a ryme I lerned longe agoon

September 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

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In a stark example of speaking power to truth, Wallenstein, explains that, because “[i]t’s difficult to subsist on substantive journalism without some help from more crowd-pleasing content” and “maximizing advertising revenues is dependent on maximizing traffic,” Miley as top news was a natural and defensible choice. In a Web 2.0 world where the pressure for writers to perform in groveling, crowd-pleasing fashion has been “accentuated by the analytics that give publishing companies detailed feedback of how content performs in a way the print world couldn’t,” Wallenstein sees that news organizations have three options open to them:

1) You can remain in denial that quality alone will prevail despite all evidence of the contrary.

2) You can do whatever it takes to drive traffic and lose any sense of distinct brand identity.

3) You can coordinate a balanced attack between the quality that supports the brand but not traffic with more broadly appealing content that does more for traffic than it does the brand.”

Like all shining mediocrities, Wallenstein makes his modest proposal in favor of triangulation, the best bet to preserve at least something of that all-valuable “sense of distinct brand identity”—which I suppose is meant to be a synonym for integrity. You can’t beat ‘em! Join ‘em!

Part of the “analytics” that Wallenstein refers to are the bars at the top and bottom of every CNN.com story denoting “Total Shares,” which add up the number of Tweets and Facebook Likes, as well as Google Plus and LinkedIn whatevers, garnered by any given piece. Something not wholly unlike this interface can be found at the bottom of this page. And the reason I am discussing this in a space dedicated to movie chat is because the same analytics that made Miley-as-a-top-story a foregone conclusion have been and will increasingly be dictating how we talk about movies—at least in paying venues. While a filmmaker’s “use of space” is a favorite vague term among pud cinephiles, right now the only use of space that I want to talk about pertains to web real estate.

The race to perfect the art of quantifying and selling attention is a race to the bottom. In these dark times—and make no mistake, they are pitch black—the meaning of “professional” and “amateur” has become increasingly confused. Whereas “professional” should ideally imply a certain basic level of authority and competent draftsmanship, the emerging model favors a breed of insta-expert hacks adept at nothing but producing a few mangled grafs of Provocative Opinion on deadline and chumming the Internet with keywords.

Producing think-piece responses timed to the trending item of the day, regardless of how damning or dismissive that response may be, only reinforces the system of priority that has already been put in place. And when whatever the monied interests want people to be talking about is given priority over what the cultural gatekeeper, writer or editor, thinks that people should be talking about, journalism (or its relation, criticism) has in effect become an arm of marketing. The fact is that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and every dollar of the budget put towards a tie-in listicle timed to a tentpole release that no-one with a bit of sense thinks for a second is going to be worth a shit, is a dollar that doesn’t go somewhere else.

By expending verbiage on ‘Achy-Breaky Heart’ performer Billy Ray Cyrus’s daughter having rubbed her bottom onto the crotch of Growing Pains star Alan Thicke’s son rather than on, say, Laida Lertxundi, I am, in fact, participating in and reinforcing this system right now.  read more

SCAN: Stephanie Kelton

The best way to rob a bank is to own one

December 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

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“You da One” is a “sexy” video. I am employing scare quotes, because I have roughly as much erotic response to Rihanna as I do to, say, a Styrofoam cup or a slab of Formica. Rihanna’s private dancer show in “You da One,” however, got me to thinking of a video that had a pretty seismic effect on my young libido, released as it was when I was thirteen years old: The Breeders’ “Divine Hammer”.

The video is credited to Kim Gordon, that hip Zelig Spike Jonze, and Richard Kern—and I am willing to bet that the black-and-white segments in which Kim Deal is bending and stretching on a palette for the delectation of a camera perched overhead are the work of Kern. (There is another version of the video, hosted on YouTube by Breeders’ label 4AD, which replaces these segments with interpolations of the band playing. Needless to say, it is not nearly so interesting.)

Kern was one of those down-and-out Manhattan decadents who, along with Lydia Lunch and Nick Zedd, banded together under the rubric of “Cinema of Transgression” in the early ‘80s, all interested in exploring the outer limits of deviant sexuality. Watching Kern and Zedd’s Thrust in Me, in which Zedd throat-fucks his own cross-dressed doppelganger, was certainly a revelation of sorts to my adolescent self when it was rented from Alexandria, Virginia’s late, lamented Video Vault.

What was so enrapturing about the “Divine Hammer” video? What made it hot in a way that, say, MTV’s “The Grind” most assuredly was not? I would venture to guess that it was something to do with a bracing “realness.” Kim Deal looked like a girl you would see around—in fact, she’s from outside Dayton, Ohio, 40 miles as the crow flies from where I grew up—and there is something incredibly intimate and playful in her limbering up, as though she’s getting ready to take somebody—Please, please me!—to the mat.

The simulation of privileged intimacy in Kern’s bedroom shoots, a world away from music-video choreography and studio gloss, would in time combine with the aesthetic of porno from the shot-on-the-fly 8mm smoker era. The result was a popularized, deliberately-awkward amateur-smut aesthetic whose development can be traced through Mark Romanek’s 1997 video for Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” Vincent Gallo’s 1997 Buffalo ’66 (and the pederastic, paneled ’70s rec-room ads by Gallo’s sometime-employer, Calvin Klein), right up through to the adverts by American Apparel that grace the back cover of Vice Magazine, in which Kern’s pictures regularly appear today, supplemented by affiliated online television network VBS.tv’s “Shot By Kern” featurettes. The past decade has seen a concurrent boom in demographic-targeting alt-porn; while grand-dad was content to glance over his centerfold’s Turn-Offs, the contemporary hip consumer wants to know that the young lady whom he or she is about to watch have anal sex is a fan of Alkaline Trio, or, in the case of Sasha Grey—photographed by Kern!—is a card-carrying Existentialist. This is something like the erotic equivalent of conscientious farm-to-table dining, and may even constitute an ethical advancement of some sort. I have no idea.  read more

STILL: Ann Hirsch

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