Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
I just got tagged in a new meme by the ever-adorable Ami Angelwings. This is how she describes it:
It's the "of the decade" meme! Basically come up with 3 categories and who you think wins that category! Be creative!
Like what I mean isn't just "best comic book of the decade"... like "best moustache of an comic creator of the decade" or whatever.. it can be serious (best Asian male film character of the decade) or not or whatever.. it doesn't have to be about comics, or games or whatever.. it can be about nething (worst hair of a world leader, weirdest food trend... etc etc)
and tag 3-5 other ppl! And then they come up with 3 categories.. etc :] The main part is to be creative!
Full Disclosure: The learned judges at Ami Central named me “Best Comics Blogger.. hell... Blogger period.. forget that.. WRITER.. named Rob Staeger this decade.” It’s a big honor, and I’m sure as hell going to try to live up to it next decade. This one, I fear I very nearly got elbowed out by my evil twin in Chicago. But as they say in A Christmas Story, it’s A Major Award, and it’s going right on the windowsill where everyone can see it!
I’m going to use blogger’s prerogative to supply more than three, since I’ve got a few serious ones at the end, and I don’t wanna lead with them.
Comics Artist of the Decade: Darwyn Cooke. Here, I will brook no argument. Brooke Shields, if you’re reading this, I know you’re a big Paul Pope fan, but with all due respect, Brooking. No. Argument.
(Actually, I listed a few other comics pics on one of Ami’s earlier posts, so you can read them there.)
Christmas Movie of the Decade: Bad Santa. All the best Christmas stories are Scrooge stories, and Thornton plays the Grinchiest Scrooge of all.
Horror Imagery of the Decade: The creeping vines in Scott Smith’s novel, The Ruins. When we finally got rid of that hideous wallpaper in the dining room, it was one of the many reasons I breathed a sigh of relief.
TV Show of the Decade: Arrested Development. Every episode was a little joyous ball of wrong.
Vampire of the Decade: Shane McAllister, from Jeri Smith-Ready’s WVMP novels. Not only do her vamps have a great gimmick—they’re stuck in the time they “died,” but being late-night oldies-era deejays can keep their minds from deteriorating until they become true monsters—but Shane is that rare romantic-lead vamp who doesn’t make me want to throw a chair. Instead, through the magic of seeing a friend’s creation grow and take life, he makes me want to write. Which is important as hell. Thanks for that, Jeri.
Trend of the Decade: Friendship.
It’s easy to make friends in school. You’ve got peers all around you, and while you’ll never get along with everyone, chances are you’ll find a core group, or even just one person, who gets you. That’s what I’ve found, anyway. Though all through elementary, high school and college, I also recognized I was pretty lucky, friendwise.
Just the same, I kinda thought I was through with making new friends to a large degree after my education stopped. There just weren’t the same opportunities to meet them in the working world. But you don’t always get what you expect. And I’ve managed to find and keep friends in each job I’ve had since the 90s: John & Steph from the newspaper, Mike & Lisa from the children’s crusade, and a whole bunch from the gun mags, including the Jims, Slaton, the Mikes, Shayna, Margaret & Justin. And more.
And then there are the friends who totally blindside you. Ami (remember Ami? The lady doling out awards?) is one; somehow we found each other in the blogosphere, and traded comments, then e-mails, and even had a chance to meet at a comic con last year in Philly. She’s someone I never would have met without this complex series of tubes connecting us, and the unlikelihood of our meeting makes every contact a little bit astonishing to me. Then there are all my friends at the Captain Comics site; I've only met a few of them in person (actually, just one), but I enjoy checking in with them every day; it's a great community, and it's been interesting in the past year to see them on facebook and twitter as well. What was once compartmentalized is extending through everything.
Two other friends, Don & Brenda, we met on a big group vacation. We’d be living with strangers and their kids for a week, along with two more families we knew. It could have been a disaster; instead, we were quickly thick as thieves. There’s a terrific musical by Jo Carol Pierce called Bad Girls Upset by the Truth. It’s got a line I try to remember when I go out into the world: “Friends are fine, but to have a truly interesting life, you must have strangers.” Every now and then, someone makes the switch from stranger to friend. And there’s nothing in the world better.
There are other friends, of course—some I’ve known since elementary school, and one (who I’ll be seeing tonight) I’ve known from even before then. And thanks to the internet, I’ve gotten back in touch with a number of them, and kept in better touch with others of the bunch, too distant to see as often as we’d like. But the Oughts were the decade that surprised me, by bringing me friends I never expected, whether in the office, online, or around a D&D table.
