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Despedida: lo que la tecnología (todavía) no logró

portapapeles_real

A comienzos de octubre MSN se rediseñó. Como consecuencia, dejó inaccesible todo el contenido de mi blog de tecnología Ctrl N, que hice entre 2011 y 2013. Para que no se pierda ese contenido, estoy subiendo algunos posts a este blog, otros a Periodismo.com y otros a Buscadoor. Este post se publicó el 31/10/2013 y fue el último de ese blog.

Ser felices por siempre, inmortales, no sufrir dolor y olvidarnos de las enfermadades: alguna vez, quizás, la ciencia resuelva los verdaderos problemas de la Humanidad. Mientras tanto nos entretiene con parches a nuestros dilemas existenciales. La tecnología ocupa como nunca en nuestra sociedad un lugar central. Paradójicamente, no surgieron en los últimos ¿diez?¿veinte? años verdaderas innovaciones. Piensen: tablets y smartphones, son versiones sofisticadas y mejoradas de la computadora personal de los ’80. Televisores LED, 4K: variantes optimizadas de la vieja caja boba del siglo pasado. Cocinamos, comemos, dormimos, nos bañamos, tenemos sexo, practicamos deportes, bailamos más o menos igual que nuestros padres. Todavía no apareció ningún Steve Jobs que lograra mejorar al tenedor o la cuchara, que acompañó a la humanidad a lo largo de casi toda su historia.

Por eso, sé que es difícil, pero no nos dejemos engañar con el nuevo procesador o la tablet dos milímetros más finita. La verdadera revolución tecnológica todavía no pasó y ni siquiera nuestra imaginación supone cómo será. Bah, todos soñamos un futuro idílico, donde los autos vuelan, no hay más guerras y no engorda comer cosas ricas.

A modo de despedida de este blog, Control N, les cuento mi delirio: un teclado para la vida real. No tanto para escribir, sino para usar los atajos que tanta utilidad prestan en la vida virtual. Veamos:

Control N: el atajo que da nombre a este blog, que sirve para abrir un nuevo documento en Word o una nueva ventana en el navegador y que para mi es sinónimo de lo nuevo. En la vida real me lo imagino como un facilitador de las distintas vidas que podríamos vivir: “Si no tuviera hijos…”, “Si viviera en Estados Unidos”, “Si volviera a ser un niño”. Apretando Control N podrías lograrlo.

Control Z: este atajo sirve para deshacer nuestros errores. Sería la versión más acotada del anterior. ¿Le dijiste a tu pareja una frase desafortunada? Control Z y todo vuelve para atrás. ¿Pediste un plato en el restaurant que no estaba bueno? Control Z te permite elegir de nuevo y tu estómago vuelve a estar vacío. ¿Llevaste a la fiesta un vestido idéntico al de otra chica? Control Z, y a seleccionar otro modelo.

Control X/Control V: ¿no les gustaría un portapapeles en la vida real? No más valijas o bolsos: copiamos su contenido y lo pegamos cuando lo necesitamos. Y a nosotros mismos: nos copian en Buenos Aires y nos pegan en Tokio, sin las tediosas horas de vuelo.

Control F: por este atajo, equivalente a la búsqueda en el mundo virtual, todos pagaríamos fortunas. Para encontrar un objeto perdido (“Control F / Buscar control remoto”), sí. Pero también, un lugar disponible para estacionar, el trabajo perfecto y, si no es mucho pedir, al amor de nuestras vidas.

Y así, probando cosas nuevas, haciendo y deshaciendo, moviéndonos y buscando, pero desde un teclado más convencional, este blog escribe sus últimas palabras.

¡Hasta siempre!


21 de octubre de 2014 por Diego Rottman

Al final, las fotos de Messi en Las Vegas ¿son verdaderas o truchas?

messi_las_vegasA comienzos de octubre MSN se rediseñó. Como consecuencia, dejó inaccesible todo el contenido de mi blog de tecnología Ctrl N, que hice entre 2011 y 2013. Para que no se pierda ese contenido, estoy subiendo algunos posts a este blog, otros a Periodismo.com y otros a Buscadoor. Este post se publicó el 1/8/2013.

Suenan argumentos de peso a favor y en contra. ¿Qué se puede hacer y qué no en Photoshop?

El diario Muy y la revista Pronto publicaron una fotos de Messi en una fiesta en Las Vegas en las que se lo ve en compañía de una señorita, que no es su mujer, a días de ser padre.

“El 10 de la selección tuvo una noche de descontrol en Las Vegas”, titula Pronto. “Messi en Orsai”, asevera Muy. Mientras ambos medios fueron acusados en las redes sociales de “policías” y “brasileros”, surgió también desde Twitter un gráfico que aseguraba que el jugador era inocente y que las imágenes habían sido “photoshopeadas”.

El origen de las fotos, se argumenta ahí, sería una sesión para la revista “¡Hola!” que lo muestra con su hijo. Alguien, con intención de dañar a Lio, habría trucado esos inocentes retratos para ubicarlos en el otro contexto. El diario “El País” de España adhirió a esta teoría: tituló, sin dudarlo “Las fotos de Messi con una ‘stripper’ son falsas”.

En respuesta, Muy publicó más fotos de esa noche y Pablo Grosby, el dueño de la agencia de donde se originaron las imágenes, aseguró que no eran truchas. Como argumento, Grosby dijo: “Cualquier fotógrafo sabe que las imágenes no están trucadas. Primero porque las fotos tienen la información técnica que acompaña cada cuadro, no importa la máquina que uno utilice, incluso un Iphone. Y estas imágenes fueron hechas con uno de ellos que ofrece esos datos. Además, porque en un retoque es imposible lograr el tono de luz, los colores y el granulado que tienen las fotos”. En la misma línea el director de Pronto, Fernando Cerolini, dice que “hay una foto que demuestra que no es trucada, porque hay un espejo atrás y ese efecto no se puede trucar”.

El misterio de si Messi estuvo o no allí esa noche y si las imágenes son manipuladas o no, solo podrá develarlo él, algún testigo confiable o más imágenes que despejen la incógnita. Lo cierto es que los argumentos sobre las posibilidades del fotomontaje que dieron Grosby y Cerolini son falsos. Veamos uno por uno:

1) No se puede trucar el efecto de un espejo en Photoshop

FALSO. Miren todas las cosas que se pueden hacer con Photoshop y espejos

2) La información técnica de las fotos, que marca el lugar y la fecha no miente

FALSO. Cualquier editor de datos EXIF puede cambiar esta información, incluso la geográfica.

3) El granulado de la foto no permite retoques

FALSO. Es al revés, al ser una foto muy “sucia” y pequeña es más fácil alterarla que a una “limpia” y grande.

Y el episodio Messi es solo el comienzo de los debates sobre si una imagen es verdadera o falsa. Miren esta publicidad de Johnny Walker protagonizada por Bruce Lee:

Es del mes pasado. ¡Pero Bruce Lee murió hace 40 años! Fue “resucitado” con imágenes generadas por computadora. Preparémonos para un futuro con romances de estrellas actuales con famosos del siglo pasado.  Miren a Humphrey Bogart con Scarlett JohanssonSmile

bogart_johansson


15 de octubre de 2014 por Diego Rottman

David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture

david_foster_wallacePercy Shelley famously wrote that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” For Shelley, great art had the potential to make a new world through the depth of its vision and the properties of its creation. Today, Shelley would be laughed out of the room. Lazy cynicism has replaced thoughtful conviction as the mark of an educated worldview. Indeed, cynicism saturates popular culture, and it has afflicted contemporary art by way of postmodernism and irony. Perhaps no recent figure dealt with this problem more explicitly than David Foster Wallace. One of his central artistic projects remains a vital question for artists today: How does art progress from irony and cynicism to something sincere and redeeming?

Twenty years ago, Wallace wrote about the impact of television on U.S. fiction. He focused on the effects of irony as it transferred from one medium to the other. In the 1960s, writers like Thomas Pynchon had successfully used irony and pop reference to reveal the dark side of war and American culture. Irony laid waste to corruption and hypocrisy. In the aftermath of the ’60s, as Wallace saw it, television adopted a self-deprecating, ironic attitude to make viewers feel smarter than the naïve public, and to flatter them into continued watching. Fiction responded by simply absorbing pop culture to “help create a mood of irony and irreverence, to make us uneasy and so ‘comment’ on the vapidity of U.S. culture, and most important, these days, to be just plain realistic.” But what if irony leads to a sinkhole of relativism and disavowal? For Wallace, regurgitating ironic pop culture is a dead end:

Anyone with the heretical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for ends up looking like an hysteric or a prig. And herein lies the oppressiveness of institutionalized irony, the too-successful rebel: the ability to interdict the question without attending to its subject is, when exercised, tyranny. It [uses] the very tool that exposed its enemy to insulate itself.

