Is Slam in Danger of Going Soft?

“Slam poetry was invited into the White House last month and it is also the focus of the recent HBO documentary series “Brave New Voices.” So you might think that the originator of the poetry slam, a raucous live competition that is more likely to take place in a bar than in a bookstore, would be feeling rather pleased these days.

But from his base here at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, Marc Kelly Smith expresses mixed feelings about the growing popularity and respectability of the art form that he created almost 25 years ago. From the start, he envisioned slam poetry as a subversive, thumb-your-nose-at-authority movement, and he wants to ensure it stays true to those origins.” (New York Times )


Why We Should Get Rid of the White House Press Corps

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 20:  U.S. President Bara...

…[T]oo often, the White House briefing room is where news goes to die.

Name a major political story broken by a White House correspondent. A thorough debunking of the Bush case for Iraqi WMD? McClatchy Newspapers’ State Department and national security correspondents. Bush’s abuse of signing statements? The Boston Globe‘s legal affairs correspondent. Even Watergate came off The Washington Post‘s Metro desk.

Here are some stories that reporters working the White House beat have produced in the past few months: Pocket squares are back! The president is popular in Europe. Vegetable garden! Joe Biden occasionally says things he probably regrets. Puppy!

It’s not that the reporters covering the president are bad at their jobs. Most are experienced journalists at the top of their game — and they’re wasted at the White House, where scoops are doled out, not uncovered.” Ana Marie Cox (Wonkette) (Washington Post op-ed).

The Daily Me

“When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about.

Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. has called this emerging news product The Daily Me. And if that’s the trend, God save us from ourselves.

That’s because there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.” — Nicholas Kristoff via NYTimes op-ed.

Although Kristoff has seemingly only just discovered the ‘echo chamber’ effect, it has been a longstanding preoccupation of thoughtful observers of internet sociology. As newspapers morph into lesser online versions of themselves with less pretense to completeness and objectivity, however, is the situation about to get much worse?

Spread Out the New York Times, Sunday Paper Style

New York Times Building

The New York Times keeps playing around with their online presentation, with interesting, helpful results. The “Article Skimmer” spreads stories out landscape style and ad-free, creating an easier read for laptops and wide-screen LCDs… [O]ne of the Times’ public prototype experiments, [it] presents a de-cluttered look at the front page, news sections, and the ever-popular “Most Emailed” list. No ads at all, at least in this early stage, until you click on the actual articles. If you find yourself quickly scrolling down the Times’ front page to grab more headlines than the boxed, column-style presentation allows, this might be a nice bookmark or home page replacement.’ via Lifehacker.

I have tried various ways to keep up with the Times on a daily basis since moving my news-reading entirely to the web. This is by far the best way I’ve found. And thanks to Lifehacker, another of my daily reads…

Japanese V-Sign

‘So why exactly do most Japanese folk do the V-sign when having their photos taken? According to Wikipedia, the earliest confirmed usage of the V-sign was by Winston Churchil during World War II – the V-sign meaning “Victory.” The Japanese Wikipedia for the entry Peace Sign however says that there is a theory that the two fingers mean that two nuclear bombs where dropped on Japan meaning that peace is near…

During the 1972 Winter Olympics in Japan, skater Janet Lynn (who was also a peace activist) was photographed by the Japanese media doing the V-sign. Although the V-sign was already recognized in Japan, it was apparently these photos of Lynn that popularized the use of the V-sign.

The Japanese entry in Wikipedia does not mention Lynn at all and instead says that the V-sign took off in the 80’s when usage of the V-sign was used when kids were having their photos taken.’ via Boing Boing.

South African TV Station Declares “George Bush is Dead”

‘South Africa’s ETV News station made a little booboo, prematurely proclaiming “George Bush is dead” in a breaking news flash that aired on TVs throughout the country. Apparently the station uses the phrase a mock-up for headlines and a butterfingered (or sneaky) technician accidently pushed the button that runs the morbid message. A station spokesman said ETV would now test banners using “gobbledegook.” Dubya also responded to the little whoopsie, saying, “South Africa obviously misunderestimated my ability to outlive y’all.” ‘ via Truemors.

Wired‘s February Issue Is 3 Millimeters Thin

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“More evidence of the abominable ad market: Wired’s February issue is so thin, its binding is thicker than its actual pages. It feels startlingly flimsy to the touch. The issue numbers just 113 pages in total. Wired’s January issue contained 128 pages; the December issue, 231 pages.

Of those 113 pages, only 31.5 are ad pages. That’s miserable. The usual ratio between editorial and advertising hovers around 1:1.

31.5 ad pages is a 27% decline from the January 2009 issue, which itself was a 47% decline from January 2007.” via Silicon Alley Insider.

The Man Who Knows Too Much

“He exposed the My Lai massacre, revealed Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia and has hounded Bush and Cheney over the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib… No wonder the Republicans describe Seymour Hersh as ‘the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist’. Rachel Cooke meets the most-feared investigative reporter in Washington.” (Guardian.UK)

Hersh has long been one of my heroes.