- Sheila, in a great roundup, describes Kate Winslet as "scrum-diddlyumptious". I do not disagree.
- Jeff Jarvis of course plays the censorship card, even sharing the script of a bit Robin Williams was supposed to before it was cut out by nervous producers.
- People are generally bashing Rock, with the exception of praising the Magic Johnson Theaters bit. I thought he was decent, but the show’s squeamishness about off-color/”offensive” material didn’t play to his strengths, and I’m guessing there were tons of bits he wanted to do but wasn’t allowed (Tom Shales, inexplicably, calls the routine “mean-spirited”; my problem is that it wasn’t mean-spirited enough.)
- But the more I think about the Magic Johnson bit, the less I like it- just as the Jay Leno “jaywalking” segments are clearly edited to make it look like everyone he talked to is an idiot, the Oscar editors obviously omitted every black person who said they’d seen “Sideways” but not “White Chicks”- and as a result, the bit served to buttress the generally offensive notion that black people only like dumb movies.
- Seems like people are more angry at Sean Penn for defending Jude Law than they were at him for going to Baghdad. So he's humorless- there are worse things a guy can be.
- But others, alas, are angry for no apparent reason. Like New Republic TV critic Lee Siegel, for instance. Now there’s a gap in talent between Siegel and every other New Republic writer that’s about the size of the Grand Canyon- in a lineup of A-Rods, Jeters, and Sheffields, he's Miguel Cairo. Siegel widens it even further with an appalling rant about the Oscars that imbues racism onto Hollywood for… having a black host and giving the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor to black actors. Huh?
Siegel’s stupid, nonsensical piece finds outrage where none exists, while finding meaning in such non-profundities as Al Pacino’s introduction of Sidney Lumet (while the consensus among most observers was that Pacino was drunk and/or high). Then he rips Hollywood for being “out of touch with mainstream America,” as though being “in touch” is part of their job description.
Then there’s this paragraph, possibly the worst to appear in TNR in its 90-year history:
This was Negro night at the Oscars, and I use the old offensive epithet because Hollywood is, in this sense, still the old offensive place. Oh I don't mean because Hollywood is liberal. In this political climate, if the Communist Party sought to resurrect itself by infiltrating the studios and lacing movie scripts with subtle calls for revolution, I'd send it $50. No, something else is going on out there.I wish Siegel would send that $50- that way Peter “A Fighting Faith” Beinart could start a "purge" of his own, and fire him.
Next Siegel calls celebrities “a third race,” as if to say that Rock, Jamie Foxx, and Morgan Freeman don’t count as black because they’re famous. Then he attacks Foxx as a “mediocrity,” and bashes him for playing “a blind and dead musician [who] is no threat to anyone.” This is an insult both to Ray Charles- one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century- and to Foxx. Since when are black actors required to play someone threatening in order to win recognition? Because when Denzel Washington won an Oscar for playing a thuggish rogue cop in “Training Day,” critics such as Armond White went apeshit, calling the role a racist caricature. Even Jadakiss agreed, asking "Why Halle have to let a white man pop her to get a Oscar/Why Denzel have to be crooked before he took it?"
I’ll move past his chastising of Tim Robbins for not going off script to bash the war in Iraq; after this comes his extolling of the blotto Pacino, which Siegel compares- favorably- to “Brando refusing to accept his Oscar in protest against the government's treatment of the Indians.” Funny- I thought that was generally considered the first sign that Brando was losing his mind.
And as a not-so-grand finale, Siegel slams as “debased” the Robert DeNiro American Express commercial –you know, the one that debuted six months ago- because it’s a commercial. Oh no, we can’t have that. I don’t know what’s weaker, that Siegel, presumably an adult, has yet to accept that television programs require advertising, or that this professional TV critic didn’t recognize the commercial that most of us have seen hundreds of times. Pathetic.
And no, I’m not the first to bash this terrible, terrible, writer. Andrew Sullivan named him as “Poseur of the Year” in ’03.
- And finally, the mini-hubbub over the “Motorcycle Diaries” song reminded me of one of my favorite exchanges of last year’s presidential campaign. The night of the first debate, I was at a bar with a bunch of other bloggers, including the bloggers/performance artists known as Communists For Kerry. I was talking to one of them and asked if they had gone to see the Che movie. When they said no, I suggested it might be a fun field trip, especially if they all showed up at a showing in full costume, preferably to a theater on the Upper West Side or in the East Village.
“The only way I’ll see a movie about Che,” one of them said, “is if they show him with his cock in Castro’s hand.”
“If that’s what you’re looking for,” I said, “there’s a movie you ought to check out, it’s called ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien.”
Yes, it may actually happen. Wow, pretty soon the Islamist tyrants in the Middle East may be in the minority.
I'm happy, since it makes it less likely that we'll eventually have to invade Syria.
As though malls weren't homogenous enough before... the company that owns Macy's has purchased the company that owns Filene's and Marshall Fields, creating one big mall-colossus. I'm no big shopper, but the way this effects me is that all the Marshall Fields' in Minneapolis will now become Macy's- just a year or two after Marshall Fields rebranded local department store Dayton's. I'm fine with the change, provided they keep selling Frango mints.
"Everyone said that 'Harold and Kumar' movie was so brilliant, but I thought it sucked"– My father, presumably the first person on Earth to utter that sentence.
8:30- We start with a Dustin Hoffman-narrated clips package. I like this- especially since last year’s didn’t have one of these.
8:37- Rock’s monologue. Pretty mid-level, and not raunchy or "controversial" at all, although the "Fahrenheit 9/11"/"what if there were a movie out that said how much you suck at your job" joke was pretty funny.
8:39- “Denzel’s a fine actor, so he wouldn’t make ‘Pootie Tang.’” In fact, “Pootie Tang” was better than anything Denzel’s done in the past 15 years.
8:43- Halle Berry is the first presenter –following a Rock ‘Catwoman’ joke- and looks GREAT. It’s Art Direction, and “Aviator” wins.
8:47: Rock says Renee Zellweger “put on 25 pounds to play Bridget Jones, and will soon put on 80 pounds to play Deacon Jones.” I bet anyone a thousand dollars that line was originally “Star Jones” before they made Rock change it. Best Supporting Actor is Morgan Freeman- which is good, because he deserved it. They chose the best clip in the movie for him, too.
8:51: After Freeman’s speech, the theme from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” plays for no apparent reason.
8:55: During the Robin Williams routine about botox and plastic surgery, the director makes a point of not panning to any actresses for reaction. Then, his “gay cartoon characters” bit goes on about 2 minutes longer than necessary. “The Incredibles,” deservedly, wins for Best Animation Feature.
9:01: They’re actually giving out awards out in the audience to save time. One of the Best Makeup winners for “Lemony Snicket” thanks someone named “Medusa.”
9:05: If Beyonce’s performance proves anything, it’s that she’s MUCH better at non-English singing than J.Lo is. And that goes for English singing as well.
9:09: It’s unrelated, but WABC’s “He Is the Champion” promo for gay weatherman Sam Champion is one of the funnier things I’ve ever seen.
9:10: The camera catches some dude handing something to Rock. Oops. “From the Kodak Theater to the Magic Johnson Theater”: it’s like a bad Jay Leno bit, where Rock makes fun of people who only like stupid movies. But Albert Brooks singing the praises “White Chicks” was a nice touch.
9:17: The Costume Design award is co-presented by the animated designer from “The Incredibles.” Cute, but not as funny as when Beavis & Butt-head assisted Letterman at the Emmys that time.
9:19: Rock mocks Tim Robbins for “boring us to death with his politics.” Yea, Robbins sounded like a paranoid schizophrenic on Bill Maher last night. Best Supporting Actress is… Cate Blanchett. I never liked her- she all but ruined “The Life Aquatic”- but I grant that she was great as Kate.
9:26: Great Carson tribute. And just when we thought this was a Whoopi Goldberg-free year, she shows up to give worthless commentary. At least she didn't make any tortured Bush/bush puns.
9:30: It’s Best Documentary time, and we’re luckily spared a Fat Fat Fatty rant since he elected not to submit "F-9/11." “Born Into Brothels” wins instead. “Aviator” wins Best Editing, though considering how long it was, perhaps it could’ve used a little more.
9:35: Apparently, Sideshow Bob has replaced Adam Duritz as frontman of Counting Crows. Of the 60 CC songs I put on my iPod this afternoon, "Accidentally In Love" is probably the worst.
9:42: Good to see Sandler and Rock back together, even for a stupid bit like this one. Adapted Screenplay, and it’s… “Sideways.” Overrated yes, but it did deserve it over “Million Dollar Baby,” of which the screenplay was probably the weakest element.
9:47: For Visual Effects, “Spider-man 2” wins, which is good since it was the best Hollywood action film of recent years. And the words “Oscar” and “I, Robot” don’t belong in the same universe, much less the same sentence.
9:49: The president of the academy refers to his “sermon,” and dedicates the evening to the troops. Red-state pandering, anyone?
9:51: Al Pacino salutes Sidney Lumet; “The Pawnbroker” sounds like “The Pornbroker,” in Pacino-speak. Lumet’s done some great stuff over the years- is it possible to be a film buff over 25 and not have rented “Dog Day Afternoon” at least twice? But “Serpico” wasn’t nearly as good as the theatrical version of same in “Rushmore.”
We see footage of an in-production Lumet movie with Vin Diesel yelling as a lawyer in a bad wig, which may be the funniest thing I saw all night. I expect so many people to make fun of this in the next few days as to render that film unreleasable.
10:04: More Beyonce! In English this time, albeit if Andrew Lloyd Webber has to accompany her, I vote for French.
10:09: Rock refers to “comedy legend Jeremy Irons.” Hey, “Dead Ringers” was pretty funny.
10:13: You know it’s the Oscars and not sports or politics when the guy who wins says “I am here tonight because of one guy,” and the one guy isn’t God or Jesus.
10:14: I nominate Kate Winslet as the most beautiful woman in movies. Anyone disagree? “Aviator” wins cinematography.
10:21: Now that Penelope Cruz has demonstrated again and again that she can’t act in English or be in a good movie, shouldn’t Paz Vega (from “Spanglish”) be getting all her roles, and presenting along with Salma Hayek, instead of her? “Ray” wins for Best Sound Mixing.
10:26: Totalitarian fascist Che Guevara is extolled by Hayek. Pretty awful, but still not as bad as Banderas singing.
10:34: This new show with John Stamos could actually be good. A phrase I never thought I’d use.
10:40: “Finding Neverland” wins for Original Score- that’ll be it’s only award of the evening, I’m sure. The composer’s agent’s name is “Mr. Greenspan.” And when he thanks Harvey Weinstein, people laugh.
10:45: The guy who wins an honorary award for his work on film preservation thanks Ted Turner, the man who- do to his colorization efforts in the ‘80s- did more to hurt the cause of proper preservation than anyone else.
10:47: Yo Yo Ma! He’s here to accompany this year’s death montage. Reagan gets some scattered cheers. They spell Carole Eastman’s name wrong. Brando and Orbach get the longest applause, even longer than Russ Meyer.
10:55: P. Diddy is a presenter for some reason. He calls the “Polar Express” song “hip,” and says it’s a way to combat all the negativity going on in the world. But I’d rather just think about Beyonce. She and Josh Groban seem to have chemistry- if she left Jay-Z for him, it may be the funniest scandal in the history of celebrities. And yes, I typed that before Rock made that joke.