So where have we gone from irony? Irony is now fashionable and a widely embraced default setting for social interaction, writing and the visual arts. Irony fosters an affected nihilistic attitude that is no more edgy than a syndicated episode of “Seinfeld.” Today, pop characters directly address the television-watching audience with a wink and nudge. (Shows like “30 Rock” deliver a kind of meta-television-irony irony; the protagonist is a writer for a show that satirizes television, and the character is played by a woman who actually used to write for a show that satirizes television. Each scene comes with an all-inclusive tongue-in-cheek.) And, of course, reality television as a concept is irony incarnate.

For the generation that came of age during Vietnam, irony was the response to a growing distrust toward anything and everything. In the 1980s, academics such as Mark Jefferson attacked sentimentality, and Neo-Expressionists gave sincerity a bad name through their sophomoric attempts at heroic paintings. Irony was becoming a protective carapace, as Wallace pointed out, a defense mechanism against the possibility of seeming naïve. By the 1990s, television had co-opted irony, and the networks were inundated with commercials using “rebel” in the tagline. Take Andre Agassi’s Canon camera endorsement from that period. In the commercial, the hard-hitting, wiseass Agassi smashed tennis balls loaded with paint to advertise Canon’s “Rebel” brand camera. The ad wraps with Agassi standing in front of a Pollockesque canvas saying “Image is everything.” For all the world, it seemed rebellion had been usurped by commercialism.

This environment gave artists few choices: sentimentality, nihilism, or irony. Or, put another way, critical ridicule as experienced by the Neo-Expressionist (see Sandro Chia), critical acceptance through nihilism like Gerhard Richter, or critical abdication through ironic Pop Art such as Jeff Koons. For a while, it seemed no new ideas were possible, progress was an illusion, and success could be measured only by popularity. Hot trends such as painted pornography; fluorescent paint; sculpture with mirrors, spray foam, and yarn were mistaken for art because artists believed blind pleasure-seeking could be made to seem insightful when described ironically.

* * *

Recently, the Onion spoofed an ad campaign in which Applebee’s encouraged hipsters to visit their restaurants “ironically” and middle-aged adults to make fun of hipsters. The parody describes four “with it” young folks “seriously” eating their dinner at Applebee’s while ridiculing the food, service and atmosphere. Behind them sit three sad, middle-aged adults mocking the hipsters, sarcastically saying “because I know who the latest bands are I am too cool to eat a cheeseburger without making fun of it.” Neither group is genuinely happy about their meal or station in life. The Onion’s satire points out that irony and formality have become the same thing. At one time, irony served to reveal hypocrisies, but now it simply acknowledges one’s cultural compliance and familiarity with pop trends. The art of irony has lost its vision and its edge. The rebellious posture of the past has been annexed by the very commercialism it sought to defy.

Early postmodernists such as Robert Rauschenberg broke the modernist structure of medium-specificity by combining painting and sculpture. The sheer level of his innovation made the work hopeful. However, renegade accomplishments like Rauschenberg’s gave way to an attitude of anything-goes pluralism. No rules governed the distinction of good and bad. Rather than opening doors, pluralism sanctioned all manner of vapid creation and the acceptance of commercial design as art. Jeff Koons could be seen as a hero in this environment. Artists became disillusioned, and by the end of the 1980s, so much work, both good and bad, had been considered art that nothing new seemed possible and authenticity appeared hopeless. In the same period, a generation of academics came of age and made it their mission to justify pluralism with a critical theory of relativism. Currently, the aging stewards of pluralism and relativism have influenced a new population of painters, leaving them confused by the ambitions of Rauschenberg. Today’s painters understand the challenging work of the early postmodernists only as a hip aesthetic. They cannibalize the past only to spit up mad-cow renderings of “art for no sake,” “art for any sake,”  “art for my sake” and “art for money.” So much art makes fun of sincerity, merely referring to rebellion without being rebellious. The paintings of Sarah Morris, Sue Williams, Dan Colen, Fiona Rae, Barry McGee and Richard Phillips fit all too comfortably inside an Urban Outfitters. Their paintings disguise banality with fashionable postmodern aesthetic and irony.

Likewise in contemporary fiction, Tao Lin has made a reputation off reproducing disaffected, hipster malaise. In “Shoplifting from American Apparel,” Lin inserts himself as the protagonist Sam, a vegan writer who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sam often feels vaguely “fucked” in a generally affectless world of name brands, Gchat and Facebook. He shoplifts a couple times and winds up in jail for a night. Occasionally, he mindlessly mistreats others for a laugh: inexplicably throwing a friend’s drink, hitting someone with a stick, and ordering someone to jump over a bush. The entire narrative is as disconnected from the larger society as the characters are from each other, and therefore it reads as a mimetic rendering of a soulless world rather than satire. New Tao Lins publish every day, feeding the culture’s desire to watch its own destruction.

But David Foster Wallace predicted a hopeful turn. He could see a new wave of artistic rebels who “might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels… who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles… Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue.” Yet Wallace was tentative and self-conscious in describing these rebels of sincerity. He suspected they would be called out as “backward, quaint, naïve, anachronistic.” He didn’t know if their mission would succeed, but he knew real rebels risked disapproval. As far as he could tell, the next wave of great artists would dare to cut against the prevailing tone of cynicism and irony, risking “sentimentality,” “ovecredulity” and “softness.”

Wallace called for art that redeems rather than simply ridicules, but he didn’t look widely enough. Mostly, he fixed his gaze within a limited tradition of white, male novelists. Indeed, no matter how cynical and nihilistic the times, we have always had artists who make work that invokes meaning, hope and mystery. But they might not have been the heirs to Thomas Pynchon or Don Delillo. So, to be more nuanced about what’s at stake: In the present moment, where does art rise above ironic ridicule and aspire to greatness, in terms of challenging convention and elevating the human spirit? Where does art build on the best of human creation and also open possibilities for the future? What does inspired art-making look like?

In the visual arts, an analogous form to recursive irony emerged with non-painting. Magnus Plessen had been the most adept innovator of the style. Four years ago, his work included paintings such as “Ladder,” which was composed of a largely white canvas and an image of a ladder created using blue and brown tape. The few brushstrokes that had been applied were scraped away by a palette knife. His thoughtful pictures of vapidity and antipainting permeated the painting culture until every MFA program included a painter using tape as decoration rather than tool. But instead of resting on the motif and style of a new convention, he now makes paintings that describe creation rather than destruction. His recent work is, dare I say, beautiful. Magnus Plessen moves against the reductive provisional trend he helped create by making increasingly intricate paintings of richer color, form and complexity. His 2013 painting, also titled “Ladder,” is now a top-to-bottom color spectacular of blues, blacks, yellows and purples. Now, the only areas of white are the ladder, rather than vice versa. Feet and hands are now rendered with a sensitive touch rather than being wiped away. He has turned from tiny steps toward nothingness and begun leaping toward eternity.

* * *

In the history of this country, no artistic tradition has done more to elevate the human spirit than black American music. If one wanted to write a book that advanced the novelistic tradition and the possibilities for humankind, one could learn something critical from studying, for example, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”

The opening words:

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory Hallelujah

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Professor James Cone of Union Theological Seminary explains the seeming contradiction between the grief of the refrain and the promise of the closing exaltation.

And you sort of say, sure, nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows my sorrow. Sure, there is slavery. Sure, there is lynching, segregation. But, Glory Hallelujah. Now, the Glory Hallelujah is the fact that there is a humanity and a spirit nobody can kill.

One can hear that abiding spirit in the voice of Sam Cooke in his pop adaptation of the song, and in renditions by others like Louis Armstrong and Marian Anderson. Cornel West elaborates on the contradiction between the refrain and rejoinder.

Glory Hallelujah is a tragicomic moment. Going to struggle anyway. Cut against the grain anyway. Never view oneself as a spectator but always a participant. Never view oneself as somehow outside the struggle but always meshed in it.

Both West and Wallace call for participation over spectatorship. We must move toward the Glory Hallelujah, toward the possibility of something greater. The best art can inspire us and push us closer.

