Monday, July 29, 2013

The Stories Behind Hollywood Studio Logos

(Posted by Alex, Neatorama Website, Dec 2008)

You see these opening logos every time you go to the movies, but have you ever wondered who is the boy on the moon in the DreamWorks logo? Or which mountain inspired the Paramount logo? Or who was the Columbia Torch Lady? Let's find out:

1. DreamWorks SKG: Boy on the Moon

In 1994, director Steven Spielberg, Disney studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, and record producer David Geffen (yes, they make the initial SKG on the bottom of the logo) got together to found a new studio called DreamWorks.  Spielberg wanted the logo for DreamWorks to be reminiscent of Hollywood's golden age. The logo was to be a computer generated image of a man on the moon, fishing, but Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Muren of Industrial Light and Magic, who has worked on many of Spielberg's films, suggested that a hand-painted logo might look better. Muren asked his friend, artist Robert Hunt to paint it.  Hunt also sent along an alternative version of the logo, which included a young boy on a crescent moon, fishing. Spielberg liked this version better, and the rest is history. Oh, and that boy? It was Hunt's son, William.  The DreamWorks logo that you see in the movies was made at ILM from paintings by Robert Hunt, in collaboration with Kaleidoscope Films (designers of the original storyboards), Dave Carson (director), and Clint Goldman (producer) at ILM.

2. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM): Leo The Lion

In 1924, studio publicist Howard Dietz designed the "Leo The Lion" logo for Samuel Goldwyn's Goldwyn Picture Corporation. He based it on the athletic team of his alma mater Columbia University, the Lions. When Goldwyn Pictures merged with Metro Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Pictures, the newly formed MGM retained the logo.  Since then, there have been five lions playing the role of "Leo The Lion". The first was Slats, who graced the openings of MGM's silent films from 1924 to 1928. The next lion, Jackie, was the first MGM lion whose roar was heard by the audience. Though the movies were silent, Jackie's famous growl-roar-growl sequence was played over the phonograph as the logo appeared on screen. He was also the first lion to appear in Technicolor in 1932.  The third lion and probably most famous was Tanner (though at the time Jackie was still used concurrently for MGM's black and white films). After a brief use of an unnamed (and very mane-y) fourth lion, MGM settled on Leo, which the studio has used since 1957.  The company motto "Ars Gratia Artis" means "Art for Art's Sake." (Sources: MGM Media Center | Wikipedia entry on "Leo The Lion")

3. 20th Century Fox: The Searchlight Logo

In 1935, Twentieth Century Pictures and Fox Film Company (back then mainly a theater-chain company) merged to create Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation (they later dropped the hyphen).  The original Twentieth Century Pictures logo was created in 1933 by famed landscape artist Emil Kosa, Jr. After the merger, Kosa simply replaced "Pictures, Inc." with "Fox" to make the current logo. Besides this logo, Kosa was also famous for his matte painting of the Statue of Liberty ruin at the end of the Planet of the Apes (1968) movie, and others.  Perhaps just as famous as the logo is the "20th Century Fanfare", composed by Alfred Newman, then musical director for United Artists.

4. Paramount: The Majestic Mountain
Paramount Pictures Corporation was founded in 1912 as Famous Players Film Company by Adolph Zukor, and the theater moguls the Frohman brothers, Daniel and Charles.  The Paramount "Majestic Mountain" logo was first drawn as a doodle by W.W. Hodkinson during a meeting with Zukor, based on the Ben Lomond Mountain from his childhood in Utah (the live action logo made later is probably Peru's Artesonraju). It is the oldest surviving Hollywood film logo.  The original logo has 24 stars, which symbolized Paramount's then 24 contracted movie stars (it's now 22 stars, though no one could tell me why they reduced the number of stars). The original matte painting has also been replaced with a computer generated mountain and stars.

5. Warner Bros.: The WB Shield

Warner Bros. (yes, that's legally "Bros." not "Brothers") was founded by four Jewish brothers who emigrated from Poland: Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner. Actually, those aren't the names that they were born with. Harry was born "Hirsz," Albert was "Aaron," Sam was "Szmul," and Jack was "Itzhak." Their original surname is also unknown - some people said that it is "Wonsal," “Wonskolaser" or even Eichelbaum, before it was changed to "Warner." (Sources: Doug Sinclair | Tody Nudo's Hollywood Legends)  In the beginning, Warner Bros. had trouble attracting top talents. In 1925, at the urging of Sam, Warner Bros. made the first feature-length "talking pictures" (When he heard of Sam's idea, Harry famously said "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"). That got the ball rolling for the studio and made Warner Bros. famous.  The Warner Bros. logo, the WB Shield, has actually gone many revisions. Jason Jones and Matt Williams of CLG Wiki have the details.

6. Columbia Pictures: The Torch Lady

Columbia Pictures was founded in 1919 by the brothers Harry and Jack Cohn, and Joe Brandt as Cohn-Brandt-Cohn Film Sales. Many of the studio's early productions were low-budget affairs, so it got nicknamed "Corned Beef and Cabbage." In 1924, the brothers Cohn bought out Brandt and renamed their studio Columbia Pictures Corporation in effort to improve its image.  The studio's logo is Columbia, the female personification of America. It was designed in 1924 and the identity of the "Torch Lady" model was never conclusively determined (though more than a dozen women had claimed to be "it.")  In her 1962 autobiography, Bette Davis claimed that Claudia Dell was the model, whereas in 1987 People Magazine named model and Columbia bit-actress Amelia Batchler as the girl. In 2001, the Chicago Sun-Times named a local woman who worked as an extra at Columbia named Jane Bartholomew as the model. Given how the logo has changed over the years, it may just be that all three were right!  The current Torch Lady logo was designed in 1993 by Michael J. Deas, who was commissioned by Sony Pictures Entertainment to return the lady to her "classic" look.  Though people thought that actress Annette Bening was the model, it was actually a Louisiana homemaker and muralist named Jenny Joseph that modeled the Torch Lady for Deas. Rather than use her face, however, Deas drew a composite face made from several computer-generated features (Source: Roger Ebert)

Presidential Dollars

Coin Of The Commanders In Chief Unveiled
(By Barbara Hagenbaugh, USA Today)
Can George be successful where Sacagawea and Susan failed?  The U.S. Mint is unveiling designs for its newest additions: dollar coins that will feature deceased presidents on a rotating basis, similar to the popular state quarters.  The coins will enter circulation with George Washington on Feb. 15, four days before President's Day, and will be gold in color like the Sacagawea to distinguish them from other coins. Like the Sacagawea, they will be slightly larger than the quarter.  While the presidential coins are expected to be popular with collectors, it's doubtful they will be used by consumers and businesses on a daily basis, some experts argue. Instead, with dollar bills still an easy alternative, they likely are doomed as a means of commerce, as Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea before them, says David Sklow, a numismatic expert and former director of the library and research center at the American Numismatic Association.  "I hope it does get accepted, but I wouldn't hold my breath," he says. "Americans do not like dollar coins, they just don't. You want to carry three or four of these around? If you are a man (and carry money in your pocket), I don't think so."

A dollar coin hasn't widely circulated for more than 70 years, when the silver Peace Dollar was in use.  David Didriksen, owner of Willow Books & Cafe in Acton, Mass., says there's a reason for that. Dollar coins are often miscounted by customers, store clerks and banks, he says. He hopes people don't use them.  "As it is now, a typical trip to a bank involves carrying a bag of 20 or 30 pounds or more," he says. "The last thing we need now is more coins."  But many people, including Mint Director Edmund Moy and the lawmakers who sponsored the legislation to create the presidential dollar coins, beg to differ. They argue that the state quarter program has set the stage for acceptance and use of a dollar coin.  "We have an opportunity to build on the success of the state quarter program," says Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H.  Greater use of dollar coins instead of bills would save the government hundreds of millions of dollars each year, even though the coins are more expensive to produce. That's mainly because coins last for about 30 years, more than 16 times longer than dollar bills.  The Federal Reserve estimated in 1995 that replacing dollar bills with coins would save $500 million a year. The savings would likely be much bigger today, because the number of $1 bills in circulation has risen 40% in the past decade. More than a third of U.S. circulating currency is dollar bills, according to the Fed.  Dollar coins "cost a lot less in the long haul," says U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral. 

Studies, including those from the Government Accountability Office suggest consumers will embrace dollar coins only if dollar bills are pulled from circulation.  But the idea of replacing the dollar bill with coins has met stiff resistance from lawmakers, printing unions and paper manufacturers.  The public has also opposed eliminating $1 bills. In a USA TODAY/Gallup survey of 1,002 adults conducted Oct. 20-22, more than half said it was a "good idea" that the Mint was introducing presidential dollar coins.  But when asked their opinions on replacing dollar bills entirely, 79% said they would oppose such a move. Even when told that replacing bills with coins would save the government $500 million a year, 69% said they still opposed making such a change.  "Five dollars of coins weighs a lot more than five dollars of bills.", says retiree Ellen Barlow, 74, of Culbertson, Neb.  Other countries have done away with their low-denomination bills. Canada has replaced its one-dollar and two-dollar notes with coins, while in Europe, some euro coins have replaced bills.  Machine repairman Patrick Lawson, 35, of Cold Brook, N.Y., says he liked using coins for lower denominations when he was stationed in Germany in the military. It makes sense for the USA to get rid of the dollar bill and use coins instead, he says.

The last dollar coin to be introduced, featuring Sacagawea, a Native American interpreter and guide on the Lewis and Clark expedition, was largely a failure. Due to lack of demand, the Mint stopped making the Sacagaweas in 2002, a little more than two years after they were first introduced with much fanfare.  Demand has been so minimal that the Federal Reserve and the Mint as of June 30 had more than 200 million Sacagawea dollars in combined inventory, according to the Fed. That's enough to meet current demand for 31/2 years.  The Mint's Moy says that when he was nominated to be Mint director this summer, he went to five banks and asked for a Sacagawea. None had one.  The Mint spent more than $67 million to promote the Sacagawea coin from 1998 to 2001, according to the GAO. The money was used for marketing, advertising and partnerships with a variety of industries, including banking and retail. A float promoting the coins was in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1999, and they were featured on boxes of Cheerios cereal.  But despite the promotions, the public did not embrace Sacagawea.

"The Mint's new dollar coin marketing program raised public awareness of the new coin but did not produce long-tem increases in circulation," a 2002 GAO report said.  Instead, people had trouble finding the coins after the initial flurry, when they were handed out as change at Wal-Mart. Banks stopped ordering them, and they largely faded from view.  But supporters of the new dollar coins say this time, it's different.  That's because the new coins will rotate, introducing four new presidential dollars each year, starting in 2007. Plus, for the first time in more than 70 years, the coins will feature writing on the edge of the coin rather than just on the fronts and backs. The writing will be engraved, but will be detectable by touch.  Those two features, particularly the rotation of the coins, will lead to excitement about the money in a way that wasn't generated before, Moy says.  "Casual collectors will focus their attention on the dollar, just as they have with the 50-state quarter program," Moy says.  The presidential dollar coins come as the highly successful state quarter program nears completion in 2008. About 125 million people in the USA, or close to half the U.S. population, are collecting the state quarters, according to the American Numismatic Association.  The Littleton Coin Company has already sold thousands of specially designed folders with slots for the new dollar coins to collectors.