11:00: Prince appears to present Best Original Song, and for some reason Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” is his entrance music. I still say Prince should buy the Minnesota Vikings (he has plenty of money, he’s local, he’s black, and everything on his resume is truthful), but that’s another argument for another time. And yuk, “The Motorcycle Diaries” song wins. Though the director singing his entire acceptance speech instead of speaking was a nice touch that more people should try.
11:02: Sean Penn starts his presentation by, uh, defending Jude Law from Rock’s joke two hours earlier. Huh? And have you, or has anyone you know, seen “Being Julia”? Too bad they can’t show any of the clips of Hilary Swank that actually, you know, will win her the award.
Swank wins. And yes, she remembers to thank her husband this time. Swank now becomes the first “Beverly Hills 90210” alum to win two Best Actress Oscars (or win one Oscar, or be nominated, or come to the Oscars, or even sustain a movie career). She also thanks her agent, Tony Lip, who may or may not be the same Tony Lip who played Carmine Lupertazzi on “The Sopranos.”
11:13: As “Sea Inside” wins Best Foreign Language Film, I’m reminded of the amusing debate over whether “Bad Education” was denied the rapturous critical and Academy reception of the last couple Almodovar films because it was “too gay.”
11:16: Time for my favorite award, Best Original Screenplay.” Charlie Kaufman wins for the year’s best film, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Which is great, because I’ll probably see that 50 more times in my lifetime, while I’ll almost certainly never see “Million Dollar Baby” again.
Kaufman looks a lot like Seth Green, and is closer to his age. Green probably should’ve played him in “Adaptation” instead of Nicolas Cage.
11:23: The presentations have been cut down to about five second each, as Charlize Theron does Best Actor. I expect some Fox News pundit to bust out the DiCaprio “don’t you talk down to me- you’re a movie star, nothing more” clip next time some actor says something about Bush.
Foxx wins. And I realize I haven’t gotten one wrong yet on my picks. I always assumed Jim Carrey would be the first “In Living Color” alum to win an Oscar, though I knew it wouldn’t be a Wayans brother.
11:32: Julia Roberts presents Best Director, and will likely jump into the lap of whoever wins. And it’s Clint- damn, sorry Marty. It’s a shame, because Eastwood did a much better job acting in that than directing it.
11:36: Hoffman and Streisand give out the Best Picture award, in character from “Fockers.” And the winner is… “Million Dollar Baby.” Ugh. We got hope early on when “Aviator” won all the technical awards, but then MDB wasn’t really a “technical awards” kind of movie. Only four Oscars, but they were for Picture, Director, Actress, and Supporting Actor.
Overall, not a particularly memorable year- though, quickly, name two things that happened at last year’s. Rock was decent, but this was far, far, FAR from his best work, and the super-rushed tone of the final hour pretty much ruined it.
Meanwhile, IFC started a showing of “The Usual Suspects” right as the show was ending. So much better than everything that was honored tonight…
Good to see those of you who came out to the Overlook Lounge for last Friday's blogger bash/Mike Wolf remembrance, and sorry to those of you I missed, since we had to leave early. Daniella has posted pictures of the evening, including my girlfriend's "blogger debut."
Meanwhile, it's not too early to plan the next one- circle March 16 on your calendars.
If you were wondering just how bad things were looking for the anti-war movement, we got our answer today: on a walk around Columbia University, I noticed an everpresent flier advertising an upcoming conflict-resolution workshop which featured, in big letters, "CREATIVE PEACMAKING."
Yes, "peacmaking." In the distribution of hundreds of the fliers, somehow no one noticed that the prominent word, peace, was spelled incorrectly. Forget about making peace; they can't even spell peace.
I fully suspect that at least 50% of this year’s team names will be some reference to steroids/BALCO/Canseco/”The cream and the clear.” Accordingly, my team this year is “The Masking Agents,” in a last-minute decision over coming up with some sort of play on “Merkin Valdez.”
Here we go: As always, some were my ideas, others were contributed by readers or found elsewhere:
- The Tropicana Juice
- The Bathroom Stall Bash Brothers
- The Victor Conte All-Stars
- The Grand Jury Leaks
- Los Guapos
- Fielder’s Choice
- Hebrew Nationals
- Honey Nut Ichiros
- The Bear Backs
- The Van Buren Boys
- The Jesusland Jets
- The Dustin Diamondbacks
- The Jaleel White Sox
- 24 Hour Party People
- Winnie the Pujols
- Wynn, Lohse or Drew
- Jeters Never Prosper
It has arrived, and I have officially joined what Glenn Reynolds calls "The Cult of the iPod." In less than 36 hours I've already loaded on over 1,100 songs, but I should be able to find room for everything pertinent in my collection.
As for that other cult Glenn and I are both a part of -that's the bloggers (or are we more like rappers?)- I'm looking forward to meeting up with the New York blogging community tonight at the Overlook Lounge (225 East 44th St; 7 PM), where we'll be gathering to pay tribute to the late, great blogger Mike Wolf. Hope to see many of you there.
Meanwhile, check back Sunday night/Monday for blogger bash stories, Oscar thoughts, NBA trade analysis, the latest batch of Fantasy Baseball team names, and that "24: Liberal or Conservative" piece, which is almost done. Hopefully, by the time you read it, I'll still have some iPod space left.
These are predictions, which may not necessarily represent my rooting interests:
Best Picture: "Million Dollar Baby"
Best Director: Martin Scorsese
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx
Best Actress: Hilary Swank
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett
Best Original Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman, ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind")
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor ("Sideways")
Today came the really disturbing news that John Travolta is in talks to star as Edna Turnblad in the upcoming film version of the Broadway musical “Hairspray,” which is itself a remake of John Waters’ 1988 non-musical film.
There are two reasons I don’t like this: one, the role was originated on Broadway by Harvey Fierstein, and as long as Divine is dead, Harvey’s the man for the role.* And two, the thought of Travolta in drag, singing, is just too frightening to contemplate. If he takes this role, he can never play Chili Palmer again.
(*The role of Edna is traditionally played by a man in drag; when I saw the show on Broadway with Fierstein two years ago, the Southern tourist behind us turned to his wife at the end of the first act and said “wait a minute- that’s a man!”)
And we’re still glad to be rid of him.
“SportsCenter” this morning ran a highlight package of Moss' greatest interview moments, for some reason inexplicably omitting the "straight cash homey" clip. That would be like running the Jim Mora gag reel and leaving out "we couldn't do diddly poo offensively."
Want to get paid to blog? Are you a big “Dukes of Hazzard” fan? Country Music Television is offering $100,000 for a “vice president,” of the “Dukes of Hazzard Institute.” The lucky winner's responsibilities will include watching the show, representing CMT at Dukes conventions and other events, and running a Dukes-oriented blog at CMT.com.
Not sure how legit this is, but if so it’s apropos that ‘Dukes’ is returning to prominence- “Dynasty” is back in re-runs as well, and with last night’s Josh/Toby fistfight, “The West Wing” has officially turned into “Dallas.”
And speaking of getting paid to blog, blogging pioneer Jason Kottke has announced that he’s quitting his finance job to blog full time for a year, and rather than except ads, he will subsist solely on reader donations. A Minnesota native, Jason is an inspiration to us all.
“NYPD Blue was uncompromising, all right, but only when it came to love scenes. The brainchild of David Milch and Steven Bochco, Blue was one of network television's great erotic experiments. Its nudity will linger long after its gumshoeing fades. Such brazen sexuality takes a certain degree of skill when one of your romantic leads (Dennis Franz) looks like a lightly medicated version of Captain Kangaroo.”–Bryan Curtis, Slate.
My old pal Michelle Malkin has come up with some pretty clueless, indefensible stuff over the years, but her column today on self-mutilation by teens may be the dumbest thing she’s ever written. And coming from the author of “In Defense of Internment,” that’s quite an accomplishment.
The column, on “The New Youth Craze: Self Mutilation,” completely misunderstands its subject in just about every way possible, ignoring the obvious (that “cutting” is nearly always associated with depression), and pretending as though it’s some kind of peer-pressure induced, hipster act. Then, as ill-informed social conservatives tend to, Malkin blames it all on Hollywood, cherry-picking some quotes from Christina Ricci, as though Ricci were actually some sort of major figure in popular culture.
But worst of all, is this line:
There is even a new genre of music — "emo" — associated with promoting the cutting culture.Say what? Cutting’s not new, and emo’s not new, and unless you find it particularly depressing to listen to Dashboard Confessional, the two have nothing whatsoever to do with one another. I’ve listened to emo for years- ever since the first Weezer album- and today’s the first time I’ve ever heard it associated with cutting.
I’d like to hear Michelle name three emo bands. If she can’t, I’d prefer she stick to subjects she’s more familiar with, such as immigrant-bashing, and throwing whole races of people into camps.
UPDATE: On her blog, Malkin says "another theme among many letter-writers and bloggers is that I'm an idiot because 'emo' music is not new and has nothing to do with cutting." As proof, she cites the emo band The Apathy Code (which I've never heard of, and I know this stuff), and also tosses in a Google search-string of the connection that's "cited repeatedly on kids' websites and blogs." Except that the first search result states plainly "I don't get why so many of you are relating self- injury with emo," and since Michelle doesn't put "self-injury" in quotes, the majority of the results have nothing to do with the subject. But I should stop picking on her- otherwise, she might try to have me "interned."
"My quarrel with the blog world, to the extent I have one, is really with the zealots -- the people whose pose is revolutionary, whose articles of faith are that All Information Must Be Free (as if we should stop paying Dexter Filkins to risk his life in Iraq) and that Editing Is Evil (abolish those fact-checking departments and copy desks and let the Truth emerge organically from the collision of blogs) and so on. My anxiety about the blog world is not that it will put us out of business but that it contributes to an erosion of middle ground, that it accelerates a general polarization of the nation into people, right and left, who are ardently convinced and not very interested in exposing themselves to facts or ideas that contradict their prejudices."- New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, from an e-mail exchange with Jeff Jarvis. That the friggin’ top editor of the New York Times acknowledges that he reads and appreciates blogs –and that he takes time out of his busy schedule to send several long e-mails to Jarvis- should go a long way towards invalidating that whole “MSM is out of touch” argument, should it not?
Two different views of what happened at the same NBA All-Star Game press conference on Saturday:
“NBA commissioner David Stern and union chief Billy Hunter sat together at a podium at the All-Star Game in Denver last Saturday, sharing a proverbial peace pipe. Hand in hand, the two claimed they were hopeful they would reach a deal on a new NBA collective-bargaining agreement before the current one expires June 30.”And Bill Simmons:
“At the annual commissioner's press conference, watching David Stern demolish players' union rep Billy Hunter was like seeing Pacino doing the "Heat" diner scene with Nipsy Russell. At one point, Hunter used the phrase "their sponsors" when he was discussing the union's hopes to get a bigger piece of the marketing pie, prompting Stern to interrupt him with a caustic, "OUR sponsors." Every time Hunter said anything, Stern followed with a withering remark or a condescending, "Can you believe this guy?" smile.”I can only imagine what Peter Vecsey saw.
UPDATE: And in a late-breaking trade that was predicted and foreseen by no one- the best kind- the Sixers tonight acquired Chris Webber from Sacramento, for a bunch of spare parts, and didn't touch any of their core nucleus. A win-win for Philly, except they're now devoid of bench depth, and won't have cap space again for years.
