May 27, 2004
Jake Gyllenhaal's So Hot, He Melted the Ice Caps!
From US Weekly's review of The Day After Tomorrow, appearing in the June 7, 2004 issue:
"Global warming has never looked so cool!"
He should hire that prison's publicist
If you had begun to wonder how well things were (or weren't) going in our efforts to establish full Iraqi sovereignty before the Bush administration's June 30th deadline, consider the subliminal grammatical clues put forth by reporters covering the matter for the New York Times. Specifically, for this one exercise, we'll look at Christine Hauser's "Top Candidate to Lead Iraq's Interim Government Says He Doesn't Want the Job", May 27, 2004:
Dr. Shahristani, a Shiite, had established his credentials by breaking with Saddam Hussein over his plans to develop an atomic bomb and spent several years in Abu Ghraib as a result. He escaped to the West in 1991, during the Persian Gulf war, and led an exile group from London in the intervening years.
That's right, one of those newsworthy figures received a qualifying clause while the other did not. In other words, it's assumed that we already know who or what "Abu Ghraib" is, while we need to be reminded who or what this "Lakhdar Brahimi" is or signifies.
Sadly "abuse" will beat "reconstruction efforts" everytime, although in childhood, the opposite always held true: "paper" beats "rock", right? (This was how the game was played, correct? I honestly don't recall there being a comparable schoolyard triptych for "mask/women's underwear/dogs".)
The low culture Subtext Finder, Vol. 2
Yesterday, Attorney general John Ashcroft and Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, held a news briefing/press conference/photo-show-and-tell to alert the American public of the possibilty that al Qaeda, our arch-nemesis in the War on Terror™, may be planning summertime attacks on the U.S.
While perhaps a few jitney riders and resort-goers may experience some inconvenience due to these quasi-anticipated attacks, rest assured, dear nervous Americans, that the motives of our Great Enemy transcend mere discomfiture.
From the transcript of Ashcroft's briefing to the press:
"After the March 11th attack in Madrid, Spain, an Al Qaida spokesman announced that 90 percent of the arrangements for an attack in the United States were complete.
Perhaps a translation is in order:
"After al Qaeda attacked hundreds of Spanish commuters shortly before an election, the voting populace in Spain suprised us all by electing an opponent of the U.S.-led war on terror into national office, thereby replacing an official who had stood by President Bush's side during his unpopular invasion of Iraq. Thus, al Qaeda 'won'. Furthermore, this means that they shall 'win' again if you, the American public, were to elect John Kerry this fall, since he, too, has at times spoken out against the way in which Bush has been embarking on this particular war on terror. But then again, if the attacks take place before the election, do we stop them, and hope that, as with the Spanish example, 'no attack' means the re-election of the pro-war candidate? Or do we let the attacks happen and make Spain an example in 'what not to do'? Fuck. Bush/Cheney 2004!"
Of course, that's just one reading of the material presented at the press briefing. And it's not like anyone else has a similar take on yesterday's event.
Former low culture executive editor Matt Haber sent this e-mail to Santa Monica Daily Press gardening columnist Stu Moran with a copy to Poynter
Dear Mr. Moran,
Since the Editors' Note in low culture yesterday cited stories published while I was executive editor, I understand your interest in my thoughts on the subject. First and foremost, I agree with the editors' statement that the stories were published in a reasonable effort to share with our readers the best knowledge that we had at the time. We relied in that period on a group of music and style reporters who worked tirelessly to keep up with developments in the search for Julian Casablancas' fiancˇe. It is inevitable that blog entries of this kind -- usually based on information from interested parties in the Lower East Side and elsewhere -- are incomplete and in some cases reflect the agenda of the sources. Follow-up, as the editors' note correctly observed, is always in order.
Personally, I do not agree with the contention in the editors' note that problems in the Julian Casablancas engagement stories came about because some editors felt pressured to get scoops into the website before the necessary checking had taken place. I cannot read the minds of others in this regard. My feeling is that no editor did this kind of reckless rushing while I was present. Any of the 30 or so people who sat in our site meetings during the run-up to the Casablancas proposal and the first phase of his new relationship can attest to the seriousness with which everyone took this story. As for my part, I can tell you positively that in 25 years at low culture and in 21 months as executive editor, I never put anything into the site before I thought it was ready.
Somewhat to my surprise, I was not contacted by anyone at low culture prior to yesterday's commentary. Had I been I would have repeated my concern that editors' notes do not give readers the facts, analysis and context they need about disputed stories. I found this editors' note as vague and incomplete as some that have preceded it.
I believe low culture remains an indispensable Web site because of the values it stands for. I continue to believe that the site also needs to be sharper competitively. The performance of Gawker and Lindsayism on the Casablancas stories shows that this need continues, and I was heartened to see the comment in a letter to the staff from Mr. Cimbalo and Mr. Tremblay about the continuing need for hard reporting and for setting the record straight.
All best regards,
May 26, 2004
From the Editors: low culture and The Strokes
Over the past several months this website has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led Julian into Juliet. We have examined the failings of gossip and music industry intelligence, especially on the issue of the Strokes' aural charms and possible connections to international women. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves.
In doing so -- reviewing hundreds of posts, or rather, one, written during the prelude to Julian's engagement and into the early stages of the co-occupation of an apartment -- we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from gossip sources that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those posts (or, well, that one post) included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.