Few Remain As 1962 Fire Still Burns in Coal Town
(By Michael Rubinkam, AOL News website, Feb 5, 2010)
Standing before the wreckage of his bulldozed home, John Lokitis Jr. felt sick to his stomach, certain that a terrible mistake had been made.  He'd fought for years to stay in the house. It was one of the few left standing in the moonscape of Centralia, Pennsylvania, a once-proud coal town whose population fled an underground mine fire that began in 1962 and continues to burn to this day.  But the state had ordered Lokitis to vacate, leaving the fourth-generation Centralian little choice but to say goodbye -- to the house, and to what's left of the town he loved.  "I never had any desire to move," said Lokitis, 39. "It was my home."

After years of delay, state officials are now trying to complete the demolition of Centralia, a borough in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania that all but ceased to exist in the 1980s after the mine fire spread beneath homes and businesses, threatening residents with poisonous gases and dangerous sinkholes.  More than 1,000 people moved out, and 500 structures were razed under a $42 million federal relocation program.

But dozens of holdouts, Lokitis included, refused to go -- even after their houses were seized through eminent domain in the early 1990s. They said the fire posed little danger to their part of town, accused government officials and mining companies of a plot to grab the mineral rights and vowed to stay put. State and local officials had little stomach to oust the diehards, who squatted tax- and rent-free in houses they no longer owned.  Steve Fishman, attorney for the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said "benign neglect" on the part of state and local officials allowed the residents to stay for so long.

No more.  Fishman told The Associated Press that the state is moving as quickly as possible to take possession of the remaining homes and get them knocked down.  "Everyone agreed that we needed to move this along," he said.  In 2006, 16 properties were left standing. A year ago, the town was down to 11. Now there are five houses occupied with fewer than a dozen holdouts.  Centralia appears to be entering its final days.  The remaining holdouts, weary after decades of media scrutiny, rarely give interviews. But the town's 86-year-old mayor, Carl Womer, said he doubts he'll have to go. Indeed, Lokitis and others believe that elderly residents will be allowed to live out their final years in Centralia- even after a Columbia County judge decides next month how much they should be paid for their homes.  "Nothing's happened. We're still here," Womer said. His wife, Helen, who died in 2001, was an implacable foe of relocation. "No one's told us to move."

Like Womer, resident John Lokitis Sr., 68, father of Lokitis Jr., was polite but short. "Why worry about it? When it comes, it comes. I don't give a rat's ass," he said, shutting the door.  Those who remain in Centralia like to keep up appearances. In mid-January, Christmas decorations still adorned the street lamps, a large manger scene occupied a corner of the main intersection, and a 2010 calendar hung in the empty borough building. But the holdouts are fighting a losing battle. The building's wooden facade is in dire need of a paint job; in the Odd Fellows Cemetery, vandals recently knocked over dozens of tombstones. Nature has reclaimed parts of the town.

In reality, Centralia is already a memory -- an intact street grid with hardly anything on it. All the familiar places that define a town -- churches, businesses, schools, homes -- are long gone.  A hand-lettered sign tacked to a tree near Womer's home directs tourists to a rocky outcropping off the main street where opaque clouds of steam rise from the ground.  "It was a real community, and people loved the place," said author and journalist Dave DeKok, who has been writing about Centralia for 30 years and recently published "Fire Underground," an updated version of his 1986 book on the town. "People lived their entire lives in that town and would have been quite happy to get rid of the mine fire and keep on living there."  With swifter action, DeKok said, that might have been Centralia's destiny.

The fire began at the town dump and ignited an exposed coal vein. It could have been extinguished for thousands of dollars then, but a series of bureaucratic half-measures and a lack of funding allowed the fire to grow into a voracious monster -- feeding on millions of tons of slow-burning anthracite coal in the abandoned network of mines beneath the town.  At first, most Centralians ignored the fire. Some denied its existence, choosing to disregard the threat.

That changed in the 1970s, when carbon monoxide began entering homes and sickening people. The beginning of the end came in 1981, when a cave-in sucked a 12-year-old boy into a hot, gaseous void, nearly killing him. The town divided into two warring camps, one in favor of relocation and one opposed.  Finally, in 1983, the federal government appropriated $42 million to acquire and demolish every building in Centralia. Nearly everyone participated in the voluntary buyouts; by 1990, Census figures showed only 63 people remaining.

Two years later, Gov. Robert Casey decided to shut the town, saying the fire had become too dangerous. The holdouts fought condemnation, blocking appraisers from entering their homes. The legal process eventually ground to a halt.  Until recently, Lokitis Jr., who works a civilian job with the state police in Harrisburg, had been one of Centralia's most vocal defenders, starring in a 2007 documentary on Centralia. He expressed hope that it could stage a comeback, claiming the fire had gone out or moved away.  State officials say the fire continues to burn uncontrolled and could for hundreds of years, until it runs out of fuel. One of their biggest concerns is the danger to tourists who often cluster around steam vents on unstable ground.

While Lokitis felt he was in no danger, he had little recourse than to move from his late grandfather's two-story row home on West Park Street when an order to vacate arrived, one of two such notices sent last year.  Now living a few miles away, he tacked a sign on the front porch of the old homestead. "REQUIESCAT IN PACE" -- rest in peace, it said. "SORRY POP."  He couldn't bear to watch the home get knocked down a few weeks before Christmas. But he couldn't stay away, either, going back after the wrecking crew had finished its work.  "It was part of my life for all 39 years, that house," he said. "It was difficult to leave it and difficult to see it demolished."  Difficult, too, to give up his dream of Centralia's rebirth.  "I'd always hoped the town would come back and be rebuilt," Lokitis said, "but I guess that's never going to happen."

Virginia's Crooked Road

Virginia's Crooked Road: A Warm Welcome to Mountain Music
(By Melanie D.G. Kaplan, Washington Post, October 4, 2009)

I arrive at the Marathon gas station in Stuart, Va., just above the North Carolina border, to find a man eating beans out of a can and a collection of animal heads peering down at an understocked convenience store. I am at my first stop on the Crooked Road: Virginia's Music Heritage Trail - a 250-mile path of music venues in the Blue Ridge and Appalachian regions of southwestern Virginia - and I don't see anything that resembles the jam session I expected.  But soon, a 70-year-old man named G.C., a third-generation musician from town, brings his guitar over to the picnic table outside the store. Then a fiddle shows up, followed by a banjo. One by one, gray-haired men climb out of pickup trucks with their instruments and amble over to the patio, home of the Thursday night State Line Grocery Jam Session. And by the time I leave, two hours later, I've fallen under the spell of mountain music.

It's not the first time. Last year, I joined a friend for my first bluegrass concerts in Washington and was drawn to the music so suddenly that I had barely learned which instrument was the mandolin before I'd bought one. Now, after six months of lessons and calloused fingers, I am bravely, naively joining the Thursday night crew in a corner of Virginia where it seems that everyone plays a "git-tar" or fiddle, and plays it well.

"There's music everywhere here," says Joe Wilson, one of the architects of the Crooked Road, which was established in 2004 to support tourism and economic development in one of Appalachia's distressed areas. Wilson is a folklorist and the longtime director and current chairman of the National Council for the Traditional Arts. Earlier this month, he received a Living Legend award from the Library of Congress. "Americans don't know diddly about their music," he says. Traditional American mountain music came about when the African banjo and European fiddle met in Virginia, he explains. "Appalachian music has been the most accepting music -- whoever you are and wherever you are, you're welcome to play it. It's the sound; it has a joy to it. It's working-folk music."

It's also infectious. Even though I can't keep up with the State Line crew (I should have practiced a few years longer), I want to sit here all night, next to G.C., singing from his songbook, and the banjo player, simultaneously pickin', smokin' and drinkin' coffee. I am in the company of folks who make good music with less effort than they make simple conversation. For them, it's just another Thursday evening, doing what they do. But for me, it's the beginning of a whirlwind trip exploring 188 miles of the Crooked Road and listening to some mighty fine tunes.

The Crooked Road mostly follows Route 58, the longest roadway in the state; this part of it is a two-lane mountain route that passes idyllic farms, moseying cows, sparkling rivers. The trail covers 10 counties, three cities and 19 towns, including Floyd, Galax, Damascus, Abingdon and Bristol along the North Carolina and Tennessee borders, then Norton and Clintwood bordering Kentucky. In every spot, nearly every day of the week, you're bound to find a concert, a festival, a square dance or a jam. Take it slow, and keep both hands on the wheel. The route looks like an intestine on my GPS device, and, as a local says, "The roads are so curvy, you can almost see your taillights 'round the bends." As I leave the jam Thursday night, after 9, G.C. gives me a stern warning about deer on my hour-long mountain drive to a B&B in Floyd. "They'll jump outta nowhere, right in front of your car," he says. "Be careful."

Friday night in Floyd (home to Floyd County's one stoplight), there's no question that I'm in the right spot for music. I show up early at the Floyd Country Store for the Friday Night Jamboree. The store, celebrating its centennial next year, sells everything from Carhartt overalls to sweet potato biscuit mix and still records sales in a steno notebook. The show is held in the back of the store, but when the weather's nice, pockets of music (and some nights, as many as 1,000 people) spill out onto the street. An hour before the first band, always gospel, I find seats saved, some with tap shoes.

Woody Crenshaw, the store's owner, welcomes everyone. "We have two gallons of blueberries picked in Floyd County this week, and we're making fresh blueberry milkshakes!" he announces. After gospel hour, another band takes the stage, and flat-foot dancing, which looks a lot like Irish dance, begins. The crowd is largely "down-home folk," old-time regulars who come every week. But there are also Floyd transplants who have moved here recently for the music and the farming, a handful of students from nearby Virginia Tech and visitors from as far away as Denver and Edinburgh, Scotland.

The next morning, one of Miracle Farm Bed and Breakfast's owners brings breakfast to my cottage door, featuring pears, rhubarb, cape gooseberries, tomatoes and eggs, all from the farm. I set off with my beagle and mandolin traveling west on Route 58, stopping at several towns along the way. My radio's tuned to WBRF (98.1 FM), which plays bluegrass and old country: Merle Haggard, the Stanley Brothers, George Jones. The DJ reads an advertisement for a chain-saw company.

The region boasts a high concentration of luthiers, or stringed-instrument makers. So I stop in Galax, home of the Old Fiddler's Convention, to see one of the best: Jimmy Edmunds. He learned the trade from his dad years ago and recently opened a shop in his wife's garden center. He shows me pieces of guitars in production and one he is making for Kenny Rogers's guitarist. He says he makes about 25 instruments a year and has 100 on order. I tell him where I'm headed, west into the mountains, and he says it's "a few hours and a couple brake pads" away.

