bondy
A.A. Bondy
American Hearts


Superchunk
Leaves in the Gutter

raspberries
Glossary
For What I Don't Become


86x108_thick_main_malcolm
The Thick of It
BBC America



Saddest Ghost Lamp

Friday, July 29, 2005

I Blogged Too Soon

It looks like the Chicago Tribune figured out in the past day or so how to host a Typepad blog on its own servers, because Eric Zorn is now back in the warm embrace of a chicagotribune.com domain.

What Does Tempo Mean Again?

The joke about Tempo, the Chicago Tribune's preprinted features/arts/advice columnist/Boggle section, was always, "Tempo: Bringing you yesterday's news tomorrow." Because it's printed a full day in advance, it exists in its own little temporal world where on Monday it's Wednesday, Tuesday it's Thursday, etc., and if something really big happened yesterday, well, you're not gonna read about it in Tempo, that's for sure.

But if a much-remarked upon cultural and technological trend is written up in a different newspaper, Tempo definitely promises to have the story to you within a month, apparently. To wit: Today's Tempo features this Los Angeles Times story on MP3 blogs. It first ran in the Los Angeles Times on July 3--26 days ago.

Kicking Television

Here's my third column for Radar, on the biannual charms of the Television Critics Association Press Tour. Enjoy! I know Bill Carter won't.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

GWOT II: Electric Struggle-oo

So we're in a struggle against violent extremism now, not a war on terror. Good to know. Hey: What's the Arabic word for struggle again?

Trib Punts Zorn Over to Typepad

Eric Zorn's blog has moved from the Chicago Tribune's servers to Typepad's. Is it just me, or is there something odd about a newspaper that had operating revenues of more than $800 million last year, and operates a website that, as the Tribune often brags, was one of the first newspaper online offerings, and maintains a dedicated staff of online-only personnel, is using a $4.95/month web-based service to host a blog?

I guess it kind of makes sense--it looks a little better, and why waste time replicating a service that's readily available?--but something seems low-rent about the arrangement. Rupert Murdoch is buying Myspace for $580 million, and the Tribune Co. is renting space on Typepad's servers for $49 per year.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Search Me

Daniel Radosh has some cogent thoughts on the NYC subway searches, making two crucial points: 1) The "you're free to refuse a search" line is meaningless for passengers who don't get searched on the way in but get picked on inside the subway. If you're on the platform and a cop asks to look in your bag, what happens when you refuse? Does he escort you out of the station? Arrest you? And 2) There's absolutely no reason to assume that searches won't be expanded to other venues. The argument for subway searches is vulnerability, and vulnerability is a function of the density of bodies in subway cars. If subways weren't crowded, terrorists wouldn't hit them. Well, Times Square can get pretty damn crowded up on the street level. So can restaurants. And movie theaters. There's nothing in the arguments of those who support subway searches that would bar them in other venues. Don't want to subject yourself to a police search on your way into "Wedding Crashers"? Well, you're free to refuse and go rent a DVD.

Here's my question: If, as the NYPD says, the goal of the searches is simply to deter people from entering the subway system with bombs, why do they retain the right to make arrests for other contraband found during the searches? Why don't they say, No action will be taken on any material found during random searches unless the materials found pose an imminent physical threat? I know it would be unusual for New York cops to look the other way if they found a 1/4 oz. of pot in your briefcase, but it's unusual for them to be searching your briefcase to begin with. If, as the pro-search argument goes, extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary sacrifices, why can't the NYPD take one for the team and actually only search for the things it says it is searching for?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Two Things

Number One: Roman Polanski won his libel suit against Vanity Fair. I told you so.

Number Two: This Holly Martins chick over at Wonkette is reading my mind and, well, elbowing in on my schtick. Note to AMC: Please tell your fill-ins to keep their absolutely correct and amusingly on-point thoughts on the Chicago Tribune's inability to distinguish news from footwear to themselves. Since when does anyone in Washington care about what's in the Tribune, anyway? And if she writes anything about Mike Miner, I'll cut her.

Do You Have Your Headphones On?

Good. Now listen to this.

It's "I Wanna Know Girls," from "Bright Ideas," the new Portastatic record, due out next month. Tour dates are here. My sycophantic swooning is here.

Now listen to it again.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Thursdays With Mike


I swear sometimes Mike Miner is reading my mind and eavesdropping on my dreams. Take the lede of his new column:
We have red states and blue states. We have the ABCs of abortion, the Bible, and the so-called Constitution-in-exile riding on a Supreme Court nominee. What's next -- drums and bugles and another fratricidal donnybrook?
It's perfect! So crystalline! It's intriguing, and it shuttles you along like quicksilver to the meat of Miner's column--a fascinating analysis that tells me dozens of things I didn't know, including the fact that people who listen to talk radio often hold partisan political positions and Chicago suffered a major fire in 1871.

