In My Homeland, You're a Dead Man. If you watched five minutes of tv in the New York metropolitan area over the past year, you saw this commercial twice. The New York Times must have spent the annual budgets of several Third World nations on this media buy. There has to be a term ad agencies use for a campaign like this that achieves such market oversaturation that it begins to have the opposite of the intended effect and only makes people hate the product. Relentless, remorseless, ubiquitous, inescapable?you couldn't channel-surf fast enough to get away from it; often it is running on multiple channels at once. "Hi, I'd like to start?" Click. "?ting home delivery of?" Click. "?our financial sec?" Aaaiiieee!
Not only ubiquitous, it's repulsive. The characters, whom we correctly identified some weeks ago a "rainbow coalition of hideous yuppies," are so carefully chosen for a p.c. spread?young, old, Asian, WASP, brown, male, female?and yet all cut an unmistakable figure of complacent upper-middle-class suburban domesticity. Notice they all seem to have big houses and sun-filled rooms, not a dim little Upper West Side rent-stabilized apartment-dweller in the lot. Clearly this is an ad pitched at the suburban LI-NJ-CT-Westchester-Rockland market. So why must the rest of us suffer through it? Don't they have a way to narrowcast it only to those markets and leave the rest of us alone?
But back to that rainbow coalition. We got to know these people this year as intimately as our most hated neighbors. The Filipino-looking pederast who simpers, "First thing? I think about my family here?and in my homeland." Nice kneejerk liberal save-the-world touch, the way he overarticulates that word home-land, like he's auditioning for a community theater production of The King and I. ("King is king of all people?here and in my home-land! Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.") The gender-stereotyping throughout the ad is also remarkably blatant: Man Breadwinner, interested in the business section; Woman Breeder, loves the crossword puzzle. Thus the presumably gay actor playing the empty suit droning about "our financial security" while his brainless Stepford wife literally leans on his elbow and gazes insipidly into middle distance, dreaming of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and making babies. There's the old WASP lady who cherishes "another day to learn something new..." ("...that I'll forget in five minutes because I have Alzheimer's. The paperboy has actually been delivering the same issue of the paper every day since 1996 and I haven't noticed!") The positively scary woman with OCD who must finish the crossword puzzle. And the mocha hottie who just loves the arts and "nothing satisfies my passion like The New York Times." Nice subliminal messaging there. Very subtle.
Two or three times during the ad, one of these noids will look directly at you through the lens and repeat in their best, slow, hypnotist's repeat-after-me voice, "I'd like...to start getting...home delivery...of...The...New York Times..." The ad ran so often, in so many places, that the message became Pavlovian through sheer, heartless repetition. Pretty soon you were shambling the streets of the city like a George Romero zombie, hollow-eyed, unkempt, muttering, "must...order...home delivery...of...The...New York Times...must...order..."
Condescending and yet browbeating, like the Times itself, this commercial was like an unwelcomed guest on our tv screen who just wouldn't go away. People complained about the Taco Bell dog and the Pets.com sock puppet (the latter our favorite tv figure of the year, and when does he get to host his own talk show?), but both those campaigns combined didn't add up to the sheer volume or aggravation of this single Times commercial.
Best Example of Youth Wasted on the Young Franklin Foer
Just Try to Catch a Cab in Georgetown. We admire eager beavers like Franklin Foer, a 26-year-old who's written for U.S. News & World Report, is currently an associate editor at The New Republic and even has a piece in the October issue of Spin. And for a Washingtonian the young man has balls: he wrote a cover story for TNR in May skewering The Washington Post's walking-conflict-of-interest media reporter Howard Kurtz, under the headline "What's Wrong With This Man."
Despite that terrific hype, Foer wasn't thorough in examining Kurtz's penny-ante column; he destroys his argument by lamenting that the prolific Post writer isn't a modern-day A.J. Liebling. That's hardly the point: Kurtz writes a column, from a left-of-center perspective, that details the minutiae of the incestuous media community. Did David Broder let the dogs out without his wife's permission? That's a scoop in Kurtz's world. Mickey Kaus (kausfiles.com) is the man to read when it comes to the racket of Howard Kurtz.
