Splutter, splutter.

Well, goddamn it all to hell:

Spring snow

Bite me. Guess what Monday is in Detroit? Opening day.

I should take the day off, but instead, I’ll take it easy. Yesterday I ran across something called The Documentary Blog, and found the inevitable Top 25 list. Can I see the hands of all who despise “Grey Gardens?” Of course it was on the list (No. 8); it’s on all the lists. Everybody loves it. Hidden masterpiece, etc., blah blah blah. I finally found it in the library stacks a few months ago and couldn’t finish it. It strikes me as precisely the sort of thing I would have loved at 19, which isn’t saying much — I loved “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” when I was 19. (Still do, at least a little bit. Tim Curry’s the first man in a corset I ever found remotely attractive. The last one, too.)

“Grey Gardens” is the story of two of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ crazy relatives, who live in a crazy house and do crazy things and feed the crazy raccoons who hang around their crazy Hamptons estate, and if you like watching that sort of thing, well, you should come to Detroit. We have no shortage of crazy people here. You could follow one or two home and see how they live. I suspect the end result would be much the same, except it would happen in a cardboard box, not the Hamptons. Toe-tally crazy! The film was shot in the mid-70s, perhaps the last era in which crazy could read as “wise in a different way.” By 1980, when the nation suddenly developed a homeless problem, “Grey Gardens” would have been a harder sell. It’s easy to romanticize mental illness when it’s not taking a crap on the sidewalk in front of you.

Some things can only be thought worthwhile in their own era. Originality counts for a lot. I try to keep this in mind when experiencing art of an earlier time. It still got on my nerves.

The rest of the list was OK, although I would have made a place somewhere for Michael Moore. I suspect documentarians secretly hate him (because he’s successful), but he got the genre back into the multiplexes, and that has to count for something.

“Hoop Dreams” made the list, too. It was nominated for an Oscar, but should have won the Pulitzer Prize. I remember it mainly for the portrait of the coach at Arthur Agee’s private school, a man who was such a vile p.o.s. you could almost smell him in the theater. Also, that “Hoop Dreams” was one of the films that played during Northwood Cinema’s brief attempt to be an art house, always a dicey proposition in the Fort. I did my part as a customer.

So that’s my frame of mind this snowy morning — nasty, brutish and short. How’s yours?

Posted at 8:45 am in Movies, Same ol' same ol' |

71 responses to “Splutter, splutter.”

  1. jcburns said on March 28, 2008 at 8:58 am

    uh…perky, springlike, and verbose?

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  2. michaela said on March 28, 2008 at 8:59 am

    I teach documentary writing (at a cool school called the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies) and finally watched GG a couple months back after yet another student recommended it. I found it really sad and depressing… hard to understand what the Maysles’ intent was. Would the Edies have been as interesting if they weren’t Bouviers? I doubt it.

    However, it did inspire me to watch Gimme Shelter, the Maysles’ docu about the Rolling Stones at Altamont. That film is brilliant, and works particularly well as a teaching tool (not to mention an example of how much luck, in the form of being in the right place at the right time in order to catch the Hells Angels beating the crap out of people, plays into good reporting).

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  3. John said on March 28, 2008 at 9:05 am

    The Yankees Home Opener is Monday also. My butt will be in Section 29, Row V, Seat 1 (upper deck right field, just to the first base side of the foul pole). We will be using mass transit this year since the building of the new stadium has eaten up almost all of the available parking lots.

    No snow here (eastern Connecticut) today, just a light (but cold) rain.

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  4. nancy said on March 28, 2008 at 9:20 am

    I feel the same way about “Gimme Shelter” — a great film. It’ll be interesting to compare it to the upcoming Scorsese Stones concert doc, “Shine a Light.”

    One more thing, and I don’t know enough about the technology of filmmaking to answer the question, but today’s docs seem a lot more disciplined in their craft. Even the hand-held photography today doesn’t seem as woozy-making as some of the Mayles’ stuff. Someone gave me a copy of “Town Bloody Hall,” a collection of D.A. Pennebaker’s outtakes from the infamous Norman Mailer-Germaine Greer throwdown, and it’s easy to see why the rushes were considered unusable. Technique-wise, it’s like listening to an orchestra tune up for two hours. The content saves it, but.

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  5. brian stouder said on March 28, 2008 at 9:23 am

    For All Mankind, a late-80’s documentary that looked back at the Apollo moon shots, and which has narration from the astronauts themselves is just marvelous; it seemed almost like a ‘dvd extra feature’ – you know, where you watch the movie again but with voice-overs from the folks who made the movie (and by the way, the best one of those I’ve seen is Texas Chainsaw Massacre; the running commentary is just hysterical!)

    Every so often ‘Modern Marvels’ (the McDonald’s of documentary makers) has a good episode; one about the Fred Hartman bridge at Baytown Texas turned my head

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  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 28, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Why, what a lovely shot Nancy; thank you for sharing your area’s natural beauty with us.

    What’s the folk number for the Detroit area — two, or three snows after the forsythia blooms? Which only just bloomed around here, and only on south facing slopes.

    Funny how we closed all the mental health evil warehousing nasty awful institutions in the late 70’s, and suddenly saw an unprecedented urban homelessness problem in the early 80’s. Not that this observation gets me any closer to a solution worth proposing if i were pope for a month.

