Category Archives: Journalism

Don’t trust anyone over 30 / Meeting People Is Easy



So while I was away the Internet was talking about the widespread firing of arts and movie critics from our nation’s papers, and the situation that puts us in. It may be a general coincidence that the death of criticism, for economic reasons, follows so closely after the death of theory (in this case, supposedly, for non-economic reasons.) It certainly is a personal coincidence that I was catching up on this while belatedly reading Omnivore’s Dilemma. So my thoughts processed like this:

It is only natural that criticism’s defenders are critics. It is much like this week’s letter in defense of corn syrup, penned by Corn Refiners Association president Audrae Erickson. But exactly what are the readers consuming, and what will they lose if criticism disappears? At its most refined, criticism after theory takes a work of art and processes it until it emerges, just to pick a random example, as a vehicle for discussion of Marxist struggle. Now that piece of criticism can be really satisfying, but not everyone is going to believe those ingredients were there in the original. Which is to say that criticism is a value-added. It is something new, and artificial. It is corn syrup, chicken mcnuggets—the same nutrition in higher density.

So life after criticism, if what the papers say is right, will probably see a go-organic or return-to-natural movement, which I guess would mean taking in our movies and music raw and un-pre-criticized. Or it could be a return of artistic locavores—more “Fugazi fucking rock because they’re from DC!” and less “José González fucking rocks because he’s from everywhere!” It would be hard for me to say what effect any of these developments would have on the triumph of global capitalism.

Fact: Corn syrup is the best!

Oh, for the days when knowledgeable drunks ran the media

Crown Royal Nascar

There’s been some good-hearted ribbing this past week about Hillary Clinton’s anti-elite boilermaker of choice, Crown Royal. It came up in Thomas Frank’s debut column for the Wall Street Journal today. Last week it was part of a Daily Show segment (Stewart: “Nothing says blue collar like whiskey in a velvet pouch”).

Sure, it’s a funny drink name for her to choose, Crown Royal, seeing as she’s attempting to start a dynasty. But elitist? It might be a luxury brand, but it’s luxury like going to Atlantic City is luxury. No. It’s luxury like going to Mohegan Sun is luxury. It’s luxury like a prom limo. It’s luxury like my boob job. It’s luxury like a nightclub called Touch of Class.

I have to side with Clinton over the liberal sobergentsia on this one. It’s a pretty safe bet Obama’s shot of choice doesn’t have its own NASCAR race.

Crown Royal

Nobody Knows Anything

Who’s Crying Now?

Before New Years Gloss over-confidently predicted:

Of course, by the time I get back, at least one of the major presidential candidates will be having a Howard Dean-style Iowa meltdown, so I’ll probably be racing to finish some hilarious remix to post on YouTube in the sad, vain hope of getting Jeanne Moos’s attention. 2008 is going to suck.

As with everything on this site there was no intention of following through, but lo, the constancy of the Internet’s malicious humor does provide:

This was The End of Her. An e-mail I received Monday afternoon had the subject line, “She’s Toast.” Either her sob was calculated, rolled out to complement her Sunday Morning talk show laughing fit as demonstrating the suite of acceptable Human Emotions, or it was genuine, which was worse. Consensus had it this was her Muskie moment, when in fact it was her Checkers speech.

Maureen Dowd has the right analysis today (why does it seem she’s only on when it comes to the Clintons?):

But there was a whiff of Nixonian self-pity about her choking up. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us.

Clinton Agonistes. A more recent precedent than Eisenhower’s Nixon shrewdly begging for sympathy would be the first Bush-Gore debate in 2000, when the V.P.’s trounce of the forensically challenged Republican candidate played to the victim’s favor. That moment showed that Wounded Puppy plays better on TV than Confident and Skilled. Or Clean and Articulate.

Huffington Post: Clinton: Tearing Up “Could Well Have Been” My Turnaround
Dowd: Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?
CJR: Play Misty for Me

WGA strike now affecting theater

Youtube debate

New York Times: Writers’ Strike Leads to End of Debate Plan

Finding itself in the middle of labor disputes between television writers and CBS, the Democratic National Committee announced yesterday evening that it was canceling the debate among Democratic presidential candidates scheduled for Dec. 10. …

Hollywood’s television and film writers have been on strike since Nov. 5, and most of the Democratic candidates had pledged not to cross picket lines to attend the debate, which had been set to take place at CBS Television City in Los Angeles. That location has been picketed most days since the start of the strike, and no aspiring Democratic presidential candidate would have wanted to be caught on film crossing the line.

And here we thought unions had lost their sway with Democrats.

It Was Ever Thus: Press Bias


“The very process of discourse was misted over, poisoned, with distrust—there was not only ‘the credibility gap’ in Washington, but a wide resentment toward the vehicles of what must be bad news, or false news. In 1964 many thought it shocking that, at the Republican Convention, delegates turned to the press booths and shook their fists in anger after Eisenhower’s criticism of reporters. But by the 1968 convention, cops beat newsmen and broke their cameras. What is more interesting, the demonstrators in the parks were often hostile to the press, suspecting them of being plainclothesmen, or—after their credentials had been established— demanding loyalty to ‘the revolution’ before they would talk. Meanwhile, newsmen who followed Wallace said they felt like patsies, straight men for the candidate’s act, so much did he use them to elicit boos and jeers from his crowds. Spiro Agnew got a similar response when he held up a copy of the New York Times and mocked it. Disturbed by the angry wash of criticism after Chicago, Reuven Frank, head of NBC News, said of the American viewer: ‘The world as reported by television threatens him. It is a short and understandable step for him to conclude that television threatens him.’ There was, back of all these localized complaints, a basic sense of futility in attempts to communicate. What one said would be distorted; what one heard had been confected. We had miles of cables, batteries of cameras, bouquets of microphones under every nose. And we could not talk to each other.”
–Garry Wills, Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man (1970)