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The Decline of the Daily Newspaper: How an American Institution Lost the Online Revolution (Digital Formations)
The Decline of the Daily Newspaper: How an American Institution Lost the Online Revolution (Digital Formations)
by Keith L. Herndon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $144.35

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive history of newspapers' digital forays and failures, December 19, 2012
Keith L. Herndon's book "The Decline of the Daily Newspaper" is, to the best of my knowledge, the first and only comprehensive study of the entire 30-year history of digital ventures by American newspapers, from the 1980s to the present. It's an important book, because it counters the conventional wisdom about why newspapers business models have been destroyed by the internet.

The usual narrative goes something like this: "Newspapers are in decline because they failed to anticipate that digital technology would make newsprint irrelevant, and that websites like craigslist would make classified ads irrelevant. They were blindsided because they were too stupid or too shortsighted to see it coming."

Actually, as Herndon documents, newspapers DID see it coming, and in light of the history it's even more remarkable that they got as blindsided as they did. Newspapers conducted experiments with technologies as varied as videotex (a form of the teletext systems that became prominent in Europe), cabletex (television channels that delivered text), audiotex (on-demand information over the phone), premium dialup services like Prodigy and AOL, and, of course, the web. As early as the late 1970s, newspaper executives realized that their business were heavily reliant on classified ads, and sought to understand how they might shore up their position. So they conducted experiments, invested money, didn't get immediate results, and... pulled out and focused even more heavily on print.

Newspapers did not fail because their leadership failed to see the future coming. They failed because their leadership failed to lead.

The book is written as an academic study and is published by an academic publisher, so it reads like a monograph, not a popular history. The prose is serviceable, but the subject is likely overly detailed for lay readers. However, this is an important book for journalism students, academics, and for executives in the field. The problems that newspapers face today are problems they faced in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. The only difference is that the profit margins are even lower now, so the threats hit closer to home.

The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize
The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize
by Keith Dunnavant
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.18
61 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story, not well-written, December 8, 2008
Dunnavant is a good historian, but he isn't a good writer. His prose is plodding and pedestrian at best, and antagonistic at worst. He's clearly outraged by the treatment Alabama received, but the book might be better served by an author who editorialized slightly less. Better book on Bryant: "The Last Coach," by Allen Barra.

Free Electricity
Free Electricity
Price: $16.76
39 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Killer, guitar-driven neo-post-punk, June 18, 2008
This review is from: Free Electricity (Audio CD)
In the past few years, we've seen a lot of music inspired by, derived from, or simply baldly aping British 1980's post-punk. These bands can be identified simply by the presence of the adjective "angular," which is rock-crit shorthand for the jagged guitar attack they all seem to share, clipped electric bursts over a precise rhythm section. Some do it gleefully -- I particularly liked Franz Ferdinand's first album, and The Young Knives' most recent album (Superabundance) -- and some do it stultifyingly, trapped in a copy of a thirty-year old groove with no room to move.

The Cops do it well. They're somewhere in between classic punk and post-punk -- they're probably a bit more rhythmic than orthodox punk, and a hell of a lot more violent than most post-punk. They sound older than their years. They're from the Pacific Northwest, a longtime bastion of rock and roll, and their latest album rocks, by turns sinister, sneering, knowing, and angry. It's a great guitar record, sharp as a tack, with no sugary concessions, no synths in sight, and no letup. Fun as hell.

The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Jonathan Rieder
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from $9.71

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Dr. King spoke, and what he meant by what he said, April 12, 2008
The Word of the Lord is Upon Me is perhaps best described as a biography of the rhetoric of the century's greatest orator. Rieder mentions that part of the aim of the book is to reclaim the true Martin Luther King from the shallow appreciations of St. Martin that occur every January. King's medium was speech, and he was less saint than maestro, sampling from cultural traditions across the spectrum, recasting, remaking, and retelling.

Through King's words -- often plagiarized, borrowed, or written by others, then spoken in his inimitable voice and made his own -- Rieder's academic study and close reading becomes compelling. Rieder has a keen ear for language, bringing out the subtle nuances in the maestro's recombined rhetoric in beautiful prose of his own. "Righteous performance" in the book's title captures the extent to which King's inspired prophecy was carefully calibrated; his themes and voices often reflected the audience; and he was always keenly aware of his desired effect.