But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged -- or failed to emerge.
Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops onto the website. Accounts of other suitors were not always weighed against our strong desire to have Julian taken off the singles' market. Articles based on dire claims about the Strokes tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.
We consider the story of Julian's engagement, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.
On an unrelated note, Judith Miller has been fired from her position as low culture's Satire-but-Not-Credited-as-Such reporter.
In Movie News
Highly anticipated disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow opens the day after tomorrow.
On Friday, the day after tomorrow, when The Day After Tomorrow opens, the day after tomorrow will be Sunday.
May 25, 2004
Pete and Repete were in a boat and Pete jumped out. Who was left?
The third in a series of posts delicately pointing out the mindless repetition inherent to the political 'stump speech'. This week's target, Vice President Dick Cheney. (EARLIER: George W. Bush, John Kerry)
Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for 2004 State Victory Committee, Little Rock, Arkansas, May 24, 2004:
And some of you may know that my only job as Vice President is to preside over the United States Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President, but they got down to the end of the convention, and they remembered suddenly they hadn't given him anything to do. (Laughter.) So they made him the President of the Senate, the presiding officer.
Remarks by the Vice President at the Diamond Casting and Machine Tool Company, Hollis, New Hampshire, May 10, 2004:
My only real job as Vice President is as President of the Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they got down to the end of the convention, they'd created this post called Vice President, but they hadn't given the guy anything to do. (Laughter.) So they made him the presiding officer of the United States Senate.
Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for Gubernatorial Candidate Mitch Daniels, Indianapolis, Indiana, April 23, 2004:
My only real job as Vice President is to preside over the United States Senate. When they wrote the Constitution and created the post of Vice President, they got down to the end of the Constitutional Convention and suddenly realized they hadn't given the Vice President any job. He didn't have anything to do. So they made him the President of the Senate, said, you get to preside over the Senate, cast tie-breaking votes.
Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Sam Graves, Kansas City, Missouri, April 23, 2004:
My only official duty as Vice President is to preside over the Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President, and they got down to the end of the Constitutional Convention, they figured out they hadn't given him anything to do. (Laughter.) So they made him the President of the Senate to allow the Vice President to preside over the Senate, also cast that tie-breaking vote when the Senate is 50-50 on a proposition.
Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Congressional Candidate Kevin Triplett, Roanoke, Virginia, April 19, 2004:
My only official duty is as President of the Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President. But they got down to the end of the Constitutional Convention, they realized they had not given him anything to do. (Laughter.) So they made him the President of the Senate, the presiding officer. And you get to preside over the United States Senate, cast tie-breaking votes when the Senate is tied.
Remarks by the Vice President at An Event for Congressman Jon Porter, Las Vegas, Nevada, January 15, 2004:
Most people don't realize that my only real job is as the President of the Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they created the post of Vice President, and then they got down to the end of the Constitutional Convention and realized that they hadn't given anything to do. (Laughter.) So at the least minute they cobbled together this job called the President of the Senate, and made it possible for the Vice President to actually be called the President of the Senate -- I actually get paid by the Senate; that's where my paycheck comes from -- to preside as the presiding officer of the Senate, cast tie-breaking votes when the Senate is deadlocked.
Sadly, the Vice President hasn't quite perfected his delivery and comic timing when addressing an international audience. Here he is speaking to a crowd of students at China's Fudan University:
Remarks by the Vice President at Fudan University Followed by Student Body Q&A, Shanghai, China, April 15, 2004:
The role of the Vice President has evolved over the years. When our Constitution was written in Philadelphia at our Constitutional Convention, they created the position of Vice President. But when they got to the end of the convention, they decided that they hadn't given him anything to do. He had no work. So they made him the President of the Senate, that is the presiding officer over our upper house of our Congress and gave him the ability to cast tie-breaking votes.
Media scorecard: Old news is new news
Ah, Newsweek. You've got the Ahmed Chalabi story on your cover this week, as might be expected of any arbiter of mainstream journalism. It's quite a tale you've got, there...except, much like last summer's Joseph Wilson/Robert Novak story, the lowest-common-denominator media is playing catchup once again. And, as before, a few-too-many months after the fact.
From "The Rise and Fall of Chalabi: Bush's Mr. Wrong", Newsweek, May 31, 2004:
Much of Chalabi's dubious intelligence was funneled to the DIA through top Pentagon civilians. Under Secretary Feith himself signed a long and detailed summary of the intelligence linking Saddam to terrorists and WMD. The Feith memo, stamped secret, submitted to Congress and leaked to the conservative Weekly Standard magazine last summer, reads like a conspiracy theorist's greatest hits. Interviewed last week by NEWSWEEK, Feith was a little defensive about his relationship with Chalabi. "The press stories would have him as my brother. I met him a few times. He was very smart, very articulate," Feith said. Feith allowed he has always been drawn to the stories of exiles who come back to save their countries. But he rejected the idea that he had been Chalabi's tool or dupe.
From "Blind Into Baghdad", by James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2004:
On a Friday afternoon last November, I met Douglas Feith in his office at the Pentagon to discuss what has happened in Iraq. Feith's title is undersecretary of defense for policy, which places him, along with several other undersecretaries, just below Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in the Pentagon's hierarchy. Informally he is seen in Washington as "Wolfowitz's Wolfowitz"—that is, as a deputy who has a wide range of responsibilities but is clearly identified with one particular policy. That policy is bringing regime change to Iraq—a goal that both Wolfowitz and Feith strongly advocated through the 1990s.