But the creepy thing is how he effortlessly captures the Zeitgeist. First of all, someone had better trademark "the ABCs of abortion, the Bible, and the so-called Constitution-in-exile" and get it on a T-Shirt fast. And be honest: How many times have you been watching Fox News Channel or MSNBC and just thrown the remote control to the ground in disgust, lifted your face to the sky, and asked, "What's next? Drums and bugles and another fratricidal donnybrook?!" A donnybrook, I tell you!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Lewis Lapham--Expert Witness

Lewis Lapham, the editor of Harper's Magazine, testified yesterday at Roman Polanski's libel trial against Vanity Fair--he offered an anecdote about having drinks with Polanski and a Scandinavian model named Beatte Telle at Elaine's in the Sixties--which is the sort of thing he was absolutely born to do. Lapham thinks himself to sleep every night with stories about drinks with Roman Polanski and a Scandinavian model named Beatte Telle at Elaine's in the Sixties. There's an 80 percent chance that, even if he hadn't been called to testify, he would have told an anecdote yesterday about having drinks with Roman Polanski and a Scandinavian model named Beatte Telle at Elaine's in the Sixties anyway. Here's what he said, according to the New York Times:
Lewis H. Lapham, the editor of Harper's Magazine, reached far back into the past on Wednesday, telling a British court about an encounter he says he saw in Elaine's restaurant in Manhattan in August 1969, between the filmmaker Roman Polanski and a Scandinavian model named Beatte Telle.

"He began to praise her beauty and speak to her, romance her," Mr. Lapham recounted, speaking of Mr. Polanski and Ms. Telle, strangers until that moment. "At one point he had his hand on her leg and he said to her: 'I can put you in the movies. I can make you the next Sharon Tate.'"

Vanity Fair repeated the anecdote in a story about Elaine's, and Polanski is claiming libel because he was on his way to Sharon Tate's funeral at the time.

I was an intern at Harper's Magazine almost 10 years ago, and got to put in some time as Lewis' assistant, transcribing his columns, which he dictates, typing correspondence, and answering the phone. It was more fun than it sounds (Hey! I just asked Carl Bernstein to hold!). Anyway, Lewis was exceedingly gracious to me, took me out for drinks, and declined to offer me a job I applied for, a kindness for which I will forever be grateful.

So I'll just say this: He's not exactly an unimpeachable witness.

Dean Baquet's First Correction?

In the interests of full disclosure, I have amended the post below on John Carroll's resignation. I had written that it was actually a "re-retirement" because he was called out of retirement to helm the Los Angeles Times in 2000. Turns out that's not true; he came directly from the Baltimore Sun to the Times five years ago. Though I swear I read somewhere once that he was coaxed out of retirement, or perhaps was convinced to postpone post-Sun retirement plans--something about buying a yacht--I can find no support for that now*.

But I was encouraged in my assumption that Carroll had retired from the Sun by John Spano's story on the Los Angeles Times' web site, which reports, incorrectly, that "he was editor of the Baltimore Sun from 1991-98."

UPDATE: They fixed it. Glad I could be of service.

*Yacht, Neiman, whatever. Turns out Carroll was intent on leaving the Sun in 2000 to take a cushy job running the Neiman Fellowship Program at Harvard University when TribCo convinced him to take over the Times.

Carroll Ankles

So John Carroll, the editor of the Los Angeles Times, has resigned. Carroll's retirement has long been expected, contrary to Drudge's take ("LA TIMES EDITOR SUDDENLY QUITS"). But I thought I'd point out that his resignation just happens to come days after he publicly and specifically--and correctly, in my view--called his ultimate boss, Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons, untrustworthy to a New York Times reporter:

One example of the level of concern about government and private efforts to unmask sources is a new ethics policy at The Los Angeles Times, to be issued this week, which instructs journalists to "never enter into any company computer unnamed sources."

John S. Carroll, the paper's editor, said the policy was motivated by the concern that prosecutors could unmask sources by issuing subpoenas to the newspaper's technology support staff, or even the chief executive of the Tribune Company, which owns The Los Angeles Times. "They don't operate by the same rules as we do" in the newsroom, Mr. Carroll said.

My guess is that Carroll spoke immoderately because he knew he was getting the hell out of Dodge. But you never know: Maybe Dennis read that quote and offered him a generous and urgent retirement package.

He's succeeded by managing editor Dean Baquet, which is good news for the Times. The last executive opening at the Times, created after publisher John Puerner took a dive, was filled by a Chicago loyalist. Baquet is no such thing, which tends to indicate that he will not accede readily to the lay-offs and budget cuts that the Tribune Tower is anxious for, or will be anxious for if the Times' circulation continues to crash. It will be interesting to see how Baquet's ascendancy affects the cooperation--read synergy--that Tribune Co. suits are trying to impose on all of the Tribune papers, by forcing the Tribune's "Ask Amy" column, for instance, into the L.A. Times with a crowbar. Baquet and Chicago Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski, who once shared a Pulitzer Prize while they were both Tribune reporters, are said to have a frosty relationship. Word at the Tribune was that they're not on speaking terms.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Trust Me, I've Spent a Couple Nights in Birmingham, and You Can't Get a Falafel After 9 p.m. In That Town


I was going to write something about how daft the geniuses at Fox News Channel are for going with a taped (earlier this afternoon) episode of the O'Reilly Factor just minutes after the name of Bush's SCOTUS nominee was released, which is what they did at 8 p.m. Eastern tonight, as opposed to, I don't know, live coverage of a historical news event, maybe? But now I'm glad they did, because I got to watch this exchange between Rick Santorum, he of the gay mouthpiece, who recently said something along the lines of even the Catholics in Boston are all going to hell simply by virtue of their geographical adjacency to Harvard University, and Bill "Just Kind of a Tease Business" O'Reilly, he of the loofah:
Santorum: I was not criticizing Boston any more than you could put in any other name of any other city...