The former Dolphins punter passed away last night at the age of 43. This inspired my friends and I to play a game: in thirty seconds, name as many punters from the ‘80s as you can.
Most people can’t get past Roby, Ray Guy, Rohn Stark, Sean Landeta, and Mike Horan. But I remembered Pat McInally, Rich Camarillo, Ralf Mojsiejenko, and several Vikings: Greg Coleman (Vince’s cousin, not to be confused with Gary Coleman); Bucky Scribner (who once punted directly into the air in a game against the Bears, in the franchise’s worst kicking blunder outside of the ’98 NFC title game); Mike Saxon (known as “Mike Anglo Saxon Punter” to my classmates and I) and Mitch Berger.
“You know, there's a code in baseball: Respect your peers regardless of whatever.” –Barry Bonds. Is the “whatever” officially part of the Code?
“The Boston Red Sox will receive their World Series rings just before their home opener against the New York Yankees."
The Randy Moss era in Minnesota is over.
Just days after their new ownership group announced that he was likely to stay put, the Vikings today abruptly reversed field, conditionally dealing the controversial receiver to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for defensive end Napoleon Harris and two draft picks, one of which is the 7th overall this year.
As you all probably know, I’ve been calling for Moss to be traded ever since the season ended, believing that he’s become too much of a distraction and that he’ll never thrive in the team’s current environment. This is a good move, as it gives the Vikes a stopper on defense, as well as a high draft pick, and substantially improves their salary cap situation to boot. I’m hoping they choose USC’s Mike Williams with the pick- provided they don’t miss their turn again.
As for Moss, who my hundreds of commenters here, here, and here have been calling the NFL’s best receiver, let’s see how he does catching passes from the ancient Rich Gannon and the mediocre Kerry Collins, instead of possible future Hall of Famer Daunte Culpepper.
Behold: the greatest college essay in the history of American academia. Before you read it, be sure to budget about 20 minutes for laughter and only that.
The various obits and other reactions to Hunter S. Thompson’s death have crystallized something that I’ve been thinking for awhile: the political left used to be good at being funny, and they’re just not anymore.
Look at the ‘60s, and all the stories that used to be told by my college mentor, Jerry Cohen: There was Thompson. There was Abbie Hoffman. There was the SDS and Bernadine Dohrn, known for sporting a button that read “cunnilingus is cool; fellatio is fun.” There was The Realist, reporting that LBJ had sexually assaulted JFK’s neck wound on Air Force One. Say what will you about the veracity of their politics and their ultimate legacy- the New Left was never short on laughs.
Compare that with the shrill, humorless dolts who make up most of the left today. It probably started with the wretched rise of political correctness, which sought to take anything that could ever possibly be construed as funny and turn it into a thought crime. The job was then finished by the rise of the I-hate-Bush movement, which is so serious in its single-minded obsession that it’s incapable of mounting any comedic argument apart from “Bush is a moron, na na na na na na.”
(Yes, Jon Stewart is a singular exception. But while he’s certainly left-of-center, Stewart is clearly a comedian first and a liberal second, and his job also entails bashing Democrats nearly every day).
Even a legitimate genius like HST himself fell victim to this late in life. But speaking of Thompson, consider his legendary 1994 anti-obit of Richard Nixon, “He Was a Crook.” It’s vicious, biting, and hilarious- and you sense that it channels the collective bile of an entire leftist generation. When Reagan died last year, did anyone even come close to such a thing? Of course not. And I doubt they will whenever Bush passes on either.
No, I’m not saying that I want the Chicago Seven, Weathermen and SLA to come back. But look on the bright side: if they did, maybe they'd kidnap Paris Hilton.
Tongues are wagging about the recent intimate dinners between actor and frequent "Hardball" guest Ron Silver and leggy, blond, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter. The two were spotted dining together twice in recent weeks. The other night they were at Elio's, and a Lowdown spy said, "They looked like they were on a date."Alas, it seems like there’s nothing to it:
"I'm deeply interested in slander and I needed to know how to talk to a liberal," Silver quipped, having fun with the titles of two of Coulter's best-selling books. Coulter, meanwhile, E-mailed: "Ron Silver is a great American, but Matt Drudge is my only true love!" I hear elsewhere that Silver and Coulter have been talking about co-hosting a television show.Yea, something tells me that Drudge thing isn’t quite so plausible.
The Onion: “State of Minnesota Too Polite To Ask For Federal Funding.” A subtle dig at the state’s newfound, Pawlenty-abetted fiscal conservatism, perhaps?
"I hope I'm not stepping in it too badly here, but I think it's time to remind some people that bloggers aren't a race or a religion. For some it may be a way of life or a creed or some such. But that may be part of the problem… It increasingly seems that bloggers, as a group, don't like criticism period. This is a gross generalization about a sentiment more than absolute declaration of fact. But I get more and more email from bloggers -- or devout blog readers -- in which the correspondents make it sounds as if criticizing the medium is entirely illegitimate and almost immoral… Blogging is a medium not a caste. I think it's a very exciting and important one. But if bloggers want to be taken more seriously they might want to become a little bit less defensive. Maybe I just don't get it, but there's something about all of this which reminds of the Seinfeld where everybody calls Jerry an anti-Dentite because he doesn't like dentists.”–Jonah Goldberg, National Review. It’s about time someone said this about the bloggers- not to mention the blacks and Jews.
The greatest sports moment in American history, the US hockey team's victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics, took place 25 years ago today.
I’ve seen quite a few movies lately, so I thought I’d do a quick roundup:
- “Million Dollar Baby” may very well walk away with the Best Picture Oscar next Sunday. I finally saw it last week (Ebert talked me into it), and I’m distinctly of two minds: I loved the characters and storytelling, thought Eastwood’s performance was the best I’ve ever seen him give and Morgan Freeman’s not far behind, and liked the fight scenes as well. And it wasn't nearly as overrated as Clint's previous Oscar-bait film, "Mystic River."
But on the other hand, I just didn’t get the “this film is brilliant” vibe that so many others did- to call it “the best boxing film ever,” as Sports Illustrated did, is ludicrous- and I thought the last act, while moving, just piled it on a bit too much.
Moreover, I was disappointed to see a director as smart as Eastwood resort to the sort of condescending white trash-bashing that’s become so common in Hollywood films, which I can't help but think is aimed at making urban, "sophisticated" audiences feel good about themselves (see also, every Michael Moore film; Todd Field's "In the Bedroom"; Alexander Payne's "Citizen Ruth," "About Schmidt," and even parts of "Sideways"). Take the scenes in 'Baby' featuring Hilary Swank’s loathsome, greedy, welfare-cheating trailer-park family. Now imagine if all the same lines had instead been spoken by black characters- could that film ever be made?
That said, the movie was likely completely ruined for me because I knew the ending going in. Damn you, Michael Medved!
- “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” is the fascinating but ultimately frustrating documentary about what used to be one of my favorite bands. I say “used to be” because the band members are now middle-aged, dissension-plagued, and not particularly relevant anymore. The film takes the fascinating premise of a band that’s been together for 20 years -and produced such aggressive metal hits as "Kill 'Em All" and "Enter Sandman"- hashing out their internal conflicts with a therapist while recording their 2003 album, “St. Anger.”
But the whole thing is undercut by two things: it’s WAY too long (almost two and a half hours), and the music being currently produced by these guys completely, utterly, sucks. It’s almost redeemed, though, by Lars Ulrich’s Gandalf-lookalike father, the only person in the movie who actually acknowledges the “this music is horrible” elephant in the room.
- “The Village” is one of the few universally regarded flops that’s somehow even worse than the conventional wisdom suggests. M. Night Shyamalan’s fourth film (notice each is worst than the last) spends its first two thirds as a particularly obvious, Chomskyite allegory of the war on terrorism that leads to the Michael Moore-ish conclusion that either the terror threat doesn’t exist, or that it does and was created by those whom it threatens. Then, the “surprise ending” invalidates both the film itself and the allegory. Sloppy, as well as insulting. But what do you expect from a movie that couldn't even get the year right in its ad campaign?
(The film got one vote in the Village Voice critics poll, from a guy who called it, you guessed it, “a more lucid attack on American political subterfuge than even ‘Dogville.’” The film’s detractors, critic Michael Koretsky writes, “require re-education.”)
- “In Good Company” was an honest, realistic film about the corporate world that had a lot to say and said it very well. Good performances by Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Malcolm McDowell (revisiting his Caligula past to play a Rupert Murdoch-like mogul); also nice to see Scarlett Johansson seduce someone her own age for once.
My one quibble? In a late, pivotal scene, the director for some reason switches to EXTREME CLOSE UP on all the characters. What’s up with that?
I'll be doing similar roundups for music and books later this week.
We’re still working on the “’24’: Liberal Or Conservative?” thing, and still looking for answers, but a few observations on tonight’s episode:
- Suppose you work for a company, one of your co-workers commits a capital crime, and subsequently frames you for that crime. As a result, your superiors spend the better part of an hour torturing you in a failed attempt to get you to confess, after which they let you know it was all a big mistake and you’re off the hook.
If that happened, would you go back to work a few hours later, as if nothing had happened? As opposed to, say, running away, going home, calling a lawyer, and suing your employer for millions of dollars? If you answered the latter, you probably don’t work for CTU.
- If you were the boss of that same company, you committed treason, were fired, indicted, and subsequently pardoned by the president, how hard would it be to get your job back? If your name were Tony Almeida, the answer would be "not quite so hard."
- Wouldn’t it suck to work in human resources at CTU? Not only do half your employees turn out to be saboteurs and/or terrorists, but how would you like to have it on your conscience that you hired Kim Bauer as a computer hacker?
At any rate, “we’ll handle the kidnapping and train-bombing another day” has to be my favorite Jack Bauer line of the season.
In my “Defense of MSM” piece a few weeks ago, I likely surprised many readers in largely defending the blog phenomenon, accusing bloggers only of the sin of excessive hubris.
Well, there was one thing I forgot- for all its virtues, blogs have the bad habit of mistakenly spreading old or incorrect information like wildfire. One example was the George Smith incident of last year. Another is the new meme, making the rounds in the Blogosphere, alleging that George W. Bush was involved in “gay groups” when he was at Yale.
This seemingly originated in a post at a lefty blog called Cannonfire, who in the midst of covering the Jeff Gannon flap, referred to “persistent allegations surrounding George W. Bush himself," before unleashing this nugget:
Why is Bush so hostile to the idea of gay marriage? Perhaps because until 1977, George W. Bush was gay. According to a group of 29 Yale classmates who comprise "Gay Ivy Leaguers for Truth," Bush was "known to be at least sexually experimental throughout his time in college." One of Bush's alleged former boyfriends, Anthony Berusca (class of '70), told The Dallas Morning News that Bush was "deeply conflicted about being gay, even somewhat self-hating." Berusca is convinced that this conflict led to Bush's drinking problems, but describes the President as a "gentle, caring lover."If true, this would be a pretty big deal, no? But alas, it’s a hoax- there is no “Gay Ivy Leaguers For Truth,” Anthony Berusca appears equally fictional, and to the best of everyone’s knowledge, the president of the United States is not a homosexual.
The meme originated during the presidential campaign on a blog called Fanatical Apathy, and the “Bush is gay” idea was clearly written as a parody of the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth campaign. That should be obvious to anyone reading it, but unfortunately, gullibility tends to be a weakness of the Blogosphere. It only takes a few to fall for something for it to take on the air of truth.
