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Lewis Lapham, editor of Lapham’s Quaterly, has written a thought-provoking essay in Mother Jones: How the Internet Fails Us. From his essay: “The times, like all others, can be said to be the best of times and the worst of times. The Internet can be perceived as a cesspool of misinformation, a phrase that frequently…

How the Internet Fails Us

Lewis Lapham, editor of Lapham’s Quaterly, has written a thought-provoking essay in Mother Jones: How the Internet Fails Us. From his essay:

“The times, like all others, can be said to be the best of times and the worst of times. The Internet can be perceived as a cesspool of misinformation, a phrase that frequently bubbles up to a microphone in Congress or into the pages of the Wall Street Journal; it also can be construed as a fountain of youth pouring out data streams in directions heretofore unimaginable and unknown, allowing David Carr, media columnist and critic for the New York Times, to believe that “someday, I should be able to walk into a hotel in Kansas, tell the television who I am and find everything I have bought and paid for, there for the consuming.”

“Carr presumably knows whereof he speaks, and I’m content to regard the internet as the best and brightest machine ever made by man, but nonetheless a machine with a tin ear and a wooden tongue. It is one thing to browse the internet; it is another thing to write for it.”

Posted by Joel on April 28 2012 • Multimedia

Moyers Moment

I have long been a big fan of Bill Moyers. Now that he is back on television he has created his own website, which not only includes links to his new weekly series it also includes archival footage of some of his past work. Here he interviews Maya Angelou (in 1982) as they tour her hometown and talk about racial discrimination. It’s only a short clip, but it is moving nonetheless. I think I agree with the comments made by Dan on Moyers’ website: “This is a beautiful moment. Bill Moyers, the journalist, listens. Maya is vulnerable now as she was as a child at the foot of the tracks. At the end, she turns around arm-in-arm with Bill, turning their backs to the tracks that symbolize segregation and hatred. This is about as poignant as 3 minutes can be.”

Posted by Joel on April 22 2012 • Journalism

Mourir Auprès de Toi

Filmmaker Spike Jones (Where the Wild Things Are) has been making short films and videos in recent years. Here’s a wonderful stop motion love story for book lovers called Mourir Auprès de Toi (To Die By Your Side). Set in famed bookstore Shakespeare and Company, the film tells the story of the skeleton from the cover of Macbeth who falls in love with Mina Harker on the cover of Dracula. Courtesy of Brain Pickings.

At Nowness, Jones shares his thoughts about the short and the creative process: “A short is like a sketch,” Jones says. “You can have an idea or a feeling and just go and do it.”

Spike Jonze: Mourir Auprès de Toi on Nowness.com.

Posted by Joel on April 22 2012 • Multimedia

Robert Caro and LBJ

Two great feature stories came out this week about Robert Caro’s 40-year effort to chronicle the life of Lyndon Johnson: one in the New York Times Magazine, the other in Esquire. The fourth volume, The Passage of Power, which will hit stores on May 1. I love how both features capture Caro’s painstaking attention to detail and a writing process that hasn’t changed in the years that he has been writing. Here is an excerpt on that process from “The Big Book,” written by Chris Jones in Esquire:

"After Caro composes his one or two anchor paragraphs, he writes his outline, the first of his outlines. This is the one that he pins onto his bulletin boards: maybe two dozen pages, typewritten on his Smith-Corona Electra 210. ("It’s like giving your fingers wings,” the advertisements in Life magazine read in 1967. “They just kiss the keys. Never punch them.” Caro has nine spares that he can cannibalize for parts, and he collects ribbon like a hoarder.) Here, he writes only the briefest sketches of scenes, entire chapters reduced to single lines: His Depression or The Cuban Missile Crisis. “Once that’s done,” Caro says, “I don’t change it.” He has his frame.

“Then he writes a fuller outline that usually fills three or four notebooks, throwing himself into the filing cabinets that surround him, the yields from nearly four decades of research. Caro has spent vast stretches of his life poring over documents, mostly at the Johnson Library in Austin — it alone contains forty-five million pages, held in red and gray boxes, many of which he is the only visitor ever to have opened, rows and rows of boxes stretched across four floors — and interviewing hundreds of subjects.” Compare this photo from the Esquire story with this slideshow from the Times and you will see how little has changed--from the coat and tie, to the corkboard, to the fixtures on the desk.

