Will the Internet Ever Get Less Nasty?


BY now, anyone who writes for a living knows the kind of nasty comments and chatter that accompanies almost any public utterance. (This seems like a cross between the hostility that's bred on places like Fox News and the larger "snark" culture, with an extra layer of nastiness unique to the Internet.) How did it happen, what are the consequences for our public discourse, and can it ever get any … [Read more...]

Journalism’s Phony Golden Age


IT was only, I guess, a matter of time before the digital utopians started telling us -- including laid off scribes -- how great journalism has gotten. The latest is a Wired piece, "How the Smartphone Ushered in a Golden Age of Journalism. (It's venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, and not the Wired writer, who calls it a "golden age.") Certainly, a very selective reading of the most hopeful … [Read more...]

Endgame: Culture and Suicide


HOW has Western literary culture dealt with the ending of life? How do we see it now? Today guest columnist Lawrence Christon looks at a bundle of complex and painful issues, as recent as the death of Robin Williams and as old as the work of Albert Camus and perhaps Shakespeare. This one is not for the faint of heart. "ENDGAME," By Lawrence Christon Albert Camus’ famous declaration in  “The … [Read more...]

German Writers Stand Up to Amazon


WHETHER opposition to the online octopus is growing and spreading is hard to tell, but some of the anger we've seen in the US literary community seems to be driving authors in the German-speaking world as well. A New York Times story reports that more than a thousand German-language authors have written a letter of protest. The whole thing is complex, but it's similar in some ways to the tussle … [Read more...]

Will Indie Film Survive?


ONE of the casualties of our current cultural situation is the erosion of the middle -- the middle class, the midlist author, the middlebrow, and the mid-budget film. Independent film, with its interest in boundary pushing and risk-taking, may not seem to belong in that company, but it's vulnerable to all the same forces. The New York Times tells us that Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics … [Read more...]

Allah-Las and Woods in Echo Park


IT was 1966 again on Friday night, as two of today's best retro-rock bands, the folky Woods and the garage-psych Allah-Las played at the free Echo Park Rising Festival. Ideally I would have taken in more of the festival, but these were two really strong sets. I was there to see LA's Allah-Las, whose reverb-heavy take on folk rock -- they seem equally grounded in the Byrds, Arthur Lee's Love, … [Read more...]

The “Antifree” Movement Takes on “Free”


BY now, we're all pretty familiar with the information-wants-to-be-free argument, and if you write for a living, or have had to endure numerous unpaid internships to break into a creative field, you know it all too well. A wide-ranging, perceptive, and slightly arch essay in the hip Brooklyn journal n+1 sketches out the development not only of the Free Culture crowd -- a mix of hackers, … [Read more...]

The Importance of the Humanities


A GREAT Nicholas Kristof column today gets at the value of the humanities, especially philosophy, in a pragmatic, hyper-digital and neoliberal age. He writes, near the top: I wouldn’t want everybody to be an art or literature major, but the world would be poorer — figuratively, anyway — if we were all coding software or running companies. We also want musicians to awaken our souls, writers to … [Read more...]

Blue Music Group Pulls its Catalog from Spotify


A FEW weeks ago I wrote about the difficulties the new regime of streaming were creating in jazz and classical music, and quoted one of the heads of the avant-garde Pi Recordings on how the label had chosen to take its music off Spotify, since the rates were so bad and cutting into their sales. He was glad he'd done it. The Blue Music Group has just made a similar move, with the founder of the … [Read more...]

Amazon Attacks… George Orwell


BOY, this is weird. The online bookseller, in an attempt to tackle its critics, has been quoting George Orwell WAY out of context. A New York Times story gets at the whole messy business. In 1936 Orwell told a British paper: “The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if the other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them.” The Times … [Read more...]