The hilarious Fagistan has the last word:
[Cannonfire] is the worst fucking website I've ever read. Click on the link only if you totally ran out of internet porn. It is called "Cannonfire" and promises to be written by a proud member of the "X-Files Wing of the Democratic Party." Totally my faves. It would be better if his imagined fantasies involved things other than Bush being gay.
When people ask why I find New York Post basketball columnist Peter Vecsey so despicable, my answer is usually that his prose is awful, or his attempts at humor are painful. But another reason is woefully inaccurate “scoops” like this one from this morning's Post (not online):
DENVER – The Lakers, intent on renovating their front line, have consummated a deal that will 6-7 Caron Butler, 6-8 Devean George, and 7-1 Vlade Divac to Utah for Carlos Boozer.This “story” makes it clear that the term “trade rumor” has been redefined to mean “something some sportswriter thinks should maybe happen.” The Boozer deal has NOT been consummated, and moreover, all sides have denied that both moves are under discussion.
As reported in Sunday’s Post, the Lakers are continuing to discuss a deal that would send 6-10 Lamar Odom to Sacramento for Peja Stojakovic and Bobby Jackson.
Furthermore, why in the world would either of those teams make such a deal, to strengthen a conference rival such as the Lakers? Why would Utah trade a stalwart like Boozer, in the first year of his contract, for three guys who aren’t that good? And even worse, why would Sacramento get rid of the best shooter in the league (Peja), along with a guy who’s been indispensable for their entire run (Jackson), for an erratic, undependable thug such as Odom? The Kings have been trying to get past the Lakers for the last decade, so you wouldn't think they'd be so eager to give them their best player.
Such is life in Vecsey-land… call him the Judith Miller of NBA reporters.
UPDATE: Peter walks it back:
Without further ado, yesterday's late report that the Lakers and Jazz had consummated a deal involving Caron Butler, Vlade Divac and Devean George for Carlos Boozer was so sloppily inaccurate Daily Nuisance NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence demanded to co-sign my byline.In other words, "I just committed my biggest fuck-up of the year, but instead of apologizing, I'm going to rip my crosstown rival, the one who didn't publish two woefully inaccurate trade rumors as fact in one day yesterday." What a classy guy.
JDate, everyone’s favorite Jewish Dating Site That I No Longer Use crashed, on Valentine’s Day. How perfect. Meanwhile, a friend reports that the service recently sponsored a cruise, titled “Walk on Water With JDate.”
Yes, “Walk on Water.” Is the cruise limited to Jews for Jesus?
EW’s Michael Endelman:
Is it just us, or has ‘Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica’ transformed from a light, Kate Hudson-style romantic comedy into a painful, John Cassavetes-esque portrait of a marriage on the brink?Ha. Maybe next season they can base it on “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
I was sad to learn last night of the death of Hunter S. Thompson, icon of 1960s “New Journalism,” who committed suicide at his Colorado estate. Not only was I a big fan of Thompson’s, but I once attended a Halloween party costumed as him, only to find another guy at the party was dressed as Hunter as well.
In honor of HST’s passing, I’m petitioning my bosses to proclaim Tuesday as “Gonzo Day,” in which we all show up, drug-addled and with cigarette holders hanging out of our mouths, and insert psychedelic, fictionalized versions of ourselves into all the stories. Think they’ll go for it?
We were somewhere around 33rd St., on the edge of Midtown, when the drugs began to take hold…
My iPod should be arriving sometime next week, but in the meantime, here's a great pod-centric subway story.
: Howard Stern got a new ruling from the lawyers this morning: No long farts. Short farts are OK. Fart sounds made with the mouth (or, I assume, armpit) are apparently OK. But long farts from the fart factory are now feared to be illegal. Yes, this is why mankind invented the law and broadcast technology: to argue about the the legal length of a fart.-Jeff Jarvis. Fuck the indecency bill. Fuck it right in the ear.
One of my commenters over in the never-ending thread threw out this nugget this afternoon:
You obviuosly [sic] don't know what you're talking about man. The Jets have already drawn up a proposal that would send Vilma, S. Moss, and their 1st round pick to Minn[sic]Now considering the spelling, and the fact that this "proposal" hasn't been written about anywhere, and considering that Vilma's a great defender who the Jets would never give up on after one year, I'm not so sure I buy the veracity of this rumor. It's kind of like one of those things Peter Vecsey makes up and calls a "trade possibility."
That said, I would make this trade in a heartbeat if I were the Vikings. Not only would we be getting a solid receiver and a likely all-Pro defender for years to come, but that first-round pick would go a long way towards filling another hole. And not only that, but I'd love to see Randy in New York. Seeing Mr. Straight Cash Homey try to handle the media would be quite a scene- but thankfully, he wouldn't have to drive.
They're saying now that a last-minute deal to save the hockey season may happen after all, despite the cancellation of earlier this week. I wouldn't bet on it. Unless there's a coup in the players' association, unless it's not contested by the current bosses, and unless this all happens in the next two or three days, I'm not so sure we'll be seeing hockey this year, sorry.
I was planning last night to attend a screening of “Constantine,” the subpar-looking Keanu Reeves
vampiredemon-hunter movie that appeared to have very little going for it aside from the presence of Rachel Weisz. At least, through that blogger mailing list I got onto, it was going to be free.
But on my way there I happened to pass the Barnes & Noble a block from the theater and saw that none other than Roger Ebert had a book signing scheduled there for that very night, in about a half hour. I figured two hours of movie talk with America’s only Pulitzer-winning critic was vastly preferable to the same amount of time with Keanu, so I decided to ditch the movie and go to the signing.
Now I know this blog’s readership is somewhat divided on his veracity as a critic, but I’ve been watching Ebert on TV since I was 3 or 4 years old, and I’ve read his online review of every film I’ve seen for as long as I’ve had internet access. In addition, I’ve e-mailed a bit with him over the years- he gave me a quote for my senior thesis, and I had a question in his “Movie Answer Man” column a few months ago.
Ebert –like Bob Costas, Christopher Hitchens, and Andrew Sullivan- is one of those people who I could just sit and listen to for 10 hours if I had the time. He was there to promote his newest collection of “The Great Movies” essays, although I’ve always been vastly more entertained by his negative reviews.
He started with a discussion of how while repertory theaters and university film societies are dying out, but the upshot is that with the advent of DVD, more classic films are available in better prints than ever before. He spoke of the days when Harvard students would go to the Brattle Theater, see every Bogart film, and mouth along the words, whereas now the only one they know is “Casablanca.” I drove by the Brattle last Sunday, and I used to go to every "Casablanca" showing there.
Roger then went into a long analysis of “Million Dollar Baby,” his favorite movie of 2004, while bashing critic Michael Medved for going on numerous TV shows and giving away the film’s ending. Medved's politically-driven campaign against that film has been like nothing since Frank Rich's year-long jihad against "The Passion of the Christ"- it's gotten so over-the-top that it makes me want to see the film just to spite him.
I was expecting the Q&A session to be all-Bush, all-the-time- as it tends to work that way with this Upper West Side signings, regardless of the subject matter of the book. Suprisingly, nobody went there, although the first question was from a man in the front row who stood up and, in all seriousness, called Ebert out for writing the “misogynistic and violent” script for “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.” This guy had probably held that in for at least 30 years; then again, if I ever meet Michael Bay I’ll probably tell him off too. Roger laughed it off, before segueing into a few stories about celebrity interviews of old- back before publicists controlled everything- and he even tossed in impressions of John Wayne and Lee Marvin.
Someone asked the same question I asked Roger when I first e-mailed him in 1997 or so: “how do you get a job as a film critic?” His response was to quote producer Jon Avnet, who joked at a recent American Film Institute graduation that “No parent has ever said to their child, ‘you’re going to film school and that’s that!’” Among the parents who laughed at that graduation was John Kerry. His other advice? Follow the example of online film reviewer James Berardinelli.
Afterwards I went up to Roger and had him sign my book. I told him I’d been in his column a few months ago and our argument about Kermit and Piggy continued. “It’s been a topic of much debate,” he said. Wonderful to meet him, although I still don't regret not heeding my mother's advice that I apply for the job to be his co-host after Gene Siskel died (she had seen Harry Knowles subbing, and figured I could do better).
Anyone see that new Nike commercial with Spike Lee, where he narrates Michael Jordan’s career highlights? In one way, it’s just like all the other MJ-centric Nike ads Lee’s been doing for the last 20 years. But there’s a twist: the background music in the ad is Mark Mothersbaugh’s theme song from Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums,” which sounds just like all the other background music in every Anderson film.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a juxtaposition between the styles of two so unique and radically different filmmakers. That is, except for "The Passion of the Christ" being scored with Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine."
More good film news: Steven Spielberg’s on-again/off-again film about the 1972 Munich Olympic tragedy, “Vengeance,” is now back on. The film, to star Eric Bana, will begin filming in June, for a release just six months later, at Christmastime.
That may sound tough, especially since Spielberg is still working on his “War of the Worlds” remake, but keep in mine that he’s had lots of two-movie years lately (“Jurassic Park”/”Schindler’s List” in ’93, “Lost World”/”Amistad” in ’97, and “Minority Report”/”Catch Me If You Can” in ’02) and it’s never been a problem before.
The Reggie Fowler/Vikings honeymoon lasted exactly three days, until tonight's reports of inconsistencies in the new owner's resume. Fowler has since admitted that he never actually played for the Cincinnati Bengals, got a business degree, or appeared in the Little League World Series.
Apparently, Red McCombs' legendary cheapness extends to failure to run a background check on the guy who's buying his team for more than $600 million. Then again, this is the franchise that employed football's most famous resume forger, George O'Leary, for two years as a defensive coach.
If this revelation ends up scuttling the deal- which, at this point, has to be considered a distinct possibility- I guess we can add it to the litany of recent Vikings embarrassments that has been repeated on this blog numerous times. At least they've got another potential owner waiting in the wings.
UPDATE: It's 24 hours later and the Fowler resume flap appears to have blown over. Because really, the O'Leary mess was a different situation- it was at Notre Dame, which is both an elite academic institution and a Catholic university, where they have impeccably high standards of integrity and morality. The Vikings, as should be clear to anyone who's been paying attention the last four years, have no such standards.
Meanwhile, one of Fowler's partners is a man with the rather odd name "Zyggi Wilf." Mr. Wilf is described as a New Jersey real estate developer, but a Google search of his name reveals no results other than stories about the Vikings purchase. Which leads me to believe "Zyggi Wilf" doesn't actually exist, and is merely a front for another investor in the Purple. Jeremy thinks it's Prince.
UPDATE II: As commenter Dan points out, Zyggi Wilf does indeed exist; he's better known by his given first name, Zygmunt. His family founded the American Society for Yad Vashem (Israel's Holocaust Museum), and Zyggi himself is set to chair a workshop next month at Brandeis, of all places. This is a good development for the Vikes, because if the last NFL season taught us anything, it's that having people with Brandeis ties in your ownership group is a surefire ticket to the Super Bowl.
Yes, Bettman and Goodenow are “skunks,” as that elderly Canadian had written into his obituary. Last-minute optimism, driven by the players’ acceptance of a salary cap, wasn’t enough, as the NHL today became the first professional sports league to lose an entire season to a labor dispute.
Perhaps the dispute will eventually be solved in the courts, or one side will simply cave so the league can resume next fall. But more likely, we’re about to see replacement players.
