6/26/2009 5:18:37 PM
If you read just one thing about Michael Jackson in the wake of his untimely death, make it this beautiful rumination by Utne visionary Adrienne Maree Brown. “Michael Jackson, who’s loving you?” is a lovely personal remembrance, and a gentle reminder of the role we all played in his fall from grace. Here's an excerpt:
When the rumors and the truth were all too prevalent (the children, both his and others), and he wasn’t getting the psychological support and accountability he needed, we turned from him and derided him. We made the distinction of loving the child, but ridiculing the man.
How many times did his heart break before this? How many times did he experience happiness, community, belonging and love in his life, in his off-the-stage life?
My entire life is framed by his songs. I have had ecstatic moments to his music while high, while drunk, while sober, while sad, while in love, while in heartbreak. It seems silly to feel this way over a pop singer, and yet it's crucial to feel this way over an artist who reshaped how we understand music, movement and communication. He was at every good party I ever attended (which is where I have felt more release and unity with other people than just about anywhere else).
I suspect he always will be.
Image by stylespion, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/26/2009 9:55:58 AM
Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon has spent a decade explaining why he writes such strong female characters for his projects (Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse, the film Serenity)—and in the clip below, he gives a powerful, awesome (and hopefully final) answer to the question that reporters just love to ask him.
If you’re at all interested in women in the media, you must watch this clip, which is from a speech he gave at a 2006 Equality Now event (re-posted recently at the Contexts blog). The best bit is at the very end—I won’t spoil it for you. Whedon begins speaking at the two-minute mark, after a nice introduction by Meryl Streep. (Transcript is available here.)
6/24/2009 2:54:26 PM
Barry Katz, writing for the summer 2009 issue of Arcade, sees the economic downturn as a much needed kick in the teeth for the design world, especially in advertising. He writes:
All this means fewer products, fewer resources expended on making things and fewer designers engaged in conceiving and planning them. Fewer products to sell means fewer advertisements, which means less paper and more trees, less air time and more air. Suddenly there is less chemical pollution of the biosphere and less visual pollution of the semiosphere. People feel less assaulted by the relentless barrage of things and images and become more attentive to the spaces between them, which they will begin to call “nature.”
Katz suggests a new breed of unemployed designers will actually design more, introducing the concept of “un-design,” a process that, among many other restorative acts, includes dismantling cigarette machines and neutralizing corporate identities. Sounds like a good start…
6/24/2009 2:07:05 PM
Will the death of journalism mean the end of democracy? The newest issue of Mother Jones provides us with a rundown of depressing statistics about the state of media:
- 43% of Americans say it would hurt civil life “a lot” if their local newspapers closed. Yet when asked if they’d miss their paper, 42% say “not much” or “not at all.”
- By one estimate, an entirely Web-based New York Times could generate only enough money to support about 20% of the paper’s current staff.
- The editor of the New York Times Magazine says a typical cover story costs more than $40,000 to produce—and that excludes editing, art, and fact-checking. That’s more than Mother Jones’ story budget for freelance writers for an entire issue.
- The top 10% of bloggers earn an average of $19,000 a year. For all bloggers, the median is $200 for men, $100 for women.
Source: Mother Jones (article not yet available online)
6/24/2009 11:19:06 AM
The great migration from print to digital has indelibly changed the written word and the people who create it. “It's not journalism we're losing, any more than it was agriculture or steel,” former newspaper editor Bob Sheasley writes in the new issue of Lost.
The online magazine’s new issue, Lost in Print, explores what is slipping away as writers stumble toward digital. “Writers are adapting to new platforms and quieter newsrooms, but writers are writers — out there in the world, taking it all in, putting it into words for us to read,” the editors note reads. “On that front, nothing's changing.”
Visiting the broken-down steel towns or the once-vibrant newsrooms, Sheasley expresses a different sentiment. Journalism and steel haven’t gone away, but there’s no doubt that something has been lost.
