Tuesday News: Gawker, Fantastic Four, Seattle Review of Books, and Elon Musk
Is This Nick Denton’s Exit Strategy From Gawker? -Speculation abounds as to the nature of Gawker’s new strategy and philosophy as staff continue to leave and Nick Denton appears to be cultivating investors and looking to diminish his own financial investment in the company. Despite rumors that Denton plans to leave the media conglomerate within the near future, he has been very publicly and deliberately setting a new mission for the site:
Denton, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with his “Gawker’s growing up” plan, as laid out in a lengthy manifesto released on Sunday—and echoed in his interviews with The New York Times and CNN’s Reliable Sources media criticism program.
Denton, who is occasionally accused of having a sensitivity chip missing, now vows to “inject some more humanity into Gawker.com,” the sharp-toothed blog—one of eight ranging from sports to technology and attracting 100 million monthly readers—from which his company takes its name.
That means, as Denton elaborated to the Times, that the flagship gossip blog will heretofore avoid “tabloid trash,” which he defined as “a scandal without any point. Infidelity, drug use, illness: These may be sufficient justification for a tabloid news site. But Gawker is supposed to be an intelligent tabloid, that covers juicy stories that show how the world works.”–The Daily Beast
STAN LEE RESPONDS TO CRITICS OF “FANTASTIC FOUR’S” HUMAN TORCH CASTING -Stan Lee has given his stamp of approval to Michael B. Jordan’s casting as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movie, indicating that he is both happy with Jordan’s casting and the diversification of the world he originally helped to create. Whether or not Lee is correct that fans aren’t objecting to Jordan’s race but to any diverging from the original character, the backlash hasn’t derailed Jordan’s casting. Jordan echoes Lee’s comments:
Lee isn’t the only one to have responded to this backlash; Jordan himself also penned a letter about the issue in May. “It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore,” he wrote. “I can see everybody’s perspective, and I know I can’t ask the audience to forget 50 years of comic books. But the world is a little more diverse in 2015 than when the Fantastic Four comic first came out in 1961. Plus, if Stan Lee writes an email to my director saying, ‘You’re good. I’m okay with this,’ who am I to go against that?” –Comic Book Resources
New site Seattle Review of Books promises full reviews, relevant news for book lovers – A new U.S. book-centered website, the Seattle Review of Books, has plans to “reflect, record, and celebrate our underserved literary community.” Given the recent reductions in newspaper book reviews, such a resource could be a boon for Seattle and for online book reviewing as a whole, especially if the venue can draw readers from beyond the local community.
The site will also feature blog posts, columns, calendar listings and other information about Seattle book events. Authors can submit books for review, and writers are welcome to contact the editors about contributing.
Outside of the New York Times book review section, most major media outlets have cut their book sections entirely, or reprint them from somewhere else. And review publications are often considered for the inside book trade only and can be quite expensive. It’s good to see another site dedicated to books, especially in our book-loving city.–Geek Wire
The Man for Mars – A very fascinating review of Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, which Sue Halpern discusses in a way that reminded me of the alphahole Romance hero, despite the complexity of Musk’s character. It also got me thinking about a number of issues. First that a woman could never get away with some of this behavior and still be lauded for her genius and ambition. Also about the eccentrically complex portrait that emerges of Musk’s genius and his preoccupation with innovation. And then the fact that we tend to see the billionaire alpha jerk as a hyperbolic fantasy, but Musk, whose wealth and genius are truly colossal, is a real-life jackass of the highest order. And Halpern acknowledges that much of the appeal of his “story” emerges from the fact that he’s not a nice, humble guy. Which is a pretty interesting observation when you think about how popular this particular type has been within Romance fiction, as well.
. . . The portrait of Elon Musk that emerges from these pages is of a man of visionary intellect, fierce ambition, and fantastic wealth, who is emotionally bankrupt. “Many of us worked tirelessly for him for years and were tossed to the curb like a piece of litter,” one former employee told Ashlee Vance. “What was clear is that people who worked for him were like ammunition: used for a specific purpose until exhausted and discarded.
Vance tells the story of Mary Beth Brown, Musk’s longtime personal assistant and one of the first SpaceX hires—the woman who scheduled his meetings, picked out his clothes, did public relations, ran interference, and made executive decisions, logging twenty-hour days when necessary—who lost her job when she asked for a raise: . . .
So it went for many of Musk’s most devoted employees. Loyalty was expected but not honored. Fear of getting publicly dressed down by Musk—or worse—was rampant. “Marketing people who made grammatical mistakes in e-mails were let go,” Vance reports, “as were other people who hadn’t done anything ‘awesome’ in recent memory.” And then there was the employee who “missed an event to witness the birth of his child. Musk fired off an e-mail saying, ‘That is no excuse. I am extremely disappointed. You need to figure out where your priorities are. We’re changing the world and changing history, and you either commit or you don’t.’”
Musk’s severe rationality and emotional detachment, as well as his preternatural ability to master complex subjects quickly, have led to an ongoing joke among denizens of certain Internet forums that he must be an alien, beamed down from space. (No wonder he’s so keen to colonize Mars!) In fact, the man has all the attributes of a classic narcissist—the grandiosity, the quest to be famous, the lack of empathy, the belief that he is smarter than everyone else, and the messianic plan to save civilization. Steve Jobs comes to mind, though Jobs’s ambitions were pedestrian compared to Musk’s. Still, by now the fabulously wealthy, fabulously self- justifying Silicon Valley CEO has become a familiar figure. It’s as if inhumane behavior were a necessary and expected part of the tech narrative. Without it, the story loses its frisson. Would a biography like this be half as thrilling if its protagonist were not a colossal jerk? –New York Review of Books