    Now, of course, we’re busy closing facilities for adult developmentally disabled folks in favor of privately managed group homes with four and five at an address, scattered all over, renting from well-connected landlords, supervised by minimum wage staff who are supervised 1 to 20 by MSWs who wish they were in private practice helping people realize their full potential instead of working for a state agency. I wouldn’t open all the vast complexes we used to do this in, but i think we’re spreading the staffing shortcomings out across the terrain so Geraldo or Dorothea Dix or Jacob Riis can’t come in and provoke mass revulsion with wards full of tragedy.

    It’s still going on, just not all in one place, so we can feel better about it. Plus it’s cheaper, so hey, let’s go build another jail and push bridge maintenance and replacement another decade (read: other guy’s term) down the road.

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  7. john c said on March 28, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Does Michael Moore make documentaries? I would argue he makes something like film essays. He sets up a lot of what he does. This is, of course, verboten in journalism. And isn’t documentary filmmaking journalism? Don’t get me wrong. I love Michael Moore, loved Roger and Me, even though I’m a GM slappy.

    Also loved Gimme Shelter. What about “Woodstock?” I watched it again a few years ago and remember first thinking, this is sort of a cliche of the 60s. But the music pretty quickly takes over. And the music is awesome, except for maybe Sha Na Na.

    And I know that Taxicab Confessions pretty quickly deteriorated into drunk people talking about sex. But I remember the first one I saw. One of the riders was a mentally ill, apparently homeless person. At first he seemd plain old sad and crazy. But he gradually told the story of – if I’m remembering right – the death of his wife. It was tragic. And the clip ended with him sitting in the back of the cab and you thinking, boy, this poor SOB was crushed. Very powerful.

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  8. john c said on March 28, 2008 at 9:41 am

    I used to work for a paper in a city that was home to a large state Mental Hospital. It was the mid-80s and a number of people had been de-institutionalized. One of them was a regular in our storefront newspaper office. He’d walk in the door and everyone would pick up their phones and pretend to be talking. My desk was up front, and I was the city hall reporter (the city, of course, was secretly stealing his money), so I often bore the brunt of Al (his name.) It was sad and funny all at once. My favorite moment was when he walked in, slammed a newspaper down on my desk and said: “TIDAL wave hits Waltham. NOTHING about it in the GOD-#$%&ed NEWS TRIBUNE!”

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  9. Harl Delos said on March 28, 2008 at 9:49 am

    I haven’t heard yet why the opening pitch for the season is taking place in Japan. Traditionally, it’s in Cincinnati, because they claim to be the oldest professional team.

    That claim is a little questionable. A couple of years ago, I did some research into the claim that the Dodgers were born as Fort Wayne’s Kekiongas, one of the original teams of the National League. It’s a long, tortured path. Sometimes, you have to follow the players, and sometimes you have to follow the owners, but there is a six-degrees type connection between the Kekiongas and the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers.

    And the Kekiongas were a pro baseball team before the National League was formed, just as the Cincinnati Red Stockings were, but they were both what you’d call semi-pro these days.

    really sad and depressing…

    Isn’t that a requirement for documentaries? I mean, Michael Moore’s films are funnier than hell, but ten minutes after the film is over, you’re trying to remember where you put the Drano, because things are so dire.

    Even Marlin Perkins’ stuff was pretty grim. That’s why he always took along Jim What’s-his-face. Marlin sure wasn’t going to leave the safety of the jeep. Let Jim do it.

    The Lone Ranger had his sidekick too, and Roy Rogers had Dale, and was it Gene Autry that had Smiley Burnett? But that was dramatic fiction, not a documentary, so Lassie came barking, Timmy got pulled out of the well, the pretty girl ended up with a silver bullet, and a “Hi, ho! Silver, away”.

    Reminds me of a Gahan Wilson cartoon from the early 1960s. Everything in the living room is black and white line art, except the television screen, which has a garishly colorful image. There are two people watching, and the one is saying to the other, “This is wonderful! I’m never going to watch real life again!”

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  10. Carol said on March 28, 2008 at 10:00 am

    But click back to the list that inspired the list you mentioned. The one from the International Documentary Association. It strikes me as a much more diverse list–although I can’t understand why there’s no nod to Robert J. Flaherty on either list.

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  11. Harl Delos said on March 28, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Does Michael Moore make documentaries? I would argue he makes something like film essays. He sets up a lot of what he does. This is, of course, verboten in journalism. And isn’t documentary filmmaking journalism?

    Journalism is, by definition, keeping a journal. Contemporaneous, off-the-cuff, writing. Stretching it to include photography and cinematography is, well, stretching it, but well, that’s what we do with words. Mark Twain did a nice piece about an editor inserting some weasel words into something he wrote; the next item he submitted said that a big shot appeared at a so-called society event with a woman he said was his wife, and she was wearing a supposedly-decent dress trimmed with fur, allegedly mink. Sort like Hillary proclaiming that Barack Osama is not a muslim – as far as she knows. I still think that Barack should have commented that Hillary is not a crack whore, as far as he knows, but then, not everybody appreciates my sense of humor.