And if they do... hey, I see an opportunity. See, I always wanted to play hockey growing up. But in Minnesota, the sport is so dominant that if you want to play competitively, you pretty much have to have started when you were five, and I didn't do that.
Now's my chance. Because if the league ends up using replacements, I can't imagine the quality of play will be much higher than that of the Minnesota State High School League. Though I would be a bit apprehensive about taking a job from one of my high school classmates.
Big surprise, right? If you'd been asked before today, "which celebrity is most likely to be arrested for assaulting a strip club DJ," Kid would probably have to be one of the first guesses, right? Either him or Mo Vaughn.
Almost as predictable as, "which celebrity is most likely to stand trial for molesting a child at his ranch?"
(Hat tip to my friend Jarrod, who works a few blocks away from the offending strip club,
and takes clients there all the time.)
Stephanie Klein's book/movie deal is a go. Congrats Steph! But I don't think I'll see the movie unless they let the Internet Queen of Manhattan play herself.
Speaking of Simmons, due to Page 2’s redesign his columns no longer come with a “printer-friendly version” button. SO UNFAIR to his legions of toilet-based readers.
Once again, thanks so much for the overwhelming response to last week’s “In Defense of MSM” piece. Linked by the likes of Michael Totten, PressThink, Rathergate.com, Dan Kennedy’s Media Log, and numerous others, the post generated a record number of comments, as well as both the biggest traffic day and traffic week in this blog’s three-year history.
Clearly it’s a topic of interest to most in the political Blogosphere, so I thought I’d address a few of the points brought up in various discussions, in these comments and others.
- I appreciate that most commenters and linkers were respectful and cordial, even when they disagreed with me. But not everyone, of course. Michael’s link generated a 119-post comment thread, and while there was much intelligent discussion, I got the sense a lot of the commenters responded to the post that they wished they’d read, as opposed to the one they actually did. And none of them seemed to realize that the lede of the original post was about them.
- Memo to one of those commenters: excerpting each paragraph and putting a Latin phrase at the bottom does NOT constitute a “thorough fisking”- nor is it an argument. Next time, try engaging the points on their merits.
- It was amusing to see commenters, here and elsewhere, buttress their “the MSM lies and distorts the facts” arguments with inaccurate characterizations of what I wrote. If someone thought the point of my piece was that “bloggers should just go away,” they obviously didn’t actually read it.
- I also resented the implication that I'm somehow less of an authentic blogger because I defended the MSM rather than rip it, though I did get a good laugh when one blogger called me a “house blogga” and “a self-hating journalist.” Ha- I should’ve seen that one coming.
- Glad to see I’m not the only one who, independent of everything else, hates the “MSM” acronym.
- Another commenter, lifting a chapter-long metaphor from Hugh Hewitt’s book, compared bloggers to Martin Luther and “MSM” to the Catholic Church. Those using that metaphor might wish to consider that, 500 years after Luther, the Church still exists, and thrives as a worldwide institution.
- Yes, the Eason Jordan thing popped up right as I was finishing this, and I didn’t want to comment before I knew exactly what was said. But after catching up on everything, my take is that if the reports from Davos are correct- and I trust Rebecca MacKinnon that she got it right- CNN was right to force him out.
- I liked the “Most bloggers don't live in D.C. and thus can't be bribed with the food offered at embassy parties” argument. I always thought the coverage-is-tainted-by-buffets meme only applied to sportswriters.
- By the end, a consensus seemed to emerge that bloggers and journalists can indeed coexist peacefully and push each other, because they’re not that much different from one another anyway. I also really liked what Radley Balko had to say on Scarborough’s show the other night (summed up on his blog here):
My take is more that (a) given that most high-trafficked bloggers also write for the media and the most media outlets also publish blogs, the supposed great divide between blog and traditional media isn't all that wide, and (b) blogs are guilty of all the same biases, double-standards and feeding frenzies they criticize the traditonal media for.Amen to that. And thanks for reading, everyone.
I've been paying little attention to the NHL lockout, and you can tell I've barely blogged about it. But there's something fascinating about these negotiation deadlines- I still remember waking up, every hour on the hour, to watch ESPN the night before baseball's last strike deadline in 2002, only to hear Jayson Stark report "still no deal."
The hockey negotiations are even more fascinating, as after months and months of secret negotiations, commissioner Gary Bettman and union boss Bob Goodenow are now negotiating in the media- Eric has all the letters. Here's hoping a deal can be reached by tomorrow, which looked completely hopeless as recently as yesterday (though they said the same thing in the '99 NBA lockout, at least before the players caved at the last minute). Although this time, I'm not planning on waking up until the morning.
True or False: MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16” is the most reprehensible show in television history.
I’m sure worse have crossed my field of vision before (“Full House,” "I, Max," and “Mind of the Married Man” come to mind), but '16' is certainly in the conversation. Now I’m quite against the whole “indecency” thing and it’s extremely rare for television to turn my stomach. But this loathsome show has actually done the trick- something must be very, very, wrong when the decision to give a reality show to Lizzie Grubman is only the second most disgusting thing a TV network has done in a particular month.
If you’ve had the fortune of not yet viewing this monstrosity of a program, each week it follows the adventures of a different but equally despicable teenage girl as she plans her 16th birthday party. The subjects are always as independently wealthy as they are un-self-aware and clueless; on one episode one girl suggested they book the shitty but popular MTV band Unwritten Law for the party; “ugh,” replied her friend, “they’re SO not popular anymore.”
But even worse was last week’s episode, which unlike all the others featured a male protagonist, “Hart,” whose own dad had no qualms with procuring strippers for his son’s party. The lowlight was probably when Hart realized that he had scheduled his soiree for the same evening as a school dance, so he did what any of us would’ve in that situation: he gathered a coterie of the school’s most popular girls, bribed them with a clothes-shopping spree, and thus cajoled them into coming to the party. Someday, Hart’s going to make an awesome philandering husband.
This episode led to a great quip from the back-from-Jacksonville Bill Simmons:
Ten years from now, I just want to be in the same room when a grown-up Hart watches the tape of his birthday party on "My Super Sweet 16" ... and tries to swallow his own tongue.“Super Sweet 16” is the latest outgrowth of what Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleibermann termed “the post-feminist princess culture,” a formulation so brilliant I wish Owen would turn it into a book. The culture- whether manifested in “Sex and the City,” Paris Hilton, “The Bachelor,” or Star Jones and her tiaras- seeks to infantalize women by encouraging them to act like little girls. This princess-fantasy stuff is everywhere these days, and its just about the last thing that ought to be encouraged for MTV’s teenage audience.
'Sweet 16' is a show that makes me long for the social insight and class consciousness of "Rich Girls."
Today’s the day, one of my favorite of the year. Becca and I drove by both Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park on Friday, just two of the approximately eight major league ballparks I plan to visit this year- the others being the Metrodome, Shea, Philly, Pittsburgh, Washington, and San Francisco. Yes, should be quite a year, and it'll hopefully be as Canseco-free as possible.
The Third Annual International Eat An Animal For PETA Day is March 15th.
I was sad to learn this morning about the passing of Mike Wolf, one of the longest-running and most beloved members of the New York blogging community. I didn’t know Mike very well, but I did meet him on a couple of occasions and always got the sense that he was a wonderful guy and a class act.
As a result, the NYC blogger bash scheduled for Feb. 25 has been refangled as a “Celebrate Mike” party. In addition, dozens of Mike’s friends have shared memories and remembrances in the comments section of his final post, and a separate blog has been set up for longer memories.
If they have internet access in the afterlife, I hope Mike is reading all this, and realizes just how much he’ll be missed by all who knew him.
As Jeremy pointed out to me, today was a rare day in that the Twins, Vikings, and T-Wolves were all on the front page of ESPN.com at the same time (and Twin Cities-based blogger Aaron Gleeman got an ESPN link, to boot). Even better, none of the links referred to “Minny.”
Reggie Fowler is the new Vikings owner- I know very little about the man, but am glad both that we’ve finally got an African-American owner in the NFL, and also that the McCombs tenure is over. Hopefully Mike Tice will soon follow him out the door, and maybe –to the chagrin of the 64 commenters over here- Randy Moss as well.
The Wolves may be beyond help at this point, unless they can swing a major trade- and Chad Ford’s best guess is that they may import Portland’s thug duo of Ruben Patterson and Darius Miles, along with Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Sorry, don’t see that leading them into the playoffs, especially considering Kevin Garnett’s bad knee.
But the best day of all was had by the Twins, who re-signed baseball’s best starting pitcher last year, Johan Santana, to a four-year deal for $40 million. We know he'll be a Yankee eventually, but at least now that date is pushed back until at least 2008.
Unfortunately, there was no Wild news to report, other than stories about how they won't be playing this year.
Here’s Thomas Friedman- a Brandeis alum, you know- on the environmental aspects of the war on terror:
"I would like to see every campus in America demand that its board of trustees disinvest from every U.S. auto company until they improve their mileage standards. Every college town needs to declare itself a “Hummer-free zone."I went to school in your college town, Tom, and I can tell you: it already IS a “hummer-free zone.”
ABC's The Note- no bastion of pro-Republican politics, certainly- shows us the differences between where the two major parties currently stand. Great stuff; I challenge any partisan on either side to disagree.
The Drudge Report today broke the "story" that because of the risque nature of much of his material, Chris Rock is under fire from Academy members who have "grown concerned" about whether the comic is up for the job of hosting the Oscars.
The story- which ran in two different parts today- the first bashed Rock for making the somewhat unoriginal joke that "only gay men watch the Oscars," and later ripped him for calling abortion "beautiful." The jokes should come as a complete shock only to anyone who's never seen or heard Rock before, although it's likely that neither would score in the top 50 of the comic's most shocking or salacious bits.
But have no fear, CR fans: Variety reports Rock is still in as host.
For something that had been rumored for months, it was still pretty shocking Friday night when the Minnesota Timberwolves fired Flip Saunders, who in his ten years was the only successful coach in franchise history. Saunders’ sacking comes less than a year after he coached in the All-Star Game, and just eight months after he coached the Wolves into Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.
My first reaction, of course, is that it’s an outrage for Mike Tice to still have a job, while Flip Saunders doesn’t- though perhaps owner Glen Taylor will get a chance to continue his firing spree should he end up taking over the Vikings. The franchise was completely rudderless under their four previous coaches, only reaching respectability when Saunders’ takeover coincided with the arrival of Kevin Garnett. And the firing is doubly unfair because in the context of Minnesota Nice, Twin Cities teams tend to hang on to coaches forever- Tom Kelly managed the Twins for 15 years, and Dennis Green stuck with the Vikings for more than 10.
No, it certainly was no day for Minnesota Nice- Saunders was fired (and replaced) by personnel man Kevin McHale, his friend of more than 30 years and teammate at the University of Minnesota in the ‘70s.
UPDATE: Spoke too soon- Taylor won’t have the opportunity, because Reggie Fowler has a deal to buy the team.
A pretty lackluster Grammy Awards tonight, with no big surprises in the awards categories and the performances consisting primarily of four or five medley/hodgepodges where there seemed to be about 20 people on stage at any given time. The only truly magical moment was the “Across the Universe” medley that seemed to consist of every major current performer- it was quite priceless, seeing Stevie Wonder and Norah Jones next to each other. Now there’s a double-bill I’d pay big bucks to see.
Then there’s the double-bill you couldn’t pay me to see- Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, who dueted on a Spanish song in what was famously (?) their first public appearance together. Now a note on J.Lo.: she’s been known for years for never, ever performing live: she’s never gone on tour, rarely performed live music on television, and done very little else to disprove the notion that she’s a non-talent whose music is only made semi-listenable by studio trickery.
