About 25 years ago, Karen and I went to the State College Arts Festival. My step-daughter, Kristin, was a Penn State student at the time. It was a terrific event. While there, we were captivated by the work of a woman from the South Carolina lowlands. Her name was Mary Jackson. We bought one of Mary's beautiful Gullah sweetgrass baskets that day and eventually a few more. Here they are.
These are beautiful, functional baskets. As you might be able to tell, the original piece, front and center, is a little worse for wear.
We also met Mary years later at a very high quality juried crafts show in Evanston, Illinois. Besides being a wonderful artist, Jackson is also a delightful person.
That's the conclusion Publishing 2.0 came to yesterday when they wrote about Nick Denton's latest attempt to incent writers to produce higher quality material for Gawker published blogs.
The 2.0 piece points out that there are two basic paths to take for driving blog traffic. First, fill the post with SEO goodies and rise up the search charts. Second, write stuff others find interesting enough to link to and write about. The purists amongst us shake our heads and tsk over the former while struggling mightily to succeed at the latter. We tend to want to view the world as an either/or place: either you're honest or you're not; either you're funny or serious; either sexy or smart.
But, we all know that this is wrong. We're all honest/not; funny/serious; sexy/smart. (OK, well, maybe allsexy is a stretch.)
For me, the key questions are, "When do I read what? When not?"
There are times when only a little light idiocy will do; others when I need to know what's happening and can't waste a second on foolishness.
That's what makes the Web so captivating: no matter what I'm in the mood for, I'm almost always going to be able to find it here.
We're complex creatures living complex lives. It's good to see Gawker looking for ways to turn up the volume on the "serious" side of the equation but let's not get too carried away with our criticisms of the the heavy volume sites. 'Cause the last thing I'd want to see is for beauties like this baby to disappear (fat chance!).
What do you think of when you hear that two fifteen year-olds have created a new video webpage?
Skateboards? Booty shaking? High school hi-jinx? (Don't you just love the word, "hi-jinx"?)
Sure, and, most times, you'd be right.
But, in the case of NotableInterviews.com, you'd be very wrong. (Warning! That site autoplays the latest interview, either video or audio.)
So far, the guys over at Notableinterviews have interviewed brokep (one of the founders of ThePirateBay.org, one of the most notorious torrent sites on the Web), Robert David Hall (a CSI star, I'm told), and Christopher Hitchens, noted intellectual and outspoken atheist.
I'll be very interested to see how this site progresses because the idea of two teenagers setting up a serious interview site intrigues me. As the world continues to change and as media power de-volves to the people formerly known as the audience, experiments like this one are going to become more and more prevalent. Some day, soon I predict, new media producers will fill niche spots for each online generation, which is why Boomers like me and kids like the guys at Notableinterviews keep poking and prodding and trying to learn how to get it right.
Neither had I, until reading a piece in the very informative Jack Myers Media Business Report. The Report is only one offering from Myers' highly engaging site. I met Jack at the TED Conference two years ago and recently ran into him again at the wf360 event at the NYSE. Having material of this caliber available daily, free, is just one indication of how far the content distribution revolution has come.
But, back to Plum.
It turns out that Plum TV ranked first in Myers' recent Media Brand Survey and Emotional Connections Report. That report asked viewers how frequently they watched each of 103 networks, how relevant the network is to their viewing interest, whether or not viewers stay tuned during commercials, whether or not they view ads on the network as recommendations which they might follow, and whether or not they valued the network enough to consider paying a special fee to watch it. Given today's media landscape, those questions struck me as a decent indicator of a network's level of differentiation.
So, what is Plum TV? Well, it's a network of channels serving eight areas: Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons, Vail, Aspen, Telluride, Sun Valley and Miami Beach. See the pattern? Yup, $$$$; these are areas in which some of the wealthiest, most influential Americans live and play. Plum creates original content that focuses on everything from the Aspen Institute's brainy ideas to conversations with moguls like Barry Diller and Donald Trump (!).
And, viewers love it.
Other top-ranked networks in the survey included Voy (Spanish language), TVG Interactive (Thoroughbred horse racing), The Africa Channel and the Gospel Music Channel.
Fact is, nowadays all of us want to watch stuff that's suited to our
own interests and sensibilities: the "ghettoization" of culture, and
media, is progressing very nicely, thank you very much.