Rob-Centric Event of the Decade:
In June, 2001, in the town of Kinsale, Ireland, a smart, talented, funny, beautiful woman who should really know better made a dreadful mistake by agreeing to marry me. And then in April of 2003, she doubled down and said “I do.” No matter what else happened this decade, this event elevates the Oughts beyond compare.
In closing, the Nineties can Suck It.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
While I'm browsing around online, I'm listening to one of NPR's All Songs Considered podcasts: a concert by Ray Davies and a choir singing Kinks classics. All those voices singing "You Really Got Me"--it's quite a sound. It even seems Christmassy without having any tinsel in the lyrics.
And browsing through their archives, you can find concerts by Tom Waits, Iron & Wine, Arlo Guthrie, the Avett Brothers, Deer Tick, the Decemberists, Steve Earle, and even some artists I'm not obsessed with... but you might be. Great live music, all for free. Enjoy, fellow babies.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I'm on my last legs -- a combination of an early morning and some mid-afternoon bourbon, topped off with a possible oncoming cold -- so I'll just refer you to Chris Sims' awesome takedown of Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special:
"His act is based almost entirely on racism and homophobia delivered through a set of puppets, each of which is more pandering to his cracker-ass audience than the last, and whose lines are delivered by a ventriloquist who can't even be bothered to stop his lips from moving all the time."Seriously, read the whole thing.
Monday, December 21, 2009
The Riff blog at Mother Jones directed me to this post by Eric Grignol about the intersection of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and Batwoman's origin story, currently being serialized in Detective Comics 858-860 (issue 860 goes on sale on Wednesday). I've been reading comics for more than 30 years, and I'd say that this element of Kate Kane's past is probably the most realistic and human superhero origin story I've ever read. Which is especially impressive, given the character's clumsy rollout in 52 a few years ago; it makes me gladder than ever that Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams were able to take their time on this series. Not to be missed.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Tonight, weather permitting (and so far, it looks like it just might permit), we’ll be going to Glen Burtnik’s Xmas Xtravaganza, an annual Christmas concert Kathy & I have been going to since our second date back when the world was young. It’s a great time, which I’ve written about before, and promises to be one again.
It’s also the real kick-off of the Christmas spirit for me. I always enter late in the game, but this concert always warms me up in a way that’s just perfect. It makes me remember the True Meaning of Christmas, in all caps.
Now, my True Meaning of Christmas might not be the same as yours. For one thing, there’s a lot less Jesus in mine. No one knows when Jesus was actually born (although some astronomers claim is was June 17), but it’s fairly commonly agreed that the December 25 date is commemorative, rather than an actual anniversary. The date itself is arbitrary.
Except it’s not. Not here, anyway. We’re heading for the shortest day of the year, and we’re in for two or three months of cold and darkness. Snow and ice and nasty weather threaten to strike at any time, messing with our well-laid plans and isolating us from our friends and family. The beginning of December sees us staring down a meteorological crapquake, and the warmth of spring seems unimaginably distant.
So we need Christmas now. Whenever Jesus was born, and whatever he ultimately means, we need Christmas on December 25, to help us be brave enough to face the cold and dark. To give us some twinkling lights to see, and hearty songs to sing.
It’s time to make our own warmth. It’s time to gather with loved ones, and express how much they mean to you. It’s time to enjoy cookies and fruitcake and big honkin’ hams. It’s a good time for bourbon, it’s a good time for stout. And more than anything, it’s a good time to smile at a stranger, and wish them a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, whatever. It doesn’t matter what you wish for them: just make a wish. Maybe next year will be better than this one, and maybe it won’t. But we’ll all be going through it together, and there’s nothing wrong with huddling together for warmth.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Well, I didn't come anywhere close to getting my word count to where I wanted it to be in November. The combination of a magazine closing and a general malaise sank my writing in the gutter for the second half of the month. But I'm doing my best to bounce back in December, putting in some time every weekday. I want a novel--this novel--and the only way I'm going to get it is if I write it.
But I have to say, God is it awful sometimes.
Take today, for instance. I realized in writing yesterday's section that I missed out on a crucial action that anyone in my protagonist's situation would do. So I broke yesterday's section apart and wrote a scene in the middle where he does that thing--spending some time looking around for someone. Problem is, I knew he wasn't going to find who he was looking for--the plot demands a bigger entrance later on. So essentially, I was sending my character on a wild goose chase.
