It's been several joyous months since Xray.fm's official launch this spring—expanding our terrestrial radio horizons but, more importantly, marking a restoration of sorts for Portland's only local progressive radio talker, Carl Wolfson.
Wolfson, you may recall, was lamentably booted in 2012 from his old job at ClearChannel's KPOJ, along with nearly everyone else who worked there. ClearChannel, back in those dark days, had seen fit to turn KPOJ into one more sports station. For a long time, Wolfson kept his "Carl in the Morning" program alive through livestreaming podcasts—including the Mercury's regular weekly visits (Thursdays at 8:30 AM!). That was okay, because you could swear on his program without the FCC giving a shit. But it wasn't the same as being pumped live into cars and trucks and clock radios every morning.
Xray's been great for that. But Xray, run with donations and volunteers and love and duct tape, is hardly the kind of deep pocketed powerhouse one usually finds playing the radio game. So you should help out. And maybe have a good time in the process.
Wolfson's putting on a slightly altered live version of his show Friday night at the Clinton Street Theater. (Think something like a Portland version of "Real Time with Bill Maher.") It's just $10 a ticket—and it'll go a long way toward keeping Wolfson's brand of talk on the airwaves.
Comedian Adam Bathe will open things. And then Wolfson will bring out the most amazing panel ever conceived to banter over state and national political issues, with a few names you might recognize: Jefferson Smith, an Xray muckety-muck and host (and, ahem, former state representative, Bus Project founder, and mayoral front-runner) and Christine Alexander, Wolfson's old co-host at KPOJ. Oh, and someone else... ME!
We'd love to see you there. Buy tickets here! And if you're not, you really ought to be listening to Wolfson every weekday, from 7 to 9 AM, on Xray.
I don't really like talking about cars, but Car Talk—the call-in advice show that's been on NPR since 1987, though it's been two years since they recorded—is a welcome part of the weekend routine, thanks to the charm of brothers and hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi, from their obsessive interest in callers' names and towns, to their giddy arbitration of bets between spouses and siblings across the country. Tom—he of the Best Laugh—who was 77, passed away today due to complications from Alzheimer's. NPR has a lovely eulogy up, including the classic clip of the Toll Fugitive.
It's a hubbub that's been bubbling to the surface over the past couple of months: In accordance with the company's guidelines, Facebook is quixotically enforcing its "real names" policy, with the primary targets for enforcement thus far being drag queens, burlesque performers, and others operating Facebook pages under ostentatiously fake monikers.
As Seattle drag performer Olivia LaGarce told me, the "real names" saga first came to her attention in early summer, when the popular queen Gaysha Starr was made to change the name on her personal Facebook page to her legal name. "It seemed like an isolated incident," LaGarce says. "Then, three weeks ago, it started in full force. Every day, 10 new people or more were losing their names in the Facebook crackdown. There are dozens or maybe even hundreds of friends I can't find anymore. They're lost. It's infuriating."
LaGarce channeled his fury into a Change.org petition, co-written with her friend and fellow drag performer Cherry Sur Bete, which points out how the "real names" policy affects the world beyond drag (bolds mine, links hers):
[M]any Facebook users—performers or otherwise—use names that are not their "legal names" to help protect their privacy and anonymity, with good reason. Victims of abuse, trans people, queer people who are not able to be safely "out," and performers alike need to be able to socialize, connect, and build communities on social media safely. By forcing us to use our "real" names, it opens the door to harassment, abuse, and violence. Facebook claims that the restriction on using "real" names "helps keep our community safe" , but in fact this restriction enables our communities to be attacked and degraded, both online and off. Facebook has encouraged performers to create or transition to [Fan] pages, but even Facebook admits that pages typically only reach ~16% of their audience, unless they pay to "promote" a post.
For some concerned parties, this push to get performers to move to easily monetized fan pages is all they need to know about Facebook's motives in enforcing the "real names" policy, and if drag and burlesque artists were the only ones affected, it'd be hard to get too worked up about the moral implications of the rule. Facebook is a business, and if they want to fuck with their formula in pursuit of more dollars, that's fair game. (Especially in a world with Ello and Google+.)
