A.A. Bondy
American Hearts

Leaves in the Gutter

For What I Don't Become

The Thick of It
BBC America

Saddest Ghost Lamp

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I Want a Job at Knight Ridder. Sounds Like an Easy Gig.

From Editor & Publisher's story on Jill Carroll's release:
"There are indications that [the demand] was for money, but we don't know if any changed hands," said Steve Butler, Knight Ridder foreign editor who had been in touch with his reporters in Baghdad today. He said learning too much about what occurred behind the scenes could be harmful. "These things are sometimes better left unresolved," he added. "It could harm the next one or close off options in the future if too much is known."
I know it's thorny and complicated, and I know that lives are at stake. But a newspaperman should never ever say things like that.

Truth in Children's Books

Saturday, March 25, 2006

R.I.P. Buck Owens


I wish the obituary headlines said "Creator of Bakersfield Sound" instead of "Hee-Haw Host."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Seen Your Video

A Replacement boxed set is apparently in the offing from Rhino. While I'm usually not one to get excited about an opportunity to re-buy a bunch of music I already own, there are whispers of unreleased tracks and DVDs. Can I not wait? Hardly.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Tribune Finally Makes the Cut

The Chicago Tribune caught up with the penis-throwing madman story on Sunday--two days late, mind you--deeming it worthy of mention as a "Quotable":
"We took him out without any serious injury, with the exception of his own."

--Chicago Police Sgt. Edward Dolan, on police having to use a stun gun to arrest Jakub Fik, who had cut off his penis because he was distressed over his relationship with his girlfriend in Poland.

Let's leave aside for the moment that when a man cuts off his own penis during a confrontation with police officers, it's a story, not a Quotable. My question is this: What kind of newspaper editor mentions this story without including the rather interesting and compelling detail that the man threw his severed penis at the cops? Is that too much color? Does it weigh down the narrative velocity of the Quotable? How clueless do you have to be to screw up a "Man Cuts Off Own Penis, Hurls it at Police Officers" story?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Priorities Vol. V

A Jew is killed in Brooklyn: Metro Front.

News that said Jew once engaged in a commercial transaction with an unemployed hipster: Page One.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Lars Will Be Lighting the Candles at 18 Minutes Before Sundown


But How Was His Aim?

Let us now praise the Sun-Times' Eric Herman, who has written the lede of his career:
Before cops threw the book at him, Jakub Fik threw something unusual at them -- his penis.
A story like that comes along once in a lifetime, and Herman was clearly up to the challenge. (The Sun-Times' web staff also managed a good line of sorts, too: The story's URL is

We'll never know if the Chicago Tribune's Metro staff could have equaled it--or even if they could get the word "penis" in the paper--because apparently when a knife-wielding maniac smashes car windows on the north side, breaks into a house, cuts his penis off, and throws it at police officers, it is not newsworthy. Check for yourself.

As Mickey Kaus might say, too interesting.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Shrinking Ad/Edit Divide

Apropos of this Hollywood Reporter story on the increasing encroachment of paid product placements into editorial segments on local television newscasts, I thought I'd note without comment this--I don't know what it is--from yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Is it a co-branded house ad for Or an editorial round-up wrapped in a Verizon Wireless ad?


I Tell You What You Need to Think About National Security

Since my supple mind is an invaluable asset to anyone interested in comprehending the issues facing our national security and geopolitical strategy, my friend and Today's Papers columnist Eric Umansky has asked me to mind the store at his place while he's off on a fact-gathering mission to the world's hotspots vacationing in Costa Rica. Get me--I'm a wonk!

More on the FCC Fines

OK--I have been watching the wrong television shows. The Parents Television Council, which prissily advocates for more "family-friendly" programming and is the major force in mobilizing write-in indecency complaint campaigns to the FCC, has helpfully put together a clip reel of all the nudity, sexual content, and obscenity on television that it decries, and they are distributing it for free over the Internet to anyone who wants to watch it. Even children! It's unedited. And it is awesome. [via Lost Remote.]

But I bring it up because it contains the offending "Without a Trace" broadcast that the FCC deemed worth a $3.6 million indecency fine. And aside from the fact that the clip quite clearly does not show any actual sex acts--it's a sort of writhing mass of teenagers lying on top of each other at a party, all clothed, and with no actual thrusting or any other movement that would suggest anything more than making out--it demonstrates the profound wrongness and idiocy of the people making decisions at the FCC.