What's cooking for the major weeklies, the national dailies, and the cable news networks in the coming months? Judging by the fleet of alt-weekly trendspotters with whom we consulted, odds are in favor that we'll see a scandalous news cycle or two about President Bush's alliance with the Christian right.
The tongue-in-cheek Times
From "C.I.A. Bid to Keep Some Detainees Off Abu Ghraib Roll Worries Officials", the New York Times, May 25, 2004:
The Central Intelligence Agency's practice of keeping some detainees in Abu Ghraib prison off the official rosters so concerned a top Army officer and a civilian official there that they reached a written agreement early this year to stop.
Gosh, you think so?
On a tangential note, it's slightly amusing to imagine the sense of identification various male government officials seem to have with Agent 007. Not only international-oriented figures, as with the CIA instance cited above, but domestically, as well, as this pose by the FBI's top cop suggests. Although what Johnny would do with all those mysterious temptresses, we have no idea...though he's got the gun thing down pat.
Both come complete with anti-war rhetoric and thigh-toning exercise!
May 24, 2004
Your Diet Is Driving Me Crazy, by the unfortunately named Cynthia Sass, hits retailers this week; the book is designed to help couples and families cope with the trauma of having a dieter in their midst. And so it has finally arrived - the meta-self-helper - a title intended to solve the problems that arise when someone else has chosen to solve their own problems. But Your Diet shouldn't come as much surprise - in our endlessly bootstrapping culture, it's more shocking that noone has thought of the meta-self-helper before.
Imagine the endless opportunities to piggyback on the endless procession of self-help literature: (I Don't Want to) Go to South Beach, or, Why Should I Care About the Color of Your Parachute?, or, for the kids, Why Doesn't Daddy Sweat the Small Stuff?. And let's not forget the chance for talk show topics like "Dr. Phil Is Ruining Our Marriage," "How Could You Possibly Watch LoveLine?" or, "If Men Are from Mars and Women from Venus, Then Where Do I Belong?"
Yes, Your Diet has ushered in a brave new era for dubiously-licensed and syntactically-challenged physicians everywhere. It's only a matter of time before societal ills, unhappy marriages, unsightly fatties and the concerns about those concerns, are a thing of the past.
Nice cover, but this one is more tweaked
Left to right, "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" by David Sedaris, and "White Guys: Studies in Postmodern Domination and Difference" by Fred Pfeil.
Make of that what you will.
May 21, 2004
Rumsfeld's Rules: Donald's Photoblog, Vol. 2
After having prepared Volume 1 not too long ago, it's rather upsetting that there's even a need for a second round, but, alas, more Abu Ghraib prison torture photos and video clips have been released, courtesy of the Washington Post.
And a handful of these, sadly (though containing less of the jubilant thumbs-up mentality which we've seen in other leaked photos), are even more dehumanizing than the images with which most of us have become familiar by now. One caption which the Post has sensitively given to one of the photos (which you'll see below) reads simply, "A baton-wielding U.S. soldier appears to be ordering a naked detainee covered in a brown substance to walk a straight line with his ankles handcuffed." A brown substance, indeed. Why, that must be mud from the banks of the River Euphrates, right?
Again, as before, all captions come from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's notorious leadership tract of January 29, 2001, "Rumsfeld's Rules: Advice on government, business and life," which appeared in the Wall Street Journal when Rumsfeld initially took office three years ago. Captions continue below...
Lose 15lbs. by June 30th!
Total duration of President Bush's public address to the media on matters pertaining to the situation in Iraq, Palestinian deaths in Rafah, and domestic energy concerns, after his Cabinet Meeting on May 19, 2004 (from "President Discusses Iraq, Economy, Gas Prices in Cabinet Meeting", whitehouse.gov):
7 minutes, 12:04 - 12:11 PM EDT
From "Physicians report Bush in 'unbelievable' condition", USA TODAY, August 6, 2002:
Bush's good health is no accident. The president, a teetotaler since age 40 and a non-smoker — except for an occasional cigar — jogs 3 miles, mostly on a treadmill, at least four times a week. He works out with free weights for 45 minutes at least twice a week.
And to think some left-wingers consider this guy an out-of-touch fat cat.
May 20, 2004
Inappropriate (and very, very decontextualized) "gallows humor"
From "Pentagon Finds More Prison Abuse Photos", Associated Press, May 20, 2004:
Photos of two American soldiers posing with thumbs up near a body packed in ice at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were shown on ABC-TV.
Ohhhh, I get it. Let me give it a try, too! (But below the fold, I mean, cos it is "inappropriate.")Continue reading...
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 20
May 19, 2004
Baby, it's just you and me against the world
From President Bush's address to AIPAC (President Speaks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), Washington, D.C., Tuesday, May 18, 2004:
The Israeli people have always had enemies at their borders and terrorists close at hand. Again and again, Israel has defended itself with skill and heroism. And as a result of the courage of the Israeli people, Israel has earned the respect of the American people. (Applause.)
