El Chapo meets Spicoli.

Truth be told, although I should be interested in journalism’s meta-story, I haven’t clicked on the Sean Penn El Chapo thing. It was far more entertaining reading about it, both the sober, official accounts, which I treasure the way I do gossip-column summations of celebrity bios — it gives you the good parts without having to wade through the rest. But the real fun was to be had on Twitter, which took apart so many lines so hilariously that now I wonder if I should even spoil it by reading it.

But I have to read it. So… stand by.

(10,000 words later.) Man, that was pretty awful. Pretentious, overwritten, long on information about the writer (he farts, he looks lovingly at his penis, and no I’m not kidding) and short on…so many things. Structure. Coherence. Editing. Oh, for a sharp editor on that thing. It would have been shrunk to 15 paragraphs. I don’t know what Rolling Stone is even about these days, between this and the fake rape story. Attention ≠ credibility.

How was everyone’s weekend? This one was the kickoff of the auto show, which means I mostly experience my husband in the form of damp towels and a snoozing lump under the covers between 14-hour days, but it’ll all be over by Friday’s auto prom. I’m wearing the same scandalous red dress I wore last year, as I haven’t had an opportunity to wear it in the interim and it’s a sin to retire a dress after only one night. A friend scored an Ungaro gown at a local vintage shop for $50 and encouraged me to get down there, pronto. Eh. I rarely find anything nice in high-end vintage, mainly because I’m a size 10 and in designer circles, a 10 is an XL and the sort of women willing to drop four figures on a dress keep a lot slimmer than I do. But I might see if there are any interesting shoes on the racks, what the hell.

And now it’s Sunday night, snow has fallen, the temperature has dropped, wind is up and it really feels like winter, finally. Maintaining on the Whole 30 at the 33.3 percent mark. I’m waiting for the promised bloom of health and well-being to arrive, although I’m sleeping better and mostly just fine, when I’m not feeling like G. Gordon Liddy holding his hand over an open flame. I made a pork shoulder. Gonna poach some chicken. And dream about eating oatmeal again.

How about some bloggage? It’s getting harder to be a boxing fan these days. Last month a local kid died — died! — in his four-round pro debut, a victim of terrible officiating. Now this, a wrenching account of even more terrible oversight by the people who were supposed to be protecting him (to the extent a heavyweight fighter can be protected). Beautifully written by the masterful Dan Barry, but hard to read.

You’re going to be hearing more about the Flint water crisis in the coming weeks, now that the layers are finally being peeled from the onion. It’s a huge story, and as always in these things, I encourage you to read local news sources before national ones, although admittedly, for those coming late to the game, a national paper’s perspective can be useful. But this story, about the triumph of dark money in state politics, is absolutely worth a read, too.

And so the week begins! Five days to the red dress.

Posted at 12:06 am in Current events |

40 responses to “El Chapo meets Spicoli.”

  1. Hexdecimal said on January 11, 2016 at 6:10 am

    Sean Penn might not strike you as a journalist. However, he has been published in several weeklies, several magazines, and quoted more than a few times in several other publications. I know from experience that it’s not Education, or degrees in journalism that make a journalist. However, I do not know any journalist (including nn.com?)who would not have killed (metaphorically speeking) to have done the “El Chapo” interviews that Penn did. So, is it envy that a good number of journalists are harping on Penn for getting the story because in their eyes he is not a “Real” journalists?

    Or is it all his editors fault that there is more word smithing that’s needed for his piece? It sounds like sour grapes to me from the established media folks. To bad they can’t just give him the creds for getting the story. The fun part now is did his story lead to Chapo’s arrest in someway? What investigative reporter will find this out?

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  2. David C. said on January 11, 2016 at 6:38 am

    What a surprise, Dickie DeVos (Betsy actually, anyone who grew up in Grand Rapids, or who watched his run for Gov knows he’s the emptiest of empty suits) is behind this scheme. The Rs have no confidence that they can sell their ideas on a level playing field so they use the law to put a thumb on the scale.

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  3. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2016 at 6:44 am


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  4. Alan Stamm said on January 11, 2016 at 6:59 am

    No, Hex, a good number of real journalists are harping on Penn for how he reported and “wrote” the story . . . not for getting it.

    Big diff.

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  5. Joe K said on January 11, 2016 at 7:02 am

    Rip Ziggy,
    Pilot Joe

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  6. adrianne said on January 11, 2016 at 7:43 am

    Nancy’s headline on the Sean Penn disaster wins! Spicoli, indeed. I don’t know what Rolling Stone is all about anymore, but between this and the rape fabulation, it isn’t a forum for serious journalism anymore.