That night, I take the Crooked Road past Bristol into the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as Hiltons, Va. It's home to Clinch Mountain and the Carter Family Fold, a large, rustic theater that hosts weekly acoustic-only concerts in the tradition of the original Carter family. At that evening's concert, which is dog-friendly, the concession stand sells dollar sodas and ham biscuits, and folks in the audience trade cowboy boots for dance shoes.

The bluegrass band is terrific, but I'm equally taken by everyone offstage and the friendliness one can encounter in the middle of nowhere. The ticket lady shows me pictures of her dogs, I chat with a few couples I'd seen in Floyd the night before, I get smiles from a little girl dancing with her grandfather, and a volunteer takes time to fill me in, at length, on Carter family history (and lets me sit in a rocking chair that belonged to Johnny Cash, who played his last concert here). Maybe the mountain air is clouding my senses, but I feel as if in no time at all I've been folded into the Crooked Road family. As I head back to my car and mandolin, I pass the volunteer. "It was nice talkin' to you," he says. "Now watch out for the deer."

Drive Time : 11 hours over 3 days; Cost:  $540 (Transportation: $95, lodging: $370, meals: $75)

Getting There:

The easternmost stop on the Crooked Road, Rocky Mount, Va., is about 270 miles from the Beltway. Take Interstate 66 west to I-81 south. Merge onto US-220 south at Exit 143. Follow 220 to Rocky Mount.
Where To Stay:

Miracle Farm Bed and Breakfast Spa & Resort, 179 Ida Rose Lane, Floyd, 540-789-2214, Full vegetarian breakfast with farm-grown ingredients brought to your door. Pet-friendly. Cottages with kitchenette start at $115.

New River Lodging, 307 Stockyard Rd., Galax, 276-236-4022, Adorable cabins (with names like Chance for Romance) stocked with jacuzzis, gas log fireplaces and gas grills. Rates start at $130 on weekends.
Where To Eat & Drink:

Over the Moon Gallery & Cafe, 227 N. Locust St., Floyd, 540-745-4366, Wraps and sandwiches from $7.25. Live music Friday to Sunday.

Oddfella's Cantina, 110A N. Locust St., Floyd, 540-745-3463, Local and organic food, including "Appalachian Latino" tortilla wraps starting at $8. Live music most nights and some days. Reservations suggested on weekends.

Stringbean Coffee Shop & Shamrock Tea Room, 215 S. Main St., Galax, 276-236-0567, Good coffee and basics for cheap: $2 hot dog and $5.60 BLT. Jam sessions Tuesdays at 7 p.m., and live music Saturdays at 8 p.m.

Harvest Table Restaurant, Meadowview Town Square, Meadowview, 276-944-5142, Farm to fork at its finest. Lunch entrees start at $7; dinner $11.
What To Do:

State Line Grocery Jam Session, Patrick County, 276-694-6377, Session starts at 7 p.m.

Floyd Country Store, 206 S. Locust St., Floyd, 540-745-4563, Friday Night Jamboree features three bands, starting at 6:30 p.m., $4. Sunday Bluegrass/Mountain Music Jam at 2 p.m., free.

Blue Ridge Backroads Show, Live at the Rex Theater, 113 E. Grayson St., Galax, 276-238-8130, Fridays at 8 p.m., broadcast live on WBRF(98.1 FM). Admission is free, but donations are requested.

Leaf & String, 401 S. Main St., Galax, 276-236-7702,, Visit luthier Jimmy Edmunds's workshop and wife Debbie's garden shop. Test instruments, and if you're lucky, catch an impromptu jam in the store.

Carter Family Fold, AP Carter Highway, Hiltons, 276-386-6054, Family-oriented acoustic-only music shows (and Appalachian-style dancing) Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

For More Information:


How To Guard Your Identity

How To Guard Your Identity
(By Lynn Brenner, Parade Magazine)

These days, it seems you can’t turn on the news without hearing about yet another security breach exposing consumer information to identity thieves. Due to stunningly widespread corporate carelessness, the records of more than 46 million Americans were lost or stolen in the first half of 2005 alone. Clearly, it’s up to you to protect yourself. Here’s what you need to know.

What a Criminal Does

An identity thief doesn’t just steal your credit card and go on a spending spree. He gets new cards, opens new accounts and takes out new loans, leaving a trail of unpaid bills in your name. He can even use your identity to commit crimes or acts of terrorism, says Mari Frank, a California lawyer who was an identity theft victim and is now an authority on the crime. Most victims don’t find out what has happened until long afterward, when they’re called by a collection agency or turned down for a loan.  The thief may be someone you know. Linda Foley, a magazine writer, learned that her own employer had swiped her identity to open cell phone and credit card accounts. Foley and her husband are now the executive directors of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in San Diego. Sometimes the thief works for a company you do business with.  Bridget J. Thomas of Prairieville, La., learned that her identity had been stolen by a bank employee at a branch 300 miles from the one she used. “When she was caught, she was employed with a different bank, in a different state,” says Thomas. “And even after she was arrested, that didn’t stop the collection agencies from hounding me.”  Setting the record straight is a nightmare that can take years. In serious cases, victims spend an average of 600 hours and $1400 in out-of-pocket expenses to repair their credit. Until you can “prove” your innocence, you may face higher insurance rates and credit card fees, be rejected for a student loan or a mortgage, find you can’t get a job -even be arrested for crimes you didn’t commit.

Can This Happen To You?

All a thief needs is your Social Security number -which is routinely used by government agencies, health care providers, utility companies, employers and financial institutions. Even your video rental store has it. Often, this information is publicly available. That’s how retired Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, became a victim: His Social Security number, along with those of other military officers, was published in the Congressional Record and later posted on a Web site. In 1999, thieves used their identities to open 273 new credit card accounts and run up $200,000 in charges.  And all your personal information is now for sale by data brokers. In February, ChoicePoint, a huge data broker, revealed that it had unwittingly sold consumer Social Security numbers and credit reports to criminals posing as businessmen. That disclosure was mandated by a 2003 California law requiring consumer notification when data is compromised. (A weaker version of that law has been proposed at the federal level.) The same law has revealed shocking corporate irresponsibility: Bank of America, Time Warner, Wachovia, MCI and Ameritrade are among the household names that have admitted losing the personal data of more than 6 million customers and/or employees so far this year. MasterCard International disclosed that a hacker had stolen 40 million account numbers from a company that processes the transactions of MasterCard, Visa USA, American Express and Discover cardholders.
A New Form of Defense

You could stop ID thieves cold by freezing access to your credit file. The file becomes off-limits to anyone who doesn’t know the secret PIN number that you choose. The result: A person applying for credit in your name is rejected, because the lender can’t check your history to approve the application. (Your current credit cards aren’t affected.) And if you want to apply for new credit or let someone run a background check on you, you can get a credit thaw. Before shopping for a new car, for example, you might thaw your history for auto dealers.  Yet only 10 states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Louisiana, Texas, Vermont and Washington —let consumers block access to their credit files. The three big credit bureaus each charge about $10 for a freeze and $10 for a thaw. So true protection costs about $60 if you opt for one thaw a year, says Linda Foley. By contrast, credit monitoring costs around $100 a year and only tells you after the fact that you’ve been robbed.  Congress is considering a law to allow credit freezes nationwide, but banks, mortgage brokers and retailers strongly oppose giving consumers this option. “The biggest opponents are the credit bureaus,” says Mari Frank. “They make a fortune selling access to your credit report.” These firms are lobbying for a weak federal law, which would supersede tough state laws. They argue that a credit freeze hurts the consumer by eliminating the convenience of instant credit. True, it can take up to three days to thaw your credit file. “But how often do you buy a car or apply for a mortgage?” says Foley. You should get to decide whether to limit access to your own data, she adds. If you agree, tell your Senators and Representative. At www.senate .gov or you’ll find their names and contact information.

What You Can Do Now

Periodically check your credit report for suspicious activity. All Americans are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. By requesting a report every four months, you can keep free tabs on your record year-round, instead of paying for credit monitoring. (Go to credit for more info.)  Buy online with credit, not debit, cards. With a credit card, your maximum liability for unauthorized purchases is $50.  Don’t respond to a ‘phishing’ e-mail. It looks just like a message from a company you do business with and often warns that your account will be terminated if you don’t “update” or “verify” your financial information within 24 hours. Don’t click on links in this e-mail! To check it out, type in the firm’s Web address yourself or call the company.

If You’re a Victim...

Act fast - and brace yourself. You may face uncooperative credit and law enforcement agencies. For emotional support and sound advice, rely on organizations like ITRC (at and books like Mari Frank’s From Victim to Victor: A Step by Step Guide for Ending the Nightmare of Identity Theft, which lists the agencies to call for help and provides all the legal letters you need to send.  Call Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to put a fraud alert on your credit reports. The alert lasts up to 90 days and requires creditors to call you before opening new accounts in your name. But be warned: There’s no legal requirement to honor alerts; merchants eager to make sales often ignore them.  Close your credit card accounts and change the passwords on all your financial accounts.  File a police report. Credit bureaus won’t extend a fraud alert without it. Unfortunately, says Frank, local police are often reluctant to provide a report. Many lack the resources to investigate the crime.  Mail copies of the police report to all three credit agencies with a cover letter demanding your complete credit file.  Call every creditor with a bogus account listed in your file and have them close it immediately. Demand copies of all fraudulent applications for credit and billing statements, advises Frank. Creditors don’t want to divulge that information - but they will if you request it in writing and enclose a copy of a police report.

Safety Measures

Stolen wallets and checkbooks remain the most frequent sources of ID theft.  Avoid carrying your checkbook or your Social Security card.  Photocopy your card and cut out all but the last four digits. Government agencies and companies should be required to X out all but the last four numbers too, says victims’ advocate Linda Foley.  Never give out your Social Security number without first asking, “What happens if I don't give it?” Most of the time, the answer is, “Nothing.”  Don’t use your mother’s real maiden name or your real city of birth as identifiers, advises Foley. Use made-up names (City of birth: Atlantis.) But never make up a Social Security number!  That creates a problem for someone else.  Try to add passwords to online and offline accounts, so that anyone who calls your bank or mutual fund needs more than your name, address and Social Security number to impersonate you.  Make sure your mail is delivered to a locked box.  Buy a cross-cut shredder and destroy all unsolicited pre-approved credit offers and blank “courtesy” checks.

The Social History Of The MP3

(By Eric Harvey,, posted August 24, 2009)

Considering all the new music we have to sort through so far in the 21st century, we've sure been focusing an awful lot lately on two of the biggest stars of the 20th. Decades after their respective popular peaks, recent events reminded us, neither the Beatles nor Michael Jackson have loosened their grip on our imagination. Yet one particular thing I noticed amidst the nostalgia surrounding the latest (and likely last) Beatles CD reissues, and Jackson's sudden passing was a sense of resignation that the eras within which both stars emerged seem highly unlikely to happen again. The Beatles, in 1963-64 and 1967, and Michael Jackson in 1983-4 arguably represented for pop music what World Cups, the Olympics, and Super Bowls do for sports, and what blockbuster summer hits do for movies: the ability to command everyone's attention at once.