But where things get seriously problematic is with the non-performers. "What we need to do is make masses realize this isn't just a drag queen thing," says Seattle drag star Mama Tits. "It affects trans people, abuse survivors, political refugees, people in industries they want to keep separate from their online lives...It's so much bigger than just the drag queens. It's about having your private identity forced on a public forum."
And then there's the matter of the rule's erratic enforcement, an issue I took to Facebook spokesperson Andrew Souvall...
Today marks a huge milestone for XRAY.fm, having officially taken over the dial at 107.10, getting a huge boost in broadcast range (it's also still going at 91.1, in case you're one of the rare souls who can get it there). To mark the start of their new era, XRAY is rounding up a bunch of its DJs for a photo shoot this afternoon with Alicia Rose. The theme, of course, is a riff on Say Anything.
"Lloyd Dobbler, boom box above the head w/ a trench coat, and a really killer car to pose in front of," describes outreach/events coordinator for XRAY Amy Dials. They'll also be stopping passerby to record impromptu station IDs, and are inviting the public to join them, maybe even taking their own XRAY portrait too. They'll be at Oregon Park (NE 29th & Oregon) from about 4-5:30 pm this evening, so swing by and get your voice on the airwaves—you'll be part of local media's history in the making! It's also just a huge and rapid achievement for this project, which began with a fair amount of skepticism. It's awesome to see them prevailing, and even awesomer to have one more quality—relevant, fresh, educational—alternative to switch over to when Prairie Home Companion rears its head (seriously, please kill that thing).
Due to the horrific landslide of terrible news we've been getting over the last couple of weeks, Jimmy Fallon has developed a new segment for his show called "Good News... and Good News" where he gets news anchors from all over the country to read positive, upbeat (but not necessarily true) news stories. (The one about "ghosts" is especially a huge relief!!)
I wonder if the New York Times has any notion of the indignant throat clearing this interesting feature will cause here. The paper used census data to find the percentages of each state's population by place of birth, since 1900. Less than half of Oregonians were born here, a far smaller proportion than many other states.
And the single largest non-Oregon state contributing to our numbers? Don't make me say it.
Oregon is another Western state that has always been home to a high share of transplants, but what's worth noting here is the influx of Californians that began in the 1970s and has grown ever since. The proportion of Californians to native Oregonians is now roughly equivalent to that of New York transplants living among people born in New Jersey.
By contrast, we humble immigrants from the midwest make up a fairly paltry 4 percent or so. So get off my back!
Back in June start-up radio station XRAY.fm announced they were entering talks about a merger with KZME, and according to XRAY's Musical Director Aaron Hall, that deal is now official as of last night:
We signed the contract to take over KZME's transmitter at 107.1fm. This is a game changer for XRAY as it will allow us to be heard throughout the city. End of summer/early fall we'll begin broadcasting from that signal while also remaining on 91.1 in east Portland.
I have line out to Hall as to how the deal will affect XRAY's current programming, which I—along with many listeners—have only been able to access via online streaming thus far. If you want a little (okay a lot) of background info on XRAY's inception and how crazy difficult it is to start a radio station, I wrote a feature earlier this year that shows both sides of the "can they do it?" perspective. Happy to see them making strides in the "yes they can" department.
UPDATE: According to Hall, "We're really looking at it like a merger in that several KZME staff and DJs will be joining our roster, acting in advisory positions or volunteering at XRAY. We'll only be making minor tweaks to the schedule in the run up the the expansion and our sound will lineup will largely remain the same for the time being." So: Turn it up and carry on.
For months, an individual or individuals has been using anonymous, untraceable burner accounts to post gifs of violent pornography in the discussion section of stories on Jezebel. The images arrive in a barrage, and the only way to get rid of them from the website is if a staffer individually dismisses the comments and manually bans the commenter. But because IP addresses aren't recorded on burner accounts, literally nothing is stopping this individual or individuals from immediately signing up for another, and posting another wave of violent images....None of us are paid enough to deal with this on a daily basis.