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  7. Dave said on January 11, 2016 at 7:45 am

    I didn’t come to appreciate David Bowie until later but when I was living in Northern Ohio and on the fringe areas of being able to pick up “The Buzzard”, WMMS in Cleveland, they had a full-on love for Ziggy Stardust and I had a friend who was a big fan. I was completely shocked this morning to find out he’d passed away. What Joe said.

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  8. basset said on January 11, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Second that, Joe.

    10 might be XL in the designer world, it’s a good size in real life though.

    And I say again, fighting is not a sport. Don’t understand the appeal of it, someone explain.

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  9. basset said on January 11, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Dave, our “Buzzard” was WNAP in Indianapolis.Still remember their “Wrath of the Buzzard” ID… and the “Radio Indiana” ID at WIBC.

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  10. beb said on January 11, 2016 at 8:07 am

    The death of David Bowie was the shock of this morning’s news. Battling cancer for a year and a half according to one report and yet he found time and energy to record one final album. That’s impressive.

    The Flint Water Crisis deserves to be in the news for years to come. There was no way someone actually in the water business could have approved Flint’s plan to use river water without adding phosphate. That’s been the basis for lead abatement from the EPA for going on 20 years. This was a political decision over-riding any scientific concerns. Thus the politicians need to suffer for what they did. And it’s important to point out that this was done by Republicans because this is the sort of screw the little people thinking that goes on in that party. The Flint River water may have had some challenges to being made potable but that wasn’t the problem… It was the lack of phosphorus.

    The more I hear about Trump’s campaign rallies, with their targeted harassment of women, blacks, Muslims, Muslim women… the more I driving to think that Trump is one tiny mustache away from being a new Hitler.

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  11. ROGirl said on January 11, 2016 at 8:12 am

    I saw him at Masonic on his Ziggy Stardust tour when I was in high school. It was mind blowing.

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  12. nancy said on January 11, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Two things, on Penn and Flint:

    First, Flint: beb, do you really think this was a *political* decision? I may be a pedant here on the strict definition of “political,” but the failure to add phosphates just seems like a penny wise/pound foolish screwup by people who thought they knew more than they did. To call it political implies a strategy, and I don’t think there was one here, other than to make a big show of saving money.

    On Penn: The problem with this story is, it’s a stunt and that’s all it really is. A famous actor did a lot of cloak-and-dagger maneuvering and got a famous criminal to answer some questions. He told a couple of obvious truths (yes, I’m a drug dealer) and some preposterous lies (I only act in self-defense). The story needed to be “reported out,” as they say in the trade, but Penn couldn’t do that because a) he’s not a reporter; and b) they couldn’t let the cat out of the bag about what they’d done. I adamantly refuse to call journalism a “profession,” and I have no problem with Penn doing journalism, and I suppose this is at least a form of it. But journalism is more than using your contacts and fame to get someone like this to sit down with you; it’s also digging for facts and reporting them in a way that illuminates the matter at hand in some new or useful light. He didn’t do that at all. He used El Chapo as a tool to attack the war on drugs (hey, fine with me) and comment a little on the relative corruption of the drug trade vs. the Mexican government (again, totally fair game). And there are some interesting new facts here, I suppose; the tunnel stuff was great, and I wonder just how Mexican engineers in the employ of a criminal arranged for three months of training in Germany to iron out kinks in their tunnel project.

    But the same interview in the hands of Matt Taibbi would have been a very different story. And I wish it had been.

    As for Penn being qualified because he’s been published elsewhere, oh please. He’s a famous Hollywood actor; he could get published in Foreign Policy, for God’s sake. Just the fact he has a few brain cells to rub together and can craft an elliptical, run-on sentence qualifies him as something that could be exhibited in a bell jar, as far as Hollywood standards go. I mean, a few tweets by Cher, for crying out loud, were enough to push the Flint story into the national news last week. Cher. I ask you.

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  13. Julie Robinson said on January 11, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Bassett, I’m with you on boxing; it’s just legalizing thuggery. I feel the same way about football and believe the tide is beginning to turn there too.

    Apparently in Hollywood even a size 6 is XL, and Bryce Dallas Howard has trouble finding designer gowns, so she bought one off the rack instead. At Neiman Marcus. And that’s all I know about the Golden Globes, because I watched Galavant and Downton Abbey.

    David Bowie was continuing to create even as he fought cancer. He wrote a musical, Lazarus, which is being workshopped off-Broadway to sold out audiences. May he rest in peace and may his loved ones be consoled.

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  14. Peter said on January 11, 2016 at 10:31 am

    I’m sorry, all of the crap that’s going on in Michigan and all I can focus on is the name of the Michigan legislator – Lisa Posthumus Lyons – is it a misspelling? I don’t know about you, but I’d make it a plan to go through life without people knowing what my middle name is….