One attribute of a move toward something greater is to reject the safety of ironic remove and risk the possibility of failure. In the mid-2000s, an acclaimed novel was published nearly annually that heralded a turn toward meaning-making, sincerity and redemption. Interestingly, each of the following novels had a few critical detractors who cried “sentimentality,” which goes to show the risk was taken. Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” (2004) is a novel of letters written from a dying pastor to his 7-year-old son. The old pastor’s reflections are mixed with anxiety and loneliness, but most of all, a deeply-felt reverence for the richness of everyday life. He revels in the beauty of two friends laughing, sunlight on a child’s hair and two kids “dancing around in [their] iridescent little downpour, whooping and stomping as sane people ought to do when they encounter a thing so miraculous as water.” He finds forgiveness and gratitude in the present, overcoming the grief of unresolved feelings and the pain of troubled relationships. In Mary Gaitskill’s “Veronica” (2005), the narrator Alison is an ex-fashion model sorting through bits of her life and friendship with Veronica, who died of AIDS. Alison’s memories arrive as powerful feelings that bring meaning to her present life as a middle-aged office-cleaner with hepatitis C. Her friendship with Veronica is a locus from which self-reckoning and release arises. Lastly, it doesn’t get much bleaker than the post-apocalyptic world of “The Road” (2006). Cormac McCarthy chronicles a father and son attempting to survive among desperados in the ashen ruins of modern society. They travel toward the rumor of a human community. When the father dies, the hope for this possibility lives on in the son, who continues their journey on faith. From reverence, to reckoning, to redemption, these three novels mark a larger shift in tone from the ironic to the sincere.

Skeptics reject sincerity because they worry blind belief can lead to such evils as the Ku Klux Klan and Nazism. They think strong conviction implies vulnerability to emotional rhetoric and lack of critical awareness. But the goal of great art is the same whether one approaches it seriously or dubiously. To make something new, to transcend, one must have an honest relationship with what is: history, context, form, tradition, oneself. Dishonesty is the biggest obstacle to making original, great art. Dishonesty undermines a work’s internal integrity — the only standard by which a work can succeed. If the work becomes a vehicle for one’s ego, personal or political agenda, self-image, desire for fame, adulation, fortune — human as these inclinations may be — the work will be limited accordingly. Even a desire to affirm human dignity and elevate the human spirit can be corrupted by dishonesty in the form of sentimentality. For James Baldwin, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” serves as a prime example. Baldwin writes:

Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.

Great art must be achieved through the integrity of its own internal principles. Irony alone has no principles and no inherent purpose beyond mockery and destruction. The best examples of irony artfully expose lies, yet irony in itself has no aspiration to honesty, or anything else for that matter.

So, where does art rise above ironic ridicule and aspire to greatness, in terms of challenging convention and elevating the human spirit? Where does Glory Hallelujah meet integrity?

* * *

Every two years, the Whitney Museum of American Art celebrates the best and brightest American artists in an exhibition known as the Whitney Biennial. For decades now, the exhibition has been showcasing work that results from relativism and ironic parodies of Western art history (See Dan Colen). However, the latest Biennial includes more than just banal cynicism and retro restyling. It rebuffs “everything goes” regionalism and pluralism. Instead, irrefutable achievement is celebrated. For example, Amy Sillman and Dan Walsh continually bring their paintings to a higher level through relentless rigor and introspection. Take for instance the color used by these two great painters. Rather than resting on a trendy palette of black, white, fluorescents and metallics, Sillman makes paintings, such as 2010’s “Drawer,” that invoke inspiration from innumerable greens and purples. She uses color to demonstrate new ideas rather than remind us of what’s stylish. Likewise, Dan Walsh has spent years willing brilliant articulations of color onto canvas. “Grotto” (2010) weaves together brush marks of brown and yellow. Colors that could be viscerally off-putting become a seductive tapestry. Both Sillman and Walsh execute painting with a desire to make history rather than capitalize on it. Their work depicts the human experience of toil and triumph through paintings that can be described all at once as lame, beautiful, emotional and thoughtful. And, if there was any question the Biennial is extolling sincerity, the exhibition also includes David Foster Wallace.

Audre Lorde riffs on Shelley’s poet legislator line:

[Poetry] forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action… The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

For Lorde, poetry is the practical means by which we sustain ourselves and chart a new world. Artists must take responsibility for finding the form to make our dreams real. They must assess a work as honestly as possible, seeking integrity. At one time, irony served to challenge the establishment; now it is the establishment. The art of irony has turned into ironic art. Irony for irony’s sake. A smart aleck making bomb noises in front of a city in ruins. But irony without a purpose enables cynicism. It stops at disavowal and destruction, fearing strong conviction is a mark of simplicity and delusion. But we can remake the world. In poetry, in music, in painting, we can reimagine and plot coordinates into the unknown. We can take an honest look, rework and try again. The work will tell us if it has arrived or not. We have to listen closely. What do we see? What do we hear?

Matt Ashby lives and writes in Greenfield, Mass. Brendan Carroll is a painter based in Atlanta. His most recent show was reviewed in April’s edition of Modern Painters.

vía David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture – Salon.com.


Acote 15 de abril de 2014 por Diego Rottman

Desprolijo minibalance 2013

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Revelación: Tiranos Temblad
Libro en inglés: Hatching Twitter
Libro en español: “Fábulas, parábolas y paradojas”, de Leo Masliah
Momento incómodo interminable: Leo Masliah en “Pura Química”
Mejor serie: Black Mirror
Series sobrevaloradas: Girls y The Newsroom
Serie subvalorada: Boardwalk Empire
Arco argumental: Los capítulos de Louie CK del Late Show reemplazando a Letterman
Episodio: “The Gang Tries Desperately To Win An Award”, de It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Película sobrevalorada: Gravity
Película subvalorada: Wakolda
Banda infantil: Lala y el toque toque
Sitio nuevo más útil: Seriecanal
Fiasco: los tres discos que sacó Fito Páez este año
Sorpresa: Diyitales
App de iPad: Action Movie
Revelación tecnológica: simpletv/iptv

Decepción del año: la pobre actualización de la mayoría de los blogs y de este en particular
Hecho del año: Netflix como productor de contenido

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Desprolijo minibalance 2012
Desprolijo minibalance 2011
Desprolijo minibalance 2010

5 acotaron 17 de diciembre de 2013 por Diego Rottman

On Muppets & Merchandise: How Jim Henson Turned His Art into a Business – Longreads

Elizabeth Hyde Stevens | Make Art Make Money, Kindle Serials | September 2013 | 17 minutes (4,102 words)

image

Photo by Eva Rinaldi

In 2011, Longreads highlighted an essay called “Weekend at Kermie’s,” by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens, published by The Awl. Stevens is now back with a new Muppet-inspired Kindle Serial called “Make Art Make Money,” part how-to, part Jim Henson history. Below is the opening chapter. Our thanks to Stevens and Amazon Publishing for sharing this with the Longreads community. 

The Artist’s Problem: Art vs. Money

In 1968, Jim Henson performed a skit on The Ed Sullivan Show called “Business, Business,” which he cowrote with Jerry Juhl. In it, there are two kinds of creatures, and they are locked in conflict.

On one side, the creatures make sounds like a cash register and a slot machine. They recite a poem written in business-ese: “Corporate profits, exculpates, mutual fund, interest rates.”

On the other side, the creatures have naïve voices and lightbulb heads. They ask, “Love? Beauty? Joy?”

Ca-ching! The battle is on.

“Brotherhood, hope, peace!” says one side.

“Option, market, possibility, eight-point-one over counter utility,” says the other.

It’s a war of ideologies.

“Friendship!”

“Income!”

“Beauty!”

“Money!”

Business opens fire. The idealists fire back. Business explodes! Then disappears. Silence.

Cautiously, the idealists look around. They have won. “Peace?” says one. “Success!” says the other. Their lightbulbs go off.

“Victory? Opportunity! Comfort … security …” The lightbulbs flash faster. “Benefits, growth, wealth, diversity, dividends, profit, capital, economy, business, business, BUSINESS, BUSINESS!”

Ed Sullivan’s adult audience laughs at Henson’s goofy puppets. One man in a suit turns to his wife and raises an eyebrow.

****

If you’re an artist, an innovator, or a creative person, this scenario should sound familiar to you. We may go into a career because of our values, our ideals, our art, but the reality of capitalism opposes us. Our dreams just don’t pay the bills. So what exactly is an artist to do?

In The Gift, poet-professor Lewis Hyde writes that “There are three primary ways in which modern artists have resolved the problem of their livelihood: they have taken second jobs, they have found patrons to support them, or they have managed to place the work itself on the market and pay the rent with fees and royalties.” Hyde’s book is an amazing exploration of the problem of money in art. In my book, I propose asolution, the path less traveled, the dimly lit third avenue, Jim Henson’s Muppety “shoot-the-moon” route. In a word—entrepreneurship, a very uncommonentrepreneurship.

Henson’s Solution: Make Art Make Money

In “Business, Business,” Jim Henson’s idealists fight back and beat the business-heads, but when they do, they turn into capitalists. Its irony may seem fatalistic. Yet it’s not that Henson was pessimistic or perverse; it’s just that he saw things from a different perspective. It may seem sad to young idealists, but this seemingly contradictory evolution is actually the solution to the artist’s problem.

“Business, Business” was a comment on the times. In 1968—the year of this sketch—a generation was coming of age that outnumbered its parents. It was tuning in—to free love, drugs, rock music, and youth collectives. The children of 1968 were rejecting the old order and trying to live more authentic lives. The lightbulb idealists in “Business, Business” were flower children, baby boomers, hippies.

