Monday, November 28, 2016

"The Affair" Cheats on the LIRR

Don't Mess with the Train Nerds

On last night's episode of "The Affair," we see Alison (Ruth Wilson) making her season 3 debut sitting on a train. Given that many of her story arcs take place out in Montauk, it's easy to assume she's heading there.

But then the episode cuts to a shot of an Amtrak train heading through verdant farmland. So, she's headed somewhere up the Hudson Valley. Intriguing. notice the train interior and it's not that of an Amtrak train. Then you see her getting off. Lo and behold, the train not only belongs to the Long Island Railroad, Alison is getting off in Montauk after all.

Yeah, yeah, get a life, train nerd. I hear you. But how hard could it have been to get a shot of an LIRR train. Maybe it was cheaper to use stock footage of an Amtrak consist, but for a show that tries hard at being authentic in both its settings and emotions, it does stand out.

It's like when "Law and Order" detectives were routinely visiting Manhattan apartments that, in the actual street grid, would have been located somewhere in the middle of the Hudson River. It wouldn't have been that hard to come up with a fake address that sounded real. "Law and Order" could have been mildly forgiven that its writer's room was in L.A.

For "The Affair," however, what happens is very much about where it's located. And you wouldn't want Alison getting off at the wrong stop. She's messed up enough as it is.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Viva Miami Herald with Fidel Finale

Glory Days Long Since Passed, but South Florida's Faded Prime News Source Still Owns Story

An editorial in today's Miami Herald is headlined "Damage Done, Fidel Castro Was Irrelevant Long Before He Died."
True enough and well put, from a newspaper that has struggled to stay relevant itself.
Not long ago, the Herald routinely showed up on lists of 10 best newspapers in the U.S. Until the mid-90s, the paper was fat with ads and ambition, with reporters spread over Florida from Key West all the way up the Treasure Coast to go along with overseas bureaus stretched from Jerusalem to Managua.
Of course, the Herald was not immune to the malaise that afflicted all newspapers as the web swallowed its content creators whole. But the paper's problems were magnified by the fact that as its core readership went elsewhere or died off, they were being replaced by a Latin diaspora that didn't read English papers if they read any at all.
In 1973, the Herald had a weekday circulation of nearly 405,000. By 2013, it was down to about 130,000. It fell off the list of the nation's 25 largest newspapers six years ago and is third or fourth in circulation just in Florida, depending on how you count.
Fidel may have gotten a final middle finger in the air by dying late enough for his demise to be announced after the Herald had gone to bed. In more flush times, this news would have warranted an extra edition.
These are not flush times.
The Herald's been down for the count for years, but got off the mat when word came that El Presidente had breathed his last. Given that the Herald had been unrelenting in chronicling the many abuses of the Castro regime and, along with its sister El Nuevo Herald, had served as the media lifelines for the hundreds of thousands of Cubans in Miami-Dade, you would expect nothing less. But the way newspapers have shrunk, you've learned to expect less.
Fortunately, the Herald delivered today, while it still can.

OK, Now Go Buy OK Go's Records

Someone's Gotta Pay for These Videos

A lot of people are justifiably enjoying OK Go's latest video for "The One Moment."

More than 14 million views, as of this writing, notwithstanding the fact that the album the song comes from was actually released in 2014. This prompted me to revisit some of their other other-worldly videos for tracks like "Upside Down and Inside Out"

and the one that started it all in 2006, "Here It Goes Again," you know, the treadmill video.
All of these may obscure the fact that OK Go is a pretty damn good band, which deftly knows how to embrace pop conventions without being swallowed up by them. The beats may sound familiar, but they're hardly derivative.
Still, despite the viral tag that's automatically conferred on their videos, I was hard-pressed to think when was the last time I've heard them on the radio. And the Billboard charts have not exactly burned up with the group's record sales. We're too busy trying to figure out how did they pull that off to buy their music. Viral success doesn't always pay the bills, after all, as this Guardian article noted in 2010.
I'm as guilty of that as anyone, with only "Here It Goes Again" on my iPod back in the days when .99 typically bought you a single. Not that this is news to OK Go. "We're that fucking video band," frontman Damian Kulash once said. Still, they've embraced the moniker, corporate sponsorships and all, and it's safe to say they're getting a few pennies every time someone watches the ads before clicking on the videos.
Nonetheless, if the music was crap it wouldn't matter how elaborately choreographed or ingeniously executed the videos are. That's a right a band to listen to rather than just watch. This could be the one moment for that to happen.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Bush League Coverage of the Major Leagues

Mets Net Zero In Pages of New York Times

So, just as soon as I got finished extolling the Times for its Muhammad Ali coverage and magazine wizardry over the weekend, along comes an 18-wheeler running up hard in the blind spot of the Times sports section, namely adequate coverage of New York teams.