O'Reilly: Well, you were in the sense that you said that Boston was a hotbed of this sexual revolution, and it was. I was--I was in college in Boston, and, and I [awkward pause]. Look, there's no doubt that that's a liberal town, and it's more sexually progressive than, say, Birmingham, Alabama.

Sounds sort of... wistful, doesn't it? I bet someone will be grabbing a copy of RedEye and working the phones tonight.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Great Moments In Music Journalsim

"From their first radio broadcast as an unsigned Long Island bar band in 1980 to a 2003 concert before 40,000 screaming fans in Germany, Twisted Sister made some of the best heavy rock 'n' roll in the world."--Wayne Parry, Associated Press (second review).

Same as It Ever Was

I implied in my earlier post on today's RedEye cover story that the Chicago Tribune's standards as to what constitutes news have somehow eroded in recent years in a panicked and shameless bid to attract readers without regard to content, quality, or editorial judgment.

Evidently, I was wrong.

What Can I Say?


"Just as important is what is not changing, the values that run as deep as our century-and-a-half relationship with our readers. You invite us into your homes, and we in turn promise to deliver the news accurately and fairly, to bring clarity to complex events, to provide a comprehensive report of news, features, investigations and opinion, to serve as a watchdog and voice for those less able to do so. We are not just a business or a printer but a citizen of this great metropolis, with a citizen's commitment and passion."--Chicago Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski, in a 2001 note to readers about the newspaper's redesign. Above is the front page of today's RedEye, an "edition" of the Chicago Tribune, bringing clarity to this very complex event (NSFW).

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Truth Sometimes Outs. Not That It Matters Anymore.

In January of last year, I spent some time working on a story for the Chicago Tribune about political donations by folks in the television business. It was a highly political time for television (indecency, media consolidation) and the presidential campaign was heating up, so I thought it would be interesting to look at how TV executives, writers, etc. give. Also of note, of course, was the surprisingly high number of television news employees donating to political campaigns.

One of them was Bert Solivan, then the vice president for news information at Fox News Channel and general manager of Foxnews.com. He made two $240 donations to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2003. Others included Fox News Channel's Neil Cavuto ($1000 to Republicans), and Griff Jenkins, Oliver North's producer ($2,000 to, um, Republicans).

So when I called Fox News Channel to seek comment and confirm the donations (I actually called the individuals who made the donations, who referred the calls to a press rep, who yelled at me for having the gall to actually call people directly, rather than seek her permission first), one of the things she insisted was that Bert Solivan wasn't an editorial employeee. His job was strictly technical, she said, he was basically an IT executive, and he should have no more scrutiny over his political giving than an ad sales guy. He made no news decisions. That was difficult to believe--his title was vice president for news information and general manager of Foxnews.com, after all--but I couldn't find anybody else at Fox willing to talk about Solivan's job duties and whether an executive with authority over news decisions was active in Republican politics.

It turned out to be moot because Howard Kurtz came out with the same story while I was working on mine, and I dropped it. But I was always curious that he never mentioned Bert Solivan in his story, since Solivan was actually the highest-ranking apparent news executive who made political donations (higher-ups like NBC's Bob Wright give plenty, but that's less objectionable). He must have been convinced, I thought, by Fox's line that Solivan was just a techie with a grand-sounding title. He ended his piece with, "Many of the other media employees in the FEC records worked in business or technical jobs or are no longer employed by those outlets."

I write all this because today I finally found out what Bert Solivan's job was. He was promoted yesterday to executive vice president of Fox Interactive Media, News Corp's new internet unit. According to the press release, his former duties at Fox News Channel "included overseeing Fox News' 24-hour news research department and its on-air fact writing operations."

Friday, July 15, 2005

What's a Leak?

I know this is slightly pedantic, but without pedantry, I'd be a much quieter person. Here goes: Pundits, reporters, et. al. consistently use the word "leak" to describe the manner in which Robert Novak became aware of Valerie Plame's occupation and identity, and now Karl Rove has been identified as one of the leakers. Democrats are naturally outraged, and are calling on Bush to fire Rove for leaking, as he had previously pledged to do to whomever the leaker turned out to be. Even though it looks increasingly clear that Rove didn't violate any laws in his conversations with reporters (his conversations with investigators and the grand jury are another matter), the Democratic line is that leaking is bad and unethical, and that Bush has said as much, and that he's a hypocrite if he doesn't fire Rove.

