The slush pile.

Y’all know that my sense of humor runs more in this direction than in the conventional one, so I’ll admit to chuckling through this story, in a can-you-believe-this-shit sort of way. Briefly: The State Bar of Michigan held a fiction contest, and awarded honorable mention to a story it later backtracked on and described as “embedded with racist cues,” if you can call the inclusion of an ebonics-speaking bad-guy character named Tyrone Washington a cue and not exactly racism.

The story — “Post-Conviction Relief” — centers around Jack Schoenherr, who’s described as a “soft-spoken and introverted Michigan attorney who had practiced almost exclusively in the area of criminal defense over the course of his twenty-two year legal career” and swore to uphold the state and U.S. constitutions.

Schoenherr’s daughter, Caroline, is murdered by “eighteen-year-old, tattoo-covered, drug-abusing gangbanger named Tyrone Washington.”

Washington is convicted of shooting Caroline in “cold blood with a stolen revolver for no reason other than that he wanted to show off his ‘polar bear hunting skills’ to prospective candidates eager to join his gang.” Bristow described Washington as showing no remorse and even grinning and jeering as Schoenherr gave a victim-impact statement at sentencing.

After the trial, Schoenherr visits Washington in prison under the guise of being his attorney for the appeal. “’You mah appointed lawyer for da’ appeal?’ Tyrone asked,” Bristow writes.

Schoenherr lectures Washington about retributive justice while, “Tyrone drooled and snorted as he slouched further in his chair.” Schoenherr eventually kills Washington with a sharpened pen.

A sharpened pen! (I’ve heard it’s mightier than the sword.) Honorable mention!

Truth be told, much of this tale was sort of scoff-worthy, including that the State Bar was even having a fiction contest in the first place. (My guess is we can lay this at the feet of John Grisham.) I also wonder if the judges, described as “volunteers on (the Bar’s) Publication and Website Advisory Committee,” had ever actually read a work of reputable fiction. And how dense does one have to be not to see the problem here, especially when you consider the story was eagerly accepted by a publication called the Occidental Observer, “which says in its mission statement that it presents ‘original content touching on the themes of white identity, white interests, and the culture of the West.’”

Punch line: The author, a Michigan State graduate, was president of the Young Americans for Freedom chapter there, and before his 30th birthday has a page in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s extremist files. He’s been (self-)published before. His first novel? Was called “White Apocalypse.” He also thinks revenge porn is a liberal plot against blonde white women.

No, it wasn’t a good week in post-racial America, was it? Ask the homeless man who got a beatdown from two apparent supporters of Team Trump. I’ll reserve final judgment on this one — it’s a little too perfect, detail-wise, up to and including the candidate’s description of his followers as “passionate.” But still.

So, welcome to the weekend, all. It’s Crazytown here; hope your environment is a little saner.

Posted at 12:13 am in Media | 68 Comments

Food over outrage.

Sorry no blogging last night. I decided to make a nice dinner instead, and by the time it was served and cleaned up, I was sorta done. We had grilled halibut, roasted cauliflower with coconut curry sauce and a lovely snap pea salad with green onion, ginger, lime and sesame seeds. Yum.

I was trying to duplicate the flavors of this lovely lunch of a few days back. Came close.

So all I have is a little nosegay of links. Theme: Outrage. Or at least righteous indignation. (Maybe a nice meal would calm everyone down.)

Every magazine gets letters to the editor from outright racists. Few sign their names. This editor ran the letter.

Neil Sternberg says Donald Trump is the punishment we all deserve. Discuss.

How the wheel do turn, Gawker, Reddit, et al. Welcome to adulthood.

Posted at 9:19 am in Media | 52 Comments

Widely scattered.