In refusing to address the problem, Gawker's leadership is prioritizing theoretical anonymous tipsters over a very real and immediate threat to the mental health of Jezebel's staff and readers. If this were happening at another website, if another workplace was essentially requiring its female employees to manage a malevolent human pornbot, we'd report the hell out of it here and cite it as another example of employers failing to take the safety of its female employees seriously. But it's happening to us. It's been happening to us for months. And it feels hypocritical to continue to remain silent about it.
UPDATE: Gawker Media's editorial director responds on Twitter:
Anna Paquin of HBO's True Blood came out as bisexual years ago, and while more and more Americans are getting more and more okay with gay people, bisexuals still seem to have certain people flummoxed. Such as Larry King. In an interview with the aging TV personality, Paquin did her best to explain to Larry how she could be married to a man, the mother of twins, AND bisexual. Simultaneously. From an July interview on Larry King Now, courtesy of USA Today:
“Are you a non-practicing bisexual,” King asked the actress.
“Well, I am married to my husband and we are happily monogamously married,” she replied.
“But you were bisexual?” King pressed.
“Well, I don’t think it’s a past tense thing,” Paquin explained. “Are you still straight if you are with somebody?… If you were to break up with them or if they were to die, it doesn’t prevent your sexuality from existing. It doesn’t really work like that.”
Also, using Larry's logic, straight people are "non-practicing straights" unless they're with someone of the opposite gender and HAVING SEX THIS VERY MINUTE.
On occasion, longtime Mercury commenter Todd Mecklem writes in with some constructive criticism regarding how we can continue to improve the Portland Mercury. This is one of those occasions. Todd writes:
I came across this very real historical newspaper (see attached scan) during a search of the Library of Congress database. I must request...nay, DEMAND...that the name of the Portland Mercury be changed, with dispatch, to the Portlandia Weekly Bazoo.
That is all.
There is more information after the jump regarding the Bazoo and its colorful editor—who makes me look like a goddamn chump. BUT! The question has been asked and it must be answered...
For those interested in the machinations of the gossip industry, take a few minutes and read Anne Helen Peterson's lengthy Buzzfeed story about the birth of sleaze mongering site TMZ and how it became a powerhouse that has built an empire on terrorizing celebrities with little regard for journalistic integrity. (Though in some regards they show far more integrity than their magazine based competitors.) Peterson's investigative report recounts founder Harvey Levin's "secret vault" which allegedly houses a number of scandalous videos and photos of celebrities that the organization allegedly uses to gain access to these same people. For example, it was revealed recently that Justin Bieber's video of a racist joke he made when he was 15-years-old was one of the items that was stored away for such a rainy day.
TMZ happily admits they're willing to pay for interviews and scandalous videos, as in this instance regarding Seinfeld's Michael Richards and his famous n-word laced comedy club rant:
In November 2006, for example, a source came forward with the recording of the Michael Richards racist comedy routine. The source wanted several thousand dollars for the tape, and TMZ would pay it, but the source wanted the cash immediately — as in before-the-banks-opened immediately. Levin couldn’t write a personal check and allow the money to be traced back to him, and he, like everyone else, had a limit on the amount of cash he could take out in a single day from the ATM. His solution, according to multiple staffers working for the site at the time: Call every TMZ staffer and force them to immediately take out their ATM max and bring it down to the TMZ offices. The staffers were reimbursed, but the story highlights just what lengths TMZ was willing to go to obtain — and pay — a source.
It's an illuminating article, and if you want to be creeped out by the machinations of Hollywood—read the whole thing.
The Israeli ground invasion has started on Gaza Strip, here the borders of Gaza. #GazaUnderAttack pic.twitter.com/ny7sEjhar0
— Jehad Saftawi (@Jehadsaftawi) July 17, 2014
Disgracefully, award-winning correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin will not be on the ground to cover it. When Israel invaded Gaza in 2008, Al Jazeera's Mohedin and Sherine Tadros were the only English-language correspondents on the ground.
Mohedin later moved to NBC News. Yesterday, he was playing soccer with some kids on a beach near his hotel in Gaza, when out of nowhere, the Israeli military shelled the area, killing four of them.