The very next day, from "Explosion rips through crowd of Palestinian demonstrators, killing at least 10", San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, May 19, 2004:
An Israeli missile and four tank shells ripped through a large crowd of Palestinians demonstrating Wednesday against the Israeli invasion of a neighboring refugee camp, killing at least 10 Palestinians. Hospital officials said all the victims were children and teenagers.
For what it's worth, there are some additional reports indicating that some of the demonstrators and protesters were throwing rocks, which I guess makes the whole "missiles" and "tank shells" response fair enough.
But, realistically, Michael Moore would, no, could have never made this film
From a sampling of reviews for Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me":
Portland Oregonian, Karen Karbo:
In the tradition of the contemporary muckraking documentary -- of which director Michael Moore is the most recent accomplished practitioner -- "Super Size Me" entertains serious sociological and political questions.
Boston Globe, Ty Burr:
Morgan Spurlock's outrageously amusing "Super Size Me" is the redheaded stepchild of Michael Moore and "Jackass," a low-budget nonfiction stunt with a sharp point of view, a sheaf of alarming statistics, and the willingness to entertain us until we cry uncle. Like "Bowling for Columbine," it's less a documentary than a provocumentary, and, like Moore, Spurlock is a born showman.
Chicago Tribune, Mark Caro:
Spurlock is a lanky thirtysomething Manhattanite taking a Michael Moore-type approach to a subject previously surveyed in Eric Schlosser's non-fiction bestseller "Fast Food Nation."
USA Today, Claudia Puig:
Riveting and darkly comic Super Size Me is a whip-smart documentary in the tradition of Michael Moore's Roger & Me.
Dallas Observer, Robert Wilonsky:
The movie was a big hit at Sundance and beyond; it's turned Spurlock, an aspiring filmmaker and graphic designer, into Michael Moore, an agit-prop star proselytizing about the greed of a company that doesn't care about the content or impact of its unhealthy and potentially deadly product. Like Moore, he tries repeatedly to talk to someone at McDonald's corporate headquarters about the nutritional value of its food, and of the results a monthlong diet has taken on his body. But he's given the brush-off in a game of never-ending phone tag, and it feels like a page lifted from the Moore playbook of how to make a company look decidedly evil.
The Onion (A.V. Club), Nathan Rabin:
An irresistible combination of muckraking activism and populist entertainment, Super Size Me takes a page out of the Michael Moore playbook by using a David-vs.-Goliath-style personal quest as a starting point for an irreverent and impassioned critique of a pressing social issue.
Village Voice, Dennis Lim:
Indeed, Spurlock, whose affable-doofus persona is somewhere between Johnny Knoxville and Michael Moore, was responsible for MTV's cash-for-stunts series I Bet You Will, and is preparing an SSM-modeled show called 30 Days.
Washington Post, Michael O'Sullivan:
A gonzo documentary in the Michael Moore mold -- but without Moore's grating presence -- "Super Size Me" is an anti-junk-food screed that manages to entertain even as it informs and alarms.
New York Times, A.O. Scott:
Mr. Spurlock, originally from West Virginia, works in the good-natured, regular-guy populist style of documentary rabble-rousing pioneered by Michael Moore. He is a bit less confrontational than Mr. Moore (as well as thinner), but he similarly relishes letting polite, well-scrubbed corporate flacks entangle themselves in bureaucratic doublespeak.
No, write your own column
"Write your own Thomas Friedman column!"
"CREATE YOUR OWN THOMAS FRIEDMAN OP-ED COLUMN: DISORDER AND DREAMS IN [COUNTRY IN THE NEWS]"
Joey, NBC's answer to the scheduling hole left by "Friends," was screened at the network upfronts on Monday, and low culture was there. We've provided a brief synopsis below, and we're certain you'll agree - "Joey" is a hit.
Joey insists that his sister Gina (Drea de Matteo) not show off her large breasts. When Gina asks why it's OK for her friend (Ashley Scott) to wear the same top, Joey explains that when her friend wears the top "It's sexy," but when Gina wears the top, "it's just, ewwww."
Joey finally lands a big audition with the "big-time director Frank Draco," for a big action movie. But when Gina's son loses the script, all hell breaks loose.
Joey, still without his script, tries to ad-lib for "big-time director Frank Draco" - but the audition descends into a monologue about meatball subs. Needless to say, it doesn't go very well. As Joey leaves the audition, "big-time director Frank Draco" asks his assistant to get him a meatball sub.
Joey returns to his sister's apartment in poor spirits, and not even Gina's bosomly friends can cheer him up. When his nephew (who lost the script) returns home from school, Joey begins to violently beat him. Gina, infuriated, throws Joey out.
When Gina won't return Joey's calls, he decides to go out on the town to cheer himself up. At a flash Hollywood bar, Joey meets a woman he recognizes from "adult films." Joey is reduced to Jerry Lewis-like inanities, but she takes a liking to him anyway.
Joey returns to the adult actress' Canoga Park track housing, where she turns him onto crystal meth. "Whoa," he opines, "for the first time in my life, I don't want to eat!"
Joey quickly descends into a haze of meth addiction - his sister and cousin want nothing to do with him. It isn't long before Joey begins sucking dick for cash. "Just pretend it's a meatball sub," he tells himself, before descending on the crotch of a particularly unsavory man.
May 18, 2004
In preparation for the film's July release date, Paramount has begun to reveal its marketing materials for Jonathan Demme's upcoming "The Manchurian Candidate", which is, of course, an oh-so-necessary remake of the John Frankenheimer-directed Cold War original.
