May 05, 2012

#Pujols - benched, and booed!

Did you ever, ever, think it would happen, and in a place more mellow than New York or Boston? It has.

Not only has Albert Pujols yet to hit a home run, not only is he now below the Mendoza line of infamy (heck, from April 20-May 5 [and sure to continue a few more days] his slugging percentage is below Mendoza) ... he's been benched ... and booed!
"If I could boo myself," Pujols said postgame, "I'd boo myself, too."
The booing? I know fans in St. Louie, including relatives, are lifting a frosty cold mug of Mike Shannon-style schadenfreude over this $240M turn of events, even if some have a 2x4 of biblical proportion in their own eyes.

The benching is just a day-off type move.

That said, I've gone on blogging record that Angels manager Mike Scioscia needs to do more, like either moving Pujols lower in the lineup for the good of the team, or else moving him UP to No. 2 to get him to stop thinking about the HR drought so much.

That then said, Kendrys Morales is starting to heat things up a bit, as has Mark Trumbo; that can only help.

Meanwhile, as everybody asks what's wrong with Albert, I'll throw out something besides:
1. He's getting older;
2. He's pressing;
3. He's slow to adjust to AL pitching.

Speaking of Scioscia,  I'll venture that Pujols is missing the protective managerial cocoon of Tony La Russa.

That leads to another question:

Is Pujols that psychologically fragile? If so, Arte Moreno's got the second coming of A-Rod, or worse, on his hands, for 10 long years.

And, we can forget about Pujols doing anything close to Babe Ruth and following a homerless April with a 54-HR rest of the season.

For my in-depth "what's wrong with Pujols" post, go here.

A bump on the road for Obama's re-election

I blogged a few weeks ago about a NYT political blog post that showed economic conditions in the second quarter of the fourth year of a first-term president was key to his re-election in a tight race.

It makes sense. Primaries are winding down in the party out of power, people are starting to think about the general election, and they're starting to consider issues.

Well, yesterday's weak jobs report, then, has to be troubling for Obama, even against a weak foe pandering to nutbars, named Mitt Romney.

As I see it, the only chance Obama has to offset this issue,  especially if it should continue into May, is a Harry Truman-type attack, like 1948. But, really, is Dear Leader that type of campaigner? His faux populism so far this year won't fool real progressives, and it may not fool liberal-leaning centrists, either. And, per David Maraniss' new bio of Obama, as excerpted in Vanity Fair, Obama had fled from anything left of centrist liberalism by the time he was looking to move to Chicago.

So, I don't think he has any real populism in him.

May 04, 2012

The fifth-worst career doesn't include Forbes

One of Forbest' editors says, forget that "fifth worst career" stuff, journalism is cool!

First, he ignores that most the stuff on Forbes website is from freelancers who may get paid bupkis. (This also explains how Forbes is allegedly doing so well, maybe.)

Second, he ignores that a ritzy New York-based mag like Forbes is incredibly different from some small town or small city newspaper.

Other than those two totally minor points of fact, Jeff Bercovici is totally right. The schadenfreude part of me awaits the day he is replaced by a freelancer, since he thinks some "fluff" about how great it is to work for Forbes counts as an actual news story.

Joey Dauben situation goes from bad to worse

It's been a while since I've checked in on the situation on Ellis County, south suburban Dallas, and its Walter Mitty/William Randolph Hearst in his own mind pseudo-muckraking "journalist" Joey Dauben.

The would-be muckraker had a "backfire" late last year, though, being arrested for sexual assault as an early Christmas present.

For a basic early take on him by me, see here. For fluff from a bored week at the Dallas Observer, see this Joey Dauben profile.

So, it's no surprise he claimed the arrest was a big conspiracy.

Anyway, it might be  good news that Dauben's original $200K bond was lowered to $50K and he's out right now. On the other hand, he has to wear an ankle monitor and refrain from Internet usage. That will just kill him.

AND ... he had to surrender the Ellis County Observer website to the state. He's fighting that, but, right now, the site is blank.

