MEDIA MOMENT 49: NOT A PROBLEM ANYMORE
First question from an interview with Lance Armstrong in the August, 2003 Sports Illustrated for Kids:
Q: What sports did you play as a kid? How did you get interested in cycling?
A: Well, I tried football and a few other sports, but when it came to the ones with balls, I wasn’t very good.
MEDIA MOMENT 48: BUT, HEY, DON’T LET THAT STOP YOU
“Thoughtful people are usually skeptical about broad generalizations about people’s souls on the basis of what car they drive.”— David Brooks in Jan. 21 The Wall Street Journal.
“Buying an SUV is … a way to connect imaginatively with a more inspiring life than the one you actually lead …. They’re symptoms of a latent spiritedness, even in a sedate suburban world.”— Brooks, five short paragraphs later.
MEDIA MOMENT 47: EXCEPT, YOU KNOW, BY DEFINITION
“Some might say the Times is overzealous in this, but I don’t think you can be too overzealous.”— The New York Times’ Philip Taubman, defending the paper’s ethics code in the New Yorker.
MEDIA MOMENT 46: UM, KARL, DID YOU FORGET TO SEND ME THE NEW TALKING POINTS?
“Oh, sure, you hear the typical class warfare rhetoric, trying to pit one group of people against another.”— George W. Bush, in the Jan. 23 New York Times
“Give him a choice between Wall Street and Main Street and he’ll choose Main Street every time.”
“[He sides] with the little guy.”
“Wealth is too important to be left to the wealthy.”
MEDIA MOMENT 45: WE WERE GONNA GO WITH WOMEN FOR THE RIGHT TO KILL PRE-VIABLE HUMAN LIFE, BUT THE DOMAIN NAME WAS TAKEN
“In criticizing Naral’s new name, Ken Connor, president of the conservative Family Research Council, accused the group of wanting to ‘isolate the rhetoric from the reality.’ He is correct. The abortion-rights movement should be honest. Legal abortion kills pre-viable human life. But the rights of a pre-viable human life should not take precedence over the rights of a woman.”— Peggy Loonan in a New York Times Op-Ed, arguing that the National Abortion Rights Action League should not have changed it’s name to Naral Pro Choice America, because that disingenuously makes “the issue about choice, and not rights,” in order to win over moderates. The name of Loonan’s organization: Life and Liberty for Women.
MEDIA MOMENT 44: ALSO, DURING POWER FAILURES
“But [Ted] Williams, irascible god, had a human side… He melted at the plight of sick children.”— Mary McGrory, The Washington Post, July 14
MEDIA MOMENT 43: THE SMELL OF GASOLINE IS, LIKE, SO BEAUTIFUL. AND THIS PUMP FEELS SOOOO SOFT!
“Ruta Blackwell, a 36-year-old property manager, typically crosses into Indiana to save a few cents a gallon… She stopped at the West Side gas station this morning for only one reason: She was on E.”— The New York Times, April 11
MEDIA MOMENT 42: FREUDIAN SIC
TIME: 3:03 P.M. EST DATE: MONDAY, MARCH 4, 2002
Marriott-Waterside Hotel, Tampa, Florida
GEN. FRANKS: First let me say that our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the friends of the service members who have lost their lives in our ongoing operations in Vietnam (sic). Certainly that sacrifice is appreciated by this nation.— Transcript of Central Command press briefing on www.centcom.mil
MEDIA MOMENT 40: DEFINE “JOSTLE”
“These players also know that they are performing on a world stage with a New York backdrop, where any aggressive act caught on videotape — smashing a Starbucks window, jostling a doe-eyed protester — will color their reputation for years to come.”— The New York Times on WEF protests, Jan. 31, 2002
“Witnesses described students crouching as they were kicked, pummeled with clubs and thrown down stairs, and emergency room doctors said a number of the injured would have died without treatment. Television crews arriving on the scene later filmed pools of blood and teeth knocked out…. One young Italian man was shot dead.”— The New York Times on G-8 protests, Aug. 8, 2001
MEDIA MOMENT 39: IF WISH LISTS WERE HORSES
“Electronic ‘wish lists,’ or personal gift registries, have become as much a part of the holiday season as, well, letters to Santa. Hundreds of thousands of these lists are created in anticipation of the holidays, and on Amazon alone there are more than five million wish lists.”— The New York Times, Dec. 3, 2001