I know we have readers here from all over, and some of you have perhaps never traveled to the nation’s breadbasket, where many of us live. Perhaps you’re not familiar with the weather condition the meteorologists call “widely scattered thundershowers.” Here’s what it looks like on the radar:


It’s the thing every Midwesterner notices sooner or later, where you call someone who lives a mile away and say, “Too bad it’s raining, or we could go for a run or something,” and your friend says, “What are you talking about? It’s so sunny.” Sometimes you live right on the literal edge of a shower, and can see dry sidewalks on the other side of the street. Rarer still is Hollywood rain, where it’s pouring, but the sun is out, like in those movies shot in Los Angeles sunshine under rain sprinklers. (You know what I always notice about those scenes? It rains HARD under those sprinklers, but no one ever says, “Maybe we should go inside.” Perhaps because those are the scenes where someone is expressing eternal love, five minutes before the credits.)

Anyway. That’s the kind of day it was. Rode my bike to the dentist and regretted not bringing sunglasses. Came out and had to dry off the seat, then race another cell home. Walked the dog 30 minutes later, wishing I had sunglasses. But it was real pretty, with everything all drippy in the sunshine. I kept looking around for Brad Pitt. So I could kiss him and express eternal love.

I rode my bike to the dentist because the office is half a mile away, but also because I didn’t have a car, it being in the shop for the usual ruinously expensive Volvo service interval (timing chain = bread and water for a month). Kate and her bandmates are borrowing it for a week, for a little tour they booked themselves. Me, worried? Ha ha ha ha ha [takes three giant glugs of wine] ha ha ha. The Cataclysmic Events tour kicks off in Brooklyn Friday night and plays a number of closet-sized DIY venues before concluding in St. Louis (oy) a week later, then home. I’m sure they will have the time of their lives. Those of you who are the praying sorts, feel free to include them in your dailies. ALSO INCLUDE MY CAR.

So, a bit of bloggage today. This has been one newsy year, hasn’t it?

If you’re going to do sex work, make serious bank at it, the way the wait staff at Las Vegas pools do:

Vegas’s hot summers are slow for tourism, but in the past decade, resorts have transformed the generic poolside experience into a lavish party scene. This has spawned a pool-industrial complex, where attendees, even guests who once enjoyed free entrance to a hotel pool, now pay into the thousands for general admittance per day, shaded cabanas and private bottle service at parties featuring daylong drinking and celebrity D.J.s.

Inside the parties, a class structure prevails: The proletariat use towels to claim spots around the pool, the bourgeoisie reserve $1,000 cabanas and aristocrats fork over up to $15,000 for private bungalows equipped with televisions and temperature-controlled climates. Add in food and drink minimums, and these clubs, combined with their night-life counterparts, now surpass the longtime king of casino revenue — gambling.

For the tipped worker, the appeal is obvious. Checks can spike into the tens of thousands, and with an automatic 18 percent gratuity, few service jobs can compete. No wonder people fly in from around the country to apply for them.

Could this story of civil protest in Dent County, Mo., pop. 15,000, be more predictable? The county commission voted to lower flags to half-staff for one day a month (the 26th, because that was the day in June that SCOTUS let the homos get married) for a year, then walked it back “out of respect for veterans,” but not before it yielded this priceless quote:

“It ain’t what our Bible tells us. It’s against God’s plan,” County Commissioner Gary Larson said.

Whenever I read a quote like that, I think of the gray areas of cleaning up bad grammar in quotes, a subject that journalists around the world can no doubt chew your ear off and bore you to death, discussing. I tend to leave it intact except in cases where the speaker’s meaning might be misunderstood, but if you look at stories from many Ohio newspapers during the governorship of Jim Rhodes, the guy sounds like an Oxford don, and friends? He was not.

The Onion swings the sword of truth, regrettably.

Which takes us all the way to the week’s hump. How’d that happen?

Posted at 12:34 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments

The trench out front.