According to the complaint, the broadcast's "background sounds, which include moaning, add to the graphic and explicit sexual nature of the depictions." When I read this, prior to having watched the clip, I assumed that it referred to sounds being made by the actors. And I think it is reasonable for the FCC to consider things like moaning in an indecency analysis. But, in fact, the moaning is clearly a part of the crappy club song being played over the footage. You don't actually hear the actors moaning, you just hear a song that includes moaning. In other words, the FCC found the broadcast to be indecent in part because of the soundtrack.

It may seem pedantic to point this stuff out, but these people are making decisions that are going to cost CBS and other station owners $3.6 million. It's a disgrace.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mary Schmich Is an Idiot

Don't look at me! She said it: "I am an idiot.... We're discussing an important psychological and cultural phenomenon here--the habit, apparently exercised by countless Americans, of muttering, 'I am an idiot.'"

Anyway, this is just by way of congratulating her for making the finals in the Pulitzer Derby. I hear that her massive November piece on Joan Lefkow, the federal judge whose husband and mother were murdered last year, is a finalist in the features category--apparently, based on what's leaked so far, the Chicago Tribune's only successful entrant this year. Which is good, because you know what the Tribune Co. does to newspapers that win Pulitzers.

As for her latest column, on the (widespread? rare? unheard of? deeply, deeply inconsequential?) phenomenon of people saying unflattering things about themselves, I'll say two things: 1) In the future, Schmich would do well to be more judicious in her deployment of the term "self-abuse," which has a rather specialized meaning of which she is apparently unaware, and 2) When you have to write three columns a week, no one expects them all to be Pulitzer material. Although this particular effort would have been more authentic coming from John Kass.

The FCC: Your Arbiter of Narrative Necessity

So here are the scariest words you're likely to read in a while: "The explicit and lengthy nature of the depictions of sexual activity, including apparent intercourse, goes well beyond what the story line could reasonably be said to require."

That's from the FCC's indecency complaint (pdf) against CBS for a teenage orgy scene in an episode of "Without a Trace" broadcast on New Year's Eve 2004. The proposed fine: A total of $3.6 million, distributed among all the stations that aired the episode. It's scary because the commission made its determination about what the "story line could reasonably be said to require" in the course of deciding whether or not that broadcast "pander[ed] to, titillate[d], or shock[ed] the audience," a condition that FCC regulations require if a broadcast is to be found indecent. In other words, one of the rationales that the FCC relied on in deciding to punish the stations that aired the episode is that the scene wasn't narratively necessary.

I know it ain't art, but it's ludicrous beyond reason that the FCC has taken it upon itself to decide what "Without a Trace" storylines do and do not require. There may be perfectly legitimate reasons to find the scene in question indecent (I haven't seen it, but I'm skeptical having read the complaint). But for millions of dollars in fines to hinge on what a bunch of political hacks think the storyline required is batshit insane.

Also batshit insane: As noted, the complaint was generated by a December 31, 2004 broadcast of the episode, called "Our Sons and Daughters." But as this "Without a Trace" episode guide shows, that episode first aired--apparently without complaint, and certainly without FCC action--on November 3, 2003. Three months before the Super Bowl of Shame. CBS got busted for a rerun. As the president might say, Janet Jackson changed everything.

Alessandra Stanley: Newsroom Slacker

In two short days, America's Wrongest Critic will--God willing--reach a milestone: Two consecutive error-free months. Her last corrected byline appeared in the Times on January 17. The last time she had a run like that was during her legendary Correct Period, from December 3, 2004 to March 4, 2005.

Still, one can't but wonder if her review of Fox's new sit-com, "The Loop," was informed just a little by her identification with the predicament of the show's main character, a young airline executive with a complicated personal life who seems to fail upward at work despite being utterly unqualified and even less motivated:
Sam straddles two opposite worlds, and keeps falling in between and on his face. His boss, Russ (Philip Baker Hall), a bullying eccentric, believes that his protégé is a wunderkind who can help restore the ailing airline's fortunes....

Most days Sam can barely get out of bed, and the ideas Russ deems brilliant are last-minute, desperate guesses.