Dauben says he plans to fight the issue, which he still says is part of a conspiracy.

I've got another question.

Given that the sexual assault charge, a "statuatory" case, was against a male, that Dauben has been vociferously homophobic and that there's evidence that that is "repressive," and that the Dallas Voice, Dallas's GLBT paper, is covering this so extensively ....

"Joey, are you gay?"

Seriously. It's a legitimate question. If Joey doesn't want to talk himself, then, if David Webb at the Dallas Voice has any more info, he should speak up.

Update, March 16, 2013: I had a new light bulb pop on tonight. Joey Dauben reminds me of a slightly less mature James O'Keefe of Breitbart fame, detailed here in all his sordidness. 

May 03, 2012

#Amazon vs. #Google: TV showdown time

Last year, Google announced it would be rolling out a set of You Tube TV channels.

And now, Amazon is firing back. Like Google, it will have original programming as part of this. And it's already announced what it will pay for scripts.

Now, neither one of these folks is in any way beholden to cable companies, either, other than for Internet transmission for folks not on DSL, wireless, or glorious dial-up. So, will this finally be the stake or silver-bullet to kill "packaged" cable programming and open the door to a la carte instead? Especially if you add in the idea of "apps" for TV networks? You know Google will do apps for its You Tube channels, and Amazon, with its tablet Fire, will do the same.

That said, what the hell will Amazon and Google bombard us with? The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, might need a couple of add-on zeros for a remake of "57 Channels and Nothing's On."

May 02, 2012

Rethinking a Russian legend: Catherine

I just got done with Robert K. Massie's new "Catherine the Great" biography. From my review:


This is definitely what would be called a “sympathetic” biography of the Russia empress, or tsarina. That said, Massie is a known English-language expert on  Russia, as his award-winning “Nicholas and Alexandra” testifies, so I’m willing to be open to his sympathy for the subject.

And, I learned a few things as fact, and heard a few new things as historic claims.

The biggest fact of which I was previously unaware? George III approached Catherine for Russian mercenaries in the American Revolution. Only after she rebuffed him (but not out of sympathy for Americans) did he look for Hessians.

The two biggest claims, which may well be factual?

Gregory Potemkin did NOT create “Potemkin villages” in the Crimea. Massie says that none of his main rivals at court at the time made such a claim. Neither did Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, who accompanied his fellow Enlightenment monarch on her long cruise down the Dneiper through the new Russian territories which Potemkin was developin, Massie says.

And, the second claim also relates to Potemkin. Without saying “yes” to it, Massie says the pair may have been married. A few letters from Catherine address him as “husband.”

Beyond that, though, Massie paints a picture of a woman complex, generally enlightened, generally self-assured, and wanting of love. This is a great read.

That said, where did the legend of "Potemkin villages" come from, and why? Although Massie's in the apparently majority of modern scholarship in calling the idea legend, he doesn't address why it started. 

The simplicity of #ChrisMooney on conservative brains vs #PTSD

Basically, his claim is that the conservative brain is more fearful and more desirous of predictable stability, as this Alternet story describes.

Of course, there's just a few problems with that.

One is that even good science journalists can't keep up well with the spate of science announcements, some newsy, some PRsy. 


The second is that arguably, per his own terminology, Mooney is a science communicator, not a science journalist.


The third is that he basically ignores both epigenetics and straight-up non-epigenetic environmental issues.


The fourth is that, on the environmental side, Chris' description could fit other things.


Like PTSD.


If conservativism is defined in part per the top paragraph, that's an almost stereotypical description of PTSD. Or even generalized anxiety disorder.


It's also just another example of a Sam Harris-type tendency to become overly dependent on neuroscience to make sociological pronouncements when neuroscience is still in the Bronze Age.


The fact is that "conservativism" is also more varied than Mooney notes, especially outside the U.S., which undercuts further any biologically reductionist claims.