In addition to all the usual post-graduation, pre-college confusion going on hereabouts now, this is our street these days:


Our street was in desperate need of resurfacing; it hadn’t been done, as near as anyone can tell, since it was built in 1947. We passed a road bond for $10 million a year or so ago, and ours was among the first streets on the priority list, so yay! We get a new street! Then they came to do the work, and the asphalt came up, and then they dug one side down to the Indian burial-ground level, and then the gas lines were a problem and then the rains came. We already lost one park-strip tree. The guy from the gas company rang the doorbell and said, “I have good news. You’re going to get more sunshine in your yard. Because we’re taking down that maple. Its roots are right over a break in the gas line.” Well, we never liked it that much anyway, fewer leaves to rake and no gas explosions = big plus.

Last night, I heard someone knocking around in the bathroom at 2 a.m. It was Kate, coming in, elated, from seeing the Rolling Stones at Comerica Park. My first question: How was the show? Answer: Amazing. My second: Where did you park the car? Two blocks away, because that’s what we do when the road is nearly unnavigable. Then I went back to bed.

I’ll be relieved when all this is over.


Doesn’t this sound like a fun read?

You don’t need to be a speechwriter to realize that the phrase “I won’t begin in any particular spot” is a wretched way to start a public address. Yet those were the opening words of one of the more remarkable political spectacles in recent years: Mark Sanford’s rambling and teary news conference of June 24, 2009, in which South Carolina’s then-governor confessed that rather than hiking the Appalachian Trail, he’d been hooking up with his Argentine mistress.

In the crowd that afternoon at the statehouse rotunda in Columbia, S.C., was the man responsible for crafting Sanford’s speeches. People still ask Barton Swaim, “Did you write that speech?” He can’t even answer. “I just chuckle miserably,” he explains.

No, Swaim didn’t write that speech, but now he has authored something just as revealing and unusual: a political memoir that traffics in neither score-settling nor self-importance but that shares, in spare, delightful prose, what the author saw and learned. “The Speechwriter” feels like “Veep” meets “All the King’s Men” — an entertaining and engrossing book not just about the absurdities of working in the press shop of a Southern governor but also about the meaning of words in public life.

Read the review. It sounds hilarious:

He learned the boss’s tics. Sanford liked to have three points in a speech, never two. Never. “I’m not getting out there to talk about two stupid points,” the governor said when presented with a pair of rebuttals to a bill. “I need three points, first, second, third. Got that?” He loved referring to an amorphous “larger notion” in his remarks. Larger than what? It didn’t matter. “When we drafted a release or a press statement and weren’t sure if he would approve it, someone would say, ‘Stick a “larger notion” in there and it should be fine.’ ” The governor would often deploy an “indeed” when trying to rescue a trite phrase, as in “we’re indeed mortgaging our children’s future.” Also, Sanford always looked for chances to mention Rosa Parks in a speech. He just really wanted to do that.

I always thought it might be fun to be a speechwriter. Obama’s speechwriter, maybe. Sanford’s? Eh…

A good profile of the Awl, a website I find myself paying more attention to lately. This passage hit me:

In 2003, Gawker’s Nick Denton hired Sicha to run Fleshbot, the company’s now-abandoned porn site, then Gawker itself. Meanwhile, Balk was in advertising and writing a culture blog on the side; he landed at Gawker a few years later. Sicha left for The Observer after a year, then returned briefly in 2007. The style that he developed at Gawker, conversational with bursts of enthusiasm and ironic swerves, exerted a deep influence on the voice of the early web.

“That style became internet parlance,” says Andrew Womack of The Morning News, where Sicha freelanced while at Gawker. “You almost can’t think of a bigger effect. I can’t look at anyone type an exclamation point without thinking of Choire’s first stint at Gawker. It wasn’t snarky; it was honest and had this fuck-it-all attitude I think we’ve all had.”

Voice is one of those things I find most intriguing about writing. It’s the voodoo magic, hard to teach, sometimes hard to even describe. I wasn’t enough of a fan of early Gawker to describe Sicha’s voice with any authority, but now that I think of it, voice is one of those things that drives me most insane about Mitch Albom — that plodding, early-newspaper, listen-to-me-for-I-know-all voice that hasn’t changed since he first dipped his quill into an ink pot. Some day, when I have the time and inclination, I’ll do an explication de texte on a sample and try to show you what I mean.