, licensed under
6/19/2009 10:12:40 AM
PolitiFact.com has made a name for itself by fact-checking politicians’ statements and promises, an extremely valuable service that earned the site a 2009 Pulitzer Prize. Now, the St. Petersburg Times reports, the site is taking on the truth-distorting pundits of TV and talk radio—and not just the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O’Reillys of the world; the site has also fact-checked statements made by lefty pundits Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.
PolitiFact.com, which is a project of the St. Petersburg Times, rates the veracity of claims on its Truth-O-Meter—for example, Joe Scarborough’s recent statement that “President Obama has never received a paycheck from a profitmaking business in his entire life” landed firmly on the “false” end of the spectrum—and lists the arguments and sources involved in the researchers’ conclusions.
The best part? Editors and reporters at the St. Petersburg Times do all this work so that you don’t have to. Just suggest a statement to check, and they’ll consider putting it to the Truth-O-Meter’s test.
Sources: PolitiFact.com, St. Petersburg Times
Image by futureatlas.com, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/18/2009 5:37:39 PM
The formerly sacrosanct separation between editorial and advertising is slowly crumbling as the bottom drops out of media budgets. What was once referred to as a wall is now more like a fence, Natalie Pompilio reports for the American Journalism Review. And that fence has a front door, and some holes in it.
“While many experts agree the beleaguered news industry has to change its ways in order to survive,” Pompilio writes, “the question is how to do so while maintaining credibility and standards.”
Source: American Journalism Review
6/18/2009 2:55:35 PM
Making fun of magazine covers is like netting fish in a barrel, but that doesn't mean it's not funny. In a stunt aimed at catering specifically to its core readership of cranky libertarians—who still inexplicably doubt the existence of climate change and, if they didn't like pot so much and God so little, would look a lot like, well...conservatives—Reason magazine went through a stack of Time magazines to showcase the Top 10 Most Absurd Covers of the Past 40 Years.
Highlights include a black-and-red line drawing of Satan ("The Occult Revival: Satan Returns"), a little boy sporting a crocodile tear ("Crack Kids: Their Mothers used drugs, and now it's the children who suffer"), and a ghostly, wide-eyed little boy who, sitting in front of a keyboard, seems to be possessed by demons ("Cyberporn: Can we protect our kids—and free speech?").
The write-ups following each cover image, packed with data and designed to take the air out of Time's perpetually hyperbolic balloon, are quick-witted and, not suprisingly I suppose, well-Reason-ed. That said, one can't help but notice that the same critics who are up-in-arms over this fear-mongering and tabloid imagery are the same people who champion wild west capitalism. And the strategies Time uses to sell these covers are not only timeless and textbook, they're proven to win. So, the item leaves me wondering what's more important: Responsible headlines and reasoned journalism or big sales.
6/18/2009 11:52:00 AM
How young is too young to watch TV? The Week reports that researchers at the University of Washington have found that television watching decreases verbal interaction between adults and children, interaction that is crucial to brain development. The study found that for every hour the television was on, adults spoke from 500 to 1,000 fewer words to their children. This was true even if the TV was only background noise.
Ever since Teletubbies first sashayed into American homes over a decade ago, we’ve witnessed a steadily growing market of DVDs and so-called educational products aimed at getting toddlers and babies to watch television. But, while criticism of shows like Teletubbies has been limited to Jerry Falwell’s “outing” Tinky Winky, the larger question of the effects of early childhood exposure to TV has remained controversial.
Critics contend that television contributes to desensitization, lower attention spans, and poor cognitive development, while proponents claim that it all depends on the types of shows kids watch and the amount of exposure. They argue, for example, that shows like Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer teach children valuable lessons about culture and language. And now products like Baby Einstein claim that television-watching is beneficial for children as young as infants.
Source: The Week
Image by x-eyed blonde, licensed under Creative Commons
6/17/2009 4:57:46 PM
Journalism in Colombia can be a dangerous job. Hollman Morris and Juan Pablo Morris, the Colombian journalists behind the controversial investigative television show Contravía, know that better than most. The brothers speak of “denouncing” in broad terms, calling attention to the violence propagated by both the left-wing FARC guerillas and the right-wing paramilitaries that has plagued the country. These denouncements are a dangerous business, attracting death threats and political harassment toward the journalists.
