Just Landed

An Outsider’s Perspective From The Inside

  • About Just Landed

    Just Landed is a part of the ever-expanding Blandings Media Empire.
  • Write Me

    justlanded AT blandings DOT com
  • Archives

  • Categories

Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Explaining Humpty Dumpty

Posted by anandrr on August 25, 2009

Today’s Hindu performs yeoman service by explaining to us the meaning of Humpty Dumpty as in the sentence,

The turmoil and discontent in the Bharatiya Janata Party deepened further on Monday as Arun Shourie, senior leader and MP, made an all-out attack on party president Rajnath Singh, calling him “Alice in Blunderland” and describing the party leadership as “Humpty Dumpty.”

Most newspapers would have left that there. Not Neena Vyas. Using that expensive education to good effect, she explains:

The reference to “Humpty Dumpty” was from Through the Looking-Glass, a sequel by Lewis Carroll to Alice in Wonderland. Just as Alice expected Humpty Dumpty to fall at any time, in the BJP, almost at all levels, leaders are expecting the “fall” of Mr. Rajnath Singh, whose tenure comes to an end in January 2010.

One might conclude that:

  1. The readers of The Hindu need to be explained references to Humpty Dumpty. They can read a newspaper that casually uses words like “turmoil” and “discontent,” but find themselves stumped with the most elementary nursery rhyme reference
  2. Neena Vyas used the most elementary trick in the high school student’s book  of filling up the paragraphs when on deadline.

One wonders why she didn’t go on to tell us that Mr Shourie smiled like a Cheshire cat throughout the interview.

Advertisements

Posted in Funny, Media, Newspapers | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Oscars and the Matthew Effect

Posted by anandrr on February 23, 2009

Anand (Sr) writes about the Matthew Effect and the Oscars. To which we say:

  • Of course the Matthew Effect is dominant. Oscar nominations are a function of PR and lobbying more than anything else,  the marginal PR required for the ninth nom is much less than the marginal PR for the first.
  • Some noms make no sense at all. Button for editing? One imagines even the Academy is somewhat unsure what they are honoring. Or perhaps they think a consolation prize is in order so they nominate it anyway.
  • Winning an Oscar is all about being in the right place at the right time, so yes the Matthew Effect must dominate again. You have to find the right combination of Hollywood liberal guilt, Hollywood elitist condescension, and Hollywood self-preening and then make it work in your movie’s favor. If all of those are pointing in your direction, you win. (Sean Penn just had to win last night, or else who else could lecture all of us for voting against Prop. 8 last year? If Frost/Nixon had been nominated last year, it would have been a lock for many Oscars, perfect opportunity for Hollywood to tell us all how to vote in the upcoming general, but now that the great Hope and Changer has been elected in, its time is past.)

Final semantic consideration: who knew that “the rich getting richer” effect had such a good name and what’s more that the Matthew in question is the Matthew of the Bible specifically endorsing such unequal outcomes? This raises a theological question:

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.  — Matthew 19:24

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. — Matthew 25:29

One surmises that the kingdom of God is not all that it is cracked up to be, or that between 19 and 25, Matthew went from being a commie to an unrepentant capitalist. Perhaps Ayn Rand had made an appearance as understudy prophet. One imagines Matthew 31 being all about the subprime debacle that followed.

Posted in Capitalism, Communism, Culture, Economics, Films, Funny, Media, Philosophy, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Newspapers in Decline

Posted by anandrr on January 30, 2009

The headlines blare: Newspapers are Dying! Being a voracious newspaper reader myself, this is a matter after my own heart. FT’s Lex tried to attack the problem. But he stops way short.

As Lex points out, the problem is simple: newspapers cost too much to produce, but print ad revenues are declining rapidly. Online ad revenues are growing but fall well short of the costs of running a newspaper. To wit, the New York Times costs $338M per quarter ex-printing and distribution, but online ad revenues clock in at a meager $74M. But Lex is blind to the solution. Presumably with good reason. Lex’s salary depends on his/her not seeing the truth in front of his/her eyes. The newspaper business model has been broken for a while now, and while the newspaper companies are trying to fix it by going online, very few of them seem to understand what that really entails. And so we are still where we have always been, online ad revenues can’t make up for the high cost of producing a quality newspaper.