Bush has made clear his position on leaks: "Leaks of classified information are bad things," he said two years ago. "We’ve got too much leaking in Washington. I want to know who the leakers are." (And keep in mind, "leaks of classified information" is a much broader category than, say, "leaks of an undercover agent's identity that are found to have violated federal law." Is Valerie Plame's identity classified? Is internal information about a CIA agent's role in recommending an operative for a mission to Africa classified? I don't know, but they sound like the sorts of things that ought to be. If they are, Karl Rove is guilty of "bad things" even if he didn't violate the law.)

But what is a leak? Much of the discussion around this story has focussed on the notion of anonymity, namely because Judith Miller is in jail for refusing to break what she says are confidences. So maybe a leak is what happens when government officials speak to reporters under the veil of anonymity. If that's the case, Bush is going to have to fire or reprimand a whole lot of people, because leaks occur nearly daily in Washington, at the insistence of the White House. They are called background briefings. Many in the Washington press corps have repeatedly asked that briefings periodically offered by the State Department, Defense Department, White House, and other government institutions be conducted on the record, and they have been repeatedly rebuffed. The White House and its various departments insist--officially and as policy--on anonymity every day.

OK, so it's not just anonymity that makes something a leak. There must be another component. Background briefings are conducted to explain the administration's point of view and advance its interests, so maybe a leak is what happens when someone speaks to a reporter anonymously if what the leaker says to that reporter is contrary to the interests of the administration.

That sounds about right. But if it is, then Karl Rove can't reasonably be said to have leaked anything. We know he spoke to Matt Cooper and Robert Novak, and we know it was under cover of anonymity, but it's ridiculous to think that he was saying anything contrary to the administration's interests. For one, Rove is the one who decides what the White House's interests are, and for two, the e-mail Cooper sent to his editor describing his conversation with Rove makes clear that Rove brought Plame up in order to make Cooper wary of Wilson's claims--in other words, he was doing it to advance the White House's interests.

So what we have is an anonymous source saying things that the White House wants said. That sounds to me an awful lot like a background briefing. But it's certainly not a leak. Someone needs to think of a better word.

Priorities, Vol. III

Number of Chicago Tribune staff reporters devoted to stories in today's paper on suicide attacks on the Green Zone in Baghdad, rocket attacks in Gaza, and revelations (caught by both the New York Times and the Washington Post) that Karl Rove was Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak's confirming source in the outing of Valerie Plame: 0

Number devoted to a Page One story on the fact that one or more college students wore flip-flops during a visit to the White House: 4

There's Anonymous, and Then There's Anonymous

The Los Angeles Times' new ethics policy--which, as I've noted, takes a swipe at the Tribune Co. by urging reporters not to keep confidential information on company servers controlled by the corporate surrender monkeys in Chicago--appears to create an odd dual-tiered system of anonymity-granting, whereby reporters are authorized under one set of rules to grant limited confidentiality, and under another set of rules can offer sources the full Judith Miller Package.

First there's this: "When practical, a reporter should consult an editor before entering into an agreement to protect a source's anonymity. In some cases, an editor may insist on knowing the source's identity in order to evaluate the reliability of the information provided." That's actually more lenient than many sourcing policies, including the New York Times' and the Chicago Tribune's, which insist that an editor always be informed of any anonymous source's identity. The LAT only says that an editor may insist on knowing, but doesn't make a formal requirement of it. And reporters only have to seek prior approval of such arrangements when practical (which is to say, never).

But then there's this: "In rare instances, sources may insist that the paper and the reporter resist subpoenas and judicial orders, if necessary, to protect their anonymity. Reporters should consult a masthead editor before entering into any such agreement."

Rare instances? Isn't that the point of demanding anonymity? Sure, it's so your name doesn't show up in the paper. But usually there's a reason that sources don't want their names in the paper--namely that there will be negative consequences if certain people find out that they were talking. And people can find out whether they were talking by means other than reading the paper. Like, by issuing a subpoena. No one who asks for anonymity says, "Don't attach my name to this in the paper, but feel free to tell anybody who asks you that I was the source."

So you can enter into a confidentiality agreement without your editor's approval. But that agreement can't promise full, suboena- and court order-defying confidentiality--for that, you have to get a masthead editor's approval.

Which means the Los Angeles Times appears to be asking its reporters to say something like this: "We can do this right now under our routine anonymity service, which only takes you up to the subpoena level, at which point you're on your own. Or if you want, we could do it under Anonymity Plus, which gets you subpoena and court-order protection, but I'd have to get approval and call you back."

Which is just odd.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Nobody Knows Anything

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tucker 2.0


Is anyone as disturbed as I am at the freaky Photoshopped headshot of Tucker Carlson that seems to be following me around the Internet? He looks like some sort of digitally manufactured cable-news version of Simone--the Punditron, a joint project of MIT, Rand, and MSNBC. Please stop staring at me, Tucker. You're giving me the creeps.

Meet the New Site, Same as the Old Site

cbs2cbs1

Behold! CBS News has ushered in a new era of journalism, using its brand-new and totally redesigned web site, flush with never-before-seen features, to bypass the dinosaur technology of cable television and leapfrog its competitors to a glorious wired future!