“…consumer reluctance has hindered the growth of online gift registries and wish lists… Even though many online retailers offer such registries, just 7 percent of online buyers have taken the time to register [a]nd only 8 percent of Internet shoppers have bought a gift from an online registry.”— The New York Times, Nov. 19, 2001
MEDIA MOMENT 38: WHILE THE SWEDES ARE KNOWN FOR INCREDIBLE TACT AND SENSITIVITY
“The Germans are known for their meticulous approach to engineering.”— First line of a Volvo ad that aired during “Hitler’s Holocaust” on the History Channel, June 18
MEDIA MOMENT 37: HURRY! BLOOMBERGCHUPAFAN.COM AND BLOOMBERGBREASTISBEST.COM ARE STILL AVAILABLE
“Among the hundreds of Web addresses owned by Mr. Bloomberg… are more than a dozen with names like NoBloomberg.org and IhateBloomberg.com…. Many of these names, including some registered last week, include a slang expression of contempt, labeled vulgar in some contexts by dictionaries. The pure-minded could construe it to mean that Mr. Bloomberg has a fondness for lollipops.”— The New York Times, May 12, 2001
“An Internet site for the posting of complaints about American corporations, celebrities and political figures can continue to use a Web address that denigrates Michael R. Bloomberg, the New York City mayoral candidate, according to a ruling a week ago…. The protest site, which is run by Dan Parisi, a pornography publisher, uses many addresses created by adding to the names of companies or politicians a slang expression of contempt associated in other contexts with baby bottles.”— The New York Times, June 14, 2001
MEDIA MOMENT 36: AND SMELLING THROUGH HER NAVEL
From the September 17 New York Times Magazine:
“Defying every prognosis, Samantha was soon speaking, hearing and seeing out of her left eye.”
MEDIA MOMENT 35: TOO CONFIDENT, OR NOT ENOUGH?
The official Web site of the new CBS reality show “Big Brother”:
Other domain names registered by CBS:
Not registered by CBS:
MEDIA MOMENT 34: DISAPPOINTMENT TELEVISION
From the TV listings of the New York Daily News for Wednesday, May 10th, at 8 p.m. on channel 13:
“Living Edens: Inhospitable climate of Siberia’s Kamchatka peninusla.”
MEDIA MOMENT 33: FIRST KIDS ON RITALIN, NOW THIS
“Speed Is Urged In Disciplining of Teachers”— New York Times, March 1
MEDIA MOMENT 32: …BUT FAILS TO GIVE HIM A LEG UP IN THE POLLS
“Bob Kerrey stumps for Bill Bradley and prepares to quit politics.”— New York Times subhed, Jan 31
(Thanks (and blame) to Frank Koughan)
MEDIA MOMENT 31: ARRIVING JUST UNDER THE WIRE, THE GREATEST INTERVIEW QUESTION OF THE 20TH CENTURY
Larry King to The Dalai Lama, Dec. 31st, 1999:
“Your Holiness, is this a new millennium for you? In the Muslim year, do you celebrate this as a year for your holy day?”
(Thanks Jacob T. Levy for the catch)
MEDIA MOMENT 30: OH WELL, BACK TO TOE-SUCKING
As a former Clinton advisor, Dick Morris has the kind of insider knowledge that gives him an advantage as a pundit. Theoretically. Here are excerpts from Morris’s New York Post column in the months leading up to Hillary Clinton’s November 23rd announcement that she will run for the Senate.
“Her conditionality in addressing her possible candidacy, always emphasizing that she hasn’t ‘made up her mind’ is the dead giveaway. She’s going to take the money – and not run.”
“Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the Senate died yesterday when the Marist Institute for Public Opinion released its latest poll… The bottom line: She won’t run.
“Why won’t Hillary honor her original October deadline for making a decision? My bet is that she will take the money – and not run.”
“Hillary is too smart to squander a bright political career in the quicksand of New York politics. You heard it here: the lady’s not running!”
MEDIA MOMENT 29: I AM UNFIT.
Ah, The New York Times letters page. A forum for the free exchange of any and all ideas that do not unduly disturb the editors of the New York Times letters page.
A letter with my signature appears in today’s Times, but it’s not exactly the letter I wrote. The changes were not for length or clarity. Rather, the editors felt that readers might “misunderstand” my point, even after I assured them that I meant to say precisely what they were afraid people might think I was saying.
Here is my original letter, followed by the one that was published. See if you can spot the subtle differences.
