‘Blood mingled with marinara sauce’: Philadelphia mob story

Posted in journalism trends, LAT, media, recession by Diane on February 3, 2010

Don’t get me wrong, I love L.A. A walk or run on the Hermosa sand always reminds me how lucky I am to live here.

But sometimes I miss the East Coast tabloids I knew and loved in my twenties. New York had its broadly populist tabloid papers, but my true fave was the Philadelphia Daily News. As vibrant and lean as the Inky was staid and self-important, the Daily News was gritty, well reported and a heckuva lot more fun.

Even when it was chronicling mob rubouts or other mayhem in the City of Brotherly Love.

My favorite? A front page story about one rubout, complete with stark photo and description of the murder scene, where “the blood mingled with marinara sauce.” Another story mapped previous rubouts around the city in piquant detail. I reveled reading those passages aloud to my more squeamish coworkers.

Back then, rumor had it, Knight Ridder was propping up the Daily News to discourage another daily from taking on its dominant sibling. (The Inky’s last big competitor, the Evening Bulletin, had shuttered earlier in the decade.) The owners cut back on distribution, making it harder for me to snag a copy on my way to work; oh, how I cursed them for that.

Chicken Man Testa and the Main Line Times…


Conan’s all right, he’s just a little weird

Posted in LAT, media, TV by Diane on January 24, 2010

Contrary to Neil Gabler’s incredibly wrong-headed essay in yesterday’s L.A. Times, Conan O’Brien wasn’t too cool for “The Tonight Show.” Rather,  he was too quirky.

And, judging by comments from the network, and O’Brien himself, both parties had been arguing about what the host should do about it: Defang his comedy further, in an attempt to draw mainstream auds that once watched Jay Leno and Johnny Carson before him, or to let Conan be Conan.

This was not, as Gabler argues, a battle between cool hipsters and dorks. The labels simply don’t fit. It had everything to do with splintering audiences and changing media consumption patterns.

NBC decided to go broad as possible and bring Jay back after his disastrous run at 10 p.m. And Conan decided to be true to himself and the traditional “Tonight Show” timeslot. His musical choices on the  last “Tonight Show” said it all: Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” on his video montage, and “Free Bird” closing out the show courtesy Will Ferrell in ’70s regalia.

Consider the “Surrender” refrain:

Mommy’s all right, daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird/Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away

and the story about leaving a relationship that wasn’t working in “Free Bird,” that 70’s anthem requested as an encore at so many concerts:

But please don’t take it so badly/Cause Lord knows I’m to blame

But if I stayed here with you girl/Things just couldn’t be the same

Cause I’m as free as a bird now/And this bird you cannot change

Add Neil Young’s acoustic rendition of “Long May You Run,” and you’ve got a pitch perfect score for Conan’s last “Tonight Show.” Can’t embed video here, so click over here for a vintage rendition of “Surrender,” and to Hulu for the montage, and Conan’s last show.

For now, that is.

Studios changed tune when DVD sales plummeted

Posted in digital media, DVD, LAT, Netflix, recession, Redbox, rentals, studios by Diane on August 17, 2009

redboxPatrick Goldstein makes many good points about studios’ uphill quest to slow the resurgence of rental, and preserve their profit margins as DVD sales fade. The Napster parallels are very instructive. But I would disagree with him on several points:

1. DVD’s decline was not unexpected by studios, who have been trying to prepare for it for years. They knew that the product cycle for DVD was reaching its end, and did their best to nurture alternatives, first and foremost Blu-ray, but also Internet downloads and video-on-demand transactions.

2. Until the economy really took a dive, accelerating DVD’s sales decline, studios espoused the need for ubiquity, stressing that they would make their content available to consumers however they wanted. In fact they tended to state this as evidence how much they had learned from the misfortunes of the record biz.

3. With DVD sales down sharply, and kiosk companies like Redbox are exploding, certain studios are singing a different tune. It’s no coincidence that they are instituting these changes with the release of their biggest year-end releases. The fourth-quarter has always been a make or break period for home entertainment side of the biz.

“By trying to keep their product away from Redbox for as long as possible, the studios are doing what all businesses do when threatened by dramatic change — they’re trying to hang on to their business model for as long as possible,” Goldstein writes. But they delay at their own peril, he warns. Read the story.


Late night links: Julia, real-life ‘Basterds,’ the Ling sisters and Conde Nast cutbacks

Posted in books, LAT, movies, The Daily Beast by Diane on August 12, 2009

Julia really didn’t love Julie

What really bugged Julia Child about the blog project that became the basis of Nora Ephron’s movie? Russ Parsons attempts to explain in the LAT. The food journo, who was friendly with Child during her later years, says the chef seemed most unsettled by the fact Julie Powell did not approach her cooking with as much discipline as she did. Also a turn-off: Powell’s constant complaining. Child really was a plucky as she seems in the film.