On the left: the old site as of Sunday, rescued from a Google cache, clearly a vestige of 20th century thinking. On the right: The bold new site as it now appears, representing, in the words of CBS News president Andrew Heyward, the way the network is "redefining the mission of CBS News and the people who work here to meet the demands of a 24-hour digital universe."

If you think the visual difference is stunning from looking at these screengrabs, just listen to the new features that make the old CBSNews.com look like a Model-T: Whereas the old site had free video, the new site has the free-est video ever offered over the Internet! The old site's RSS feeds were lame and, well, old. The new site's feeds are futuristic and neat-o! While the old site was integrated with CBS News, the new site, according to the press release, will feature "true integration." The old integration was false!

The new site will also feature a cutting-edge publishing tool known as a "blog"--a contraction of "weblog"--which is a frequently updated web site used to offer up-to-the-minute reporting, commentary, and analysis. If all goes according to plan, CBS will have the blog up and running, TVNewser reports, by the end of the summer. I personally think that's an overly aggressive timetable for implementing such a radical and foundation-shattering overhaul.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Ghost of Gannon


Terry Krepel of ConWebWatch and Media Matters for America has helpfully e-mailed me with the identity of the guy who winged a pro-Rove softball at Scott McClellan in the middle of yesterday's otherwise hostile press briefing.

It was not, as I had surmised, Jeff Gannon disguised as Dino Ironbody. It was Les Kinsolving, a radio host and professional WorldNetDaily wingnut whose exploits have been extensively covered here and here. ConWebWatch says he was "Jeff Gannon before there was a Jeff Gannon."

Except he's a lovable old coot instead of a creepy sweaty closeted bald gay prostitute. According to his bio, he's "the nation's only talk show host who is also a White House correspondent, as well as a movie actor"--walk-on roles in Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, which means he must be into Civil War re-enacting (Confederate, naturally). He's a grandfather, and his wife Sylvia is the "former queen of her graduating class at the University of California in Berkeley." And she's a Democrat! How can you not love these nice old people? I smell sitcom.

There are shades of Gannon, though, in Kinsolver's bio: During his 14 years in the Episcopalian ministry, he was known to occasionally serve as a rector.

Smells Like Jeff Gannon


Did someone let Jeff Gannon back in the White House briefing room? How else to explain this question in the midst of the press corps' uncharacteristic and self-righteous reaming of Scott McClellan today?
Q: One follow-up. Considering the widespread interest and the absolutely frantic Democrat reaction to Karl Rove's excellent speech to conservatives last month, does the President hope that Karl will give a lot more speeches?

MR. McCLELLAN: He continues to give speeches. He was traveling this weekend talking about the importance of strengthening Social Security. And he has continued to go out and give speeches.
Maybe the question was posed facetiously--I haven't seen the tape--but that would suggest a comprehension of the basic elements of funny that one tends not to associate with the White House press corps.

UPDATE: Here.

Los Angeles Times Sticks It to the Suits in Chicago

Today's New York Times story on the rippling effects of the Plame Affair mentions a new sourcing policy to be implemented this week at the Los Angeles Times:

One example of the level of concern about government and private efforts to unmask sources is a new ethics policy at The Los Angeles Times, to be issued this week, which instructs journalists to "never enter into any company computer unnamed sources."

John S. Carroll, the paper's editor, said the policy was motivated by the concern that prosecutors could unmask sources by issuing subpoenas to the newspaper's technology support staff, or even the chief executive of the Tribune Company, which owns The Los Angeles Times. "They don't operate by the same rules as we do" in the newsroom, Mr. Carroll said.

What's interesting about this is that, as I've mentioned before, the Tribune Co.'s corporate ethics guidelines, which apply to all the company's media units including the Los Angeles Times, explicitly require reporters to inform confidential sources that their identities may be revealed to a court of law. They also require reporters tell at least one editor the identity of any unnamed sources.

The only explanation for requiring one's reporters to tell their confidential sources, in effect, "If it ever gets to court, I will rat you out," is that either Tribune Co. assumes that all of its reporters are incapable of keeping their word in the face of contempt charges, or that the corporation itself has no intention, if subpoenaed independently, of keeping promises made in its name by its reporters. Could be a little of both. Either way, the guidelines make clear that, as Carroll said, the suits "don't operate by the same rules" as the hacks in the newsrooms.

Except. I was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune when those guidelines came down about a year or so ago, and when I asked first the public editor and then the editor in chief for clarification as to why I should be telling my confidential sources that I may rat them out in court if I had no intention of ever doing so, I was told repeatedly that things can get very complicated and very expensive when reporters get subpoenaed. I asked again and again if Chicago Tribune reporters could be assured that the newspaper would honor promises of confidentiality if it came down to court-ordered sanctions, and never got a "Yes." These were not suits talking. They were newspaper editors. And they made clear that the guidelines I was choking on--and I was by no means alone in objecting to them--were well-thought out, thoroughly lawyered, and accurately represented the editorial leadership's position when it came to confidentiality.