But Henson was not. In 1968, he was thirty-one—placed just in between the boomers and their parents. In generation theory, Henson was a member of the Silent Generation, Americans born in the hardship of depression and raised in war, and yet paradoxically this time produced many of the creative visionaries who would inspire the boomers to mass hippiedom. The popular musicians of the sixties—the Beatles and the Stones—were ten years older than the boomers. They weren’t the flower children of the sixties; they were more like the babysitters, the gurus. In America, Grace Slick and John Fogerty were both born before the 1946 baby boom. It is to these Silent Generation pied pipers that we should rightly attribute much of the sixties’ cultural change, more so than the generation who followed their song.

Only six short months after 1967’s Summer of Love in San Francisco, Jim Henson made “Business, Business.” It clearly reflects the events of its time, but from the perspective of someone living halfway between both worlds. Not a boomer at all, he lived in New York City with his wife and a few kids and made a good living. Having made hundreds of television ads, Henson was already a capitalist when he made “Business, Business.” And we could even conclude that the skit describes his own conversion from idealism to capitalism. In 1968, he had an agent who got him TV appearances on Ed Sullivan and freelance commercial gigs hawking products as unhippielike as IBM computers and Getty Oil.

Yet Jim Henson’s business wasn’t oil—it was art. While today, most artists are too timid to admit it, Henson freely referred to himself as an “artist,” and his agent went even further, calling him “artsy-craftsy.” Henson may have worked in show business, but he’d also traveled in Europe as a young man, sketching pictures of its architecture. He owned a business, but his business rested on the ideas the idealists were shouting—brotherhood, joy, and love. He wore a beard. Biographers would say it was to cover acne scars, but in the context of the late sixties, it aligns Henson with a category of people that is unmistakable. Though a capitalist, he was also a staunch artist.

Growing up in the 1940s, Henson was a self-described Mississippi Tom Sawyer who played in the swamp, often went shoeless, and loved to sketch. He joined a puppetry club at his high school in Hyattsville, Maryland, and in 1954, at the age of eighteen, made his first puppet for a television audition. Henson had fallen in love with TV when his family bought their first set only four years earlier. His show Sam and Friends aired on Washington’s WRC-TV from 1956 to 1961, when he also made humorous, tongue-in-cheek commercials. At the age of twenty-seven, Henson moved his family to New York City, where in the 1960s he did many variety appearances on Ed Sullivan and The Jimmy Dean Show and made experimental films, pilots, and projects like Time Piece and The Cube.

In 1969, at the age of thirty-three, Henson collaborated with Children’s Television Workshop to make Sesame Street, the first nonprofit children’s show on television, which made him a worldwide star. In the early 1970s, he used this success to makeThe Muppet Musicians of Bremen, The Frog Prince, and other TV specials as well as recurring characters for the first year of Saturday Night Live. After Henson spent years pitching, British entertainment mogul Lew Grade funded Henson’s Muppet Show series, which ran from 1976 to 1981 all around the world. After an HBO movie called Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, Henson made his first Hollywood film, the 1979 hit The Muppet Movie. In the 1980s, Henson became a mogul himself, making two more Muppet movies, the elaborate fantasy films The Dark Crystal andLabyrinth, classic TV specials like The Christmas Toy, The Tale of the Bunny Picnic, andA Muppet Family Christmas, and lush TV series like the Toronto-based Fraggle Rockand The Storyteller. Henson’s spin-off series Muppet Babies ran for eight years, encouraging creativity to a new generation on Saturday mornings.

The artist was creating the Disney World attraction Muppet*Vision 3D when he died suddenly in 1990 from a rare infection. When you think of leaving an artistic legacy of lasting good, I don’t think you can aim much higher than Henson’s—the work he created is beloved by so many, twenty-three years after his death, in more than a hundred different countries.

So let us return now to “Business, Business.” If art and money are at odds, which side was Jim Henson really on? If you watch the skit, the clue is in the characters’ voices. Of the Slinky-necked business-heads and idealist-heads, Henson was really both and neither, because in “Business, Business,” he parodies both. Locked in conflict, they sound like blowhards and twerps, respectively, but they were both facets of his life. As an employer to two other men, Henson was the boss man—the suit, cash register, and slot machine—who wrote the checks. But he also got together with his friends to sing, laugh, and play with puppets in the kind of collectivism that hippies celebrated.

In the same month that Henson performed “Business, Business” on Ed Sullivan, he was working on a documentary called Youth 68 that aired as part of the NBC Experiment in Television series. In it, Henson interviews both street hippies out in LA and weary grandparents in Omaha with smoking pipes. Musicians slurred poetic about revolution and old folks complained, “They don’t have respect for their parents like they used to.” It took someone like Henson—living forever in between them—to give us the full picture. There is a saying that goes like this: “Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous.” In order for Henson’s art to have the universal power it did, this mixing had to include “the establishment”—what we could call “the business class.”

But today—especially with Generation X and Millennials—serious artists often refuse contact with business. Large numbers of liberal arts graduates bristle when presented with the corporate world, rejecting its values to protect their ideals. Devoted artists move home to a parent’s basement to complete their masterpieces, while the more pragmatic artists live in cloistered “Neverland” artist collectives, grant-funded arts colonies, and university faculty lounges. Youth 68 still feels contemporary, because we never solved this conflict. The clothing choices of suits and hipsters still mean what they did in 1968. In 99 percent of cases, you can tell if a man on the street works in finance or acrylic—not because these are mutually exclusive professions, but because we wear our battle colors to show we have chosen a side. It is as if the 1960s opened up a rift in American culture that was never healed. It’s 2013—more than forty years on—and if you squint your eyes, the flamboyant artist culture in Brooklyn’s coffee shops could be Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love.

Yet Henson’s work suggests that it is possible to heal America’s split personality. At the end of the Dark Crystal, the gentle race known as “the Mystics” leave their quaint reservation with its sand paintings and wooden bowls and return to the castle. They don’t displace the power-obsessed Skeksis, they do something strange—they merge with them. This occurs at the same time the missing piece fits into the Crystal, which itself is “healed.” The peaceful artists return to the castle, join with the cruel lords who are its current occupants, and the race returns to its proper form; they are whole.

What is a human being? Complex to the point of absurdity, a whole person is both greedy and generous. It is foolish to think we can’t be both artists and entrepreneurs, especially when Henson was so wildly successful in both categories.

Since he was in college, Jim Henson was a natural capitalist. He owned a printmaking business and made commercials for lunchmeats. In the 1970s, he became a merchandizing millionaire and made Hollywood movies. By 1987, he had shows on all three major networks plus HBO and PBS. Though he didn’t like to discuss his net worth, the price tag was revealed when he sold most of his characters to Disney for “nearly 150 million.” Of course, Henson was not just another Trump. Believe the beard.

The Dark Crystal, released in 1982, is an artistic masterpiece, which Henson himself described as “a rich fruitcake, full of different ingredients, and every bite you discover something new and delicious.” Its art-for-art’s-sake–ness is undeniable. Muppets may at times be made of hardware-store items and discount-priced eyes, but when it came to creating the world of the Dark Crystal, it was impossible to do on the cheap. Henson was “notorious for going over budget,” because he made it a point to hire and retain good artists. Unlike fur or doll eyes, that cost can’t be skimped. If Jim Henson were only a shrewd businessman seeking nothing but licensing profits, he would have spent all his time and energy on the profitable Muppet toy lines. A businessman would never have made The Dark Crystal, a film that cost more to create than it made back in over a decade. Such is the definition of a gift.

When Henson joined on to the experimental PBS show Sesame Street in 1968, he was underpaid for his services creating Big Bird and Oscar. Yet he spent his free nights in his basement, shooting stop-motion films that taught kids to count. If you watch these counting films, the spirit of Henson’s gift shines through. I think any struggling artist today could count Henson among their ilk. He had all the makings of a tragic starving artist. The only difference between him and us is that he made peacewith money. He found a way to make art and money dance.

“How,” Hyde asks, “if art is essentially a gift, is the artist to survive in a society dominated by the market?” It is a dance of timing, he answers:

First, the artist allows himself to step outside the gift economy that is the primary commerce of his art and make some peace with the market…. The artist who wishes neither to lose his gift nor to starve his belly reserves a protected gift-sphere in which the work is created, but once the work is made he allows himself some contact with the market. And then—the necessary second phase—if he is successful in the marketplace, he converts market wealth into gift wealth: he contributes his earnings to the support of his art.

