By now, I’m sure that you’re aware of the concept of the “Facebook-only” friend. For most people, it could probably be defined as someone who would probably drive you crazy if they were currently in your life (and vice versa), but whom you’re still curious about.
They’re often people you used to hang around with 10, 20, 30 years ago, but of whom you’ve lost track over the years, only to be reunited virtually, with occasional vague promises to “have a beer together” some time.
Either that, or they are people with whom you’ve had discussions with in other online places, and you’ve somehow also ended up as Facebook friends.
The upshot is that — if you use Facebook a lot — your circle of Facebook-only Friends probably dwarfs your circle of Real Life Friends. And because your only glimpse into these people’s lives on a day-to-day basis is via their status updates, it has given rise to a phenomenon that I call “The Semi-Public Tragedy.”
The Semi-Public Tragedy is when you can tell from somebody’s status updates that something awful has recently happened in their lives, but because you’re not that close to them in Real Life, you don’t know exactly what the hell it was. So the tragedy is out there, but it’s not like you’re seeing it on the news.
Ah, another day, another “the Internet is killing culture” article. What about someone writing an article about the fact that the so-called critics are out-of-touch and lazy? While I feel for all the people who are losing their jobs, I cannot help but think that so many of these critics brought it upon themselves.
Petitions and protests are not going to change the facts on the ground. Very few of see a future where there will be print coverage of the arts. The fact that there isn’t huge public outcry about these losses suggests that, well, you weren’t as valued by the public you purported to serve. Did you ever think that those online voices are filling the gaps you’ve ignored?
Here is what I’ve learned about arts critics over these past years:
Well, all I can say is that it’s about godsdammed time. Today’s big news out of Macworld — that the iTunes Music Store is going DRM-free AND adding a tiered pricing structure — is good news for everyone involved.
It’s good news for consumers because — from the consumer standpoint — DRM sucks fully, totally and utterly. No matter how it was spun as one of those “for your protection” things, or as “protection for the artist,” it’s been proven time and time again to be a big pain in the ass for consumers. Anytime you purchase an artifact — including a digital file — with eithervsome kind of purely arbitrary use restriction and/or dependency on the large corporation that sold you the artifact to keep it working, that’s potential trouble. Period.
I grew up in one those towns with a tiny little newspaper, The Lompoc Record, where Scott Ostler, before he was the Scott Ostler, commented on my athletic talent, saying “I buttressed the defense”. As it was likely I was sitting the bench — as I did throughout my softball career — I have to say that was as an accurate a statement as any made by a sports journalist. For big city perspective on the news, we also subscribed, on Sundays, to the Santa Barbara News Press.
Trust me, when you grow in Lompoc, Santa Barbara seems like a teeming metropolis.
Throughout my life, I have been a faithful newspaper subscriber. Note that word: subscriber. Over the past ten years, our household recycled more unread paper copies of the Los Angeles Times than read copies. It wasn’t that news suddenly became less important, it was the actual printed version of the paper that became, well, stale. Even though we stopped received the print edition some time ago, we continue to subscribe to the Kindle edition.
One of the reasons that the the A.V. Club is pretty much my favorite place on all of the internets right now is that they’re constantly coming up with new angles for discussing the popular culture that they’re covering.
In 2008, one of those angles was Noel Murray’s Popless column, which is just now finishing up a year-long run that made Mondays much more tolerable for loads of music fans.
Popless is a deceptively simple idea: a long-time rock critic takes a year off from reviewing new music in order to go through his music collection and re-evaluate everything. The goal is not just to weed out his collection, but to recharge his critical batteries, which are overwhelmed by the ongoing glut of new music.
At the time, I was intrigued by the concept of stopping and taking stock. But that’s not why I fell in love with Popless. As someone who has been reading and (very) (occasionally) writing rockcrit for a long time, this was a new spin on solving the age-old problem of criticism in general: can I trust this person’s opinion? Popless turned out to be a internet-age combination of blog-based introspection and old-school critical judgments, and if I didn’t know where my tastes and his intersected previously, I sure as hell do now.
A couple of weeks ago, Noel was kind enough to consent to an email interview, and answered my barrage of questions with serious, considered answers. As you’ll see, he’s thought a lot about this project, the reasons behind it, and what doing it meant to him . . .