But for now, it’s getting on towards Friday, and I’m-a gonna turn in. Happy weekend to all of you.

Posted at 12:29 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 67 Comments


The Columbus Dispatch was sold today. At times like this I am reminded of the words of the great Carl Hiaasen, in his novel “Basket Case.” Ahem:

When a newspaper is purchased by a chain such as Maggad-Feist, the first order of business is to assure worried employees that their jobs are safe, and that no drastic changes are planned. The second order of business is to attack the paper’s payroll with a rusty cleaver, and start shoving people out the door.

Maggad-Feist was plainly a fictionalized Knight Ridder, and “Basket Case” is old enough now that merely being shoved out the door has a certain chivalry to it, as it usually came with at least some form of severance. Our commenting friend Adrianne was a victim of the Dispatch’s new owner; here’s her experience:

These jokers bought my old newspaper, promptly laid off me and two other news editors, plus the entire photo staff. Six months later, they laid off the entire copy desk and moved all those jobs to Austin, Texas, where harried young graduates try to write headlines and design pages for the 60-plus newspapers in the empire. Reporters at their newspapers have not had raises in seven years, and do not get any overtime, no matter what the cause. They are owned by a hedge fund determined to wring every last drop of profit from their newspapers before selling out – I give them two years, tops. I didn’t think a newspaper chain could be worse than Gannett. I was wrong.

I left the Dispatch long, long ago. I don’t regret it. I had to leave to find my voice, which was waiting for me somewhere in Indiana, along with my husband and a lot of good people. The Maggad-Feist chain paid me adequately but never well, and when it all came to an end I could at least say the place had given me a lot to write about. But I was too young and ignorant to appreciate the good things about the Dispatch, mainly how goddamn flush they were, with cash — the sports team traveled to Ohio State away games on a company plane, and we’re talking reporters, editors, columnists, photographers and probably more — but mostly people.

The people! Oh my god, in these days of outsourced copy editing, it’s almost hard to imagine. There were so many people on staff. There were six writers just in the women’s department, where I started. Four of us were general assignment and two were specialists (brides, fashion), and we filled maybe a page, page-and-a-half a day, plus a Sunday section. There was a full-time editor for this department, and we were back there with sports and, oh, let’s just take a walk through that fifth-floor newsroom, shall we? There were four or five on the Sunday magazine, which used a lot of freelancers, too. A couple-three who only had to put out one Sunday page or fill a section with wire copy. Sports was packed with bodies, beat writers for all the big OSU sports and for Cincinnati baseball. (Kirk, help me out here: Did we have FTEs for Cleveland teams?) Let’s walk through photo (at least six or eight full-time shooters, plus a couple guys coasting toward retirement who handled scheduling and record-keeping and some studio work, and a secretary) and out into the main newsroom. There was the public-affairs editor, who filled a hubcap-size ashtray every single day. He was flanked by another chain smoker who edited the Accent front page — the features front, and only the features front — five days a week, and filled her own gigantic ashtray.

City desk? At least two editors on it at all times, frequently three. Reporters out the wazoo. Cops were covered 24 hours a day, lest mayhem break out overnight. There was a state desk, with just an editor in the newsroom, but plenty of writers who lived out in the circulation area and worked from home. And there was an art department, featuring actual artists. (One illustrated a lighthearted story about culture shock among the Japanese managers of the newly opened Honda plant. All the Japanese people in his drawings had buck teeth and thick glasses. Everything he knew about Asians he’d learned from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” apparently.)