****

The dance involves art and money, but not at the same time. In the first stage, it is paramount that the artist “reserves a protected gift-sphere in which the art is created.” He keeps money out of it. But in the next two phases, they can dance. The way I see it, Hyde’s dance steps go a little something like this:

1. Make art.
2. Make art make money.
3. Make money make art.

It is the last step that turns this dance into a waltz—something cyclical so that the money is not the real end. Truly, for Jim Henson, money was a fuel that fed art. According to Fraggle Rock producer Larry Mirkin:

He viewed money as energy, the energy that makes concrete things happen out of worthy ideas. Money was not an end in itself. It could provide physical infrastructure or it could help him hire other artists and technicians to realize a nascent idea. I don’t ever recall him being the least bit concerned or afraid of money or obsessed by it, which many people are. It just wasn’t what drove him—at all.

In Henson’s creation mode—step 1—money was not a driving force. And once he had money, he used it to make more art—step 3. But step 2 is the hardest one for artists to negotiate, since it requires you make money without destroying your art.

Participation in the market is tricky, and Henson once told a Canadian reporter:

Maintaining a balance between art and business has always been a part of what I do. You operate with as much honesty and integrity as you can afford. Success has brought the ability to pick and choose what we do.

This balance is difficult to maintain. Yet, as Henson suggests, if you have no money, you cannot afford to be honest. Without step 2, you run out of money, and then you can’t do step 1. Henson’s legacy proves that there is such a thing as making an honest buck, and though it isn’t easy, it gives an artist the ability to control his own destiny.

We may not want to run a business like Henson’s, but we can take Henson’s approach to money as far as we want—starting a video game company or simply selling more sketches—becoming the most successful version of yourself. Whatever art you make, the first step to making money is an emotional one—to “make some peace,” as Hyde says, “with the market.” There is a time to eschew the market, and there is a time to join with it. There is no list of steps that can accomplish “making peace.” But know that Henson did accomplish it, and because he did, you felt inspired by art throughout your childhood and perhaps through your children’s as well. You know Jim Henson by name because he made peace with money.

You may not work in show business, but whatever your art, there is some business in which you participate. Scientists, inventors, and teachers all in some way resemble Henson in that they are professions of “the gift,” of working for the benefit of others. If you simply want to do work of higher quality than business-as-usual seems to allow, you know the spirit of the gift, and you are not alone. It may be crazy to take turkey feathers, make them supple, cut their spines in half, bleach and clean them, dye the tips bright yellow, dye the bases golden yellow, adjust the tones so they look “gorgeous” on both the US and British electron-firing color systems, separate them into five grades, take the top three grades, and have them ready at every shoot to replace anything that falls off of Big Bird. It might seem crazy, but to an artist like Henson, those are all necessary steps. And if you are reading this, you probably don’t think it’s crazy at all—intuitively we know that the magic of Big Bird depends on the spirit of the gift—in a careful dance with the market. It is the goal of this book to illustrate that dance. By closely examining Jim Henson’s relationship with money, we can derive a philosophy that will serve us in our own careers—no matter what they may be.

In his office, Henson hung a “Shrine to the Almighty Dollar”—a comically-large dollar bill with a small pyre at its feet. Decorated with paint and pennies, it may have been “tongue-in-cheek” as the Henson Archivist writes, but what is a shrine? It is a place—a physical object—upon which to focus one’s thoughts. Like the restaurant owner who frames his first taste of success, Henson must have meditated on that shrine, thanked the dollar for its generosity, and hoped for more of its abundance. The dollar meant something to Henson—it meant more art. How might you make a shrine to the money that will fuel your art? A shrine may not actually do anything, but as artists, you know the value of focusing one’s thoughts.

And what is a hero but a person upon whom to focus one’s thoughts—to imagineone’s dreams? I would not have written this book if I did not believe that a Henson-like path is possible for today’s artists. In search of that path—for myself and all the artists I know—I’ve read everything I can find about Henson and money.

For simplicity’s sake, here are ten Muppety lessons. Use them to develop your own ideas, to notice new ways to look at your own career and jot down things that you might like to try. Use this book as an object to focus your thoughts about art and money. And then go beyond it.

Lesson 1: Find a Good Reason to Sell Out

The real breakthrough in Henson’s career—the thing that would make him a mogul—was Sesame Street. It debuted in 1969, a good fifteen years into Henson’s television career. Because it taught children across the country, Henson became a household name, and through Sesame Street toys, Henson became a millionaire. In short, merchandizing is the “secret” to Henson’s success. However, licensing toys, to Henson, felt like selling out. Before he became a mogul, he had to find a good reason to do so.

For Henson—like any artist—finding funding had always been a problem. From 1957 until 1969, Henson funded his workshop, his experimental television, and his films with commercials. This had been a “second job” as catering is to actors and teaching is to many poets. One of the virtues of the second job is that Hyde says it makes it easy for artists to “mark the boundary between their art and the market.” Henson didn’t confuse his commercials with his shows—there was a clear boundary. And the money from these commercials insulated him from the market to a great extent. He could spend as much money as he wanted on his projects, using this second job for income. Similarly, Hyde notes that for many years Edward Hopper did commercial drafting for magazines before his real work became profitable. In the meantime, the magazine money allowed him to keep painting.

But with commercials, there were drawbacks. No matter how reputable the product or how honest the company, some part of Henson’s content was always dictated by the sponsor. Later, he would look back on commercials and say, “It was a pleasure to get out of that world. If you’ve ever worked in commercials, it’s a world of compromise and a world of…” He trailed off mid-sentence in this interview, suggesting a kind of self-censorship—commercials were more than a compromise for Henson. They were something he didn’t want to describe on record. Even when he was highly respected in the industry, he said, “The whole process is really not easy on a creative person.”

So, in 1969, Jim Henson decided to stop making commercials. He had a good excuse—he felt it was confusing to the impressionable viewers of Sesame Street to use his characters to both sell snacks and teach the alphabet. Artistically, this was a good decision, giving Henson more time to focus on Sesame Street. The only trouble was that Henson no longer had the buffer of commercial pay to keep his projects funded. Henson essentially cut a deal for the nonprofit Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) for his first-rate services on Sesame Street. As Sesame profiler Mike Davis wrote, his pay was “modest by show-business standards.”

To keep funding his high-quality work, Henson needed another option to emerge, and almost like karma, one did—merchandizing. Davis writes that “within weeks ofSesame Street’s debut there was no shortage of opportunities… [Co-creator Joan Ganz] Cooney began fielding cold calls from marketers eager to attach the likenesses of Muppet characters on to products, in exchange for a licensing fee.” Like commercials, toy merchandizing offered Henson a way to be his own bankroller, and it would be better than commercials, because there would be no boss above his own creative vision; however, at first, Henson refused.

In 1970, two years into Sesame Street’s production, Jim Henson argued the issue with his agent, Bernie Brillstein. In his memoir, Where Did I Go Right?, Brillstein wrote:

Jim Henson and his wife, Jane, dropped by my house at 1240 Loma Vista. Soon we were pacing around the kitchen, arguing. If it was 110 degrees outside, it was definitely hotter inside.

This was the problem: I wanted Jim and Jane to make a merchandizing deal for the Sesame Street characters. They thought it was a bad idea. The Children’s Television Workshop needed the deal because the revenue would ensure continued independent support for what had become a huge public television hit. But Jim and Jane owned half the rights, and both sides had to approve any arrangement.

“You have to merchandise,” I said.

“No,” said Jim and Jane at the same time. Jim hated the idea of selling out…

The Hensons were artsy-craftsy. They always wanted to do things for the right reasons. God bless them. They thought educating kids on public TV and then selling them toys based on the characters didn’t mix… [T]he whole idea of merchandising made them feel like sell-outs. As artists, they couldn’t live with that perception.

Despite his vehemence, Henson came around. In 1970, he started merchandizing theSesame Street characters, and the rest, as they say, is history. Jim Henson sold out—by his own standards.

From 
Make Art Make Money, by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens. Purchase the full Kindle Serial here.

On Muppets & Merchandise: How Jim Henson Turned His Art into a Business – Longreads.


30 de septiembre de 2013 por Diego Rottman

Un hombre rabioso muerde a un perro

AÑOS_DE_RABIA_BLAUSTEINSobre el libro “Años de rabia”, de Eduardo Blaustein

De la década kirchnerista transcurrida, apenas menos de la última mitad estuvo dedicada a debatir sobre comunicación. La Ley de Medios, 678, “Clarín Miente”… todo no va más atrás de 2008/2009.

Y aunque parezca que la discusión haya estado desde siempre, es tan nueva como intensa. Argentinos que sumaron a los tópicos de sus asados a personajes como Orlando Barone o Magnetto. Semiótica de sobremesa para pelearse por las noticias de costumbre, pero ahora con una nota al pie agregada, sobre la intencionalidad, origen, veracidad  y antecedentes de cada información, temas hasta entonces reservados a las aulas universitarias o las redacciones.

