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by Jillian Burt

6 Nov 2007

Wall Street Journal Content Folded into The Australian

When Rupert Murdoch’s offer for the Wall Street Journal was approved in August, the New York Times commented that: “Mr. Murdoch has talked of pumping money into The Journal, bolstering its coverage of national affairs and its European and Asian editions, which could pose a serious challenge to competitors like The Financial Times and The New York Times. That could mean losing money in the short run, something Mr. Murdoch has always been willing to do to attract readers and gain influence.” Murdoch has already started running Wall Street Journal print edition reports in a special section in his national newspaper, The Australian, and feeds from the Dow Jones newswire on The Australian’s website. On November 1, The Guardian noted that: The Australian is the only national broadsheet in Australia, and previously held a content syndication agreement with WSJ’s rival the Financial Times, which also publishes in Australia….

Mr Murdoch told the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco last month that he had plans to expand the WSJ beyond its roots, including using its content with the rest of News Corp’s properties.

“We have a lot of plans and a lot of ideas that need to be refined,” he said. “But I want to improve it in every way: in what it does now in finance to start with, but I also want to add more national and international news.”

In a report on the website of the Australian, the paper’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell said the WSJ deal marks “a new era of business journalism” for the title and underlines its “commitment to world class journalism.

Jemima Kiss. Guardian Unlimited. November 1, 2007

Last week I noticed a lavish, luxurious new advertising campaign for the Australian, with massive full-colour glossy adsheets running up the centre of the escalators at the Martin Place railway station in Sydney’s CBD (where many financial companies have their national headquarters) and a full-colour glossy band around the paper saying that it’s content is now “broader”—whatever that means. I’m not in the habit of visiting The Australian’s website so I hadn’t noticed the slogan “the heart of Australia” running underneath the masthead online. This slogan used to be on the car numberplates of the Australian Capital Territory where Canberra, the seat of Australia’s government is located.

The leading source of financial news at the moment is the national Australian Financial Review, published by Fairfax, which also publishes the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne. The AFR relies on wire service reports from Bloomberg and print stories from The New York Times. Each Friday it publishes a liftout section based on The New York Times’s Sophisticated Traveller magazine. The AFR’s website has all of its content locked behind a subscription wall.  The AFR courts luxury business advertising with several ultra-glossy stiff-paged colour magazine liftouts that market executive toys and trips, profile executives and illuminate fashionable management and sales strategies. The Australian publishes a similar luxury magazine, Wish, every month. 

On September 17, a news release from Dow Jones announced that the Wall Street Journal will begin publishing a monthly glossy magazine, Pursuits, in September of 2008. The magazine will be delivered free to subscribers of the Wall Street Journal and the content will be freely available online.

Pursuits will build on the success of the Journal’s business of life franchise and will showcase the Journal’s lifestyle coverage for readers and the advertisers who want to reach its unique, affluent and influential audience.

“Pursuits will extend the Journal’s highly successful business of life franchise that began with the Weekend Journal and Personal Journal sections of the newspaper by offering unique access and insight through lifestyle reporting that only the Journal can provide,” said L. Gordon Crovitz, executive vice president, Dow Jones & Company and publisher, The Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth correspondent Robert Frank, the author of Richistan, will be involved, and “Pursuits will offer compelling journalism, vivid imagery and an unmatched guide to wealth, fashion, collecting and travel,” said Marcus W. Brauchli, managing editor, The Wall Street Journal. “The Wall Street Journal holds a unique passport into this intriguing world.”

This editorial ground may already have been lost to Conde Nast’s new magazine Portfolio, which launched in May and is edited by Joanne Lipman who was previously editor of the Weekend and Magazine sections of the WallStreet Journal. Portfolio is able to trade on the intellectual credibility of the New Yorker and the sex appeal and Hollywood glamour of Vanity Fair. And its articles are finely observed and engaging and its website rich with content. This may have something to do with the editorial direction, from culture into business rather than vice-versa. Along with the requisite fawning profiles (that leave a few fang marks, in the Vanity Fair style) of financial luminaries and design stories on yachts, there’s a sassy and witty examination of the finances of the porn industry being undermined by a user-generated social networking porn site, a look at how art houses arrive at valuations for auctions, and a feature on the global seed bank that’s filing away copies of the world’s food supplies in case of disaster. It echoes a New Yorker feature by John Seabrook on the same subject in August. In leiu of a complete online archive, the New Yorker has what amounts to a digital library card for features from back issues, and John Seabrook’s “Annals of Agriculture” is dryly condensed.

