Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, May 01, 2021

Have to make a note to catch “Los Carpinteros: Inventing the World” art exhibit at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum. I’ve got until July 15th, so it should be doable — even if it means hauling ass all the way to Fowler Avenue in Tampa one Saturday afternoon.

The piece above, “The Creative Hand”, is just one example of the trippy, dada-esque works to absorb:

Equally appealing is Library II. (Actually, there is nothing here that isn’t appealing.) Thirty-six tape measures are attached to a wall in precise rows like book bindings arranged on shelves. Printed on each shiny metal container is the title of a work of literature and its author. The tape spools out a few inches to reveal the opening words of the play, novel, poem or essay. The installation invites reverie - how many different levels of meaning does “measure” have, anyway? And fun. Remember those school exercises in guessing the work by identifying a quote? Examples: Shakespeare’s Hamlet (of course), Wole Soyinka’s The Open Sore of a Continent (a Nobel Prize-winning writer in case you didn’t know), On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (Copernicus!), and Charles Silverstein’s The Joy of Gay Sex (hmmm).

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/01/2021 05:36:11 PM
Category: Media
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Yes, I was aware of the Michael Vick-inspired Ron Mexico Name Generator before today. But Gary Shelton’s spin on it, using Tampa Bay-area sports celebs, reminded me of the fun to be had:

The funniest offshoot of the Ron Mexico pseudonym comes from Jerry Greene of the Orlando Sentinel, who points out the name generator at gorillamask.net/ronmexico/. Not that any of them have need of an alias, but Jon Gruden is “Kip Mongolia,” [John] Tortorella is “Giorgio Guam” and Lou Piniella is “Kurt Turkmenistan.”

Also, Carl Crawford is “Gary Mexico,” Vinny Lecavalier is “Adonis Laos,” Derrick Brooks is “Xavier Papau New Guinea” and Ronde Barber is “Bruno Senegal.” [Vince] Naimoli is “Krister Australia,” Bill Davidson is “Bjorn Russia” and Malcolm Glazer is “Franc Barbados.”

As the title of this post indicates, my Ron Mexico cover is “Pedro Chad”. I kinda like it, even though my namesake country is a French-African backwater. (Maybe I could use the French/native spelling, “Tchad” — closer to my real last name, anyway.)

It’s probably better than the alias that spit out for my friend, Kirby — his is “Gunther Afghanistan”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/01/2021 05:11:50 PM
Category: Internet, Sports
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The L.A. Times‘ Andres Martinez makes a salient, yet oft-overlooked, point about online news sources:

Take those Internet portals. Yahoo is worth almost $50 billion; Google’s market capitalization is an astonishing $60 billion. And yet, for all their revolutionary and transformative power as information hubs, these companies have not reinvented the news business. Go to Yahoo’s home page and the prominently featured news items are mostly wire stories from such sources as the Associated Press and Reuters. How retro. The point-and-click world still depends on us old-fashioned news types for indispensable content.

I don’t mean to suggest that all worthy journalism comes from the establishment media, but even a nation of 300 million bloggers would need costly news organizations to break stories like the prison abuse scandals in Iraq or to develop investigative series like the one on King/Drew that earned this paper a Pulitzer. The Internet will increasingly empower consumers to control and interact with their news, to the point of becoming their own portal’s editor in chief. Maybe you’ll take your entertainment news from the Los Angeles Times, bundled with five industry blogs; or perhaps you’ll want your “front page” to be the latest from the Mexico City bureau.

Which I’ve maintained all along: The Web is essentially an echo chamber, riffing off news and information gathered by dedicated news sources. For all the noise blogs and other “new media” make, they’re wholly dependent upon old media for source material. The notion that news just “happens” without actual journalistic digging is naive, yet is an underlying assumption by many.

What’s most intriguing is Martinez’s prediction for the future of this online-offline relationship, based on current numbers:

It’s only a matter of time before a Yahoo or a Google decides to buy an old media company in order to differentiate itself by offering high-quality, proprietary news. Or a company like Amazon could buy a prestigious newspaper publisher and reinvent itself as a portal, leapfrogging over those that treat news updates as a commodity.

The L.A. Times’ owner, Tribune Co., can probably be had for about $15 billion, if anyone is interested. Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, is a steal these days, with a market capitalization below $3 billion. Google’s value often fluctuates by that amount in one day of trading. It would be a real coup for any digital native to position itself as the only online provider of the WSJ.

It would make sense to vertically integrate the news business thusly. If the audience is migrating online, the logical step is having all the elements coalesce there. And with as much money as the Internet heavyweights are making, there almost needs to be a target for them to spend that money.

Of course, I can think of three little words that would throw a wrench into this:

AOL-Time Warner.

The acquisition of old-timer Time Warner by Web upstart America Online, back before the turn of the century, was supposed to be the start of a landrush. There was speculation that Yahoo! would buy Disney, and similar synergistic merger activity. It was supposed to be a perfect marriage: Content aggregation on a huge scale, delivered through digital subscription models that consumers just couldn’t resist (or avoid).

Obviously, it didn’t work out that way. Too much of the same or similar information was available outside AOL for enough paying customers to climb onboard. The exclusive content wasn’t exclusive enough.

And I think when it comes to news, that’s an inherent problem: There’s only so many ways to make it unique. Dedicated niches like the Wall Street Journal work because they consistently devote deep coverage that’s equivalent to strategic information. Similarly, trade publication reporting delivers data that’s not (easily) accessible elsewhere. But mass-market front-page news is reported across thousands of outlets, and there’s not much differentiation from one channel to another. Branding such info with Google or Yahoo!’s names assumes that the information needs such a seal of approval; and online usage for years has told us that that simply isn’t the case.

More importantly, the portals’ business models already work fabulously well without making the investment into proprietary newsgathering. Why buy when you can rent? It’s a relationship that might not last indefinitely — if the AP and other news sources decide to pull their online output, Google is suddenly scrambling for content. But for now, there’s no compelling reason for these merger scenarios, and quite a few reasons against them.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/01/2021 11:14:20 AM
Category: Internet, Media
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