Category Archives: Media

It was gonna happen

I had a feeling this was going to happen. Yesterday a barage of opinions informed and otherwise exploded in Memphis when our local Scripps-Howard owned Commercial Appeal announced it was setting up a pay wall.

When I told my wife about the move she said, “Well, you knew it would happen someday.”Which is interesting considering everyone is supposed to believe that the web would be free forever.

I didn’t.

Making that big ol’ thing costs money. For too long subscription rates have dropped and website ad revenue has yet to make up anything close to the gap. Its just numbers folks. Its gonna happen.

The outrage on twitter was, as it always is, silly. People who are generally smart complained that the newspaper sucks (or more delicately, “Isn’t what it used to be” which can be said of any institution whether true or not and folks will click their tongues in approval) and they won’t pay for it. Which I find an odd argument.

First, if it sucks so bad that you won’t pay for it, why do you use it at all? And if you don’t, why do you care what they decide to charge?

Second, nothing is “what it used to be.” But many of the complaints that consumers have with their local newspaper have to do with the cheapening of news. The idea that corporate entities with their minds solely on the bottom line are slashing quality to make up for dwindling profit margins. This is true. So how then to stop the further cheapening? Certainly not by continuing with the free online / paid in print model that’s ruling the roost.

Its inevitable.

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Things that don’t matter

I’m a big fan of Slate. I think its a great example of how a website can succeed with quality thoughtful journalism. I love their podcasts as well. Particularly the sports-themed “Hang Up and Listen” and the “Political Gabfest.” Slate is smart and well written. Sadly, it can also be insular and pretentious. Rarely, some of their content is downright cringeworthy.

Such was my feeling listening to this week’s “Culture Gabfest.” Which I both enjoy and find frustrating in nearly equal measure. There’s no question that the three principals (Steven Metcalf, Julia Turner and Dana Stevens) are brilliant and well heeled in their knowledge. Sometimes though, they venture in to a realm of pop culture that seems…uncomfortable.

In this week’s episode, the group discussed the new Beastie Boy’s album. As a cranky old white hip hop connoisseur I knew this would be trouble. It was.

I won’t go into too many details but I found it…less than thoughtful. In a fit of frustration I went to the Culture Gabfest’s facebook page and wrote:

“Listening to Steven talk about Hip Hop is like listening to Michelle Bachman discuss evolution”

I should’ve just stayed quiet.

I wasn’t the only one to think the segment was sub par, but I certainly was the only one to be called “gratuitously obnoxious” by Steven (a phrase which fits me far better than Steven could possibly know)

So I deleted the comment  and ignored his rambling, four paragraph response in which he suggests hip hop’s penchant for keepin’ it real as being the real source of my snide remark and then tried to gain some credibility by saying he preferred Afrika Bambaataa to any of the Def Jam artists. Then, he flipped the script and demanded that someone produce a thoughtful history of hip hop on par with a book about the Beatles that he loves.

Sad.

There is no point arguing with a cultural critic. He has his opinion. His opinions are the tools he uses to pay his mortgage. There is no way you can question a critic. He (or she) cannot be wrong. He cannot be proven to be anything less than an expert in whatever field he is discussing. Its vital.

If you want to discuss World War Two with a Civil War historian, he will most certainly be knowledgable and interesting but it ain’t in his wheelhouse. At the same time, however, he’s unlikely to admit that he’s wrong or out of his depth in any way.  Because well.. damn it, he’s a historian.

I shouldn’t have been so glib but it doesn’t really matter. Its just a reminder that while the internet may encourage back talk and discussion, it rarely inspires us to consider our own misconceptions or misinformation. It only seems to harden them.

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Da Mystery of Chess Boxin’

On the new episode of the show I spoke to my guest Bill Perry about the nature of art.

Its not easy to put something that sprang directly from your mind into the public eye and not cringe with terror.

Making and then trying to sell a piece of your creativity is like you’re standing naked in a room full of teenagers. Some of them are going to jeer but mostly, they’re just judging you. I’m fascinated by those that can throw themselves into the traffic of public opinion and seemingly come back from it unscathed.

Regardless, the desire to make something overrules the fear of other’s judgement. it seems like some artists just know that somehow, their going to have to take a bunch of minor cuts to make something that you’re proud of. Bill had a great grasp and insight into that.

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The Kubler-Ross model of sportswriting.