So what does she do to quiet the critics when given the opportunity to perform live on the Grammy Awards? That’s right, she sings in Spanish, where no non-Spanish speaker will know she can’t sing! This reminds me of when Yasser Arafat used to say one thing about the peace process in English, and the exact opposite in Arabic.
Terry McAuliffe, who did nothing but fail miserably, again and again, during his four years as chairman of the DNC, wrote a “valedictory” op-ed in USA Today Sunday, speaking of “The Democrats’ Rebirth.” Ugh. This would be like the New York Times giving space on its op-ed page to Rich Kotite at the end of his NFL coaching tenure, to brag about his success.
Not that I’m much more excited about the new guy… if McAuliffe is Kotite, I guess Dean is Bruce Coslet.
I'm headed out the door for a weekend in Boston, but I wanted to thank everyone for the huge response to the "Defense of MSM" post below. It's been an excellent discussion and the vast majority of the comments were fair and illuminating. I'm trying to reply to everyone, and will revisit it when I return on Sunday.
Yes, this has been the best “24” season, and yes, the gamble of replacing nearly the entire cast has paid off, and the suspense level is at an all-time high for the show. (Even though its plot continues to strain credulity at every turn, especially the way they allowed a singular computer hacker- played by the guy who was Big Pussy’s FBI handler on “The Sopranos”- the authority to shut down the nation’s entire nuclear fleet, even though he wasn’t sure he knew what he was doing. Don’t think the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would quite go for that- not to mention that a simultaneous outage of that magnitude would likely immediately cause blackouts and/or an energy crisis.)
But another tempest has arisen, behind the scenes, as Muslim activists are upset that the show has dared to depict the terrorists this year as Islamists. Lileks did a memorable fisking yesterday of one of the more egregious articles about this, and star Kiefer Sutherland read a cringe-inducing PSA during Monday’s episode which stated that “the American Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorism.” Since we know that sleeper cells DO exist- some even tied indirectly to retired NBA superstars- that blanket statement is simply false.
This is the fourth season of “24,” and the second that has featured Islamists as villains. The first season, which aired immediately after 9/11, featured evil Serbs (one of whom was Dennis Hopper). The second had Arabs who were doing the bidding of an (American) consortium of oil interests, while the third started with a pair of bumbling Mexican drug lords, who later gave way to a Bond-movie-style evil-Brit mastermind.
The structure of “24,” in which the heroes are the Counter-Terrorist Unit, necessitates that the villains must always be terrorists. And in choosing villains, I feel as though they’ve gotten it just about right. Because for a show about counterterrorism, in the post-9/11 world, to run for four seasons without any Islamist villains would not only be gutless, it would be downright dishonest.
At any rate, this work of pop culture devolving into a political game- as they so often do- has inspired me to launch a feature I’ve been meaning to try for a while now. It’s called “Liberal or Conservative?” Inspired by a free-for-all argument in one of my college film classes over whether “Star Trek” is liberal or conservative, I’ll pose the question, take answers from commenters/e-mailers, and then post on it a few days later. It’s a way to engage in rank partisanship, while mocking its excesses at the same time.
So here we go: “24: Liberal or Conservative”?
The Post reported this morning that controversial New York City Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn will drop out of the race for mayor, more than a year after first declaring his candidacy.
This is too bad. Barron- whether he’s agitating for slavery reparations, inviting Zimbabwe’s fascist president Robert Mugabe to receptions at city hall, or proclaiming that “I want to go up to the closest white person and say, 'You can't understand this, it's a black thing,' and then slap him, just for my mental health," is far and away the craziest politician in New York- and that’s not an easy title to attain. So I was hoping he’d stay in the race, if only to lend it some much-needed entertainment.
Still though: I maintain that the New York mayoral race in 2001 was one of the most fascinating elections in American political history. You had four about-to-be-term-limited Democrats going for their party’s nomination, Republican-in-name-only Michael Bloomberg bypassing that primary to run on the other side, Freddy Ferrer’s racially-charged feud with Mark Green that sabotaged Green’s GOTV operation, Sean Delonas’ epic series of “Ferrer-kisses-Sharpton’s-ass” cartoons in the Post, September 11 happening right on primary day and completely realigning the mayoral race along with everything else, Rudy's attempts at a term extension, Green’s infamous “kill it, kill it” ad, and finally Bloomberg’s surprise come-from-behind victory.
This election had it all- and because of 9/11, no one remembers a thing about it. I wish someone would write a book about that race- maybe I will.
In a surprise, Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota today announced that he will not seek re-election next year. Among other ripples, this news should come to the chagrin of the proprietors of this blog.
Speculation will now run towards who will run to replace him- I’d imagine the usual suspects will include the usual suspects from the various MN political families, whether the Humphreys or Mondales- the DFL might be just dumb enough to do something like that. Attorney Mike Ciresi’s name has been brought up as well and if it’s him, expect to these the word “trial lawyer” derisively uttered on Power Line every day. I’m also hearing rumblings about (urp) Jesse Ventura and (double urp) Al Franken.
The Village Voice’s “Pazz & Jop” rock critics’ poll is out, and it’s a split decision, with Kanye West’s “The College Dropout” taking the album prize, and Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” winning the singles poll (Outkast swept last year). While I love the Kanye disc, I think it’s a travesty for anything other than “American Idiot” to be called the best album of ’04.
In the quotes section, we’ve got the same combination of preening snark and obsessive loathing of Bush that was present in the film critics poll a few weeks ago, when one guy infamously talked about how he sat through Lars Von Trier’s US-bashing “Dogville” three times, but didn’t really understand it until election night. Some gems on the music side:
-Amy Phillips: “Like communism, the Unfinished Business tour, and 24-hour erections, ‘The Grey Album’ is great only in theory.”
-Chris Baldwin: “What, you mean Hollywood and superstar musicians couldn’t convince red Americans that a liberal, smooth-talking, windsurfing millionaire had their best interests in mind? You mean they felt safer with the blubbering hick and his rocket launcher? Surprise, surprise.”
-Todd S. Inoue: “I wanted bulletproof street anthems- soundtracks to storming the voting booth, chucking tear gas, incinerating politicians, and stomping a mudhole in Toby Keith’s cornhole. But when they sent in the HoobaMaroon5ForFightingStankCockblocking Division, the march detoured toward the veal locker.”
-Max Berry: “No one who bought ‘The College Dropout’ voted for Bush. I have a mathematician friend who can prove this.” (Actually, my ex-roommate proves this theorem false).
-Nick Catucci: “Now that U2 have released ‘How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” can we send them to North Korea?
-Jonah Weiner: “The Jay-Z-Linkin Park mash-up album was better than it had any right to be—especially since Chester Bennington has 9,999 problems and a bitch is at least 9,987 of them.”
-And the grand prize winner, Rob Sheffield: “I can't remember if I came/When I read about her latest flame/Britney up and changed her name/The day the music died/So bye-bye, Mrs. Kevin Federline/Our libidos and our Cheetos will forever be thine/And Cameron was choppin' Justin a line/Singin', Hit me baby, one more time/Hit me baby, one more time.”
”During the genre's recent Dark Ages — the mid-to late '90s and early into the new century — those never-say-die rock fans set adrift in an ocean of teen pop and hip-hop had to settle for the monolithic, skulking style embodied by a bunch of interchangeable bands: Creed, Fuel, matchbox twenty, Nickelback, Puddle of Mudd, and, of course, 3 Doors Down. All shared several traits: a post-grunge reliance on songs that lurched from simmer to boil; a generic, every-shlub look to match their sound; and a tendency to depict white-guy angst as a Sisyphean struggle against vague oppressive forces. They sounded as if they were raging not against the machine so much as a wind tunnel."-David Browne, reviewing the new 3 Doors Down album in Entertainment Weekly.
“Top Vulcan Faces Sex Charges”
An unofficial ritual of the St. Paul Winter Carnival's Vulcan Krewe allegedly got out of hand Feb. 1, according to three women who say they were sexually molested by 2005 King Vulcan Thomas C. Trudeau while surrounded by other Vulcans.
Stephen Heyman, the editor of my old Brandeis college paper The Justice who had to deal last year with a near-race riot that followed the publication of a racial slur in the paper, has written an excellent goodbye letter as he leaves office, and in it he revisits the story.
In short, for those of you who are newer, it was an all-too-common tale of campus politics run amok: a sports columnist for the paper, who handed in his column minutes before the paper went to press, included in it a reference to Cubs manager Dusty Baker as the “n-word.” In the ensuing brouhaha, the writer and six editors resigned, student organizations made non-negotiable demands and threatened a race riot, and ultimately, the university administrators refused to allow the publication of the paper until Heyman tendered his resignation (later rescinded). Then, administrators lied about doing so to the Boston Globe.
My take on the situation from back in October of ’03 is available here, and fellow ‘deis album Josh has more. Also, I see that the author of the Dusty Baker article has started a blog. No, I will not link to it.
The Kermit-and-Piggy argument has been largely dormant in recent months, after my argument with Roger Ebert that was apparently resolved in my favor. But important new documents have recently surfacted that shed new light on this oh-so-crucial question.
I was reading one of my favorite blogs recently, one of several I read in which the host is a pragmatic, committed centrist, yet his commenters tend to be not so centrist or pragmatic. In a discussion about an embarrassing screw-up by an AFP wire reporter on an Iraq story, one commenter opined that “My general rule of thumb is believe nothing that the MSM [mainstream media] says.” In replying, I couldn’t help invoking a favorite actor who had passed on a few days before: “So when the MSM reported, say, that Jerry Orbach died, did you not believe it?” Two different commenters reported that- no, actually, they didn’t.
It’s open season on the mainstream media, and has been for quite some time. It’s seldom that an entire day goes by on any major political blog in which a piece or reporter or publication or the media itself isn’t bashed roundly by a blogger talking about just how obsolete, out-of-touch, and biased the “MSM” is. From much of the public discourse that has taken place during and after the presidential election, one would get the sense that there’s a civil war breaking out, with blogs on one side and the mainstream media (or “MSM” or “Big Media” or the “Elite Media” or “Legacy Media”) on the other.
Commentators on both the left and right have long made a habit of bashing major media for being too liberal, or too timid, or too out-of-touch, or too elite, and various other arguments. The blog phenomenon has crystallized this, as blogs have allowed non-journalists a soapbox to criticize and sometimes even bring down major media figures, from Howell Raines to Dan Rather.
That’s all well and good. But the hubris and self-congratulation, from day to day, has gotten to be quite excessive, to the point where it’s starting to sully the very admirable strides that the Blogosphere has made in its short time.
There are two big problems I have with the “MSM”-bashing. One, “MSM” is a stupid acronym- “mainstream” is, after all, one word, not two. But even worse is that these bloggers and commenters have deigned to shoehorn the entire media- consisting of dozens of institutions employing tens of thousands of people- into a singular, evil, three-letter entity. The “MSM” argument pre-supposes that all of these people think and act exactly alike- regardless of whatever natural disagreements (writers/editors, staff/management, editorial/business) they have with one another, and despite the competition for both scoops and marketshare that various newspapers, networks, and individuals are engaged in at all times.
According to some bloggers, when, say, the AP makes a mistake on a story, it’s not the reporter’s or editor’s or that bureau’s or even the institution’s fault- it’s MSM’s fault, and yet another reason MSM can’t be trusted. Therefore, the sins of Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass and Dan Rather and Mary Mapes are visited tenfold upon an entire profession.