First, let’s look at how well they’re doing the online bit. We’ll stay with the New York Times, they have an exceedingly good website (by newspaper standards) already.  Assume for the moment that you’re researching the 9/11 attacks. You search for 9/11 on Google, notice how not a single link on the first page points to the Times’s coverage of that seminal event. Indeed, not a single newspaper on that list of links. So if you were trying to research an event that happened in the New York Times’s own backyard, the New York Times doesn’t want you to know that they can help you. Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the Times ran a series called Portraits of Grief, an incredible series that memorialized every victim of the 9/11 attacks. Only the Times had the resources to do something like this. And yet, search for 9/11 victims on Google…. And on and on it goes, you can search for anything New York related let alone US related and the biggest US newspaper is nowhere to be found. In short, the Times has a great website and certainly gets a large subscriber base that reads it everyday, but in so doing they have replicated the offline business model online.

Offline, newspaper publishers are only interested in today’s newspaper. Advertisers have already paid for yesterday’s newspaper and are unlikely to want to advertise in it again, but there are advertisers who wish to be in today’s newspaper, so let’s make sure we attract them. As a result newspapers spend a lot of money to ensure that they put out the best product for today’s news and ignore yesterday’s newspaper altogether. They charge $1 for today’s newspaper but $10 for archived newspapers precisely because they can’t monetize yesterday’s newspaper with advertisers.

But online, the game changes. All your webpages can be monetized with current advertisers. Newspapers therefore have to make sure that all their webpages are available and searchable by all consumers, news consumers, researchers, everybody. But that isn’t all. The New York Times doesn’t add much value by having its own Wall Street desk most of whose work is reporting on earnings and other announcements from different companies. Reuters already does a great job of that with people sitting in Bangalore. It’s not at all clear what value the Times desk adds over a wire service (even if they were sitting in New York not Bangalore). All in all, it’s not clear why the Times has to pay $338M in salaries mostly to reporters who don’t add value over a generic wire story. There are stories that only the Times could cover. New York based stories for instance, just as the Wall Street Journal is extremely good at covering business, and the San Jose Mercury at covering Silicon Valley, and The Hindu at covering south India. What newspapers need to figure out is what their core competency is, cover that by themselves, outsource the rest of the reporting and stop pretending like their Op-Ed pages matter (thought experiment: if the Times stopped publishing tomorrow, which of their columnists would you read if all they had was a blog each? My answer: Paul Krugman, and yet certainly the Times spends millions of dollars a year on its elite stable of columnists).

If they did all this, the Times would gain a lot of impressions because their website rocks and attracts a lot of visitors, they would lose a number of impressions because nobody thinks the Times is such a great newspaper any more, so lets say their quarterly revenue falls from $75M to $50M. At 25% margins that’s still a great business, it’s not a change-the-world business, but in a world where news and opinion are both commoditized, it’s the best you can do. Unfortunately the Times will never accept that, they have to be the “paper of record” (whatever that means) after all. And nor will the San Francisco Chronicle, and ultimately that is what is dooming the newspaper business. Not that the business is unhealthy but that every newspaper owner has an inflated sense of the worth of his or her business to the world.

Posted in Advertising, Business, Capitalism, Economics, Globalisation, Internet, Media, Newspapers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The News Crawls Back

Posted by anandrr on December 30, 2008

CNN is allegedly retiring the crawl. Pity it won’t improve the quality of its news all that much. I stopped watching the TV news a long time ago, if it’s not on Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, I’ve probably not watched it. True to form, I’ve watched a total of about 5 minutes of TV news since I returned to India about a year ago. But the first of those minutes had me reaching urgently for my camera. As I remembered it (of course since I haven’t watched TV news in a while, this might not be still true), US news networks feature a talking head, sometimes a banner announcing the story and a crawl. In India, we have this:

Indian News Channel Screen GrabFor those of you keeping score at home, that’s:

  1. A banner headline at the top telling you what the story is about
  2. A news category white on blue
  3. The latest on this controversy crawling below that
  4. The time and a crawl of unrelated news below that
  5. A completely different crawl of more different unrelated news below that

I got your information overload right here.