    Somewhere along the line, people have tried to turn journalism into a profession. It’s not. Professional doesn’t mean you’re paid for it; the word for that is mercenary. A professional is someone who professes familiarity with an organized body of knowledge, with a clientele, who renders advice according to a code of ethics, the advice being sometimes dispensed in written form, such as an Rx pad. A surgeon isn’t a professional; he is a craftsman. So’s a chiropractor. And athletes aren’t professionals, either. Nothing wrong with craft; it simply means you use your hands and possibly tools, hopefully with some skill. Nor is mercenary a bad thing; it just means you sell your skills and talents like a merchant sells goods.

    There are many newspapers, especially smaller newspapers, that print just about anything that gets shoved under the door. Many newspapers have stringers that write down all the gossip they hear in their neighborhood. The larger newspapers carry syndicated gossip; that’s how Ed Sullivan got started. Sometimes, it’s a staffer that writes the gossip: think “Page Six”. Is there any connection between gossip and what actually has happened? Of course. You can’t print that much gossip without getting it right once in a while.

    Yes, Michael Moore has a plan, almost a script, in mind before he starts shooting. If there has ever been a good documentary filmed any other way, I’d be surprised. Filmmaking and writing have the same Rule One: “Have something to say, say it, and then stop.”

    will787, commenting at Julian Glovers’ blog on guardian.co.uk, said:

    “Bloggers suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, journalists suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder.” In other words, journalists report and move on and don’t always follow up. Bloggers are obsessive, get hold of an issue and won’t let go….

    Sounds like both can stand a little work on Rule One.

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  12. john c said on March 28, 2008 at 10:27 am

    The Reds lost the first gamne of the year years ago, after Mage Schott’s crazy remarks. Can’t remembner what they were. Something about Nazis.

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  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 28, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Did you hear they can’t serve beer at Wrigley Field this year?

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  14. Jay C. said on March 28, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Hey Nancy,

    Glad to see you found my top 25 list.

    I think my interest in Grey Gardens comes more from the standpoint of the relationship between the filmmakers and their subjects. Grey Gardens is a strange one because on the surface, it could be considered exploitation, yet throughout the film we’re given little glimpses into the relationship between the Maylses and the Beal’s. Something I found fascinating and charming.

    As for Hoop Dreams, it was NOT nominated for an Oscar. In fact, it’s one of the most controversial documentary snubs in Oscar history. Roger Ebert, one of films biggest supporters, wrote an article about the scandal. Here’s a few snippets:

    The “Hoop Dreams” exclusion “is scandalous. It’s devastating. I’m close to tears,” said Barbara Kopple, who has won Oscars for two documentaries of her own.

    “It was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” a rueful Steve James, who directed “Hoop Dreams,” told me. “We just joined a pretty prestigious club. There seems to be a history of not nominating the year’s best documentaries. At least we were named in the editing category — which is a vote of our peers.”

    Why wasn’t it nominated?

    “The committee found five better pictures, is the glib explanation,” says Bruce Davis, executive director of the academy.

    “They’re old-fashioned and they go for documentaries made up of talking heads and stock footage,” says Kopple, whose own Oscar winners, “Harlan Country USA” and “American Dream,” were shot on location during bitter labor disputes. “I’ve lost all respect for the academy for not including this film.”

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  15. Kirk said on March 28, 2008 at 10:45 am

    She said not everything Hitler did was bad. She was just an old, lonely rich drunk, a much too easy target.

    Even when the Reds played on the very first day of the season, the American League (sometimes presidential) opener in Washington often started earlier.

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  16. Kirk said on March 28, 2008 at 10:47 am

    OK, Jeff, what’s the punch line?

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  17. michaela said on March 28, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Yes, Michael Moore has a plan, almost a script, in mind before he starts shooting. If there has ever been a good documentary filmed any other way, I’d be surprised.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but Gimme Shelter is example numero uno of a documentary that wasn’t filmed that way. The Maysles had no way of knowing that they would end up witnessing — and filming — one of the seminal events of the decade. That’s where the brilliance of the film appears — in their ability to restructure the narrative while still using the concert footage they’d filmed earlier that year, when it was all Jagger playing dressup and girls swooning. In that regard, GS is much more like journalism than it is any other narrative genre.

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  18. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 28, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Y’know, when the Cubs lose the opener . . .


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  19. Kirk said on March 28, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Hyuk, hyuk.

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  20. alex said on March 28, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Not sure I think Michael Moore belongs in the pantheon of documentarists (documentarians?) only because he’s heavy-handed and indeed does manufacture his shit, kind of like a journalist committing arson so he can write about the fire.

    I may have mentioned it before here on NN.C in the distant past, but I personally knew some people who dealt with Moore in Chicago when Moore was trying to unionize a Border’s bookstore there. That’s right. He wanted to create the impression that Border’s was a big corporate thug trying to squash a nascent unionization movement — a movement that in fact did not exist until Moore organized it. Those who joined it did so not because they were badly treated by the company but because they saw an opportunity to get their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame in a Michael Moore movie.

    One of my best friends was a manager in that store; I don’t know whether he ended up on the cutting room floor because I never watched Moore’s finished product, but on multiple occasions my friend had to eject Moore and his camera crew from the premises when they’d barge in trying to provoke a confrontation.

    Much as I may agree with Moore’s political sentiments, I don’t respect his methods and frankly think he’s a drag on the liberal political movement in the same way Rush Limbaugh is a discredit to his partisans.

