I want to apologize for the lack of substantial updates on Existential Weightlifting for the last little while. I’m working through a few other priorities in meatspace right now (including a friend’s wedding a few weeks ago). I promise that my SNL season 6 reviews will finish soon, and I’ll be constructing my thoughts on the most recent SNL season just as soon as I have some time to put them together. I also decided on a new look for the site that I’ll be implementing fully in the coming weeks.
The print media in New Brunswick is mostly owned by an entity called Brunswick News, which is a division of the Irving Group of Companies, the dominant economic force in the province. There are very few alternative voices in this field- even the free weekly “alternative” paper in the province is an Irving publication. Recently, they decided to put all their newspapers behind an online paywall, a practice that is fairly common, and actually quite reasonable for an industry that faces more challenges to turn a profit. The New York Times has been able to use the paywall in a reasonable way, with a certain number of free articles per month and a few different subscription options The price of the Brunswick News paywall, however, is not worth it: $16.95 per month with a subscription to one of their dailies, and $19.95 per month without. No free articles, no reduced prices if you don’t necessarily want to read the Miramichi Leader or any of the other small-town papers. Before the paywall was activated, there were no updates for breaking news: the next time any change was made to the online content would be when the next morning’s paper was published.
The quality of journalism is another sticking point I have with the amount they charge: there are a few bright spots here and there buried beneath articles cribbed wholesale from wire services, trivial city boosterism, and a lack of true analysis. The front of the Moncton Times & Transcript, for example, usually has a piece on the front page about how great a place Moncton is to shop. The “News Today” (ostensibly for actual current events in Canada and abroad) section once counted the birth of Suri Cruise as front-page material. Compared to their sister paper, Saint John’s Telegraph-Journal, it makes Moncton (and Eastern New Brunswick by default) look like a region of morons. There’s a sense of redundancy as well, you feel like you’ve read the same pieces last month. (For a more thorough discussion of the media and short-sighted city strategy in Moncton, check out Graeme Decarie‘s blog). The small town papers are important for their local coverage, but for every worthwhile story in the Miramichi Leader, there’s another four page spread of old ladies at luncheons.
Irving can get away with charging so much for so little because print media is a captive market in New Brunswick. There are other sources for news, especially online, but Irving still has the power to muscle out or absorb anything that comes along. Some speculate that Irving will take a hit because of the people cancelling their subscriptions in protest, and revert back to the old model, but I doubt it will ever go back to free online content. The way they have it now, though, is like having each newspaper at a newsstand covered in an opaque bag.
If CBS ever wanted to rip off Whitney, I propose the following show:
She’s So Wacky: A beautiful woman with no indoor voice (or capability to modulate her voice whatsoever) traps her boyfriend into living an ongoing manifestation of her hacky stand-up routine.
Seriously, though, every promo I’ve seen of Whitney makes me want to jam uncooked spaghetti into my ears sooner than actually watch the show.
I remember back when I lived in Winnipeg I used to always enjoy browsing the racks at the HMV in Kildonan Place. This was before I had completely developed my musical taste but it was the time when my family finally had a CD player, and I no longer had to make do with the limited selection of music available on cassette. I used to be in awe at the different albums that were available and remember seeing countless copies of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” and Tom Waits’ “Closing Time” in the racks, the shrink wrap covered with the red WEA “super saver” logo. I also remember prominent displays of jazz CDs in the aisles: Miles’ “Sketches of Spain” and “Kind of Blue” (both recently remastered), Ornette Coleman’s “Free Jazz”…this made an impression on me.
I moved to New Brunswick in 1999; the first HMVs in the province opened in 2005. I was aware the store had made a few changes in the interim thanks to a few trips to the Halifax stores, and the new mall stores not only were cramped and had annoying music piped in through the PA system, but their jazz, indie and catalog selection left a lot to be desired. Even so, I was still impressed that I could find $7.99 copies of “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane and the Gram Parsons twofer. They also had a decent selection of music that was under the 2/30, 2/25 and 3/30 promotion; the 2-CD “The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads” only set me back $15. Sure, I’d leave with a vaguely dissatisfied feeling and I feel their “blacklists” of certain artists was just petty, but New Brunswick really doesn’t have great music retail anyway and another store was welcome.
