Paying the Piper

We’ve just closed a fantastic five-part film series hosted by Lance Mannion here at newcritics, some of the best live-blogging we’ve had since our launch 18 months ago – but it was also interrupted by a hacker-induced breakdown of the site’s infrastructure. And that reminded me that we needed to improve or perish, so we did. And now I’m asking for all good newcritics to come aid of our group blog with a small contribution against the costs of keeping the doors open. I won’t wear you out, but we occasionally need to fix the plumbing and we’ve moved to a much better server. And can you imagine life without Project Runway blogging, Mad Men blogging, Oscar blogging, two dozen Rolling Stones posts, assorted cultural festivals, theater reviews, and literary gabfests? I cannot! So please click on the sponsor link and do what you can to keep newcritics flying. Do it for culture!

And We’re Back…

Bonnie and Clyde

After an attack by “malware” hackers last week, newcritics looked more like Bonnie & Clyde’s bullet-sliced sedan than the functioning cultural colossus that it is has been over the past year and half. Well, the site’s back up, folks, and it seems like most of the data is intact. Finger crossed, of course. A huge note of thanks to a (thus far) silent newcritics supporter, WordPress expert Larry Aronson – a great man indeed who helped us with the scarred and riddled chassis, and got this thing running again (with an assist from Howard Greenstein). Let’s all thank Larry. And speaking of a hail of bullets, this thing’s running just in time for Lance’s cimematic shin-dig tomorrow night. Fingers crossed, of course.

The Yearling

Tonight, some of us will gather at the Paley Center for Media to celebrate the first year of this little cultural experiment we call newcritics. It’s going to be a great night, thanks to our host Ellen….er…the fabulous Ms. Peel! You know, on some level this blog feels like a gathering of superheroes in the League of Justice hall – sure some of us use our real names, but the pen names are better. Lance Mannion and Tony Alva – they could be 70s crime shows starring James Garner and Mike Connors. Blue Girl and the Self-Styled Siren are like characters out of a Dashiell Hammett novel. We’ve also got The Shamus, Viscount LaCarte, Neddie Jingo, Trickster and Gotham Gal – what powers go along with those virtual superhero constumes?

I love the names, and I love this community. It began very simply and a year later, it remains so.

You know, newcritics is non-influential. It is non-profitable. Indeed, by any standards of the day it is non-successful.

And yet a year on, we gather to revel (some in person, some virtually) in the minor media glory – but the sweet karmic profit – of this little blog. Continue reading

Editor’s Note: Updates and Blogathon Notes

I’m still laughing. Or perhaps cackling, chortling or guffawing. Engaged in mirth. And thanks to co-organizers M.A. Peel and Jason Chervokas, newcritics’ first-ever blogathon went off spectacularly last week. I’ve been under the weather, so this note is a bit late – but how great was that blogathon? Great, great posts from some many bloggers here and lots of wonderful links out in greater blogland. M.A. kept the round-up here. And please take another look at these epic posts – an impressive line-up: Continue reading

Half-Way to a Year: A Quick Editor’s Note

Six months ago, it was cold. So I downloaded WordPress and started this blog. And stayed inside. Time well-spent, I’d say – though it was just the smallest spark that provided a hint of hint of fuel for all the cultural combustion that has come this way since. I just keep the lights on here most of the time: the bloggers and commenters make this place live.

Yes, newcritics is six months old now, a blogging toddler learning to walk. Are you pleased with it? I am, certainly. The range of posts has been stunning. Sure, we trend a bit toward boomer tastes in music, we look backward for film greatness in lieu of the local multiplex, and we obsess over television shows that never saw the light of the 1980s. We write about obscure cartoonists, off-Broadway minutiae, and bands that never existed. Yet, somehow it works – or does it? I’m asking seriously: How can we make this better? Should we continue? Have you learned anything? Met anyone? Read a book you otherwise wouldn’t have read, downloaded a song you otherwise would have ignored, added a strange new title to your DVD list?

Does anyone notice the changing art in the header?

In six months, we’ve had 210 posts from 35 authors, inspiring more than 1,700 (real) comments. Those are the stats that matter. I’ve had the please of meeting many of the authors in person; others are virtual relationships. Yeah, it’s been a rich six months. So what’re you looking for, kid?

Our Little Month-Old

Just a month ago, newcritics hit the feed-stream as an experiment: could a few bloggers come together to write about culture without killing each other. The answer, a month in, is a Beatle-like yeah. Not the bouncy 1963 “yeah!” but more a 1969-style, slouching “yeah…” Followed by “man.” Which is perfect really, because this is a secondary outlet for most of the authors here – a hang-out, a back room. We’ve got no expectations really.

What’s really, though, is the new conversation we’ve started – 15 bloggers (so far), dozens of commenters, thousands of readers. I’ll give you the basic stats: 45 posts and 181 comments, within 22 categories. More than 11,000 sessions and 50,000 pages. Small stuff still, but I’m enjoying the ride. And really, what a great lineup of bloggers. Think about the output in on month, and the variety of posts. If this was a magazine, I’d buy it.

But it’s not – it’s a blog. So you’re in charge here, to the degree I can control it. Your ideas and suggestions are encouraged. Your comments power newcritics. Roxtar says newcritics is “Slick as snot on a glass doorknob, and as cool as the other side of the pillow.” Love it! But we’re only a month old. Can’t hardly walk yet. But we’re learning to crawl. Stay tuned.

This Anomalous Experiment

New Criticism was a movement among early 20th century writers and critics of English that argued a strict adherence to a series of absolute truths, the most important of which was that everything that can be known about a work of literature can be found in its published text. Almost a century later, technology and media distribution have changed the mean of the most important word in that description – “text.” These days, the text is never finished and it goes far beyond the written word. Further, criticism, once the province of a few well-educated, semi-cloistered academics, is now the work of the masses. Critics today must either wade into the crowd, or be left on a remote shore.

In this WordPress-powered “anomalous experiment” – TS Eliot’s description – we do not adopt the principles of close reading so favored by the New Critics of old. But there is one element of the namesake school that is the key to this group blog – ambiguity. Different critics see different books, films, television shows, music, poetry, performances in vastly different ways. Further, the best works about human life are far from absolute, even the most moralistic of tales. Here, many different voices explore iconoclastic reactions to media – and the rest of us react to those reactions. That’s the goal; we’ll see how it works out.

Continue reading