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Below is a comment I sent to NPR’s All Things Considered in response to a pretty hilarious commentary section on their Tuesday, April 14 show:

I consider myself a person of the left. I’d like to think I’m more open to a wider variety of “crazy” political opinions than many other Americans. But listening to your commentator’s piece on Somalian piracy Tuesday afternoon I found my jaw dropping on the ride home.

What got to me was the suggestion that Jihadists are worthy of more respect than Somali pirates because at “least they are fighting for something they believe in,” rather than cynical self-enrichment. Really, NPR? Really?

I still struggle to figure out why I should hate these raiders from Somalia, this razor edge of Third World capitalism, where no business transaction can exist without at least one sucker; they disrupt the commerce of radical Saudi and Iranian Islamic governments, they are against shariah law and they rarely ever harm their hostages, although that could now be over after the Navy SEALs’ sniper rifle escapade.

What they are doing is unsavory, yes, and no one can begrudge the hostages’ families wanting their captors dead or captured, but I find myself more willing to root for apolitical, anti-fundamentalist and imminently practical pirates who attempt to, as 50 Cent would put it, Get Rich or Die Trying.

After eight years of nightmarish political and religious ideology driving multiple nations, and with the current economic tailspin, a breath of cynical, realist practicality is one of fresh air. If I were Obama, I would be funding these pirates to continue raiding the commerce of America’s real future foes in Central Asia: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Russia.

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I can’t say I agree with the central thesis of the rant, but a number of the lamentations are spot on, fist-pumping true. Namely:

“I am convinced these monopolists loaded up journalism schools with operatives to teach students one thing: that journalists should not expect high wages. Then, drape the profession in the flag and a noble patina and inculcate students with the expectation of low pay.

The monopolists installed these operatives at places like Columbia and Northwestern who charge how much for a degree? What other profession trains their workers never to expect to be successful? Why should any worker providing a valuable service to millions of customers not expect to become wealthy?”

It’s highly doubtful that the grand conspiracy has played out in this literal fashion (I still maintain I received a quality education, however out of vogue it may be to say so), but the frustration and disgust associated with the described outcome is all too true. Go, Anonymous.

The San Francisco Chronicle could be dead by the end of the year if it doesn’t find a buyer.

Personally, I don’t think the Chronicle is expecting to actually shutter this year (planning on it is another story). The SF daily has too much name recognition value and local prestige for prospective buyers to let something so traumatic as a total annihilation scenario play out.

I imagine a lot of media speculators and bullshitters (such as myself) in Colorado smugly rattled off the same assumption earlier this year, though. Ouch.

If anything, the Chronicle will face conglomeration, the subsequent mass downsizing (down from its already-sliced numbers) and a slow-to-gradual slide into conglomerated obscurity/passivity, such as MediaNews’ San Jose Mercury News, a formerly world-famous newspaper.

Speaking of things related to the Merc, Dean Singleton might be one of the buyers in the running to pick up the Chronicle and the bills picking it up will entail. A connection inside the MediaNews fold recently told me that Singleton is the only feasible candidate for the SF paper, since the guy already has a number of East and South Bay papers in his pocket under the MediaNews imprint. All these papers share editorial content and their sales staffs can sell space in each others’ papers (a fact that said connections tells me causes innumerable bureaucratic headaches, especially regarding the Mercury News). Is the future a South Bay Super Daily under several assumed names? My question would be “where do I apply?”

Of course, this is all somewhat out of character for me. A pessimist has the satisfaction of being right most of the time and pleasantly surprised the rest of the time.

Sarkozy pumps €600 million into French newspaper business

I’m sorry. They’re gripped by a rough lot of Communist labor unions, the quality of reportage is probably not that hot (I can’t say definitively, I don’t read French and bookstores barely stock U.S. papers, much less Euro papers that are probably run by anarchists and s-s-s-socialists) and French readership and circulation continues to dip as it does across the rest of most of the First World, but I all but stood on my chair applauding this move.

‘Sarkozy likened the press to any other industry in need of aid, such as the automobile sector.’