Their campaign includes the release of teaser ads for the film appearing at the currently-in-progress 2004 Cannes Film Festival, as shown here and re-created above.
Advertising for a summer blockbuster at the Cannes Film Festival, alongside what was once ostensibly a gathering for artsy films...something seemed very "off" about this particular marketing ploy, until we stumbled upon the solution, below.
Idol hands, frenetic fingers
This week's issue of Broadcasting & Cable breaks a scandal that most assuredly affects America's core values of fairness, equality, and democracy. (NB: if that lead sentence had been published in the entertainment section of some mid-level newspaper reaching a metropolitan audience of about 50,000 people, you might have seen a greater effort to unimaginatively give the impression that this "scandal" is in some way connected to recent events in the Abu Ghraib prison, but alas, you've instead been subjected to this awful, self-reflexive introduction. Sorry.)
Deborah Starr Seibel's "American Idol Outrage: Your Vote Doesn't Count" offers a fair share of anecdotal evidence that, contrary to the seemingly democratic voting process promoted by the producers of the beloved show, millions of fans' votes are disappearing into the ether. And speaking of vacuousness, the article, subtitled "An in-depth look at America's most popular show reveals a seriously flawed voting system," might have better read, "An in-depth look at America's most popular show reveals a seriously flawed America."
How else to explain some of the quotes and actions attributed to one Dee Law?
But as the show speeds toward its May 26 conclusion with three songbirds left, the 40-year-old Pennsylvania homemaker couldn't care less about the outcome. A Clay Aiken fan, she lost faith in the process after making a shocking discovery last year: No matter how often she tried, she couldn't place her vote.
Anyway, putting aside a range of misanthropic feelings for the moment, we at low culture would like to take this moment to actually assist (yes, help) those poor sad-sack losers who have chosen to devote two nights of their week to feverishly clutching their handset while shrieking inconsolably as Diana Degarmo erupts into so-called "song".
Below, we've coordinated (all in one place, and sorted by manufacturer or service provider) a series of links to speed-dialing instructions at various telephone manufacturers' websites, such that hardcore Jasmine Trias devotees (or fans of Fantasia Barrino, or Diana Degarmo, or Crystal MacAzure, or Jacinta DuPres, or who-the-fuck-ever) can learn to get more votes in during those precious two hours.
Oh, fuck it. However immoral this may be:
Hysterically blinded by the Sun
On some indeterminate date between A.M. Rosenthal's leaving his position at the New York Times in 1999 and subsequently penning his column for the Daily News, Crazy Abe really lost it. I mean, totally, completely, lost it.
How else to explain the tormented editorial screed appearing (via Romenesko) in today's New York Sun? In reading Rosenthal's psychotic litany, we're privy to the Times' former executive editor's musings on the media's coverage of the prisoner-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and, in particular, the manner in which the media failed to provide proper context for the abuses and the concomitant photos.
What context, you ask? Perhaps some Sy Hersh-esque examination of abuse-related directives having come from the top down? No? Well, maybe some broader examination of a climate of governmental deception, in the tradition of Rosenthal's own 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning Times coverage of Poland's misdeeds? No, you are soooo wrong, young whippersnapper!
That prisoner-abuse context that the media failed to provide over the past few weeks was Saddam Hussein and his since-toppled government's having used "poison gas on civilians they wanted to eliminate, like the Kurds." Thank you for the refresher course, Abe Rumsfeld.
Furthermore, Rosenthal continues, "We are uneasy even at the very idea of bringing up the mass Iraqi torture and murder. That is an insult to all those murdered masses of Iraqis, Kuwaitis, Jews, and Iranians. It is essential that we remember, ourselves, and the young members of the American armed forces know that they are fighting a government that is fascist in organization and in its slavering sadism."
Bear in mind, then, that the next time you see images of prisoners of war chained to bedframes with panties on their heads, the reason these sundry havoc-wreakers, as well as uncharged shopkeepers and wives of Ba'athist officials, are naked and/or have undergarments covering their visages is due to Saddam's having gassed 100,000 Kurds during the Reagan and Bush I administrations fifteen years earlier. And on a factual basis alone, please disregard Rosenthal's assertions that America's armed forces (his tense, not mine) "are fighting a government", contrary to the image of American forces having helped to famously topple Saddam's statue one year ago, and their current occupation of the Republican Palace in Baghdad.
And back to that "litany" idea again, Rosenthal repeats, "Since the latest torture story, many editors have failed to present background stories about the millions killed by Saddam." That's right, "millions", even though the heretofore-most-liberal estimates of deaths under Saddam's regime maxed out at 300,000 or therabouts. But, much like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's being drastically off the mark a few weeks ago in his own detailing of the number of American military casualties in Iraq, numbers are notoriously flexible when you're trying to provide support for an otherwise reprehensible idea.
Finally, there's this indignant gauntlet from Rosenthal: "In the years before World War II, officials of the New York Times shamed the paper by squeezing stories about millions of Europeans suffering and dying in the Nazi concentration camps, into meager and insufficient space. Years later, the paper tried to find out exactly who made those decisions. It could not, but it published an apology from its heart." Except, as far as "context" is concerned, those were current events at the time.