And this is only the day crew. There was a slimmer but still robust night staff, including an overnight copy editor. He came in about the time I was leaving at 10 p.m., his skin the color of a fish that lives in the Marianas Trench. The guy sitting next to me watched him walk in, turned to me and said, “Creeeeeeak, and the coffin swings open for another night.” Plus there were people who had jobs I can’t fathom existing today. We had a copy boy, long after computers had replaced glue pots. He delivered papers to each desk as they came off the press and did miscellaneous other duties; maybe he washed the publisher’s car. There was a woman who kept the coffee urn filled and helped out in the basement test kitchen; yes, there was a test kitchen, a full-time food editor and full-time food writer. (Sample lead: “When I find myself out of ideas in the kitchen, I make muffins.”)

You might be getting the impression the paper was crappy. At that time, it most assuredly was. It later got better, a lot better. More on that in a bit, but a lot of this I now see was the result of a management that simply wouldn’t be brutal with people. They couldn’t be proactive about helping them improve, either, but I prefer it to cruelty. Alcoholics were tolerated, or helped through a full 28-day rehab, if they wanted it. For a time there was a copy editor who was blind. Seriously. A blind copy editor was a joke on some Mary Tyler Moore TV show, but we actually had one, a guy who leaned his white cane up against his desk. They could have booted him onto disability, but they didn’t. He edited the weather page, his nose pressed close to his monitor.

Half a dozen old men crafted editorials about Arbor Day and The Coming of Football Season and whatever conservative cause the publisher was on about. There were two — TWO — editorial cartoonists. I think that job has dwindled to about a dozen or so in the whole goddamn country.

I can see now this was a staff ripe for a management consultant to come in with a rusty cleaver, that we operated at near-Soviet levels of overstaffing, but honestly? Who cares. All those people collected their paychecks, cashed them and used the money to pay taxes, buy cars, raise families and otherwise keep the economy chugging along. If you think a belching factory smokestack is ugly, try one with nothing coming out at all.

The paper did get better, after I left. The deadwood aged out. A couple were broomed by the first halfway-decent, non-company man editor-in-chief the publisher hired; he’d already fired one in his previous job in Cincinnati. (A tart-tongued assistant city editor — we had a lot of those — said the victim needed to find his true employment destiny in a toll booth somewhere.) More smart editors did strategic hiring of good people, and little by little it was no longer the embarrassing paper in the state, but a pretty damn good one. Then the whole industry fell to pieces, and the last time I was there, they’d downsized the print paper to something about the size of a pamphlet. So sad.

Now it’s even worse, if you can imagine that. (I can. The one lesson the newspaper business pounded into my skull was to never say, “It can’t get any worse,” because it always, always can. And does.) I just heard a story today about a fine piece of newspaper watchdog journalism, and an editor’s dismissal of it, the next day: “No one read that thing on the web.” By this measure, Buzz Bissinger should get the Pulitzer for writing the Caitlyn Jenner story. I’m sure the newsroom was still a fun place to work during this renaissance, but it was also fun when I was sitting there on Saturday night, watching the clock and hoping I’d get out in time to enjoy a little bit of it, hoping the impossible drunk in charge wouldn’t get a wild hair up his butt and make me cold-call an address he’d just heard on the police scanner and ask why they were fighting so loudly that the police had been called.

I’ve worked at one other place with weirdos and characters like that: WGL, the AM station where Mark the Shark and I had our little radio show. I wrote about that place once already, but there are still more stories to tell. One of these days.

(A final note about typos here: A few of you have been correcting me, and I thank you. Autocorrect, in all my apps, is getting out of hand. I do this writing at night, mostly, and I’m tired and my eyes are tired and all the rest of it, but there’s a great deal of fucking autocorrect going on, too. Working on it.)

Finally, here’s one relic of the Dispatch I still have, and use often. Hashtags: #armwattle, #chinfat, #unflatteringphoto. This was something the photographers wore in the chemical-bath, pre-digital days, and I wear when I’m cooking anything splattery:


Happy Thursday, all.

Posted at 12:35 am in Media | 42 Comments

Abandon all effort.

