Archive for August, 2011

AOL’s Patch, HBR, and sustainable local journalism

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Last week, Maxwell Wessel posted an entry on the Harvard Business Review’s blog network critiquing AOL’s strategy for Patch, an experiment in local news aggregation that is currently a rather high-profile drain on the company’s coffers. I appreciate the thesis of the post: that rather than ignore or discard Patch, AOL should invest in it more intelligently.

What bugs me is that Wessel mentions the ostensible purpose of Patch—the gathering and reporting of news—exactly twice, both times subtly disparaging it. First, in characterizing Patch’s modus operandi:

“Patch’s current business model is unsustainable. Patch is building a network of journalists and salespeople, and it’s costing the company a lot. This is not the way to build a disruptive business and it’s an open question as to whether Patch must grow this way to win in local news. Patch doesn’t need to be spending money this way to win in the space.”

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Why you’d rather be killed by a Mayan prophecy than a French psychopath

August 20, 2011 1 comment

In the latest installment of  The New Cult Canon (a feature you should be reading regularly at The A.V. Club), Scott Tobias examines the grisly French horror film Inside, and questions how viewers gauge what is “too far” when it comes to representations of violence and death in movies. He notes how often people are repelled by the visceral depiction of individual deaths in horror films, but shrug off the far greater lethality implicit in end-of-the-world blockbusters from the Michael Bay or Roald Emmerich mold. Writes Scott:

As a rule, I’m reluctant to draw any hard lines on what horrors are beyond representation, because I recognize how subjective that can be. For example, I find the trailer for 2012 far sicker in its bloodless apocalypse fetishization than anything I’ve ever seen in “torture porn” genre, but clearly that opinion isn’t shared by the legions who gave a pass to the former while routinely turning up their noses at the latter.

Which is completely logical, when you stop and think about it for half a minute. The combined body count of the Saw franchise is but a minute fraction of the death toll claimed in just one sequence of Independence Day, a lighthearted popcorn flick better remembered for Bill Pullman’s bad-ass quasi-Patton moment than for gleefully positing the obliteration of dozens of major cities—and, along with them, tens of millions of human lives. It brings to mind the infamous quip attributed to Josef Stalin: “One death is a tragedy. One million deaths is a statistic.”

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Categories: Commentary, Film, Pop Culture

Something something "write stuff" pun

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

As a writer, one of my strongest and most well-practiced skills is talking myself out of writing. This should come as no surprise to anyone who follows the lamentably sparse updates of either of my blogs lately (hey, I had one good week in July there!) Oh sure, every now and then some diaphanous wisp of an idea floats into my head and I manage to mold it into 900 words of reasonably entertaining prose. But for every one that somehow sees the light of day, three or four others vanish ignominiously into the ether, having inspired little more than a few illegible scribblings or incoherent out-loud sputterings.

It’s a discouraging state of affairs, and one I’m inspired to improve after attending a class/discussion group on blogging last night with genuinely accomplished blogger & writer Kate Harding, at Story Studio Chicago (a terrific resource for you fellow Windy City wordsmiths). In that light, I’ve decided that step one is identifying the most common—well, excuses is such an ugly word; let’s call them “perfectly sound and logical counterarguments”—which lead me to abandon a potential piece of writing:

  • Somebody must have already made this exact point. Probably better. And if not, they will.
  • The DVR’s at, like, 64%.
  • What sentient, literate being would ever even want to read this misshapen jumble of quarter-baked doofusery??
  • Hey, 18 new tweets!
  • Yup. This is it. This one would wake them all up to the reality that I am a hack and a charlatan. It must be buried and forgotten. The illusion of my competence must live another day!
  • Welp, this Dragon Age quest ain’t gonna play itself.

Other creative types, please feel free to chip in with your own favorite self-defeating tactic.