Dear, sweet, Abe: perhaps newspaper editors can feel comfortable about revisiting the events of the late 1980s on their front pages as they pair those particular Kurdish history lessons with coverage of that era's U.S. government support for both Afghanistan's various insurgencies and Saddam Hussein himself in his war with Iranian Shiite fundamentalists.
See, that's the problem with "context" and "history": unlike President Bush's war of Good-vs.-Evil, there are no absolutes.
May 17, 2004
Unfortunate Irony Alert
From Reuters, "Shrek Finds More Beauty in Being Ugly in 'Shrek 2'":
"Shrek 2" zeros in on a cultural obsession with image, and there's no better place to do that than in Hollywood.
From The Sun, "Diaz Sends for Zit Squad":
Beauty Cameron Diaz sent an SOS after bursting out in zits before the Cannes premiere of Shrek 2.
Man, what a year
(Click here to see Time's actual cover for this week's issue.)
In our typically paranoid and narcissistic state, we couldn't help but notice that a May 14 "Entertainment Weekly" piece detailing New York Minute's various “appropriations' bore a striking resemblance to our own New York Minute piece from a month earlier. Of course our take on the Olsens' film did lack that trademark EW snark, but still, Amy Feitelberg's piece echoes low culture's a bit too close for comfort.
Decide for yourself. From EW:
Is this deja vu, or do the Olsen twins have us seeing double? Their new New York Minute is littered with scenes from cinema past. ''I stuffed it full of every fun reference I could imagine,'' says director Dennie Gordon. ''Because when parents take their kids to see a movie, they still want to have as much of a giggle as the kids do.'' Let the laugh riot begin.
There's Something About Mary
The First Wives Club
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Now read our original piece - it describes the film's allusions to Ferris Bueller, Moonstruck, The First Wives Club and There's Something About Mary. We missed The Matrix (it wasn't in the trailer) and described the Legally Blonde scene as a Beauty Shop ripoff.
Perhaps Ms. Feitelberg was paying homage to our homage to New York Minute's homages. Or maybe she's just a lousy plagiarist (who should really choose to copy better material).
May 13, 2004
Introducing: the low culture Subtext Finder
We live in a world full of sneaky journalists and duplicitous editors who hide the subtexts just below the, um... well, the text. How is a reader supposed to understand what an article is actually about if everything is all coded and coy?
That's where The low culture Subtext Finder comes in! Using our patented formula, we unearth a given article's subtext and bring it to you, the reader. Today's sample: A Mobile Link for 90 Mutual Friends from The New York Times' Circuits section. Using our formula, this article would be renamed Cool New Tool to Get You Laid. Now, read the new article with the subtext in the text (and in bold):
Gone are the nights when Brian Battjer left barhopping in New York to chance.
May 12, 2004
Superstar Inquisitor: Tony Snow
From "Telephonic Interview of the Vice President by Tony Snow, Fox News," a.k.a, "Speed Dating with Tony Snow and Dick Cheney," The Vice President's Office, 11:08 A.M. EDT:
SNOW: Thirty seconds. Why is Ted Kennedy so mad at you?
Click here for another stellar interview with the Vice President.
We're so sorry we doubted you, Mr. President
While the media reacts with outrage over the release of videotaped footage of the beheading of 26-year-old civilian contractor Nick Berg in Iraq this week, the bigger story seems to have fallen through the cracks.
"An Islamist Web site posted a videotape Tuesday showing the decapitation of an American in Iraq, in what the killers called revenge for the American mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.
Admittedly, America-hating lefties may point out that this new connection technically falls under the rubric of a "post-Saddam Iraq", and, furthermore, the occupying American army more or less created the terrorist-supporting circumstances which lead to this connection, but regardless: Well done, guys!
In tribute to this development, and to our baseball-loving commander-in-chief, I'm off to go watch a film about the American pastime, Field of Dreams. You know the movie..."If you build it, they will come."
(NOTE: This entry has been 'corrected' from its originally-posted form. See comments for more info.)
Either Dany Levy's minions are easily fascinated or they should think about changing their meds. Daily Candy, Levy's digest of overpriced baubles and prime evidence of why Americans deserve to be hated, has charted endless novelty items over its three years of existence, but few of them seem deserving of the intense interest with which Candy invests them. Indeed, available evidence would suggest that Candy's writers suffer from OCD with a side-order of ADD. A sampling of their various “obsessions':
Failed Half-Hour The Oblongs
May 11, 2004
The Guardian reports that encouraging teenagers to engage in oral sex could prove the most effective means of curbing teen pregnancy. Not only does low culture applaud such bold initiatives, but we would like to provide a few of our own. Teenagers need never be "troubled" again.
First the problem, then the solution:
Gang Violence - Encourage your teen to become a sulky loner
As Lots of Time Goes By
From the Associated Press, May 8, 2004:
May 10, 2004
"See, I never said Iraqis would govern themselves after June 30th..."
From today's statement by President Bush at the Pentagon:
"In the next few weeks, important decisions will be made on the make up of the interim government. As of June 30th, Iraq's interim government will assume duties now performed by the coalition, such as providing water and electricity and health care and education."
Maybe he meant to add "...and governing Iraq" at the tail end there, and carelessly left it out?
No, wait, that would contradict Article 26 of the Iraqi Constitution recently implemented by the occupying Coalition:
"(A) Except as otherwise provided in this Law, the laws in force in Iraq on 30 June 2004 shall remain in effect unless and until rescinded or amended by the Iraqi Transitional Government in accordance with this Law.