The school year is waning here. As I’ve mentioned here before, the sole political achievement of one of my former legislators (term limits!) was to ram through a bill forbidding Michigan school districts from starting until after Labor Day. The idea was to give the tourism industry one last chance to squeeze a few dimes out of the summer, and in theory I don’t really think school should start in August, but it’s still a stupid law. (Although it always makes for a pleasant interlude to visit Cedar Point, the amusement park. It’s only about a quarter full, and everyone is wearing Michigan T-shirts.)

What it means for kids like Kate, who take advanced-placement classes, is that the tests are held in mid-May to accommodate the southern U.S. districts that will dismiss for the year in a few days. So what do kids up here do for the last three weeks of the year?

Not much. In one of her AP classes, they watched “Wall-E” last week.

Of course, this is just fine with the kids, although Kate would just as soon be shut of the whole damn place. She hasn’t liked high school pretty much from the beginning. I hope she likes college better.

So today we were promised overcast skies and rain, but it didn’t arrive until I was getting off the bus. I crossed the street in the downpour and, with two blocks to go, knew I’d be soaked by the time I got there. I ducked under the first street awning, a title company, thinking, “Right now I need just one person in the world to cut me a break.” And guess what happened? A Realtor and a client were saying their goodbyes under the awning, and the space was tight enough that I felt the need to announce I wasn’t going in, just waiting out the shower. The Realtor said, “I’ll take you home,” and she did, in a nice Cadillac. Then she announced my house was going to be worth its weight in gold, yes gold I say, in another three years.

You have to be an optimist to be a Realtor, but that was something I needed to hear.

The day also included a lunch. A lunch with a long wait for all to arrive, and then another long wait for the food, and I was ravenous enough to be borderline hangry, and my eyeline was on a TV turned to HLN, CNN’s dumber sibling. The show was something called “The Daily Share,” and even with the sound off I could see exactly what it was: A TV version of your Facebook feed, assuming that like everyone else, you have a few idiots in your network. So: Stupid viral video, a kid someone tried to smuggle onto a plane in a suitcase, another viral video, a nod to Serious News with the Sy Hersh/OBL thing, some Kardashian crap, and so on. The world’s dumbest newspaper, on TV, with anchors who bring to the table all the intelligence and insight of morning radio hosts, and I’m not talking NPR. Field reports were with aggregators — yes, the Daily Mail — via Skype, so the picture was pixelated and crappy and no one cared.

In other words, the future of news in Idiot Nation. I sat there with my smart, experienced colleagues thinking I’d better keep this job, because this is the alternative.

So yeah, it was sort of a Monday.

Bloggage? I want to catch up with “Veep.”

I used to be more of a pedant about the language, but I’m trying to become more flexible in my dotage. Gene Weingarten offers some cautionary tales of those who cannot let go, i.e., grammar and language rules of yesteryear:

“ ‘She married a man named Brown,’ is incorrect. … A woman, when she weds, is married to a man, but the clergyman or magistrate marries her.” — Josephine Turck Baker, 1899

“Moon here means month, so it is incorrect to say, ‘a week’s honeymoon.’ ” — Ambrose Bierce, 1909

“There is no such word as ‘balding.’ Why not ‘baldish’?” — Theodore Bernstein, 1958

I read Ruben Navarette’s column about Mark Halperin’s interview with Ted Cruz and could scarcely believe it happened. Evidently it did:

He told Cruz that people are curious about his “identity.” Then, the host asked a series of questions intended to establish his guest’s Hispanic bona fides. What kind of Cuban food did Cruz like to eat growing up? And what sort of Cuban music does Cruz listen to even now?

I’ve known Ted for more than a decade and I could tell he was uncomfortable. But he played along, listing various kinds of Cuban food and saying that his musical taste veers more toward country.

I kept waiting for Halperin to ask Cruz to play the conga drums like Desi Arnaz while dancing salsa and sipping cafe con leche — all to prove the Republican is really Cuban.

It gets worse, too.

Finally, an OID story with the sort of headline you can’t help but love: Police report: Naked Sen. Smith confronted ex before shooting. Her car, that is. He shot her car, 10 times, with a shotgun Rifle. BECAUSE, THAT’S WHY.