    As regards movies featuring the mentally ill…

    Never saw Grey Goose or whatever it’s called, but highly recommend “Crumb.”

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  21. brian stouder said on March 28, 2008 at 11:21 am

    YIKES!! You’re dating us, Jeff.

    I bet anyone 35 or younger doesn’t get the joke

    (how many beers nowadays require an opener, to open them?)

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  22. Kirk said on March 28, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Those Wrigley Field beer guys are a competitive bunch. They’re fun to watch in action, because they can make some serious money.

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  23. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 28, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Beers don’t require openers anymore?



    (Guinness still does!)

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  24. Jon said on March 28, 2008 at 11:56 am

    or so you’re told!

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  25. nancy said on March 28, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    You guys are taking a pretty strict-constructionist view of documentaries to insist they be “journalism” in the traditional sense. I’d argue “Sicko” is certainly journalism, although it’s advocacy journalism — that is, journalism that makes an argument along with telling a story.

    Jay C., I see your point re: “Grey Gardens,” but since Alex mentioned it, I have to think “Crumb” has a more affecting view of mental illness, although it draws its strength what you like in GG — the relationships between the sick person and his or her more-or-less sane friends and relatives.

    As for “Hoop Dreams,” I saw the IMDb listing that said “one Oscar nomination” and just assumed it was for best-doc. Now that you mention it, I’m remembering the argument over the snub. IIRC, there was a sense that the documentary division of the Academy seethes with resentment over anything that crosses over, so to speak. They’d rather honor an unwatchable feature-length movie about one woman’s brave struggle with breast cancer than something that might actually entertain. Wasn’t that the year the Maya Lin movie won the Oscar? Yeesh.

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  26. Harl Delos said on March 28, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Beers don’t require openers anymore?

    Of course not. You put the lip of the bottle against the edge of the bar, and slam it with your other hand, and the crown cap will fly off.

    Corona doesn’t have twist-off lids, at least on Coronita Extra (the 7-ounce version of Corona) and I don’t have an opener up here in the office, just a fridge. It’s kinda hard on the computer desk to use it, so I usually stick something under the edge of the cap – a screwdriver, whatever, and twist. Three twists at different points around the cap, and it slips off just fine.

    Of course, folks from some towns don’t even need screwdrivers. They just chuck it in their teeth, and pull down….

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  27. john c said on March 28, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Is newspaper work a profession: I prefer Humphrey Bogart’s drunken definition, from Deadline USA, after the greenhorn job-seeker tells him a profession is a “skilled job.” “So’s repairing watches,” Bogey slurs. “Nope. A profession is a performance for public good. That’s why newspaper work is a profession.”
    There are a lot of newspaper people who are not professionals. I would argue that serious journalists are.
    And to define journalism as, essentially, keeping a journal, is too narrow. A journalists takes a newsworthy event or person and, to the best of their ability given the constraints of time, observes, tries to understand, and describes. They are the eyes and ears and minds of readers (viewers, listeners) who can’t be everywhere. There are various levels of journalism. In a perfect world, they contribute to a whole, larger picture. Embedded military journalists, for example, do us a great service just observing what they see and hear. Other reporters – in Washington, at the Pentagon, etc. – should provide context.

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  28. Emma said on March 28, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    I really liked watching “Grey Gardens.” But I am very, very tacky.

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  29. nancy said on March 28, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Bogie’s wrong, too — a profession is a job where you need certification by other people who do the job, too, as well as postgrad training. (No, this doesn’t cover automotive A/C work.) To me, the professions are law, medicine and maybe engineering. Some teaching, but not all, because you can be a teacher without a teaching certificate, but you can’t be a doctor without going to med school. But certainly not journalism, because anyone can do it.

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  30. Danny said on March 28, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I really liked watching “Grey Gardens.” But I am very, very tacky.

    But you really know how to sing, Emma. We all saw that. Heheh.

    Happy Friday, everyone.

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  31. Alice said on March 28, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Watched some of Grey Gardens, immediately noticed that they sounded like my mother & some of her friends. (Husband agreed). I guess Hamptons crazy is just South Carolina regular.

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  32. Julie Robinson said on March 28, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    So, Emma–you could combine it all and sing along to Grey Gardens the musical. It was all the rage last year on Broadway.

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  33. nancy said on March 28, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Just tell the truth, Emma: You ARE little Edie.

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  34. Danny said on March 28, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    You know, since this is touching near Jackie O territory, and since there have been a lot of comparisons between her and Carla Bruni, I just have to say, Carla wins. Not even a contest. Wow.

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  35. Connie said on March 28, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Snow in Elkhart too. Picture at http://elmores.net/round-here/comments.php?id=1267_0_1_0_C . Note the flower and bee pic from the previous day. Here in Minneapolis it is blue sky and mid 40s.

    Got to meet Laura Lippman this a.m., plus a free copy of her latest autographed to me as well. I am about to collapse after walking 10 blocks back to my hotel with a load of free books.

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  36. moe99 said on March 28, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Snow in Seattle too. I think it’s catching.

    Btw, Goeglein loses his position as most recent WH aide fired for bad behavior:


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  37. nancy said on March 28, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Did Laura look fabulous? She made the NYT list again last week AND lost 12 pounds since January. I think I’m going to have to start hating her soon.