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  15. Jeff Borden said on January 11, 2016 at 10:35 am

    I’m not aware of too many “journalists” who give their subjects the right to edit or excise their copy. Sean Penn is a fine actor, but’s he’s also a narcissistic asshole. The former manager of the Chicago White Sox, the Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen, used to rip the shit out of Penn for his fawning friendship with Hugo Chavez and suggested the actor actually move to the country if he so admired the dictator.

    I give David Bowie a ton of credit for hiding his battle with cancer and concentrating on his final album, which is reviewed in today’s Tribune (3.5 of 4 stars). I was shocked as hell to hear he’d passed.

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  16. nancy said on January 11, 2016 at 11:10 am

    That’s no typo in Lisa Posthumus’ name, but she needs it, because her dad was the lieutenant governor and senate majority leader back in the day. Legacy.

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  17. alex said on January 11, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I think LaVoy Finicum is a much more interesting name than Lisa Posthumus Lyons.

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  18. ROGirl said on January 11, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Her father’s name is Dick Posthumus.

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  19. Joe K said on January 11, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Actors is there ANYTHING they don’t know.
    Pilot Joe

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  20. alex said on January 11, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Whether they still make laptops.

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  21. Deborah said on January 11, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Bowie is one of those famous people that completely escaped me. It’s not that I didn’t like him, I managed somehow not to know about him, sure I heard his name or saw his picture from time to time but I haven’t a clue about his music or anything. I don’t know why that is, he must have become famous at a time in my life when I was busy with other things like having a kid? I really have no idea. Last year they had a huge show at the Contemporary Art Museum in Chicago that was all about him, he curated it. I wasn’t even curious enough to go, I meant to, but I never got around to it, now I regret that I missed it.

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  22. Jeff Borden said on January 11, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    I saw Bowie playing an upright piano onstage with Iggy Pop in 1977 at the Agora in Columbus. The opening act was Blondie. What a night. One of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll shows I ever saw.

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  23. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    “I don’t want to be portrayed as a nun,” El Chapo says. Though this portrayal had not occurred to me.

    (I think Penn is taking some Albom lessons here, and elsewhere. Mitch with profanity.)

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  24. Jakash said on January 11, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Now I kinda know how the folks who don’t own TVs or only watch sparingly feel when they stumble onto something like the Golden Globes. Lord knows why, but we always watch the Globes, Emmys and Oscars, though that’s as deep as we plunge into the entertainment-industrial-award complex. I remember a number of years back the first couple times there were bands on Saturday Night Live that we’d never heard of, and how that seemed odd. Then, inevitably, a few years later — hosts. But we were at least vaguely familiar with the critically-acclaimed TV shows and movies. We don’t see nearly as many movies as we used to, but still manage to catch almost all of the Oscar-nominated ones by the time they have that show. Well, the ones that we’re interested in, anyway.

    But TV? Sheesh! It’s been steadily building to this, of course, but last night was still a bit of a revelation. There were categories where we’d only HEARD of 2 out of 5 nominees. Back to back awards where we’d never heard of the winning actor OR the show. Ricky Gervais made a joke that NBC didn’t care what he said or did, because they were the only network with zero nominations. But freaking Amazon is evidently a force to be reckoned with.

    Anyway, yeah, getting old sucks, and this is surely the very least of it, but it was a fine demonstration of the fact that try as you might, there’s no keeping up with all the quality TV, given the number of places “airing” it these days. And I actually LIKE Ricky Gervais, but he can be quite the jerk, no doubt. His shtick of “gee this show is long and boring” is fine for somebody ripping it on Twitter — but HE’S the one who’s supposed to be making it entertaining!

    Hank Stuever, friend of nn.c, tweeted this a while back: “Once again at a point where I’m too busy being a TV critic to actually watch TV. ‘Making a Murderer’ will have to wait til … retirement?” When the TV critics can’t even keep up, what hope is there for the rest of us? : )

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  25. beb said on January 11, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Nancy, I suspect we’re looking at “political” through different colored lenses. The decision to treat Flint River water can’t happen until the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) approves it. That a permit was issued that did not require the addition of phosphorus to the water implies that the permit was approved by a bureaucrat without any review from someone knowledge in the field. That’s why I called it a political decision. It was a decision made without advice from the field as part of a plan to make the Emergency Manager plan work. It was a top-down decision where all the people at the top are politicians.

