Latest Blog Posts

by Colin McGuire

30 Apr 2009

The Newspaper Association of America announced Wednesday that it is cutting 50 percent of its staff and halting the print edition of its magazine, Presstime - a magazine that has done a fantastic job of taking a good, hard look at the ever-so-fickle world of newspapers. The last print edition is slated for May 2009. All is not entirely lost, though, as the NAA also promised that it will continue to publish the magazine in an online form. A total of 39 positions will be cut from the NAA staff.

Great. As if newspapers weren’t getting their own throats slashed enough, now entire associations that dedicate themselves to the industry are dying a heartbreaking death, too. Why don’t we all just cancel our subscriptions today and move USA Today’s Web site into the No. 3 position on the “favorites” feature Firefox so eloquently provides.

Anyways, Presstime recently took the time to speak with various experts on the state of newspapers and where they may be going. The piece itself is highly-informative and certainly worth a click should you have an extra 10 minutes to spend reading about what the hell is happening with print media.

One thing in particular stuck out when reading over some of the answers these experts provided. The following question was posed: “You’re starting a newspaper print product from scratch. What stays, and what goes (sections, beats, days published, classified ads)? How do you rethink the parts you keep?”

One answer stuck out like a lone cloud on an otherwise cloud-less Sunday afternoon. Kenneth A. Paulson, the president and chief operating officer of Newseum, as well as the former editor of USA Today and USAToday.com, offered up some dialogue that is certainly worth taking a look at.

Most newspapers have an extraordinarily loyal core audience that has been doing the crossword puzzles, reading the obits and scanning the stock tables for years. These are generally older readers who will need and read our content for decades. The challenge is to weigh whatever changes you may have in mind against the expectations of this core readership. Yes, you can drop TV listings and replace them with new content to try to attract younger readers, but at what price? Will the gain offset the loss?

That’s a good question, isn’t it?

Why doesn’t a major metropolitan daily give the notion of new content a shot? One of the biggest gripes anyone has with newspapers is its proposed abundance of ignorance toward what it is people gravitate to when it comes to getting their news. It seems as though many publications haven’t taken the time to think about suggestions that could make their print product better. They seemingly ignore that option while spending the majority of their time researching ideas for how to make their online product better.

How about incorporating new features into newspapers that somehow mirror the attributes that attract the readership newspapers get online? There was a time when those aforementioned TV listings were non-existent in print media. It wasn’t until someone came along and thought, “Hey, there is this neat new thing called television and I bet the people who read this publication would like to know when to find what and where. Let’s see what happens if we can help them out by answering those questions with a couple pages dedicated to numbers, times and show titles.”

If print media decided to embrace the online forum more by incorporating certain aspects of the Internet medium into its print product - maybe more interactive features, reader-response forums aside from the customary “Letter to the Editor,” unique, out-of-the box niche section pieces on subjects newspapers haven’t paid as much attention to in the past, etc. - then who knows what could happen?

Paulson brings up a great point when he asks about the gain offsetting the loss. But his question is centered around the notion that newspaper readership has become strictly dependent upon division. He even mildly suggests that the difference between the print media audience and the Internet’s audience is purely generational. That notion doesn’t have to hold true.

It may be hard, but the newspaper can be a universally accepted thing, should publishers and corporations decide to put a little more effort into targeting more than simply just demographics and age groups. Instead, if they concentrate on improving the quality of their paper as a whole - targeting on not one specific group, but merely setting their sights on everyone so to speak - maybe they could begin to answer some of the questions no one has been able to conquer yet.