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  38. Dexter said on March 28, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Someone pulls into the lot at the park where I walk my dogs every day and throws an empty aluminum can of Guinness at the can…and misses half the time, so I dutifully pick it up and pitch it in the can. Then , like clockwork, a guy I call Dirty Carl comes and grabs the can for recycling. What an intricate inter-connected web we live in! What bugs me is Guinness-man…if draft isn’t available, why doesn’t he buy bottles? How has society regressed so far as to allow Guinness to be exported to the US in CANS? Just because I’m neck-deep into AA doesn’t mean I don’t recognize a great beer, all from memories, the good kind.

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  39. Kirk said on March 28, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Actually, the Guinness draft in the cans tastes better than the stuff in the bottles.

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  40. joodyb said on March 28, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    I agree w/one of the docblog commenters that ‘night and fog’ should be on that list. and anyone who hasn’t seen ‘Salesman’ is missing something.
    I would like to think ‘Go Tigers’ could have made that list, but i’m prejudiced, i guess.

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  41. Dorothy said on March 28, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    I got the joke, Jeff. Wait – I knew the punchline right off, so of COURSE I got the joke. My dad used to tell it every single year, but of course it was the Pirates, not the Cubs, that he referenced.

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  42. ashley said on March 28, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    It doesn’t snow in the new home of Carville and Matalin. New Orleans: a Karma debt like Sodom.

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  43. Deborah said on March 28, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    I have never commented this often on a blog before. I’m a mild mannered lurker usually, but this blog has been hitting all my faves lately.

    Regarding Grey Gardens – While the description of the movie turned out to be better than the actual thing… I liked it. Found it poignant rather than depressing. Maybe it’s because I’ve been ga-ga over Jackie my whole life and anything that was connected to her in any way has always interested me.

    Regarding Guiness – absolutely NOTHING compares to the real thing you get in Dublin.The stuff available here in the US is completely different than the rich and creamy stuff you get there.

    and finally, I live in Chicago, I’ve heard all of the Cubs jokes, but I’m still a fan. Sort of.

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  44. Connie said on March 28, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    What joke? I miss all the jokes. They go over my head, and sometimes descend a few hours later. As Harl probably figured out after my reaction to his comment about the new hair cut photo and only wearing a scarf. Took me awhile.

    Laura looked great. She tells a great story about getting married to an unemployed writer and look where she ended up. I want to know the name of her hair color. Or perhaps the lucky duck is still naturally blonde. Unlike some of us.

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  45. del said on March 28, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Deborah, a friend who lived in England would’ve agreed with you — he liked to say that Guinness didn’t travel well.
    Ashley, I’ve always enjoyed Carville’s schtick. One of my favorites was when he fielded a very tough, virtually unanswerable Catch-22 type question on a college campus from an articulate Young Republican. Rather than backpedal he attacked, responding slowly in a Foghorn Leghorn drawl with something like: “Now boy, what frahhhternity do you b’long to? Etc, etc . . . ” Dismissive, yes. Ill-mannered, yes. But very effective political theater. And as for his marriage I’m thinkin that Mary Matalin’s moving toward her husband, politically . . .
    Michael Moore? I think you’ve gotta refer to his work as documentary work because it doesn’t involve actors reading from a script.

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  46. Harl Delos said on March 28, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    And to define journalism as, essentially, keeping a journal, is too narrow. A journalists takes a newsworthy event or person and, to the best of their ability given the constraints of time, observes, tries to understand, and describes.

    A historian also takes newsworthy events or persons, and to the best of their ability, given the constraints of time, observes, tries to understand, and describes.

    The difference is that when James Michener wrote “Kent State: What Happened and Why”, he was free to investigate, observe, understand and describe, but when he was done, it was published as a book. History books have a first page and a last page, and they are saved in libraries for years; newspapers keep publishing new issues, and yesterday’s is used to soak up grease from frying onion rings. If it’s not a journal being created – a contemporaneous, continuing record – then you’re a historian, not a journalist.

    And by saying it needs to be newsworthy, you’re excluding a lot of people that I would call journalists. A four-section paper of 32 pages will have “news” – as the readers define news – on the first page, and on the first page of the local section. Add in jumps, and maybe you have 4 pages of “news” out of 32.

    That recipe for coconut creme pie in the Style section isn’t newsworthy. The recipe, unlike the pie, isn’t going to go stale. News, by definition, is *new*. And news is about newsworthy people or events. Everybody gets an obituary when he dies, no matter how many people noticed his existance when he lived. More people clip and save obituaries than anything else in the newspaper.

    I’d argue that Dave Barry is a journalist, and so are the automotive columnists Click and Clack. I’d include the guy who draws “Gasoline Alley”, too. (Does that strip still exist? It no longer runs in Baltimore Sun.)

    Someone who works for Nova can argue for being a journalist because it’s a series, but film documentarians are really closer to being historians than journalists. (In the case of Al Gore, it seems to be fiction, rather than history, but most documentarians play less fast-and-loose with the truth.)

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  47. Harl Delos said on March 29, 2008 at 12:14 am

    They go over my head, and sometimes descend a few hours later. As Harl probably figured out after my reaction to his comment about the new hair cut photo and only wearing a scarf. Took me awhile.

    Connie, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.