The Times will soon have a new Mets beat writer, imported from the Washington Post, after Tim Rohan left for Monday Morning Quarterback. In the meantime, they won't shell out for another scribe on the current roadtrip. Today's paper had an AP blurb about Saturday's game. The write-up on today's tilt with the Marlins that's online was done by a desk man in New York who apparently watched the game on TV

While this isn't the first time the Times has pulled this stunt before, it's usually been reserved for late September games when the Mets were long ago eliminated from playoff contention. This, thankfully, is not that team. So, why treat them as such? The Yankees aren't subjected to that treatment. And neither should the Mets, with not only a better record but also exponentially more interesting to watch and read about. 

We get it. There are more people reading the Times outside of New York than in. But If the New York in The New York Times is strictly window dressing, then let us know once and for all. In the meantime, don't subject us to bush league coverage of the major leagues.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Why Print Still Matters, Part II

An Inspired Idea, Above 800 Feet

If you don't normally plunk down five bucks for the Sunday New York Times, tomorrow may be a good excuse for an exception.

The magazine, for its New York issue, is centered on life above 800 feet. It's a different idea, to be sure, with some mind-blowing photography highlighted by the double-fold cover of a guy climbing the spire of the World Trade Center (much better him than me).

But what's especially mind-blowing is that the whole issue is presented sideways, calendar style, as if to bring home the perspective of life literally at the top. In other words, not something you can experience on your iPad. Thank goodness there are still creative types who have not run out of ideas in newsroom. Ditto for them having bosses who let them roam free.

To be sure, the Times hasn't forgotten about its digital diehards, who now make up the bulk of the readership if not the revenue. There is a VR component to the web version. And, being a non-millennial, while I've been a reluctant adopter of the medium, if ever there was an opportunity to showcase it as more than a gimmick bound to be the 21st-century version of the 8-track tape, this story is it.

Why Print Still Matters, Part I

Muhammad Ali's Death On Deadline Doesn't Stop The N.Y. Times

The copy of The New York Times that's hurled on my driveway every morning doesn't always contain late sports scores. It's a fact of life I've grudgingly learned to accept as the price of business for living in the suburbs north of the city. So, it was more than a mild shock to see extensive coverage of Muhammad Ali's death on the front page and the sports section even though the story had broken after midnight.

Because the Times is, well, the Times, it has a deep stable of correspondents, current and former, who actually covered Ali. That's why heavyweights like Bob Lipsyte, had his byline on the obit, which started above the fold on A-1. That's why remembrances were in the can from former columnists Dave Anderson and George Vecsey, sterling as usual.

The obit jump, along with a photo gallery and the columns, took up the first five pages of the sports section. Which meant a lot of hustle in the newsroom with no time to spare. True, reports of Ali's imminent demise were out there. But it's one thing to know about something, it's another to actually crank out the product on deadline. The Times kicked some serious butt on that account.

So, what does this have to do with print? After all, the aforementioned content is on, which now has more than twice the subscribers of the daily print edition. And those stories have since been supplemented by others from the Times stable from those still at the paper, including a Michael Powell column and Rich Sandomir's reflection on Ali's relationship with Howard Cosell.

The point is, there's still nothing quite like spreading out a newspaper to look at the dramatic photos, complemented by dispatches from sports writing heavyweights in one package. If  you're clicking and skipping, you'll inevitably miss out on something. And if Ali, in his prime, was the greatest show on Earth, why miss a minute?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Goodbye, Rubio Tuesday

Tampa Tribune Can't Shed Stink of Marco Fast Enough

Granted, Marco Rubio's ears were ringing early last night after the fat lady had wrapped up her aria. It was about 8:15 when he decided it was best to tuck himself and the kids in early. After all, they had school the next day. As for Rubio, he could go back to doing what he does best, not show up in the Senate.

Still, even though Rubio 2016 was sent to the scrap heap early, at least some mention of his campaign's demise would still be prominent on the home pages of Florida newspaper websites. For the most part, that was the case. The Miami Herald this morning is fully invested in its second-day stories (which may have been written many days ago, sort of like an obit).

The Sun-Sentinel leads with how Rubio is the latest victim whose "dreams were crushed by the Donald Trump steamroller." Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Times has a couple of post-mortems, while the Orlando Sentinel did its due diligence though the reliably conservative editorial page is a little slow off the mark and more focused on approval for yet another airline terminal.

Then there's the Tampa Tribune, whose lede as of 9:40 a.m. ET was  headlined "Voters in Tampa Bay Area See Dire Consequences if the Other Party Wins." Not a bad approach the day after, but click to other elections coverage and the main story on last night's primary was from the A.P. It's only after you click on a small button for "more elections coverage" do you find a staff-written piece that folds in the Democratic and GOP primaries. It includes a few perfunctory grafs about Florida's not-so-favorite son, but that's it. One article about the most-watched primary of the night.

Maybe it shouldn't come as too big of a shock, given the fortunes of the Trib lately. I visited the newsroom four years ago, before the last Florida primary. I was struck by how many empty desks I saw in the newsroom. Suffice to say, they weren't empty because reporters were out to lunch or covering stories.