Category: Wonky

Spin starts 140-character reviews; we write haikus in response

  Spin Magazine stars 140-character reviews

On Wednesday of this week, Spin senior editor Christopher Weingarten announced in an essay that the magazine would be embarking this year on 1,500 reviews written in 140-character chunklets approved by Twitter. I wish he’d chosen to honor the traditional Haiku form, which is at least lovely and historical, but alas, Weingarten, who popularized this trend with his 1000TimesYes project, also known as OperationKillMyself, chose to live in fear of the Fail Whale, which will never let you write as long as “Moby Dick.”

By the way, Weingarten stated that none of this means an end to the kind of criticism that can be read while consuming an entire cup of coffee, instead of one thimble –- not even a shot! -– of espresso. The magazine promises to post about 20 long form reviews a month on, where they started with Guided By Voices, who, coincidentally, know a thing or two about writing short songs but then stringing them together over a long course of time to make a giant pearly necklace of drunken fuzz-pop.

On the occasion of Spin’s audacious move, which signals either the death of music criticism or the advent of its leaner, quippier self, I’ve written some of my deepest thoughts and concerns about this turn toward Twit-Crit but in the traditional 5/7/5 haiku form because I’m not that into Twitter or its 140-character limit ( hey, follow my near-dead account here!).

The haiku format doesn't mean I’m not keeping an open mind about Spin’s mission. It's just that I once won a pair of Morrissey tickets in a haiku contest (true story) so this should be pretty fearsome. Here goes:



Spin will review “a

Lot of friggin' records,” like

Maybe your bad band?



“No more 80-word

Blurbs.” OK, but why is this

Way any better?



Twit-Crit will ping our

Minds like so many pennies

Raining on the roof



Some will write shortly

Others will take their sweet time

To still write same things.



I choose to believe

Criticism will never

Die, like – shiver – Korn.


Please let us know how you feel about these changes, or the beauty of haiku, in the comments. Extra points for writing in 5/7/5.


Jimmy Fallon takes on David Bowie and Tim Tebow

Black Sabbath was reportedly to play Coachella, but canceled

Critics' Notebook: At Coachella, a rebellious spirit

--Margaret Wappler

Photo: A snowy white egret, which has inspired many a haiku, as seen in The Japanese Garden in Van Nuys. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Musical improvising -- is it all in your brain?

Eric Is there a biological basis to a great sax solo?

Jonah Lehrer, a Wired editor and author of several populist-psychology books, recently recapped an intriguing new study by psychologists Darya Zabelina and Michael Robinson of North Dakota State University. The authors asked distinct groups of college students to imagine a day off from school or work, with one group’s day set in the present, and the other's set from the perspective of a 7-year-old, and then gave each some creative problem-solving tasks.

It turns out that the latter group displayed far more creative agility on the tests after envisioning a free day as a child without the strictures of adult expectations.

There’s a specific region of the brain -- the prefrontal cortex -- that grows as we mature and socialize, enabling more focused attention but also keeping more random or dissociated ideas in line. Lehrer speculates that this has particular ramifications for musicians who improvise -- skilled instrumentalists might actually have learned to ignore this part of the brain that self-edits creativity and spontaneity.

The history of music is full of people looking for ways to, well, alter their minds to become more inventive players. This research suggests they may have actually been onto something. But sorry, bands, you still can’t write off your cortex-killing bar tabs as a medical expense.

-- August Brown

Photo of Eric Dolphy by Francis Wolff / Mosaic Images / CORBIS

Who really benefits from intellectual property law? And who should?

Pirates One of my favorite economic policy bloggers, Matt Yglesias, started a kerfuffle the other day with a frighteningly commonplace point about the vain fight of creative producers against free content online, especially vis-a-vis music file-trading. In short, he proposed that in a perfect marketplace for music, 

"The price of a song ought to be equal to the marginal cost of distributing a new copy of a song. Which is to say that the marginal cost ought to be $0."

In a followup post on Wednesday, however, Yglesias took this point a step further. He argues that the entire infrastructure of intellectual property law is designed to bring the cost of all creative products down, eventually to zero, where it's best able to serve the most possible consumers; he cites the expiration date on the copyright of creative work as clear legal intent for all intellectual property to become free. He compares this to the reasoning behind expiration dates on patents for pharmaceuticals, so as to allow for cheaper generic drugs that improve lives for much less money while still providing a financial incentive to pursue new research.

This is a perniciously populist approach to how your information-market sausage gets made.

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