Still, Foer gave it the old college try. He was completely out of bounds, however, with a "Diarist" piece in the June 19 New Republic that made a ludicrous case for Washington, DC, being a more cosmopolitan, and intellectually rigorous, city than New York. The naive boy argues that Manhattan is now filled with chain franchises like Barnes & Noble and the Gap, adding the hilarious hiccup that "its popular culture isn't far removed from that of Minneapolis or Dallas." Frank, we're afraid you'll have to sit in the corner, wearing a New Republic beanie, and read a year's worth of Michael Kinsley columns. Your transgression is that severe.
Most laughable in Foer's DC booster article is his contention that the New York-based publications once synonymous with his view of highbrow intellectualism (Partisan Review, Dissent, Esquire, etc.) are now mere shadows of former glory years. We'll grant Foer his thesis there. However, he completely destroys it by the following parenthetical sentence: "(Exceptions like The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Book Review usually rely on contributors who don't live in New York.)" Is this, as every political pundit writes about George W. Bush, a fratboy prank? If Foer really does believe that anything in the Times (or the moribund New York Review of Books) is worthy of discussion, then perhaps his career isn't on the fast track after all.
The great irony is that Foer, unless he's exiled to Slate or Salon, will inevitably wind up in New York within two years, and probably write a "New York Diarist" essay for his former magazine about this cool pickle store he found down on the historically stimulating Lower East Side.
Best Player-Hating Website Urbanexpose.com
The Jiggy Dig Dot-Com. We'd been wondering for a long time where the real hiphop writers were hiding. We still don't know, but at least we can read their works from time to time, thanks to Urbanexpose.com. An almost completely anonymous, wildly disputatious forum for the discussion of "urban" media, the site has been consistently hilarious since its launch in June. Mainstream coverage of the site has focused on the gossip, bile and rumors that are an inevitable part of any free-speech discourse. But much more interesting than the who-fucked-who-wheres and the who-must-be-behind-this-site-and-whys is the way UE has successfully made a laughingstock of every single one of the many overfunded and mismanaged websites hyped as "portals" and "virtual communities" for hiphop-loving youth. Hustling a living out of hiphop, letting no lack of artistry or originality stand in the way, is almost as old as the culture itself. But since all of the major urban pop magazines were run by such hucksters and phonies, the story had hardly ever seen print. Last year's flood of venture capital to some of the business' most shameless opportunists?who quickly culled staffs from the same group of hacks, whores and smooth-talking mediocrities who'd made Vibe, The Source and now-defunct Blaze high-profile insults to hiphop's good name?was the latest and greatest travesty.
It was also to be something of a final straw. UE's format is simple. It consists of a few sharply opinionated, well-informed, unbylined tirades, each augmented by an uncensored message board that runs alongside the piece. A new article is posted every few days, but the message-board activity is constant. It probably takes no more than a couple of staffers, working a few hours a week, to run the whole thing. And it's kicking the ass of competitors with staffs in the hundreds and budgets in the millions.
Within a couple of weeks of UE's debut, management at one of the worst urban-digital boondoggles, Urban Box Office, had to erect a technological barrier on its server to keep its employees from posting inside information on UE. It was too late?a scathing "typical day at UBO" had already revealed what the fucked-up shop was like. Besides, someone else posted instructions for evading the barrier almost immediately. UE also played a role in the demise of Russell Simmons' awful 360hiphop.com, which was sold to BET and gutted a few months after its ludicrous attempt at a jiggy launch.