Contrast that with the Los Angeles Times' position, which is essentially a fuck-you to the Tribune Co.--We don't trust those corporate functionaries in Chicago, so we're going to play by our own rules and make sure we keep important information off of any servers they own. (In fact, it's sort of stunning that Carroll singled out Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons practically by name as someone unworthy of his trust.) It's a wise move on Carroll's part, and it's a mystery to me why the leadership of the Chicago Tribune can't take a similar position. Whose rules do they play by?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

New Look

Hey! Look immediately to your left! There's a bunch of things you can buy, if you want to and if you have any money. I'll update the list semi-regularly with things I'm listening to, watching, etc.--the assumption being that you will naturally want to listen to or watch everything that I listen to or watch. I'll also put books up there if and when I actually get around to reading any. But seriously, go buy the Crooked Fingers record.

Thanks to Erik Trojnar for handling the template tweaking.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Hathead Recorded for Sake of Posterity


It took me a while, but interested parties may listen to a live recording of Hathead performing at the Hideout on Friday, June 24, here. The song is "A Bottle Between Me and You," written by birthday boy Matt Cook. I'm "playing" lap steel.

My Breakfast With Vince


I apologize in advance for participating in the unavoidable blitz of publicity surrounding "Wedding Crashers," but a piece I did on Vince Vaughn for Sunday's Los Angeles Times is online here. I had breakfast with him at the Ritz here in Chicago, where he's shooting "The Break Up" with Jennifer Aniston, a couple weeks ago. At 8:30 on a Saturday morning. Which made it, well, difficult to keep the energy up, especially since it was the morning after my brother's 40th birthday party. But Vince was very friendly, if a little over-committed to the sort of pre-rehearsed answers that must serve as your only link to sanity when going through the kind of publicity machine he's going through these days.

He's very funny in "Wedding Crashers," but "Wedding Crashers" is not a very funny movie. I'll leave it at that because my wife--who has, per The Antic Husband, requested the nom de blog High-Pitched Tone--is reviewing it for the Chicago Tribune, and if I were to publicly promulgate an opinion before she does, well, her tone can get very high-pitched when she wants it to.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Me and Judy

As Wonkette notes, there's been a lot of in-depth coverage of the jail Judith Miller's holed up in. It's the Alexandria Detention Center in my hometown of Alexandria, Va., and I'm proud--or is it ashamed?--to say I think I spent a night there more than a decade ago. But I can't be sure because I was very very drunk. In public. Which is apparently a crime, and explains why I was taken to jail. This would have been around 1993, when I was 20 years old; I know I was taken to a holding facility at or near the Alexandria Police Department headquarters, which is right next to the Detention Center. What I can't be sure of is whether I spent that enchanted evening in a holding cell in the stationhouse, or in the actual detention center itself. I guess we could know for sure if Judy finds the jailhouse poetry I wrote in an ink I made from my own urine on a scrap of wall behind the toilet (in truth, it was just half-remembered lyrics to Smiths songs, but I didn't think my cellmates would be able to tell).

If it was indeed the same facility, I can attest to the fact that, contrary to some coverage, it's not a cushy place. It smells precisely the way you'd expect a jail to smell. I shared a cell with a disarmingly charming sex offender who declined to get more specific about his charges, and a Bible-reading lawyer who'd reached the end of a bender.

Anyway, now it's apparently like awsome or something for reporters to end up in the Alexandria jail, but back then there was more of a stigma attached to it. Mom, can you finally forgive me now?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Miller Hides Under Abrams' Skirt

Interesting tidbit from Lorne Manly's assessment of Judith Miller in today's New York Times: While it's (understandably and unsurprisingly) an overwhelmingly positive profile, Manly does flick rather weakly and defensively at the criticism Miller earned for her categorically false and Editor's Note-generating reporting on WMD prior to and during the invasion of Iraq. "Ms. Miller's polarizing personality, however, may also have led some to make her a symbol of the press's faulty reporting on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." What's interesting is the reason Miller gave Manly, in an interview, for declining to answer questions about that reporting: "On the advice of counsel, Ms. Miller said she would not talk about her reporting on Iraq's unconventional weapons."

Huh? What can the Plame investigation possibly have to do with Miller's pre-war reporting? Unless the investigation goes further and deeper than has been previously reported, somehow stretching back to all of Miller's false scoops before the war, or there's some unreported civil or criminal proceeding against Miller or the Times related to that reporting, why would the advice of counsel have anything to do with it?

She's obviously free* not to answer any questions--and it's not like she'd get an astringent assessment in the Times anyway--but it seems slimy and disingenuous of her to hide behind her lawyer when it comes to questions about her WMD reporting. It's the kind of unprincipled evasive tactic that tends to piss reporters off.

* Well, I guess "free" isn't quite the right word, but you know what I mean.

Whoa.

I don't have much to say about what happened in London--BoingBoing has an excellent round-up of blog coverage and Flickr photos--except to say that I am not heartened by news that Chicago is beefing up security on the CTA and Metra lines. They did this after the Madrid bombings too, and anyone who's taken the El in Chicago during Orange Alerts knows that "heightened security" means 19-year-old unarmed private security guards walking around with muzzled, semi-retired German Shephards on leashes. These are literally kids who were working in Subway yesterday, betraying no confidence, awareness, or training of any kind. They just stand there looking bored in the stations, with their dogs--who have to be 12 or 14 years old--literally asleep at their feet. New Yorkers get submachine guns in the subway. Chicagoans get surly mallrats with sleeping dogs. Now, maybe that kind of "security" is in line with the actual level of threat, but it's certainly not in line with Chicago's unseemly me-tooist tendency to try to appear to be important enought to be targeted by terrorists, which I hope it never will be.