‘Sarkozy’s measures included a year’s free, state-subsidised newspaper subscription for all teenagers from their 18th birthday. He said: “The habit of reading a daily paper takes root at a very young age.”‘

A dangerous precedent, sure, a danger to the almighty First World freedom of the press, maybe. But red turns to black by way of green. “Freedom isn’t free,” as the American motto goes.

I’ve always been torn on Rousseau and Locke. The social contract is a noble concept, probably one of the noblest, but even the most cursory glance at current events and back at history will make it plain that natural rights are a sham. Nation states and the contract of rights they grant and/or deny to their citizenry are based on a foundation of violence either explicit or implicit, directed toward its own citizens or outwards towards perceived foreign enemies.

One of my favorite examples is Turkey’s republican democracy: it’s marked with multiple occasions on which the military, whose command structure is largely staffed with scions of Turkey’s highly educated, secular intellectual class, has directly intervened in elections to depose presidents with Islamic fundamentalist leanings. They do this on the claim that key to Turkey’s constitution is a section forever establishing the republic as a secular state. Are the rights of the citizenry–the right to govern themselves, being violated by their military? I would say yes, but not condemn the act. After all, they are violating the democracy in order to depose people who would more than likely erode the democracy much more dramatically had they been left in office.

The firewall between the military and politics is largely a Western, First-World conceit. Imagine if the U.S. military weighed into elections to depose any religious fundamentalists who happened to make it into office.

This is all pure speculation.

Mark I. Pinksy of The New Republic has beaten me to the draw with my own hypothesis for the future of journalism: a government-subsidized central trust, with a strong preservationist/legacy bent to render appearances more benign, around which the surviving private enterprises all orbit, picking up/freely exchanging information and aspiring talent along the way.

WNYC’s On the Media program interviewed Pinsky and profiled the Federal Writers Project. The latter was treated rather fondly–Pinsky’s reception was somewhat harsher. Fair enough, there are legitimate concerns and risks associated with the state funding of any industry previously the sole domain of private enterprise.

Honestly though, I’ve sensed a knee-jerk reaction in not just the brass, but much of journalism’s rank-and-file against the idea of BBC-style “journalism handouts.” An assumption, absolute in its faith, that integrity can only be maintained in the trade through the continued existence of the fiscal wing of the office building as a private entity.

It never ceases to amaze me how eager modern journalists are to help out the blades sawing at their own wrists and jugulars.

Having already been beaten to the chase by Pinsky on one front, I will preempt the other and declare myself what the journalists described above would be wont to call me if I mattered: “Defeatist Journalist.” I won’t give them the satisfaction of having coined that term.

This is all pure speculation.

[20:00] Sync: there’s only one forecast I have that I can say with utmost certainty

[20:00] Sync: the quality of American reportage will decline

[20:00] _____: how is that even possible?

[20:00] _____: American media is already crap

[20:14] Sync: it’s possible

[20:14] Sync: man

[20:14] Sync: if that journalism outsourcing actually takes off soon

[20:14] Sync: Asia could stand to make a fucking killing in the next decade

[20:15] Sync: (as in killing me and my career)

[20:24] Sync: well, to refer back to the original point

[20:24] Sync: just look at the state of american journalism’s command structure as of right now

[20:25] Sync: the current aging dinosaur bosses and owners of media outlets seem to have little desire or initiative to change up and vastly overhaul the business model of modern journalism into something that will actually work

[20:25] Sync: and the next generation coming to replace them?

[20:27] Sync: They seem to be happy being eternally happy-go-lucky about blogging and the unfettered nature of the Internet, not bothering to be very concerned about how online journalists will make any money

[20:28] Sync: I’ve described them essentially as sitting there with their emo glasses and dumb grins on their faces more than happy as they stab themselves repeatedly in the belly

[20:28] Sync: slitting their own hamstrings

[20:28] Sync: “BLOGGING IS THE FUTURE OF FREE PRESS!”