Every few days, some dimwit who probably edits for Vibe and prefers Steely Dan to M.O.P. gets on UE and posts a can't-we-all-just-get-along plea. Invariably, the bore tsk-tsks the "haters" and asks why, if all these bogus hiphop sites are so bad, doesn't someone come up with a better idea for an urban media product? As if UE's thousands of passionate and witty contributors are going to stop short and say, "Gee, what would be a good publication about a gritty, technologically savvy, outspoken and meritocratic movement against bullshit, lameness and complacent hypocrisy?" Just goes to show how some people don't know good media when it slaps them in the face.
Best Suspended Columnist Jeff Jacoby
Yes Sir, Mr. Sulzberger. That the hapless Boston Globe was already an oasis of retro-liberalism wasn't disputed when The New York Times Co. bought the family-owned business in the mid-1990s. What should've been suspected when the Sulzberger family took over, and slowly replaced longtime Globe managers, was that the New England paper would become a virtual farm team for the Times. And, unlike the Taylor clan, which presided over the Globe with a casual, Tom Yawkey-like demeanor, the hypocrites from New York inevitably demanded a jackboot philosophical rigidity in the paper's pages.
Therefore, Jeff Jacoby, the lone conservative voice on the Globe's op-ed page, was suspended for four months, without pay, for a minor infraction last summer. Jacoby, in a throwaway July 3 column, rehashed the common story about the fate of some signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Sloppily, he neglected to mention at the top of the piece that he was updating, with some original material, a topic that's been discussed by Paul Harvey and Ann Landers, and on countless Internet sites. It was a slap-on-the-wrist offense, especially considering the Globe's laggard pace in jettisoning plagiarist Mike Barnicle a few years earlier.
Jacoby, an award-winning pundit, was understandably astonished at the severity of his punishment; as were literally hundreds of other journalists, both liberal and conservative. Dan Kennedy, the Boston Phoenix's left-leaning media critic, wrote on July 13: "Jacoby got screwed... Given the nature of his transgression, it would indeed seem that a lesser sanction would have sufficed?anything from an explanation in his column and a royal chewing-out to maybe, at most, a two-week suspension."
The jihad against Jacoby also provoked an internal display of outrage among Globe staffers, a rather remarkable event considering that the columnist's sharp opinions didn't make him many friends in the newsroom. On July 17, the Globe's moronic ombudsman, Jack Thomas, wrote a pathetic opinion piece on this incident that sparked criticism not only in Boston, but in the country's entire journalistic community. Thomas rejected a staff petition that read: "It seems to us that a four-month suspension without pay is a punishment far out of proportion to Mr. Jacoby's error." Thomas responded: "I disagree. Jacoby is lucky he wasn't fired."
For good measure, Thomas added the following advice to the blacklisted Jacoby, suggesting that if the columnist returns to the Globe he should be assigned to the city desk. "He could chase fires. He could cover meetings of the sewer board. He could spend time in Boston's poor neighborhoods, write about homeless shelters, interview alcoholics, unwed mothers, gay teenagers, cops, clowns, politicians, and assorted scalawags. It would make him a better columnist because he'd learn something about the newspaper business. And he might learn something about life."
What an asshole! We wouldn't be surprised if Thomas' column were dictated from 43rd St. in Manhattan, such is the familiar condescending tone, but in any event, the ombudsman's advice is so vile that in a more just world he'd be the one thrown out in the street without a paycheck.
In reality, it was Jacoby's opinions that provoked the Globe's Castro-like reaction. A few examples of the journalist's work will suffice.
June 15: "For naked class warfare, it is hard to beat the estate tax."
June 22: "Texas had no hate crimes law on the books when James Byrd Jr. was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck. Nor did Wyoming when Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence and beaten to death. And that, Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy and others claim, is why a federal hate crimes law must be enacted... Equal protection means telling all would-be criminals that they will be punished fully, regardless of the identity of their victims. The bad bill passed by the Senate declares that some victims are more deserving than others. That is not a message that should be allowed to stand."
And March 9: "If it isn't universally obvious by now just how dishonest and ruthless the vice president can be in the pursuit of power, it will be by November."