While I'm at it--why is the story on the Chicago Tribune's web site that I linked to above, the one about security enhancements at the CTA and Metra, written by the AP? Isn't anyone there humiliated by the fact that their web site is taking wires about local reaction to a breaking story? Why can the Tribune find a way to almost immediately post Eric Zorn's musings on the bombings--or, for that matter, have staffer Maureen Ryan liveblog the "Friends" finale, which they actually did--but not actual, staff-generated news? (There are some staff stories online now, but the bulk of the bomb-related stories, including the CTA one, are from AP.)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bumiller Bites It

Elisabeth Bumiller spent about 800 words in today's New York Times analyzing the White House's "strange choice" of former RNC chair Ed Gillespie to "manage the expected fight in the Senate over who will replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor." She talks to fomer colleagues and ideological combatants, and apparently thinks Gillespie's role in the confirmation process is central enough to merit the traditional gloss over his bio--"the son of an Irish immigrant who owned a small grocery store and then a bar in Browns Mills, N.J., [he] got his start on Capitol Hill parking cars in a Senate lot."

Of course, she includes the requisite "to-be-sures": Gillespie wouldn't talk, and "Republicans said that Mr. Gillespie was unwilling to discuss his role because his responsibilities have not yet been finalized."

They were finalized today: Hack actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson will lead the Senate fight, according to the Associated Press. Gillespie is "expected to help with strategy, lobbying and news media relations." Way too overgrease your source, Elisabeth. I'm sure Gillespie is thrilled with a piece that makes him seem more powerful than his new boss. And I'm sure we'll find out in tomorrow's New York Times how Thompson got his start, where his parents are from, and if he ever parked cars for a living.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Dept. of Hysterical Headlines

trib
The Chicago Tribune has been (understandably) taking pains lately to write headlines that don't sound like chapter headings from a trigonometry textbook, but "Future of Abortion Uncertain" is a bit much, don't you think?

A Pistol Is Just a Very Special Kind of Firecracker


Forgive me for sounding like I'm rejoicing in the tragedy of others, but I wanted to bring your attention to the fact that, sadly, one of the legions of functionally retarded Chicagoans who insist on detonating weapons-grade "firecrackers" in the middle of the goddamn street every 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th of July has suffered the consequences of his idiocy. Last night a Chicago Heights fireworks enthusiast was shot in the face by his neighbor, who evidently didn't want massive explosions rocking his home all night. I would have preferred it if the guy had blown off his own arm or something, but at least the fireworks afficionados have been warned.

If I sound bitter, that's because it's July 5th and I live in Chicago. For anyone who's never experienced Independence Day in this Godforsaken city, the holiday always serves as a blunt reminder for any Chicagoans who have been briefly lulled into a hazy dream of urban sophistication by the concentration of coffee shops and independent record stores that we are all stranded in the heart of the Midwest, surrounded by Illinoisans and Indianans who don't care how many fingers their children have and whose eyes glaze over at bright lights and loud noises.

The city turns into Little Chechnya. Industrial explosives pound the air from all sides. If you're stupid enough to leave the house on the Fourth, driving home is like a scene from "Salvador"--giant clouds of smoke hug the asphalt, and people literally set up roadblocks with their cars to clear the street so they can set off their displays. These are not humble little store-bought fireworks; they are massive, professional explosives suitable for municipal use. It's like handing over the Mall fireworks to your drunk neighbor, a thousand times over. I took the picture above on the Fourth a couple of years ago. Those are not officially sanctioned fireworks--they were set off by idiots in the street.

I've never seen anything like it. It's bizarre, it's maddening, and it makes you want to shoot someone in the face.

Monday, July 04, 2005

From New York Doll to L.A. Mormon


Speaking of cross-dressing: Arthur "Killer" Kane, who played bass in the New York Dolls--that's him on the left (I'm pretty sure, it's hard to tell them apart), died a year ago this month at 55. He's featured in a new documentary, "New York Doll," that picks up the last year or so of his life. He was living pretty much penniless in L.A., bass in hoc, a practicing Mormon, making a living working part-time at a Church of Latter-Day Saints temple and occasionally landing film roles as an extra, when Morrissey, of all people, finally organized a June 2004 New York Dolls reunion show (Thunders-less, obviously) in London. It was a smashing success, and the realization of a dream Kane had long nurtured as he eked out a living on the margins of L.A. and watched David Johansen/Buster Poindexter's career flourish (relatively speaking) from afar. Kane died unexpectedly of complications from pneumonia weeks later.

Johansen has kept the reunion going, with Sami Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks replacing Kane.

The Hollywood Reporter has a new review of the movie here--I can't tell why, other than the fact that it screened at the L.A. Film Festival last month. It's slated for an October release on First Independent Pictures.