I can think of three ways that sort of scene gets handled in a finished book. 1) My protagonist succeeds in finding Character B -- which would pull apart later plot threads, but might wind up for the better. I won't know until this draft is done, if then. 2) My protagonist goes seeking Character B, but finds something else important... say, Item C. This is probably my favorite way to handle this, as long as I can keep it suspenseful. Problem is, I've got no idea what sort of item, fact, clue or trap C could be right now, and spending 1,000 words on a midnight stroll didn't quite get me there. Or 3) The scene winds up being cut, and only referred to so that the character and the author have covered the bases. It moves things along, at least.
Thing is, however it gets eventually handled, it won't be handled how I handled it this afternoon--by writing a thousand-word shaggy dog story that covers the bases in the longest lap possible. There's something in there... but I don't know what it is, or, at the moment, how to get it out.
Now, whatever my illusions are, I never expected to keep all the stuff I'm writing during this draft. But it still sucks to know that even as I'm writing--but also to know that if I don't write this part now, I won't be able to make my brain continue on to a point that might have a chance of surviving a revision.
Ah, well. As long as I'm moving in some direction, I can arbitrarily call if "forward," I guess.
Friday, December 11, 2009
So I dreamed that my friends from the ol’ gun mag and I were trying to kill each other. Specifically, Jim the Bastard and I were engaged in some sort of road-rally deathmatch down I-95. And somewhere in Maryland, I had to pull over to get more gas, and I made the mistake of sitting down where I thought I was safe.
Now, the Bastard and I were both wounded… it had been a hell of a fight up to that point. And at the time I thought I was safe, I knew Jim was a few miles behind me. So I sat down in the rest stop, and out of nowhere, Chicago Jerkface (another mag friend) sits down right behind me and bap. bap. bap. Shoots me in the back of the head, three times with a .22.
Which, under normal circumstances, would kill me. But it being a dream, all I could feel were these three bb-like bullets in the back of my head, right around where my skull meets my spine. I knew I didn’t have long... and I knew I couldn’t trust myself to drive, because I could black out and endanger people. (Yes… I didn’t want to hurt anyone during my Interstate Murder Race.)
I spotted a cab, and asked him where the nearest hospital was. He said “3.2 miles,” and I said, “Good, because I’ve been shot in the back of the head.”
So I got in the cab, and we got back onto I-95. And there were horrific, horrific accidents wherever I looked. And yet my cabbie was able to skirt them or run over them, and at one point actually plowed through the flaming wreckage of a school bus. At some point, the cab changed from a normal taxi to a three-wheeled ATV towing a yellow motorcycle-like thing with wings, which I rode. The ATV couldn’t fly, but the passenger area could get a few feet in the air to hop over bodies and such.
At this point, the cabbie says, “Where to?” and I say, “The hospital in 3.2 miles, remember? I’ve been shot in the head?”
Turns out we’ve been going the wrong direction. But he knows another hospital nearby. We take some back roads to get there, and I start to think going to this other hospital is probably a good idea, because the Bastard and Jerkface won’t look for me there – they’ll be going to the closer hospital to finish me off. By the time the cabbie pulls up to this new hospital, however, I notice my family and some of my friends clustered outside the emergency room. I stumble off the back of the cab and onto a gurney. My old buddy Jeff opens his wallet and pulls out enough money to pay the cabbie… at least a fifty, and some other bills. I look up at him as I’m being wheeled into the ER and say, “Thanks, man. I had no idea how I was gonna pay him. You saved my life.”
And then I woke up for a couple minutes, and then I went back to sleep and dreamed that my grandfather was finally being released from prison. So a big night for dreaming, all around.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
I found this link on my friend Geoff's Gay in Public blog: a calling tool which finds and connects you with your state senator, so you can tell them how you feel about marriage equality. I just called the office of my senator, Barbara Buono, and urged her to support S1967, which would legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey. With Christie on his way in as governor, Thursday's vote might be the last serious chance to pass this bill and get it approved for a few years. And people shouldn't have to wait that long to get married.
