Young people are deserting newspapers in droves. What better way to win them back than this?
Maybe three years ago, during a random clicking-around session, I found myself reading a blog that I'm not going to name. It was written by a young schoolteacher who'd moved to a town where she didn't know many people. She wrote about the difficulties of teaching, and how much she missed her friends, and the ways she filled her time. She was a good writer and more specifically a good blog-writer, funny and harsh and immediately trustworthy, and she wrote as though she were talking to a small group of close friends, which for the most part she probably was. But she was also talking to me.
I checked this blog regularly, and I learned more about this person than one usually learns about a non-famous stranger. Once, writing about (I think) babysitting her neice, she wrote that, at times, it made her glad that her womb was a rocky place where seed can find no purchase. I thought about her sometimes. I was rooting for her.
It's a strange relationship that we can now have, over the internet, with people who don't know we exist. Choreographed self-revelation is a particular and very specific skill. It has nothing to do with what I'm trying to do on this blog, really, although I guess there was an element of it in my restaurant reviews. Emily Gould can do it while writing a media-gossip blog, and glenn mcdonald could do it while reviewing records, but this person I'm talking about did it uncut.
Then she wrote something about how the kids she taught had discovered her blog, and purged everything related to sex/drinking/drugs, which was probably between 40 and 60 percent of the content. A little while later, the site went dead. A while after that, the URL turned into linkspam.
It troubled me that I wasn't going to find out what was happening with her. It was like having an old friend, someone you don't see much, go into the witness protection program: they're still out there, but now you don't know where. I don't think I ever knew her last name.
I was thinking about her this afternoon for some reason, and I got curious, so I Googled the name of the website, and I found the blogs of a bunch of people who seemed to know her. (She has a very bloggy social circle.) And I poked around on their blogs for a while, and I discovered this, which is clearly hers. It's less than two weeks old.
It's about her students, rather than her. It's a bit too kids-say-the-darndest-things for my taste, not that anyone involved has any reason to care about my taste. It doesn't tell me much about how she's doing, except that she's still alive and still teaching and keeping her sense of humor in the face of everything. But that's better than nothing.
Update: See the comments.
Matt Bai makes a really good point about trying to predict how a Republican governor will act in the White House:
We in the media have historically embraced the story of the Republican governor who, it turns out, isn’t as much of a crazy conservative as you might think. Hey, look, the Tin Man has a heart! George W. Bush was a “compassionate conservative” who worked amiably across the aisle with Democrats. Mitt Romney passed a landmark, bipartisan bill to provide healthcare. Even Ronald Reagan enacted a huge tax increase while governor of California. And so on.
There’s just one problem with this formulation, which is worth remembering if Huckabee pulls off a remarkable win on primary night in Iowa: it is a serious misreading of conservative doctrine and a lousy predictor of what’s to come.
Here’s why: ... Under the doctrine of federalism, the government in Washington is supposed to remain meek and disengaged in domestic affairs, leaving policy and funding decisions primarily to the states.... That’s the whole point of the conservative exercise—to make state government set priorities and scale back waste and unnecessary commitments. You’d be hard pressed to find a Republican governor ... who hasn’t had to raise some tax or fight for a worthy social program. That’s just what governors do—especially since almost all of them are bound by law to balance their budgets.
When these governors get to Washington, though, that’s a different story—and there’s nothing inconsistent about it. Then their job, as they see it, isn’t really to govern anymore, but to whack at the hopelessly gnarled federal bureaucracy and push the burden for domestic programs back to the states, where it belongs. So while Bush may have been a pleasant enough conciliator and dealmaker in Texas, he never for a minute confused the demands of that job with the one he had taken on at the White House. And neither, one can presume, would Mike Huckabee. He may have been a reasonably centrist governor, but he’d be a starkly conservative president.
Microsoft's PlaysForSure brand -- the logo that identifies whether a particular non-iTunes online music service will work with a particular non-iPod mp3 player -- has now been renamed Certified for Windows Vista. Even though it has nothing to do with Windows Vista. I guess they wanted to capitalize on all that successful Vista branding. Oh, wait.