The one thing missing from the book is the voice of King himself, the instrument that animates the pages. As Rieder points out, absent his voice the words themselves can be uneven, as in King's published work, which was invariably heavily edited for white audiences. King's genius was in speaking to audiences across racial lines, connecting with each within their own tradition, and then analogizing that with the African-American struggle with civil rights. King did this with audiences from Southern Afro-Baptist congregations to Reform Jews, from white liberal Protestants to the AFL-CIO, bringing his audiences into his fold by the power of his charisma.

He was able to reach all these disparate listeners in part because he himself contained multitudes: his love of opera, weighty theological discussions, and language were no less authentic than his love of soul food, his bawdy sense of humor, or his deep belief in the redemptive power of a Christ who loved all humanity regardless of race.

(Full disclosure: Jonathan Rieder is an old friend.)

The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction
The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction
by Charles Lane
Edition: Hardcover
62 used & new from $0.01

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly engrossing, impressively researched, and a story that demands to be told, March 7, 2008
Chuck Lane's "The Day Freedom Died" is the best kind of popular history: thoroughly researched, well-written, and makes for a quick read. As the events of the Colfax Massacre shift from historical happenstance to a law-and-order whodunit to a legal case to a Supreme Court decision, Lane shifts tenses and tones effectively without losing the reader. He effectively conveys the mood of the times and the way that the story of the Colfax Massacre tied into the overall tenor of Reconstruction, and the injustice of its ending.

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about the book is its language: Lane writes in modern language, but uses the words "Negro" and "colored" throughout the text in accordance with the usage of the times, as he writes in an author's note at the beginning. The choice is jarring for the first few pages, but defensible in the context of the story about the betrayal of Southern African-Americans by an alliance of Southern whites with Northern whites.

The title of the book tells you that what you're about to read ought to make you mad. The day that freedom died and Reconstruction was betrayed is one that should be remembered, and one that should engender outrage. Lane tells the story well and lets the facts speak for themselves. Which they do, loudly, long after the victims were silenced.

(Full disclosure: Chuck Lane is a colleague and a friend.)

Shattered Dreams, Broken Promises: The Cost of Coming to America
Shattered Dreams, Broken Promises: The Cost of Coming to America
by Michael Viner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.51
47 used & new from $0.01

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing for a number of reasons, February 7, 2008
There's a kernel of a good idea behind this book, but it really falls short. Superficially, the translations are frequently awkward and there are a number of typos. The bigger problem is that while there's a thin thread tying the stories together -- what motivates women from the former Soviet Union to come to America? -- the question is never really answered.

The women are very straightforward in describing their problems in wrenching detail, of alcoholism, domestic violence, and rape, but they are much more emotionally opaque when it comes to the emotional effect these traumas had on them. Rather than expose much of their internal monologue, they frequently generalize about what Russian women in general are like, or offer Russian aphorisms. There's a frustrating lack of self-analysis as the women keep themselves at arm's length from the interviewer and the reader. The language itself is very straightforward, likely due to language problems with the interviewer/author and his translators, and so the translated text of the first-person accounts is neither dense nor nuanced. You get the sense that if these women were speaking in their own language to someone they trusted, there would be a lot more to say.

The last point is minor but nagging: all the women are beautiful. We don't know what they look like, as there are no pictures and no names attached to the faces, but they all describe themselves as attractive, and since they all came to America either through sex work or through internet marriage, they clearly all are. There's an unacknowledged but clear selection bias at work, which causes two problems. First, it makes the women's stories less representative of women's experiences as a whole. Second, in a cruel Hollywood way, the fact that they're beautiful unfortunately makes their problems seem more tragic.

The book isn't terrible. It reads quickly, and it's interesting -- some of the stories more than others, naturally. In particular, I had never heard of the location of the first story, an island created by the Soviets as an exile for convicted prostitutes. Had the book been written by a serious scholar or journalist, one who wore fewer hats and juggled fewer projects, it could have been a fascinating sociological study. As it is, it's a feel-bad beach read.