As for the Courage Campaign's calling tool, it's excellent. Before I called, I looked around, trying to find info on where Sen. Buono stood on the issue. I could have saved myself the trouble, since before placing the call, it a) confirmed that Sen. Buono is my district's senator, and b) told me that her position on the issue is "unknown." Hopefully, my call (and yours, and yours) will help convince her to take a stand for equality, on the right side of history. (I should also note that before the call connected with her office, there was a recording from the courage campaign with some brief coaching on how to approach the call. It's all easy as pie.)
So call today. And call tomorrow. Even if you're not gay, this is important. None of us are free until we all are free.
Update: The vote's been postponed. Fingers crossed.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Matt Taibbi takes a look at what makes a left-winger these days:
If you scratch the surface of “left” you’ll find that it has a lot more to do with attitudes and cultural markers relative to the bourgeois norm than it does to do with political beliefs, ideas about the role of government, taxes, and so on.Worth a read, simply for setting the definition as it stands into writing.
It’s much easier to figure out who’s “left” and who isn’t using cultural litmus tests than it is using position papers. What’s the left position on monetary policy? I have no idea. What’s the left’s position on American Idol? Easy: it rolls its eyes.
(Via Mark E.)
Friday, December 04, 2009
A video that comes to us from the year 3,000 A.D., as historians and archaeologists discuss the Beatles.
It reminds me of those old Grendel comics where Elvis's cape and belt were holy relics.
Humor doesn't always age well.
The style of presenting a gag changes, for one thing. Setups that are fresh and innovative when first presented can seem tired and lethargic when viewed after 40 years of other comics building, tweaking, and distorting that initial joke.
Other things, we're just not comfortable laughing about anymore. Tastes and sensitivities change, and while there are things we'll joke about today that would scandalize previous generations, it doesn't take a lot of digging to find jokes from the past that we'd find outrageous today (say, practically anything Frank Sinatra ever said onstage to Sammy Davis, Jr.).
But sometimes there are other problems, too.
Kathy & I were watching Woody Allen's 1969 film Take the Money and Run, which on the whole holds up really nicely. I'd never seen it before, and it's so light and silly that it just gallops along. Most of the Woody Allen comedies I'd seen were quirky, human-scale things, with the humor coming from character's insecurities and neuroses. This, though, was full of sight-gags and non-sequitur, like when Allen's character's girlfriend "makes him a home-cooked meal" while he's in prison: a hard-boiled egg that she presses through the screen that separates them in the prison visitation room, replicating those wire egg cutters somewhere in the back of a kitchen drawer in ever house.
But there's one moment that used to be funny, and simply wasn't any more. Allen's character (Virgil) is applying for a job at an insurance company, and just lying his way through the job interview, since as a lifelong thief, he doesn't have any job experience. (As an example of how bad his lies are, when he's asked what kind of an office he used to work in, he says "rectangular.") Further along in the interview, he has this exchange with the manager:
INTERVIEWER: Have you ever had any experience in running a high-speed digital electronic computer?At the time--the year I was born--"My aunt has one" was a ridiculous answer. It was the height of absurdity: What the hell would his aunt be doing with a high-speed digital electronic computer?
VIRGIL: (A short pause.) My aunt has one.
Now, of course, there's one in every home. That joke simply doesn't work anymore.
And when I realized that, I laughed so hard I had to pause the TV until I could catch my breath.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Newsweek just tweeted:
In 6 words, your thoughts on a Dick Cheney presidency. Send entries, along with your full name, city, and state, to email@example.com
Here's my entry:
Things would get so, so, so, so much worse.
I know that's not six, but I'm having trouble cutting it down.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
A little more on nostalgia.
One thing I noticed on my list is that some of the cultural touchstones of my generation—Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, particularly—aren’t on my list of nostalgia movies. And I really do love Raiders, and I really did love Star Wars. They’re great movies, and came out right at the perfect time for me, when I was 8-11. Pretty much zero hour for nostalgia.
I guess the difference is: They kept coming out. Empire followed Star Wars, and was even better… but then Jedi came out, and it was good… but also kind of a letdown. I was in high school rather than elementary school, and instead of a mind-blowing experience, I got a really good action movie. And then neither of the Raiders movies grabbed me the same way as the first. Partially because I was older, and probably also because it’s breakneck pace simply wasn’t as new to me. (And maybe they weren’t as good. It’s been years since I’ve seen Temple of Doom or Last Crusade, and I didn’t even bother with the one this summer.)