I know just how he felt. Some cars just won’t die.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Posted at 12:18 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 57 Comments

Where I am today.

So here we are, in beautiful, warm, sunny Atlanta. For a wedding, but of course we’re staying with J.C. and Sammy. Who have some spectacular neon in their neighborhood.




We drove, and broke it into two days, leaving after work Thursday and spending the first night in Cincinnati. A question for the room: Whatever happened to Red Roof Inn? I recall it as the cleanest and safest of the budget-hotel segment, and given that we were staying for less than 10 hours, it seemed silly to pay for anything more. Alas, it was seedy and smelly and creepy. There were bloodstains — yes, bloodstains, falling well short of shotgun-massacre but definitely WTF-happened-here — on the wall of the bathroom, and the door of the room next door had dents in it, at precisely boot-kicking height: CHRISTINE! YOU BITCH! YOU AIN’T KEEPIN MY KIDS FROM ME! OPEN THIS DOOR OR I’MA KICK IT DOWN!

Well, we got shut of that p.d.q. Friday morning and had breakfast at Bob Evans. Another bad idea, alas.

But now we’re here and dinner last night was far from a bad idea. And it’s not cold, and the sun is out, and everything is groovy. Open thread, and enjoy the pictures. Because I’m a journalist, one more — Manuel’s, the media-hangout bar, doomed-but-not.


Happy weekending, all.

Posted at 9:40 am in Friends and family, Housekeeping, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 73 Comments


And so we lurch to the end of the week. I’m mailing out a few copies of a Deadly Vipers press release. It only took Alan and I, two professionals who have read thousands of press releases between us over the course of decades, about three days to bang it out. It was ridiculous, batting drafts back and forth like a couple of toddlers. I thought I had it nailed, but then realized I’d forgotten the social media and a goddamn phone number.

It’s early dementia, I’m sure.

Oh, well. Speaking of journalism, this was Thursday’s chuckle, Hank’s review of a vile new show called “Sex Box,” in which a couple sits on stage for therapy, and is then ushered into a bed-sized box onstage for, presumably, y’know:

While they’re in there supposedly having sex (in the two episodes shared with critics, duration in the Sex Box lasts anywhere from 11 to 31 minutes), the therapists continue to discuss the couple’s problems. The audience fidgets. The Parents Television Council issues another useless press release. We wait.

The musical cues in “Sex Box” are more suited to a reality show about sharks or avalanches. I mean, is the saxophone solo so out of fashion that it can’t even be put to use here, where we need it most? The tone and presentation make it seem as if something really awful is happening in there, in addition to the making of truly awful television out here.

More tragically, the Sex Box doesn’t move, shake, thrum, glow or give any indication of what’s occurring within. It would be such a better show if the Sex Box, once occupied, could then be lowered onto a shipping vessel bound for the Asian continent, or shot into orbit by Richard Branson, or driven to a storage unit in West Covina and stashed away. Something, anything to make up for the time wasted watching “Sex Box.”

People wonder why critics take so much apparent glee in writing pans. Because there’s so much more fun, that’s why. (I love the idea of lowering the box onto a freighter. I’d watch that show.)

Sigh. When I get up to hit the gym tomorrow, it is predicted to be 0 degrees, maybe lower. Should I skip? Perish the thought!

Have a great weekend.

Posted at 12:30 am in Media | 86 Comments

It was her party.

A shame about Lesley Gore — how the hell did this woman, whom I associate with the early ’60s girl-singer moment of sheath dresses and sprayed bouffants — come to be only 11 years old than me? Either I’m aging faster or she was the Lorde of her day.

I guess she was the Lorde of her day.

Something I did not know: She was a lesbian. No wonder she sounded so confident when it was Judy’s turn to cry. (Check out those Mondrian shifts on her background singers! I wonder if those were original YSL, or knockoffs. Either way: Specto-freakin’-tacular.)

