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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

loving the album cover

I had a million more things to say about David Bowie that I regrettably had to leave out of my most recent 3QD item. One thing I wanted to say about his output in the 1980's was that Tonight (1984) is one of the great album/cover mismatches: I love the cover but find the album mediocre. Which got me thinking: what are some other albums whose covers are far better than anything inside? Here is my question to you, Reader: what is your favourite album cover for a bad album?


Monday, March 23, 2009

more than zero

It's time for another installment of my monthly column at 3QD. This month I have written about David Bowie's work in the 1980's and whether it is better for great artists to make bad art or no art. I proudly call for more bad art. Check it out.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

it's your money

Bailout or no bailout, why is there such populist furor against million-dollar bonuses and exorbitant incomes paid to corporate executives yet no comparable outrage by shareholders? The people being robbed by eight- and nine-figure compensation packages are the shareholders in the companies whose executives pay themselves so lavishly. If members of Congress voted to pay themselves millions of dollars, they would be thrown out of office. Why do people tolerate as shareholders what they would never tolerate as voters? Just wondering.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jeff is pulling the plug on the status update

As my Facebook status announces, I will no longer be updating my status. When I opened my Facebook account in 2005, it was a more modest alternative to networking sites like MySpace and Friendster. Early Facebook was more ruled: it lacked the visual clutter of the many cacophonously customized pages at MySpace. And since it was limited to people with .edu e-mail addresses, there was much less chance that people I forgot about twenty years ago would try to be my 'friend' again.

The best feature of Facebook, the status update, was such a success that it has spun off its own industry. I welcomed this innovation as an opportunity to revive a forgotten genre of writing: the epigram. Here was the chance for millions of people to release their inner Oscar Wildes on an unsuspecting world. Many of my status updates were generated by the rule of using whatever song lyric struck me that day. For people who followed my status, it became a game of Name That Tune. 'Jeff is a stonewashed damsel on a junk food run.' 'Jeff says, we're the heirs to the glimmering world.' Or my favourite, 'Jeff has been breaking glass in your room again.' Props to anyone who gets all three songs without using Google.

Twitter is like Facebook without the Face; it's just the status update. The problem? As reported everywhere lately, the Republican Party has signed on to Twitter. A New York Times blog for February 20, 2009 puts it most distressingly: 'Republican lawmakers in Washington have been embracing Twitter with particular zest.' I don't know about you, but I have had enough particular Republican zest for one lifetime. The status update has instantly become uncool.

What's next then? May I suggest that the next cool thing be online modesty accompanied by in-person intimacy? In other words, out with Facebook, in with facetime. Along similar lines, the Times's Dining section for February 25 reported on 'Brooklyn's New Culinary Movement': handmade food. The foodoisie in Brooklyn are making, selling, and bartering their own handmade chocolates, handmade pickles, and so on.

What if we did the same thing with our personal news? One way might be to create social micro-networks where personal information flowed in a narrower circle. We could use only non-internet means of transmitting our epigrammatic status updates to single individuals. One day you might get a text message from me that says 'Jeff is His Imperial Self.' Cooler still would be if we slowed down the delivery of such information by only using postal mail. One day you might get friends' status updates by handwritten postcard with original art. Extremists will insist on only hand-delivering the postcards. That would be very cool. What's my status today? Check your mail later this week.

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