El panorama se completó cuando, hace apenas dos años (sí, dos), llegó Jorge Lanata al grupo Clarín. El esquema de entonces era, por un lado, un gobierno fuerte en votos, que a su vez tenía cada vez más medios adictos, pero con mínima o nula llegada. Y, del otro, una oposición política fragmentada y sin claros liderazgos, apoyada por la enorme audiencia del multimedios Clarín y el prestigio de periodista de denuncia de Lanata acuñado en los años de menemismo.

Dos programas periodísticos, Lanata para el antikirchnerismo y 678 para el kirchnerismo se convirtieron en la usina discursiva de los militantes. Lanata centrado en los escándalos de corrupción del gobierno. Y 678 dedicado a desarmar la mirada de los medios críticos sobre el oficialismo. Que Lanata haya pecado muchas veces de superficialidad o inexactitud, que 678 haya perseguido o amado alternativamente visiones y personas según estuvieran cerca o lejos de la Casa Rosada son considerados daños colaterales por cada bando.

De todos estos temas se ocupa Eduardo Blaustein en su libro “Años de rabia”. Y también de otros, como la Ley de Medios, la publicidad oficial, cómo fue la relación con Clarín en este y otros gobiernos, los medios públicos, los medios oficialistas y las diferencias de las políticas de comunicación durante el kirchnerismo comparadas con los gobiernos de Menem y Alfonsín.

El libro va alternando tres registros: fragmentos de textos académicos, la historia de la comunicación en Argentina desde 1983 hasta mayo de este año y un “diario de navegación”, que cuenta en primera persona lo que iba pasando en los medios mientras el autor escribía el libro.

En esta guerra con dos bandos bien delimitados, donde no parece haber lugar para espacios intermedios, el libro se pretende equilibrado. Aunque Blaustein no es precisamente antikirchnerista, hay un muy jugoso capítulo dedicado a enumerar todos los aciertos del Grupo Clarín a lo largo de su historia. La lógica es irrebatible: si sobrevivió tantos años con el favor del público, habrá que ver adónde está su atractivo, al margen del papel subsidiado o las connivencias políticas.

A la vez, es bastante crítico del modelo de 678 “hablándole a los convencidos” y de otras medidas comunicacionales del gobierno. No lo es tanto de la distribución de la publicidad oficial, aunque se exponen todas las posturas sobre el tema.

El libro empieza mesurado, relajado y académico y concluye indignado, con rabia, con los avatares de los primeros programas de este año de Lanata (Fariña, Elaskar y cia.), al que termina llamando “Billy the Kid”. Sin embargo, Blaustein dedica uno de los mejores momentos del trabajo a contar en primera persona su relación con Lanata, al que supo acompañar en tres medios, El Porteño, Página/12 y Crítica. Es especialmente fascinante ver, a través de sus anécdotas, como nunca hubo “varios Lanatas” sino que siempre fue el mismo, solo que se fue potenciando a medida que tuvo más poder para hacerlo. Ese capítulo vale más que toda la biografía de Majul.

Y otro capítulo recomendable es el dedicado al “populismo mediático”, una lúcida comparación con el populismo político, para analizar el giro demagógico de los medios hacia las audiencias en cuanto a contenidos y tratamientos de la información. Fenómeno global, pero que sirve para volver a entender a los periodistas y medios exitosos, no siempre fanáticos de la ética periodística y la responsabilidad civil al momento de ejercer el oficio.

2015 está cerca y nadie sabe que nos deparará. ¿Que pasará con 678 y Diego Gvirtz bajo otro presidente? ¿Clarín mantendrá a Lanata en caso de acordar con un nuevo gobierno? ¿Qué suerte correrá la Ley de Medios? ¿Página/12 seguirá kirchnerista? Lo que se puede aventurar es que, por acción u omisión, los medios van a seguir siendo noticia. Porque, en el fondo, que un medio hable de un político es lo esperable, el perro que muerde al hombre. Pero que un político hable (y se enfrente, y tome decisiones políticas) sobre los medios es lo novedoso, el hombre que muerde al perro.


Acote 14 de septiembre de 2013 por Diego Rottman

En defensa del Diccionario: de almóndigas y otras «aberraciones» – Jotdown

En 2014 se presentará la vigésima tercera edición del Diccionario de la Real Academia Española, aunque desde hace tiempo podemos conocer algunas de las novedades que presentará gracias a la versión en línea. Como suele ocurrir con las obras de la Academia, el Diccionario es fuente de encarnizadas polémicas. Desde el momento mismo de su fundación hasta hoy, a la RAE nunca le han faltado detractores ilustres; a ellos se han ido sumando espontáneos de todos los campos del saber y del desconocer, que, gracias a Internet, nos ofrecen su opinión en blogs, foros, revistas digitales y redes sociales, dando lugar a artículosdebatespifias y grupos de señoras que se sublevan contra la RAE.

Examinando sus reacciones en la red, la actitud que se percibe en los hablantes es, en general, de un autoproclamado conservadurismo, en ocasiones un tanto inopinado, llegando a considerar la Academia como una institución nociva para la salvaguardia de la lengua por su carácter indulgente, por no decir macarra, a la hora de consentir vulgarismos, barbarismos, neologismos y otros presuntos enemigos del buen uso. Esta postura nace del desconocimiento de la naturaleza del diccionario, unido a la asignación de un poder materializante y legitimador: lo que está en el diccionario existe, es legal y pienso usarlo. Es habitual encontrar expresiones como «ahora podemos decir» haciendo referencia a la inclusión de voces o, por el contrario, reclamaciones sobre términos no reflejados, con la finalidad de reconocer su existencia y demostrarla con papeles. Resulta paradójico que muchos hablantes declarados en rebeldía reconozcan con sus demandas la autoridad del diccionario más allá de sus propias pretensiones.

El DRAE es un diccionario general y no puede contener todo el léxico de la lengua. No abarca todas las palabras formadas por composición o derivación y muchas otras que, aun ateniéndose a las reglas y por tanto siendo correctas desde el punto de vista lingüístico, sencillamente, no caben. Incluye, y así lo ha hecho desde su primera edición, los vulgarismos, usos coloquiales, dialectales, arcaísmos, etc., más extendidos y frecuentes, indicando su naturaleza.

Hay que tener en cuenta que, además de la normativa, el DRAE tiene una función descriptiva de la lengua; es una herramienta para interpretarla y no puede contener únicamente las palabras cultas. Su misión no es seleccionar las voces que se pueden decir, sino registrar el uso que los hablantes hacen de ellas.

Es un diccionario más amplio y complejo que el Diccionario esencial y otros de carácter divulgativo que no contienen este tipo de entradas que, a partir de su descubrimiento por parte del gran público, causan conmoción:

ALMÓNDIGA

Probablemente la más popular: ni un día en las redes sociales sin que alguien dé la voz de alarma sobre su aceptación, sembrando el desconcierto y la consiguiente reacción en cadena de desmayos, indignación y ojos sangrando.

En realidad aparece desde la primera edición del Diccionario en 1726 y remite a la entrada albóndiga, en la que se relatan las posibles etimologías y se señala el uso. Hasta la vigésima tercera edición no aparecerán las marcas «desusado» (desus.) y «usado como vulgar» (U. c. vulg.), si bien en el DPD sí aparece la advertencia «no debe usarse la forma almóndiga, propia del habla popular de algunas zonas».

TOBALLA

Variante arcaica de toalla, habitual en español antiguo. En el Diccionario desde 1739. Se indica su uso vulgar en el DPD.

COCRETA

Aunque se suele añadir a la lista de ultrajes académicos, tal vez por afinidad con almóndiga, no está registrada en el diccionario. Lamentablemente, en mi opinión. Es una forma documentada y mantuvo con croqueta un pulso que perdió contra todo pronóstico, pues la metátesis es un fenómeno propio de nuestra lengua que ha triunfado en casos como el que veremos a continuación.

CROCODILO

Variante antigua y etimológica del latín crocodilus y este del griego κροκόδειλος. Se mantiene la raíz cro- en gallego, euskera, portugués, francés, inglés y alemán. En castellano e italiano sufrió metátesis, siendo la forma «no culta» la que triunfó en estas dos lenguas. Crocodilo aparece en la primera edición del diccionario como forma aconsejada frente a cocodrilo usada esta última «contra los más selectos Autores y Vocabularios», siendo a partir del siglo XVIII cuando se impone.

MURCIÉGALO

Aparece en 1734 en el Diccionario con una inquietante descripción que merece la pena rescatar, así como esta estrofa escrita mientras coexistió junto a murciélago.

Tras vos, un alquimista va corriendo,
Dafne, que llaman Sol, ¿y vos tan cruda?
Vos os volvéis murciégalo sin duda,
pues vais del Sol y de la luz huyendo.

Francisco de Quevedo (A Dafne, huyendo de Apolo)

(6)

ASÍN

En el Diccionario desde 1770, al mismo tiempo que así. Actualmente marcado como «vulgar». En los bancos de datos CREA y CORDE está documentado su uso, en algunos casos como imitación del habla popular.