NBC executive David Verdi, according to The Intercept, ordered "Mohyeldin to leave Gaza immediately" for "security reasons"—a laughable notion given his experience reporting from warzones for years—angering a number of NBC journalists inside the newsroom. Moheyldin has been replaced by reporter Richard Engel, who is based in Tel Aviv. You can see Mohyeldin briefly in Engel's heart-wrenching report from last night:
Meanwhile, the New York Times apparently changed its headline about the deaths of the children from something that conveys the news, "Four Young Boys Killed Playing on Gaza Beach," to the vague and unclear "Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife."
Here's the paper of record's latest update on the invasion of Gaza.
Lindsay Abrams writes for Salon:
Good news for viewers of BBC News: You’ll no longer be subjected to the unhinged ravings of climate deniers and other members of the anti-science fringe. In a report published Thursday by the BBC Trust, the network’s journalists were criticized for devoting too much airtime (as in, any airtime) to unqualified people with “marginal views” about non-contentious issues in a misguided attempt to provide editorial balance.
It sounds like the BBC is going to be more responsible in all its science coverage, which is good news. Blogs, especially, repeatedly make hash out of scientific studies. (And no, we are not innocent in this.) Not every reporter needs to be a trained scientist, but we all could be a lot less histrionic and a lot more thoughtful in our coverage of scientific issues.
Everyone knows that blogs are dead. (Uh, except for this blog, obviously.) And I've been noticing a lot of newsletters popping up lately. I've subscribed to a couple newsletters in the last few months—I enjoy Warren Ellis's newsletter, Orbital Operations, which includes a little bit of self-promotion but also contains a lot of interesting thinking about the writing of comic books. And Lena Dunham on Twitter introduced me to The Skimm, which is a very short daily briefing-style e-mail that covers a handful of major news stories a day, explaining the context and origins of the day's news in easy-to-understand language.
Rebecca Greenfield, writing for Fast Company, traces the return of the internet newsletter to the death of Google Reader. A representative from [newsletter hosting service] TinyLetter told her that there was an uptick in users just as Google pulled the plug last year. Some of us switched to other RSS readers, nevertheless a number of bloggers saw their community and traffic take a hit, and posted less as a result. (By the way, Aaron Straup Cope has a tool to read TinyLetters with RSS). Sara Watson told me TinyLetter is one of the sponsors for “99% invisible,” a podcast with an audience of a number of bloggers and former bloggers. There’s another reason why people are turning to newsletters to publish content now: it is a not-quite public and not-quite private way to share information.
McNeil's piece also includes links to a bunch of interesting-sounding newsletters, many of which I've signed up for. Newsletters are something I look forward to, a more intimate way to learn about the news, one perspective at a time. This isn't an either-or proposition—no matter what the headlines say, blogs aren't going to go extinct, because some stories are best suited for a blog format—but I'm glad to see this very different style of writing make a comeback.
If you're anything like me, you spent an embarrassingly large chunk of yesterday on Clickhole, the new site from the Onion that—headline by headline and stock photo by stock photo—brutally, beautifully takes apart BuzzFeed, Upworthy, PolicyMic, and their ilk. Which means you've also realized the insidious brilliance of Clickhole: For a site parodying the increasingly inescapable PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST CLICK ON THIS FUCKING HEADLINE style of writing for the internet, Clickhole is worrisomely... clickable. And smart, too: Unlike parodying, say, a newspaper (said the guy who writes for a newspaper), the other clever thing about Clickhole's concept is that the thing it's making fun of is likely to stick around for a while. Regardless of how long BuzzFeed and the like keep clogging up Facebook, their influence will be felt long after they've left, like a party guest who takes an upper-decker.
I'm curious to see how Clickhole does, and at least part of that is a little insider-y: As someone who makes a living writing for the internet, Clickhole's belief that "each and every article—whether about pop culture, politics, internet trends, or social justice—should be clicked on and shared by hundreds of millions of internet users before they can even comprehend what they just read" is discomfitingly close to the currently pervasive mentality in journalism. But I'm also curious about it from the "other" side, as someone who spends a great deal of his life reading on the internet. I'm curious to see how Clickhole actually gets shared around: Having out-of-touch relatives or friends who believe what they read on the Onion is pretty common; I'm waiting to see how long it takes for the first earnest posting of a Clickhole quiz to show up on my Facebook timeline. It'll be less than 48 hours, I'm guessing, and my money's on it being "Which 'Orange Is The New Black' Character Are You?"