Jacoby has said he hopes to remain in Boston, where he and his family live. We doubt that's possible, given the intolerance at the Globe toward anyone who doesn't march to Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s orders. Unlike The New York Times, The Washington Post, although a liberal newspaper, is far more open-minded about the people it employs. The Post has a large roster of op-ed columnists; surely its editors realize that the addition of Jacoby would only enhance the daily's reputation.
Best Writer About Sports Media Phil Mushnick, New York Post
A Bitter Phil. Okay, at times we've found Post columnist Phil Mushnick to be a bit of a Nervous Nellie?running around as he does, claiming that the sky's falling and that the holy institution of team sports is being ruined by selfish athletes. But we admire the way he turns his gimlet eye on the announcers and writers who cover the games. In so doing he's scored some major hits against that confederation of knuckleheads.
Take his Sept. 10 attack on Sports Illustrated for turning into another waste of a good hour. It was a classic hit job. And his abuse of the self-serving and self-absorbed Yankee announcer John Sterling is always good to hear. Now Mushnick has taken to lobbying fans not to attend games anymore since they're being consistently screwed by owners and MLB. A sound bit of advice, and one we've been following for years.
Best Sissy Fight Timothy Noah vs. Eric Alterman
I'll Give You Such a Smack. Regular New York Press readers probably know how extremely rare it is for us to find something to agree with in the kneejerk platitudinizing of Timothy Noah, who writes Slate's "Chatterbox." But when an even bigger weenie, The Nation's Eric Alterman, picked a fight with him last June, we had to admit our sympathies were leaning a little toward Noah.
Alterman, like many other liberals who took courses in the Dave Marsh School of Rock Criticism, displays an unhealthy naivete when it comes to that paragon of working-class values, Bruce Springsteen. He lashed out when Noah suggested that The Boss might have written "American Skin," his Amadou Diallo song, to help Hillary Clinton in her Senate bid. Alterman claimed that The Boss is above mere politics. He also used the occasion of their tiff to plug his own Springsteen bio. In his response, Noah deftly tut-tutted Alterman's silly Springsteen worship, noted the blatant self-promotion and got in a beaut of a sucker punch: "Chatterbox finds this an odd argument to be waged by anyone who writes for a political journal like The Nation, much less one who's spent the past decade telling anyone who'll listen that George Stephanopoulos is his best friend." Oww! You go, girl. Alterman sputtered some weak, I'll-scratch-her-eyes-out defense, but this bantamweight duel was already over: We scored it a TKO for Noah.
Best Bet for a U.S. Senate Upset New Jersey
Turn That Channel! It's likely that Al Gore will carry New Jersey this fall, unless George W. Bush pulls a Harry Truman out of his hat, but as the weeks go by Democrat Jon Corzine looks increasingly vulnerable. You'll remember that Corzine bought the Senate nomination last June, spending some $35-$40 million of his own money, and was proclaimed the immediate favorite over the bland, and underfinanced, GOP candidate Rep. Bob Franks.
But as the general election approaches, Corzine has four major problems. One, voters are sick and tired of seeing his mug 18 times a day on the tube. Two, his far-left positions aren't in sync with New Jersey; even Frank Lautenberg, the retiring Democrat whose open seat is at stake, seems like William Safire compared to Corzine. Three, on Sept. 18, after months of hemming and hawing, he disclosed that he'd donated more than $100,000 to groups, as the Times put it, "whose leaders or sponsors later endorsed him." Finally, and perhaps most damaging, the former Goldman Sachs chairman refuses to release his tax returns, implausibly citing a confidentiality agreement with the company. Did Corzine, admittedly a political novice, really think he could survive a campaign without such a disclosure?
What's the big lug hiding?
Best Use of Giuliani's Jackbooted Storm troopers And Tell Phil Lesh the Same. We were at the Black and Blue Ball VII, that annual gathering of s&m fetishists who can't wait to flaunt their fancy vinyl pants and leather underwear. Things were ludicrous and harmless as ever. Our only concern was keeping an eye on our drinking glass. This is the one kind of crowd where you don't want to drink out of somebody else's glass?not because you're worried about exotic drugs, but about herpes. There's a reason those gals wear so much black lipstick.