Forget "red state/blue state," modern life is way more fragmented than that, today. Check out Myers' site to stay in touch with all the ways in which media reflect that new reality.
For the past couple of days I've been thinking about the impact of young people on corporate work. Today, I made a video to ask YouTube viewers and blog readers to give me your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.
While the origin of that most archetypal of all 60s phrases "Question Authority," is still unclear, its spirit has never been more prevalent. The only question left, really, is, is there still any authority that hasn't been questioned?
I guess if pressed, I'd have mumbled something about germ theory. I mean, who questions that today?
Well, as today's newly shrinky-dinked version of the New York Times shows, not so fast, chubby! There are plenty of folks who think that one's bunk as well!
“We drink raw milk because we trust the traditional food chain more
than the industrial one,” said Ms. Planck, who knows a number of
farmers from her days as director of the New York City Greenmarkets and
through her boyfriend, Rob Kaufelt, the owner of Murray’s Cheese in
“We’re willing to spend more money the
higher up the food chain we go,” she said. “We’re not alone, either.
You cannot categorize the people who are drinking raw milk. They are
people from the blue states and red states, farmers and yuppies and
Food scientists can hardly believe that so
many consumers have turned their back on one of the most successful
public health endeavors of the 20th century. In 1938, for example, milk
caused 25 percent of all outbreaks of food- and water-related sickness.
In other words, not trusting (questioning) authority has become such a commonly accepted aspect of modern life that people (not just Birkenstocking hippies) are willing to gamble that germ theory is just more jive, like the Domino Theory or claims of Iraqi WMD.
In other words, there is now a broadly-affirmed notion that the idea of "progress" itself is spurious. This puts Greenwich Village intellectuals in similar epistemological territory as radical Islamicists, who would like nothing better than to rewind the clock of progress and have the 21st century be a rerun of the 6th.
I get it. Authority has proven itself untrustworthy. Yet, thoughts about babies and bathwater come to mind.
When someone is not only as intellectually rigorous, but as emotionally mature, humanely empathic and just simply as good-hearted as Dave Weinberger, it's a joy to watch him dismantle a smarmy, clever poseur like Andrew Keen, as can be seen in this piece in the Wall Street Journal.
To say that Dave humiliated Keen would be too kind; he simply drove him from the stage by revealing what a heartless fraud Keen's own arguments proved him to be.
You probably saw some of the Earth Aid concerts on Saturday. I was out doing a YouTube Gathering (more on that soon). But, hey, that's why geeks invented TiVo, right? So, I was able to hear an interview with Ludacris.
Now, this won't be an exact quote, but it's close enough for blogging:
Interviewer: So, Ludacris, what got you involved in Earth Aid?
Ludacris: Well, you know, I've been educatin' myself on global warmin' and decided to lend my celebrity to the cause.
Whoa! 'cris stopped me in my tracks, right there. Listen: Ludacris said that he "...decided to lend my celebrity" to something, which struck me as a perfect way to think about modern celebrity.
Modern celebrity is, after all, an asset; fungible. In itself, worth nothing. As medium of exchange, highly valuable. Its value rising and falling depending upon how it's invested. "Lend" (invest) your celebrity to the "right causes" today, and your "return" is high; make poor choices, you lose your return, and maybe your entire stake of capital.
Grant talks about celebrity from an oblique angle to this one in this post about Kyra Sedgwick. Sedgwick's in a hit, The Closer, but Grant was disappointed that her "real live" self is so distant from her character. Or, is it? The fact is that Grant sees Sedgwick's celebrity as too far removed from what I'll call her "self cloud" (that cluster of identities and signifiers that comprises what Natanson years ago called The Journeying Self), especially when compared with more (and, you'll pardon the 20th century term) authentic examples, like Johnny Depp or Charles Barkley, both of whom find themselves "lending their celebrity" to things that far from P.C.
So, while Depp and Barkley lend their celebrity to situations that closely cluster with their self-clouds, opinions be damned, Sedgwick cautiously avoids lending hers to (fill in the bland blank: people, places, ideas, clothes, foods) that might be too off-point, or, in her case, too edgy. Ludacris supporting global warming? Cool. Sedgwick loving urban LA? No way.
Who's taking the bigger risk with their asset?
In the old days, Depp and Barkley. Today, I agree with Grant, Sedgwick. Just like everything else today, celebrity's gotten a lot more complicated.