ANNALS OF AGRICULTURE about seeds, seed banks, and the genetic modification of crops. Writer accompanies Cary Fowler to the Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry in St. Petersburg, Russia. Fowler, the director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, was in St. Petersburg to gather contributions for the world’s first global seed bank, which is being built in Svalbard, Norway and is scheduled to open in February, 2008. Briefly discusses the history of agriculture, which began about 8000 B. C. in Mesopotamia, and the preservation of seeds by early civilizations. Tells about Nikolai Vavilov, the founder of the Russian seed institute and the first man to think of creating a global seed bank. Vavilov fell afoul of Stalin and died in a Siberian labor camp. Writer mentions the destruction of the national seed banks of Iraq and Afghanistan during the U. S.-led invasions. Seed banks in countries such as Honduras and the Philippines have recently been lost to natural disasters. Most national agricultural banks contain the seeds of crops grown in that country. The American national seed bank is in Fort Collins, Colorado. Explains the basic principles of seed storage: low humidity and cold temperatures are essential. Tells about Fowler, who grew up in Memphis and became interested in seeds while working on a magazine article about the disappearance of family farms in the South. Describes his battle with two forms of cancer. Surviving cancer motivated Fowler to become more involved in seed preservation efforts because he believed he hadn’t contributed constructively to society. Writer describes the development of hybrid crops by companies such as Pioneer Hi-Bred, the first private seed company. By 1945, hybrid corn amounted to ninety per cent of the corn planted in the U. S. Tells about the green revolution, the process by which American-made hybrid seeds were sent around the world. While the hybrid crops allowed farmers to increase their yields, they also planted an American-style agrarian capitalism in developing nations. The backlash to the green revolution was led by writers and activists such as Pat Mooney and Jack Harlan, who warned that the adoption of hybrid seeds might cause traditional crop varieties to become extinct. Discusses the role played by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in negotiating international agreements regarding the sale and use of seeds. American agricultural corporations had successfully patented their hybrid seeds, many of which had been taken from developing countries, whose farmers were now forced to pay for the seeds they originally helped cultivate. Tells about the controversy over genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.s). Writer accompanies Fowler to Svalbard to inspect the site of the global seed vault, which is also where the Nordic Gene Bank is housed.





by PopMatters Staff

6 Nov 2007


Every Tuesday PopMatters will be offering an exclusive early look at a new episode of Backpack Picnic, an online sketch comedy show from ON Networks.

This week: An epic tale including maps, rocks, fairies, and a dolphin massacre.  If you dare, come along for this incredible and harrowing yarn that explains the origins of a popular holiday character.

by Jason Gross

6 Nov 2007

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that an investment banker takes over one of the last major labels and demanded that the artists take up the slack for the label’s failures.  It’s good to know who the real culprits are as EMI and Guy Hand are leading the way in yet another ill-advised crusade in the music biz (along with the beloved RIAA lawsuits).

by Farisa Khalid

5 Nov 2007

If you want to exude the essence of India, you can’t do much better than the tantric hum of this movie’s title. Om Shanti Om marks the second collaboration between choreographer-turned-director, Farah Khan, and superstar, Shahrukh Khan, and everything about the film brilliantly evokes the cultural transformation of India in the last 20 years, a heady mix of ancient spirituality and pop sensibility.  Om Shanti Om lacks the buoyancy and vitality of their first picture, the masala musical, Main Hoon Na, but it’s irresistibly watchable. 

Om Shanti Om plays upon the ancient principle that lies at the core of Indian dreams: reincarnation, the belief in new beginnings and opportunities.  In 1977, Om Prakash (Shahrukh Khan) is an eager, movie-obsessed young man who with his friend (relative newcomer, Shreyas Talpade) loiters around Bombay and its film studios, daydreaming, catching any insight into the business of which he longs to be a part, and hoping to get a glimpse of his favorite starlet, Shantipriya (model Deepika Padukone, in her first film role).  Like Farhan Akther’s superb Shahrukh vehicle, Don, that came out a year ago, Om Shanti Om revels in nostalgia for the swinging late ‘70s, presumably the magical movie years of Shahrukh Khan’s own boyhood.  You get a sense of the energetic, slapdash masala films starring Jeetendra and Mithun Chakravarty (who appropriately, have cameos in this movie).  The song “Doom Taana” is an ode to the song sequences of the ‘70s era musicals, as it goes from scenes of vivid, stately Bharat Natyam dancers to a jaunty dance on a tennis court - ancient India at worship and modern India at play.

There is, of course, a plot, though it’s not terribly important here.  The melodramatic string of events involves the starstruck fan and the starlet falling in love, being thwarted by her menacing Svengali manager (played by Arjun Rampal, made to look absurd in his villainy, like a black leather clad Snidely Whiplash), a murder, a reincarnation, retribution, and reunification.  Part Kahoo Na Pyaar Ke and part Somewhere in Time, Om Shanti Om wants us to share its epic romantic idealism, about a love so powerful that it spanned decades and transcended the laws of time itself.  Shahrukh makes a concerted effort here, but Deepika Padukone is so blank and unemotive, that it’s hard to feel for her, or to care what happens to the lovers.  In the scenes where the love story drips with solemnity and becomes, suddenly, and awkwardly, serious, the entire film becomes flimsy and unconvincing.  We get a sense of the hair-pulling that must have happened backstage, with Farah Khan trying forcibly to wrench a plausible performance out of this beautiful, mechanical doll. 