One Soldier's War
One Soldier's War
by Arkady Babchenko
Edition: Hardcover
54 used & new from $4.24

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting. A modern classic., January 29, 2008
This review is from: One Soldier's War (Hardcover)
Arkady Babchenko is a journalist, but he came to that career after having served 7 years in both Chechen campaigns. In his introduction, he explains that he has changed some names, reported some events he only heard about but didn't see, created composite characters out of several, and changed the timeline of certain events in the telling of the stories, as he tried to bring all the stories together to form a book. As it is, the stories are disjointed and disconnected, some incredibly short and some extremely long, each an interlude in an interminable conflict. Yet they come together to sketch a frightening, hauntingly fractured portrait of a war that is otherwise not well known in the West.

Babchenko's episodic style seems to recall, perhaps quite consciously, the greatest Russian novel by a war journalist, Isaac Babel's Red Cavalry. Both are unflinchingly brutal in their descriptions of human decay, moral and physical, of the blood and filth that attaches to bodies in conflict, and the corrupt souls that flock to it. He says multiple times that no one can be made to understand war if they haven't seen it, and that every soldier who served in Chechnya left their life there; the book is a personal catharsis for a man who cannot leave behind what he took from the battlefield.

For anyone who reads it, it's a profoundly moving attempt to explain why.

Braves Journal
Braves Journal
Price: $0.99
2 used & new from $0.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite internet blog, November 19, 2007
This review is from: Braves Journal (Kindle Edition)
Some blogs are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. In the case of Mac Thomason's Braves Journal, I think it's the second. Thomason's rules are strict but fair: no politics, no personal attacks. He has a knowledgeable and passionate community of Atlanta Braves fans from around the world commenting on his blog posts, and in his game recaps, player evaluations, historical rankings, and other musings has quietly developed into one of the best (and certainly one of the funniest) baseball writers on the internet.

I blog on pop culture and politics, but this is the only blog I visit more than once a day. Essential for any Atlanta Braves fan, recommended for any baseball fan.

by Nick Antosca
Edition: Paperback
23 used & new from $0.48

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good debut, January 23, 2007
This review is from: Fires (Paperback)
Fires is barely longer than a novella, but it is a very hard novel to describe briefly. It's not quite 200 pages long, divided into two main acts, one set at Yale and the other in the main character's hometown as wildfires approach. The first half is a love story and the second half is apocalyptic. Two things unify the halves: the main character, Jon Danfield, who sees and narrates the entire story; and the feverish intensity with which the entire book is written. The pages literally fly. This is a book that leaves one's mouth dry.

The Wolf
The Wolf
Offered by DVD-PC-GAMES
Price: $14.29
87 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Utterly ridiculous--in a good way, August 15, 2006
This review is from: The Wolf (Audio CD)
"Every song is set out to be the most exciting song I can possibly write."

After delivering a debut in 2001 whose only flaw was rocking too hard, Andrew was faced with a daunting task: craft a sequel.

This is why we are alive. The triumphant opening words of the album. The guitars come in. Then, only two minutes later, the shouted refrain: I wanna have a party/Can I get a party? announces the album has begun in earnest.

Given that three songs on his previous album also involved the word "party," Andrew W.K.'s life oevre is clearly not a collection of separate works, but a gestalt that will continue to grow as long as he is alive, like Dante's Divine Comedy or Radiohead's Kid A and Amnesiac. He is unapologetic for rocking hard, and asks no permission to do so: this is a refreshing attitude in a post-Matrix world in which every action scene must be accompanied by lengthy philosophical exposition. Andrew stays true to his artistic vision.

"Every song is written as, I am so incredibly blown away by what I just heard. I'm gonna do it again and again, I'm gonna repeat those parts, I'm gonna play them again, I'm gonna play them louder, and I'm not gonna hold back."

As A.B. Spellman said in his liner notes to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Andrew's music is "Like Wagner -- it begins on a plane at which most performances end and builds to a higher plane than the average listener considers comfortable." After years of radio waves clogged by Sir Nose D'voidofrock and the Placedo Syndrome of disco, lo-fi, unplugged, anti-loud elevator music, it's understandable that having our collective mind rocked so severely would hurt a little bit--but it's pain that hurts so good, baby.

"I want each part to be more exciting than the last, so you can't even decide what you like, and just know it's all not a coincidence, or accident, or mistake, that it was done with a purpose and a commitment to be slamming, exciting music. It all is written on piano and it goes from there."

Admittedly, this isn't a great album. But it is a good one, and it's fun, and the music feels much less self-conscious than other fashionable retro-rockers from the Strokes to the Darkness. Nothing bad will happen if you don't listen to it, but something good will happen if you do. Smile, baby.

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