And, per Mooney's talk about motivated reasoning, from previous books, he's at risk of becoming a more stereotypable liberal "science communicator."

May 01, 2012

The dark side of the Internet: public grieving and #bucketbaby

Does the death of that "bucket list baby" really deserve the media attention it's getting? I mean, this was the parents' "bucket list," not an infant's who couldn't write down a list, let alone understand an abstract concept like "bucket list." Is this the next "dark side of the Internet" ... publicizing grief?

People on the other side of the coin might argue this is a great thing. I'd argue it's about two steps remove from Mark Zuckerberg creating Funeralbook as a Facebook spinoff.

And, if it delayed the parents facing reality, it was worse than just cheap publicity  at their baby's expense; it hurt their own grieving process. Or made it more callow. "Denial" is a cable Internet stream, then, as well as a river in Egypt.

And a trendsetter of a one, too.

And, it won't even be 15 minutes of fame on the Net ... it will be more for the early adopters of such trends, less for late-comers.

Marshall McLuhan would have a doozy with this one.

None of this is meant to be insensitive to these or other parents, especially parents of infants', actual grief. Even the idea of a "baby bucket list," by itself, doesn't strike me as "wrong."

But, the public, Internet sharing of it with not just friends, but strangers of the general public, DOES strike me that way.

I work at the fifth-worst job: more on newspaper revenue streams

Picking this up, after a week-plus of hiatus on the thread, as to why newspaper journalism is, according to a job hunting site, the fifth-worst job in America at this time.

Well, that's because newspapers still haven't figured out the revenue stream issue, and it's probably only going to get worse, according to this Forbes article that brags about how well it's doing.

Here's the two biggest takeways, quantified:
1. 150,000 new Internet banner ads are produced every second.
2. Ad rates of return are now as low as 1/100 of a cent per impression.

Item 1 means that item 2 will only get worse. And reflects a further point in the story, that ad streams/diffusion will only get worse. Let's add that some states are looking at or have allowed public notice classifieds to run in places besides a "newspaper of record" and you get the picture.

And, don't believe that mobile/app ads will be a guaranteed savior. The reason for their relatively higher rates of return are current relative scarcity of numbers adn relative scarcity of mobile space, or perceptions thereof. That will change, especially the first.

Smaller, non-corporate newspapers, really just starting to seriously feel the effects of Web 2.0 and cheaper business websites, will probably start feeling more and more what the big boys have for several years, even as the mobile world soon proves more ephemeral than believed. And, will be diffusing their sales efforts more and more at the wrong time.

That's why I again say "paywalls." That said, it may the case of shutting the barn door too late.

But, let's take a further look at the issue.

1. The solution may differ from paper to paper, whether a blanket paywall, a metered paywall like the Economist, a "freemium" paywall like some others, micropayments, or a mix of all the non-blanket options.
2. Especially at smaller papers, to prevent password sharing, the paper must require passwords to be changed every 90 days or so. No exceptions. No complains about remembering passwords from alleged "grandmothers" who are alleged "subscribers" and may well be neither.
3. No NYT-style fake paywalls, or LA Times type metered paywalls defeated in Firefox by "private browsing."

On the ads side, the best I can suggest is shorter length web and mobile pages, to hold more ads. More creative, embedded placement. No more "show story as single page" links.

This may still be primarily be shutting the barn door too late, but it has to be tried.

That said, good Facebook ... and in general ... friend Leo Lincourt objects to the advertising side of my presentation. He has valid points about the obtrusiveness, which is why all of us run some form of ad-blocking extensions on our browsers. (And, in my case, also run a beefed-up hosts file on my computer.)

I agree. But, as more and more news content shifts from hardcopy to digital (don't believe Audit Bureau of Circulation's latest numbers of newspapers' circ numbers rising; they've got multiple ways to "officially" calculate circulation numbers now, including digital; it's apples to broccoli on the comparisons), ad revenue will continue to decrease.