The latest chapters of these two long-running pop narratives not only celebrated their art and pop-culture impact, but also-- with MJ posthumously topping the Billboard charts and millions preparing to shell out again for new copies of Revolver and more-- commemorated the ritual of paying for it. It's a way of framing these events that could only happen now, at a time when mp3s and file-sharing networks have allowed millions of disparate global collaborators to create the largest shadow economy in history, which has eaten away at the music industry like termites on the foundation of an old house. In its place, an unstable infrastructure that has created infinite new demands for our attention, yet is far too unstable to support world-conquering superstars. We've all read the trend pieces and editorials lamenting the record industry's poor decisions and crumbling business model, the fact that kids don't value music anymore, and the outmoded strategies used to try to win back paying customers. So omnipresent have these discussions become, in fact, that it's possible the past 10 years could become the first decade of pop music to be remembered by history for its musical technology rather than the actual music itself.

This is a chastening thought, but at the same time we have to be careful not to overlook how the technologies we invent to deliver music also work to shape our perception of it. When radio came along, its broadcasts created communities of music-listening strangers, physically distant from each other but connected through the knowledge that they were listening to the same song at the same time. Where radio brought listeners together as a listening public, the LP started splitting them apart. The LP and 45 rpm formats took the phonograph, which had been in existence for over half a century, to the masses, right as the American middle-class was going suburban and privatizing their lives. We could then use musical objects like we'd been using literature and art for centuries prior: as collectibles, and signifiers of personal taste. The emergence of the cassette--the first sturdy, re-writeable music technology-- allowed us to "manufacture" our own music in the privacy of our own homes and recirculate it at our will, through mixtape trading and full-album dubbing. By the early 1980s, home taping had become the latest fall guy for an industry trying to blame consumer delinquency for its slipping fortunes, rather than its own overspending.

The cassette "crisis" seems quaint when compared to the rise of the mp3. The first widespread music delivery technology to emanate from outside industry control, mp3s, flowing through peer-to-peer networks and other pathways hidden in plain sight, have performed the radical task of separating music from the music industry for the first time in a century. They have facilitated the rise of an enormous pirate infrastructure; ideologically separate from the established one, but feeding off its products, multiplying and distributing them freely, without following the century-old rules of capitalist exchange. Capitalism hasn't gone away, of course, but mp3s have severely threatened its habits and rituals within music culture. There is nothing inherent or natural about paying for music, and the circulation of mp3s > through unsanctioned networks reaffirms music as a social process driven by passion, not market logic or copyright. Yet at the same time the Internet largely freed music from its packaged-good status and opened a realm of free-exchange, it also rendered those exciting new rituals very trackable. In the same way that Facebook visually represents "having friends," the mp3s coursing through file-sharing networks quantify the online social life of music by charting its path. The social routines that take place around online music are visible data-- which makes them much more susceptible to intellectual property statutes than was the case with cassettes or CDs.

These changes are part of a social and economic shift that is both revolutionary in scope and potential but also reliant on very traditional ideas of interaction and production. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution upended Western societies from their agrarian ways of life, distancing the average person from the means of production, and introduced what would later be called "modernity." In the late 20th century, the Internet quickly made this phase of communication and economics look quaint and distant. This latest shift-- you can tell your grandkids you lived through it-- opens the possibility to freely create and distribute culture, with the idea of reaching a global audience. Compared to the one-to-many model of last century, the current one, which is still coming into shape, gives us the capacity-- maybe even necessity-- to cheaply and easily collaborate, create, organize, and speak truth to power. Technologically, it's futuristic. In terms of what it might hold for social organization, the roots are pre-modern, even ancient.

Let's not get carried away, though. A lot of forces would have to coalesce for any sort of revolution to happen. More likely, it will take a while, as it did with radio and the phonograph, for mp3s to stabilize and reach a point where the old ways of doing things learn from the new tools. The mess left by free digital music-- a collapsed industry, a rising generation of kids with a vastly different notion of musical "value" than their parents, a subset of that set with more eclectic tastes than a teenager should be capable of, and a wave of lawsuits that are going to appear increasingly surreal and ridiculous as they fall into history-- is going to take a while to sort out and clean up.

This is our attempt to survey the damage, assess the gains, and try to put the mp3's first full decade in perspective. Keep in mind that while the mp3 is a radically new technology, it's not a different musical medium: The mp3 is still "recorded music"-- that's not going to change until Apple unveils the iBrain-- but it's recorded music that moves around very differently than ever before. As a result, mp3s have opened up vast new musical horizons over the past 10 years-- how we discover it, the value we give to it, and how we see ourselves connected to other people through it-- that both depart from and build upon the innovations that came before it. Everything's still messy at the moment, but it's not going to be this way forever-- a few decades from now, we'll most likely find ourselves nostalgic for the mp3 decade.

The MP3 Story Begins

The mp3 story begins, appropriately enough, in the same subversive, bottom-up way that so many of the files wind up on the Internet today: as a leak. In 1988, The Moving Picture Coding Experts Group, a collection of about 25 geeks from industry and academia, was tasked by the International Organization for Standardization-- which sets codes for everything from railroad engineering to rubber and plastic-- with crafting a workable standard to move movies digitally (and, it was anticipated, cheaply). By July 1989, they'd come up with "MPEG-1 Audio and Video," which was in use by 1992. Soon after this, a hacker called "SoloH" swiped the codec off an unprotected server, extracted the layer devoted to audio encoding, and shipped it around the globe. Within a few years the dam had burst. Instantly, it seemed, fans started ripping music from CDs to trade with unseen others, and small-time artists and entrepreneurs started figuring out how to turn a profit from mp3s. The recording industry actually saw mp3s as an opportunity, too, at least initially. Geffen Records' "director of technology" told USA Today in 1997 that Geffen "doesn't see MPEG as a problem. We like anything that increases the ability of consumers to listen to high-quality music, and if that means on their computer, that's fine, too. We're actually working on ways to program for it and to provide material in this format because consumers are making it clear that this is a format they like."

Needless to say, they failed. By 2003, things had risen to the level that Orrin Hatch was grilling technology firms at Senate Judiciary Committee hearings about the possibility of "warning" copyright infringers, and then-- I'm not making this up-- destroying their computers. "If that's the only way," Hatch said, "then I'm all for destroying their machines. If you have a few hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize the seriousness of their actions." In 1997, mp3s were disorganized and hard to find online, let alone download through a phone-line connection. By 2003, they were everywhere, and impossible to stop. In an ironic twist, the peer-to-peer networks that mp3s started flowing through were a basic re-engineering of a model developed for a radically different reason, if not a similar function. Originating during World War II to streamline workflow and evade bureaucratic slowdowns between research universities and government agencies, the Internet gradually grew to facilitate discussion-driven communities, finally going overground in the 90s. By the end of that decade, these same ideas found their way into online music, via a tech-savvy, class-skipping Northeastern freshman. Shawn Fanning was a hard guy to root for, but it still holds that what he instigated with Napster at the turn of the century-- and more importantly what others have done with his idea since-- is the most important innovation in musical distribution since the 45 rpm record.

In the broadest sense, mp3s filled a similar distribution function for the Internet era that the convergence of 45s, jukeboxes, and radio did in the 1940s and 50s. That earlier process was set into motion in 1939, when the ASCAP licensing organization failed to come to a royalty agreement with radio networks. As a result, radio executives banded together to form the rival BMI, and set about scouring the country for new talent. The hillbillies and juke-joint bluesmen they found were recorded in storefront studios using new and affordable means of putting music on tape, pressed on the cheap, sturdy discs RCA had just patented, and delivered around the country to fly-by-night radio stations and jukeboxes. Oh, and along the way, they invented rock'n'roll.

The likeness between the two technologies, and their effects on the industries, are clear: 45s were also individual pieces of recorded music made to flow through a network more quickly than their predecessors (the 78s they replaced were expensive and brittle). Those small discs also relied on independent music for the creation of an expansive new music market easily affordable by young people, which put a serious dent in the existing major label market share. When we think about what mp3s have done to the current version of the recording industry, we should compare it to what indies and 45s did a half-century ago: In 1948, the majors controlled a whopping 81% of the market. By 1959, that was down to 34%. Part of the reason the Beatles had the top five songs on the Billboard chart in April 1964? Those singles were released in the U.S. on four different labels-- Capitol, but also the indies Swan, Tollie, and Vee-Jay.

There are plenty of similarities between 45s and mp3s, but of course, in terms of power relationships, monetary investments, and the sheer quantity of music available as a result, mp3s are a very different thing. While 45s threatened the dominance of the major labels, they were also created within the same industry (out of a patent race between RCA and Columbia) and then were incorporated by it to serve as its lifeblood. As a result, instead of disintegrating, the majors emerged as an even more powerful force in the 1960s. Mp3s, on the other hand, multiplied outside that industry's control after being wrenched from the CD, a format created in part to make music seem like a luxury item, repurpose back catalogs, and revitalize a flagging industry. Coupled with peer-to-peer, not only did they quickly make musical replication and distribution cheap and fast, but turned something that used to be a distant, industrial process into an accessible and easy thing anyone could do. In other words, it's not only unsurprising that a sustainable independent music industry took shape along with mp3s. Looking back, it's unthinkable for things to have happened any other way.

Hoarding, Sharing, and The Recording Angel

In his wonderful 1987 book The Recording Angel, Evan Eisenberg asks the question, "What exactly happened when music became a thing?" He starts answering it by introducing us to Clarence, an eccentric music lover who has packed every nook and cranny of his suburban home with records. Though he obsessively amasses records, Clarence does not view himself as a "collector." He explains: "My idea originally…was to share my collection with everybody. You see, collectors-- take collectors of oil paintings-- they don't do that; they only share with themselves. Share it with everybody!" To prove this, he finds Shall We Dance and A Damsel in Distress on top of the Frigidaire, and forces an initially reluctant Eisenberg-- who had mentioned earlier that he was an Astaire/Rogers fan-- to to take the records home with him. Clarence wouldn't have it any other way. He was a hoarder, sure, but above all Clarence was a sharer. Eisenberg opens his book with Clarence because he represents the social possibilities of music-as-a-thing as much as the acquisitive ones.

Man, remember when people like Clarence were different? He kept stacks of records in his oven, because the physical space in which he lived couldn't come close to accommodating his passion for music. He made less than $300 a month, and still bought records. A couple of decades later, 10 times as much music as Clarence could ever imagine not only don't take up entire suburban homes, but fit on devices smaller than transistor radios. Not only are people with this much music not weird, but the devices they use for storage double as status symbols. This might be the most profound social shift of the mp3 era: hoarding and sharing music changed from an activity for eccentrics to the default mode of musical enjoyment for millions. People like Clarence existed because records fixed the intangible, ephemeral sound of music to objects, allowing for that music to be sold, bought, and hoarded. Mp3s removed music from objects, freeing it to move and reproduce itself in ways that physical objects, and the industry they supported, would never allow.