Yesterday morning Jordan Sargent at Gawker posted TMZ's video of the aftermath of the car crash that killed one man and injured four others including comedian Tracy Morgan. Sargent supposedly posted the video because Louis CK is asking people to not watch the video. The daughter of the man who died in the crash is upset about the video, which apparently shows him being dragged out of the wreckage, and CK has taken to Twitter about it:
Please don't go to TMZ to watch the video. Please ask them to take it down. @TMZ
— Louis C.K. (@louisck) June 12, 2014
On the one hand this is CK doing a nice thing by helping out the daughter of a friend. But it undoubtedly puts him in a weird position, seeing as he has jumped to the defense of any comedian in recent years who has been on the receiving end of calls for censorship.
You may remember when none other than Tracy Morgan was forced to go on an apology tour after telling a joke in Nashville about stabbing his son if he found out he was gay. The comedian who was most vocal in his defense was Louis CK, who—like many stand-ups before him—argued that a comedy club is a sacred space where people should be able to indulge their darkest thoughts.
Uh, nice try, I guess, but this isn't censorship. This is a celebrity fighting back against a site that preys on celebrity culture. A gory video isn't the same thing as a tasteless joke. Journalism isn't the same thing as comedy. This is the mother of all false equivalencies. Someone died, and inviting people to view amateur footage of the aftermath of the incident that killed the man is just ghoulish.
The headline of Sargent's post—"The Video of Tracy Morgan's Crash that Louis CK Doesn't Want You to See"—identifies the purpose of the video: It's just to score some fucking clicks on the internet. Watching the video doesn't add to anyone's understanding of the car accident. It doesn't provide additional information that the public needs to know. I'm not against journalists posting gory photos and videos in general. I don't think newspapers and news sites should be in the business of worrying about offending someone's sensibilities. But, say, publishing a photograph of a war crime so that people in other parts of the world understand the severity of the situation is different than running a video of a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. We all know what car crashes look like, and TMZ wouldn't give a fuck about this video if a famous person wasn't involved. Watching mangled bodies being pulled out of wrecked cars solely because the situation tangentially involves celebrity is just about the creepiest thing I can think of.
Yep, the Central Intelligence Agency officially joined Twitter and FB a few hours ago (unofficially they've been there the whole time). Their debut tweet:
Hey, that's pretty cute! Follow 'em here for "the best museum most people never get to see”?!
Haha, 2002's coolest British movie, indeed! Good times. Anyway, as an added bonus feature, XRAY is hosting an after-party following the film's screening, with DJs DDDJJJ666 and Magnolia Bouvier there to help "try to wrap our heads around the mind-blowing film." And, it's only five bucks to support an organization that's trying to do something pretty incredible.
Fox News just get worst. pic.twitter.com/Z8vskkAmbo— Slow News Day (@SlowSlownews) May 28, 2014
Hey Houston! I'm sure Ms. Angelou did not mean for you to take it personally.
Over at the LA Weekly, Amy Nicholson has a pretty amazing piece up about Tom Cruise—that also happens to be about a whole bunch of other stuff. "How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise, Our Last Real Movie Star" is about Cruise, true, but it's also about technology, Hollywood, Oprah, news, and gossip (in particular, the kind dished by the Mercury's own Ann Romano). It's even got an appearance from Portland's Andy Baio (co-founder of the XOXO Fest, one of the guys behind Kickstarter, and—I didn't know this—the guy who first let us all know about Star Wars Kid and The Grey Album). And in looking at how Cruise's infamous couch-jumping on Oprah affected both viral videos and Cruise's career, it starts by pointing out something remarkable:
You've seen it, too. You can probably picture it in your head: Tom Cruise, dressed in head-to-toe black, looming over a cowering Oprah as he jumps up and down on the buttermilk-colored couch like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Cruise bouncing on that couch is one of the touchstones of the last decade, the punchline every time someone writes about his career.
There's just one catch: It never happened.
