J.D. Salinger Has Died

UPDATE: Charles McGrath on ‘the Garbo of Letters.’

From the NYT:

J.D. Salinger, the elusive and enigmatic author of “The Catcher in the Rye,” has died, The Associated Press reported. He was 91 and lived in Cornish, N.H.

The A.P. cited a statement from Mr. Salinger’s literary representative, saying that he died of natural causes at his home.

Published in 1951, “The Catcher in the Rye” became Mr. Salinger’s most famous work with its distinctive depiction of its angry, iconoclastic teenage protagonist, Holden Caulfield. Mr. Salinger frequently dealt with the subject of precocious youth in his short stories of the Glass family, as well as “Franny and Zooey,” a collection of two long short stories. He had not published a new work since 1965, and lived in near-total isolation, having refused the attention of the literary world and the news media for decades.




State Of The Union: Obama At His Best Or Most Desperate?

I suspect chances are fairly slim that you didn’t manage to see part of President Obama’s first official State of the Union speech last night. It was long (clocking in at 1hr 10 mins and 30 secs it was reminiscent of Clinton’s extended addresses) and it was everywhere. Obama has a lot to talk about! Perhaps most notably he didn’t get around to talking about health care (practically the only thing he talked about for the better part of last year) until more than 30 minutes into the address. Also, he didn’t get heckled this time around…technically speaking. Here’s a look at some of the reactions from across the board.

NYT:

If Mr. Obama thought he could take the rostrum in the House chamber and restore his image as the change agent who came to Washington to end the politics of division, he received another reminder just how hard that will be. Mr. Obama tried to recapture the magic of his yes-we-can campaign after a season of no-we-can’t governing, but conceded little if any ground to critics on either the right or the left. It was a confident performance, more defiant than contrite, more conversational than soaring.

Politico:

In a favorable light, his State of the Union speech may have revealed the mind of a leader who has never cared much about traditional ideological categories and is determined to create his own results-oriented composite of ideas from across the spectrum. Less charitably, the address could be interpreted as the work of a president who is desperately improvising by touching every political erogenous zone he and his advisers can think of.

Under either judgment, however, it was inescapable that his 69-minute speech — for all the rush of words and policy ideas — was a document of downsized ambitions for a downsized moment in his presidency.

Joe Klein:

This was Obama at his best. He wasn’t cuddly, but who cares? He was smart and he was funny–and he was drop-dead serious about the country. The speech should do him some good, but it’s not enough. Now he has to preside, in the true sense of the term. He can’t let himself get caught up in the tawdy doings of the Congress. He has to stand above the muck, leading, jawboning a sense of responsibility–as he did tonight.

538:

Obama is making a lot of arguments tonight that the WH should have been making for months now.

Ed Morrissey:

Impact: No grade, as SOTU speeches rarely have ANY impact except as scorecard later on everything not pursued. Not a game changer…

Andrew Sullivan:

Ending DADT: it’s the right thing to do. But I note that he has committed only to working with Congress and the military to end the ban this year. If he achieves it, I will stand up and cheer. But I have experienced enough crushing disappointments to believe it will actually happen….This was the president I supported and still support and will support because he alone is calling us away from the cynicism, the ideology, the rhetorical poison, and the red-blue divide that keep us from the reform we desperately need.

Sarah Palin:

This is why people are disenchanted and becoming more and more disengaged really from what their government is doing because when we see an issue like this, words spoken that may not be true, coming from our president, and embarrassing our Supreme Court and not respecting the separation of powers, we have a problem and that’s illustrated there by that justice there mouthing those words, ‘not true,’ now one or the other is being disingenuous here, either our president in what he just claimed or the Supreme Court justice…and I think its going to be a huge take away moment from the speech tonight.

Big Government:

I doubt that President Obama helped himself or his party with his State of the Union Address. A year ago, such a speech might have done him some good and would have done him no harm. By now, however, too many people are aware that they are being had. If anything, his decision to continue pushing his signature measures — cap and trade and healthcare reform — is likely to wreak havoc on his party in November.

Alessandra Stanley:

Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address was as much about his state of mind as the nation’s: the president repeatedly asserted that he feels as strongly about the impasse in the capital as ordinary Americans do…The adage says that in a democracy, people get the government they deserve. Mr. Obama used his time before Congress to posit that, actually, the American people deserve a better legislative branch.

