A.A. Bondy
American Hearts

Leaves in the Gutter

For What I Don't Become

The Thick of It
BBC America

Saddest Ghost Lamp

Monday, August 29, 2005

If You Prick Me, Do I Not Bleed?

Very busy, light posting, etc. But in the meantime, is it wrong of me to find this photograph, used to illustrate this story in the New York Times, deeply, deeply, comical? In related news, Chris Hitchens would be a lot less upset about exposing newborns to herpes if he could just smoke a goddamn cigarette in a goddamn bar in New York.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Priorities, Vol. IV

A new title has quietly popped up in the pages of the Chicago Tribune--former TV critic Steve Johnson has officially become the Tribune Internet Critic. The cheap-shot response to this news would be something along the lines of, "The internet was slow today.... There were a lot of clicks."

And at first blush, it does seem like a silly idea. How, exactly, does one aesthetically evaluate the infinitely variegated slurry that comes piping through your DSL modem? But you can ask the same question of television criticism in a digital cable world--QVC, "The Sopranos," "World News Tonight," and televised NASCAR races have nothing in common aside from their delivery method, yet TV critics are supposed to keep them all in their sites.

So of course it makes sense to bring critical sensibilities to bear on the Web--it is a medium, after all--and my former colleague Johnson, who is smart, wry, and cynical, is ideally suited to the job (the use of the Simpsons screengrab above is not an attempt to compare Johnson to Ralph Wiggum; it will heretofore serve as the default graphic for any and all posts about the Tribune). What puzzles me is the fact that the Tribune has decided not to bring any attention whatsoever to the appointment, not even a press release, despite the fact that it appears to be a newspaper first. (I could be wrong; I know plenty of folks write about the Internet from a critical point of view, but I don't think there are any other actual "Internet Critics" at any major dailies.)

But the real reason I bring it up is to point out the fact that, while the newspaper has made a considered judgment that the Internet is worthy of a dedicated, full-time staff critic devoted to plumbing its mysteries, it evidently does not hold the 550-year-old technology of movable type in similar esteem: The Chicago Tribune does not have a book critic, and has not, so far as I can tell by way of Nexis, since Joseph Coates vacated the position in 1993. Shortly before the invention of the Internet.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Reporters Strike Back!

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald continued his war on the press today by indicting former Chicago Sun-Times publisher David Radler for fraud in connection with the ongoing unraveling of Sun-Times parent Hollinger. OK, I know no one's crying over the notion of Radler, a perfect villain whose (alleged) crimes had nothing to do with journalism, getting strip-searched and eating prison food. (Now that I think about it, aside from Floyd Abrams, no one's really crying for Judith Miller anymore, either.)

But clearly there's some latent hostility on the part of the humble scribes who record Fitzgerald's exploits. How else to explain this, from the Chicago Tribune's online bulletin on the indictment (which, miraculously, appeared on the same day as the news event and was actually written by Tribune staffers):
The seven-count indictment was returned Thursday by a federal grand jury in Chicago.

"The investing public has a right to expect that officers and directors of publicly traded companies are managing, not stealing, the shareholder's (sic) money," U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said in the statement.
That's right. Sic, motherfucker!


Oh how I do envy the poor people of New York City. The New York Times reports today on one of the many agonies of priveleged urban living that New York's working classes never have to face as they slumber, untroubled, in their quaint little hovels smelling of ethnic foods: Shall we send little Walker to public school, or private school?
It is a question that many upper-income parents in New York City wrestle with, and one that can make a politician with young children wince: Will your children be going to public or private school?
For parents with means who live in areas where the schools are failing, the decision to send a child to private or parochial schools is rarely complicated. But in neighborhoods with decent elementary schools and a liberal mind-set, the choice becomes more complicated. Parents wonder: by choosing public schools, are they doing the best for their children? By going private, are they turning their back on a public system that needs the support of committed parents?
The occasion for this timely and moving report is New York City Council speaker and mayoral candidate Gifford Miller's refusal, at a debate earlier this week, to commit to sending his children Addison and Marshall to public schools. (Addison, Marshall, and Gifford. Jesus.)

Taken together with RedEye's recent how-to on avoiding eye contact with rude mechanicals on the El (stare intently at iPod), I'm starting to sense a summer newspaper trend. I am disappointed, however, that the Times failed to note the most serious peril facing parents--and by "parents," I mean wealthy people who have children, of course--who choose public school: The awkwardness that can ensue when the Jamaican nanny's children attend the same school. And if they become friends, you get into a whole fox and the hound deal where eventually they're torn asunder when the nanny gets fired for trying on Mommy's perfume. It's best to avoid those situations entirely.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

This Page Has Purposely Been Left Blank

The National Security Archive has posted some newly declassified State Department documents that offer a chilling new look at a seeming paradox: Serious planning for the invasion of Iraq began in October of 2001, and yet the whole escapade was monumentally unplanned.