There are fewer kidnappings in Colombia these days, but it’s important to continue exposing the human rights violations throughout the country, Hollman Morris told the Center for Investigative Reporting (video below). According to Morris, these investigations into atrocities “will become the history that nourishes the memories of the next generations of Colombians,” and stops the country’s tragic history of violence from repeating itself.
Source: Center for Investigative Reporting
6/12/2009 3:29:09 PM
Tired of all the confusion over the big digital conversion? The funny folks at McSweeney’s have just what you need: “Easy Instructions for the Conversion to Digital TV.” Here’s a choice excerpt:
First, if you already have cable, you don't have to do anything—just keep paying your monthly subscription-fee plus premium-channel packages, surcharges for additional converter boxes and remote controls, FCC and OVS fees, OMG and LOL charges, the Stamp Act, parental-control monitoring, additional cost to meta-monitor the parental-control monitors, and the thirty-seven other expenses listed conveniently in the fine print of your bill in Section 46.2, Schedule C, reverse side.
(Thanks, Columbia Journalism Review. )
Image by gbaku, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/12/2009 1:26:22 PM
“Can we please stop talking about feminism as if it is mothers and daughters fighting about clothes?” Katha Pollitt writes in The Nation. “Second wave: you’re going out in that? Third wave: just drink your herbal tea and leave me alone!”
The wave structure tossed around in the media “looks historical,” Pollitt writes, when in reality it’s anything but. Second wavers (like Adrienne Rich and Gloria Steinem) are in their golden years; third wavers (known for staking a renewed claim on “girl culture” and their passion for the intersection of race, class, and gender) are approaching 40.
Yet third wave “continues to be used to describe each latest crop of feminists—loosely defined as any female with more political awareness than a Bratz doll—and to portray them in terms of their rejection of second wavers, who are supposedly starchy and censorious. Like moms. Somebody’s mom, anyway,” Pollitt writes.
Aside from being inaccurate, this wave narrative reduces feminism into a tired battle between sexual freedom and repression. “Why not acknowledge that there will never be a bright line between pleasure and danger, personal choice and social responsibility, open-minded and judgment?” Pollitt writes. “The fine points of sexual freedom will all be there waiting for us—after we get childcare, equal pay, retirement security, universal access to birth control and abortion, healthcare for all and men who do their share at home, after we achieve equal representation in government, are safe from sexual violence, and raise a generation of girls who don’t hate their bodies.”
Source: The Nation
6/9/2009 6:14:42 PM
The Rolling Stones sort of predicted the downfall of print in their 1967 song "Yesterday’s Papers" by singing “who wants yesterday’s papers / nobody in the world.” Now that no one seems to want today’s papers either, it’s a little more alarming. Writing for Paste magazine (which has also struggled to stay in print), Mark Kemp notes that “there really was a golden age of journalism. It peaked with Woodward and Bernstein and began its steady decline with emergence of CNN. Today, the newspaper is crumbling faster than week-old bread.
And what do you do with crumbling week-old bread? Quit writing about it and make a playlist! Kemp compiled his personal top 10 list of songs about newspapers and journalism, all fully listenable on the site. So, chin up, throw on some headphones, and check out his favorites.
6/5/2009 3:51:25 PM
Yesterday we wrote of Chinese police blocking television cameras with umbrellas at Tiananmen Square. Here's what that hilarious and infuriating low-tech censorship looked like (cheers to the BBC correspondent, who played this one like a pro):
6/5/2009 12:01:48 PM
It’s tough to find intelligent and educational videos among the teeming masses of cat movies and puppy cams that clutter the web. Open Culture continually trolls the internet for the internet’s smartest sites and resources. This week, they posted a list of the 40 best cultural and educational video sites around. The list includes a few sites that have been profiled in Utne Reader (Europa Film Treasures and LinkTV) and a bunch I’d never heard of before.
Source: Open Culture
6/4/2009 2:45:27 PM
Throughout the Bush years, the American Conservative was one of the few voices on the right that consistently stood up to the war-mongering neocon rule. Founded by Pat Buchanan, the magazine is consistently thought provoking (sometimes maddening), and garnered a nomination for best political coverage in the 2009 Utne Independent Press Awards.