If we let them, new technologies can alter our taken-for-granted assumptions to the point that the replaced ways look quaint quickly. Radiohead's announcement of a new album in October 2007 made it seem, for a few days at least, like the greatest band of the decade had found a way to mix nostalgia for the old days of the unified market (the 90s) with an innovative economic model that totally skirted the market altogether. Their In Rainbows "tip-jar" stunt was one of the few moments over the past 10 years where it honestly felt like everyone got amped for a new release-- one that no one had heard, that most didn't even know was coming-- at exactly the same time. It was such a shock because mp3s had long since ripped a temporal wormhole in the musical time-space continuum. By 2007, most of us were long used to a state of affairs in which intangible music acquires value before it's even pressed to CD or LP-- that is, before it would have even existed a decade prior.

Weirdly enough, this particular effect of mp3s and peer-to-peer networks-- that information travels much faster than physical goods-- most closely resembles that of the telegraph on the 19th century commodity markets. Before that innovation-- the Internet's great-grandfather-- individual markets based in major cities were separated by hundreds of miles, and goods could only travel as fast as railroads could take them. Yet because information about crop conditions could travel via telegraph exponentially faster than the actual crops, the exchange of money for physical commodities was largely replaced by a futures market, based on what would happen. In other words, space was eliminated in favor of time by a swift new network. The stakes may be much lower in the way mp3s and peer-to-peer have reorganized the music market, but the basic idea is the same. Within the musical futures market leaks are traded as mp3s through peer-to-peer networks and blogs, often acquiring over-inflated value before their physical counterparts reach store shelves. They're aggregated on Hype Machine, the Dow Jones for this new realm of musical value in which the primary forms of capital are cultural and social, not monetary.

This new system of digital music commerce most directly threatened the old one by eliminating its middlemen-- brick and mortar CD retailers, print-based music critics, indie distribution outlets like Touch & Go, radio-- and replacing them with cheap, flexible new ones such as peer-to-peer networks, bloggers, Rapidshare, MySpace,, and Pandora. The old industry model was a closed system, impossible to infiltrate and designed to feed profits right back into itself (for more detail, check Chapter Two of Greg Kot's Ripped, or all of Steve Knopper's excellent Appetite for Self-Destruction). Aside from official outposts like iTunes, eMusic, and Amazon, the new networked model is nearly the opposite: It's radically decentralized, has few barriers to entry, and it disperses whatever small monetary profits there are to people and entities who largely have no interest in continuing the current record-industry model.

At the same time, however, the global circulation of mp3s is one of the most crowded culture markets ever to exist. The mp3 may have atomized music into millions of little pieces, but each piece, it seems, found a publicist. The average music fan now has the built-in capacity to double as promoter and distributor in an ever-expanding arena that's making and eliminating rules every minute, including the need for new critical middlemen (and too rarely, women) to step in and make sense of things. It's no coincidence, of course, that Pitchfork's own rise coincided with the mp3 market glut, or that mp3 blogs would emerge as an eclectic network of music fans as the decade opened.

Indeed, one of the most underappreciated effects of mp3s is their ostensible democratization of the critic function. Before every album started leaking out of pressing plants or being ripped from online storage accounts, accredited music reviewers were the only folks outside the industry with the privilege of hearing completed albums well in advance of their official release dates-- a necessity to account for print's long-lead times and the lengthy promotional schedules of the labels. Leaks suck, let's make that clear. But they're going to happen whether we like them or not, so, the idea went, so why not try to turn them into something productive? One of the promises of leak culture was the possibility of a thousand new Greil Marcuses and Robert Christgaus blooming-- hundreds of new fan-critics, or critic-fans, starting conversations about music that were accessible to anyone, arousing reader-listeners enough to buy music the same way radio and print used to. To a degree this happened, and is still happening: Careful searching and curious clicking through blogrolls will reveal plenty of wonderful music blogs, with styles ranging from affective to academic, with writers penning more poignant, sophisticated, and funny things than many "professional" scribes.

As the decade carried on, though, the sheer number of mp3 blogs started outpacing the amount of writing and conversation about music. If they began by merging zines with pirate radio, by early 2005 the coverage in major newspapers and music magazines led to that bane of every subculture: widespread exposure. As a result, thousands of new blogs started up over the next few years, including those that mimicked gossip and news blogs by posting a dozen updates per day and selling ad space. As the old guard of critical and promotional outlets dried up, labels and PR firms quickly developed strategies to repurpose them by exchanging access to pre-chosen tracks for free promotion. As a result, mp3 blogs have become one of the key examples of small-scale, curated promotional model, reflecting individual bloggers' tastes and the incredibly fast turnover of the indie attention economy. An argument can be made that the first industrial era of rock lasted almost exactly for 50 years; from 1955 to roughly 2005, the tipping point of the Internet's impact, five years after TRL and the last pop(ped) bubble.

If, as so many newspaper trend pieces assert, the number of "tastemakers" has exponentially proliferated through unmitigated access to music, that means that, on average, individual tastes are on the upswing as well. It's hard to argue this fact, if only through anecdotal evidence. While the Internet does not represent "the world," and there are plenty of folks who are just fine keeping with their old habits, those who keep up with online music have the capacity to turn into bona fide musical dilettantes, and occasionally straight-up experts, in no time flat. But broadening out to the aggregate, this trend looks different, and less rosy. The ideal would have been that a new network of independent music lovers would have elevated different types of music, or even found new ones, the way nascent rock'n'roll, honky tonk, bluegrass, and R&B benefited thanks to the 45. But online, new genres risk being strangled in the crib before anyone knows they exist, and people are "done" with new albums before the cover art has been approved. This time-compressing aspect of mp3-based music culture does not flow naturally from the technology itself-- it's a result of a lot of people, at the same time, publicly failing to resist their most basic passions for acquisition. Experiencing music in small, never-ending bursts is exciting, sure. But it's far from sustainable.

Part of me wants to weep, as so many critics have, for "what could have been." Yet a wiser part of me knows that there's no point in crying over a utopian benchmark. As it stands, the musical public sphere created by mp3 blogs and filtered through the Hype Machine is more varied and open to taste-based audience input than the U.S.'s industrial model has been in recent years (though a far cry from what it was like throughout most of the rock era), and an increased amount of music from around the world is getting more exposure than could have been imagined just a decade ago. So I'm not sad that print magazines, or newspapers, are dying; I'm sad that music criticism and journalism are endangered. I'm sad that publishers, advertisers, and corporate owners have lagged behind so incredibly long, holding onto an outdated critical model out of blind faith, leaving so many talented writers in the lurch. People expressing their musical taste to an eager audience in the offtime of their day jobs is one thing, and by all accounts a very good thing. But alongside these folks, we desperately need people to get paid to listen, discuss, contextualize, and critique music on a full-time basis. Until someone figures out how to make this work, a music culture will continue to take a significant hit. Print is dead: long live criticism.

Digital Music and Copyright Law

At a time when everything related to popular music institutions, rituals, and values are in an unprecedented state of flux as a result of mp3s, any price for digital music is fair game, right? Apple's more or less emerged as the price point setter-- formerly $0.99, now $1.29-- for digital singles acquired legally, but the federal court system has taken to fixing value for ill-begotten merch. How's $22,500 per mp3 sound? That's what Joel Tenenbaum-- a Boston University grad student-- was charged by a jury for each admitted download during his recently concluded trial. Earlier this year, Minnesota mom Jamie Thomas-Rasset's bill was even more ridiculous: $1.92 million for 23 songs, or $80,000 per. These numbers are so illogical, and are arrived at by a mode of thinking so archaic, to be surreal. It's a Dr. Evil realm of absurdity, comparable to Senator Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate gleaning the number of Communists in Congress from a ketchup bottle. Perhaps most frighteningly, it's made lawyers one of the most profitable sets of music middlemen to emerge this decade.

About nine years and some 20,000 RIAA-sanctioned lawsuits after the original 2000 Napster injunction, Tenenbaum's and Thomas-Rasset's trials neatly provide the other bookend to mp3-related law this decade. The major labels, in the face of mountains of evidence suggesting that prosecuting listeners doesn't do anything save stocking their coffers and paying their attorneys, refuse to abandon their tack of trying to scare downloaders into submission. It's a dumb strategy, and I'm sure they know this, but they're at least acknowledging one of the basic tenets of legal logic. In the same way that technology is a social force created by humans, with the power to expand or restrict what we're able to do, so goes the law. If copyright law has been able to convince us that music, one of the most inherently collaborative forms of expression, should be regulated by a statute based on a romantic ideal of the solitary author; and that one of these lone individuals can in fact be Universal Music Group, what else can it make us believe?

Well, lots. Especially to how we understand ourselves in relation to music. Intellectual property has been rapidly expanding into every corner of our daily lives for the past few decades, taking two major steps to get where we are today. First, the entertainment industries realized under Ronald Reagan that their cultural commodities, if they could be protected from pirate networks abroad, could be a huge source of U.S. revenue in the nascent global market. Second, Bill Clinton and Al Gore recognized in the early 90s that the "information superhighway" was in fact a vast, underpopulated market, and let the corporate media and their lawyers draft the most radical revision to copyright since we adopted the British version in 1790. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in 1998, re-defined making a "copy" of a song or album in a way that equates, more or less, to "listening" to a song-- based on the technological fact that when you double-click on an mp3 in iTunes, you're technically duplicating the song in your computer's RAM for its length. Thus, every time you listen to a song on your computer, according to the DMCA, you're violating copyright law.

Then, there's the not-so-dearly departed DRM. The DMCA allowed for copyright owners to imbed code into each mp3, restricting certain ways of listening before the lawful consumer could even think about them. It also made it illegal to remove these restrictions. The Constitutionally mandated "balance" between copyright protection and fair use, in other words, was no longer to be decided by messy court arguments, but enforced by digital code created by tech companies. Those harmless little aggregates of ones and zeroes, iconically representing the creative labor of many people, were staring back at you, with the full knowledge that you're bound to do something illegal. As such, they restricted themselves (however lamely) to five other computers, as a result placing artificial restrictions on the social rituals that have allowed music to survive and circulate for millennia.

What DRM taught us during its short life, is that for the law to work, people have to believe in it. This doesn't necessitate Pirate Bay-level countercultural deviance, but the simple idea that the rules laid down are based in common sense, not the frigid logic of corporate balance sheets. The labels and their RIAA lobbying associates aren't stupid, they're just desperate. They know that when things aren't logical, the smartest way to get people to sign on is to start young, and mix the rhetoric of education with a fair bit of passive-aggressive fear-mongering. I give you "Music Rules," a set of printable worksheets for teachers, who most certainly don't need more externally-sanctioned frameworks telling them how to teach, let alone one that draws on a pedagogy built to create unthinking allegiance to an illogical law. Here's an actual excerpt-- this isn't a joke-- that draws on Cold War fear-mongering and a strategically-chosen new word ("songlifting") for its rhetorical effect:

Now find out if songlifting is a real problem in your community. Use this chart to interview family members and friends about where they get their music. Bring your findings back to class and combine them with those of your classmates. Use your data to figure out how much songlifting occurs among the people you know. See for yourself by completing the calculation below.

