Jessica Simpson: A Fading Star


Vanity Fair presents a brutally honest feature on Jessica Simpson in their June 2009 issue, covering every controversy of the pop star's last decade in the media spotlight. The magazine defines Simpson's popularity as at "the crossroads of Obscurity and Re-invention". 

The feature finds more entertainment in Jessica's personal troubles than her music career.   I would say the article is a personality profile, since the journalist interviewing Simpson exposes more about the celebrity apart from her music.  He inflects his own opinion of her so the reader is better able to understand Simpson as a person--not performer. 


The surprise of the feature is that for the most part, it is largely unflattering to Simpson's credit as a singer or a human being.  Everything from her weight, dating life, and a failed movie career are targets to criticism. 


 Simpson acknowledges that she feared her personal life was outshining her career. Tommy Mattola, head of Sony Music, advised Simpson to take a new direction.  


"I think she absolutely needs to re-invent herself," said Mottola.


Mattola was first to sign Simpson to a major-label record deal.  Since then she's taken his advice and the former pop princess embraced her inner Texan when she released her first country album last April.


But the album release couldn't hide the "danger signs" that Simpson's star could be burning out.  The singer's album sales have been decreasing since 2003.  Simpson acknowledged she has always been fighting to compete with the top female pop stars, calling herself the "Hardeez" of the industry in comparison to big name  "Burger King" Britney.


The feature is most interesting perhaps in the information it lacks.  It makes little mention of why Simpson merits her own profile.  There is mention of her recent album, but that's overshadowed by the constant criticism of her failures. The journalist finds Simpson's pretty face and personal life more interesting than her music, and isn't shy to say it's why she appeals to the reader, too.


The Facebook Farming Craze



The Atlantic reports that if you're a Facebook user, chances are you've heard of "farming" on the social networking site. 


The trend story credits "Farmville", a virtual farming simulation, as "the most popular game on Facebook".  Players can create their own farm and plant crops in hopes of achieving healthier fields, bigger buildings, and decorations. 



Interest in this genre of fake "farming" started in 1996 with the introduction of the successful Harvest Moon series from Super Nintendo.  Even Harvest Moon representatives were surprised by the game's popularity.


"The game consisted of mostly simple, repetitive tasks and a lot of waiting," the representatives said.  "For some reason, gamers really wanted to do this."


While the farm animals and vegetables in Farmville are virtual, the money is very real.  The most interesting aspect of the feature is the fact that the Farmville application generates a sizeable amount of income.


Players are willing to pay real currency in hopes of improving their farms and advancing in the game. Zynga reported the transactions from Farmville gamers made up a third of their annual income.


The structure of the article is particularly efficient in that it relies heavily on visual graphics to help the reader understand the topic.  There's a freeze-frame photo from a typical farm in Farmville below the heading and a pop-out quote mid-feature that offers a better understanding of why people would pay for a product only available in a virtual world. 

Mother Escapes From Sinking Car



Esquire features an interesting article in the July issue of one woman's first-person account of nearly drowning in her car. 


The woman is Colette Deusing, a 51-year-old wife and mother of a son.  Deusing retells her misfortune of going out on an errand last April only to find herself trapped underwater in her car after she ignored blocked roadway signs.


What makes Deusing's brush with death interesting is her use of comedy in her storytelling.  She describes the way her silver Chrysler Sebring "went down like the Titanic" as water filled her car.  Still, Deusing describes the terror she felt when she couldn't open her windows or doors.


"I thought of my son and my husband," she said.  "I thought about how I'd never see them again."


By the time a man finally noticed and reached Duesing's car, the front was "completely submerged".  The man used a sharp object to create a hole in the convertible top large enough for Deusing to escape. 


This article is a personal narrative because it is a first person account of one person's bout with disaster.  This feature form is the best way for Deusing to recreate the drama of what it might feel like to be trapped in a car underwater. 


I found the most unique aspect of the article to be the author's light humor about the disaster situation. Adding little comedic quotes sets the article apart from any other disaster story.   

Mother And Daughter Convicted In Daycare Death

Wcco News reported that a mother and her daughter were convicted on charges of manslaughter Wednesday after a child died at their in-home day care in Bloomington, Minn., in August 2008.


The child, 22-month-old Demar Hicks, started choking when the seat belt straps of his car seat wrapped around his neck after he was placed in a playpen.  Demar was treated at Children's Hospital but died two days later.


The Dakota County attorney's office revealed in a statement to The Star Tribune that the child died from "being deprived of oxygen for an extended period of time." 


Police were uncertain in the month following the toddler's death if any charges would be filed against the day-care providers.  The case was turned over to the Hennepin County Attorney that prosecuted Doris D. Meeks, 48, and Harmony S. Newman, 21. 


Demar's parents are still struggling with the loss of their child.


"He was my baby," said Alexia Coleman, Demar's mom.  "He was my life."


Meeks and Newman were found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and child neglect and endangerment. 


You simply can't leave a child of that young of an age unattended in this manner," Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said.


Court reports showed that Meeks violated her daycare license that required both providers to be present to look after the 14 children. Meeks had left Mama D's Day Care when Hicks died. 



Both Meeks and Newman have been taken into custody and will be sentenced Dec. 21 at 1:30 p.m. 

US Consumer Spending Exceeds Expectations

The U.S. Department of Commerce released a statement Wednesday that showed  consumer spending increased by .7% in October with comparison to the previous month.

The rise in spending raises hope that recovery is in progress for the economy despite the country's high unemployment. 

President of ClearView Economics Ken Mayland told BBC news that the increase in consumer spending is promising.

"Don't count consumers out, they are making a contribution to the recovery," he said.

BBC News reported consumer expenses make up more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.  The Commerce Department data showed that consumers made greater expenses on both durable and nondurable goods in October.

Consumers spent more money on cars, household appliances, clothes, and food despite the highest rate of unemployment in October since April 1983. 

Tim Ghriskey, cofounder of Solaris Asset Management, said the increased spending is necessary for an economic upturn.

"Certainly everybody is looking for the consumer to begin to step up here a little bit in the economy," he said.  "This is very positive data."

Kidnapped Journalists Freed In Somalia

The New York Times reported that two foreign journalists were freed in Somalia Wednesday after a ransom was paid for the pair's release.


Australian Nigel Brennan and Canadian Amandia Lindhout were kidnapped in August of 2008 when they were working as freelance journalists for Western media organizations in Somalia.


Ms. Lindhout told Canada's CTV that she was tortured and kept in various houses during the 15 months of captivity. 


"It was extremely oppressive," she said.  "I was kept by myself at all times. I had no one to speak to." 

Mr. Brennan worried the pair would be sold to other militants after they were separated.

""Being pistol-whipped is sort of torture, being completely stripped of everything and then locked in a room, no-one to speak to, is a form of torture really," he said. 

Somali MP gave little details of the ransom amount but said the hostages were rescued by militiamen.

BBC News reported that Brennan and Lindhout are believed to be staying at a hotel in the capital, Magadishu.  The pair will fly to Kenya Thursday. 

Journalists have been frequently seized in Somalia since 1991, the last time the country had a stable government. British journalist Colin Freeman was released in January after being held captive in Somalia for nearly six weeks.

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