Tuesday, June 24, 2008

News Paupers 2

Gather 'round, kiddies, for gramps is going to tell another story about what people once called newspapers.

My fave, fave, favorite quote from the above-linked Times story, Papers Facing Worst Year for Ad Revenue:

He said that he expected the decline in ad sales to slow, with 2008 producing a 10 percent drop for the year, but he cautioned that, like other analysts, he had not been pessimistic enough so far.

This is sidesplitting, revealing as it does the true nature of analysts, which is their role as easily-bribed fluffers for the industries involved, vessels of received wisdom, and sworn enemies of unconventional thought. God forbid such boffins be clear-eyed in their assessments over any given fiscal year. No, save that role instead for soreheads with blogs who don't get paid a dime.

Also interesting in the Times article is the notion that the sickening drop in revenue is solely a matter of ad sales siphoned off by websites. No mention of boring design, bonehead conservative editorial pages, inane lifestyle and celeb coverage, dull writing and the nearly total lack of a useful news sense that might have recognized, let's say for example, the issue of peak oil, or the dangerous assumptions of the mortgage industry a couple-three years ago.

We'll close with one more excellent quote:

Since the fall, when Media General, the owner of a major newspaper chain in the South, set its 2008 budget, “We have pulled our thinking down twice with respect to revenue,” said Marshall N. Morton, the chief executive.

How many times can you pull down your thinking with respect to anything without it ever rising again? (And if there is a good newspaper printed south of the M&D I'd love for one of you 25 readers to say its name in comments. The glory days of the Miami Herald are long gone, while the Atlanta JC, the only one I see semi-regularly, is appalling.)

The internet is not killing newspapers. They are just too stupid and uncreative to survive in a radically changed environment. I keep thinking that someone will figure out that presenting good writing and reporting, bold graphics, useful content, and a sharp progressive political sense will induce urban core readers to buy a daily paper. Maybe not in the numbers of old, but more than enough to make money in a secure niche. But such notions of practical creativity are not taught in J schools, and the business side is too busy pulling its thinking down to understand stuff like than anyway.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Remembrance Of Dingbats Past

I have slipped into a very comfortable haze of late, seeing nothing worth commenting on that I've not talked to death already. But then a story appears of a middle school science teacher in the small Ohio district near where I went to college, talking down evolution and, most recently, etching temporary cross-shaped scars in his students' forearms.

Do I care? No. Mt. Vernon has always been a creepy little Copperhead town in central Ohio where you do not want to be found driving after midnight. It is a truism that otherwise good people have an inordinate respect for authority, be it local law enforcement or their churches. I mention this only to show in a concrete way how the country has managed to shoot off both feet these last 20 years. For Mt. Vernon has benefitted greatly in the last quarter century for being home to a division of Rolls Royce, making components for, I believe, jet engines. (The blue collar towns of central Ohio were once, and to a much smaller degree remain, producers of your larger electrical appliances.)

Anyway, you'd think a locale dependent on a certain engineering capability in the work force would emphasize science as a point of pride in the public schools. You'd think. Here is the dark rock under which an Obama administration will have to reach to build the future. I hope we are up to the task.

Another dingbat in the news is my old Harley schoolmate Blair Sibley. An heir to a fortune founded on the Western Union telegraph company, Blair (who I have not laid eyes on nor heard of in nearly 40 years) has apparently matured into a full-fledged white shoe Yay-Hoo, indulged his whole life and, like our ridiculous criminal president, given to assume that the rules for others just don't, by the logic of wealth, apply to him.

And you know what? They really don't. Blair's dad, Harper, decided it best to leave Rochester in the early 70s after the collapse of a pre-fab housing company which just skirted accounting criminality. Where'd he go? Florida, of course, where it looks like he's done quite well in the Miami construction trade. Ol' Harper says he is quite proud of his son and I see no reason why he should not be, given his headline-grabbing clients, albeit dead or even more bat shit crazy than himself.

Some time ago here I called our war criminal president the apotheosis of every country-club nitwit who ever got rich selling land his father owned, and while I did not have Blair and Harper Sibley exactly in mind when I wrote it, I can use their example to assure you that I am more than a little familiar with the topic. Here is America going down the tubes far quicker than an army of Jesus-weeping school teachers can send it: the Jackass Half-of-One-Percenters who cast the dynamic possibilities of American society into slot car models of their own loopy entitlement and endless self regard. Hilarious is the idea that, even with their inheritances passed down untaxed, these people are capable of looking after themselves, much less the Republic for which they stand.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Copyright Infringement Theater Presents. . .