Sometimes, not everything has to have a price. And if some major newspapers would decide to take a chance on embracing the Web forum through the notion of combination rather than division, maybe the idea that some of the best things in life come free can hold true.

by John Bohannon

29 Apr 2009

Following in the Virginia metal workhorse tradition of Gwar, Municipal Waste, and Pig Destroyer comes Moutheater, a band rooted in ‘90s grunge tradition via the Melvins and Jesus Lizard, yet falling in the line with the minimalist approach of heavy up-and-comers Tombs. The one quality that helps the band standout above the white noise of their peers comes from the vocals of Andrew Aircraft (and what a name). With enough roar power to require a new set of drawers, “Guts” is a short and sweet statement of raw power. The band’s first 7” was recorded by the king of heavy, Steve Albini, and their new album Ornament is due out June 30th on Thrashed Records.

“Guts” [MP3]

by PopMatters Staff

29 Apr 2009

Dead Oceans has just released a new MP3 from the upcoming John Vanderslice album Romanian Names (US: 19 May / UK: 18 May). The singer-songwriter also has a packed tour schedule beginning in May, highlighted by three appearances at the Outside Lands Music Festival (tour dates after the jump).

John Vanderslice
“Too Much Time” [MP3]

“Fetal Horses” [MP3]

by Bill Gibron

29 Apr 2009

Welcome back traditional Spring film season - how we missed you so. You remember don’t you, the times we used spend together? We’d take four months out of every year and just hang out, your weekly selection of Summer/Awards cast-offs and long delayed failures clogging up the local Cineplex with nothing but shoulder shrugging specials. This is the way it used to be, the way we film fans remember the span between January and May - before the blockbuster moves in and takes over the ticket line landscape. There’s no popcorn fare in your past - just lots and lots of ideas that got really, really lost in the tepid translation. Oh sure, you tried to pad your rep, resorting to surprise hits like 300 and Passion of the Christ to change your image. But now…now things are back to the way they used to be, and the feeling of familiarity is intoxicating.

Indeed, Spring 2009 was terrible, the overall perspective more mediocre than memorable. This was the time of Blart, of Mall Cops so warm and cuddly that they made the chunky in the demographic wet themselves, Susan Boyle style. It was the quarter of bad future shock (Push) and even worse action antics (Transporter 3, Dragonball Evolution). It was the period that gave us Inkheart, The Soloist, Sunshine Cleaning, and the piled up cordwood corpses of A Haunting in Connecticut. Not every offering was so horrific, but we did have to suffer through Hannah Montana’s movie, said series’ purity ring off-shoots, and the fourth Fast and Furious film. Things were so bad this time around that Tyler Perry’s latest, the hit and miss Madea Goes to Jail, was more satisfying than most of what came out of Tinsel Town’s tainted factory.

Still, there were five that really stood out, five that made their limited running time in the theater the cinematic equivalent of being waterboarded with Sean Hannity. Some of them were obvious from the minute they were announced - even a ‘minkey’ could see that. Others snuck up on you like unwelcome relatives at a social occasion. Eventually, it’s embarrassing for everyone involved. While we still have an astonishing nine more months until this year is officially over, one wonders how high up some of these turkeys will land come final annual aesthetic tally time. More disconcerting is the notion that, indeed, things can and WILL get worse. Let’s begin with:

5. The Uninvited

Nothing sucks harder than sitting in the theater watching a supposedly suspenseful film and then realizing, halfway through, you remember the third act plot twist that’s still 20 to 30 minutes away. It’s all downhill from there - and that’s exactly what happened with this remake of the Korean hit The Tale of Two Sisters. Long before the dramatic denouement, this critic experienced the kind of narrative déjà vu you don’t want to have during a thriller. By the time of the reveal, he was practically screaming for the spoiler to show up and get it over with. The rest of the movie has a moody atmosphere that can only come from an older man sleeping with a much younger trophy wife, and the Hand that Rocks the Glass House Cradle conceits are truly dull and lifeless. Of the many wannabe fright flicks of the Spring, this was the most disappointing.