Masters sets the story straight about real-life ‘Basterds’

Kim Masters tells the story of her father, a Jewish commando for the British Army during WWII, in a feature tying into the upcoming release of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” Guess what? Veterans have issues with the movie’s cartoonish violence. They hate “the premise that Jewish soldiers would hunt for scalps or bludgeon prisoners with a baseball bat,” Masters writes. “We killed people elegantly, without that sort of thing,” said Tony Firth, now 90, tells her.

Ling sisters collaborate on book project

Recently sprung journo Laura Ling and her sister Lisa are shopping a book about sisterhood and journalistic ideals, WSJ’s Speakeasy blog reports. This enables the sisters to pool their respective starpower – until Laura was imprisoned by the North Koreans, her sibling, a correspondent for “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” was far better known. It will also allow Laura Ling to broaden the story behind her captivity, and rescue, which, let’s face it, might not sustain an entire book.

Will New Yorker be spared during McKinsey’s blood-letting? Conde Nast spies whisper it is so

The N.Y. Observer checks in on the mood at Conde Nast and discovers a horrifying litany of cutbacks: No more expensing spa treatments! The bottled water is almost gone, never to be replenished! But the paper passes along reports that Si Newhouse has assured New Yorker editor David Remnick that his pub will be spared. Asked about the scuttlebutt, Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend sighed. “When Si and David speak at the lunch they have periodically, God knows what’s communicated between them.”


Hmm, guess there IS something to the trend…

Posted in Gawker, journalism trends, LAT, The Daily Beast, The Wrap by Diane on August 11, 2009

Other journalists have left high-profile papers for online gigs, but as so often is the case, the trend didn’t really resonate until it started hitting closer to home. There have been two high-profile entertainment journalism departures from the LAT in as many weeks. The latest: Kate Aurthur, who had been TV editor at the paper for the past few years, is headed to The Daily Beast, where she will be West Coast editor, working for former W mag editor Gabe Doppelt. Aurthur’s departure, broken on The Wrap, follows closely on the heels of Richard Rushfield, LAT online entertainment editor, who exited to become Gawker’s West Coast editor. Not for nothing, but Gawker’s managing editor is another W refugee, Gabriel Snyder, who previously worked at Variety, Us mag and the N.Y. Observer.


Fanboy alert: LAT interviews Cameron on ‘Avatar’

Posted in LAT, movies by Diane on August 10, 2009

avatarcropLAT Hero Complex blogger Geoff Boucher interviewed “Avatar” director James Cameron after watching 35 minutes of footage. Let’s just say he’s enthused. Part one of the interview can be found here.


LAT profiles animator Hayao Miyazaki

Posted in LAT, movies by Diane on August 10, 2009

“Ponyo” director reluctantly attend Comic-Con out of friendship with Disney animation honcho John Lasseter. LAT


Porn biz wilting under pressure

Posted in LAT, recession by Diane on August 10, 2009

Things were bad a year ago, but now adult biz is really reeling: It has been hit by double whammy of a sour economy and consumer gravitation away from DVDs to free online porn. Why even the makeup artists are feeling the pinch, the LAT reports.

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Woodstock nostalgia train leaves the station

Posted in books, LAT, music, NYT by Diane on August 9, 2009

woodstocktixwoodstock1The NYT and LAT both devote considerable real estate to Woodstock ahead of the the concert’s 40th anni next weekend. Each paper weighs the muddy fest’s impact in lengthy features, but both feel surprisingly pro forma, perhaps because this ground has been so thoroughly covered before. The real juice comes elsewhere, most notably Gail Collins’ review of two Woodstock books. Collins does a good job evoking the fest — describing the ferocious smell of the Port-o-Sans, Wavy Gravy’s granola and dangers of eloctrocution. There’s good reason for this: She was at the fest. (So was counterpart Jon Pareles, but his account is strangely bloodless.) Also worth checking out: the L.A. Times’ photo essay. The NYT website features a photo gallery and reader snaps.

Photo: LAT


Read, he said

Posted in books, LAT by Diane on August 9, 2009

book_stacksLAT book editor David Ulin confesses he’s having a hard time settling down to read books, but argues that we need to immerse ourselves in them more than ever. “Contemplation is not only possible but necessary, especially in light of all the overload,” he writes. Reading is “a way to eclipse the boundaries, which is a form of giving up control,” he argues, and “in giving up control we somehow gain it, by being brought in contact with ourselves.”

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