01 March 2009

The More Sausages Change...

...the more they stay the same. Today's motley assortment is heavily spiced with Santayana's aphorism about repeating history if you don't know it.

  • First up, there's this bit of idiocy, proposing how network television can adapt to the current environment:

    What's the answer then? NBC seems to have the right idea: acceptance. Starting next fall, they'll put Jay Leno on at 10 p.m., thus eliminating five hours of programming per week. Without having to create an abundance of new shows, the chances of NBC crafting just one hit show increases. The less-is-more philosophy could and should be the track that all of the major networks start to take. It isn't without risk obviously, but in the end, moving Jay Leno to the fringes of prime-time can save NBC costs both financial and creative.

    <SARCASM> All we'll publish is bestsellers! We'll just fill in the rest of the bookstore by publishing magazines, because they're cheaper to produce! And we'll continue to run everything through (and close the "day" with) a parade of middle-aged white guys doing identical publicity stunts, instead of some uppity woman or colored person! <SARCASM>

  • Things aren't much better for newspapers. Not only is the newspaper business itself collapsing — something predictable in the late 1980s, with the rise of "joint operating agreements" that reduced two-paper towns like Seattle and San Francisco to one-paper towns publishing faintly different op-ed pages — but there's no replacement in sight.

    No more Rosebud (although there's still a chance for another Conrad Black)... and perhaps no more Pentagon Papers. That's the real problem with the newspaper industry going downhill: There won't be "reporters" who have the resources to stand up to the government, or for that matter private industry, when they print something outrageously insulting that is nonetheless the truth. It's one thing to celebrate the First Amendment freedoms one finds on the 'net; it's another thing entirely to look at the source of those freedoms and realize that the next New York Times v. Sullivan won't make it to the Supreme Court because the blogger in the NYT's place won't be able to afford competent counsel... or the distraction of the lawsuit in the first place. And for all the good that pro bono counsel can do — thank you, ACLU and NAACP, for making this blawg even possible — they are at best a supplement.

  • Sun Times website (http://www.suntimes.com), 01 Mar 2009From the Department of Incongruity, consider the caption of the photograph in the right on today's Chicago Sun-Times web front page:

    Among those products and services profoundly affected by the current recession are SPAM, cigarettes, wine and elective plastic surgery.

  • If you really want to understand what's wrong with book publishing these days, just read and think about the headlines (and if you're really a sick bastard, the woeful excuses for "reporting" underneath) from Friday's PW website:

  • Barbie is turning 50. I know it's rude to ask a woman's age, but Barbie (Mattel's "kept woman") has needed plastic surgery from day one. And who knows what she gets up to when not on the toystore shelf?
  • One product that is apparently not affected by the recession is bad blockbuster books. Sarah Weinman is much, much too kind to one author's sobbing-on-the-way-to-the-bank lament:

    Jonathan Littell tells the WSJ that promoting The Kindly Ones in the US is not his job, but maybe his aversion to selling himself in America has more to do with the fact that reviewers here are (with some exceptions) discovering the book is an unmitigated turkey? And no, I haven't read it and likely won't, in part because I spent the bulk of my childhood having the Holocaust jammed down my throat with the kind of blunt force trauma jackhammer that makes a nearly 1000-page novel on the subject rather unpalatable.

    (typography corrected, links in original) <SARCASM> Come on, Sarah, tell us what you really think. <SARCASM> Compare this to the first bullet above... and note the irony of where the lament was printed, and who now owns that "news source". But Ms Weinman clearly has her fingers on the pulse of trends in American publishing:

    Barry Forshaw attempts to explain the enduring appeal of Agatha Christie. Though with the "refuse to die" tag, perhaps it's time to rewrite Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple with zombies?

    (link in original) Or non-pulse, I suppose. I think I'll just go have a pint at the Winchester.