Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Print media is going up in flames this week.

First came the news Friday that my beloved Radar—the only magazine I’ve ever subscribed to—has folded. Then the Star-Ledger, which has been having massive problems the past few months and is on the brink of extinction, despite being New Jersey’s largest newspaper and the 15th highest-circulation in the country, will cut almost 40% of its workforce by the end of the year.

And today, the Christian Science Monitor will cease publishing the actual physical newspaper during the week and become online-only in April.

My heart bleeds for the rapid demise of this once vibrant sector. It’s not that no one wants to read a newspapers, it’s just they’re expensive (I love my Times, but I debate every week if it’s worth the cost), and it’s easier to read things online. But subscription services may not be the way to go, either—TimesSelect was notoriously unpopular, fettering access to some of the best parts of the paper, the opinion section—since many people won’t bother to pay for it.

While they are many things I’d rather read hard copies of—Time, Newsweek, RollingStone, long magazine articles found in the Times Magazine—it often seems superfluous for me to pay money for content I can get for free, through other means. Indeed, if I didn’t have an outlet for getting my hands on so many different magazines, I would probably be broke buying everything I want to read. But truthfully, I like hard copies. A lot. I can go over the same passages, make notes if I so desire, carry the information with me, take in the whole thing as part of a package. But I understand very well why many people—especially young people—have no interest in print. It’s money, money that can be spent elsewhere. A lot of information can be found online or on television. Paper is a valuable resource, and then there’s the space and time it takes up. Recycling is no match for the environmental ease of emailing. Online offers links within the articles, easily accessible sources and support, which just aren’t there in print. A sidebar is not the same thing.

Yet I want to support the newspaper industry as much as possible. Besides, a printout of the article isn’t the same as the actual article, with graphics and fancy fonts and nice paper. The former may get yellowed, but it becomes a treasure, while a printout is just a copy, likely to get thrown out.

Radar collapsed not for lack of trying—it was on its third incarnation—but because it was a print publication doing what blogs like Gawker and Daily Intel do on a daily basis. Gawker itself summed up why it has finally ceased publication: basically, it suffered from bad timing. Although Radar’s blog, Fresh Intelligence, managed to grab scoops, it treaded on territory already run into the ground—snarky, funny takes on anything to do with entertainment. And in this media landscape, “Pop. Politics. Scandal. Style.” was covered everywhere else. In fact, entertainment coverage is dominated by what seems to be a singular voice: snarky.

Radar was never derivative. It was often hilariously, laugh-out-loud funny, and they dared to mock established magazine covers, including Vanity Fair’s infamous Tom Ford cover.

Radar followed the pedigree of Spy and Talk, two magazines that also ultimately folded because they couldn’t build up enough capital. Radar, in fact, is from the hallowed halls of Tina Brown’s Talk; Maer Roshan, Radar’s editor-in-chief, worked for Talk, New York, and a host of other cool magazines.

I still have all my back issues of Radar from the last year. I never got around to finishing most of them (that’s the problem when I buy, not borrow). There was a time, in high school and on the first incarnation of Radar, where I briefly dreamed of writing for the magazine. Now I can’t even dream of writing for their blog.

Continuing coverage of this story is best found on Gawker. And just for the record, I’ve always disliked American Media--the company who bought out Radar's excellent website—whose clout came largely from Bonnie Fuller, who I hold responsible for practically everything wrong in America.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I expected the New York Times to endorse Obama, but I didn't expect them (or other newspapers) to do it so soon. I figured it would come the Sunday before election day.

Actually, I'm more interested in the breakdown of the news that the New York City Council voted to approve the change in term limits, essentially creating a third term for Bloomberg. The Post and the Daily News both published their support of the extension in term limits today; the Times did so two days ago.

USA Today has a small list of newspapers and their endorsements (of course being as bland and middle-of-the-road as possible), as do several other outlets. I assumed that a majority would endorse Obama; anyone paying attention at all would realize this.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Facebook Parodies Will Never Get Old


I hope "World News Feed" is a regular occurrence.

(Sorry for the small size--I'd mess with the HTML, but it probably wouldn't be worth it. Click on the link for best results.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who Wants to Be a First Lady?