Then we looked out from a balcony and discovered another new concern. A platoon of police cars has lined up across the street. We'd heard a few stupid people talk about Mayor Giuliani shutting down the ball, but those were just dolts looking to feel oppressed. Or so we thought. Still, we weren't all that worried. Like any intelligent New Yorker, we know that police shootings of civilians are down dramatically from the days when that fascist David Dinkins was in office.
We eventually came out of the fashion show, and the battalion was still lined up outside. We asked a very nice policeman to fill us in on the commotion. He pointed to the darkened area across the street. We hadn't noticed them before, but the sidewalk was covered with dopey-looking college kids. It turned out that Phish had just announced a surprise show at the Roseland Ballroom across the street. Tickets were going on sale at 8 a.m., and, the officer explained, the Phish fans had begun camping out at midnight. It was a pretty dazed and seedy-looking crowd. We were almost tempted to go back into the ball. At least there was less facial hair in there.
Best Punk Rock Newspaper The New York Waste
Holmstrom's Demon Offspring. New York has seen more than its fair share of local music zines over the years. You can find them anywhere, from bars to restaurants to laundromats, even in health clubs. They're usually distributed by the guy or gal who edits and prints them up, and for the most part they're free.
But sometimes even free isn't free. Sometimes you pick up a paper or zine that's so bad you would have paid not to have looked at it. Sleazy ads for hookers in Jersey, riot-grrl-wannabe band interviews and, the worst, major-label ad after major-label ad after major-label ad.
Then there's The New York Waste. A New York punk rock newspaper that brings to mind the old days of Punk. Edited by a guy named Glen, it comes out about once a month, and can be found almost anywhere in the East Village. Our favorite spots to pick it up are Mars Bar and CBGB. Featured in each issue are interviews with cool bands, awesome photos of locals hanging out taken by a chick named Lucky and columns from local punk rock celebs like Mickey Leigh (of the Rattlers/Stop), Doby Danger (of public access), Miss Adena (of Bikini Contest) and even guest columns from those lucky enough to be published in such a cool rag. And, most importantly, it's funny.
The New York Waste is more than just a newspaper. Like Punk, it has somehow developed its own subculture and following. On any given month, CBGB usually has a show put on by the paper, and every time, no matter who's playing, the show kicks ass. We've been fortunate enough to see such acts as Sexy Christ, Man Scouts of America, Charm School, the Bullys and many other great punk legends in the making at these shows.
The New York Waste is no waste.
Best New Yorker Article "The Hell-Raiser" by John Cassidy
David Remnick Scores Again. The Sept. 11 New Yorker ran a magnificent profile of Steve Dunleavy, the Australian New York Post columnist who's been a fixture at Rupert Murdoch's enterprises for the last generation. The author, John Cassidy, certainly one of this nation's marquee writers, tackled a subject that a lesser journalist would've reduced to a sour cliche. In fact, the sensational aspects of Dunleavy's persona are well-known: he's a hard-drinking, chainsmoking cad who competed with his own father for tabloid scoops; a right-wing ideologue with a soft spot; and he was the butt of a famous Pete Hamill quip after a snowplow ran over his foot. The smug Hamill, to the delight of his snooty friends, said, "I hope it wasn't his writing foot."
Cassidy mentions all this, but digs far deeper at what makes Dunleavy, now 62, tick. We doubt there will ever be a collection of his alternately bellicose and mawkish columns, but, as Cassidy painstakingly makes clear, this is a man who loves his job and is glad to be alive. That's more than can be said for 90 percent of his colleagues. (Funny how Adam Clymer comes to mind.)