Posted in Bertie Heads to the Photo Shop, Media, Shutterbug, TV | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Merry Christmas

Posted by anandrr on December 29, 2008

Ammupatti is all busy writing about Christmas cheer. So in a rare bit of media empire friendliness (this being the season and all), here’s my bit to spread the cheer. Stephen Colbert has written a new Christmas song. I tried as hard as I could, but I can’t get it to embed, damn you WordPress, damn you to hell!

If you’re like me, you’ve already downloaded the track when Itunes released it as their free single of the week earlier this week. If you’re not a cheapskate like me, you downloaded it last month when they released the entire album.

Posted in Media, Nostalgia, Showbiz, Timeout, TV | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

What Would Adolf Think?

Posted by anandrr on December 9, 2008

I’m not much into cameras, and couldn’t tell a D3X from an F2 and wasn’t even sure whether my own camera was a Canon or a Nikon till I checked. But this is bloody hilarious.

And just last night I was transfixed by the movie. One thing that stood out yesterday, but I don’t remember from the first time I watched it (maybe I’ve just forgotten), is how the camera shakes every time a shell explodes. Even on TV it’s effective.

Posted in Advertising, Films, Funny, Media, Timeout | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that

Posted by anandrr on December 1, 2008

A great many websites in India are simply inaccessible, thanks to the mighty powers of Google and Firefox. Google and Firefox aren’t just helping us find the information that we seek, they’re ensuring that we remain safe while we seek it. And that safety mission is just too important for them to allow us (mere seekers) to jeopardize it.

Google results for Whirlpool

Assume for the moment that you’re in the market for a washing machine. You’re all very fancy with your air-conditioned office and high speed Internets so you think, let me first check what models are actually available. So first, you google “whirlpool.” You’re met with the page on the left. That’s right: Google has a little text that says, “This site may harm your computer.” “WTF?” you think to yourself, we’re talking about Whirlpool here not some neighborhood store company, and anyway I’m on my Mac, (and always up to date with my security updates, right, right?) nothing could possibly happen. whirlpool_google_attack_websiteSo you click on the link anyway. But Google isn’t done with you yet. Instead of taking you to the harmful website, they take you to the page on the right here. That’s right, they really don’t want you to visit the website. But you’re all, “come on now, we’re talking Whirlpool, it should be ok, just take me there.” Aha, but try finding a link on the page that will take you there. Google really doesn’t want you to go to the website. There isn’t a single link or button on the page that says, “Take me there anyway, dammit!” All you’ve got is the link in simple text, that they want you to copy and paste into the location bar. And it’s not even obvious where that text is. You have to read everything to find the url hiding in the text. You finally locate it. whirlpool_firefox_attack_siteHaving located it, you copy-paste it into the url bar. You’re done right? Hah! Think again. Now it’s Firefox’s turn to warn you away from the website. This time in angry maroon! At least, this warning has a link that lets you ignore the warning and infect yourself with all manner of viruses and trojans. Sure the link is almost invisible, it’s a tiny footnote to all the exclamation marks and large buttons urging you to get the hell out of Dodge, but it’s there. You click it, and yes! Mission Accomplished!whirlpool_websiteThere it is in all its ugly glory. The Whirlpool website with its flashy flash and unusable interfaces and poorly laid out tables. But it’s there, and for that we’re grateful. Now we can actually get down to the serious business of picking our seriously fantabulous washing machine with bells and whistles and more horsepower than the computer you’re on now. You navigate the silly Javscript menu to click on the Products->Washing Machine link. whirlpool_inner_firefox_attack_siteOops, you declared success too soon. Firefox is going to bug you for every link you click on. It doesn’t care that you’ve already said you don’t care for sites with malware. It doesn’t care that it’s really just making life really really hard for you. It just cares about you and your welfare. Thank you Firefox, for looking out for me at every turn! Where would I be without you?

But really, there ought to be a law. Firefox, we can pardon. But Google? With all their monopoly power? Net neutrality for me, not for thee, indeed! And does anybody doubt that if Whirlpool were buying the link, Google would happily charge for the clicks and let you go to a website that distributes malware?

Posted in Advertising, Business, Capitalism, Economics, Internet, Media, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s Funny Cause it’s True!

