Monthly Archives: July 2008

What the Newseum’s $450 million could buy now

Back in February, Jack Shafer wrote a column for Slate excoriating the new $450 million Newseum building next to the National Mall. He finished his anti-ode to the “monument to journalistic vanity” by gently (compared to the rest of the piece) pointing out that there are plenty of better uses for $450 million, given the troubles facing newspapers:

I want the Freedom Forum to sell off their monument valley installation and use the proceeds to actually support journalism. Like endowing a newspaper, for instance.

Just one newspaper? Those were the days. Nowadays — a mere five months later, that is — $450 million could get you 3 or 4 newspaper chains.

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A reasonable defense of Family Circus

Anyone who (like me) has ever made fun of lame comic strips and the newspapers that run them should read this David Sullivan post about audiences’ capacity and desire for cultural change. It’s the most persuasive case I’ve read for why newspapers stick with what I would consider outdated comics, features, and language:

A columnist or feature can occasionally be hip; but a newspaper can’t be hip. It can’t be the counterculture. It is the culture. It has been part of how new ideas are absorbed into the mainstream. …

But it can be hard to find one’s place in the culture, which grows more complicated by the day; the Internet, with its social networking and postings and chat, provides a new counterculture, or multiple ones, ones that make the mainstream look even lamer than “The Family Circus” did to me in the 1970s. The argument about the future of news is partly about whether the mainstream ends with the baby boomers, like the parents left behind in “Childhood’s End” as the children join the ubermind.

The problem is that newspapers have tended to do a poor job of figuring out how to satisfy both the Family Circus and the more modern audiences. Plus the younger mainstream audience is still hipper and savvier than the Baby Boomer Family Circus audience. But Sullivan’s point is well taken.

Sorry, Axl, but Chinese Democracy is NOT a Guns N’ Roses album

Now that there’s a real possibility of Chinese Democracy actually being released this year — Rock Band 2, coming out in September, will feature a song from the notoriously delayed project — can we please stop referring to it as a Guns N’ Roses album?

I’m as curious as any Use Your Illusion II fan to hear what Axl Rose has been blowing his millions on for the past decade, but I’m not going to be fooled by the words “Guns N’ Roses” on the CD cover. It’s nothing more than an Axl Rose side project (or solo album, if you don’t think Axl and Slash will ever settle their differences and get back in the ring).

I realize the hype machine revs into full gear for this kind of thing (see: Jimmy Fallon’s uncontainable excitement announcing the “band” at the 2002 MTV Music Awards), but the musical papers don’t need to play along. It’s one thing for, say, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey to continue calling themselves The Who — Keith Moon is long dead, John Entwistle was part of the band until his 2002 death, and the remaining duo are just classic rock dinosaurs at this point anyway.

But Slash and Izzy Stradlin were central to GNR’s sound and success, and they shouldn’t be punished in abstentia for Axl’s craziness-slash-eccentricities. Anybody who writes about Chinese Democracy should call it what it is.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping that if I refer to Chinese Democracy as a “Guns N’ Roses” album (note the scare quotes) or an Axl Rose vanity project enough times, Axl might get so pissed off that he calls me out by name in a song.

(Incidentally, I’ve always been curious about how you can blow $13 million-plus — or twice that, if you’re Michael Jackson — making music. The last time I checked, there are no expensive CGI scenes on a CD. The figure is all the more ridiculous considering Axl must have done a lot of his Chinese Democracy noodling in the era of Pro Tools and cheap home studio setups.)

You can’t say [Psbpsbpsb] in the newspaper

I know newspapers like to “protect” readers from “coarselanguage (i.e. language real-life people actually speak in their real lives), but I had no idea that you couldn’t say “nuts” (i.e. “balls”, e.g. “Those are balls”) in the newspaper.

Well, apparently you can’t! Even if Jesse Jackson says he wants to “cut [Barack Obama’s] nuts off”! At least not if you’re the New York Times.

Jeffrey Goldberg says what needs to be said:

What we have then is a story about a controversy concerning Jesse Jackson’s words that refuses to print the most relevant word. Even though I’m a member of the MSM, I sometimes see why people might go elsewhere for news. At least bloggers believe that their readers are emotionally equipped to handle the presence of the word “nuts” in a sentence.

Gawker has a fun roundup of previous words the Times has avoided, and wonders if there are any “examples of the Times censoring ‘doody’ or ‘wiener’.”

I see that the Washington Post also avoided the horrible word. Kudos to the L.A. Times for having the balls to print “nuts.”

(Incidentally, I’m glad to see that the Barry Louis Polisar song that inspired this post’s title is available for download at Amazon’s MP3 store.)