According to some, Chicago's best guitarist, my pal Joel Paterson and his rhythm section.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Buffalo Tim

A telling passage from the NY Times obit of Tim Russert:

As word of Mr. Russert’s death spread across BlackBerry and computer screens, tributes poured into NBC from the highest elected officials and competitors on other networks. Thousands of loyal viewers also posted tributes on media Web sites.

Here in a nutshell is the undermining of a medium that had complete dominance of the discourse for at least 40 years. I can't say if the pressure of struggling to stay atop a wildly churning media world killed Russert, but for a man suffering a fatal attack at 58 to be survived by his father does, I think, raise certain philosophical questions.

A nice man, a family man, an affable colleague and likable bloke describes the ideal corporate spokesman, and there was nothing in Russert's stout self-assurance and beady-eyed presentation that conflicted in any way with his job as public gatekeeper and policy mouthpiece of the General Electric Corporation. In fact, men of humble beginnings often make ideal levers of power, lacking as they do the off-putting pride of those to the manor born, while possessing the usually mistaken notion that their rise came from superior personal skills in comprehension and action.

No, reading Russert's obit, one finds an able lawyer and political fixer with no experience as a journalist anointed to chair a weekly newsmakers chat show. Lacking any journalistic experience is no liability if you look good on camera and Russert filled that bill quite well as he developed an unenlightening way of hectoring guests with yards of old videotape. He advanced himself over issues, which was exactly what he was hired to do. A dysfunctional politics, complete with a silly-looking liberal opposition, was the tilled and watered field of rich corporate possibility.

These things don't happen by accident, and for Russert to go from head staff jobs with New York State's governor and then senator to become the Washington political chieftain for one of New York State's biggest corporations and, once-upon-a-time, employers should not cause even a ripple of surprise, though a mild disgust is not uncalled for.

Wow, was he fond of trading on his Buffalo beginnings, and they served him well as dressing. But if there was any instance of his advocating policies to help the severe rustbelt problems facing western New York (my native soil too, btw), I am unaware of them. Job loss, poor education, infrastructure investment, public transportation, the decay of every civic building block that allowed a trash collector's son to become a political lawyer and get the hell out of town (while maintaining his regard for the bootless, blue collar Bills) seemed never to intrude on the self-regard and conscience of this son of the smoke stacks and gray skies of Niagara's Frontier.

But, being philosophical again, maybe it did. Maybe a nice man can't pretend he did not prevaricate his way to facile riches as a corporate palace capo. Maybe a good son could not in good conscience use his working class father as a study aid for corporate America. (Just think of all the rich assholes who probably told Russert how much they loved his book.) Maybe the conflict between no-bullshit Buffalo and all-bullshit-all-the-time DC was more than one surprised heart could tolerate. Looks like Buffalo won.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Copyright Infringement Theater Presents. . .

Special Les Paul birthday edition!

In Other News

May I suggest that if your wealth evaporates it wasn't really wealth to begin with? If not for the dizzying political season I'd be spending more time in the high weeds of financial journalism, or rather "financial" "journalism", following the unwinding of yet another shithead American project through the perps' very own words.

Seems like only three years ago that the financial trades were celebrating the debt-enabled U.S. consumer, crowing that the housing sector made up 40% of our mainly service economy (manufacturing? ten), enjoying the low low low Greenspan interest rates, and ignoring any big bank chicanery and peak-oil concerns which might spoil the buzz.

I keep looking for someone to bring up that housing figure now that 40% of the economy has officially gone busto. Hard to spin shit like that. Better to claim each quarter that we've now seen the worst, though I can't imagine anyone in charge of managing money on a professional level actually believing, rather than hoping, that is so.

One might say that the latest of the many mistakes made by the MSM is how they missed the oil rise/real estate meltdown story completely. God knows I don't expect much from the daily papers, but oil depletion (as I'm sure all my readers know from reading very informative intertube sites) has been a legitimate, mainstream news story for, I'll be charitable, at least two years. For a country which has been given over to non-stop financial coverage for the last, let's say, 15 years, the "evaporation" of "wealth" now ongoing should not be a matter of surprise. But, for most, it is.