Convergence Culture and the Next Step

While witch-hunts are nothing to be wistful about, the mass-media era of popular music has plenty to be nostalgic for. In retrospect, such a limited musical menu meant that there was a much higher probability that the song you were listening to at any moment was being heard by countless others at the same time. The ideology of community, even an imagined one, is hard to shake-- especially when created by events like Elvis Presley or the Beatles on "Ed Sullivan", or Michael Jackson at the "Motown 25" celebration. Equally hard to forget are those images of absolutely frantic young fans captured on film and video-- separated from their idols by what must have felt like light years, they were unable to contain themselves at the prospect of being within hailing distance of them. The star system was an inevitable product of the 20th century industrial production model that invested millions in a handful of performers in anticipation of returns that would subsidize dozens of others.

In place of the old system is a new one, which has been called "convergence culture." Encompassing the hybridization of technologies and the collaboration of corporations on one hand, it also highlights the penetration of the audience itself into the spheres of production, promotion, and distribution. Many academics, commentators, and fans themselves see convergence culture as an ultimate victory for music fandom-- finally, the industries have to listen to their audiences, because their future financial stability depends on it. Yet while there's a bit of truth in this outlook, in the end it only confuses matters more. Fandom has become important in ways many could have never predicted, but that's also because the word itself means something different right now, depending upon who's doing the defining.

At any point in the past century or so, it's possible, with enough due diligence, to reconstruct the possibilities for music fandom by examining how the business, tech, and legal realms work to shape the listening public-- through work that often takes place at the level of language. When labels say "fandom," for instance, they often mean "free labor." Tech companies use the idea of "interactivity" to mask marketing strategies that invisibly collect crucial demographic data, while reining in certain fan performances by simply eliminating options. Lawyers, if they want to be successful, have to apply the cold rationality of statutes to behaviors that are primarily driven by passion. To work properly (in other words, to make money), these three categories have to overlap significantly, with the possibilities for fandom residing somewhere in the ever-shifting middle.

If we pry away all the myths that have built up over the years around the Beatles and Michael Jackson-- for MJ, this is probably a good thing-- and, for the moment at least, set aside the fact that they were brilliant musicians, we can come to a sharper idea as to why they still hold so tightly onto our imaginations. After all, there have always been brilliant musicians-- why have these two stuck around so long? A large part of the reason lies in the specific historical moments in which they both emerged, which allowed them to define new advances in technology, art, and industry in their own images.

Both the Beatles and Michael Jackson emerged in fallow times for the music industry-- the Beatles in the valley after the first wave of rock'n'roll allowed the toothless pop it supplanted to rematerialize, and Jackson in the moment between the death of punk and disco and the rise of hip-hop, new country, and alt-rock. The Beatles took advantage of this situation by helping define what a rock band could be, and what the LP and recording studios could become. Jackson came up when MTV was looking for acts other than Eddie Money and Rod Stewart to visually showcase, and his work still casts a lengthy shadow over the medium of music video (which the Beatles, let's not forget, had a hand in creating). He was so transcendent to watch specifically because he brought dance back into pop-- out of tap, breakdance, ballet, James Brown, Fred Astaire, and disco, he constructed the all-in-one pop star model that so many have attempted to replicate.

Or at least that's what we remember them for. History is never made by single actors, or even small groups, but is made to retroactively fit into a narrative. This is how fandom used to be built. We remember our connections to popular culture through the moments and people that seemed to alter our consciousness through sheer will. We allow them to stand in for the much larger cast of invisible collaborators, influences, technologies, and commercial alignments that made it possible for them to take on the transcendent image they did.

These sorts of nostalgic recollections, to a large degree, are facilitated because the old industry, built on selling magic, purposefully obscured all the backstage collaborators that helped superstars to emerge. But now, we find ourselves within a historical moment that allows us access to all the previously hidden aspects of music-making. Instead of approaching this situation as if the "magic" were gone, wouldn't it be much more productive to seize the opportunity to create an entirely new crop of idols? In other words, if "fan" is going to continue to have any resonance as a passionate listening strategy at a time when its definition is up for grabs, it's clear that fans themselves need to do the defining. The first step in this process-- the establishment of new infrastructures and technologies-- has already happened.

The second step is much tougher: using these new tools to push against the illogical constraints of those who think the old model is still viable, and set about redefining music's value. We've been conditioned for the past century to think about music as a commodity. While in good faith ("support the artists"), this way of thinking only propagates the most fundamental ideal of capitalism: getting the most stuff for the least money. Otherwise known as "downloading." Artists need to make money for their music (if they want to), and they need a set of flexible legal and technological guarantees to ensure this. But these guarantees need to be flexible enough to allow the fans themselves to use their collective intelligence and passion to help the artists themselves, without being exploited, or written into a script fit for retired actors. If the networked public sphere shaped by mp3s could collaboratively re-imagine itself not as an audience or a market but as members of a civil society, who feel that they deserve a stake in its own culture, then the rules going forward, and our appreciation of music's social and affective values, might emerge like mp3s themselves: from the bottom up. We've long since figured out how to grab and recirculate music. Now, let's make something with it.

Magazines: The Best Ones Of All Time And The Best Covers Ever

The 51 Best* Magazines Ever
*Smartest, Prettiest, Coolest, Funniest, Most Influential, Most Necessary, Most Important, Most Essential, etc.
(By Graydon Carter, Good magazine, 2007)

The essential strength of a magazine is its ability to amplify. An idea, or an image, or a story, set within the pages of a magazine and assembled by the right hands, can become the grist of breakfast chatter, dinner-party conversation, or elective body debate around the world. Until recently, with the advent of USA Today and the national editions of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, newspapers were by and large local endeavors. Magazines were national, and as they became international, their power of amplification grew exponentially. A woman photographs a dam. Nothing noteworthy in this, except that the woman is Margaret Bourke-White and the structure is the Fort Peck Dam. A photograph from that shoot appears on the cover of the first issue of Life and becomes one of the most known feats of human engineering in the world. That is amplification. 

A magazine- like the smart, charming gazette you hold in your hands, even in this age of electronic everything everywhere, is a marvelous invention.  Ben Franklin is credited with conceiving of the first such publication, in 1741. (It was called The General Magazine, and it began a trend that exists to this day- within six months it had closed its doors.) Another essential difference between newspapers and magazines is this: News-papers tell you about the world; magazines tell you about their world- and by association, your world. Writers, photographers, editors, and designers bundle the slice of the world they have chosen to explore and deliver it to you in a singularly affordable, transportable, lendable, replaceable, disposable, recyclable package. You can buy a magazine almost anywhere. Publishers will even deliver it to your door, for less than the cost of going out into the hurried street to purchase one.

I admire, or have admired, most of the magazines the editors of GOOD have chosen as milestones or bellwethers—and I don’t mean just Spy or Vanity Fair. But I have my own temple of greats. These magazines were original in concept and execution, and in their own ways, either minor or major, helped propel the idea of the magazine to its current state.  I’ll start with The Spectator, the oldest continuously published magazine in the English language. A political confection of the essayists Addison and Steele, The Spectator is an excitable, beautifully crafted Oxbridge pulpit for England’s Conservative Party, and continues to be a launching pad for political aspiration: In recent times three contributors have gone on to hold cabinet posts.  There is the trio of magazines to emerge from the Henry Luce empire: Time, Fortune, and Life. During the early years of Luce’s “American Century,” Time compressed the world for its audience of “busy men,” Fortune captured for the first time the look and might of U.S. commerce, and Life brought the exuberance and nuance of world events and other lives to its readers. Luce was going to call the magazine “Dime” (for its cover price), but his wife, Clare Boothe Luce—a onetime Vanity Fair editor—convinced him otherwise. (In the play The Philadelphia Story, Philip Barry parodied Luce’s Time & Life empire, calling the publishing company in the play Dime and Spy.) 

Few magazines capture an era the way The Saturday Evening Post did in the decades before and after the second World War. It succeeded because it took the new values of the American Century and placed them before readers wishing to believe in them. The magazine’s reach was immense, as were its resources. During the Depression the Post paid P. G. Wodehouse $90,000 for a three-part serialization of one of his Jeeves books.  The fashion magazine Gazette du Bon Ton, part post-Edwardian fashion curio, part Art Deco masterpiece, lasted a scant 13 years (from 1912 to 1925), but it defined not only salon-age Paris in the years after the Great War, but also the American flapper era of the 1920s.  The New Yorker, a ridiculed fribble catering to New York’s smart set when Harold Ross founded it in 1925, found its journalistic footing during World War II, then went on to chronicle postwar New York and its suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s. It hit a long patch of fossilized institutionalism during the next two decades, but continues today as one of the finest vessels for first-rate journalism anywhere.

I could go on. There was Liberty, a general-interest magazine that posted above every article the approximate time it would take the reader to read it. There is The New York Review of Books, which was started up by Robert Silvers and Barbara Epstein during the newspaper strike of 1963, and which today commands the high ground of American intellectualism. There was Esquire during the heady days of the 1960s, when its editor, Harold Hayes, was sending off the most electric writers of the age to capture the era. At Rolling Stone, founder Jann Wenner did the same for the late 1960s and the 1970s.  

The single binding aspect of all the magazines subsequently mentioned in this issue, and this will seem obvious, but far too many editors ignore it, is that for a publication to succeed it has to have a point. It can’t just come into being because the owner wants to impress his friends. Or because market studies have shown an opening in a certain line of interest. Many of the big magazine companies, such as Time Inc., are run these days not by people who love magazines but by people in search of profit. Great magazines come from the gut and the heart. Take anything that comes out of the Dave Eggers factory, for example—they are unique, irreplaceable, and should be cherished.

Magazines- or, rather, certain magazines- aren’t going away anytime soon. They have survived radio, movies, and television. And they have, so far, not perished at the altar of the internet. It will take something not known of today to replace the power of the combination of words and image when, as I have just said, they are aligned by the right hands. Magazines that tell stories in type and pictures will survive the coming electronic revolutions. Magazines that merely deliver information will have to either become stronger and more vital, or drown in the turbulent wakes of change.

GOOD's 51 Best Magazines Ever:

1. Esquire [Under Harold T.P. Hayes (1961–1973)]  Esquire had the men’s magazine formula backward. An uncommon example of a magazine that sold out first before establishing itself as a literary force, Esquire was launched in 1933 as an early juggs-and-journalism rag (illustrated of course, not photographed), but its most important period began in 1961. Under the leadership of new editor Hayes, the magazine’s pages got bigger, future celebrities Gay Talese and Tom Wolfe ushered in New Journal-ism, and design titan George Lois produced the most iconic magazine covers ever. Esquire captured last century’s most dynamic decade, visually and literarily altering the way Americans thought about their changing country. Sonny Liston as black Santa Claus? The unsuccessful quest to interview Sinatra? Anti-Vietnam-War Muhammad Ali as St. Sebastian? We rest our case.