And Star Wars, of course, returned with awfulness, to an extent that I’m surprised how thoroughly it killed my interest even in the original movies. That shouldn’t happen, but it did. But I don’t think it’s so much the drop in quality that makes me less nostalgic for these properties. It’s that, well, they’re properties. They kept coming out and were a constant presence at the time when I was growing up and realizing that these movies weren’t just amazing flights of imagination, but also launching pads for toys and games and lunchboxes and happy meals. If there’s just been one movie of each, the phenomenon would have passed before I recognized it. But since they kept coming out, each new movie was born to someone growing more cynical about the whole process. I was hardly a hard-nosed cynic at 14, but I was aware enough to know that people wanted to sell me things.
I wonder if the sweet spot of Star Wars nostalgia isn’t maybe 6 years younger than me, where the kids would have seen the first two movies on VHS or in the theater rereleases, and then they were taken to see Jedi for the first time. Their minds would be blown, just like mine was with that first movie. And then they would have had fifteen years of nothing… the perfect soil for nostalgia to take root. But since I first saw Star Wars, one thing has been layered on top of another so many times that the original moment I could be nostalgic for is lost under layers and layers of extraneous stuff.
and by the time this comes out, who cares?
Strangely enough, I am still nostalgic for certain runs of comics I read as a kid: The Bates/Swan Superman of the 70s, the Bates/Novick Flash, the Levitz/Giffen Legion. I think, in their cases, there’s an opposite effect to a constant presence killing nostalgia. These books came out every month—so often, and with so much work produced, that I could be nostalgic for specific stories and runs without mixing it up with the properties themselves. I might not have noticed the departure of Irv Novick originally, but by the time Don Heck was drawing Flash a few years later, I knew my personal golden age on the title had passed... and later figured out when. And the Levitz run of Legion stood so high above what had come before that it was like comparing Star Wars to Solar Babies. It was incredible, world-expanding stuff. And even more important, it felt like it was mine.
Maybe that’s what nostalgia is. A sense of ownership of the material you love, and a true ownership of your own personal experience of reading/watching/listening to it. I remember hearing Styx’s “Too Much Time On My Hands” for the first time over the radio when my friend Tom slept over in 1979—the first time I ever listened to FM, top-40/rock radio. I’m not so nostalgic for that song, but man, do I remember that listen. That’s nostalgia.
We can’t own pop culture: it’s for everybody. It’s pop. But we can own our memories, and how these things touched us. I heard a story on the radio a while back about how when you remember an event that you’d forgotten for years, it’s much stronger and more precise—and more faithful to the truth of the event—than something you mull over every day. Which might be why Star Wars had progressively less hold on me when I got older and saw it in more and more contexts, and why Airplane—a movie I saw a lot in a specific time, and then not again for decades—hits me so much more strongly.
My favorite podcast, Filmspotting, recently offered up a Top 5 list of favorite “nostalgia” movies—movies that they, personally, felt nostalgic about. I’ve given it some thought, and come up with a list of my own. It’s tough to narrow it down to just five.
I figure it’s best to start with the runners-up. The most recent film on the list, The Breakfast Club was the first R-Rated movie I ever saw in the theater, and while I can’t say I know how well it speaks to high-schoolers today, I know that when I was in the theater watching that movie, I know that when I was watching it that first time (and every time thereafter) I was struck with one feeling: This gets us.
Then there’s the Jason & the Argonauts/Clash of the Titans twofer – movies I remember more for scenes than for the entire throughline. Jason seemed to be on every Thanksgiving or Christmas at my Aunt & Uncle’s house, and somehow there’d be a TV with it on that I could watch while other people were crowded around a football game. There is nothing more spectacular than that skeleton fight. As for Clash, it’s not so much for the movie itself (though the bow-wielding Medusa was terrifying), but instead the fact that my pal Jeff and I stayed up all night in a tent in his backyard so we could go back into his house at 3 a.m. to watch it on HBO.
Another cable classic was The Man With Bogart’s Face, a movie about a private eye (Bogie-lookalike Robert Sacchi) who loved old movies so much that he got plastic surgery to look like Humphey Bogart… and who, of course, gets involved with a Maltese Falcon-like mystery. I’d never even seen any Bogart movies at that point (I was probably 12 when it was in heavy rotation on Prism, the Philly-area pay-movie/sports station we subscribed to), but this light mystery drew me into the mystique completely. I found it on VHS a few years ago, and enjoyed watching it even as an adult. (The cable-overkill comedy Scavenger Hunt might be on this list, except I rented that a decade or so back, and good grief, it was bad.)