4. He’s Just Not That Into You

By its very definition, a romantic comedy has to have (a) romance, and (b) laughs. What this dreadful dissertation, based on that most elusive of literary sources - the self help book, has is lots of screaming women and their equally whiny weepy best friends. This is the kind of movie that, if it were possible, would have Susan B. Anthony and her fellow zombie suffragettes rising from the grave in order to stage posthumous protests. Nothing works - not the quasi-chemistry between to the onscreen lovers, not the male POV advice from a seemingly lost Justin Long, not the patented ditz of Drew Barrymore or the barely alive ennui of Jennifer Connelly - and that’s just the talent with their names above the credits. This film truly contains the single worst performance of 2009 so far - the cloying, cliché-filled failure that is Ginnifer Goodwin’s grating, borderline retarded Gigi. It’s a literal pain to watch.

3. Outlander

Okay, here’s the deal. This is clearly the work of some insular geek who invests way too much time in Viking themed role playing games and not enough actually experiencing the real world. In between servings of Hot Pockets and mediocre science fiction, he dreams up this idea of an alien crash landing in the middle of a Nordic reenactment society, and then adds a glowing CG monster just to make things more “nerdgasm”-esque. Ew. That’s right, folks - a blink and you missed it affair starring Mel Gibson’s favorite big screen savior (James Caviezel), John Hurt, and Ron Pearlman - it was clearly paycheck cashing time all around. The only thing missing was Ben Kingsley and Uwe Boll’s name on the credits. Had any of the material come close to meeting the expectations of the D&D dork who dreamed it up, we could have had a guilty pleasure. All we wound up with was a bunch of Valhalla vomit.

2. The Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience

Miley Cyrus may be the female equivalent of the entertainment antichrist, but these three losers from the rejected pages of a pedophile’s Tiger Beat truly wear the number of the beast, and it’s significantly less that 666 if you go by the box office. Bombs don’t thud quite as hard as this craven concert movie, especially when there was so much pre-publicity hype about how popular these wholesome rockers really were/are. Apparently, like their proposed talent, said build-up was all desperate House of Mouse smoke and mirrors. Some have argued that the movie’s box theatrical release comings can be linked to parents finally figuring out that the Jonases are nothing more than a way to sell sex to their pre-pubescent tween children. Of course, the fact that their tepid music blows donkey butt doesn’t mean anything, right? When The Monkees, Menudo, and The Banana Splits have more artistic integrity, you know you’re bound to fail.

1. Pink Panther 2

This one is so bad, so egregiously awful, that the rest of the list looks like 2001, Citizen Kane, and The Dark Knight by comparison. Someday, perhaps when he’s dead, a tell-all tome will come out about Steve Martin, and at that time, the bile soaked grudge he has against the late, great Peter Sellers, and the reason he keeps pissing all over the man’s memory with a vengeance, will be revealed. There is no excuse for this film save for one - money. The first remake was an unfathomable hit, so following the Hollywood maxim, the more cash you make, the more copies you’ll create. Never mind that the script appears gleaned from a dozen dopey slapstick efforts, and Martin has aged out of his physical comedian shtick. The direction, by someone named Harald Zwart, takes every tired idea and drives it into the ground with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. And that’s just the tolerable bits.

by Rob Horning

29 Apr 2009

First, I saw this PSFK item that posited a link between the economic downturn and the reutrn of some grunge-fashion tropes.

Ripped stockings, boots, and short babydoll dresses (in floral and solids) are being donned by women, while boys are sporting the ubiquitous flannel button down and tights pants…. One theory on why these trends are re-emerging is that perhaps in times of economic instability youth prefer to dress down out of modesty and solidarity with those experiencing hardship, as opposed to showing off an opulent style, which is prevalent during boom times. This idea isn’t that far-fetched in that grunge fashion as we know it grew to popularity during the recessions of the early ‘90s, and that the king of all British fashion movements, punk, was in theory started as a social reaction and act of rebellion as opposed to merely a fashion statement. While for some time trend watchers have predicted the demise of heavily branded logo apparel, it seems that conspicuous consumption has truly become gauche in the fashion world.

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