Two weeks ago, I read American Wife--Curtis Sittenfeld's bildunsroman on a fictional Laura Bush. I'm a fan of Sittenfeld's, but this book is not like her previous ones, Prep and The Man of My Dreams. American Wife does not uncomfortably magnify those insecure feelings we’d rather keep hidden. That is both a credit and a demerit to the book—it’s far easier to read, less fraught with personal revelation, but perhaps not as memorable as her earlier works.

American Wife follows Alice Lindgren, a typical middle-class only child in a small town in Wisconsin, who eventually becomes Alice Blackwell, married to Charlie Blackwell, the 43rd President of the United States. It’s unmistakable that Alice and Charlie Blackwell are the alter egos of Laura and George Bush: they are the same age (although their individual birthdays are different), their courtship patterns follow the same course, she is a children’s librarian, he’s a rich playboy bopping around when they meet at a BBQ…I found the parallels between the characters and their real-life counterparts fun. If you know current events, the last chapter alone is very illuminating. But it’s also exciting to realize you spot Karl Rove’s alter ego before he’s Karl Rove, chuckle that Charlie ran as a “tolerant traditionalist” in 2000, that that election hinged on Florida.

American Wife has received a lot of press—there are spoilers out there too—and while the first 150 pages or so are fantastic, the story loses urgency once Alice marries Charlie. She is longer the passionate librarian, but a woman caught up in country clubs and that world is one that I was very eager to leave. But the book, especially the last section which focuses on the years Charlie is president, serves as a great understanding of the psychology behind the First Couple, why the administration has enacted the policies they have, how the history of the United States has unfolded under its current president. There is no need to know the details of the current administration, but a sense of history enhances the enjoyment.

Sittenfeld’s love of first ladies is evident in a 2003 Salon article she wrote, reviewing a biography of Laura Bush, and in her recent piece in Time, on Michelle Obama. I see in Michelle a type of woman who will be first ladies in the future—not what Laura Bush or Cindy McCain are, women of privilege. At least, I hope the country moves in that direction.

Full review on WitWar.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I need to start reading New York magazine more

G.G.: Yeah, to me there's a disconnect in McCain's approach to tech. He's obviously smarter about it than he seems (given his time on the issues in the Senate), but the fact that during the last decade he never sat down on a Saturday afternoon and said, “I'm going to teach myself how to use the Web and send e-mail,” is troubling. It just feeds the out-of-touch-ness. Obama on the BlackBerry himself is a powerful image.

M.Y.: It really does make you wonder what he was basing his policy decisions on. You'd think he'd be curious, right? He's voting on these bills, and his office has computers in it. Still, to me the most remarkable thing isn't about McCain personally but how slowly our definition of the "important issues" shifts — the whole idea of the information economy still isn't much more than a throwaway line as far as political campaigns are concerned.

A really interesting discussion between Matt Yglesias (his Atlantic connection makes him automatically rule) and Garrett M. Graff, editor of the Washingtonian and the first blogger to get credentialed by the White House. Just by the looks of his resume, he seems pretty awesome, too. I just plucked out the section on McCain and technology--they make a really good point on how it's not brought up in this campaign, though it should be, as technological progress has been and will continue to define the future of the country.

Later, there is talk of making Americans sacrifice, criticizing President Bush for encouraging Americans to shop as a response to September 11 than to do anything. I've always agreed with that statement--as a kid I always was swept up when hearing historical narratives that dealt with sacrifice in terms of war, be it WWII, the Civil War, or the Revolution. It seemed so exciting, working for your country, doing good! Shopping is frivolous, nothing like planting a victory garden, and I've been eagerly wanting to do something.

Such a great idea

I'm usually not a fan of Sarah Silverman, except when it comes to her online videos:
She even won an Emmy for her last one, "I'm Fucking Matt Damon".

That's a real organization she's shilling for. I love the line "and they both have a lot of friends who are dying".

I really think when Obama wins one of the reasons will be not only how he harnessed technology but how his supporters did, too. Without all these viral videos--starting from "I Got a Crush On Obama"--he just wouldn't have had the same impact. I think the numbers will bear this out.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


That chart below also applies to McCain at tonight's debate.


My mom sent me this, and it's really quite funny and accurate:

(From ph33r and loathing)