Ah, the freshness in the face of leaving a task undone!

A poem by Fernando Pessoa

Ah, the freshness in the face of leaving a task undone!
To be remiss is to be positively out in the country!
What a refuge it is to be completely unreliable!
I can breathe easier now that the appointments are behind me.
I missed them all, through deliberate negligence,
Having waited for the urge to go, which I knew wouldn’t come.
I’m free, and against organized, clothed society.
I’m naked and plunge into the water of my imagination.
It’s too late to be at either of the two meetings where I should have been at the same time,
Deliberately at the same time…
No matter, I’ll stay here dreaming verses and smiling in italics.
This spectator aspect of life is so amusing!
I can’t even light the next cigarette… If it’s an action,
It can wait for me, along with the others, in the non-meeting called life.

© Translation: 1998, Richard Zenith
From: Fernando Pessoa & Co. – Selected Poems
Publisher: Grove Press, New York, 1998

A meditation on air conditioning, and on life in general

Had to post this from Helena Fitzgerald’s great Substack newsletter, Griefbacon. Helena is such a great writer that I am more than willing to read her writing about any topic, no matter how boring, including air conditioning — which is really (as most of Helena’s pieces are) about life, and loss, and desire:

“Westfield is like if a mall dressed as a mall for Halloween, like if three malls stood on each other’s shoulders in a trench-coat to try to fake their way into a job as a mall. Everything in it is too blank and too white and too vast. Everything at Westfield seems to want to make you comfortable and actually wants to make you angry. Soft music is always playing, and a child is always throwing up near you, and something is always on sale. You can always smell food and the food smells just ok yet still makes you hungry even though you’re not actually hungry.

Everything at Westfield is about want, and nothing is about bodies. Mall air-conditioning is the dream of being able to want things without having to admit it is your sticky, sweaty, soggy body doing the wanting. This is the same dream as money, desire unweighted and without human consequences, always sowing and never reaping. When I leave the mall, for a few minutes I am overjoyed to be back outside in the weather and aware of my own skin. Outside, it’s a thrill to be able to experience consequences again. That’s what the body is, after all: an endless slapstick staircase of consequences, banana peel after banana peel. We accumulate our own lives and eventually they show on our faces, in our posture, in our torn-up feet and our bad knees. Mall air-conditioning says all of this is optional.”

The Journalism Competition Act and the media industry

Note: This was originally published as the daily newsletter for the Columbia Journalism Review, where I am the chief digital writer

Last week, members of both houses of Congress—including Amy Klobuchar, the Democratic senator from Minnesota; John Kennedy, the Republican senator from Louisiana, and David Cicilline, the Democratic member of the House of Representatives for Rhode Island—introduced a revised version of a bill they say will allow news outlets to bargain for “fair terms from gatekeeper platforms that regularly access news content without paying for its value.” The bill, called the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, was originally introduced by Klobuchar last year; that in turn was based on a similar bill with an identical name, which Cicilline introduced in the House in 2018. The law would allow media outlets to negotiate as a group with platforms such as Google and Facebook for compensation, in return for allowing the platforms to aggregate and/or distribute their articles. Competitors coordinating their behavior would normally be collusion, but the JCPA gives media companies “safe harbor” from antitrust laws.

The act is similar to an Australian law known as the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which that country passed last year amid a storm of controversy. Before the code became law, Facebook tried to dissuade Australia’s parliament from passing it by blocking the country’s news publishers from posting their content, and even blocked Facebook users in Australia from posting news provided by non-Australian outlets (Google showed users a warning popup saying their internet experience would be degraded by the law). Like the Australian law, the bill proposed by Klobuchar and Cicilline requires Google and Facebook to enter into negotiations—either with individual media outlets or with groups of outlets—over payment for their news content. If the two sides are unable to reach an agreement, both the Australian law and the US version require the digital platforms to submit to binding arbitration (there have been no cases of arbitration since the Australian law was passed in March of 2021).

Google and Facebook quickly signed deals with news publishers and broadcasters after the code became law, including one where Google pays Nine Entertainment—which owns a TV channel, radio stations, the Sydney Morning Herald, and The Age in Melbourne—$22 million a year for five years (Facebook agreed to pay the same company about $15 million). Critics argued the law would benefit only large entities such as those owned by News Corp. (which got an estimated $50 million), but supporters say that hasn’t been the case. Bill Grueskin, a professor in Columbia University’s School of Journalism, wrote in a recent report on Australia’s media industry that some local journalists believe the law has revived the news business. Monica Attard, a journalism professor, “says she can’t persuade many students to take internships these days because it’s so easy for them to land full-time job—and that change coincides with the gusher of code money,” Grueskin wrote. Attard added: “I swear to God, I have not seen it like this in twenty years.”

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