 Consulta: asín, en todos los medios, en CORDE 
 Resultado: 246 casos en 45 documentos.

REAL ACADEMIA ESPAÑOLA: Banco de datos (CORDE) [en línea]. Corpus diacrónico del español. [08/07/13]

 Consulta: asín, en todos los medios, en CREA 
 Resultado: 22 casos en 13 documentos.

REAL ACADEMIA ESPAÑOLA: Banco de datos (CREA) [en línea]. Corpus de referencia del español actual. [08/07/13]

Estas y otras palabras recogidas como vagamundomiraglo o agora, tienen en común el haber formado siempre parte del diccionario —y así seguirá siendo mientras no esté terminado el Diccionario histórico a pesar de ser percibidas por algunos usuarios como incorporaciones recientes que respondieran a una relajación de la norma.

El diccionario se limita a registrar su existencia señalando con marcas su calificación o remitiendo a la forma culta. Considerarlas aconsejadas es una interpretación errónea, del mismo modo que la existencia deexpresiones malsonantes no implica de ninguna manera que se recomiende su uso en la redacción de correos profesionales o en la descripción en medios de comunicación de lanzamientos a puerta de Sergio Ramos.

Real Academia Española (11)

Otras entradas que provocan indignación son las grafías adaptadas de anglicismos. Generalmente de anglicismos y no de todos los extranjerismos. Según manifiestan algunos usuarios se perciben como un atraso, al considerar más moderno y avanzado escribirlos en inglés. Por el contrario, muchos hablantes aborrecen palabras de variantes de la lengua española que le son ajenas en una actitud que raya la xenofobia. El etnocentrismo es tan acusado en algunos casos como para reducir el perímetro de aceptación al alcance de las orejas y un «no lo había oído en mi vida» se usa frecuentemente como argumento de rechazo. Estas actitudes competen más al estudio sociológico que al lingüístico.

Las adaptaciones gráficas no suponen un empobrecimiento de la lengua, sino todo lo contrario, y hay miles de ejemplos que ni siquiera se perciben como préstamos al estar plenamente integrados. La incorporación de léxico adquirido es un proceso natural de la lengua para ampliar su vocabulario.

El número de voces que producen alarma es abundante, pero, dado que la mayoría son sugerencias que la Academia propone como solución a dudas planteadas, con el objetivo de integrar vocablos de forma acorde al sistema fonético y ortográfico español y que los hablantes pueden hacer uso de ellas u optar por el extranjerismo crudo destacado con relieve tipográfico, no merece la pena detenerse en este punto más que para comentar algunas de las más controvertidas.

GÜISQUI

Está en el diccionario desde 1984, al mismo tiempo que whisky, y tiene escaso seguimiento en comparación al anglicismo crudo.

Consulta: güisqui, en todos los medios, en CREA 
 Resultado: 118 casos en 55 documentos.

REAL ACADEMIA ESPAÑOLA: Banco de datos (CREA) [en línea]. Corpus de referencia del español actual. [08/07/13]

El rechazo que provoca güisqui no tiene parangón en coñacsakevodkaginebraron o vermut, todos ellos extranjerismos integrados sin salir del campo semántico de las bebidas alcohólicas, incorporados a nuestra lengua en distintos momentos de la historia. La Ortografía de la lengua española de 2010 propone wiski.

BLUYÍN

La marca Am. indica que se trata de un uso restringido en América. Como explica el DPD, en gran parte de Hispanoamérica se usa exclusivamente la denominación inglesa para el pantalón vaquero y la grafía adaptada tiene uso documentado. En España se utilizan únicamente las denominaciones vaquero y tejano, de modo que no incumbe su uso.

JONRÓN

Al igual que bluyín está marcado su uso en América. La grafía adaptada está muy extendida en el continente desde hace años y existen derivados como jonronear o jonronero. El béisbol es un deporte mucho más popular en América que en España, hecho que sin duda contribuye a la natural incorporación y adaptación de préstamos relacionados.

Consulta: jonrón, en todos los medios, en CREA 
 Resultado: 592 casos en 254 documentos.

REAL ACADEMIA ESPAÑOLA: Banco de datos (CREA) [en línea]. Corpus de referencia del español actual. [08/07/13]

Otro de los aspectos controvertidos son las palabras o acepciones de palabras que hieren la sensibilidad de algunos colectivos. Son clásicos los reproches por acepciones de gitanogallego o judiada. La próxima edición revisa algunas atendiendo al desuso; para compensar, incluye dos novedades que ya han despertado protestas por su carga machista.

MUSLAMEN

1. m. coloq. Esp. Muslos de una persona, especialmente los de mujer.

CANALILLO

(Del dim. de canal).

1. m. coloq. Comienzo de la concavidad que separa los pechos de la mujer tal como se muestra desde el escote.

La Academia siempre ha manifestado que el Diccionario no puede regirse por criterios de corrección política. En su cometido de «notario» no puede intervenir en los usos que los hablantes hacen de las palabras ni desterrar voces inconvenientes.

La lista de palabras motivo de queja es copiosa y sin duda algunas de ellas con fundamento y razón; de hecho, la Unidad Interactiva del Diccionario resuelve en este sentido muchas de ellas.

La vigésima tercera edición del DRAE será la primera que estará a disposición de los usuarios en la red de forma idéntica a su versión en papel, lo que supone una valiosa fuente de información que precisa una interpretación más compleja que otros diccionarios simplificados. Desde que los hablantes han ido conociendo masivamente elDiccionario a través de la red, al tiempo que tenían oportunidad de comentar su contenido, este ha sido motivo de mayores polémicas, lo cual indica un interés por nuestra lengua que merece la pena orientar hacia la investigación mediante las múltiples herramientas y datos de los que disponemos, y, por qué no, dirigir nuestras propuestas argumentadas para mejorar el Diccionario.

Como pretensión personal, la definición de gañán me parece insuficiente para el uso actual. Habrá que recabar pruebas para legitimar su uso y el de su derivado gañanía.

Gañán

 

En defensa del Diccionario: de almóndigas y otras «aberraciones».


Acote 16 de julio de 2013 por Diego Rottman

Los riesgos del periodismo de marca: entrevista con Enrique Dans

Ilustración: Metzger.com

Una nueva tendencia ha comenzado a cobrar fuerza en Europa y Estados Unidos. Se trata del periodismo de marca (brand journalism), donde grandes compañías deciden crear sus propios medios de noticias en internet.

Algunos de los casos más representativos en la actualidad son Coca-Cola Journey,Free Press (de Intel), The Financialist(propiedad del banco Credit Suisse), The Network (Cisco), Business Without Borders(banco HSBC) y CMO (Adobe).

No son portales que publiquen exclusivamente comunicados de prensa de las marcas a las cuales pertenecen, sino que se dedican a desarrollar noticias relacionadas con el campo de acción de sus empresas propietarias, para atraer a una audiencia interesada en tales tópicos. Tecnología en el caso de CMO y The Network, o negocios en el caso de Business Without Borders y The Financialist.

Sin embargo, esta nueva forma de periodismo implica una serie de riesgos desde los puntos de vista de la audiencia, los periodistas y los medios tradicionales. ¿Se le está ofreciendo a la audiencia publicidad disfrazada de información? ¿Terminarán las marcas contratando a los mejores periodistas? ¿Amenaza el periodismo de marca a los medios tradicionales?

Con el fin de debatir respecto a estas inquietudes generadas por el auge del periodismo de marca, la Red Ética Segura de la FNPI contactó a Enrique Dans, profesor de tecnologías de la información en el IE Business School de Madrid.

El profesor Dans fue recientemente citado en un artículo de El País dedicado a abordar el “boom” del periodismo de marca, donde declaró que destacó el caso de muchos CEO quienes ya venían utilizando sus blogs para comunicarse con el público y compensar informaciones desfavorables. “Fue así como Bob Lutz, presidente de GM, logró contrarrestar artículos contra él aparecidos en The New York Times”, dijo al diario español.

En entrevista concedida a Hernán Restrepo, gestor de contenidos de la Red Ética de la FNPI, el profesor Dans ofreció su punto de vista sobre la forma en que el periodismo de marca se puede ejercer de manera profesional y objetiva.

Escuche la entrevista completa aquí

De acuerdo al profesor Dans, autor del libro “Todo va a cambiar. Tecnología y evolución: adaptarse o desaparecer”, el apogeo que está teniendo el periodismo de marca se debe no tanto a que puede presentarse como una nueva alternativa de trabajo para los periodistas desempleados, sino más bien a lo que llama “la web social”, la cual permite que cualquier portal de internet tenga un alto número de visitas si el tema del cual trata su contenido logra tener relevancia para motores de búsqueda como Google.