To the Editor:
Parents who want to prevent children from reading Harry Potter should take a similar look at another popular fantasy book. Among the horrors it describes are drunkenness, rape, incest, cannibalism and the wholesale slaughter of infants. And talk about sorcery – the entire affair is presided over by an all-powerful magical being. Of course, some people might object to banning the Bible, but don’t we owe it to the kids?
To the Editor:
Parents who want to prevent children from reading Harry Potter should take a similar look at another popular book. Among the horrors it describes are drunkenness, rape, incest, cannibalism and the slaughter of infants. Of course, some people might object to banning the Bible.
MEDIA MOMENT 28: FILM RIGHTS TO THIS MEDIA MOMENT STILL AVAILABLE.
Do giant corporations have too much influence over the news media? That’s the question PBS’s Frontline asks on November 2 with a rebroadcast of its 1996 report on the tobacco industry’s manipulation CBS’s 60 Minutes and ABC’s Day One.
Why the rebroadcast? It’s a friendly bit of cross-promotion for “The Insider,” a new feature film from… a giant corporation called Disney. Al Pacino stars as heroic 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman. No one stars as anyone involved with Day One. ABC News, a Disney subsidiary, is not mentioned in “The Insider.”
Would public television really run an hour-long advertisment for a Disney film just to boost ratings? Perhaps there’s a less cynical explanation. Like, for instance, the fact that Bergman’s wife is Frontline Senior Producer Sharon Tiller. Played in the film, heroically, by Lindsay Crouse.
MEDIA MOMENT 27: BETTER LATE THAN NEVER, NEWSPAPERS AIR DIVERSE OPINIONS ABOUT GULF WAR.
‘KINGS’ IN ‘JEOPARDY’
Clooney Film Fails To Knock Off No. 1
Three Kings should have ruled the weekend, but Warner Brothers’ highly touted George Clooney flick came in second to Paramount’s Double Jeopardy.
— New York Post, Oct. 4
‘KINGS’ AN ACE
Macho-guy Gulf War Movie Draws $16.3M
George Clooney…has proved persistence can pay off with this weekend’s strong opening of his flick, Three Kings. The Gulf War adventure…racked up an estimated $16.3 million and came close to dislodging ‘Double Jeopardy.’
— New York Daily News, Oct. 4
MEDIA MOMENT 26: COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM EXPLAINED.
“Government Proposes Compensating Nuclear Plant Weapons Who Became Ill”
— Headline on the Web site of the Casper (WY) Star-Tribune
MEDIA MOMENT 25: TAKE RESEARCH. OPTIONALLY.
From “Take Wrestling. Seriously.” in the Sept. 23rd New York Times, in which John Tierney decodes the appeal of female wrestler Sable:
“She was a relief for males confused about changing relations between the sexes. Other women might complain about a pinup picture on the wall of your office — but Sable posed for it! She didn’t take offense at guys for being insensitive or crude — she seemed to like it when the ring announcer yelled, ‘Whoa, Daddy!’ at her breasts. When she felt harassed, she didn’t sue — she wrestled!”
From the “Monitor” column in the June 18th Entertainment Weekly:
“Sultry body slammer Sable filed a $110 million breach-of-contract suit against the World Wrestling Federation, June 3, in Bridgeport, Conn. In court papers, Sable (real name: Rena Mero) alleges that after she refused to bare her breasts during a bout, she was stripped of her championship belt and ‘deliberately disparaged’ on national television.”
MEDIA MOMENT 24: WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU MEAN BY “SOLID”?
“De La Hoya stripped completely for the weigh-in, trying to make the 147-pound limit. A blue towel placed in front of him was at eye level for those viewing from the audience. But those in the upper reaches of the arena could see behind the towel, and the full frontal nudity was visible on live television for a split second.
“Both fighters weighed 147 pounds, and both looked solid.”
-New York Times, Sept. 18
MEDIA MOMENT 23: MEANWHILE, BUSH SAYS IT’S STILL TOO EARLY FOR SUCH SPECIFICS.
The press is often criticized for only covering the horse race aspect of political campaigns. But recent headlines prove that when the candidates take bold stands on controversial issues, The New York Times isn’t afraid to get into the nitty-gritty.
Sept. 9: “Bradley, Starting Campaign, Extols Small-Town Values”
Aug. 24: “Bradley Vows He’ll Support Racial Unity”
Aug. 26: “Gore Cultivates the Idea of Change”
MEDIA MOMENT 22: TIME NOT OUT OF JOINTS.