Posted by anandrr on November 28, 2008

This was going to be a flashback friday edition with a different art form: cartooning. Unfortunately I couldn’t unearth funny cartoons from when I was a little tyke, so we’ll go with just-because  Friday blogging.

Oh editorial cartoonists! What would we do without you? You’re always there to elicit a smile from me by reinforcing my peerless opinion with a humorous twist. Take for instance this by Tom Toles of the Washington Post:

© The Washington Post Company

Funny. Trenchant. Good stuff. So when I arrived in India and started reading The Hindu, I was expecting more of the same, except with a local flavour. Except, every time I turned to the op-ed page in The Hindu I would be greeted by a cartoon that was not funny. For instance you might see this, apropos of the sinking of the pirate ship:

© The Hindu

© The Hindu

Or even this, apropos of The Congress Party promising lower petrol prices just ahead of an election:

i© The Hindu/i

© The Hindu

I mean WTF? None of this shit is funny. I kept thinking there was something wrong with me. That he was being very very funny, and I was just not seeing it. As a certified member of the smile-at-New-Yorker-cartoon-pseudo-intellectual class, this was mildly insulting. I smile at cartoons that are not funny, how dare you mock me with cartoons that even I can’t smile at? Finally this morning, we had this:

© The Hindu

© The Hindu

I mean, WTF? Since when is people being shot by terrorists funny? And that too terrorists at The Gateway of India? Seriously WTF is up with this Keshav (or Surendar, depending) the cartoonist guy? Then it struck me. He’s not drawing humorous cartoons. He’s not even offering up opinion. Instead he’s finding an abstract way to represent the news. Every day, Keshav reads the news and asks himself, how can I make this newspaper more abstruse to the average reader? Why, I’ll represent the pirates as a dragon, the Indian Navy as a ship in the distance and the tail of the dragon slowly sinking into the water in a whirlpool like swirl. That will clearly demonstrate that we are winning the war on pirates. Arrrrr!

But even if I go with the abstract representation theory, I still have no fucking idea what this means. You can go squiggly eyed at as many MOMAs as you can find, but you’ll still not be adequately prepared for the awesome abstract thought of the Keshav. Let’s see the BJP  is turning into a bullet belt that is wrapped around the bomb of terror, but it thinks it is just watering a creeper?  The creeper represents the strong hold the BJP has on terror?  Is the creeper turning into an alternate wick for the bomb? And if the creeper needs support, why does the guy have a pair of shears in his hand? WTF?

em© The Hindu/em

© The Hindu

Posted in Funny, Media, Newspapers, wtf | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Flashback Friday: Pearls Before Swine

Posted by anandrr on October 17, 2008

A colleague recently told me he was visiting Madikeri for the Puja vacation. That immediately reminded me of the song from Mutthina Hara. The Madikeri Sipyee one, the one with the indecipherable Kodava words. And I just spent the last half hour searching Youtube but damned if I can find the song. All the other fine songs from the movie seem to be on there, but this particular one: no dice. So instead, here for your cringing pleasure is another song from 1990, and I hate to say it, at the time I thought it was good. We were all young once, alas.

Posted in Culture, Films, Kannada, Media, Nostalgia, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Flashback Friday: He Forgot Poland

Posted by anandrr on October 3, 2008

We’re reminded today that barely four years ago, Bush told us at one of the “debates” that he would use the Dred Scott decision as a litmus test when thinking about his Supreme Court picks. Naturally liberals were surprised, it was nice and all that Bush had finally decided that Dred Scott was decided wrongly, here was something on which they could finally agree with their President. But 150 years after the case was decided and overturned by Constitutional amendment, and Civil Wars fought over it, he had decided that views on Dred Scott would be a litmus test? WTF? Had he just heard somebody say Dred Scott in the hallway and latched on to it? There was no way an ignoramus like Bush even knew what Dred Scott was all about. Then the mists cleared and it turned out that liberals were the only ones puzzled. Conservatives had heard him loud and clear: He would appoint judges who would overturn Roe v Wade.

So it was rather surprising that when Sarah Palin was asked a similar question, the only case she could think of was Roe v Wade. Is she so unschooled in right wing evangelical dog-whistles that she didn’t know that the right phrase to use is Dred Scott? Weird.

Posted in Media, Nostalgia, Politics, TV, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »