Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010

Moving into the next decade, we are being endlessly pummeled by journalists and pundits in the media attempting to sum up for us poor saps what the last ten years mean in the larger context – as if the last decade of credit markets gone mad followed by economic collapse needs a better academic summation than: we saw, we spent, we went broke.


A recent visit to a Borders book store in Las Vegas, Nevada, served as a stark reminder to me how much the collective culture has changed over the last ten years, and how the corporate media (and we, as willing consumers) have denigrated the art and craft of writing to the level of respect afforded to a perfume sample at a high-end department store, just another brand of corporate media heroin to be pushed.


Ten years ago it was not impossible or unthinkable to enter a chain bookstore and hunt down the rarest of beasts in the homogenized box store retail jungle: a cheerful and informative clerk who could prove helpful in discriminating between, say, a recognized Hemingway classic and a posthumously published work that contributes nothing significant to the author’s canon, surviving only as an ATM for the Hemingway estate. Such distinctions are important for a literary novice, lest they depart the store with a copy of True at First Light instead of Death in the Afternoon.


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Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010

Prior to the unveiling of the iPad in late January, the New York Times reported that many publishers were hoping that Apple’s device would resolve their industry’s difficulties transitioning to the electronic book market and “undo mistakes of the past” the same way the iPod and iTunes presented a clear and viable mp3-based business model for the troubled music industry “With Apple Tablet, Print Media Hope for a Payday”, New York Times, 25 January 2010).


The nascent iPad’s influence was visible long before Steve Job’s press conference, most noticeably in the behavior surrounding Amazon.com’s Kindle device, the dominant e-reader currently on the market. Publishers have long chafed at the way Amazon has demanded that certain e-books be priced at $9.99, similar to the way Apple prices albums on iTunes at $9.99, in an attempt to define and dominate the market. In December, Amazon offered Kindles to the employees of publishing houses at a sharp discount in an attempt to assuage bruised emotions over their competitive business practices and shore up a crucial amount of market space within the publishing community before Apple can get there.


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Monday, Feb 8, 2010

As you have no doubt heard, the Academy Awards nominations were announced on Tuesday. For the benefit of film-loving book geeks I have put down my Walter Mosley to ridiculously overanalyze that most writerly of Oscar categories, Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), to try and determine this year’s champion based on the completely unscientific merits of the past winners.


Before we begin, this year’s nominees are as follows:


District 9 - Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
An Education - Screenplay by Nick Hornby
In the Loop - Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire - Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
Up in the Air - Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner


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