Look what happened when CBS’ special task force released its report on the event that launched the anti-MSM movement into the stratosphere, Rathergate. The right-wing Blogosphere almost universally called the report a “whitewash,” and they may have been right. But just as when the scandal first surfaced, they spoke not of the meltdown of CBS, but of MSM. Hugh Hewitt, that day, made this prediction:
“expect a parallel universe to develop within MSM -- a sober toned but nevertheless congratulatory nod towards the "thoroughness" of the Panel's effort and the severity of CBS' response. Thus will the wagons of legacy media circle around Black Rock.”Those wagons, alas, never materialized. Here’s how the leading institution of ‘MSM,” the New York Times, led their coverage that day:
“Already under duress from years of budget cuts, poor ratings and reduced influence, CBS News suffered a crushing blow to its credibility yesterday because of a broadcast that has now been labeled as both factually discredited and unprofessionally produced.”Did the other leading news organizations react to Rathergate with horror that their jig was up? No- they were thrilled, because Rather was their competitor. A wounded CBS News only opens the door for more scoops by NBC, ABC, the Times, and yes, the blogosphere.
I believe I can provide some perspective on all this, as someone who’s been a professional journalist for five years and a blogger for almost three, and as someone who consumes massive quantities of both blogs and “MSM” content every day. I have great respect for the blog phenomenon and am proud to be a part of it. And I’ve certainly been known to occasionally criticize- or downright tear apart- examples of bad journalism that have appeared in “MSM” newspapers and magazines. But the blanket denunciations of “MSM” have mushroomed to the point of absurdity.
I’m not here to argue that the mainstream media is perfect, that the emergence of blogs isn’t a major event, that incidents of bias and inaccuracy don’t exist, or that certain frequent targets of blog attacks don’t deserve it. But I can say with complete confidence that the mainstream media does a very good job with the vast majority of the content that it produces, and there is worthwhile, entertaining, and valuable work to be found in the MSM every single day. It’s about time they got a break.
Much like lefties simultaneously bashing George W. Bush as both stupid and cunningly evil, bloggers who bash “MSM” are making two arguments that contradict one another- MSM is effectively and ruthlessly biased, yet they’re also incompetent. How can both be true?
Yes, reporters will sometimes make mistakes. But such mistakes are not necessarily a sign of incompetence. There are a million things that can go wrong with a story and all those things can happen to bloggers too. That’s the way it is, and the way it will continue to be for as long as reporting is done by humans.
But the number one argument against the “MSM,” of course, is political bias. Conservative bloggers, who appear to have invented the “MSM” acronym (it’s unknown who originated it), argue that the media has a pervasive, leftist bias that infects every single moment of their coverage, which of course ends up painting Bush, Republicans, and conservatives as stupid, evil, etc. Leftists, who use as their acronym of choice “SCLM,” (or “So-Called Liberal Media,” as coined by Eric Alterman) believe that media outlets aren’t nearly liberal enough or tough enough on the Bush Administration, and are thus culpable for the wars, torture, and anything else.
The truth is that in most cases, bias is in the eye of the beholder. In the polarized political climate of our time, anyone who reads a supposedly objective piece with which they disagree is going to claim that the author is biased away from their belief. And as Matt Welch pointed out in Reason recently, “the hunt for ideology has become an ideology.” My belief is that yes, there is some general liberal bias among writers, simply because those of a liberal persuasion tend to gravitate towards more creatively-inclined professions. But those who bash the "MSM" in this manner have come to greatly exaggerate both the amount of liberalism and the amount of bias.
Furthermore, liberalism among reporters doesn’t necessarily translate into left-wing coverage. In my last two journalism jobs- both in the trade press, though neither could by any stretch of the imagination be counted as “mainstream media”- every single one of my co-workers has been either at least left-of-center, or politically agnostic. But since most of our sources were in the business community, and because we were writing for a corporate audience, it would be hard to find even a hint of an anti-business or otherwise liberal bias in our product.
I had one co-worker in a previous job who would blast Howard Dean as “too conservative,” called CNN the “Cheerleading News Network” for their supportive coverage of the Iraq War, and talked about signing up for the English-language feed of al-Jazeera because he “wanted to know what’s really going on over there.” But if you read this guy’s stories about the energy sector, he could’ve easily passed, to the untrained eye, as an unbiased voice, if not an energy-industry shill.
It happens inside “MSM” too. I went on a first date last year with a woman who was employed on the news desk of a big-three network news operation. She talked about wanting to pursue stories about starving children, third-world conflicts, and other such bleeding-heart fare. Her bosses, in turn, would tell her to “take that stuff to PBS.” (No, there was no second date.)
And even if some liberal bias does come through in writing- and in some newspapers catering to liberal audiences, I don’t deny that it does- liberal isn’t the same as far-left-wing. There's a lot more distance between the New York Times and, say, the Village Voice than there is between the Times and the Wall Street Journal, and if the NYT editorial board ran the country for a month, the result would look a lot more like the Bush-Cheney status quo than it would Castro's Cuba.
This is how so many on the left can find fault with the coverage’s lack of leftist heft, that whole books can be written about the New York Times’ lack of progressivism in covering foreign policy, and an alt-weekly journalist such as New York Press’ Matt Taibbi can convene a weeks-long “tournament”- called “Wimblehack”- in which he matched mainstream political correspondents and eliminated on the basis of how much they kissed up to Bush.
Furthermore, the blanket, industry-wide generalizations of bias are overblown –especially when we consider the large percentage of news content that has no political dimension whatsoever. Is Hugh Hewitt prepared to argue that the New York Times business section has a leftist bias? (They’re not Marxists, and they accept advertising, so other than saying nice things about Eliot Spitzer, I’m guessing no). Is Power Line going to claim a liberal slant for the sports section at their nemesis, the Star Tribune- the one that constantly agitates for publicly-financed stadiums? Does Kos have a legitimate beef that the New York Times doesn’t lead every front-page political story with “Bush is a fucking liar”?
These bloggers –and the hundreds of others on both political wings who do the same thing- don’t object to certain stories because they’re biased or incorrect. They object because “MSM” doesn’t say what they want “MSM” to say. Many of these blogs are capable of cogent analysis and entertaining writing. I just wish they’d find a way to kick the “death-to-MSM” habit.
The other big anti-“MSM” argument often put forward is that such reporters and editors are “out of touch,” as the MSM's foes for some reason got the impression that every media outlet is staffed 100% with upper-middle-class, hard-left Harvard grads (No, it isn't really). It’s an extension of the usual Northeastern-liberals-are-out-of-touch-with-Real-America argument that’s been around since Richard Nixon and Bob Haldeman tossed it around on the White House tapes. The right loves to obsess about liberals and their “cocktail parties,” but the fact is, aside from a tiny fraction at the very top, journalism has not ever been and likely never will be a highly-paid profession. How those who practice it are any more “out of touch” with “mainstream America” than, say, bankers or corporate executives remains a mystery.
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, probably academia’s most astute observer of the blog phenomenon, recently wrote a piece called “Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over.” I wish that were the case- but I just can’t agree. The anti-MSMers have constructed a narrative in which the mainstream media hates and is fearful of bloggers for taking away all their power. And certain figures in big media- most prominently Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman and CBS-turned-CNN honcho Jonathan Klein- continue to express open hostility towards bloggers.
But for the most part, the mainstream media has either sought to give the blog phenomenon fawning coverage, or even gone so far as to bring bloggers into the fold. And clearly, “MSM”’s contempt for bloggers is a small fraction of bloggers’ contempt for “MSM.”
Yet, the seeds are in place for an eventual conciliation. Bloggers are being invited onto cable news shows seemingly every day. CJ said the word “blogosphere” on “The West Wing” a few weeks ago. I’d like to see give-and-take, in which the two sides challenge each other. There’s no reason blogs and the MSM can’t coexist, and both thrive.
Because after all, the lines are blurring more and more every day. In his excellent recent piece on “Blog Overkill,” Slate media critic Jack Shafer made the salient point that most journalists today are “webified” to the point where they research stories much the same way bloggers do. I’ve been in my current reporting job for a year, and I don’t think I’ve written a single story that didn’t involve at least 10 Google searches. In addition, now that "MSM" stories are almost universally on the web and are updated throughout the day each day, newspaper sites function much like blogs.
But that brings up a larger point: It’s hard to imagine what bloggers would do all day in an MSM-free world- because in case you haven’t noticed, just about every post on every political blog has as its source either an MSM article, or another blog linking to an MSM article. Take this PowerLine post from a few weeks ago:
From the invaluable Ratherbiased.com, via the New York Times, comes a report that "60 Minutes Wednesday" may be facing the axe.If the New York Times provided the original information, then why aren’t they "invaluable?" RatherBiased didn’t originate the story that subsequently made it possible to appear on Power Line- the Times did.
From the election to Rathergate to the tsunami, many bloggers have treated the alleged misconduct of “MSM’ in their coverage of the event as more of a story than the event itself. I would like to see a reconciliation between the two, because I sincerely believe the two sides in this "civil war" can be of much use to one another. But the bile has largely subsided on the MSM side- let's see it die down on the blog side too.
"Memo to Jose Canseco: Before you write a book, you have to have read one."-Bill Reynolds of the Providence Journal, as quoted by Peter Gammons when Canseco's book deal was announced two years ago.
I share this for two reasons: it's absolutely mystifying to me that anyone is taking seriously the ravings of a notorious dirtbag like Canseco, who much of the sports commentariat seems to have forgotten has no credibility to speak of- the guy makes Victor Conte look downright classy by comparison.
But even more importantly, I quote Gammons because... where'd he go? I used to love Peter's weekly hot-stove pieces, but the dean of baseball columnists has written two columns since mid-December, and he was all-but-silent during the historic world championship run of the team he's covered for 30 years, the Boston Red Sox.
What's going on? Has Peter begun some kind of semi-retirement? Or is he being phased out in favor of the talented-but-far-inferior Buster Olney, much the same way David Aldridge was eased out of the NBA beat in favor of Chad Ford? (Note: I haven't watched an entire "SportsCenter" in months, so I don't know if he's still been doing TV appearances. Can anyone fill me in on that?)
UPDATE: Spoke too soon: Gammons has a new column today. Does that mean he reads me?
Michael Totten got to drink for an evening with Christopher Hitchens. The story is here, and I will thus remain envious of him forever.
From Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's TV critic Bob Wolfley's Super Bowl roundup:
Former Packers tight end Mark Chmura made one of the edgiest comments we heard all day. On his WAUK-AM (1510) show, he said he would have voted former Washington receiver Art Monk into the Hall of Fame before he would have voted for San Francisco quarterback Steve Young.For a guy who once stood trial for having sex with his 17-year-old babysitter, I suppose "edgy" is a relative term.
Saturday marked the tenth anniversary of the day I left for my one and only trip to Israel, on February 5, 1995. I was 16, Yitzhak Rabin was still alive and in office, and the Oslo peace process actually appeared in good shape, and Ariel Sharon most certainly did NOT support a two-state solution.
I’ve become a bit more jaded in the decade hence, but I still love Israel as I do few places on Earth, and have some cautious optimism that it will someday live in peace.