“Las barreras de entrada para la producción de contenido han bajado muchísimo. Antes, para crear un periódico debías ser una empresa especializada en prensa y tener una redacción enorme. Ahora en cambio, organizar una redacción es mucho más sencillo y cualquiera desde su casa puede tener una buena publicación”, explica Dans como otro de los factores que han permitido el crecimiento del periodismo de marca.

De acuerdo al catedrático, en el futuro veremos buenos y malos ejemplos de la implementación del periodismo de marca. Por un lado, los malos ejemplos serán los de aquellas corporaciones que disfrazarán su estrategia de marketing unidireccional tratando de hacer ver sus notas de prensa como noticias, y que en consecuencia terminarán teniendo portales de periodismo de marca que no tendrán relevancia alguna. De otra parte, las marcas que lo entiendan correctamente, permitirán un desarrollo profesional financiando proyectos periodísticos de calidad que a largo plazo beneficien la reputación de la empresa.

“La propia selección natural nos llevará a que las marcas tengan un genuino interés por informar en una serie de temáticas que tengan una proximidad a su audiencia. Si eso se hace razonablemente bien, estas marcas terminarán teniendo éxito y se convertirán en un referente para temas específicos”, concluyó Dans.

Los riesgos del periodismo de marca: entrevista con Enrique Dans.


Acote 6 de junio de 2013 por Diego Rottman

Inside Forbes: 9 Trends Journalists Must Know About To Keep Their Careers Going – Forbes

The news business is changing fast — again. That’s because the ad business is changing fast — again. Or is it because Facebook FB -0.13% is changing the ad business, or because Twitter and Linkedin are changing the news business. Day by day, the big social sites look and act more like media companies, delivering all manner of content and advertising. Next up: with a combined audience of 1 billion, what role will Yahoo YHOO +0.54%, a portal, and Tumblr, a social blogging network, play in this media puzzle?

One thing is clear: news organizations and their journalists must jump into this free-for-all — or be hopelessly left behind. As someone who builds news experiences, I’m focused on people and products. Nearly 35% of our editorial and product team has joined us over the past three years, all with skills that never existed here before. What talent do we need now? Two years ago we launched a new kind of article page for a new kind of content model — and watched our audience surge to 48 million unique monthly users from 18 million (as measured by Omniture). How must that page and model evolve in the months ahead so we can keep pace?

Here are 9 key factors we’re constantly talking about as we adjust our product plans for the next six months:

1) Networks: Not those dying, one-way broadcast and cable news models. I am talking people networks offering an immersive social experience that generate a huge number of money-making page views. Facebook accounts for more than a trillion of them a month, or at least 25% of Internet traffic. With that kind of usage, who needs pay walls, the newspaper industry’s latest Hail Mary. The rise of programmatic buying of ad inventory, a scary challenge for any traditional media company, plays to the strength of Facebook’s scale, whether its desktop or mobile. Just as threatening, who needs editors when friends produce more relevant, if not more trustworthy, news digests. Social networks do need to keep consumer fickleness in mind. After the Yahoo-Tumblr news broke, Matt Mullenweg, WordPress’s founder, said 72,000 Tumblr users an hour weinventory to keep the lights on. There are only so many full-time journalists that any news organization can hire in a world of falling CPMs. It becomes increasingly necessary to build a platform experience by distributing easy-to-use publishing tools to a broader array of content creators, including freelancers, commenters and others.

3) Rivers and Streams: They are everywhere — Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and some news sites. FORBES introduced them a few years ago on our home and channel pages. Yahoo is in the game, too, implementing a river, or stream, of headlines on its home page that either link internally to Yahoo pages or externally to other sites, including Forbes.com (note: we’ve seen solid traffic from the Yahoo stream, more evidence that consumers scroll to find what interests them). They’ll soon become ubiquitous.

4) Mobile Summaries: Many believed the digital era would kill off long-form content. Not so. If it’s quality content, people will consume it no matter what the length — and even pay $1.99 and up for it, particularly on tablets. VC money continues to find its way into journalism, micro publishing and ebook startups focusing on creating and distributing professional content. Still, in a smartphone world, the summary is shaping up to be the next hot thing. Yahoo just bought Summly, which uses algorithms to summarize news on mobile devices, for a reported $30 million. Circa, from Cheezburger Network, does the same using human beings, then provides mobile updates without the traditional journalistic “write-through” of an article.

5Shareable content: Lite fare travels at light speed across the social Web, way faster than the harder stuff. For many news organizations, it’s the new pixie dust. Three years ago, less expensive, search-driven, user-generated content was the rage (USA Today partnered with Demand Media DMD 0%, getting 4,000 keyword-rich travel tips). Last week, CNN joined forces withBuzzfeed, looking to that startup to turn its brand of cable news journalism into the more shareable kind.

6) Ad view-ability: For a decade if not longer, every marketer insisted that its display ads be at the top of the digital screen. Now they’ve determined that consumers can scroll faster than rich media ads can load on a page. The result: many are not seen and industrywide clickthrough performance is lower than ever (about 0.005%). So now it’s about viewability — making sure consumers can see a display ad for at least a second and maybe even click a bit more. That means as readers scroll down a page, some ads will move down the page, too. Other times, longer scrolls will mean more ads will come into view nestled next to text.

7) Programatic buying: Google’s consumer search engine is the #1 source of audience referrals for most publishers. Its acquisition of Doubleclick gave it the largest market position for publisher and advertiser ad serving, called DFP and DFA (DART for Publishers and DART for Advertisers). And it has the largest auction-based marketplace of buyers (called AdWords) from its dominance in Paid Search.  This resulted in Google’s AdX exchange becoming the dominant advertising exchange for transaction processing of ad impressions. Supply + Supply Chain + Demand = more programmatic buying than ever at advertising rates far below premium display pricing.

8) Native advertising: FORBES helped lead the way nearly three years ago. Now it’s everywhere, from The Atlantic to The Washington Post. I’ve read reports that even The New York Times is considering ways to integrate branded content on its pages. The trend of brands as publishers is also giving new life to the decades-old business of custom content. Those marketers not yet ready for native or custom are pushing deeper in the sponsorships — editorial content created around topics of  interest to marketers s but still controlled by the journalists producing it.

9) Video: Marketers can’t get enough of it and news sites love the high CPMs. The rub: building scale remains difficult for for any news site that’s not a broadcast or cable outlet, and building profitability in partnership with those that have scale (YouTube and Hulu) is equally challenging. In balancing the resources and effort against the return, lite-fare video may hold promise, particularly for organizations such as FORBES that can focus on curating their own content vs. aggregating the Web.

All of the above intersects in one way or another with the article page, like the one you’re reading right now. This version helped us win a Tribeca Disruptive Innovations award. No matter, the time has come to reinvent, to build a new screen that delivers quality content and provides inventory for new forms of advertising. Making adjustments so that every pixel delivers for our 1,000 content creators and are marketing partners will help us attain our ultimate goal: to build a sustainable model for advertising-supported journalism.

Inside Forbes: 9 Trends Journalists Must Know About To Keep Their Careers Going – Forbes.


Acote 6 de junio de 2013 por Diego Rottman

Where Newspapers Are Alive And Kicking – Forbes

I found this graphic from Statista interesting because I remember living it, on the ground, in Sao Paulo.

The newspapers were thick.  Folha de Sao Paulo was so big on Sunday you could do upright rows with it and build killer trap muscles.  They sold recipe books. People bought it. And they talked about it. It is, and was, The New York Times…before the news aggregators killed it.

The newspaper business is “thriving”.  I put that in quotes because, as a journalist with 15 years in, I think it is thriving in Brazil and in countries throughout Asia because the poor are getting richer. They’re reading more.  I don’t have any evidence for this, but I think that the middle class and the rich will start to read more on their smartphones and tablets.  They’ll browse free content. There will be no need to subscribe. Some will have to pay for access to newspapers like Folha. Some papers will be very sparse with their digital content, like Estado and Valor Economico, the nation’s leading business daily.

But then there’s the beauty of a lack of competition.  There’s not a hundred different websites writing about novellas and “futbol” stars. There’s maybe half a dozen. Huffington Post Brazil and The New York Times like this market, but both of them are at odds.  The NYT wants paper subscribers and don’t have the manpower to compete with the original content that Estado, Folha and Globo pump out. I see small numbers at HuffPo Brazil and NYT in the future. It will be a very expensive endeavor, and Brazilians will call it Huffington Postchie, which just sounds stupid and no one will want to read it as a result.

“Cara, voce liu o Huff Postchie?”  

I don’t think so.

So that brings us to the newspapers.  American media can only be impressed with these numbers down south and out east.

Newspapers in Asia and Latin America have  seen substantial increases in circulation and ad revenue over the past five years. The above chart by Statistashows changes in newspaper circulation and advertising revenue between 2008 and 2012.

Where Newspapers Are Alive And Kicking – Forbes.


Acote 6 de junio de 2013 por Diego Rottman

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