    My wife says to make a blonde laugh on Saturday, you have to tell them a joke on Wednesday, and often enough, she reveals that she just figured out a joke I had told three days earlier. Is she blonde? Well, she has dark roots, but she says any smart woman is blonde, no matter what God graced her with.

    Earlier this week, she leaned over the table, put a forefinger to each side of her forehead and stretched the skin. “Do I have any gray roots?”

    I looked intently at her fingers, wondering why she felt it necessary to stretch the skin. Finally, I gave her the answer she was looking for. “No.” But it was also the truth. And I kept looking for a minute longer, because she didn’t remove her fingers, nor did she draw back.

    Finally she did, and I said, “Do I get points for staring at your forehead instead of your chest?” She broke out in laughter, and said that’s the first funny thing I’d said in days.

    I call her my trophy wife. She beams when I say that, but she argues that she’s really not. She has a 1000-watt smile, eyes that sparkle, she’s kind and generous, thoughtful, and she is careful with her personal appearance, being well-groomed, and choosing timelessly elegant styles from Lane Bryant and similar catalogs. But I see the admiring looks other men give her when we go somewhere together. Then then look at me, and think, “How did a guy like him end up with someone like her?” Just lucky, I guess.

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  48. basset said on March 29, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Seven-ounce beers?


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  49. Terry WAlter said on March 29, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Just read a list of Top 10 walking cities in the U.S. Ann Arbor was on it. So put on your snow boots & start trudging. Next thing you know, your flabby ass will be Buns of Steel model material. Won’t that be some of the easiest money you ever made? Or not.

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  50. Dexter said on March 29, 2008 at 12:44 am

    I finally got to the list. Grey Gardens was one of those docus that grabbed me and set me in my chair. I found it fascinating, because I had never heard of it…I had to try and figure what was going on as it unfolded, as I had just turned on IFC or Sundance and there it was.
    I won’t break down the list because I have only seen ten of the 25.
    I want to see “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” because I recently heard Daniel doing an interview with Ron Benington on XM 202. Daniel is still out there. Daniel has a website, http://www.hihowareyou.com/web/bio.htm

    “Crumb” was a great docu. Robert Crumb still lives with wife Aline Kominsky-Crumb in France. His drawings depicting his simple life there, printed in The New Yorker a year or so ago were great.

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  51. Dexter said on March 29, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Errol Morris is a wonder. I have seen all his docus and followed his recent series of articles in the NYTimes.
    Recently, he co-authored with Philip Gourevitch …a revealing article in The New Yorker about Specialist Sabrina Harman’s life at Abu Ghraib prison .

    If you like the lighter side of Morris, his beer commercials are at YouTube.

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  52. Harl Delos said on March 29, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Seven-ounce beers?


    I always thought the first half of a beer was considerably better than the second half. The second half of a beer isn’t as cold, and is a little flatter. I started drinking Little Kings creme ale when I was going to the University of Dayton. They aren’t available here in Lancaster PA.

    I was drinking Molson Ice, but it got hard to find in glass. Rolling Rock was inconsistant from case to case, which made it interesting, but about two years ago, it started being consistantly “muddy” in taste, so I switched to Corona.

    I’m not much of a drinker. At the end of a tiring day, beer with pasta is nice, or a cold beer on a hot day is refreshing, but with global cooling, we don’t have many hot days any more. I tried to get in the habit of drinking a glass of red wine daily, but I just don’t like red, and there’s no cardiac benefit from light white rhine wines. So it’s mostly a little peppermint schnapps to settle my stomach, or a irish whiskey when I’m incensed about something.

    Beer is good with mexican food, too, but there aren’t any good mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants here like there are in Ohio/Indiana. We definitely could use a bunch of Mexican immigrants here, if California could spare some. Lancaster is almost 50% hispanic, but they’re Puerto Ricans, and if there’s a Puerto Rican cuisine, it’s hiding. There are plantains and adobo for sale in all the groceries, but when Puerto Ricans open restaurants, they sell philly cheese steaks.

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  53. del said on March 29, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Little kings? One of the funniest billboards I ever saw was in Grand Rapids’ Easttown in the mid 1980’s. It was a cartoon of a fat, beard-shadowed guy in a swimsuit on a beach holding a Little King beer bottle at a slightly inverted angle at the level of his swimtrunks. Funny look on his face. The dialalog box said, “King me” (as in a game of checkers). Harl, was that you?

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  54. basset said on March 29, 2008 at 9:15 am

    I drank many a Little King at IU Bloomington in the mid-70s… every once in awhile you could find a Big King, same stuff in a half-gallon glass bottle. far as I know Schoenling’s, and for that matter most of the old Cincinnati breweries, are no longer in business.

    what else were we drinking back then that you can’t find any more… Stroh’s (the brand is still around, not the same beer though), Fehr’s XL (99 cents a 6-pack, “It’s Always Fehr Weather,” Falstaff, Drewrys…

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  55. del said on March 29, 2008 at 9:54 am

    On review: Didn’t mean to imply anything about your appearance Harl – just the idea of someone grinning slyly and offering a provocative comment along with being a fan of the beer brought you to mind. Another memory is of sneaking Little Kings into a movie theater as a kid and placing so many empties by our feet; they were like bowling pins once one, then all, fell and rolled down towards the first row.