2. The New Yorker

A rare cultural touchstone both relevant and revered nearly a century after its inception in 1925, The New Yorker has remained a beacon of intellectual clarity and incisive reporting to over-educated bourgeoisie far beyond the borders of Manhattan. With a design that has changed only imperceptibly over the decades (except for earth-shattering changes under mid-1990s editor Tina Brown,who allowed—gasp!—color and—the horror!—photographs), all that’s different at the magazine are the stories it covers. The New Yorker today is just as willing to publish a barely illustrated, three-part, 30,000-word jeremiad on climate change as founding editor Harold Ross was happy to devote an entire issue to one article on the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing. This is not to mention the fiction, humor, poetry, criticism, and cartoons—all parts of a consistently brilliant editorial vision.

3. Life (1936–1972)

Before cable TV and the internet, there was Life. Publishing giant Henry Luce (Life, Fortune, Time) helped fuel Americans’ natural curiosity by turning a then-failing general-interest magazine into a glossy weekly with 50 pages of pictures (by photographers such as Alfred Eisenstaedt and Margaret Bourke-White) and captions (written precisely to fit in neatly justified blocks) in every issue. For 36 years, Life showed us the world—for pennies a week.

4. Playboy

It would be tough to overstate the greatness of a magazine that had Marilyn Monroe as its first centerfold, and Kerouac, Steinbeck, and Wodehouse on call by its fifth anniversary. Launched in 1953 by the grotto-dwelling, robe-wearing Playboy himself, by the 1960s its table of contents was a veritable who’s-who of the best writers of the day and their most compelling subjects. While the magazine has lost its footing as the culturally relevant read for men, its signature “Playboy Interviews” still deliver the kind of no-holds-barred ranting and raving that made it famous. All that, and we haven’t even mentioned the naked girls.

5. The New York Times Magazine

Since Sept. 6, 1896, The New York Times Magazine has without fanfare done what it does best: publish smart, populist stories that no one else will touch. Never sold on newsstands, it is to this day perfectly positioned to uphold a sacred but troubled tenet of the journalist’s code: reporting news that matters to the world, instead of news that matters to circulation managers and newsstand consultants. This same freedom spills over to the design—minimalist, original, and completely refreshing.

6. Mad [Post comic book, before the death of founder William Gaines (1955–1992)]

Mad was the skeptical wise guy. Ever ready to pounce on the illogical, hypocritical, self-serious and ludicrous, it was also essentially celebratory: to accurately parody something, you ultimately have to love it. Mad transposed onto the printed page the anarchic humor of the Marx Brothers and Looney Tunes, parodying comics, radio serials, movies, advertising, and the entire range of American pop culture. Nowadays, it’s part of the oxygen we breathe; and Mel Brooks, Saturday Night Live, and The Simpsons would be unthinkable without it.

7. Spy [Until it was sold to fun-sponge Jean Pigozzi (1986–1991)]  With the exception of knock- knock jokes, most of what you find funny today probably came from these pages. In typical Spy fashion, that might not be exactly true, but it’s certainly close enough, and the well-informed post-ironic humor behind everything from The Daily Show to Gawker owes more than a little debt to Spy and its founding editors Kurt Andersen and Graydon Carter (see intro; 31). The design was pitch-perfect, the stories of office hijinks are publishing-world legends, and its impact on the landscape of American culture is immeasurable.

8. Wired [Early years until Condé Nast buyout (1993–1998)]  Pages oozing with retina-burning inks and startling layouts broadcast a vision of the future that was both utopian and tangible. Wired was able to bridge the cultural divide between geeks and the rest of us because they saw that in our democratic digital tomorrow, we were all geeks. They let us in on the secret that technology wasn’t news, but how it affected our lives was. But Condé Nast giveth (see 2; 31; 45) and Condé Nast taketh away: Its 1998 purchase gradually sapped the infectious energy that so characterized Wired’s early years. Still, it’s rare to find something as perfect to its cultural moment; both a mirror and a lens, a tribute and a battle hymn. What’s next, indeed.

9. Andy Warhol’s Interview [Until Warhol’s death (1969–1988)]  When an era’s biggest celebrity/artist/pop-culture icon decides to start a magazine about celebrities, art, and pop culture (though mostly celebrities), it’s bound to be interesting—if all you care about is interviews with famous people and their pretty pictures, that is. It turned out Warhol was onto something, as he often was, and even way ahead of the curve. Should you be tracing the origins of our present celebrity worshiping culture, this isn’t a bad place to start.

10. Colors [The first 13 issues, under Tibor Kalman (1991–1996)]  Like the screaming and still-bloody newborn that appeared on its first cover, Colors popped wildly onto the scene in 1991. It was an exuberant, often shocking magazine that fearlessly mirrored the world—in all its peculiarity, fantastic injustice, and rampant possibility. The brainchild of feather-ruffling photographer Oliviero Toscani and designer/big thinker/wildman Kalman, Colors was wholly underwritten by Luciano Benetton (and his clothing company), which kept it nicely free of common media constraints. Originally published from New York, an international staff put out front-to-back-themed issues in five bilingual editions, each one packed with in-your-face photography that could communicate to anybody, anywhere. From its conspicuous start, Colors challenged all sorts of expectations, including what a magazine could be.

11. Rolling Stone [Before the move to New York (1967–1976)]  Rolling Stone, during its 1970s heyday, left a blank space on its letters page so that aspiring contributors could write a record review and send it to the editors in the hopes of being published. What’s more amazing, this is how editor Jann Wenner found Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus. Before becoming disturbingly un-cutting-edge, Rolling Stone compiled the zeitgeist of a musical revolution.

12. National Geographic

Founded nine months after the eponymous society in 1888, and framed in its instantly recognizable yellow, the magazine didn’t publish photos as covers until 1959. Whereas it initially charted and shot unknown civilizations, it has now become a visual catalog of civilizations in decay, and is still the benchmark for global photojournalism.

13. Collier’s Weekly

Reporters for Collier’s, founded in 1888, were some of the first to get down in the muck and start raking. Its influence was vast—Congress passed important laws based on evidence printed in the magazine, including a 12-parter on unregulated medicines and a pre-The Jungle essay on slaughterhouses by Upton Sinclair.  Also try McClure’s

14. New York [(1968–1976)]

The model for pretty much every regional magazine since, New York (previously the Sunday supplement to the New York Herald Tribune) was founded by editor Clay Felker and designer Milton Glaser. They curated a unique blend of local politics, gossip, national news, and lifestyle features—until they were forced out by Rupert Murdoch, who bought New York in a 1976 hostile takeover.

15. Atlantic Monthly

Founded by Emerson and Longfellow in 1857, The Atlantic was the Boston Brahmin answer to overly intellectual magazines from New York (until a recent move to D.C. stole its identity). Throughout its 150-year history, The Atlantic has continued to be both sophisticated and deliberate, while only barely dumbing things down for the increasingly culturally illiterate masses.  Also try Harper’s

16. Ebony

Often called the Life of black America, Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson in 1945 with a $500 loan, borrowed against his mom’s furniture. By the time Johnson died last year, his magazine had spawned a publishing empire, the first, and for a long time, only black-owned one in the country.

17. Details [Original incarnation, pre-Condé Nast (1982–1988)]  Launched in 1982 under the legendary Annie Flanders, Details was the ultimate insider look at New York’s downtown cool. It knew how to dress, what music to listen to and, most importantly, where to party. It went on to have countless identity crises, and no longer comes even close to downtown cool.
Also try Index

18. Ramparts [The most left-wing magazine on our list.]  Famous for radical 1960s muckraking, Ramparts broke the story on the CIA infiltration of college campuses during the Vietnam War, published the diaries of Che Guevara, and attracted some of the left’s brightest stars. Rolling Stone’s Wenner got his start there; so, too, did Mother Jones founder Adam Hochschild.

19. Might

More than the start of founding editor Dave Eggers’ career, Might (1993–1997) was the definitive expression of Clinton-era/internet-boom post-college confusion. Admittedly and ambivalently entangled with pop culture, Might was nonetheless the youth magazine that refused to pretend the latest CDs, books, movies, and TV shows were the most important things in life. Also try Vice

20. Portfolio

Created by art director/ editor Alexey Brodovitch (of Harper’s Bazaar) and editor/art director Frank Zachary (of Holiday and Town & Country), Portfolio only existed for three issues in 1950 and 1951—but its integration of form and content is still inspiring over half a century later. Brodovitch exploited his medium to its fullest, using foldouts, die-cuts, and other printing tricks to feature the work of artists and designers like Charles Eames, Paul Rand, Saul Steinberg, and many others.  Also try Artforum

21. National Lampoon [From its founding through its best-selling issue (1970–1974)]

Started in 1970 by Harvard Lampoon alumni, National Lampoon obliterated the idea that a college degree made you a grown-up. Deeply profane and juvenile, it launched the careers of Michael O’Donoghue and director John Hughes; spawned a syndicated radio program that featured Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Bill Murray, and spun off a series of movies that began with Animal House.
Also try Army Man

22. Wallpaper [(1996–2002)]

Founded by former journalist Tyler Brûlé, Wallpaper (like a lot of the magazines in this list) showed up in the right place at the right time. At the height of the dotcom boom, Wallpaper talked about “the stuff that surrounds you” to a gener-ation hungry for soft-core design pornography. Brûlé sold out to Time Warner in 1997, but the flavor of the magazine didn’t change that much until he left in 2002.

23. Cosmopolitan [Under editor Helen Gurley Brown (1965–1997)]  Launched in 1886 and later bought by William Randolph Hearst, Cosmo already had a million-plus circulation by the 1930s. But it was Brown, who in 1965 single-handedly reinvented the magazine (and the genre) by giving ladies something to talk about other than falsies, pot roast, and marrying a lawyer: casual sex.  Also try GQ

24. Highlights

With a stranglehold on the dentist waiting-room market, Highlights has been entertaining (and subtly educating) the pediatric-fluoride set since 1946. From the vaguely preachy “Goofus and Gallant” to the awesomely interactive back covers (nope, that hammer doesn’t belong in the tree), Highlights hasn’t missed a beat in half a century.  Also try Dynamite, Nickelodeon Magazine

25. Sassy [The best teen magazine on our list, Until it moved from LA (1987–1994)]

 Rewriting the rules of teen magazines, Sassy addressed its readers in a smart, sarcastic voice. Its frank coverage of sex, drugs, and politics, and its support of indie music and fashion earned everlasting devotion from its fans and the ire of conservative groups who pressured Sassy’s advertisers, resulting in its demise.  Also try Dirt

26. The Saturday Evening Post

It wasn’t until 95 years after The Saturday Evening Post’s 1821 launch as a weekly magazine of current events and popular fiction that its then-editor met a 22-year-old artist named Norman Rockwell. After running his first cover illustration in 1916, Rockwell churned out American classics for the SEP on a weekly basis.  Also try Newsweek, Time

27. The Face [(1980s)]

Though ostensibly a music magazine, The Face realized that cool tunes didn’t matter unless everyone looked good. With the innovative marriage of fashion and music, “the best dressed magazine” quickly became the arbiter of style and cool in 1980s England. Also try i-D

 28. Sports Illustrated

This ur-sporting tome brought joy and titillation through that unique magazine innovation: the football-phone giveaway in the 1980s. A golden age under Frenchman André Laguerre (1960–1974) saw the rise of serious reportage that baptized a generation of sports writers as legitimate cultural players. Also: Swimsuit Edition—a pivotal moment in the lives of young men everywhere.