If it's as good as the notices it's been getting, it will add to the spate of remarkable rock documentaries we've seen recently, from Some Kind of Monster to Dig! to Ramones: End of the Century (which I have yet to see, but everybody says it's remarkable). My only question is, When is someone going to make The Story of the Replacements? It's one of the great untold stories in rock history, and there's got to be plenty of great archival footage out there just waiting for an enterprising documentarian to find it. Some of it's right here.

If You Look Up His Skirt, You Can See His Resolve


He's also got an adorable blouse he likes to wear on Flag Day.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Times' Tabloid Envy

The New York Times obituary for William J. Brink, the former New York Daily News managing editor who died Friday and wrote the most memorable newspaper headline this side of "Headless Body in Topless Bar"--"Ford to City: Drop Dead"--ends with a rare self-effacing flourish:
The corresponding headline in The New York Times that day, FORD, CASTIGATING CITY, ASSERTS HE'D VETO FUND GUARANTEE; OFFERS BANKRUPTCY BILL, remains unsung.

Friday, July 01, 2005

War is Over (If You Want It)

My erstwhile patron Hugh Hewitt has his panties all in a bunch because Nancy Pelosi said that the war in Afghanistan is over:
"I assume the war in Afghanistan is over, or is the contention that you have [is] that it continues," Nancy Pelosi replied to a reporter on June 22. A few moments later she declared that "[t]his isn't about the duration of the war. The war in Afghanistan is over."

Of course she is just a silly pol, but serious people will not put up with a party that refuses to recognize the realities of the war we are in and which will go on for a very long time. Pelosi is the leader of the House Democrats and she declared a war over that is raging at this very moment with many lives lost this week and others in peril right now. Really, how can you take such a person/party seriously? The frenzy on the left is going to grow louder as they pass into irrelevance, but that is where they are headed.
I'll leave aside whether it's reasonable or accurate say that the war in Afghanistan is over. It's obvious that combat is not over, but we can quibble about the definition of war.

But if it's true, as Hugh says, that serious people will not put up with a party that refuses to recognize the realities of war, then I must have missed his post on Bush's declaration of the end of major combat operations in Iraq 26 months and 1,570 dead American servicemembers ago. I know it's a gimme, and I know what the response is and why it's different from saying that the war in Afghanistan is over, but still, let's listen to what Bush said, just for kicks: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended." Huh, what do you know?

Now that the obvious retort is out of the way, how about this one: "[Karzai] also told me that there are now 3 million children going to school in Afghanistan. Right after and during the period of the Taliban and right after the war, the number of children going to school was negligible."

That's Bush in February 2003. As far as I know, for something to happen ("3 million children going to school") after something else ("the war"), that something else must be, as Pelosi put it, over. Otherwise, the first thing wouldn't really be happening after the other thing, but during. Am I right, Hugh?

Pigeon Update


I am a horrible person.

I stole some pigeons. Then I returned them. Then they grew up in the transom above our rear porch door, depositing along with their mother over the past month an astonishing, literally breathtaking amount of bird shit. Everywhere. All over our porch, dripping down our screen door. A ridge of the stuff was encrusted along the top of the screen door, and it threatened to topple over on our heads every time we went out to the porch, which we basically stopped doing because of the smell. The nest itself, visible to me through the transom window when standing on a ladder that I kept nearby so I could check in on them periodically from inside the house, was basically a big bed of their own dried poop. And there were legions of bugs and mites crawling around everywhere. I stopped checking in on them when I found a tiny little bug on my arm while doing so. The bugs had somehow gotten through the window or the doorframe and were now inside the house. This was not sustainable.

Thankfully, the birds were flying. They'd be gone from the nest for hours at a time, so I felt comfortable yesterday catapulting them into full adulthood a little early. I went to Home Depot and bought some screen, insecticide, and one of those white face masks that filter out dust and, if needed, bird shit. I waited till the pigeons were gone, put on clothes that I was prepared to throw out, the mask, and some garden gloves, pulled the ladder outside to the porch and trashed the nest. I scooped out all manner of filth from the transom, insecticided the hell out of it, and stapled up the screen to prevent the filthy little things from ever getting back in. Then I cleaned up all the bird shit everywhere else on the porch, trashed the clothes, and had a beer.

The pigeons were passively watching me destroy their home from a perch in the rafters above our porch the whole time. I figured, They're flying, they'll fly off somewhere and start their filthy little pigeon lives. But they didn't. They made a couple of attempts to get through the screen, and failed. After a while, they started these screechy little chirps--the first noise I ever heard them make--that got louder and more urgent. Mama bird came over and cooed. The shrieks got worse. They were loud and awful to listen to. For while, they kind of freaked out and appeared to be fighting and pecking at one another, and even mama bird got into it. Then they stopped and just stared at me.

They've been there ever since, shreiking on and off. Mama seems to be around, but I don't know if she's feeding them. It looks like they can fly little short hops, but clearly aren't mobile or self-sufficient. And I destroyed their only home. And they're still shitting on the porch.

Horrible person.