May 7, 2004
Rumsfeld's Rules: Donald's Photoblog
All captions come from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's notorious leadership tract of January 29, 2001, "Rumsfeld's Rules: Advice on government, business and life," which appeared in the Wall Street Journal when Rumsfeld initially took office three years ago.
As you're surely well aware by now, some of the Iraqi prison torture images from Abu Ghraib are rather, well, foul, so the captioning continues below...
OK, we admit it, again: Republicans are right
In preparation for our enthusiastically volunteering at this fall's Republican National Convention in New York City, we've begun heartily agreeing with a number of Republican opinions of late, including obsessive madman Dick Cheney yesterday, and, today, Representative Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has decried the Bush administration's latest efforts to clamp down on Cuba's government as the continuation of an historically ineffective methodology of dealing with our petite Communist neighbor to the south, and little more than primitive election-year antics targeted to Florida's Cuban voters. Specifically, Flake is addressing administration plans to further impede the ability for Americans to visit the island nation, while increasing funding for flying U.S. military C-130 aircraft over Castro's homeland while broadcasting pro-American and pro-democractic messages.
From the May 7, 2004 Washington Post:
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is a leading proponent of congressional efforts to lift ever-tighter restrictions on travel to Cuba, a proposal that won majorities in the House and Senate last year. He said trying to use a C-130 to defeat Cuban jamming of U.S. government broadcasts is laudable but insufficient.
With Friends like these...
low culture exclusive: must credit low culture (or not):
On Thursday, May 6, 2004, while fifty million Americans tuned in to see the end of Friends on NBC, what were Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld doing? Eating hotdogs and watching the Mets battle Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants from behind the visitors' dugout at Shea Stadium.
Finally, an explanation for that whole sitcom-star subplot of Larry David's "Sour Grapes".
May 6, 2004
OK, we admit it: Cheney is right
From "Remarks by the Vice President to the 16th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner", Hilton Washington, Washington, D.C., May 5, 2004, 7:12 P.M. EDT:
"And I'm told Joe Allbaugh is in the audience tonight. Joe shouldn't be hard to spot. (Laughter.) He -- that's Joe."
Earlier, as part of this rare moment of kinship with Dick Cheney, we, too, had already ragged on this Allbaugh guy, but, again, he deserves it.
We rewrite, you decide, Vol. 3
From "Remarks by the Vice President to the 16th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner", Hilton Washington, Washington, D.C., May 5, 2004, 7:12 P.M. EDT:
"Tonight, we honor firefighters and emergency personnel in communities across America, who are the first line of defense against all hazards...As you meet your responsibilities, the federal government must do its part in providing the resources that our firefighters need. The past year brought many successes on Capitol Hill, thanks to the leadership of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. These successes include robust funding for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which received nearly $750 million this fiscal year for direct grants to local fire departments and to support to fire safety programs. (Applause.) This funding is on top of the more than $8 billion that the Department of Homeland Security has allocated or awarded to state and local governments under a variety of domestic preparedness grant programs, many that directly bolster the capabilities of first responders including firefighters. In addition, Congress reauthorized the United States Fire Administration, passed the Firefighting Research and Coordination Act, to develop new safety standards, and passed the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefit Act. And all of these measures were proudly signed into law by President George W. Bush. (Applause.)"
Earlier...from "Union delegates denounce government hypocrisy over September 11", 21 August 2002:
Delegates to the convention of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), representing more than 240,000 professional firefighters and emergency medical personnel in the US and Canada, voted August 14 for the union to boycott an upcoming appearance by President George W. Bush at a memorial honoring firefighters killed in the September 11 attacks. The president has been invited to address the October 6 annual ceremony of the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation in Washington DC, which will pay tribute to the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York City, as well as more than 100 additional firefighters killed responding to other emergencies.
And more recently...from "No permit for protest at GOP convention", MSNBC.com, April 29, 2004:
Separately, a coalition of unions representing police officers and firefighters has requested permits to demonstrate during the four-day convention, beginning Aug. 30. Union members claim they are underpaid compared to their counterparts in other cities and are underfunded for fighting terrorism — complaints they plan to voice when Republican come to town.
May 5, 2004
Please Kill Me Now: Campaign Quips 2004 (Ohio edition)
Finally, a solution to that most basic of Rove-ian electoral issues: how to make a connection with a completely vapid voting populace? Pick an asinine point and make it. Then, do it again. And again. And again. (God, those poor Secret Service agents. At least we now know those dark sunglasses function largely to shield the public from frequent bouts of eye-rolling.)
Ten points to whomever can correctly identify the recurring theme of the quotes sampled below:
Remarks by the President at Pancake Breakfast, Lucas County, Ohio Recreation Center, Maumee, Ohio, 9:30 A.M. EDT:
I'm sorry Laura is not here. Yes, I know. She was on the bus trip yesterday, but had to go back to Washington because, like me, she is -- she works for the country. She's got something to do. She's got a scheduling conflict. (Laughter.) But I tell you, she sends her love and her best. She is a fabulous First Lady. One of the main reasons -- (applause) -- one of the main reasons to put me back in there -- (laughter) -- is so that Laura has four more years as the First Lady. (Applause.)