The Awl:

Obama has never chanted “USA, USA, USA” before in his life. And it shows. Apart from that? I give that a pretty high marks for an ending. We don’t quit! I don’t quit! It was like a really good car commercial, back when we made cars.

The Sartorialist [In our Liveblog, 9:52 mark]

Obama’s tie = British-style left-to-right “repp stripe”; Biden’s = American-style right-to-left (http://socyberty.com/history/the-rep-tie-and-its-colorful-history/) Who approved those optics!?


The iPad Is a Multimedia Device. So Where Are the Media? Be Patient.

As predicted, Steve Jobs showed off a new multimedia device today. One thing he didn’t show off, though: Much in the way of new media.

Jobs and company clearly plan on incorporating new products from newspapers, magazine publishers, TV networks and Hollywood movie studios as the iPad rolls out. But there wasn’t much talk about any of those media products during the launch event.

The only mention of TV, music and movies, for instance, came as Jobs showed off the device’s multimedia features. But the implication, at least for now, is that consumers will get that stuff into their machines the same way they get it now, from iTunes, and at the same price–or via Google’s (GOOG) YouTube, which Jobs did take time to demo. That is, no talk of subscription products or of other changes in the media consumption/distribution model.

The same goes for magazine and newspaper products. As predicted, Apple (AAPL) highlighted an iPad app designed by the New York Times (NYT), but there was no mention of how much the thing will cost or whether the paper will charge anything at all.

“This was a demonstration product. It’s too soon to discuss any details such as pricing,” Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty tells me via email.

Apple also highlighted games, bringing out demos from Electronic Arts (ERTS) and Gameloft. But both companies showed off versions of games you can already get for the iPhone and iPod touch.

Jobs did unveil one major media change: Apple is getting into the e-book world and competing with Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle head on. Jobs made a point of highlighting agreements with five big publishers: Pearson’s Penguin Group, News Corp.’s (NWS) HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, CBS’s (CBS) Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill (MHP). And, as reported, he showed off a higher price point for books than Amazon’s $9.99.

But even that seems fairly preliminary. While Jobs’s demo showed off splashes of color and a more “paper-like” presentation of the books’ pages, it didn’t feature much of the stuff you’d expect in an “enhanced e-book,” like video, audio, etc. So it will be interesting to see how the books, and their prices, evolve.

And that’s the key to all of this: It’s going to take some time. Keep in mind that Apple kept just about all the big media companies at arm’s length before the announcement and didn’t even acknowledge that there was a device until very recently.

Apple expects that like the iPod and iPhone, the iPad will be a big enough hit that media companies will adapt to the new hardware. Some of the media executives I spoke to in advance of today’s announcements were fine with that, but noted that many of them didn’t roll out new products for the earlier devices for a long time following their launch. We may be looking at a repeat here.

Maureen Dowd’s Love Letter To Scott Brown

“The New One is the shimmering vessel that we are pouring all our hopes and dreams into after the grave disappointment of the Last One, Barack Obama.”


That would be (and I know this will shock you) Maureen Dowd declaring her love of Scott Brown before tapping him as the 2012 president-elect. She continues:

The only question left is: Why isn’t Scott Brown delivering the State of the Union? He’s the Epic One we want to hear from. All that inexperience can really be put to good use here.

Obama’s Oneness has been one-upped. Why settle for a faux populist when we can have a real one? Why settle for gloomy populism when we can have sunny populism? Why settle for Ivy League cool when we can have Cosmo hot? Why settle for a professor who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Democrats when we can have an Everyman who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Republicans? Why settle for a 48-year-old, 6-foot-1, organic arugula when we can have a 50-year-old, 6-foot-2, double waffle with bacon?

Why settle for a smart analysis when we can just behold Modo adding another scalp to her long list of political pretty boy columns?!


State Of Our Union: Obama Vs. Joe Wilson Vs. The Tablet

Probably if President Obama hadn’t been averaging one major speech per week for the last twelve months (and at least that as a candidate for the previous two years) than absolutely all eyes would be on the President tonight for the most important speech of his life. But it’s hard to get all that worked up about it when the man has been taking over the airwaves on a pretty regular basis for quite some time. One imagines that if tonight doesn’t go that well (though the bar has been set fairly low this week) we’ll hear from him again in a couple of weeks.

Nevertheless! It is the State of the Union, and technically Obama’s first, and along with that comes a ton of pomp and circumstance and a day filled with predictions about what the President may or may not say, and what Joe Wilson may or may not holler (Time says nothing, but more on that below).