And, the papers outside NYC that are at $1 a copy for daily, non-Sunday issues are maxed out; they can't go higher on price for years. Heck, prices were 50 cents in most cities less than a decade ago, and no more than a quarter not much more than a decade ago.

So, while trying to figure out how to beat ad blockers and such, I think papers have to do something more on the online ad side. We're so used to getting stuff for free on the Net that, when newspapers go to subscription models, they can't afford to be too pricey.

So, what about audio ads? Or video ones?

Or very brief "priming" audio ads? Or brief "priming" text/graphics ads?

Or newspapers, rather than having things like NYClean hack fake paywalls, find ways to reverse-engineer against ad-block extensions? No, I don't want newspapers turning into "Gator" sites with text/news attached; that said, this makes clear that they've been and still are, abysmally slow to adapt.

And, then, watch the ad wars heat up.

Of course, none of this mentions that you and I can still read AP (plus Reuters and AFP, both with expanding US presences) on Google, Yahoo, etc. Or, the NYT, beyond fake paywalls, on MSNBC. And, having worked at a newspaper owned by MediaNews founder and long-time AP chairman of the board Dean Singleton, i can attest to that "abysmally slow to adapt" portion, or, let's just call it, "shortsighted."

The man ran his own company into Chapter 11 even while letting AP lose control of portions of its revenue stream vis-a-vis those news aggregators.

If the Newseum ever came up with the bright idea of a Wall of Shame, Singleton would be a charter member.

April 30, 2012

Addicted to anxiety ...

Is such a thing possible? Arguably,  it's desired by some, including the author of this excellent and thought provoking column.

Here's the heart of it ... like a good column, not at the top of an inverted pyramid:
What really makes my anxiety go away is time and distance. But here’s the thing: part of me doesn’t want it to go away. I actually thrive on and revel in the heart pounding and discomfort, and I enjoy it even more when I am dumping booze or cigarettes on the fire that is burning in my heart and brain. ...


As things have gone better and better for me in my career, the anxiety levels ratchet up faster and more often. It comes in waves: I become very introverted and detached. I have trouble dealing with people around me. I become controlling and passive at the same moment, stressing about minor details while often losing sight of the situation at hand. My heart races and everything seems to move super fast. I also become funny. I jab out of my shell using humor and jokes and non-sequiturs.
It appears he likes the anxiety because it makes him feel more ... alive.

April 29, 2012

Why is the TX Secy of State using a private PR firm?

From an email invitation to my newspaper office:
On behalf of the Office of Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade, we would like to invite you to listen in on Secretary Andrade’s meeting with Burnet County election officials in Marble Falls on Friday to discuss the “Make Your Mark on Texas” voter education program. Secretary Andrade will discuss statewide voter education efforts and will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the new voter education program. The event will be held at 10 a.m. at the City Hall Council Chambers located at 800 Third St.

Please confirm if you’ll be able to attend.
Best,
Brittany

Brittany Fish
On behalf of the Office of the Texas Secretary of State
(713) 655-3590

brittany.fish@bm.com
The website behind the "bm.com" in the email belongs to Burson-Marsteller, one of the nation's largest PR firms.

So, why is Hope Andrade wasting our tax money using a private PR firm to promote what is likely a bullshit photo op session about the new voter ID denial bill? 

I've emailed Andrade at secretary@sos.state.tx.us and asked:
Why are you/your office using the private PR firm of Burson-Marsteller to promote your appearances around the state? Isn't this a waste of taxpayer money?
I won't hold my breath over an answer; and I'm asking as a private individual, because I'm sure my owner/publisher, as far right as he is, would blow a gasket if I officially asked that question. (As of midday the day after emailing her, I have yet to receive a response.)

Let's think of a few more questions behind this:
1. Is Andrade planning a run for some major elective office? If so, is she laying the groundwork for Burson-Marsteller to be a major contributor?
2. What sort of favors, besides whatever contract is has, is Burson-Marsteller expecting from this?

Update, April 29, 2012: It's been more than a week, and still no response. I'm shocked!