Dunleavy's an unapologetic conservative, who specializes in propping up the police department, and while we often agree with his views, his prose isn't what you'd call elegant. He's also wildly contradictory: while the Kennedy clan, especially tubby Teddy, is an evergreen for Dunleavy's venom, when John F. Kennedy Jr. was killed last year his columns were drenched in tears. A fallen prince, the rich kid with an everyman's touch, the icon of a world far better than we know today. And more malarkey like that. It was really quite a disgusting rash of hyperbole spewing from an undoubtedly stewed Dunleavy, rivaled only by the "friends" of the slain president's son who made the talk show rounds to display their grief and wisdom.
Yet after reading Cassidy's piece it's easy to believe that Dunleavy, at least at that moment, wasn't trying to con his audience or sell newspapers; he was simply carried away by emotion. Instead of the one-dimensional portrait of Dunleavy that's presented by a lesser writer at, say, New York or Brill's Content, Cassidy describes the "skin and bones" columnist's anachronistic thirst for a "scoop" with an evenhanded tone that's rare in personality profiles today. We loved reading about Dunleavy's friendship with Jack Newfield, a generally liberal Post columnist with whom you'd think he'd have little in common. But they do: journalism and boxing. And the dig at Andrea Peyser, the moronic right-of-center writer who doesn't get on with Dunleavy because of his smoking, is priceless.
An excerpt from a Sept. 8 Post column shows the essence of Dunleavy's style. It might not be Mencken, but can you possibly imagine a Times writer punching to the gut like this?
"If the Rev. Al Sharpton wants to become a true servant of God, I will turn my sword against him into plowshares. "If he swears to go to a cop's funeral, tragically inevitable, I will pledge community service to him. "I will first demonstrate with him outside 110 Livingston St., Brooklyn, at the Board of Education, the castle of real racism. "Nearly a million kids going to school this week are forever condemned to systemic stupidity. "I want you, Al, to say to the teachers union that merit raises for deserving teachers is a good thing. "If you do that, you have me forever. "Tell me who your well-labored tailor is. I will buy you a much-needed suit. "The teachers union is not worried about turning out functional morons. They are worried about their next trip to Italy on sabbatical. "Where you, Al, see white devils at the helm, I see poor black and Hispanic kids in the school system."
Best Horoscope & Dream Analysis Swoon.com
Star Lite. Which came first, Swoon's horoscopes or our life? Since we've been Swooning, no other daily, weekly or monthly star chart will do. You can have Swoon's daily horoscope delivered to your e-mail box, somewhat reliably, every morning. However, if you don't see it by noon, log onto the site. You've got important decisions to make! Besides, at Swoon.com you can check out the dream dictionary, which is worth wading through the site's grrlie exterior for. It was there we learned that Jim Knipfel's eyes staring at us from a 50-foot poster merely meant that we'd be having good luck in the business department soon. More complex or esoteric dreams, like the one Jim had about Billy Joel and a pack of attack dogs, remain a mystery.
The site also dabbles in numerology, Chinese astrology, and 100 other quiz and flashing-button distractions to help you avoid working. And for those godless heathens among you who consider astrology, or anything larger than yourselves, limiting: What do you think you are? Something special?
Best Fifth-Rate Maureen Dowd Gail Collins
Affirmative Action Isn't Restricted to Blacks. New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins deeply cares about the real people of this country, the citizens who live in real towns like Salem, Dayton and Des Moines, who hold down real jobs like shipbuilding, hairstyling and, of course, waitressing. God, if only she weren't forced to work behind a desk, making a cushy salary as a lowly journalist, when she could be playing bingo after work and drinking Pabst from a can!
But Collins compensates by dispensing wisdom to her middle-class sisters and brothers. For example, on July 28 she wrote: "Time's up, people. We've got political conventions coming, with running mates, protesters?all the stuff you need to hold an actual presidential election. No more pretending this campaign isn't really happening. Duty calls."
Now, this is sheer poetry... [Ed. note: At this point, the writer refused to continue, complaining of abdominal pains. Our sincere apologies.]