From the book description: “Book Four of Robert A. Caro’s monumental The Years of Lyndon Johnson displays all the narrative energy and illuminating insight that led the Times of London to acclaim it as “one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age.  A masterpiece.” The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career—1958 to1964.  It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power he had created for himself as Senate Majority Leader for what became the wretched powerlessness of a Vice President in an administration that disdained and distrusted him. Yet it was, as well, the time in which the presidency, the goal he had always pursued, would be thrust upon him in the moment it took an assassin’s bullet to reach its mark.”

Posted by Joel on April 15 2012 • Books

Unlimited Digital Magazines

Could Next Issue Media’s business model be the future for magazine publishers? It’s been called Netflix for magazines. From Wired (emphasis added): “This week, Next Issue Media released a new Android tablet newsstand for magazines from equity partners Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith and Time Inc. According to NIM, an iPad version will be submitted to Apple’s App Store in roughly six weeks. For the first time, customers can subscribe to unlimited reading of as many as 32 titles from five different publishers through one app, with one user interface, at one price.

The idea seems very appealing for consumers. For either $10 a month or $15 a month (the extra five bucks adds weeklies such as the New Yorker, Newsweek, and Time), readers can have unlimited access to all of the magazines. The hope is that when consumers are offered a chance for unlimited access they will consume more digital media than they would when buying it piece by piece. It’s a big deal. Author Tim Carmody writes that instead of going after the “long tail” of niche publications or back catalog, this content deal is aimed directly at the “short head,” where you find big volume. “NIM’s first 35 titles, [CEO Morgan] Guenther says, already have a mostly print readership of 350 million, with $8 billion in ad revenue.” But more than eyeballs, the new digital model is aimed at capturing potential advertisers. Carmody writes:

“Right now, there’s no scale in digital magazines for advertising,” says Guenther. Currently, magazine titles sell their own ads for tablets, usually for all platforms (iPad, Android, Kindle, Nook, etc.), often bundled with print and/or web buys.

“With our platform, we have the capabiliity of showing cross-title engagement,” Guenther adds. “Instead of 18- to 34-year-old-males all going into individual apps, we can do group sales to reach that same guy over at Wired or Esquire, etc.”

I think the model shows great promise. It will be interesting to watch in the coming months and years.

Posted by Joel on April 08 2012 • Journalism

It's Baseball Season

It’s baseball season! Bill Murray throws the first pitch at Wrigley Field. Courtesy of The Atlantic Wire.

Posted by Joel on April 07 2012 • Current Affairs

Finance and the Good Society

I’ve always loved the work of economist Robert Shiller. His insight always seems to be ahead of its time--consider his books Irrational Exuberance,The Subprime Solution, The New Financial Order and most recently Animal Spirits. He has a new book coming out soon called Finance and the Good Society. I’m sure it’s filled with insightful comments about our economy. Here’s the summary from Barnes and Noble:

“The reputation of the financial industry could hardly be worse than it is today in the painful aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. New York Times best-selling economist Robert Shiller is no apologist for the sins of finance--he is probably the only person to have predicted both the stock market bubble of 2000 and the real estate bubble that led up to the subprime mortgage meltdown. But in this important and timely book, Shiller argues that, rather than condemning finance, we need to reclaim it for the common good. He makes a powerful case for recognizing that finance, far from being a parasite on society, is one of the most powerful tools we have for solving our common problems and increasing the general well-being. We need more financial innovation--not less--and finance should play a larger role in helping society achieve its goals.

“Challenging the public and its leaders to rethink finance and its role in society, Shiller argues that finance should be defined not merely as the manipulation of money or the management of risk but as the stewardship of society’s assets. He explains how people in financial careers--from CEO, investment manager, and banker to insurer, lawyer, and regulator--can and do manage, protect, and increase these assets. He describes how finance has historically contributed to the good of society through inventions such as insurance, mortgages, savings accounts, and pensions, and argues that we need to envision new ways to rechannel financial creativity to benefit society as a whole.

“Ultimately, Shiller shows how society can once again harness the power of finance for the greater good.”

Posted by Joel on April 06 2012 • Books