Archive for March, 2009

Tue 31 Mar 2009 7:00 pm   //   Posted in: Food & drink, TV commericals

Get off your butt and go eat a donut!

The latest Dunkin’ Donuts commercial will blow your mind:

But… but… Donuts are bad for children too! There’s no logic— Hey, are those sprinkles?

Mon 30 Mar 2009 8:11 am   //   Posted in: In the news, Media

Investigative journalizzzzzzm

People are bemoaning the loss of investigative journalism. Really?

Do you really miss those seven-part series that ran on newspaper front pages during slow news weeks in August? Did you really enjoy reading 50,000 words on defense spending, or an unsolved crime from 30 years ago, or sewage easements?

Truth is, maybe 1 newspaper investigation in 10 was worth reading. The rest were dry thesis papers aimed at contest judges and ignored by everyone else. You never read them, I never read them. (I even wrote a few nobody read.)

Some time (I think in the 1990s) the word “investigation” became code for “Pulitzer,” and ambitious metro papers set up long-term project desks where they relegated two or three of their top (and slowest) writers. No longer can newspapers afford to waste such resources. And honestly, the concept of a separate investigative desk was a poor idea. A good beat journalist is always in investigative mode. The reporter keeps notes and reports and contacts that may come in useful in future stories, and is ready to deploy them to devastating effect when necessary. A newsroom should be one big investigative engine, a huge, fast intelligence network assembling years of collective memory and experience. Anyone who can write a deadline story can write an investigation.

Here’s what I’ll really miss about newspapers: The next-day, on-deadline package bringing sense and order to something confusing that happened mere hours ago. The A1 sports photo of an amazing game the night before. The columnist who builds on years of history to call B.S. on some policy fad. The culture writer who deftly throws two extra background sentences into the middle of a review to teach the reader about art. And mostly, that feeling that you were reading a product prepared by smart experts who were more interested in sorting out facts than in reinforcing an agenda or protecting sacred cows.

It used to be that the definitive first accounts always came from local newspapers, due to their authority and gravitas (and, when appropriate, swagger). The whole enterprise was supposed to be investigative. This is one of the nuances that’s getting lost as newspapers die and here-today, gone-tomorrow Web sites fill the gaps in our information diet.

Sat 28 Mar 2009 3:25 pm   //   Posted in: Music

So long, and thanks for the free songs

Music magazine Blender magazine folded this week. A moment of silence for those who lost their jobs.

Okay, moment over. Blender, you might know, packaged a bunch of free MP3 downloads for its readers each month. The magazine may be gone, but you can still download the last three issue’s worth of free music online. With any free music sampler, about 1 track out of 10 is good. Which means if you download all 41 free Blender songs, you might find four songs you like!

Free songs from Blender’s April issue.

Free songs from Blender’s March issue.

Free songs from Blender’s February issue.

Fri 27 Mar 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, New York is different

Also, don’t bother run the spell check.

(Seen this week at an office building on Lafayette Street in the city.)

Thu 26 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Music, Transit

In search of the perfect Manhattan Bridge song

It takes four minutes for a New York City subway train to cross the Manhattan Bridge. I usually listen to music and take in the view as we soar over East River. After countless express trips between Brooklyn and Manhattan, I’ve been wondering: Is there a perfect four-minute song to play on the ride?

Here’s my current favorite: “All Will Be Well” by The Gabe Dixon Band. The song is the right length and its gentle reassurance is perfect for starting and ending the day. You can play the song here and download it on iTunes, etc.

Wed 25 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Hard times, Music

John Rich, Detroit, and the culture of blame

There’s a country song out right now called “Shutting Detroit Down.” It’s a sad song by a singer-songwriter named John Rich about the economic crisis in Detroit. And it’s good! Except for one line in the chorus:

“While they’re living up on Wall Street
In that New York City town
Here in the real world they’re
Shutting Detroit down”

I don’t want to hear your damn song blaming Detroit’s problems on New York. There are no car companies in New York. The rusting of Detroit (and Cleveland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Gary, etc.) is a decades-old story about Amercia’s shift away from a manufacturing economy. Kid Rock and Eminem have been singing sad songs about Detroit for ten years. “Roger and Me” came out in 1989.

That said, the economic crisis is bad and calls for a little populist outrage. Go ahead and blame financial services companies for the credit crisis. But to your list of cities to hate, add Seattle (Washington Mutual) and Charlotte (Wachovia, Bank of America). Do you think people are “living it up” in Seattle and Charlotte?

Here in this New York City town, 270,000 people are expected to lose their jobs. These are working people with bills to pay. I’ve watched several of my friends get laid off. City services are stressed, storefronts are going dark, and a feeling of malaise is settling over Gotham.

Detroit deserves a sad country song, and its people deserve help from places that are better off. But nobody’s climbing out of this hole if we keep blaming the other people in it.

Tue 24 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Typography

Bad logo alert

Would you rent a home from a company who’s logo appears to be a home on fire?

Mon 23 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Movies

“Slumdog Millionaire” in America

I finally saw “Slumdog Millionaire” and it lived up to the hype. Few movies do such a good job with pacing and storytelling. To me, the use of the TV quiz show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” symbolized India’s dream of moving beyond its history of the caste system. Today even a “slumdog” can become rich – on TV.

It made me think about why reality shows are still so popular in the U.S. America has a history of falling short on its promise of opportunity to all, but it’s still a concept that’s built into this country’s fabric. Work hard and you will be rewarded. It usually takes many years of toiling in obscurity, though. Who has patience for that when television can distill the American dream into a quick series of edits? An unknown figure emerges Christ-like from obscurity and is made a star—and there’s still time left for commercial breaks.

Recently, so many people showed up to audition for “America’s Next Top Model” that the crowd grew unruly and the authorities had to shut it down. How little sense does that make? This is a country founded on the idea that anybody can make it. Yet an extraordinary number of people believe the way to realize their dreams is to show up and stand in a big line.

Sat 21 Mar 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: New York is different, Photos


After years of delay, steel is finally rising above grade at the World Trade Center site. March 17, 2009.

(Update: That steel is going to become the Freedom Tower, which will be New York’s tallest building… assuming they finish it. There’s a story in the Wall Street Journal today about the progress at the WTC site, and it’s not reassuring: Developer of 9/11 Site Seeks Aid.)

Thu 19 Mar 2009 8:50 pm   //   Posted in: Media

We won an award you’ve never heard of

Today the magazine where I work won two Neal Awards, one for best single issue and one for best blog. This is nice because I started the blog, and write most of it. And of course the whole staff has been working really hard, and it’s nice to get a pat on the back. High-fives all around. Read about it here.