Best Baby Boomer Couple Al Gore & Jann Wenner
Rock & Roll Often Forgets. There's a photo in the Sept. 25 issue of Time, on page 47, that was shipped last week to Hollywood's Hypocrisy Hall of Fame. The image is one of the most brutal of the 2000 presidential campaign, showing Al Gore and Joe Lieberman at Radio City Music Hall on Sept. 14, flanked by their wives Tipper and Hadassah, as well as Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner and Miramax's Harvey Weinstein. Before a concert featuring washed-up rock stars like Crosby, Stills & Nash, Gore made a few pointed remarks criticizing the entertainment industry; Wenner and Weinstein, major Democratic fundraisers, smiled as the Veep spoke. The event raised $6.5 million for the Democrats.
As any number of the characters in Weinstein's movies, or the pop music stars that Wenner deifies in his magazine, might say, there's something very fucked up with this picture. Gore and Lieberman have threatened the entertainment industry?essentially promising censorship?by day, and taken their money by night.
As Lieberman told radio talk show host Don Imus on Sept. 15: "The question is what you do when you disagree with people who are your supporters and friends. And I think the reason this is not hypocritical is because Al Gore and I spoke out early, quickly and strongly and the show-business people have to stop marketing to kids. We're going to give them six months. If they don't, we're going to ask the Federal Trade Commission to take action against them legally."
It's news to us that Lieberman had any friends in Hollywood?we thought he partied with insurance company executives from Connecticut?but why not let that slide for now. After all, Lieberman is a born-again apostle to the Clinton-Gore Crusade for Corruption.
As criticism mounted, Gore tried to soothe some bruised egos. For example, he bribed Wenner with a Sept. 20 ride on Air Force Two, letting the publisher join the small group of reporters who usually accompany the Vice President. Wenner was on board as a "journalist," a Gore spokeswoman said, joking, "Editor by day, fundraiser by night." There's no question that the media is biased in favor of Gore, but we doubt any of the 16 other "pool" journalists have contributed, as Wenner has, $2000 to Gore and $13,500 to other Democrats in this election cycle.
A Sept. 18 New York Times story quoted a number of entertainment insiders who expressed disgust with the Gore-Lieberman ticket's hypocrisy. Rod Lurie, a screenwriter and director, said: "When you have Al Gore saying that Hollywood has six months to get its act together, that sounds like McCarthyism to me and I find it very troubling."
And Lurie is correct. Gore is characteristically trying to have it both ways: he knows that music and film moguls, as well as IQ-challenged actors and pop stars, are going to support him with their votes and money. So why not get a little extra? Why not curry favor with cultural conservatives who believe Eminem and Spike Lee should be thrown in jail? Can you spell p-a-n-d-e-r-i-n-g?
Gore's scolding of Hollywood is farcical, equal to that of sanctimonious idiots who blamed the Columbine tragedy on loose gun laws. (One could argue that cable stations like CNN, which covered the massacre nonstop, as well as O.J. Simpson's trial, are more at fault than the NRA.) It's not the government's purpose to tell artists what to create and how to market it. If Americans like the product (as they do), they'll buy it; if not, they won't. As for children being exposed to violence in films, music and television, it's up to parents to advise their offspring. The notion that stiffs like Gore and Lieberman are going to dictate what our children can watch or listen to is repugnant.
John Waters, in that same Times article, summed up the Democrats' threat in a typically succinct manner: "It seems to me that we have more pressing problems in this country than kids sneaking into R-rated movies. I think this is all ludicrous. You tell a kid there's something they're not allowed to see and of course they want to see it. You show me a kid who's not sneaking into R-rated movies, and I'll show you a failure in the making. The future C.E.O's of America are all sneaking into R-rated movies."