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  56. Connie said on March 29, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Harl, no need to apologize, it’s just that I don’t get the joke a lot. I just figured out the no beer at Wrigley joke this a.m. On that earlier post I gave you a straight answer about my dog, and it wasn’t till the next day that I realized you were trying to make everyone think that they might see me wearing nothing but a scarf. Doh.

    My daughter has a button: I’m blond, I’m smart, Deal with it.

    But I have the best button, picked up at Book Expo a few years ago. Mine says: Impeach Cheney first. Sorry Danny.

    So Nancy, I was thinking. If Slate is now reading you do I have to be more discrete or something in the comments?

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  57. Harl Delos said on March 29, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I drank many a Little King at IU Bloomington in the mid-70s… every once in awhile you could find a Big King, same stuff in a half-gallon glass bottle.

    Sure it wasn’t a two-liter PET bottle? About 1975, they decided to go after the Coors market. They started packaging unpasteurized draft beer in 2-liter bottles, which meant it had to be kept refrigerated. They called it Big Jugs.

    They had some fun radio ads about going in to the bar and telling the waitress you wanted to get your hands on a couple of big jugs.

    But in the end, it was just Schoenling beer. If you went into a bar that had Schoenling on tap, you might order draft because it was draft, but I don’t recall anyone ever going gaga over Schoenling beer, so it didn’t last long in the marketplace.

    So I suppose if they had the packaging equipment, they might try to use it to package their creme ale.

    It was a cartoon of a fat, beard-shadowed guy in a swimsuit on a beach

    If you ever saw me at a beach, you wouldn’t likely have seen any suit; I’d be in the deep water, swimming. If I’m going to loll about, it’s usually indoors. And I’m not “a fat, beard-shadowed guy”, I’m a fat, full-bearded guy.

    Stroh’s (the brand is still around, not the same beer though)

    Is the ice cream still around? They had a flavor that had Mackinac fudge that was pretty good.

    Not as good as the ice cream you can get in Cincinnati, though. Graeter’s doesn’t mix chunks of chocolate into their ice cream; they mix chocolate that’s liquid at room temperature, so it melts in your mouth, and the ice cream itself is better than anyone’s, too.

    The best drink to come out of Detroit, though, is Vernors. Not available here, darn it.

    My daughter has a button: I’m blond, I’m smart, Deal with it.

    I’ve seen that on a t-shirt before. A friend was wearing it. She said that earlier that afternoon, she was walking along and a guy walking the other direction threw his arms around her, planted a fantastic kiss on her, patted her rump, and continued walking on, the same direction he had been walking, as if nothing had happened.

    I said, “Well, you’re blond, and you’re smart. He dealt with it.”

    She acted like she couldn’t figure out whether to laugh, to kiss me, or to belt me. She acted like she was POed at the guy. I asked her what the guy was like, and she said he was a little older than she was, sort of a hunk, no wedding ring. I don’t know if she was unhappy he did it, or unhappy it was a drive-by smooch instead of the start of something.

    Mine says: Impeach Cheney first.

    Maybe we should just send him on a lot more hunting trips with lawyers, and arm him better.

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  58. Danny said on March 29, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    No need to apologize, Connie. Many conservatives will be pretty happy to see the end of the current administration.

    But speaking of “smart” blondes, have any of you seen the newest White House Press Secretary, Dana Perino? Who knows how smart she really is, but she looks right smart and somebody was being smart when they got her appointed. The male contingent of the WH press corps probably has trouble formulating thoughts much less asking adversarial questions. Won’t faze old Helen Thomas though.

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  59. Harl Delos said on March 29, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    But speaking of “smart” blondes, have any of you seen the newest White House Press Secretary, Dana Perino? Who knows how smart she really is, but she looks right smart and somebody was being smart when they got her appointed.

    When asked about global warming, she touted the health benefits of climate change.


    When there was a reference to the Cuba Missle Crisis, she said she panicked, not knowing what what it was. “It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I’m pretty sure.” She went home and asked her husband, “I said, ‘Wasn’t that like the Bay of Pigs thing?’ And he said, ‘Oh, Dana.’ ”


    Q Yes, Dana, as you know, the Senate is debating an Iraq withdrawal timeline again today. Is that a good thing or a bad thing that they’re debating it?

    MS. PERINO: That they’re debating it? Well, if — look, the President is willing to talk about Iraq anytime anybody wants to talk about Iraq. And I think that the Senate Republicans yesterday decided that it was time to spend — it was time going to be well spent, to talk about Iraq and talk about the progress that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have made, in concert with the Iraqis and with our partners there.

    The President said that an artificial timetable of withdrawal would say to an enemy, just wait them out; it would say to the Iraqis, don’t do the hard things necessary to achieve your objectives; and it would be discouraging for our troops. And that’s why the President said yesterday he would veto the Feingold amendment that they are now debating on the Hill. So we think that it is time well spent to talk about Iraq.


    She’s easy on the eyes, Danny, and if you say she has a high IQ, I won’t argue it, but the job is a bad fit for her, and she is a bad fit for the job.

    If the president doesn’t get the news out through the press secretary, the press will bypass her and go to the various deparments instead. The news will still get out, but the president’s spin won’t be on it.

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  60. Danny said on March 29, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Harl, no big. Yeah, I was just making a joke about her “looking right smart” as that refers to her good looks. I didn’t even know who she was until a week ago. But some of that stuff you cite is pretty damning.