[20:30] Sync: so there will be a gazillion free-to-access, free-to-work for online sources of reportage

[20:31] Sync: “staffed” almost entirely by part-time “citizen reporters,” ie: people already connected tenuously and questionably to the stories they have leads on in their local areas

[20:31] Sync: who almost certainly work other jobs totally unrelated to journalism to make a living and aren’t trained as professional journalists

[20:32] Sync: hence: the quality of American reportage will decline

[20:33] Sync: “BLOGGING IS THE FUTURE OF FREE PRESS!”

Not since Herbie Hancock’s 1963 album Inventions and Dimensions or the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat has there been such an example of a black American exploring the themes of a popular culture outside that which we now call “Urban American.”

Shakyamuni, the pseudonym of Chicagoan Antoine Philhellene, grew up in the outskirts of Chicago quite literally cutting his teeth on his father’s LP collection of innumerable Chicago House pioneers. In a Paris Review-published interview, he revealed that his first conscious memory is of his father beating him “within five centimeters of [his] life,” with a “plastic” when the veteran DJ returned home to find his son teething on the outer rim of a Sterling Void acetate.

It’s only natural then that Shakyamuni should so naturally integrate the classic Chicago sounds into his compositions, rarely, if ever, sounding like a shoe-in concession towards the navel gazer, NME-reader and trainspotter demographics. In the same interview he cites Afrika Bambaataa as one of his chief influences—a claim backed up in his previous work and as well on A Pale View of the Hill Batteries—a great relief for this reviewer and many others on staff. As we are all apt to know, Afrika Bambaataa is the Che Guevarra of contemporary music: adored, eulogized and marketed by hundreds of thousands of impressionable First World youths who haven’t the slightest clue who the man was or what he did.

Of course, A Pale View of the Hill Batteries is about none of this. A Pale View of the Hill Batteries is about territory rarely traversed by today’s popular musician and deserves praise simply for that.

The gestures towards the classics are sweeping, grandiose on this double album. Shakyamuni’s adherence to them is, like I have said, no cosmetic attachment to a preexisting pop shill’s copy-paste formula. He adheres strictly to the tried-and-true conventions of the classic Motown record:

1) Your record must begin with a blast of the brass section on a major chord.

2) Your record must have at least one down tempo ballad.

a. The ballad must be at a tempo slower than 4/4.

b. The ballad must have vocals.

3) Your record must be as much about the producer as the artist(s).

On the ballad “Never Quite so Good as Now,” the live hi-hats, played live by Shakyamuni himself, open up halfway through and sound for all the world like the wracked snorts of a weeping primary school girl sniffing a line of persistent snot back up her nostril time and time again in the most Sisyphus of futile gestures of grief.

A Pale View of the Hill Batteries, that is to say the title itself, is a reference to the experiences of Shakyamuni’s mulatto grandfather in the Second World War. In the title track on the album, Shakyamuni devotes all the tinny vocals of verse and chorus to recounting a story of his grandfather and the rest of his company storming a steep hill, obfuscated with thick thule fog, on which a clutch of Italian artillery guns are reputed to be entrenched. It is the worst song on the album.

Overall, this is an album whose rewards outnumber the challenges, and Shakyamuni is a new aural artist worth paying attention, if not listening, to.

There’s irony somewhere in the fact that this is an article from a newspaper abolished in its country of origin. Yasha Levin wrote:

Six Apart, the company behind the popular TypePad blogging platform, just went Marie Antoinette on us all. With all the jobs being cut in the paper industry and increasing numbers of reporters stuck with nothing to do but moan, the company decided to help out. Introducing the “TypePad Journalist Bailout Program”: a free TypePad Pro blog account for every unemployed professional journalist! A media famine is afoot, journalists don’t have papers to work for. So…”Let them blog!” For free, of course. All of which helps Six Apart’s bottom line…

Watching ourselves go quietly into the night.

Richard Aregood, former editor for the Newark Star Ledger and Philadelphia Daily News, now-turned freelancer writer, wrote:

“Some years back, I was one of many Knight-Ridder editors gathered to hear our CEO, Alvah Chapman, speak on the future at an annual editors’ meeting held literally in the shadow of the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes’s amphibious folly… He told us all we should do “more with less”, illustrating with a bewildering rap about cannonballs and grains of sand. The budget cuts accelerated.”