Remarks by the President at "ask President Bush" Event, Hara Complex, Dayton, Ohio, 12:32 P.M. EDT:
The good news is, Laura W. Bush wants to serve for four more years, as well. (Applause.) I regret she's not here. I talked to her on the plane earlier this morning. She said to send her very best. She is a -- I'm a lucky guy. She's a great wife, a wonderful mother, and a fabulous First Lady of the United States. (Applause.)
Remarks by the President at the Golden Lamb Inn, Lebanon, Ohio, 2:43 P.M. EDT:
I regret that Laura is not here today. I know it. You drew the short straw. (Laughter.) You know, I really got lucky when she said, "yes." She is a fabulous wife, a great mother, and she's doing a wonderful job as the First Lady of this country. (Applause.) I think she deserves four more years. (Applause.)
Remarks by the President at Ohio Rally, Cincinnati Gardens Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio, 6:48 P.M. EDT:
I wish Laura were here to see this crowd. (Applause.) Listen, a good reason to put me back in there is so she will have four more years as the First Lady. (Applause.) She's a great First Lady. She's a fantastic wife and a great mom and a wonderful First Lady. I'm really proud of her. She sends her best. She sends all her best. She sends her best to all her friends here in Cincinnati.
SPECIAL BONUS ROUND, MICHIGAN EDITION:
Remarks by the President at Michigan Rally, Jerome-Duncan Theatre at Freedom Hall, Sterling Heights, Michigan, 8:44 P.M. EDT:
We've had a fabulous day today. It's been somewhat diminished by the fact that Laura had to go home early. No, I know, you drew the short straw. (Laughter.) There's a lot of reasons why I think I need to be reelected. But for certain, one of the most important reasons is to make sure that Laura is the First Lady for four more years. (Audience interruption, inaudible.)
Why is it that after seeing all the "(Laughter)" and "(Applause)" inclusions, I suspect "(Audience interruption, inaudible)" is code for "Get off the stage, you fucking hack?"
Number 2 at the Box Office? "Man on Fire"
From "The Torture Photos," the New York Times, May 5, 2004:
What does Jack Black's gut have to say for itself?
Though moviegoers were most likely spending last weekend at the multiplex watching writer Tina Fey's monstrously mediocre "Mean Girls", odds are at least a small handful of devoted Ben Stiller and Jack Black loyalists turned out to see director Barry Levinson's latest debacle, "Envy", as $6 million dollars were somehow channeled to the film's producers by way of the box office.
An even smaller handful of internet enthusiasts subsequently posted reviews of the film on the IMDB, including this gem, which was apparently written by Ben Stiller's conscience:
"This is the worst movie I have seen in several years. Very dumb story, dumb humor, painful acting, hard to watch. This is the type of movie that should be destroyed instead of inflicting it upon audiences. Ben Stiller has proved himself to choose very bad movies and I thought perhaps Jack Black would have made it a good movie but he did not. I am making it a policy that I will boycott movies that have Ben Stiller in it. If Ben Stiller is in the movie it is likely a bad movie and this is probably the worst movie he has been in. Movie stars do a diservice to the audience by working on junk like this and perhaps if they don't care about their reputation and put out junk like this the audience should boycott movies they are in. There is absolutely no excuse for a piece of junk like this movie. They should pay me for waisting my time on this."
Chan On Fire
Has Steve Coogan's young and promising film career already jumped the shark? After turning in a near-perfect performance in the near-perfect 24 Hour Party People, what is Coogan's next move? Appearing opposite Jackie Chan, of course, in Disney's summer release Around the World in 80 Days.
Coogan will star as the eccentric Phileas Fogg and Chan will play his French manservant Passepartout (at least if the film remains true to Verne). In other words, it's the same surefire comic dyad that has served us so well in Rush Hours 1, 2, and yes, 3; Shanghai Noon and Knights; The Medallion; and The Tuxedo.
Before managing to effectively raze Clare Forlani's and Jennifer Love Hewitt's careers into the ground, Jackie Chan transformed the occasionally funny (and occasionally irritating) Chris Tucker into an unfathomably execrable onscreen presence. But not content to stop there, Chan went on to reveal that the potentially annoying Owen Wilson is, in fact, the intolerable wet blanket we suspected all along.
Twenty Years Ago in low culture
"Although Harrison Ford is ostensibly the film's star, there is little doubt that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom belongs to Ke Huy Quan, aka Short Round. Only thirteen years old, Quan brings a complexity and passion to the role that is sure to stand him well in future years. Ladies and gentleman, meet the next Marlon Brando…"
May 4, 2004
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 19
May 3, 2004
Too Rich or Too Thin?
Where have all the destitute skinny people gone? There was a time, not long ago, when poverty at least ensured a reasonable Body Mass Index, but as today's USA Today reports, that golden era of weight loss is over.
In an interview with self-proclaimed “grocery guru' Phil Lempert, USA Today breaks down just how expensive all those fad weight loss trends can be.
South Beach diet's Phase 2 averaged $12.78 a day, ranging from $11.16 to $14.90.
The Thrifty Food Plan from the USDA averaged $6.22 a day, ranging from $6 to $6.61. (The government's calculation is slightly lower.)
The answer is clear - until the government begins to subsidize Atkins and South Beach dieters, we may never see another factory waif again.
Make our "team" part of your "team"