Serious times. And Barack Obama's great success, I submit, stems exactly from the failure of our old media and sclerotic politics to realize such and act seriously. Instead they both still feed on personality and lifestyle choices. Obama endeavors to speak in a serious way about the country's current failures and onrushing future, and it turns out that most people, especially those under 40, are not as asleep as our current leaders want us to be. Now whether they are just awakening groggy from long slumbers, an SUV in the garage of their remote McMansion, or have been paying attention for years does not make a heck of a difference.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Great Cahoone

Last night was a rare one out for yours truly. Went to the Empty Bottle to see my favorite new performer, Seattle's Sera Cahoone and her astonishingly talented band, play an all-too-brief opening set on a Sub Pop card with Grand Archives.

I first heard her music a year ago, following her eponymous self-released debut. Cahoone's second cd, Only As The Day Is Long, will certainly be in my top three for the year. Her songs have spare alt-country arrangements--drums, banjo, dobro and pedal steel--that flow out of the Byrds' Rodeo years and Neil Young's down home projects. A lot of musicians go there, of course, but few with Cahoone's skills as a songwriter, and her beautiful, weary voice has a warm honky tonk throb which can't be faked.

She is that good. Go buy her music, see her if you can and get a t-shirt. No telling when she'll cross the Rockies again. Soon, I hope.


Sera Cahoone w/ Grand Archives

Jun 5 2008 Grog Shop Cleveland, Ohio
Jun 6 2008 El Moncambo Toronto, Ontario
Jun 8 2008 Higher Ground Burlington, Vermont
Jun 9 2008 Iron Horse Northhampton, Massachusetts
Jun 11 2008 Great Scott Boston, Massachusetts
Jun 12 2008 Johnny Brendas Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Jun 13 2008 Bowery Ballroom New York, New York
Jun 14 2008 Union Hall Brooklyn, New York
Jun 15 2008 Rock And Roll Hotel Washington DC
Jun 17 2008 Local 506 Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Jun 18 2008 The Earl Atlanta, Georgia
Jun 19 2008 Exit/In Nashville, Tennessee
Jun 20 2008 Sticky Fingerz Little Rock, Arkansas
Jun 21 2008 Stubb's Jr. Austin, Texas
Jun 22 2008 The Cavern Dallas, Texas
Jun 25 2008 Plush Room Tucson, Arizona
Jun 26 2008 Casbah San Diego, California
Jun 27 2008 The Echo Los Angeles, California
Jun 28 2008 Slim’s San Francisco, California

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ways And Means

Sorry for the radio silence these past few. I was at the Alma M. for a long weekend with the Peeps, always an instructive and stimulating affair.

There is not much to say beyond, as stated earlier, Obama will beat McCain like a rug, that the whole right-wing spew apparatus will be gone in about a year and a half (anyone notice ol' Rupe's prediction last week of an Obama landslide? The Dirty Digger always heads for the money), and, also a pet prediction of mine, what's left of the GOP will be crushed in the '10 polls.

It is worth noting that Barry is not talking about the end of politics, but a remodeling. The GOP may be going away, but conservatives are not. What will be fascinating to see is how the country comes to grips with issues which have been cast in concrete since the disasters of the 60s.

Judging by what I saw of his address last night in St. Paul, Obama is still very much interested in presenting his remarkable victory as a collective one, that he is merely the visible edge of a wave. Lately I've been occupied thinking about his upbringing in Hawaii, a place I have never been, and how it formed his ideas of what is natural and possible. That is as far west as it gets in this country, and for him to meld that experience with an adulthood in Chicago, while marrying a girl from Iowa, speaks to me of what Whitman called Democratic Vistas.

While there are not a tremendous number of black people living in the rural midwest, as Michelle will tell you there are plenty, and I would guess that Obama's "surprising" popularity in the prairie states comes from the respect held by white voters there for their black neighbors--farmers, doctors, insurance agents, mechanics, cooks, lawyers, ministers, teachers, your usual pillars of the community. Those are the people midwesterners see in the Obamas, because those are the people the Obamas are.

Though at times overwhelmed by disfunction, Americans remain a practical and forward-looking people, willing to pitch in. The utter failure of that squalid little man's politics, which has brought the nation to exactly this point, is that it included very few citizens in its calculations. I think the greatest disservice Ron Reagan did to the GOP was to make the job of president look easy, when it most certainly is not. To repeat myself a bit, whatever you think of RR, and I was never a fan, he brought to the job rivers of experience, judgement and ease which, it turns out, is impossible to fake. You'd have thought the Republicans would have understood that, but all they ever really focused on after Ron left office were the ends, that is--power. Reagan was very much a skillful ways and means kind of guy and I submit that is what people now see, and appreciate, in Obama.