Last month, the magazine nearly folded. Writing for Campus Progress, Daniel Strauss profiled the American Conservative and its efforts to stay independent from the right and the left. The magazine now operates as a nonprofit, and has recently published articles by both left wing blogger Matthew Yglesias and right-wing blogger Steve Sailer. I may not always agree with the magazine, but it’s good to know they’ll be around for a while.
Sources: The American Conservative, Campus Progress
6/4/2009 12:51:47 PM
The International Society for Human Rights has collaborated with the German ad agency Ogilvy and Mather to create a compelling collection of posters depicting the threat of cyber dissent to regimes with a less-than-friendly disposition towards free expression. Thanks to Max Klingberg for permission to publish these images.
6/3/2009 4:13:02 PM
“Thomas, don't you even know how to be a real Indian? How many times have you seen Dances with Wolves, anyways? 100, 200 times? Oh Jesus, Thomas, you have seen it that many times.”
—Victor Joseph to Thomas-Builds-the-Fire
In the groundbreaking 1998 film Smoke Signals, penned by Sherman Alexie, Victor chastises his friend Thomas for his politically-incorrect obsession. In the May-June issue of Colorlines, cultural critic Paul Chaat Smith examines why American Indians are so preoccupied with Hollywood movies.
“We follow casting, production, shooting schedules of each new Hollywood feature about us with the anxiousness of European investors,” he writes. “We debate the merits of each new Indian film with passion and at great length...We critique plot, clothes, hair, history, horses, horse riding, language and makeup.”
According to Smith, Indians are obsessed with Hollywood because Hollywood images have defined how the broader culture understands them. Still, he argues that Indians would do well to remember that movies are still entertainment, not the sole vehicle for representation. He points out that some Native newspapers defended the 1992 film Dances With Wolves against white critics, presumably because of its positive imagery.
“That shows how confused many of us are,” Smith writes, “that we would act as unpaid press agents for a film that is based on a novel and screenplay about Comanches, and then shifted to South Dakota only after the production designer—and this is kind of poignant—finds a shortage of buffalo in Oklahoma. And not a single Comanche or Kiowa character, some based on actual historical figures, is changed. I mean, yo, Kevin, Mike: saying Ten Bears is Sioux is like saying Winston Churchill is Albanian.”
Smith makes a case for Indian filmmakers to write, produce, and direct their own films, but to do so as part of a serious investigation of their history. This includes questioning where and from whom they get information about what it means to be Indian.
6/1/2009 1:32:16 PM
Journalists are burying their heads in the sand, as newspapers spin their wheels in the dune, not realizing that the axles are already broken.
Journalists are choking in a sea of turbulent media, struggling and gasping for air, as newspapers—that look less and less like lifeboats—navigate perilously close to a rocky shore.
One more try:
The ivory castle of journalism is being raided by a marauding hoard of bloggers and citizen journalists who are hell-bent on scorching the earth of the media, and then salting it so nothing will ever grow again.
Writers have come up with plenty of metaphors to describe the death of their own industry and, like the over-crowded media landscape they lament, there’s plenty of quantity just not a lot of quality. Beth Macy, writing for the American Journalism Review included some old saws and a couple of new ones in a recent article on journalists who have decided: “If the ship's sinking, she's going down with it.”
Here are a few:
"Some days you feel like you're slowly being buried up to your neck, but you're still there, still breathing."
"We're the ones left in the lifeboat. We made it off the ship, and we're out in the big ocean. But we're alive, and we're together, and one way or another, we are going to get to shore."
“It's not just about Budweiser any more. There are lots of microbreweries and, while the microbreweries might not pay as well, sometimes they are more rewarding."
"Just like with the economy, I think it's going to get worse, and then eventually something beautiful is going to grow up from the ashes."
And my favorite:
"I feel like I live in Middle Earth, and the dark cloud has covered the land.”
Image by Katherine Oneill, licensed under
Source: American Journalism Review
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