CEO Jann Wenner knows something about that?his career is loaded with stories about him being loaded: on vodka, cocaine, pot, whatever was in the Rolling Stone office. His magazine, in the early days, regularly ran a column called "Dope Notes." He started the publication on a whim, mostly so he could meet his rock 'n' roll heroes, maybe ball a few chicks or guys on the side. It's testament to Wenner's entrepreneurship and resilience that he's now a multimillionaire media mini-mogul. Here's to you, mate?let's have a round for the American Dream. But please: spare us the palsy-walsy routine with presidential candidates who want to threaten your very livelihood. Stick with Mick, Yoko, Bowie and Tom-Boy Cruise.
Last Sunday, Lynne Cheney, wife of Bush's runningmate Dick, said on CNN's Late Edition: "Al Gore, I think, must have an extraordinarily low concept of the American people's intelligence to think that he can, in the daytime, ride around in a school bus and talk about values, and talk about how important it is to raise the culture so that our children can thrive, and at night, go to a party with the entertainment industry, raise millions of dollars, listen to scatological jokes about people who are concerned about the entertainment industry marketing adult products to our children."
We happen to think Cheney is bonkers on the issue of moral decay, but she's right on the button about Gore's hypocrisy.
By the end of last week, it seemed the Democrat ticket was getting a little nervous about their brash twin-killing of rapping the knuckles of entertainers while taking their money. Lieberman, at yet another fundraiser in a Beverly Hills mansion, said: "We will nudge you, but we will never become censors... I promise you this: we will never put the government in the position of telling you by law, through law, what to make."
What happened to the six-month deadline, Joe?
Best Self-Deluding Branch of Journalism Geriatric Rock Critics
Rocker 'n' Roll. A man of 50, let alone 60, is so far out of the context in which new music is made and received as to make any opinion he may have of it totally irrelevant. We hate seeing men that old writing critiques of new bands and recordings as though their opinions and tastes could still be current, accurate or in any way useful. And yet the major journalism venues are still lousy with first-generation boomer rock critics, still churning out reviews of records, bands and concerts they have no business discussing in a public forum, especially in influential media centers like The New York Times and Rolling Stone, where their reviews, however daffy, might seriously impinge on the careers of young musicians.
Robert Christgau, the self-proclaimed "dean" of rock criticism and inventor of a quasi-academic A-through-F grading system for record reviews, is approaching 60 and still writing about new bands and acts for the Village Voice. He first wrote about music in Esquire in 1967. The New York Times' critics include Stephen Holden (who's been writing since the 1960s) and Jon Pareles (mid-40s). The Los Angeles Times' Robert Hilburn turned 60 in 2000. Greil Marcus is in his mid-50s. Numerous less-well-known hacks at numerous other newspapers, magazines and electronic venues are also writing about rock and hiphop despite having met or passed middle age.
These old men of rock criticism are the precise equivalents of Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend and the other old men of rock. They are simply too old to be making credible rock criticism. They should be retired. The Washington Post kicked up a storm of criticism last year when it did just that to one of its geezer rock writers, but we thought it was absolutely the right decision. Taking old guys off the youth-music beat is not only logical, it also frees up some slots for willing younger writers. Let the older writers move on to write about mature people's music?the opera, jazz, the blues, even geezer rock if they're union and you can't budge them. We understand: they're boomers, therefore they are constitutionally unable to stop liking and caring and writing about rock. But there is something inherently wrong about them passing judgment on music made by young musicians for an audience of even younger people.
"Bands like Rage Against the Machine are not meant for people in their 40s," Robert B. Ray of the Vulgar Boatmen told Lori Robertson in the July-August American Journalism Review. Robertson's article?"Golden Oldies"?was rich with old farts like Christgau and Pareles defending their right to keep covering youth music. Ray identified two problems. On the one hand, there's "critical senility"?the simple, inescapable inability for a rock critic approaching 60 to really get with a new band?or even worse, a whole new genre of music. What, for instance, can a white man of 60, who was raised and had his critical faculties honed on folk and rock and soul music, possibly have to say about hiphop or electronica or rave culture? At how many raves of the 1990s did Stephen Holden or Robert Christgau dance th