Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Times’

Dave Eggers and Forward to the Past

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 26, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Dave Eggers collects hyphens.


And then there’s


And, this past Friday, he reinforced one of them — prize-winner.

This time, it was the Los Angeles Times.

They honored Eggers at their Festival of Books with the  Innovators Award, which ‘recognizes the people and institutions that are doing cutting edge work to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future, whether in terms of new business models, new technologies or new applications of narrative art.”

The award goes on to say that:

“He is exactly the kind of person the Innovator’s Award is intended to honor: a forward thinker who is not afraid of print, but also not afraid to look ahead to the future, and who is drawing a new generation of writers and readers to the written word.”

The funny thing is that what Eggers is being honored for — being “a forward thinker” —is actually less about forward thinking and more about mixing a commitment to the past with real business smarts.

It’s as the award says, his “refreshing disregard for conventional wisdom” that makes Eggers so important.

Because, while you have people like Michael Wolff who makes money stealing content from newspapers and then goes around predicting their death (here’s a story about one of his predictions of doom; I won’t link to his site because I don’t want to give him any traffic — even typing his name causes pain) it’s very refreshing to have Eggers.

In their coverage of the awards ceremony, the LA Times quotes Eggers offering what could be seen as a rebuke to Wolff.

“It’s the best time in the history of the printed word to be a publisher or a writer,” he said. “People want to declare the death of the printed word. It’s always our tendency to assume something is dying. It’s a fun thing to do, but it doesn’t always make sense.”

In the article, Eggers offers up part of his philosophy as a publisher.

“I’m actually quite a traditionalist,” he says. “We’re trying to make the business model rational, scalable, reasonable.”

And that really may be the key — not every media outlet has to be everything to everybody. You don’t need to own a chain of papers, or a baseball team, or television stations and real estate holding; to be a successful publisher, maybe you just need to keep things in perspective.

As Eggers told The Onion’s AV Club earlier this year:

“The paper-based media really has to work within a rational scale, and if they do, they’ll be fine. There’s plenty of room, people really care, there are magazines that people will fight to hold onto. You might not be able to operate your own LearJet and have an unlimited expense account, but if you have a reasonable expectation for a print-based product, whether it’s a newspaper or a magazine, you can certainly exist.

“Your readers will make sure you exist.”


Why People Read Playboy for the Articles

In Crime, Politics on December 21, 2009 at 8:41 am

Aram Roston is a hell of a reporter.

Remember around the holidays in 2003 when the country’s threat condition went to Orange and flights from over overseas were suddenly being canceled and the government was warning of imminent attacks?

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced that:

“The US intelligence community has received a substantial increase in the volume of threat-related intelligence reports. These credible sources suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland around the holiday season and beyond.”

In his recent book, The Test of Our Times, America Under Siege, Ridge elaborated, writing:

“We had been monitoring a unique source of intelligence and communication that appeared to identify specific flights originating from Great Britain, France and Mexico that were either targets or carried terrorists.”

Well, in the new issue of Playboy, Roston — in an article: The Man Who Conned the Pentagon — carefully demonstrates that that pretty much was not the case.

What the US had received was, the “unique source of intelligence” that they were monitoring, was a substantial increase of lies from a man named Dennis Montgomery.

Montgomery claimed to have developed computer software that broke a secret code that had been embedded in Al Jazeera broadcasts, telling terrorists where and when to strike next.

In hindsight — if it had been true — it would have been like when Jeff Goldblum broke the alien code in Independence Day.

[huluvid id=”RkuZp_m1GS_Cr8XqBjNO9g”]

Roston demonstrates that, unfortunately for taxpayers, the only code that Montgomery seemed to have cracked was the one that allowed him to bilk the US Government (aka taxpayers) out of millions of dollars as well as disrupt travel plans for countless people, all while allowing the government to scare the heck out of its citizens.

“We were told that, like magic, these guys were able to exploit this Al Jazeera stuff and come up with bar codes, and these bar codes translated to numbers and letters that gave them target locations.” Roston quotes a counterterrorism official saying. “I thought it was total bullshit.”

Unfortunately, he was in the minority.

Writing about Montgomery is not Roston’s first experience writing about the role of questionable intelligence during the War on Terror.

He is also the author of  The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures and Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi, which, in the words of Congressional Quarterly, is a “fascinating study of how the oleaginous former Iraqi exile leader separated the CIA and the Pentagon from hundreds of millions of dollars and conned credulous officials and reporters.”

And no discussion of questionable intelligence leading to action would be complete without referencing Curveball, the primary source for prewar intelligence that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons.

As Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times repeatedly demonstrated in articles and a book, Curveball’s information was inaccurate at best and fabricated at worst.

Drogin, in one story, quotes an intelligence official who dealt with Curveball describing him as “not a stable, psychologically stable guy.He is not a completely norman person.”

Anyway, I’m not saying you need to go out and buy Playboy but click on the link, read Aram’s story and maybe have some Dramamine on hand as your head spins around trying to figure out how the government could have been quite so gullible.

It makes you wonder what would have happened if the White House under the previous administration had received an email from someone who purported to be an African prince and needed their help getting his money safely out of the country.

All he needs is their bank account information and maybe their Social Security number…