29. Eros [The most controversial magazine on our list.] Ralph Ginzburg was the first American publisher ever to go to jail over the content of a magazine—this one. A gender-neutral quarterly devoted to intelligent eroticism, Eros helped spark the sexual revolution. Four issues were published in 1962 before Ginzburg was indicted for “distributing obscene literature.”  Also try Hustler

30. Fuck You/ A Magazine of the Arts

“I’ll print anything” was the motto of founder Ed Sanders, but Fuck You mostly printed work from famous Beat writers. A proto-’zine (it was printed on a mimeograph machine in Sanders’ basement, starting in 1962) Fuck You was an inspiration to countless other out-of-the-mainstream underground publications.

31. Vanity Fair

If culture is the collection of stories we tell about ourselves, Vanity Fair might just be our greatest raconteur. Its contributor roster since its founding reads like a social register of talent (both words and pictures), and the 1980s revival at Condé Nast ushered in a renewed time of plenty: increased circulation, exclusive stories, and unparalleled visibility.

32. The Whole Earth Catalog [Original incarnation (1968–1972)] A bible for the counterculture proto-dork (read: the future billionaires club of northern California), WEC stuffed every oversize page with cheek-puckering idealism for purchase—think Buckminster Fuller manifestos and folk-style autoharps. Between the lines was the implicit power of centralized, comprehensive information- as Steve Jobs once said: “Like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google.”

33. Fortune  [Until the death of founding editor Henry Luce (1930–1967)] It was a different era when a great financial publication might also be one of the most beautiful. Launched just months after Black Tuesday, the oversize Fortune came with an exorbitant $1 cover price (most other magazines sold for pennies), justifying its cost with stunning graphic covers followed by hundreds of luscious pages brimming with business information and beautiful photography.  Also try: Fast Company, Inc.

34. People

A 1974 spin-off of Time’s “People” section, notably read for its various annual issues of superlatives (most beautiful, best/worst dressed, sexiest), it occupies a unique space in the world of celebrity journalism: It may sit next to tabloids on supermarket shelves, but stars who grace its pages are covered willingly.

35. Ms. [The greatest women’s advocate on our list.]  Since its launch in 1971, Ms. has consistently informed policy, making it as much a provocateur as a political force. Gloria Steinem made history when, pre-Roe v. Wade, she printed the names of women who admitted to having abortions. It has since broken taboo stories like domestic violence and sweatshop labor—all before the colored ribbons made activism cool.  Also try Bitch, Bust

36. Games [Before it was sold (1977–1990)]
Games’ wonderful dreamland of mind-boggling conundrums—for a time edited by the New York Times crossword guru Will Shortz—was the perfect read for anyone whose mind required strenuous workouts. Lest it seem uncool, know that it was owned by Playboy.

37. The Paris Review [Until George Plimpton’s death (1953–2003)]  The first magazine to publish literature by Adrienne Rich, T.C. Boyle, and Phillip Roth, the New York-based Paris Review is renowned for its virtu, its interviews (Hemingway, Faulkner, Kerouac) and its community: 50 years of literati parties at founding editor-in-chief George Plimpton’s East Side apartment.  Also try Granta

38. Popular Mechanics

In the golden industrial years (1930s–1950s)

Popular Mechanics was a perfect magazine at the perfect time. As the industrial age matured and science and tech-nology entered people’s everyday lives, Popular Mechanics was there to hold hands and calm nerves (“Written so you can understand it,” proclaimed every cover). The future never looked so good.  Also try Omni, Popular Science, Seed

39. The Little Review

Founded in 1914, this literary journal’s list of contributors is eye-popping: Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Marcel Duchamp, Ford Madox Ford, Emma Goldman, Carl Sandburg, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams. And it wasn’t just leftovers: Ulysses was first published in its pages, garnering founder Margaret Anderson a $50 fine for obscenity and an obscure but important place in the history of modern literature.

40. Ray Gun [During the peak of the grunge era (1992–1996)]  Founding art director David Carson walked a fine line between typesetting brilliance and visual schizophrenia. Despite eventually folding in 2000 & appropriation of its style by mainstream outfits, Ray Gun spent its first few years laps ahead of the curve aesthetically and in its music coverage.

41. Brill’s Content

Brill’s Content was an inside-the-sausage-factory look at media for people who eat sausages, not those who make them. From 1998 to 2001, watchdog-in-chief Steven Brill demanded more from the press through accountability, transparency, and shame. Content’s lasting gift was the awkwardly revolutionary premise that journalism is for consumers, and serving them should be a priority.

42. Domus

Founded and edited by the Milanese architect Gio Ponti (1927–1979), the monthly Domus shone a spotlight on modernist décor and architecture. Domus championed Italian forward-thinkers like Carlo Mollino, and international innovators like Charles and Ray Eames, who guest-edited an issue in 1963.

43. Wet  [Maybe the weirdest magazine on this list.]  The self-described “magazine of gourmet bathing” existed from 1976 to 1981 as a uniquely Angeleno tangent to New Wave—think Less Than Zero as read by an avant-guard artist. Published in Venice Beach, founder Leonard Koren featured young talents Matt Groening, Matthew Ralston, and April Greiman. Bright, bold, and bizarrely on point.

44. Lucky

Founded in 2000, Lucky is essentially shopping porn, though the “I read it just for the articles” excuse isn’t transferable for the simple reason that there aren’t any. Makeup brushes, silk camisoles and slingbacks make up the centerfolds—always with price tag and contact number—which helped Lucky mint the “magalog” genre.

45. Vogue

Founded in 1897, Vogue is as renowned to this day for its editrixes as for its fearless trendsetting- though it hasn’t been the same since 1971, when they canned the infinitely quotable Diana Vreeland (“People who eat white bread have no dreams,” “Pink is the navy blue of India”). The Starbucks of fashion mags, there’s still a franchise based in every fashion mecca worldwide.

46. The New England Journal of Medicine  The peer-reviewed medical and surgery quarterly frequently boasts the highest “impact factor” (a measurement the number of times a journal is cited by other articles) of any American medical publication, and occasionally even flirts with casual readability.  Also try Nature, Science, Scientific American

47. Architectural Record

Architectural Record chronicled, in simple and elegant design, the blossoming of modern architecture in America, giving space to architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan to publish treatises that changed the field forever.

48. Punch [The longest running satire magazine on our list (1841–1992)]

A direct descendant of French satirical publications like Le Caricature and Le Charivari, Punch counted Kingsley Amis, Quentin Crisp, and P.G. Wodehouse among its contributors; perfected what we know as a magazine cartoon (a one-panel gag with a caption but no dialogue); and coined the now-ubiquitous term “cartoon” to describe it—all under the aegis of its glove-puppet mascot, Mr. Punch.

49. Loaded

The perverted done-it-all older brother of the lad mags, the U.K.’s Loaded has, since 1994, outdone its American siblings in terms of nudity, crassness and, we suspect, binge drinking. It also nailed that irreverent I-know-you-are-but-I-am-cooler tone well before Americans started importing British editors to try to replicate it.

50. The Source [Until the start of the burnout (1988–1994)]  Started in 1988 as a Harvard radio-show ’zine, it was the first magazine to give frontline coverage to the war on drugs, expose NYPD brutality, and introduce the world to a guy named Biggie Smalls. Its fall from grace was wince-worthy, but it wasn’t called the hip hop bible (by its own founders, mind you) for nothing.

51. Tiger Beat

When they fell weak-kneed for Elvis, screamed for John and Paul, fainted for David Cassidy, swooned for Donny Osmond, or melted for Luke and Jason, Tiger Beat was there on the super-market shelves in all its Technicolor glory, shining like a beacon of hunkdom for the teeny boppers of the day.


Top Magazine Covers Of Last 40 Years
(By The Associated Press)

A list of the top magazine covers from the last 40 years, as decided by judges in a contest from the American Society of Magazine Editors:

1. Rolling Stone, Jan. 22, 1981, John Lennon & Yoko Ono.

2. Vanity Fair, August 1991, Demi Moore.

3. Esquire, April 1968, Muhammad Ali.
4. The New Yorker, March 29, 1976, Saul Steinberg drawing of Manhattan.

5. Esquire, May 1969, Andy Warhol.

6. The New Yorker, Sept. 24, 2001, Illustration of World Trade Center.

7. National Lampoon, January 1973, "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog."

8. Esquire, October 1966, "Oh my god — we hit a little girl."

9. Harper's Bazaar, September 1992, "Enter the Era of Elegance."

10. National Geographic, June 1985, Afghan refugee.

11. Life, April 30, 1965, 18-week-old fetus.

12. Time, April 8, 1966, "Is God Dead?"

13. Life, Special Issue, 1969, man on the moon.

 14. The New Yorker, Dec. 10, 2001, illustration of New York City map.

15. Harper's Bazaar, April 1965.

16. The Economist, Sept. 10-16, 1994, photo of camels, "The trouble With mergers."

17. Time, June 21, 1968, "The Gun in America."

18. ESPN, June 29, 1998, Michael Jordan.

19. Esquire, December 2000, Bill Clinton.

20. Blue, October 1997.

21. Life, Nov. 26, 1965, Vietcong prisoner with eyes and mouth taped.

22. George, October/November 1995, Cindy Crawford.

23. The Nation, Nov. 13, 2000, George W. Bush.

24. Interview, December 1972, Andy Warhol.

25. Time, Sept. 14, 2001, World Trade Center.

26. People, March 4, 1974, Mia Farrow.

27. Entertainment Weekly, May 2, 2003, The Dixie Chicks.

28. Life, April 16, 1965, dying pilot & helicopter crew

29. (tie) Playboy, October 1971.

29. (tie) Fortune, Oct. 1, 2001, man covered in ashes near World Trade Center.

31. Newsweek, Nov. 20, 2000, image of Al Gore/George W. Bush.

32. Vogue, May 2004, Nicole Kidman.

33. (tie) Newsweek, July 30, 1973, Nixon White House and tape recorder

33. (tie) Wired, June 1997, "Pray."

35. New York, June 8, 1970, "Free Leonard Bernstein!"

36. People, Sept. 15, 1997, black-and-white portrait of Princess Diana.

37. (tie) Details, February 1989, Cyndi Lauper.

37. (tie) Fast Company, August/September 1997, "The Brand Called You."

37. (tie) Glamour, August 1968, Katiti Kironde II

37. (tie) National Geographic, October 1978, gorilla with camera.

37. (tie) Time, April 14, 1997, Ellen DeGeneres.