You know who else was a lesbian ’60s girl singer? Dusty Springfield, although that link will take you to a piece about her life with this obnoxious lead:

Call me a crazy old physiognomist, but my theory is that you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin. Celebrity Eskimo Sandi Toksvig, Ellen DeGeneres, Jodie Foster, Clare Balding, Vita Sackville-West, God love them: there’s a touch of Desperate Dan in the jaw-bone area, no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.

It is thus a tragedy that Dusty Springfield’s whole existence was blighted by her orientation, which explains ‘the silence and secrecy she extended over much of her life, and her self-loathing’. One glance at her chin should have revealed all — but the Sixties was not a fraction as liberated and swinging as people now assume.

Oh, blow me. Although the story isn’t terrible. I’ve been thinking of Dusty lately, ever since one of Kate’s homemade CD mixes revealed “Son of a Preacher Man.” I thought mainly she’d picked it up from “Pulp Fiction,” but she said it was for a friend who had decided this was the Best Song Ever, and made the entire car fall silent whenever it came on.

Well, it is a great song.

Some bloggage: My stories (and my partner Ted Roelofs’ stories) on what we’re calling “poverty in paradise,” i.e. the widening gap between the well-to-do and the left-behind, start running today in Bridge. Part one goes live around 6 a.m. EST, so if you’re reading this afterward, feel free to click on part one. Gracias.

I know I’m late to this, but I thought this piece on the online shaming that followed a single ill-advised tweet was very, very good.

Today I discovered it is, indeed, possible to get to an ISIS beheading video in three clicks. I don’t recommend it.

Have a great Tuesday, all y’all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Media, Popculch | 81 Comments

Pants afire.

I don’t know what to think about Brian Williams. On the one hand? Almost certainly a chronic exaggerator, maybe an utter fabulist. Depressingly, none of this really matters in the performance of his job. The olden days when an anchor was a real journalist are pretty much over; while they might be trotted out to do standups here and there, the producers do the heavy lifting.

When Don Lemon, CNN’s barking idiot, tweeted a photo of his smallpox scar a few days ago and called it a measles scar, and this after speculating on the air that a Malaysian jetliner might have been swallowed by a black hole, I expressed frustration to a member of the NN.c commentariat. He replied:

I think Don Lemon is just fine when you put news stories on a teleprompter and ask him to read them in sequence.

I think William Hurt’s character in Broadcast News was just fine when you put news stories on a teleprompter and ask him to read them in sequence.

That, however, has long ceased to be the CNN “anchor” job description.

I think that’s true everywhere, with maybe a few exceptions. If you have the right look, a modicum of charisma, can read a prompter and are relatively quick on your feet in a live-interview situation, and as long as you have that elusive something that makes you one in a few million — you too can be a network news anchor. It’s not an easy bunch of qualifications to wrangle under one handsome head.

Of course, once you’ve attained this level, you have to deal with this sort of thing, i.e., co-workers trashing you anonymously:

“Brian is deeply disliked inside NBC—extremely unpopular. The people at NBC are loving this,” says someone in the know. Why? “Because he enjoys being a celebrity too much.” He also doesn’t pull his weight. “He never comes in in the morning”—as a managing editor, you should. “He calls in from his apartment and shows up around lunch time, has a fancy lunch with some important person, and then at the 2:30 production meeting—close to air time—he tears everything up.”

They pay him an eight-figure salary. I expect this is part of the deal.

And now Williams has been suspended for six months, effectively ending his career. Seems a big waste of…something, but I’m not sure what.

So. What sort of bloggage am I in the mood for?

This arrived on the radar yesterday, and nobody knows how it happened. Good for the Vipers, though.

The slut shot, i.e., the HPV vaccine, does NOT turn girls into whore-monsters. Such a relief.

An oral history of Laurel Canyon in the ’60s and ’70s. Love that Joni Mitchell.

Now, I must go to bed before I collapse.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Media | 33 Comments