Category Archives: Unhappy Media

Multimedia malaise: TV, movies, music, print.

News from Another Blue Monday

Gag me.

Really, America? No Strings Attached took the top box office spot over the weekend? Really? I’ll have to chalk it up to the fact that there weren’t other openings last Friday, because the thought of a movie with such an insultingly thin plot line — and a lame title that must have taken all of two seconds to come up with — being the most popular in the country makes me want to hurl. And that’s completely independent of the standard effect Ashton Kutcher has on my upchuck reflex, or how tired I am of Natalie Portman. It’s just the only reaction I can muster upon reading that it took in $20.3 million. I know I shouldn’t be surprised. Or disappointed. But I can’t help it if sometimes my emotions get the best of me. Puking is an emotion, right?

In other entertainment news, this just in from Yahoo: “Bret Michaels is undergoing a procedure in Phoenix to close a hole in his heart.”

Medical emergency, or brilliant concept for the Rock of Love star’s next reality series? Either way, I hope the plug works.

Journalism, by the Numbers, by the Wayside

For a quick by-the-numbers lesson on the sad state of current media affairs, read the opening sentence of media guru Ken Auletta’s column in this week’s New Yorker:

In the past three years, newspaper advertising revenues have plummeted, a fourth of all newsroom employees have been laid off or have accepted buyouts, and more than a hundred free local papers have folded.

The industry’s unlikely hero, Auletta continues, is AOL, which has hired 900 journalists in the last year, adding another 40 each week to its mushrooming Patch local newsroom network. Or should that be anti-hero? The compendium of online newspapers in small, affluent communities numbers 700 in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and each is run by an editor who makes, Auletta reports, between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.

Just a few short years ago, $40k was the starting salary for a bottom-of-the-masthead magazine reporter. Not, certainly, what an effective Editor-in-Chief should even consider. Honestly, I don’t know what Patch writers make, but I know it’s not much, and that it is a source of much nervous and angry chatter among journalists who are hungry for work but unwilling to chew and swallow their pride for sustenance. It’s no wonder we’re all so fucking bitter.

Other, funnier numbers from the story include:

  • 50% of internet surfers logged on using AOL pay-per-minute dial-up service in the late 1990s
  • 35 million AOL users in 2002
  • 4 million AOL users today (and falling precipitously)
  • 75% of current AOL dial-up subscribers have DSL or cable hook-ups and don’t need AOL — but don’t realize it
  • $9.99-$25.90 per month: price of AOL’s dial-up plan options [not in the story; I added that one]

Still being able to subscribe to the New Yorker and read it in print on the subway: Priceless.

Metal Rebirth with a Plastic Guitar

In yet another curious renaissance for heavy metal icons, a video game has helped deliver Megadeth and Soundgarden back atop the pedestal of rock. Sayeth the press release:

Megadeth’s “Sudden Death” and Soundgarden’s “Black Rain” – have been nominated for Best Metal Performance and Best Hard Rock Performance, respectively, at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards. Inspired by, composed exclusively for, and debuted in the game, “Sudden Death” marks the first time an original track created for a videogame has been nominated by The Recording Academy for the prestigious awards.

This is Megadeth’s 9th Grammy nod since the institution of the category in 1989. They’ve never won. Soundgarden hasn’t even existed since 1997, two years after nabbing the Metal award for Spoonman (along with Hard Rock for Black Hole Sun). Black Death debuted simultaneously in the game and on their first new album in a decade, Telephantasm, which went platinum in a day.

If you’re interested, starting tomorrow through noon on Sunday, you can get a free download of each Grammy-nominated song at facebook.com/guitarhero. All I can hope now is that if either band plays at the awards, they’re playing the song, not the game.

I’m Writing a Story — Bring Me a Blond

There’s a little something I’m trying in the new year. It’s writing for other women, instead of exclusively nerdy pubescent and octogenarian males. Some time next month my first articles in a couple major women’s magazines will start to appear on newsstands, adding some softer edges to my portfolio — and some rougher ones to my personality.

Though writing for chick rags has been a welcoming entree into a world of puffy stories and exclamatory emails, I’ve also come up against the industry’s Spanxed underbelly, a cavern of cantankerous cuntery and fantastically unreasonable expectations buttressed by some of publishing’s most solid ad numbers and reader loyalty. The video above is frighteningly accurate. It’s not as much of an exaggeration as you think. I have received some of these very instructions from automaton editors. Get me three whiteshoe professionals from the midwest, one told me, no temps. From another:  I get most of my story ideas just talking to my friends and turning it into a trend piece.