Like Humphrey Bogart saying, "Play it again, Sam," Tom Cruise jumping on a couch is one of our mass hallucinations. But there's a difference. Bogart's mythological Casablanca catchphrase got embedded in the culture before we could replay the video and fact-check. Thanks to the Internet, we have video at our fingertips. Yet rather than correct the record, the video perpetuated the delusion. (Via.)
(Nicholson's piece is also an interesting counterpoint to both the latest issue of Empire, which has a hagiographic feature devoted to Cruise's majesty ["THE LEGEND OF OUR LIFETIME"], and, naturally, Lawrence Wright's jaw-droppingly good Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, which I can't recommend enough, and spends a fair amount of time on Cruise's role in Scientology. Seriously, that book is impossible to put down for a billion different reasons.)
The latest from Ken Auletta at The New Yorker, who, citing "extremely well-informed sources at the paper," reports:
Abramson was, essentially, fired for cause, for lying to Sulzberger.
However: Both Carr and Auletta suggest that if a newspaper is indeed being run by a dishonest editor, in the end it's the publisher's fault.
Carr: "The current mayhem aside, Mr. Sulzberger’s real failing has been picking two editors who ended up not being right for the job." Auletta: "Sulzberger has been, to say the least, an imperfect steward of the paper."
It's been a long, hard journey, but now that House Republicans have finally saved America from the Marxist scourge of affordable health care, they're moving on to the second item on their docket. Fox News says:
House Republicans moved on two fronts Friday to dig for answers on Benghazi, with Speaker John Boehner announcing a special committee to investigate and a key panel subpoenaing Secretary of State John Kerry to testify.
The commenters on Fox News indicate that this special committee and key panel will uncover the truth, which is apparently that Barack Obama himself ordered the attacks on Benghazi. With the record-breaking winning streak that the Republicans are on right now, I wouldn't be surprised if this panel ripped the lid off the whole seamy deal in less than two weeks.
KTLA reporter Courtney Friel is JUST DOING HER JOB, reporting live from the wildfires in Rancho Cucamonga near Los Angeles, when a shirtless dreamboat (carrying a tiny dog, of course) walks up and asks her out on a date. Of course she gets flustered and botches the rest of the report... because wouldn't you? DON'T SWEAT IT, COURTNEY! You're only human.
It's been somewhat difficult to keep track of all the ways Portland's been made fun of in the national media over the past couple weeks between our urine-phobic water management and twee adverts for failed insurance web sites, so don't feel too bad if you missed the NYT's shot aimed at the Portland-based Kinfolk magazine:
The publication has gained a foothold with the international design-foodie elite for its elegant white pages showing little more than beautiful, dreamy young (mostly white) people, wearing loose braids, knit caps, calico skirts and plenty of comfy flannel and doing earthy things like communing over groaning boards of roasted garden vegetables, diving into swimming holes and lazily traversing the world’s byways on vintage bikes with picnic baskets affixed to them.
Heh. Someone was just telling me a few days ago that they and their partner have an inside joke whenever they spot especially perfect, preciously presented Portlanders on the street, quietly asking each other, "Oh, are those the Kinfolk people?" This piece solidifies it: Kinfolk is officially a cultural touchstone. And while the Times article is most interested in poking at its aesthetic as a super-white, Depression-fetish publication, wherein "nobody is shoveling a smelly Chipotle lunch into his or her mouth while toiling in an ugly beige cubicle, nobody owns any appliances or vehicles built after 1970, and certainly nobody is wasting time playing video games on an Android while lounging around in technical-fabric gym-wear," there's also a footnote about Ouur, the publication's expansion into home goods and apparel, which the company officially announced yesterday.
Currently it's only available in Japan, with North American access coming later this year. The clothing emphasizes natural fabrics like linen, cotton and wool and neutral palette, which is certainly consistent with their aesthetic:
Important questions remain, like where the products are made (the press release mentions US denim manufacturers and fabric sources from Western Europe and Lithuania as well as a variety of Japanese sources), where you'll be able to find them, and what the price point will look like, but the designs seem representative of the stated aim to be "easily interchangeable, comfortable and functional."
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