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by Edward Wasserman

14 Apr 2008

By Edward Wasserman

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

As traditional news outfits migrate online to become dot-coms, one of their biggest headaches is how to adapt to the sprawling new frontier of public comment.

In the pre-Internet world of TV and newspapers, public comment wasn’t a problem. Broadcast news didn’t have any—aside from the weekly guest spot, usually some hapless civic association president reading from a prompter and staring terrified into the camera. Papers had their letters pages, but allowed only enough space for a few dozen a week, and they were generally written with care and were easy to prune for taste and diction.

Things were nicely under control.

But on the Internet, public comment isn’t kitchen table talk, it’s saloon brawl. Postings are sharp and rough-and-tumble. Harsh and derisive exchanges are common. So are personal attacks. Chat rooms and message boards routinely allow people to post comments anonymously. Only when postings are so egregious, so outrageous, racist or vile that other participants cough up hairballs do managers strike the comments and banish the authors.

That’s the cyber pond that traditional news organizations are diving into. They understand that their own futures hinge on re-establishing online the central role in civic life that they’ve played offline. So they are eager to host forums where people in the communities they serve go first to offer comment.

What about taste, civility?

by PopMatters Staff

14 Apr 2008

Wolf Parade
Call It a Ritual [MP3]

Laura Cantrell
Love Vigilantes [MP3]

No Age
Eraser [MP3]

American Princes
Real Love [MP3]

The Autumns
Boys [MP3]

Plastic Constellations
Stay That Way [MP3]

Dizzee Rascal
Where Da G’s [Video]

by Jason Gross

14 Apr 2008

Buzznet’s diet of blogs that it’s consumed now includes Idolator.  Rest assured that BNet’s appetite isn’t going away- they’re still hungry and they still want more.  They’re becoming the News Corp of new media, gobbling up everything it can as it makes a push for not just synergy but also as much hip cache as it can.  It remains to be seen if BNet is going to let the old brands keep the format that made them so desirable in the first place or if it bends them all for its own means (like Uncle Rupert).  If they’re smart, they’ll do the former but rest assured, they’re already thinking about the later.  I wish the Idolator folks good luck.

And just in case you can’t get enough of new ways to punish all consumers to offset the music industry’s mistakes,  you can lump the idea for the Internet tax with the idea of an iPod tax.  The same idea here is that another industry is going to be forced to bilk its customers so that it can then pay off the music biz.  So everyone’s happy then, right?  Somehow I don’t think the BPI (aka the British RIAA) will stop with electronics manufacturers or Net providers (and don’t forget that they’re trying to squeeze money from radio too) but they’ll also branch out to other industries that are involved in music- any remaining manufacturing plants for CD’s, plus the graphic designers and print shops that make the photos and sleeves as well as the studio engineers, club owners, caterers, groupies and drug dealers will all get squeezed somewhere down the line for being involved in the music pipeline.  And then the cost will get passed on to the consumers too, whether they pay for or want the goods or not.  It reminds me of the old joke about an exclusive club.  “I wanted to get in and they said ‘That’ll be 50 bucks.’  I said ‘Forget it- I’m going home!’  They said ‘OK, that’ll be 30 bucks!’”

by Nikki Tranter

14 Apr 2008

“Then, as my mother read those first few pages of The Yearling, I saw blue-gray smoke rising from the chimney of a simple cabin, and watching the smoke drift into the sky was a boy named Jody Baxter. I recognized him right away. He was so like me: skinny, blond, solitary. I moved, as my mother read the words, into the clearing in the Florida swampland where the Baxters lived their hardscrabble lives. I could hear the insects buzzing and the bubbling sound of the little spring, and I could see the glisten of the dark magnolia leaves and smell the thick pines.”

Lois Lowry tells NPR‘s “You Must Read This” how Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ influenced her later years as a Newberry Award winning writer. Originally hoping to write about young, triumphant women like those in Little Women and The Secret Garden, The Yearling, Lowry says, showed her the importance of and the poetry in lives without triumph, lives of loneliness and struggle. Her works have come to resemble this one far more than those other classics for little girls.

A few weeks prior to Lowry’s column, Sloane Crosley told “You Must Read This” about her adoration of The Secret Garden. Crosley, an essayist with a new book out this month called I Was Told There’d Be Cake, discusses how Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story of Mary Lennox made her dubious of “spring renewal”. The book, she says, is not particularly nice, and sets forth unravelling what she calls its “goody-goody reputation”.

The illustrations, wistful sketches that adorn each chapter, should have been rendered by Edward Gorey. The Secret Garden is about neglect. Of plants and of people.

Two different, fascinating readings of books considered classics for young adult readers. I love how these writers, Lowry and Crosley, are generations apart, and yet one particular book links them. Lowry read The Secret Garden in the ‘40s as a pre-teen; so did Crosley four decades later. Both reacted in ways that we now benefit from as readers of their work.

You Must Read This” is one NPR’s best features.

by Lara Killian

14 Apr 2008


As part of my audio book musings I’d like to note that one series which caught my eye at my local library is Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. l Ladies’ Detective Agency a few weeks back. Four neat installments were smartly packaged in different colors and all neatly lined up in the CD section, drawing my attention. Not yet familiar with the series (turns out it’s quite a popular one) I picked one up and just then a patron came in so I returned to the circulation desk. She coincidentally returned one of the paperback versions of the series so naturally I inquired about it. At her recommendation I found the first in the series and checked it out—the audio versions being of later segments and the first installment being necessary for setting up the background of the series.

These books are sheer fun—set in present-day Bostwana and centering around the practical and clever Precious Ramotswe, a private detective (the only such lady in the whole country, she is proud to say) who is determined to “help people with the problems in their lives.” Of course there are little mysteries that Mma Ramotswe must use her sharp wits to solve, but even better are the frequent comments about particular aspects of Africa in general and Bostwana in particular that she often gives. “She loved her country, Botswana, which is a place of peace, and she loved Africa, for all its trials.” There are constant cups of strong Bush tea to be had while Mma Ramotswe calmly sits and ponders the wonders of the landscape that surrounds her, or the latest scandal involving someone-or-other’s daughter or husband and their misplaced affections or occasionally missing person. So far none of these investigations have taken more than a few days to wrap up, leaving Mma Ramotswe more time to help the reader come to admire Botswana and its people as well.

Equally at home in the governor’s mansion or a witch-doctor’s impoverished hut, Mma Romatswe is a very likeable character, sensible in her morality and practical in her methods. McCall Smith has an easy style of writing and comes across as very authentic in his knowledge of this part of the world. Indeed, on his website he writes that he tries to visit Botswana every year because he likes it so much:

I suppose that the main reason [I write about Botswana] is that I find Botswana a very interesting and admirable country. I respect the people who live there—they have built up their country very carefully and successfully. I admire their patience and their decency.

McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe, taught law at the University of Botswana, and more recently Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, the city where he continues to reside though his writing has been so successful that he is able to dedicate himself to the venture full time and no longer teaches. He is currently on a book tour in the US following the March 2008 of the latest installment in The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and the Easter release on BBC television of The No.1 film.

I, for one, having just discovered this entertaining living author, will continue to look for his work at my local library. I checked out two of the audio books in the series just this weekend and got started immediately with The Full Cupboard of Life.

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