Take, for instance, this "Future of Iraq Project" State Department briefing (pdf), dated November 1, 2002, which reads like one of those reports written by the loser you always picked to be "secretary" when the teacher made you break up into groups in high school (if you happen to have been one of those losers, well, what can I say?). It lists the bullet-pointed accomplishments of various Working Groups--Democratic Principles, Civil Society Capacity-Building, *cough* Oil & Energy, etc.--with brilliant observations like, "Develop plans for job creation," and "Plan for how to establish culture of respect for human rights and the rule of law." Hey, great ideas, guys. Way to think ahead. It's War by Powerpoint Presentation.

But the beautiful thing is what remains classified. Some of the pages toward the end are redacted. Like these:

Of course, it's entirely possible that the originals were blank to begin with.

Cooksie at IIT Festival Saturday 8/27

Cool poster, huh? It's by the talented Jen Frank.

Cooksie, the infrequently convened rock band that myself and my brother Matt irritate each other in, is playing a street festival on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology on Saturday, August 27. We play with the M's and Beatnik Turtle. The festival celebrates the re-opening of a newly renovated Crown Hall, which is an architecturally important building that has something to do with Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe. If you come, Matt can tell you all about it.

Cooksie takes the stage at the reasonable and child-friendly hour of 1 p.m. Crown Hall is at 33rd and State St. Here is a map (pdf) if you wanna come (warning: I don't know if the areas marked "free parking" are free for everyone or just the bands). The M's are great, so there's a reason right there. And here are some Cooksie songs if you want to know what you'd be getting into, but there are no guarantees will play them. We're arguing right now about whether to play More Songs About Buildings and Food start to finish, or if we should just play the ones about buildings.

Please Slow Down (mp3)
Carson Iceberg (mp3)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

News You Can Use

Looks like it's onward and upward for the Chicago Tribune's efforts to, in the words of editor Ann Marie Lipinski, "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." Take today's RedEye, which features a story on how to avoid inconvenient poor people. Next week: Tips on removing the stench of working-class valets from your Escalade.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Iraqis Delay Meeting to Submit Charter as Printer Difficulties Continue


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 15 - Iraqi leaders postponed by several hours today a special session to submit a draft constitution to the National Assembly, giving themselves more time to work on a document that has been plagued by what its drafters have described as “a totally whacked out printer.”

While they delayed the special session of the National Assembly about four hours, they expected to submit the document later tonight, according to Iraqi leaders involved in the process. However, it is still unclear whether that will give the assembly time to debate it or vote on it by the end of today.

“We finished it last night,” said one negotiator who declined to be named. “But the printer just won’t work. And then Ahmed took it on a disk over toe Kinko’s to print it there, but when he got there, the file was missing! It’s been a total disaster, but we’ll have it tonight, I promise.”

National Assembly member Mowaffak al-Rubaie said today that he has been eagerly awaiting the draft constitution to see whether a political compromise can be reached on difficult issues like federalism and the role of Islam.

“They called me last night to tell me that they were having trouble with the printer,” al-Rubaie said. “I told them they could just e-mail the document to me directly. About 10 minutes later, they sent me an e-mail saying, “The draft constitution is attached,” but there was no attachment. I guess they just forgot.”

The National Assembly had been scheduled to convene at 6 p.m. to consider the draft. Members were advised that the new starting time was 8 p.m., and then it was delayed again until 10 p.m. If the deadline is not met nor the interim constitution successfully amended, the law appears to require dissolving the National Assembly and holding new elections. Shiite and Kurdish leaders said late Sunday that they were discussing that possibility, but said that they hoped to avoid it.

"That is the worst option, and we want to avoid it at all costs," said Ali al-Dabbagh, one of the Shiite leaders charged with writing the new constitution.

Monday, August 08, 2005

It's Official: Bin Laden Is a Red-Stater

I don't quite know what I'm supposed to take away from this exchange (which happened during a discussion of Saudi politics) on last weekend's McLaughlin Group, but I for one am sick and tired of Pat Buchanan saying things that strike me as correct. I wish he'd stick to apologizing for Hitler and calling Deep Throat treasonous. [Insert "If a Democrat compared Alabama to Saudi Arabia and Bush to bin Laden the Republican propaganda machine would be all over it" boilerplate here.]
Pat Buchanan: The revolution is from the right, John. More and more women are wearing the burka and these other things. The real grass-roots movement over there is back to fundamentals, back to Islam. It is red-state stuff for Saudi Arabia and that whole region. That is a dangerous revolution.

Eleanor Clift: Wait a second--it may be your version of the red states, but--

Buchanan: It's their version! It's fundamentalism.

Clift: Bin Laden would win an election in Saudi Arabia if it were held today.

Buchanan: And Bush would win in Alabama.