Hit play for a glimpse into the terrifying trials of freelancing for the ladymags. It gives a good sense, too, of the general humility and humiliation veritably wrapped up in the freelancer’s job description.

[From Slate. Thanks, Jolene.]

Sharing Time

I’ve been conspicuously unprolific  here lately. Too wrapped up in myself, I think, to give to the blog. What have I been doing instead? Well, you know, I’m often told that I can be frustratingly reluctant to talk about what I’m up to. So
in an effort to embrace a lemons-to-
lemonade attitude I’ll try to turn my uncomfortable internet silence into productive sharing. I’ve been sitting here for weeks with my horn in my hand, I may as well toot it. (How’d that metaphor work for you? A little funny, or just awkward?)

In lieu of any original content, please feel free to check out my story in the December issue of Wired magazine, probably the coolest publication to bestow on me a byline. (Sorry, NYU Physician quarterly.) If you’re feeling analog, you can find it on newsstands now, but it costs real money and you have to get up to get it, so I wouldn’t bother. Though it will help you achieve that plugged-in geekster look when you’re reading it on the F train.

This Week’s Top Nerd Mail: Japanese 3D Hologram Pop Star

The email began like this:

Hi Amanda

I wanted to send this quick pitch through in case you were thinking about doing a piece on the Japanese Pop sensation, Hatsune Miku, who is actually an animated 3D hologram.

It goes on to explain that “the invented idol’s DVD is selling out and she/it is becoming a legit phenomenon.”

Did you know about this? Apparently she/it has performed to capacity crowds at stadium concerts in Japan. I had no idea. So I checked out the video the flack sent me and… holy shit:

According to the LA Times tech blog “Miku is a singing, digital avatar created by Crypton Future Media that customers can purchase and then program to perform any song on a computer. Crypton uses voices recorded by actors and runs them through Yamaha Corp.’s Vocaloid software -– marketed as ‘a singer in a box.'”

Vocaloid recently announced a new addition to its holo-talent roster, Utatane Piko, a twee little digiboy with a USB tail. Beginning December 8 he’ll be available from Sony Music Shop for 15,750 Yen.

For reference, that’s over $190. Jesus. There are countries where you could get a real boy for that.

On Snowglobes and Terrorism, an Important Message from the TSA

Why Carl Paladino Scares Me [Separated at Birth]

It’s not so much his policy ideas as his unnervingly gruff demeanor and striking resemblance to Oswald Cobblepot.

Hey, Carl, you weren’t raised in the sewers. How’s about a little polish on those public appearances? Our research tells us that voters like fingers:

Die Antwoord, Die

I know I should be over it by now, but I’m just not. It kills me — a deep down painful kind of death — that Die Antwoord got famous.

I first heard about them from my friend Brian on his blog in February. (I feel compelled to clarify, if you see my comments on the post, that I was quoting the song. Which sucks. For the record.) Meme soon spread, garnering the group’s YouTube videos millions of hits in a few weeks. By May they were opening for MIA and had signed with fucking Interscope. Now they’re returning to NYC to headline at Live Nation’s 600-seat Gramercy (nee Blender) Theater tomorrow night.

With them returns my ire over the power of the internet and the ever obscuring causes of popularity.

Continue reading

Facebook and the Lost Art of Storytelling

I’m a storyteller. I love weaving a yarn, on the pages of a magazine, or over coffee with a friend. But today’s constant flow of information makes it hard to get the drop on a juicy tale, and that goes for  good gossip as well as hard news. I find myself constantly scooped, even among friends and family.

Here, in brief, storytelling in the Facebook age:

Person 1: I was at Jason’s wedding this weekend.
Person 2: I know.
Person 1: Oh. Well, it was a beautiful wedding.
Person 2: Yeah, I saw the pictures
Person 1: I didn’t know you were friends.
Person 2: We’re not.
Person 1: But you saw pictures?
Person 2: You looked fat.

Person 1: Hey, my college friend Rachel had a baby!
Person 2: Is it a boy or a girl?
Person 1: Oh man, I don’t even know!
Person 2: It’s a boy. Get on Facebook.

Person 1: Big news! I called to tell you I–
Person 2: I know.

And they all lived virtually ever after. The end.