After about 40 comments on my original “Trade Randy Moss” post, the controversial receiver is now officially on the trading block… or maybe he’s not. Also, the team is about to be sold to Glen Taylor. Or to Reggie Fowler. Or not at all. In addition, Emmitt Smith is part of Fowler's proposed ownership group. Or he's not.
(And yes, the above SI link is to a story by Peter King. Not someone plagiarizing Peter King).
I'm writing from Philly, where the city is still recovering from tonight's Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. A good game, and a valient effort by the Eagles, but they sadly came up short, and will have to remain content with finally making it out of the NFC title game.
The best commercial? Unquestionably, the
BudAmeriquest spot with the guy cooking pasta and spilling the sauce on his cat while holding a knife, so that it appeared to his girlfriend that he had slit its throat. Great stuff. And it wouldn't have killed McCartney to sing at least one song that was less than 30 years old.
That's all for now; more tomorrow, when I return to New York.
UPDATE: Bit of a strange paragraph in the NYT's roundup of the ads:
Anheuser-Busch: A gauzy valentine to American troops, which ended with the Anheuser-Busch corporate logo superimposed on screen, was touching, but some viewers may have wondered whether "Busch" had been misspelled.Huh? Since when is expression of support for the troops explicitly tied to the president? I suppose the only people who scoff at such a thing are those whose reaction to the prior commercial was "Ugh, that's SO jingoistic!"
Some of you probably saw that rumor, raised on Romenesko's letters page, that Deep Throat was none other than George H.W. Bush. I don't quite buy that, but I am intrigued by this one, put forward in the letter below:
I'm sticking to former Nixon speechwriter and comedian Ben Stein as Deep Throat -- he was a childhood friend of Bernstein's, and cried publicly during Nixon's resignation. When asked directly, he's always demurred, but never directly, unequivocally denied that he was Deep Throat.Wow, that's fascinating. And the best part is that Stein is also an actor. So if they ever made "All The President's Men: Special Edition," they could re-shoot all of Hal Holbrook's scenes with Stein standing in.
UPDATE: Strange that there's this sudden re-interest in Deep Throat the Watergate figure, the same month of the Sundance debut of a new documentary about "Deep Throat" the movie. In college I once went to see Linda Lovelace speak, and wanted very much to ask her who she thought Deep Throat was- but I chickened out at the last minute. And now, I'll never get my chance.
As Bill Simmons appears to be prophesizing disaster in Jacksonville (will it be the Woodstock ’99 of Super Bowls?), we’ve got an actual game to play on Sunday. I’ll be in Philly for it, and Boston next weekend, so either way I’ll be soaking up a championship atmosphere. I’m rooting for the former, and predicting it too: Eagles 20, Patriots 14. See you Monday.
There was an interesting profile in the New York Sun yesterday of Charles Johnson, proprietor of the influential blog Little Green Footballs. LGF isn’t really my cup of tea, but it does often contain worthwhile analysis, and Johnson is an interesting character- I hadn’t been aware that he’s a musician, or that he’s toured with the likes of Al Jarreau.
But there was one quote from Johnson towards the end of the piece, in discussing Rathergate and his blog’s role in it, that sort of jumped out at me:
“In a way it’s bigger than Watergate, because Watergate wasn’t an attempt to influence an election.”Say what? A break-in at Democratic headquarters, by operatives of a Republican White House, 5 months before the ’72 vote, “wasn’t an attempt to influence an election”? And while I don’t deny that Rathergate was a big deal, “bigger than Watergate”? That’s stretching it- I don’t think any political scandal that doesn’t drive a president from office will ever top Watergate.
Johnson really should know better, especially since he’s old enough to remember Watergate. And was a lefty back then as well.
A 13-year-old blogger who committed a minor blogging faux pas by stealing a photo from another blog got an Instalanche- and was called a “little bastard” by a blogging copyright attorney who had a problem with it. Something is very wrong when an 8th grader has to be dragged out of school by his mother because a blogger and his lawyer are threatening to sue him for copyright infringement.
When I talk about blogging hubris getting out of control, this is what I’m talking about. I’ll have more on that, in that piece about blogs and “MSM” that I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. Look for it on Monday.
A Yemeni sheik accused of financing terrorism allegedly used a system of code words to indicate purchases of various forms of ammunition. One of them, for instance, was a reference to “corn.”
“Saying Uwe Boll’s Alone in the Dark is better than his 2003 American debut House of the Dead—possibly the worst horror film of the past decade—is akin to praising syphilis for not being HIV.”-Nick Schager
If you’re looking for this, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Former "Law & Order" star Elisabeth Rohm and MSNBC host Dan Abrams have split up after 2 and a half years together. Say it with me everyone: Is it because she's a lesbian?
I watched the State of the Union tonight, and count me among those who enjoyed the symbolism and visuals more than the actual words- especially the hug between the soldier’s mother and the Iraqi woman. And the purple-dipped fingers, in solidarity with those who voted in Iraq, were a nice touch as well. MUCH more classy than the purple-heart band-aids at the Republican convention.
My reaction to the speech mirrors my reaction to Bush in general- great job on all the terrorism/foreign policy/national security stuff, but not so much on the social issues. Great that he started by invoking the elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and the Palestinian Authority, and even challenged Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. I never thought I’d live to see a Republican president open a SOTU address by praising recent Palestinian elections.
But I don’t buy the Social Security stuff. And that “preamble” to the marriage amendment section quoted by the back-from-hiatus Andrew? “So many of my generation, after a long journey, have come home to family and faith, and are determined to bring up responsible, moral children.” Yea, so long as they don’t turn out gay. So it was funny to hear Bush, in quoting an Iraqi woman, refer to "my husband." (And then, after speech was over, he kissed a man, Joe Lieberman). Bet Jon Stewart has fun with that soundbyte tomorrow.
Overall, not Bush’s best speech, but not his worst either.
Last year, I watched the State of the Union address with a big crowd at the Upper West Side apartment of my old friend Ben, an enthusiastic Deaniac who insisted that guests only bring food and drink from blue states. Still smarting from his candidate’s on-podium and electoral dissolution a few weeks before, Ben nonetheless expressed optimism that “next year, I’ll like the speech better, because Howard Dean will be giving it.”
“If Dean gives the State of the Union address next year,” I said, “I’ll pay your rent that month.”
This month, alas, Ben will be paying his own rent. But the Ben Wing of the Democratic Party is about to get a nice consolation prize, because their man is on the verge of being elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
As someone who is –despite what you may have heard- still a registered Democrat, I can safely say that I don’t like this. Yes, Dean was able to galvanize the Democratic base the way few were before him, yes he demonstrated strong fundraising ability, and yes, he was never really quite as left-wing as most of his supporters were. But let’s be real: is it really a good idea to have such a lightning rod as DNC chairman, a man who is best known either for being the most anti-war major candidate in the 2004 election, and for yelping like a hyena on national television?
There’s another big reason I don’t like the Dean ascension: the Dems clearly want to make a big comeback, ala the Gingrich Republicans in 1994- blending ideological purity with mean-spiritedness in order to defeat an entrenched, seemingly unbeatable majority. But what if they win? I’m not sure the country that would result from a Dean-led Democratic party would appeal to me much more than the current Bush regime does.
Tina Fey, my favorite multi-talented SNL personality to emerge from the show since Will Ferrell, has signed to star in a new sitcom. Can’t wait; as if there was any doubt her career would continue for years after Jimmy Fallon’s is over.
New York uber-Jew blogger Steven I. Weiss has resurfaced as proprietor of CampusJ, a blog network meant to cover Jewish-related events at New York college campuses. Sounds like an interesting project- check it out.
There’s a new baseball book coming out in a couple of months that at first glance sounds relatively innocuous, but once you read the promotional materials, it’s not hard to imagine that it’ll become super-controversial.
It’s called “Three Days in August,” and it’s written by H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger, who authored the modern sports classic “Friday Night Lights.” Comprising an in-depth look at a three-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs, the book seems to be billed as the anti-“Moneyball.” At least, that’s what the book jacket makes it sound like:
Three Nights in August shows thrillingly that human nature — not statistics — dictates ballgames" outcomes…for all his intellectual attainments, [Cards manager Tony LaRussa is] also an antidote to the number-crunching mentality that has become so modish in baseball. As this book proves, he has built his success on the conviction that ballgames are won not by the numbers but by the hearts and minds of those who play.Wow. If you’re a “Moneyball” person, you probably had a heart attack just reading that.
Yes, there is room in the world for a book providing a cogent argument that sabermetrics aren’t the be-all and end-all of everything in baseball. And perhaps LaRussa has always been silently anti-SABR and Bissinger decided to pump up that angle, knowing how successful Michael Lewis’ book was. But why do I get that sense that when this book is released in April, every single baseball blogger will treat it the way the conservative bloggers treated Dan Rather’s bogus documents? It wouldn’t surprise me if the guy who wrote the book jacket copy is out of a job by May.
Some sports stories I've neglected to mention in the last few days:
- Here’s another “SportsCenter Sucks” piece. The groundswell is growing…
- Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, is retiring from football and will join Reggie Fowler’s group that is trying to purchase the Vikings from Red McCombs. Excellent move- Kirby Puckett recently left the Twin Cities to move to the Phoenix area, so it’s good that we’re getting back a future Hall of Famer in another sport. At any rate, I’m rooting for both Fowlers- Reggie to be Vikings owner, and Donnie to be DNC chairman.
- Anyone see that Page Six item about Peyton Manning sulking in a Manhattan nightspot along with his wife, a few days after the Colts lost to the Patriots? Here’s the best part:
And when it came time to pay the bill, the wife said she would put it on her credit card since it is the same account, and he said, 'Believe me, I know.' "When you sign for $98 million, that means quite a lot of shopping for the wife. But I wonder if Mrs. Manning knows that NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed.
- Jason Whitlock wrote a truly bizarre column last Friday, even by Whitlock standards. The first third was about why TO shouldn’t play, while the second third was about why Andy Reid gets no respect because he’s fat. And the third? It was about Whitlock’s struggles as a BBW (Big Beautiful Writer), and it even tossed in this photo. All I can say is, Jason should be proud of himself for beating out Clay Aiken to win the second season of “American Idol.”
- And finally, how come we haven’t heard anything about whether or not Terrell Owens is going to play in the Super Bowl? Some enterprising reporter should really look into that.
Then baffle them with this book:
Yes, it’s an actual academic book- written by a Princeton professor- which I first heard about when it was advertised in The New Republic’s literary section. I might just have to read it, just because it explores the difference between “bullshit” and “lying.” That, and it’s only 80 pages.
And on last night’s “Daily Show,” Stewart referred to Michael Powell’s FCC tenure as “the worst case of entertainment industry nepotism since Scrappy Doo.”
Andrew Sullivan has announced that he'll be drastically cutting back on his blogging for the next nine months or so, in order to finish a book, get caught up on reading, and relax; he'll still post occasionally, however.
If you're a liberal, you probably hate Sullivan for daring to be both gay and conservative on many issues. And if you're a conservative, you probably consider him an apostate for daring to not support Bush- that is, if you're not accusing him of being "obsessed with being gay." I can't tell you how many right-leaning blogs I've read lately in which Andrew's blog is discussed, and the discussion has eventually devolved into anti-gay slurs, including accusations of "AIDS dementia."
I say, if he arouses so much derision from both sides, Sully must be doing something right. His was the first blog I ever read, he helped inspire me to start one of my own, and he's continued to make the world safe for us "hybrids" who don't particularly fit into an easy pigeonhole. I hope he enjoys his time off and comes back better than ever.