted tributes to her and I hope a lot of that love reached her while she was alive.

    talk like slj day

    22 August 2006

    Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is on a dozen movie screens here, as is The Da Vinci Code, but I can’t find the movies I really want to see: An Inconvenient Truth and Snakes on a Plane. I generally assume everything that might be a hack is a hack until proven otherwise [1] and Snakes on a Plane is proving otherwise. Okay, but I won’t really believe it until I see it up here in Missouri.

    I am looking forward in the fullness of time to Samuel L. Jackson’s lifetime achievement award from the Academy, which will naturally be accompanied by a montage of his delivery of famous lines from great motion pictures:

    “As God is my motherfucking witness, I will never motherfucking be hungry again.”
    “Of all the motherfucking gin joints in all the motherfucking towns in all the the motherfucking world, she motherfucking walks into mine.”
    “James. Motherfucking. Bond.”
    “I’m the king of the motherfucking world!”

    [1] My first reaction to the 9/11 attacks was that they had to be a hack, and apparently I was not alone in this as Vanity Fair reports that Air Force monitors thought they were a simulation. Luckily I checked the news sites before posting anything undeniably embarassing.

    21 September 2000

    I am so psyched to be getting out of town and going to Jyväskylä this weekend, I can’t tell you. 12 people, an 18-hour sauna in the countryside, sausages and beer, autumn leaves. The next weekend I get to move away from Psycho Flatmate. It’s the time in between that’s a problem: classes every day, two papers due, and there’s this bulletin board that just won’t quit.

    Latest incidental thing from thesis research: Did you know that in the 1930s some people thought radio was going to kill books? It’s true, there are scare columns about the Death of Print.

    20 June 2000

    Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight has a web show, every Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 6 pm Eastern time. One more reason not to bother going back to New York.

    PS 2015: Vin sounds a little slower these days but he is still going, currently here, and some of the audio archives on his Wikipedia page work. (RIP Pete Fornatale and Alison Steele, the other two late-night voices of my Manhattan years.) We are trying to perpetuate Vin’s spirit of eclectic, free-form radio on ICR Friday Breakfast.

    PPS 2015: This great intro from Alison Steele must be heard. She did an original bit like that to start every show, usually shorter though.

    15 May 2000

    This is one of the coolest press releases I’ve ever seen, especially the last three paragraphs (cool =/= proofread, though). Via everybody.

    12 May 2000

    Getting linked by famous bloggers is always a good start. I still maintain that Gavin Friday is made up, along with Emerald Germs, Disco Pig, and the Virgin Prunes. Here’s a slash story based on Brideshead Revisited – pretty good stuff.

    PS 2015: Were these two sentences related? Can’t recall. Caroline is still blogging.