As Sam, Mr. Harrison looks appealingly out of sync at both his job and his hedonistic home. And by showcasing a slacker in a suit and tie, "The Loop" hones in on the common denominator of life as a twentysomething: feeling like an impostor at work and at play.
Replace "Sam" with "Alessandra," "Russ" with "Bill Keller," "airline" with "newspaper," and "twentysomething" with "journalist," and you get the idea.

So Long, Myron


Just so we don't go overboard. From the Musem of Broadcast Communications' online bio of Myron Leon:
Wallace's early career differed from those of his well-known peers at CBS News. Murrow, Cronkite, Sevareid, Rooney and others worked as war-time radio and print correspondents before moving to television. Wallace, however, studied broadcasting at the University of Michigan and began an acting and announcing career in 1939. Throughout the 1940s he performed in a variety of radio genres--quiz shows, talk shows, serials, commercials, and news readings. After service in the Navy, the baritone-voiced radio raconteur landed a string of early television jobs in Chicago. As early as 1949 "Myron" Wallace acted in the police drama Stand by for Crime and later appeared on the CBS anthology programs Suspense and Studio One. He emceed local and network TV quiz and panel shows while also keeping his hand in radio news for CBS throughout 1951-55. Wallace's move into interviewing at the network level came in the form of two husband-and-wife talk shows, All Around the Town and Mike and Buff, which CBS adapted from a successful Chicago radio program. With his wife Buff Cobb, Wallace visited various New York locations and conducted live interviews with celebrities and passers-by. In 1954, after a three-season run on CBS, Wallace had a brief stint as a Broadway actor, but immediately returned to broadcasting.
Mike Wallace didn't want to be a journalist. He wanted to be on television, and he did it by calling himself a journalist when game shows and bit acting parts were insufficiently satisfying. If he had been born in 1980, he'd be on the Real World Key West by now, doing bodyshots and mugging for the cameras. Or hosting American Idol. Whatever his faults or virtues, he is not an icon of American journalism. He is an icon of American television. The journalists are the producers who prepared Myron's broadcasts, did the pre-interviews, wrote the questions, and reported the stories that carried his name.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ryan Adams is a Snitch

He's working with the Feds. Look out.

But seriously: As U.S. Attorney Jim Vines said in announcing the indictments of two men for leaking "Jacksonville City Nights" on to the Internets: "Any perception that copyright violations are victimless crimes is just plain wrong."

Please, people. Stop hurting Ryan. Hasn't he been through enough?

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Perfect Ending for Crash

I lent this one to the High-Pitched Tone to use in an online Oscar colloquium at the newspaper where she works. But given Crash's performance last night, I am compelled to repeat it here. So herewith, the only possible ending to Crash that could have redeemed the sentimental, self-serving pablum that was the beginning and middle:

We launch into the hackneyed Magnolia rip-off that closes the movie, with a C-list Aimee Mann warbling some treacly swill and sad, stoic wide shots of the protagonists thinking very hard and meaningfully about fate and race and the tragedy of it all. Look! There's Don Cheadle, thinking. He's so sad. Why? And then thwok--an arrow strikes him in the neck. He goes down. Look! There's Sandra Bullock! She was a racist, but now her maid who is a different race from her is her only friend. She's sad, too. Thwok. Arrow in the neck. She falls. Hey! It's Ludacris. He's bad, but also good for freeing those slaves he found. Also, he's black. He unlocks the van. Out pour the slaves. Freedom! Thwok thwok thwok thwok. A hail of arrows.

Cut to a close-up of an Indian in full head-dress. A solitary tear rolls down his grizzled cheek. He slings his bow over his shoulder, turns, and slowly walks away into the Los Angeles hills. Sadly.

A Note Regarding the Reference Tone Chicago Tribune Public Editor Replacement Clock

I know. It was over before it began. But it was hardly a stretch to expect the Tribune to sit on that hire for six months or so. The fact that they actually swung into action and replaced Wycliff with some measure of speed is essentially a hundred-year storm. How could I have known?

But I will not be bowed. I hereby pick myself up, dust myself off, and announce the Reference Tone Chicago Tribune Associate Managing Editor for Foreign News Replacement Clock. It starts today. I have a good feeling about this one.