    From the NYT:

    When Mr. Obama presents his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening, aides said he would accept responsibility, though not necessarily blame, for failing to deliver swiftly on some of the changes he promised a year ago. But he will not, aides said, accede to criticism that his priorities are out of step with the nation’s.

    From CBS’s Mark Knoller (follow him on Twitter here if you’re not already):

    It’s a little known secret about the House Chamber. Inside the lectern from which the U.S. president addresses Joint Sessions of Congress, there’s a small locked box. Once a year, just before a president arrives to deliver his annual State of the Union Address, the House Sergeant-at-Arms unlocks the box with a four-sided key that dates back to the days of Thomas Jefferson. The cover flips up to reveal a red button about the size of a half-dollar coin. If the president presses it during his speech, he gets to start his presidency over again. If only. [HA]

    The possible state of the post-apocalyptic union:

    For those keeping Continuity of Government score at home tonight, there’s a new wrinkle this year : Not only will there be a Cabinet member hidden in some undisclosed location to prevent a complete beheading of our government, but the senior-most Cabinet secretary will also be absent from the speech, per the President’s direction to her to stick to a previously scheduled international meetings in London on hot-button national security issues Yemen and Afghanistan.

    The other speech people are waiting for:

    Congressman Joe Wilson will deliver the first ever live response to a State of the Union via Facebook on Wednesday. The South Carolina Republican is most known for blurting out “You lie!” during President Obama’s last speech to a joint session of Congress. Wilson will deliver an address live on his Facebook page approximately 30 minutes after Obama concludes the State of the Union.

    And finally the speech the media may be most obsessed with tomorrow:

    The chief executive officer speaks at a press conference today in San Francisco, where he will announce “a major new product that we’re really excited about,” he said this week in a statement with Apple’s earnings.


Maybe Newsday Made Its Pay Wall a Little Too Strong

That pay wall that Newsday put around its Web site last year? Crazily effective–at keeping people from buying an online subscription.

Last year, when executives from Cablevision (CVC) announced plans to turn their  paper’s Web site into a pay-to-play proposition, I dreamed up a way it could work: Maybe Long Island residents who wanted to peruse the paper’s classifieds would pay up. Nope.

Since the wall went up three months ago, only 35 people–as in not quite three dozen–have paid the $5-a-week fee for Web access, the New York Observer reports.

The Observer’s John Koblin quotes a Cablevision PR person who says that the “modest” pickup isn’t a surprise, but that’s some very unconvincing spin. Putting up a pay wall isn’t cheap or easy: Why bother if it only generates an extra $9,000?

Here’s the full statement from Cablevision/Newsday:

Millions of Cablevision customers in the New York tri-state area and 75% of Long Island households, including all Newsday home delivery subscribers, now have exclusive access to newsday.com at no additional charge. Internal research shows that Newsday’s Web site is an extremely popular new benefit to hundreds of thousands of Long Island Cablevision households. Given the number of households in our market that have access to Newsday’s Web site as a result of other subscriptions, it is no surprise that a relatively modest number have chosen the pay option.

As PaidContent notes, Cablevision can also argue that the real idea behind the pay wall is that it’s supposed to make existing subscribers feel like they’re getting something of real value (advertisers too, supposedly). But it’s hard to argue that online access is a “value-add” if only 35 people value it.

It’s also hard to argue that Cablevision’s problems offer any clue about the prospects of the New York Times’s (NYT) coming pay wall. Because the Times is a different beast from any other paper in the country.

I would be interested, though, in learning how the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune did with “Access Vikings Premium,” a $20-a-year pay wall it put up around most stories about the home team last season.

I could see the thinking behind this one, which showed up around the same time Brett Favre joined the team. And this was the year to try it, since the Vikings had a great season until they blew the NFC Conference game, as is their wont.

But in my personal one-man focus group, the pay wall only served to keep me from visiting StarTribune.com at all. I see now that the paper seems to have dropped the wall around content it used to ask me to pay for, so perhaps I wasn’t the only one. I’ve asked the paper for more details.

UPDATE: Strib spokesman Ben Taylor gives me a no comment, which apparently has been the paper’s stance on this for many months. MinnPost’s David Brauer explains, while noting that three of the paper’s biggest traffic days have been spurred by Vikings news.