Unfortunately, the entire music retail sector is on a downswing. CD Plus, the store in the mall that inexplicably filed all their music by the artists’ first name, closed shortly after. Music World went out of business. Big box stores with music sections are reducing shelf space to the bare minimum, and now there are towns and small cities that used to have decent music stores but now don’t even have anywhere selling music aside from Wal-Mart or Zellers.
What’s even worse is that in the past three and a half years, HMV has reduced shelf space to make room for more DVDs, video games and books. I still go there just to see if they have something I want on for cheap (and I admit sometimes more often than not they do), but I know I’m not going to find any Miles Davis albums aside from the cardboard pack version of “Kind of Blue” and “The Essential Miles Davis”. Most of Dylan’s back catalogue is absent save for compilations ”Blonde on Blonde” and “Highway 61 Revisited”, and while I can still find indie/alternative stuff, it’s usually the newest release and the more well-known artists.
There are stores in the city I like: Frank’s Music in particular. It used to be the Sam The Record Man location in the mall until the chain went bankrupt, then soldiered on under a new name before moving out by the power center. The prices are quite often higher than what you’d pay everwhere else but it’s the only place in town that still has the classical and jazz in it’s own room, there’s a rack of new local and independent stuff, and the staff is actually quite knowledgable and helpful. On more than one occasion I’ve seen the face of the guy behind the counter light up when he saw what I was ringing out with. There is also a pretty good used place downtown that I’ve scored countless finds at as well.
I accept that the rule is that stores have to be able to make money to survive, and these measures are just to keep the expenses down and sales high. But every time I see good stuff no longer available so they can clear two whole columns of space for the new Nickelback CD I die a little. More and more independent stores are closing down for good and the only way to find a lot of this stuff is to download it or buy it online with a credit card. It’s like if you don’t like what the “unwashed masses” like, you don’t exist.
I wonder how different my tastes would have been if the stores I had browsed in my younger days didn’t have all that different music displayed prominently; while the Internet has made it easier for people to find good music that hasn’t caught on with the public (for the record, this is how I got into a lot of indie music), fact of the matter is that having the music visible and convenient for people to discover does make a bit of difference. Jyn Radakovits talks about this in her rant about music retail: with the internet, you have to dig deeper; the good stores put this stuff in the light.
The landscape is changing, whether I like it or not. To me it feels a lot less like a natural change than it’s like the forests in New Brunswick being cut down and then replenished with homogenous acres of pines with the Irving logo up front.
I can’t say I was really a follower of Ms. Richardson’s career. I don’t even think I’ve willingly seen any movie with her in it (I might have seen a few moments of my family’s video copy of The Parent Trap). She was always one of those actresses that I was more familiar with by reputation than anything I’ve actually seen her in; just another blonde Englishwoman who happens to act. Sure, she was Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter and Liam Neeson’s wife but even that seemed secondary.
Yes, her death this week was a tragedy. That goes without saying; 45 is still young, and for it to happen the way it did, just coming out of nowhere, makes it all the more sad. What I’m more upset about is the way the media handled themselves; it was to be expected considering the vultures they were with Terri Schiavo and Pope John Paul II four years ago but when the New York Post and Fox News were posting rumours as fact before the family had a chance to make their statement, that was a new low. I realize with all the pressure to get the story first (especially in a world where the internet allows information to get out like that) these things do happen, and those sources are not particularly esteemed for dedication to the truth anyway, but come on! The family obviously was keeping quiet for a reason. Some articles made sure to qualify that there was no official word on the prognosis and kept their headlines accordingly ambiguous, but putting “BRAIN DEAD” as a headline is just irresponsible at best, and sickening in what it reveals.
What it looks like to me is that these news agencies and gossip columns were actually rooting for her death. Perez Hilton, in his ever so responsible way, made one post with the title “It’s looking grim!” like he was creaming himself with anticipation of a great story (and he had already prematurely posted that she had died at that point, to boot). Death does get more people to pay attention, I’ll give them that. But where is the line between the hot scoop and the actual pain and suffering involved? The way the story was handled, everyone was rushing for the boasting rights to be first to say that Liam Neeson is widowed and a number of family members are grieving. It’s definitely some perverse schadenfreude operating here.
What I’m saying is not a new idea in the least. I just wonder how far it will go.