Like most Memphians, I basked in the glory of media reports of the  beat down that our beloved Griz laid on the rapidly aging San Antonio Spurs. I absorbed more than my share of write-ups, blog posts and tweets about the game. Some where stunningly beautiful and full of talent and sweat yet others were utter shit.

From Clay Bailey’s spartan AP write up to Bethlehem Shoals artful GQ piece, I read it all. I read 3 Shades of Blue and I read Memphisport. I read the Ball Don’t Lie and I read the Basketball Jones. I read ESPN. I read Fox. It has been blog post bukkake (DO NOT GOOGLE, DAD) In the end,  that orgy of round ball writing left me with a sour taste.

I have now experienced the Kubler-Ross model. As first, I couldn’t believe it. Every word no matter how poorly drafted was amazing. I was like a man woken from deep sleep, struggling to be sure it was all real.

Then the glittery scales fell from my eyes and I began to see the truth. I became angry. “Why does this writing have to be so bad? Why are these websites so goddamn bad?” Then I began to bargin. “Maybe its not thet they’re so bad, maybe you’re just being overly critical because you’re so emotionally involved with the subject. You have no objectivity.” Then I was just sad. As I read yet another joyless piece about how awesome the Grizzlies are, I just lost faith. Finally I just accepted it. People who love to write also often suck at it.

I may, in fact, count myself among their number.

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The big announcement

Last night, I launched the first episode of my podcast “People I Know.”

I’m stupid nervous about it but also proud. Its rough in places and I have a lot to learn about interviewing, editing and shutting up when the guest is talking. I hope very much that you’ll take the time to listen to it and let me know what you think.

THANKS

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A legacy

I don’t do music reviews. I’m seriously opinionated about music but I generally don’t write about it. This month I picked up the Ike and Tina Turner compilation “Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter” and I simply gotta talk about it.

Ike Turner is a fascinating figure in rock and roll history. He recorded “Rocket 88” here in Memphis and Sam Phillips dubbed it the first rock and roll record. That fact is hotly debated, but who am I to argue with Mr Phillips? Ike Turner was an astounding guitarist and musician. He was also, by most accounts, fucking nuts.

If you are a child of the 1980s as I am, Tina Turner holds a special place in your youth. Her pop hits during the eighties were so large that they eclipsed the body of funk and soul music that she and Ike cranked out during the sixties and early seventies. Aside from their eternally popular cover of CCR’s “Proud Mary,” what is most remembered is Ike’s horrific abuse. This compilation is a backhanded smack at Ike’s rightfully tarnished legacy.

God damn, this collection is really good.

Ike’s guitar work slides around from solid Pops Staples-esque R&B to heavily distorted psychedelia. Tina’s voice is raw and wild, so far away from the raspy polish of songs like “Private Dancer” that its hard to imagine they are from the same woman.

The title track, also a cover, has been performed by Nina Simone and Niki Costa.

I imagine that version Ike and Tina recorded was coated in kerosene and lit on fire. Tina sounds as if she is screaming directly at Ike. It is raw and it touches both a deeply danceable groove as well as an uncomfortable subject. In that way, it perfectly captures the essence of the Turner’s relationship.

There are a few more bafling and incredible cover songs including, Sly and the Family Stone’s “I want to Take You Higher” The Drifter’s “Up On the Roof” and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” All of them are fantastic.

Ike is one of those timeless geniuses who also happen to be insufferable assholes. That is always a problem when thinking about art. How connected to the person should we feel his/her art is? In other words, should I not like this music because Ike was a scumbag? I have to admit, I can’t help it. The groove is just too strong.

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The Last Next Big Thing

Just as MySpace has turned from a glistening palace of Rupert Murdoch soaked cash to the Detroit of the internet complete with dead end roads and bombed-out storefronts, so too has the social news website Digg. Digg was the next big thing a few years ago. Cofounder Kevin Rose was a millionaire on the cover of Business Week and competitors like Newsvine and Reddit attempted to steal its thunder. Those services still live on as does Digg, but the days when Google or Yahoo would offer billions for Digg are done.

According to Techcrunch, Kevin Rose doesn’t even use his Digg account anymore.

This is the reality of predicting the next big thing. I hammer on it again and again but the truth is, most of these things are transient. The real disruptive changes are larger and require more scope. The iPod didn’t change music in 6 months. It proved itself over years. Even overnight success is based in long hours and luck. Content rather than delivery, remains king.

 

UPDATE: BOOM he resigns

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