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  26. Dorothy said on January 11, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Susan over the weekend you told someone (who had posted a grocery list I think) that it’s not possible to have Miracle Whip and mayo in the same house. I beg to differ! I do not use mayo on bread, but in tuna salad, etc. I use Hellman’s. My husband uses Miracle Whip on his sandwiches. My sister Diane tells people they have a mixed marriage: she’s Hellman’s, Bill is Miracle Whip.

    At my daughter’s office 42 people pooled their money to buy powerball tickets. They were one digit away from having a million dollar winner. Instead they got $104. Shouldn’t there be some kind of happy medium between $104 and $1,000,000?!?!

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  27. Suzanne said on January 11, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    I didn’t even turn on the Golden Globes as I knew I wouldn’t know who anybody was. I tried to watch one of the New Year’s Eve count-down shows over the holiday, but gave up when I turned it on and someone was singing that was a mystery to me. I never watch the Grammy Awards any more because there isn’t any point for me. I’m getting that way with books, too, as so many bestsellers that have been positively reviewed, I find abysmal (the latest was Fates & Furies. Ugh) I guess I’m well on my way to being that crotchety old lady that young people want to avoid.

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  28. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I haven’t yet yelled at the kids to get off my lawn, but I can see myself muttering “youth is wasted on the wrong people” someday soon.

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  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    God bless the intertubes: sure enough – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seBInAPI32A

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  30. Deborah said on January 11, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Little Bird said we will have to watch Labyrinth tonight, I asked her why and she said David Bowie was in it. See, I didn’t even know that. I have lived under a rock all of these years.

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  31. brian stouder said on January 11, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Agreed that Sean Penn ain’t no Edward R Murrow.

    And indeed, El Chapo apparently ain’t no Don Corleone, either!

    The guy obviously had a bit of a taste for the lime-light – which reminds me of Faye Dunaway’s fatalistic portrayal of Bonnie Parker.

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  32. brian stouder said on January 11, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    I can’t decide if this story reminds me more of the beginning of a Laura Lippman book, or….we’re back to Don Corleone again!


    the lead (plus a little more):

    ADAMS COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) Police in Adams County are investigating after a horse was found dead, in a pool of blood, in its stall Saturday morning. The Adams County Sheriff’s Department was called just before 10 a.m. Saturday after a horse was found dead at Crossroads Stables in Decatur. Police did not release additional details about the case. Sheriff Shane Rekeweg said the incident is under investigation.

    The horse’s owner, though, Steve Hughes took the case to Facebook in a weekend post that said the 14-year-old quarterhorse named Roany was “murdered.”

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  33. MarkH said on January 11, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Jeff @29 – not sure whether you knew that existed or not.

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  34. Charlotte said on January 11, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Deborah — you missed Bowie entirely? I’m kind of gobsmacked — I was never a huge fan (in part because my incredibly weird roommate my first semester at Beloit was) but Bowie was just always there — like the air. Especially to slightly arty kids like we all were. And then kept being there, and kept reinventing himself and doing cool stuff — I love this video short he and Tilda Swinton did in 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH7dMBcg-gE
    The other one I just love is astronaut Chris Hadfield’s tribute performance of Space Oddity from the space station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo
    All the writers and artists I know are just heartbroken today — I think none of us believed he was actually a human being, who could die. (And his poor daughter — she’s only 15.)

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  35. basset said on January 11, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Bowie’s reading list:


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  36. Jolene said on January 11, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    My experience with David Bowie is much like Deborah’s. I sort of always knew he was there, but never really tuned in. Today, though, I’m realizing that some of the music that was in the air around me was his. The NYT has multiple articles about him, so, if you’re interested in learning more, that’s one obvious place to look. Tons of stuff on the BBC website.

    Meanwhile, in a quite different musical realm, Willie Nelson has been awarded the Gershwin Prize in Popular Song by the Library of Congress. (Previous winners include Paul Simon, Carole King, Paul McCartney, and several others.) A concert in his honor held in November will be broadcast on PBS on Friday evening with many luminaries from country, folk, and rock music appearing.

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  37. alex said on January 11, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies. It wouldn’t have been one of mine if it hadn’t been for college, I’ll confess, but as the inimitable Ms. Parker said, you can lead a whore to culture.

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  38. Jolene said on January 11, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Also, there’s this: Iman and David Bowie decide what’s for dinner.

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  39. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 11, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    MarkH, I was thinking of that scene when I typed my #28, but only thought to search for the clip after I posted — and sure enough, just that 30 second scene has a YouTube link! Which made me happy.

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  40. Deborah said on January 11, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    So I tried to watch Labyrinth tonight with Little Bird. Honest I really tried. Couldn’t get through much of it unfortunately. We listened to some Bowie music earlier, I recognized most of it I just wouldn’t have been able to state who was singing it before.

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