Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Little Light Housekeeping.

Some odds and ends that fit nowhere else and needed some attention.

1. Gibber Buggy Blogger Dumper.
Regarding the many kind people who have pointed out the problems with this blogger template, all I can say is, when I switched to it many months ago (for several features I liked, and of course the free subscription to Modern Blogger magazine) the few, very irritating problems that also came along with it were not exactly bold-faced in the prospectus. Among other things, with FireFox, comments collided with each other in the raw (in their own pop-out window they look OK), and it does not play nice with Safari. Over time, I've tinkered with the HTML line, section, comment and spacing code to no avail, and finally decided I'd have to junk it and try another mortal coil if I wanted to fix everything.

The problem there is time and effort. It turns out the template also doesn't convert/export nicely, and with so many other exciting things to obsess over now clamoring for my attention, the prospect of spending dozens of hours tweaking new code ("Only to find the New!Cool!Template has as many infuriating new bugs as the old one has old bugs," my inner-cynic whispers to me) has lost a lot of its charm.

2. Content stuff.
As some of you have noticed and written me about, I’ve started throwing a portion of the C-list candlepower this blog generates in the direction of the squirmy political goings on in my city and state.

Is this going to continue?


Will it necessarily take away from other stuff?

Until I get one of those cool, Arc Reactor-powered hearts

and can give up sleep forever, yes.

For a couple of reasons.

First, the national media you and I have known all our lives is busy dying right before our eyes. Hell, it’s been dying of multiple gunshot wounds for 20 years (by the time "Broadcast News" hit the theaters in 1987, the disease that was eating the the bones of Murrow Journalism had already visibly metastasized enough that James L. Brooks could build an entire movie around it):

And as this very long, brutal drought brought on by a lethal obeisance to Wall Street values continues to parch the Old Media Savanna to dust (he said, awkwardly shifting metaphors) the once mighty lakes and rivers of revenue that power the entire enterprise will continue to shrink into muddy, toxic Fox New-ish infotainment pest holes dominated by gators, jackals and carrion birds.

Within that shrinking ecosystem, all Villagers have Big Media Golden Tickets, which means however breathtakingly God-awful, wrong and inept their work may be, for the foreseeable future, their parent companies will continue to underwrite their pernicious brand of piffle at the expense of real journalism and real analysis . Shit, their whole business model is based on it.

They ain't exactly taking applications, so no joy there.

Second, the blogosphere’s Big Bang phase is over. Its undifferentiated cloud of superheated plasma has cooled, congealed and consolidated, and its wild, spacetime-boiling energy has been mostly harness and channeled into something calm and predictable enough for Arianna Huffinton to plug her Kindle into

without risking blowing it to atoms.

From Politico:

That the eponymous creation of the Greek-born motivational book author and former political wife has been one of the biggest success stories of web journalism is indisputable. Founded just over four years ago as a sort of liberal Drudge Report, the site now includes over 60 full-time staffers and offers at least a dozen verticals (from business to entertainment to “green” issues). In December, Huffington Post was infused with $25 million from venture capitalists, and a new CEO took the reins last month promising increased growth and profitability; in May, it had 6.7 million unique visitors. Rivals in the media business have taken note.


But if political coverage gets the most attention in Washington, more than half Huffington Post’s traffic is driven by gossip and entertainment stories. The day the Froomkin news broke, for example, the site’s most popular story wasn’t about health care - it was “American Flag Bikini Moments: What’s YOUR Favorite?” Indeed, the Washington City Paper’s Amanda Hess called attention to the sometimes schizophrenic nature of the site in a recent piece: “Liberal Politics, Sexist Entertainment.” Similarly, columnist Simon Dumenco, last month in AdAge, wrote that the Huffington Post “likes to pretend that it's a respectable voice in the mediasphere, but it shamelessly pumps up its traffic by being just as trashy as, say, Maxim.
This is not surprising -- just about any movement or upheaval you can think of tends to begin groping around for titles, organization charts and some kind homeostasis almost immediately -- but as Malcolm Gladwell argues a little too silkily in “Outliers”, it does mean that if you didn’t happen to be at the right place at just the right time with the right tools in-hand when The New New Thing reached escape velocity, you miss a critical window and your chances of future success in that field drop like a stone.

So at the macro level, the Frontier Age of the independent operator has ended, and the age of empire -- of the bloggy city/state -- is upon us. The Shirts and Skins have divvied things up -- sometimes making the extra effort to build with an inclusive, progressive blueprint in hand, and sometimes not -- and if you weren’t on the playground taking shots in, say, 2002 and/or have a truckload of dough, time, team members and/or expertise to buy yourself a seat at the table, the Big Game is closed to you.

Message received.

This is not a tragedy, and not exactly a new phenomenon (in the early 1800s, one of the most influential newspapers -- read by the likes of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson -- wasn't a hard-charging, muckraking broadsheet, but the "Niles Register"; a news aggregator that took national and international news from other sources and reprinted them under one roof [Source: "Mark Twain: A Life" by Ron Powers]) but it is a fact to be factored.