And one more cable classic: Airplane. Absurd humor for every angle. There’s a new gag with every line, and I ate it up, watching this movie again and again when I was a kid. I just picked it up on DVD, and really can’t wait until I’m in a silly enough mood to pop it in and relax.
Now onto the top 5:
History of the World, Part 1: I actually think Airplane is a better movie than this (though no doubt about it, History is screamingly funny). But I might have watched this every day for a year on my friend John’s VCR. And as I look for a job as a stand-up philospher, Bea Arthur’s words at the unemployment office ring truer than ever: “Oh, a Bullshit Artist! Did you bullshit today? Did you try to bullshit today?” Each and every day, Bea.
The Poseidon Adventure. High Drama on the High Seas – I probably know this movie better from the Mad Magazine parody (“The Poopsidedown Adventure”) than the movie itself, but boy did I watch it on its yearly TV rotation. There are certain movies that, when they came on TV, it was an event. The Poseidon Adventure was one, at least at our house.
The Wizard of Oz. This might be higher on the list, except it feels less personal, and more universal to me. It’s a great movie (and another TV event), but I realize there are scenes that are larger in my imagination than they were on screen. For instance, I can picture the Cowardly Lion jumping through a window in the palace in Emerald City: a slow-mo, head-on shot with green glass shards flying everywhere. No such shot exists; he just ducks off to the side. But in my head: Whoa. We’re talking Michael Bay effects, but with characters that I’ve known so long that they’re nestled in my heart.
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. This Steve Martin movie was the counterpoint to The Man with Bogart’s Face –at the very least, it’s part of what gave me my appreciation for old crime movies. It’s kind of crazy how a send-up of those movies was so accessible to a kid who’d never really seen them before, but the private eye tropes were all around our culture (including The Electric Company: Remember “Fargo North: Decoder”?) and the editing trickery (intercutting Martin with films of yesteryear) and the silly spy story really got to me. Plus: Cleaning Woman!?!?!?
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I’m not as candy-centric as my wife, but I know a wonderland when I see one. But the thing this movie gets so right (and so much so-called “children’s entertainment” gets wrong) is that it accentuates the sweet with a large dollop of bitter. Slugworth is terrifying, Wonka is worn down, cruel and defeated, and all the kids (save Charlie) are horrible brats. This gets to be my number one nostalgia movie in large part because it doesn’t seem nostalgic for childhood at all. It’s nostalgic for goodness, wherever it can find it, and knows it's scarce. But the film also shows that goodness sometimes can inspire goodness in others, even when they don’t expect it. It’s almost a Scrooge story, and it’s a surefooted delight.
So that’s my list. What are your nostalgia movies?
(Because I fascinate me: More here.)
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
One of these days I'm going to get around to posting some actual Rob-created content here again. Until then, check out Eric Burns-White's post on Websnark about the new media/old media divide. Here's a slice, but there's a lot more food for thought where this came from.
I don't know very many people who read a newspaper cover to cover, whether online or on paper. But a lot of people read articles that are germane to them right at that moment. Articles get linked on twitter or Livejournal. Google gathers these things together and points people at them when they're interested. And news sources that accept that they're a brief stopover on one's daily web journey get far more traffic than news sources that make a person jump through hoops to get the news. Bring money into the equation, and suddenly that readership drops by another order of magnitude or two. Robert Murdoch and those like him may assert the value of their goods, and equally assert that content must be paid for, but the only thing they can possibly do is make their content irrelevant to the broader world that's coming.
Let me repeat that.
The only thing paywalls or other direct monetization can do for newspapers or any other topical content is make it irrelevant to the world of the internet age.
Burns-White goes on to assert that convenience trumps all other characteristics of the content: quality, reliability, etc. On a level playing field, quality will out. But if there's even a little hurdle to cross before reaching it--even free registration--some other content filling the same niche will get the hits instead.
From experience, I know convenience affects my behavior. I read Krugman, Dowd, Herbert, and Rich all the time for a while at the New York Times' site. Then they erected a paywall, which lasted for a while, and I stopped. (For a little while, I went to a pirate site to read them, but that was too much hassle.) Now there's no longer a pay wall... and I read them occasionally. Usually when someone links to Herbert or Krugman, and Maureen Dowd, very rarely at all. Frank Rich is the only one of the bunch I seek out on my own.
I don't know what that says, really. Except that even some temporary inconvenience can break a consumer habit.