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  61. Kirk said on March 29, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Harl, Little Kings and Stroh’s are how I got started back in high school. We also drank Duke Ales, which were 7-ouncers put out by Duquesne Brewing Co. in Pittsburgh.

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  62. del said on March 29, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Danny mentioned Tony Snow and Helen Thomas. Nance might be interested to know that Tony Snow lived in Grosse Pointe city for a time, and Helen Thomas is a graduate of Wayne State.

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  63. basset said on March 29, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    probably was a plastic bottle, my memory of those days is a little fuzzy for some reason… definitely was called a “Big King,” though.

    (brief pause while I do a quick search)

    hmmmm. looks like Little Kings are still around, but brewed in Pennsylvania… Hudepohl/Schoenling sold out to Sam Adams in 1997 and Sam is brewed in the old Cincinnati plant now.

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  64. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 29, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    If Rolling Rock isn’t made with artesian spring water from Latrobe, PA any more, i’m not drinking it.

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  65. Kirk said on March 29, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    It’s owned by Anheuser-Busch now, so you know it has to suck.

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  66. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 29, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    First Old Style, then Rolling Rock . . . next thing they’ll be telling me Guinness isn’t made with the waters of Mother Liffey.

    Speaking of lost horizons…

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  67. Kafkaz said on March 29, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    There’s really no such thing as a pure documentary in the way that folks often think of that–as something that purely documents facts and events, or somehow captures what really happened, with no spin, no angle. The moment someone turns on a camera and begins recording, decisions have been made. Even if you just put the camera on a street corner and let it run, you’ll still have selected the kind of camera, the corner, the time of day, and even the duration of the recording, and that makes all the difference. Once you start adding in editing, music, and all of the rest (including the way the very presence of the camera impacts the events that unfold before it), it seems to me that most every documentary film is an essay. They all have a thesis to advance, an argument to make, and an interpretation of events to put forward. Documentaries are meant to be persuasive, and the best of them are very carefully constructed, indeed. Most also have fictional elements: they focus on the emergence of certain characters, for instance, and they construct narratives.

    One of my all time favorite documentaries is Streetwise. It has an interesting history–including both how it came to be, and how the makers of the film have followed up on one of its main characters–and it’s great for classroom study of the form with college students. Old, as these things go, but still resonates.

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  68. John said on March 30, 2008 at 6:13 am


    I had “Fritz the Cat” in (NetFlix) a couple months ago. It has aged well in that it was just as funny now as it was (or not) 35 years ago. Watched “One-Eyed Jacks” yesterday. Karl Malden was great in it and Brando was pretty good himself.

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  69. Harl Delos said on March 30, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    R.I.P. Dith Pran.

    He was the Cambodian-born journalist whose experiences inspired the movie The Killing Fields. In fact, he coined the term “Killing Field” after seeing the remains of victims of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime.

    He died of pancreatic cancer this morning; he had been diagnosed about three months ago. He was 65.

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  70. Dexter said on March 31, 2008 at 12:39 am

    I remember drinking cheap beers like Koehler’s and Hudepohl, too. Also Buckhorn and Fall’s City, which made Billy Carter’s “Billy Beer”.
    Harl, if you are in Lancaster, you’ve no doubt tried Straub’s and Stoney’s. When I was driving through PA, I’d always drive right to the Straub retail store for cases of Straub beer.


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  71. Harl Delos said on March 31, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Harl, if you are in Lancaster, you’ve no doubt tried Straub’s and Stoney’s.

    I’d never even heard of those brands before you posted. Straub’s appears to be from up near Erie, and Stoney’s is made in Pittsburg. Pennsylvania is a BIG state, and we’re closer to Baltimore, or Washington DC, or even NYC than to either of those.

    There’s are three locals. Lancaster Brewing seems to have a really popular beer in Milk Stout, and their Amish Four Grain and their Strawberry Wheat are carried by a lot of local restaurants and beer wholesalers, too.

    Bube’s, just down the road in Mount Joy, has a faithful following.

    Iron Hill Brewery just opened a location next to Franklin & Marshall College, but I’m not sure they actually brew here. They’re really a Wilmington company.

    Microbrews tend to be really hoppy, which is fine if you like hops, but I’m allergic. It really doesn’t add much to everyone else’s enjoyment if you’re halfway through supper and make a mad rush for the john, because you suddenly need to erupt at both ends….

    A shame, because brewpubs looks like they’re really fun places. Have one for me, OK?

    Pennsylvania has strange beer laws. Restaurants can sell you six packs to go. Beer stores known as “distributors” even though they don’t sell wholesale, can sell full cases to go. Nobody is allowed to sell 12-packs. You have to go to the state store or to the winery to buy a bottle of wine.

    But then, other states have strange laws, too. Ohio will let you sell 7-ounce creme ale, but beers have to be 12 ounces or larger. West Virginia, last I knew, could sell 6.0 beer, but not 3.2 and not malt liquor.

    Indiana wouldn’t let me eat lunch at a working man’s bar when I had my 3-month-old son with me, even if I didn’t order beer. I couldn’t leave him in the car alone – and being diabetic, skipping meals could make it dangerous for me to drive elsewhere. Does anyone *really* think babes that can’t walk or talk are going to be harmed by being in a lunchroom that serves beer?

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