And because this particular New Thing was cultured in the Progressive/grassroots petri dish and not in B-school, the rise of a fairly rigid velvet-rope hierarchy so soon after we were all up on the barricades singing "La Marseillaise" together it is also a little sad.


3. Da Chicago stuff.
Chicago is not only the third largest city in the American Empire, but in the Age of Obama it has also become the front porch of the center of the political Universe (D.C. is filling up with Chicago pols and folkways so fast that there’s talk of opening a Superdawg inside the Lincoln Memorial.)

And while the national media and blogger arenas have gone largely and predictably bi-coastal and “Members Only”, here at the Center of the America that Still Builds, Grows and Moves Stuff, at this moment in history, everything is in wild ferment:

Consider that at this very minute…

…both of Chicago’s major daily newspapers are deeply – possibly mortally –wounded. And as they teeter on the brink on some form of extinction, a dozen small, fast, adaptable little rodents are all now scrambling to evolve fast!fast!fast! to take advantage of this suddenly available, once-in-a-generation media niche.

…big government players and their bit player bag men are headed to the House of Many Doors, and those left behind are facing city, county and state and governments that are so broke that, if they were Greek restaurants, by tomorrow they’dve been insured for a fortune and mysteriously burned to the ground.

…Da Mare of Chicago is within a hair of hocking the Picasso and the Art Institute Lions to bankroll one, last, massive and massively risky real-estate scheme – at the very moment he is swearing that we’re so fucking church-mouse po’ that by the middle of August city pigeons will have to take unpaid furlough days (leaving Ira Couch mausoleum un-shat upon 12 weeks a year), and elevators at City Hall will all go coin-op and get sold off to some shell company which will turn out to have been created six weeks before by Da Mare’s cousin’s kid’s second wife.

It’s a big, stanky cultural metaphor tur-duck-en, playing itself out in real time right outside my front door and it occurs to me that there is some value in refracting some of its more jaw-dropping elements through a storyteller's lens .

I know I stayed with Mike Royko (and came to Pete Hamill, Hunter Thompson, Harlan Ellison and Isaac Babel for that matter) for the writing; writing that intersected with issues that mattered to me.

Come for the pie; stay for the sermonette.

Now I just passed another anniversary of day I moved to Chicago. It has been...many years, but when people ask me where I’m from, there is always that nanosecond of hesitation, because like Ellen Brody in “Jaws” found out:
Ellen: All I want to know, I just want to know one simple thing. When do I get to become an islander?

Councilwoman: Ellen, never! Never! You're not born here -- you're not an islander.

Jeff Ruby (well, ok, his wife) explains it all in greater depth in Chicago Magazine here.

I’m also from elsewhere -- from a lot of elsewheres, actually. I do not naturally process geographical or biographical information in terms of “parishes”, I do not have a discernible accent, and as much as I like a glorious afternoon at Wrigley drinking a beer in the sun with friends, I could not care less about the Cubs/Sox “rivalry” that defines the social orbits of so many of my neighbors.

But I believe I have “learned” Chicago in somewhat the same way J√≥zef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski learned English: as a second and magical language. I’ve tilled many fields here, met many interesting and, on occasion, relatively powerful people, and have seen a thing or two. And in the great, raucous symphony that is the Windy City, I know enough about the members of the orchestra to pick out the embarrassing dissonances between what the government here preaches in public and what it practices in private.

And it turns out I can write, and have a knack for graphics.

So as much as I enjoy running my greedy, little keyboard over the whoreflesh of our national leaders and media, expect to see more Chicago stories in the mix.

4. Fundraising.

Underemployed but still gotta eat, so expect a sudden spate of pictures of sad puppies sometime in the near future.

Acres of them.

It will go on for days and days and days...


StonyPillow said...

Way past time for the sad puppies. Bring 'em on.

Blue Gal said...

Just don't go all Chris Bowers on us with the blogosphere is over frosting.

Arianna isn't everybody, and your graphic points out she isn't an artist.

Did you know Chicago's own Oprah has had her worst ratings year since 1983? Things are fluid, change is constant... I for one stick to my thing, and I believe you do too, dg, because we get up in the morning and there's a post in our heads that has to be put up on that screen.

We don't have a choice. Thanks be to God.

chautauqua said...

English, someone said, was Conrad's third language - after Polish and then French. He evidently taught himself during long voyages as a sea captain.

I know, this adds nothing to the conversation, but I have to brag a little.

OM said...

I actually had her little widget on my blog, but after a while it got embarrassing and I took it off. It's becoming just an online version of the usual infotainment.

Anonymous said...

I love the Chicago stories. My dad was born on the south side during the depression but they all packed up and moved in '37 when grandpa found a job somewhere else. But I went there a lot growing up - by train, plane, and automobile - excited by the stench of the yellow skies over Hammond, Indiana as it meant we were one step closer to the city.