As Ars Technica puts it:
Microsoft's PlaysForSure has always been a model of how to run a DRM ecosystem: launch a new scheme with logo, convince device makers to sign up, launch your own online music store that uses said ecosystem, drop your music store, launch your own device which uses incompatible DRM, launch new music store with same incompatible DRM, then change branding of ecosystem logo. On second thought, perhaps there's room for improvement here.Gotta love the private sector -- it's so efficient and market-driven.
Franklin does seem intimately familiar with the zip code in which the show purports to reside.... At the same time, she seems surpassingly oblivious to the culture-consuming world beyond 10028, and what's happening out there. She mentions the show's "primary purpose of marketing pop songs, which are heard throughout." Actually, we're pretty sure that an untested show on the CW isn't marketing "What Goes Around" by a non-New Yorker named Justin Timberlake, and the like. Mr. Timberlake, who comes from a land down under 72nd Street (it's called "Tennessee") may in fact, along with his staff and servants and holding company, be receiving a certain fee for his participation. We are just guessing.This pattern (two examples is so a pattern) suggests that, to Franklin, whatever's on TV is by definition the white-hot center of the media universe, and everything else (some website, some pop song) is desperate to bask in its reflected glory.
And in case you care way, way more than you probably do: my original point was challenged (by Jossip Jirl herself) in the comments.
Via DF, a 1996 interview with David Foster Wallace on Infinite Jest:
Part of the stuff that was rattling around in my head when I was doing this is that it seems to me that one of the scary things about sort of the nihilism of contemporary culture is that we're really setting ourselves up for fascism. Because as we empty more and more kind of values, motivating principles, spiritual principles, almost, out of the culture, we're creating a hunger that eventually is going to drive us to the sort of state where we may accept fascism just because -- you know, the nice thing about fascists is they'll tell you what to think, they'll tell you what to do, they'll tell you what's important. And we as a culture aren't doing that for ourselves yet.
New Yorker TV critic Nancy Franklin is often pretty good (she totally gets Friday Night Lights, for instance), but her column this week reveals an amusing old-person misconception. Near the end of the piece, Franklin writes that "the CNN/YouTube debates were a great promotional device for YouTube."
According to Internet World Stats there are 1.25 billion people using the Internet. According to Alexa, 17.25 percent of them look at YouTube sometimes. That means there's a total of 216 million people watching YouTube. Meanwhile, the Republican debate was watched by 4.4 million people. If anything, the debates were a great promotional device for the American democratic process; YouTube certainly doesn't need the help.
You have probably been wondering, "What is fringe Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's favorite superhero?"
The answer, predictably enough, is Berlin Batman -- the alternate-universe Batman of Weimar Germany, who prevented the work of protolibertarian economist Ludwig von Mises from falling into the hands of the Nazis in Batman Chronicles 11.
Why I love New York: So some folks get on the Q train, and some other people say "Merry Christmas!" and the first group of people, who it turns out are Jewish, reply "Happy Hanukkah!" So the first group of people attack them and beat them up.
But! Another passenger -- a "good Samaritan," if you will -- intervenes and helps the Jews fight off the Christians. And he turns out to be a Muslim! And the Jews and the Muslim fight off the Christians together! And then the police come and arrest the Christians, and the Jews invite the Muslim over to celebrate Hanukkah the next night, and everyone is happy, except for the Christians, who are facing assault charges. The end.
Weirdly long and poetic article from the Washington Post on how Apple Stores are getting more crowded:
The question so recently was: What is the Apple Store doing to us, as a people?
Now the question is: What are we doing to it ?
Can you smother a store to death?
Amazing NYT front-pager yesterday: For 20 years, the World Bank and the western countries that give aid to Africa have been demanding that recipient countries not provide subsidies to farmers. Instead, the western donors have advocated a "free-market" paradigm in which poor countries grow cash crops instead of food, then buy food from rich countries (which massively subsidize their own farmers). Without subsidies, African farmers can't afford to buy fertilizer, which means they can't afford to grow food.
Two years ago, after a poor harvest led to a devastating famine, Malawi's president, as the Times puts it, "decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached," and reinstated fertilizer subsidies. Now Malawi is selling surplus corn to Zimbabwe, and UNICEF is sending the powdered milk it has stockpiled in Malawi to Uganda instead.
It's an incredible indictment of western aid policy and the failures of free-market dogma. Those who read to the end will be rewarded with a scene in which a village chief performs "a silly pantomime."