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Platforms and the insourcing of the media

What Was the Author Photo?

Last fall, the New York Times published a review of a new book, Changing the Subject, by the essayist Sven Birkerts. The review was forgettable. The author photo that ran alongside it was not—blindfold me right now, and I’d be able to recall it for you in every hypnotizing detail. The way Birkerts approaches the lens, his arms upraised, his unzipped jacket opening around him like a magician’s cape. The hesitant set of his lips, tacking up at one corner into a half-smile. The dense carpet of hair that looks as if it would bend a comb. The autumnal aura evoked by the leafless trees. And above all, the blur of the hands, which suggest momentum and unpretentiousness on the part of the shooter and her subject—the day is too precious to waste on two takes.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the photo. An inordinate amount, really. (I even had a strange dream about it, where I was cast in Birkerts’ place, and the jacket was actually a wing suit.) Its anomalousness shook me: If the vast majority of author photos fit into one of a handful of standard poses—the Fist-on-Chin (conveying thoughtfulness), the Stare-Out-Window (inner depth), the Icy Stare (strength), the Hearty Laugh (confidence!), etc.— here was an author photo that threw centuries of literary convention in our face. Here was a man who was not even fully dressed in his author photo.

The Gawker Lunchtime Walkout Is Cancelled, BTW

2531514251_2d0442d41a_bAs of last week, the Gawker editorial union was planning to walk out and take the sites dark this Wednesday because management would not negotiate over a guaranteed annual cost of living salary increase—the union had asked for around six percent, management offered zero. Well, the walkout threat maybe… worked? Because we’ve heard from a few people that the walkout has been cancelled, for now, with everyone returning to the negotiating table. Good job, everybody.



Photo by Cory Doctorow

Prins Thomas, "A2"


Let’s just try to sneak into this week without drawing too much attention to ourselves, okay? Once we’re safely settled in we can figure a way to quietly get out of it but for now everyone should do their best to be as unobtrusive as possible, because as stupid and loud as the weekend was things are about to get so much worse over the next few days. Anyway, relax and enjoy and for God’s sake, be quiet.

New York City, February 4, 2016

weather review sky 020416★★ One last snowbank still looked like a snowbank; the next one was just a little clump of ice chips on the wet mulch. The downpour of yesterday was an oily little puddle at the foot of the subway stairs. The daylight had not been strong enough to rouse a sleeper with the blinds up, and it wasn’t getting much stronger. The cloud cover faltered only a little around midday, then re-thickened. The thin, unlined hoodie was a mistake by the ride home, but not a serious one. A bedtime glance at the weather forecast found an unexpected exclamation point there, and not long after came the sound of something frozen hitting the windows.

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In January, following a year of stalled growth and financial disappointment, Twitter shed nearly half of its core leadership. Three days later, Adam Bain, the company’s (surviving!) Chief Operating Officer, posted this complaint:

The linked tweet:

That day, Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa had gotten into a fight on Twitter, roping in Amber Rose and setting off a massive and spontaneous celebrity media event. The choice of medium was a notable and conspicuous part of the story: West’s Twitter presence is uneven but legendary; one of his posts (erroneously) mocked Khalifa for losing followers; he mentioned looking at Khalifa’s timeline. It’s where responses were expected to show up, and did.

Vagabond Express

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“I wondered what she did,” Alice Adams wrote of a fellow Greyhound passenger in the New Yorker in 1981, “what job took her from Oakland to Vallejo.” Adams had gotten on the wrong bus. She was on her way home to San Francisco from Sacramento, and instead of boarding the commuter coach, she got on the milk route instead; the woman sitting near her represented a parallel universe traveling the same line. Post-divorce, Adams was especially susceptible to this kind of imagining. Who was this woman? And what fine lines, drawn of coincidence and choice and culture, separated Adams from her?

The day after she accidentally took the slow bus home, Adams travelled to work next to a woman who boarded at the same station she did, disembarked at Adams’s destination, and went to work in a building right beside her office. She found this duality unsettling. On every bus we don’t board, a possible life drives away without us, and the romance is ruined if the possibility presented is as mundane as our own reality. Better instead, Adams decides, to wile away commuter hours contemplating individuals like the woman working in Vallejo, fellow travellers who were different: a handsome black man, a heavyset woman, someone in a sharp purple suit who says what other passengers are afraid to. At the end of the piece, Adams writes of her trips on the Greyhound, “I could meet anyone at all.”

The years following the financial crash were a good time to meet people on the Greyhound. Mother Jones reported that in 2008, intercity bus travel went up almost ten percent. In the years that bracketed the recession, I did a lot of disappearing on Greyhound buses. Lacking the wherewithal to determine what my life should look like, I worked a couple of jobs and saved up money and then spent it rumbling from coast to coast at semi-regular intervals, visiting friends, or helping them move. I was not riding for a purpose, particularly, but because motion gives shape to purposelessness.

Thomas Ragsdale, "Time To Go"


Even if you are, as am I, a staunch defender of the classic rotation of seasons—the promise of spring, the seduction of summer, the crispness of fall and the grim determination of winter—you can still probably find some amusement in what appears to be our new Mystery Mix order of weather wherein one day it’s May and the next it’s November. So we woke up to winter today. What will it be tomorrow? NO ONE KNOWS. There might be a heatwave next week, and everyone will just shake their heads and say, “Yeah, that’s what happens here in February.” It is indeed a remarkable age in which we live. Anyway, there’s some backstory to this track but you do not need to know it to enjoy, so figure out how much reading you’d like to do in advance and then enjoy. [Via]

New York City, February 3, 2016

weather review sky 020316★ The morning was so dark that the mirrored tower was failing at mirroring. It had rained already. The last snowbanks on the cross street were eroded and diminished. At midday, umbrellas were out and shiny with new rain. It seemed as if it must be cold in the gloom, but it wasn’t. It got wetter and wetter; deep flood puddles formed at crosswalks. Raindrops fringed the hood of the waterproof jacket, to be shaken away with a sharp head nod. The four-year-old let go of his umbrella and let the adult holding and guiding it by the ferrule keep walking ahead. The stairs up out of the subway into the soggy dimness felt as if they were leading downward. A vendor knocked water out of a greenmarket canopy and it hit the pavement with almost the sound of breaking glass.

All the News That's Affordable to Print

460762472_a6c4227b5f_zGood news, the New York Times had a higher profit in 2015 than it did in 2014. That extra profit did not come from an increase in revenue as digital finally offset the momentous decline in print—how great would that be???—but from the Timesnow-longstanding source of profit-making: cutting costs faster than revenue falls. Here’s a chart of the last ten years of Times annual revenues against total operating costs and operating profits:

A Poem by Martha Silano

Proverbs


Who knows best a pineapple’s heart? A knife.
Words are good, but fowls lay eggs.
A hungry stomach makes a short prayer.
The first may become the last.

Words are good, but fowls lay eggs
till the moon disappears completely.
The first may become the last.
Little by little grow the bananas.

Till the moon disappears completely,
a new moon cannot rise.
Little by little grow the bananas.
A woman is beautiful until she speaks.

A new moon cannot rise
while a hot needle burns the thread.
A woman is beautiful until she speaks.
If you know what hurts you, you know what hurts me.