I lived there in the '80s for a while and what a fucking time that was. The explosive combination of Catholic guilt and Chicago Board of Trade recklessness made the dudes there walking fucking sex machines and it was the best of times while it lasted. Alas, or thank the gods, I had to leave as my forefathers did for work elsewhere but I still consider Chicago the best American city hands down.

Anyway, I think you've got Ms. Huffington's number. Don't forget she has changed her political spots more times than a cartoon leopard. Her name isn't even her own - it's left over from her marriage to a failed rich gay republican senatorial candidate husband.

Keep doing what you're doing. When I see the sad puppy faces remind me where to send the money. I don't do paypal.


Anonymous said...

Keep the C-stuff. I don't know the city or its interesting folkways, but have been inoculated by a wife from the northern burbs and two old friends who grew up there; one of whom tells stories of being a Teamster truck driver during the building of ORD noticing that his bosses were paid 2-5 times for each load of fill or road base. Likewise for snow removal. (he was a UC student eating at the Salvation Army, so any work was good work)

Near as I can tell, the local color is simply a variation on national themes. You may have actors who are beyond embarrassment but they are no more or less crooked than thousands of their peers in NYC, DC, and LA.

Bring on the puppies.

And thanks for keeping on keeping on.

Central Texas

jp said...

You are becoming the Royko voice, Drifty. Not Kos..YOU. And sooner or later the Reader or that Chicago aggregate will get wise and pay you.

couldn't agree more on the pathetic fishwrap both of the Chi "majors" have become. about some work on the real story...The Combine. City dems, sub and downstate rethugs and the glue that keeps 'em workin overtime ..organized crime..toss in Rahm as enabler..and watch the real story emerge.

Asian-American Pundit said...

Thanks for doing what you do and I appreciate the local updates and the breakdown of Da Mare. I think you are right after Netroots Nation in the Chi, I realized focusing as much energy locally as nationally can do a lot of greater good.

What I am basically saying is you are like Batman.

Michael Hart said...

Shit. I don't even know what a "Superdawg" is. Sure, I know it's a Chicago wiener. But that doesn't mean a thing. I don't mind reading stories here that I can't really "know," even though I grew up a few counties south of the land of the Potawatomis. There's still the personal enjoyment of familiarity with the mind that penned it, based on many experiences with earlier screens full of Driftglass derechos.

When you stroll down the narrow isles of the new media Piggly Wiggly that is the Huffington Post, perusing the gaudy headlines, one must remember to scrupulously avoid the happy junk food and ersatz crap, just like you should in a real Piggly Wiggly. And recall too, the Piggly Wiggly was important not just because it was a food store, but because it was the first true self-service grocery store; the customer could choose their products directly. That power of choice is also a cornerstone of the "internets," and one of the reasons I'll be around for the puppy pictures, come what may.

Caoimhin Laochdha said...

I could care less about Chicago. Same for most cities really.

I also really enjoy the news, commentary and insight into Chicago politics. It's a different angle to a familiar and universal U.S. political/media/power-corruption problem we all face to a certain degree just about everywhere. Some of us have it better that Chicago, some worse, but we all need to fight City Hall at some point and keep it under a microscope everyday.

The Windy City posts are always a terrific read, they add nice flavor to this site; and I look forward to each post.

Thanks Driftguy


skunq3sh said...

You are Chi-kago.
whip a llama's ass

Mr. Natural said...

Being way out here on the very upper left edge of America, I find your Chicago stories interesting and insightful. We have no politics here, much less street lights and night life. After seeing the pasted-in piece from HuffPo, when I read

"This is not surprising -- just about any movement or upheaval you can think of tends to begin groping around for titles"

I miss-read it as "groping around for titties."

HA HA LOL@this old man!

BTW, it sure looks as if the broadcast news is going the way of print news. Looks like the same biz model, dosen't it?

prof fate said...

I may get an occasional twinge of nostalgia for a good SMCD, or a serving of Blackened Bobo, but whatever subject you care to ... shall we say, illuminate? ... you always do a superb job of it. So wherever your muse takes you, I'm just grateful to be along for the ride.

Besides, there's something about big city politics that's fascinated me for many years now. And if ever there was a time when we needed new Roykos and Steffens by the freighter-load, this is it.

So bring on the sad puppies, hell, go completely Keane on us. We can take it.

redoubt said...

Thanks for including the "chicken-in-a-car. . ." perspective.

Yours truly is from the Center of the America that Still Builds, Grows and Moves Stuff: born in Cook County Hospital (and still unpaid for) and "educated" in Chicago's public schools (when the teachers weren't on strike). I live in Atlanta. Home is Chicago.

Don't worry about Not Being From Here: Gustavus Swift, Potter Palmer, George Pullman (spits), Big Bill Dawson. . . also not from here.

Keep covering the city, county etc. malfeasance because sooner or later Huffpo etc. won't want to have to write bad things about people they have cocktails with on the Gold Coast.

PS: if you know anyone at the Reader, tell them I hate their (probably Ben Eason-mandated) homepage redesign.