Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009: The Year -in' Was In

2009 can (and will) be declared the year of many things: Twitter, health care reform, Lady Gaga, Barack Obama, celebrity deaths, and high-profile philandering all come to mind as reasonable options. Amidst all these, though, I would like to submit a new candidate: the gerund. Or, more specifically, -ing, or, even more specifically, -in' (as in "somethin' somethin'"). This year, from pop music to the oval office to newborn babies, -in' ruled.

The popular music charts in 2009 were really embodied by the notorious Kanye West-Taylor Swift microphone shakedown at the VMAs--it was rap and urban electro meeting, not so gracefully, with country and poppy americana. As Kings of Leon mingled with Jay-Z and T-Pain bought Miley Cyrus a drank, these disparate parties could find common ground in their fondness for the abridged gerund, -in' sound. Arguably the most popular song of the year, with 20 weeks in Billboard's Hot 100 top ten, was "I Gotta Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas. The song's bouncy refrain has will.i.am digitally tonguing the utility of the -in' in "feeling." (Curiously, the song's title preserves the proper spelling of "feeling" but muddies the meaning of "gotta"... isn't it "got to"?)

Recent Nobel Prize winner, and 2009 cover boy, President Barack Obama is also fond of the gerund. During his inauguration ceremony in January, Obama started his address by saying that the Presidential oath is often "taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms." In Oslo this month, Obama concluded his Nobel acceptance speech with the image of "a mother facing punishing poverty."

The most significant evidence that -in' took America by storm in 2009 is the year's list of most popular baby names. While Gawker summed up the 2009 trends in baby-naming as "America: dumb people, fancy names," the top names, collectively, are more noteworthy for the way they sound as opposed to how fancy they are. Overwhelmingly, the most popular baby names in 2009 ended in an -in' sound. Aiden and Madeline (and their alternate spellings) were the most popular boys' and girls' names of 2009, respectively. The second most popular girls' name was Madison while six of the boys' top ten were -in' names (Owen, Ethan, Jackson, Evan, Braden, plus Aiden). Also, Reuters points out that this sound extends beyond the top ten. "Variations on the name Aiden," the newswire reported, are "dominating both boys and girls names, such as Jayden, Brayden and Hayden."

In a world of blogging, Googling, texting, and sexting, it only makes sense that our tongues would drift to our hard palettes in an -in' sound. Still, it all makes one pause and wonder, as Twitter did, "What are you doing?"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

MySpace: Leading Resource for Mistress Photos

With the recent acquisitions of music-centric platforms Imeem and iLike, it's clear that MySpace is betting on music and entertainment to be its salvation. New MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta, formerly a top executive at Facebook, emphasized this focus in an October interview with The Financial Times, saying, “Facebook is not our competition. We’re very focused on a different space.” As MySpace shifts its business model, it should not overlook another potential revenue stream: serving as the go-to resource for news outlets seeking mistress photos.

While the Tiger Woods scandal turned from an affair into a harem this week, MySpace provided key photos of Woods' alleged lovers. The rapid revelations that Woods had been involved with a fourth, fifth, six, and seventh woman were manifested by images downloaded from the women's MySpace pages. Model Jamie Jungers, Manhattan clubgoer Cori Rist, and Perkins manager Mindy Lawton (or as The Daily News put it, "two more blonds and a brunette"), as well as porn star Holly Sampson, were brought to life in the media by smiling MySpace photos.

MySpace has also served as a key resource for other recent high-profile affairs. In March of 2008, as the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal unfolded, the MySpace page of Spitzer's call girl Ashley Dupre (who was originally identified as "Kristen") received 9 million page views in the matter of a week and the page's photos became the focal point of the ongoing saga. Dupre actually used this traffic hit to her advantage, promoting a single on her page as she tried to transition into a pop music career.

The fall from grace of ESPN baseball analyst, and former New York Mets GM, Steve Phillips was also fueled by the MySpace page of his mistress. Brooke Hundley, the 22-year-old production assistant who slept with Phillips and then wrote a taunting letter to his wife, was introduced to the world through MySpace images of her posing with Star Wars impersonators and her dressed in a sexy bunny get-up, blowing a kiss.

Kidding aside, there may be a business in here somewhere--a Getty for well-lit photos of nobodies who may one day unexpectedly find themselves at the center of a major news story, whether it be as a celebrity mistress or as a lotto winner. Then again, MySpace photos are just so much fun.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Genius of Andy Rooney

At the age of 90, Andy Rooney is a new media genius. For the past 33 seasons (33 seasons!), Rooney has been the resident crank on CBS's venerable news magazine "60 Minutes" and during this time he has established himself as the wry, grumbling conscience of American culture. Now, as the media landscape expands at a rapid clip and information is disseminated and reconstituted by millions of different sources, Rooney stands alone as a shining example of how to maintain total control over one's media presence.

Today, a person's image can be hijacked and re-purposed at a frantic pace--just ask Sarah Palin, who went from hockey-loving GOP savior to clueless, "oh, geez" MILF in a matter of days last year. The only real way to combat the wired wildfire of our digital age is to be You better than anyone on earth can be You. This is what Andy Rooney does so well. Even if someone can conjure a spot-on Andy Rooney impression, it's still not as enjoyable or wonky as watching the real Andy Rooney do his famous "60 Minutes" monologues.

Here's a recent clip (via TheAwl) in which Rooney says emphatically, "You can do everything on your computer now"...



There have been celebrities in the past that have successfully taken their image from the hands of the mediaverse but most of them have done so because they have so irreparably damaged their identities as to render the media attention no fun. Amy Winehouse, for example, was able to effectively take her name off the cover of Us but only because her repeated drug use (and the repeated documentation of it) turned from being a shame to just being sad. (Lady GaGa is the only current celebrity that comes to mind that achieves a Rooney-esque ability to outdo the critics and imitators).

Rooney's trademark desk slump and baffled delivery make him both an instantly recognizable icon and a figure that is so utterly himself as to remain above the fray.

Of course, Rooney's steely ability to control his image doesn't necessarily keep people from doing impressions. Here's Jimmy Fallon's recent, very funny take on the master...