There is little on-location shooting, and the whole film is composed on a series of lush, color-saturated soundstage sets, not unlike the quickly staged (but entertaining) Arthur Freed musicals of the ‘50s - Brigadoon, The Band Wagon, and It’s Always Fair Weather. The soundstages here, as lavish as they are, add a tinge of claustrophobia, and as beautiful as all the scenes looks, they seem slightly artificial and confined. Director Farah Khan knows her cinematic language.  The mise-en-scene is soaked in the romanticism of the films of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, Bollywood and Hollywood, particularly the movies about making movies.  Guru Dutt’s bittersweet love-letter to the Indian film industry, Kaagaz Ka Phool, the decaying film studio looming large, derelict, full of broken dreams and thwarted potential.

Om Shanti Om, however, is in danger of being undone by its own gaudiness.  The soft-porn techno number, “Dard-E-Disco,” with the toned, chiseled Shahrukh striding the stage bare-chested in low-rise jeans and a construction helmet, made me cringe. Shahrukh is a handsome man, but the gratuitous exhibitionism is not his thing.  And the extravagant masked ball sequence looked like it was lifted directly from Joel Schumacher’s Phantom of the Opera

One song has received a lot of hype in the media, and that’s the “Om Shanti Om” title number, which affords several simultaneous cameo appearances by industry heavyweights. In an attempt to outdo the excitement of all cameos before and after, the song crams 31 major stars in the same room for dance number, packing them in like kids in a cafeteria fire drill.  But what a show!  Some of these actors haven’t been seen together in the same frame in over ten years, some never before at all. In its own way, it’s historic, and the audience is suitably dazzled.

Throughout the movie, I saw echoes of Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful and Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.  Scenes are full of the elusive, hypnotic nature of celebrity, wanting to be a close and as intimate with a star as possible - the obsession that fuels the existence of TMZ and E! Om Shanti Om doesn’t take itself too seriously with this fixation, but rather trivializes it through sentimental nostalgia for a more glamorous bygone movie era.  The movie delights in the illusory pleasures of the past without providing a lot of emotional substance.  But it’s entertaining in the way that a good musical comedy, whether it’s Singing in the Rain, or Hairspray, is entertaining.  Full of color, energy, and unpretentious confidence.


by Rob Horning

5 Nov 2007

A friend forwarded me this NYT article about semi-outlaw devices you can buy to jam cell-phone transmissions, an aggressive tactic in the guerrilla war to reclaim public space.

As cellphone use has skyrocketed, making it hard to avoid hearing half a conversation in many public places, a small but growing band of rebels is turning to a blunt countermeasure: the cellphone jammer, a gadget that renders nearby mobile devices impotent.

The technology is not new, but overseas exporters of jammers say demand is rising and they are sending hundreds of them a month into the United States — prompting scrutiny from federal regulators and new concern last week from the cellphone industry. The buyers include owners of cafes and hair salons, hoteliers, public speakers, theater operators, bus drivers and, increasingly, commuters on public transportation.

The development is creating a battle for control of the airspace within earshot. And the damage is collateral. Insensitive talkers impose their racket on the defenseless, while jammers punish not just the offender, but also more discreet chatterers.

An either clueless or totally disingenuous Verizon spokesman is quoted: “It’s counterintuitive that when the demand is clear and strong from wireless consumers for improved cell coverage, that these kinds of devices are finding a market.” Actually, it’s completely intuitive. People want to talk into their own phones, and they don’t want to be disrupted by other people talking into their phones. Nobody cares about cell coverage for people other than themselves, except for maybe the people they are trying to call. And nothing angers people more than strangers who don’t acknowledge their existence, yet using a cell phone indiscreetly—in public, with no attempt to remove oneself from shared space—showcases that indifference to the existence of others. It’s a way of demonstrating just how entitled you feel to claim every place you go as your own private space. There’s a reason that when telephones were first introduced, they were placed in booths; it was inconceivably rude that you would conduct a conversation in the presence of others that would pointedly not include them. No one in their right mind would want the ability to carry out such conversations.

But technology’s reach and the insidious promotion of personal convenience over common courtesy and civic cooperation has made the unthinkable ubiquitous. The article touches on this: ” ‘If anything characterizes the 21st century, it’s our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people,’ said James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University.” Basically, cell-phone jamming is the spirit of road rage transferred to a more personal medium. Technology and the values made pervasive by advertising (which address us directly and tell us that we are always the most important person there is) have led us to expect total convenience and complete freedom from the compromises incumbent with getting along with others. So we feel outraged when those absolute, inalienable “rights” to total isolation in a crowd are “violated” by someone else operating by the same principles. What ensues, absent a belief that government can force us to recognize a public sphere where a collective good supersedes any selfish individual preference, is an arms race: on the road, bigger SUVs; on the phone front, cell jammers.

//Mixed media

Notes, Hoaxes, and Jokes: Silkworm's 'Lifestyle' - "Ooh La La"

// Sound Affects

"Lifestyle's penultimate track eases the pace and finds fresh nuance and depth in a rock classic, as Silkworm offer their take on the Faces' "Ooh La La".

READ the article