“News Quiz” is one of those cutesy features that appears in Time magazine these days instead of actual news (not to be confused with the Slate column of the same name). But even if Time has decided its mandate is to entertain rather than to inform, you’d think the editors would at least check the answers to its own test.
The September 20th quiz, “Stand By Your Stan,” invites you to “stump your friends; ask which of these stans are geographical names,” and lists six place names ending in stan — four real and two invented. The quiz is illustrated with a fanciful map showing all six places.
So far, so marginally acceptable. But then Time bungles two of the four correct answers. “Tatarstan,” the former Tatar Republic, appears on the map as “Tarastan.” And the stan that is supposedly “a region in central Uzbekistan” is rendered in the quiz as “Gullstan” and on the map as “Gallustan.” In most Western reference texts, however, it’s spelled “Guliston.” And it’s a city.
MEDIA MOMENT 21: THE POT CALLING THE KETTLE NEGRO.
A book review in the August 26 New York Amsterdam News by Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe Jr. Edited here for length, but with no language altered and the crucial last two paragraphs untouched.It has often been claimed that 20th-century African-American literary history — in developmental or generative terms — simply epitomizes the summary co-optation of diasporic African literati into international Communist culture. In his linguistically turgid but otherwise quite persuasive critique “New Negro, Old Left,” William J. Maxwell notes that the induction of African-American writers and artists into Soviet-bred communism throughout the course of this century has been remarkably symbiotic. The perennial observation that there is preponderant — and near-obsessive — sexual intimacy between Black men and white women than between white men and Black women is interestingly examined, albeit tangentially. This phenomenon has quite a lot to do with mythological notions of Black male equestrian sexual prowess. On the obverse is the fallacy of the prurient or coitally incontinent Black woman. Which is not to imply that a legion bouts of ardent rendezvous do not occur between purportedly socially reticent white heterosexual males and their Black conjugal opposites. The putative ideological disjunction associated with Wrightian and Hurstonian esthetics remains moot, if not outright nonexistent. The tortured use of language and dictional solecism, especially in the introductory pages of the book, where the author attempts to establish his discursive parameters, almost threatens to undermine the generous appetite of even the most long-suffering or avid student of literary criticism. Such linguistic solecism as “commutability of Blacks and white laborers,” instead of the more limpid and appropriate “bonding” or “kinship” impedes an otherwise meaningful discourse. Even so, “New Negro, Old Left” is a welcome contribution to the Black literature shelf, however overwritten and tentative one may deem it.
MEDIA MOMENT 20: THE TOP LINE OF BLOW ONLY APPEARS TO BE LONGER THAN THE BOTTOM LINE.
“On his first campaign swing since he found himself besieged by questions about whether he had used cocaine as a younger man, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas seemed unbowed and unworried today, making only the subtlest illusions to the tense events of last week.”
— The New York Times 8/26
MEDIA MOMENT 19: LET’S SEE IF VANITY FAIR LETS HIM GET AWAY WITH THIS.
In the first issue of Talk-not far from the article in which Hillary moans about her husband’s unhappy childhood-Walter Kirn belittles people who moan about their unhappy childhoods: “Dork. Nerd. Moron. Doofus. Suddenly, we’ve all been there. Or at least we’re being invited to pretend we have. It’s hard to find an interview with anyone lately-famous or not-in which the gorgeous and privileged subject doesn’t complain about having been shunned, marginalized, and mocked as a pimpled, homely teen…” Kirn (normally a wonderful writer) smirks that while “Roseanne flaunts failed marriages [and] Fiona Apple chats up her rape,” playing “the pathos card” has become so important that “a one-size-fits-all solution” was invented for people without genuine traumas in their pasts. “The last form of suffering left to otherwise successful Americans is to have been unpopular in high school.”
Otherwise successful Americans like, say, Walter Kirn. In a 1997 New York Times Op-Ed piece, Kirn told of his “humiliating” rejections from Princeton’s private clubs. “How miserable it all was,” he wrote. “How sad and stupid. To get into Princeton, the first school in my life where I didn’t feel like a nerd for loving books, and find out that silly cliques still topped the social pyramid.”
Not that nerd-dom was Kirn’s only trauma. In a 1995 feature for the New York Times Magazine he chatted up his parents’ divorce. “I was feeling jealous all the time. And not bathing. And bawling at breakfast.” He was 27. But at least he lets his grandmother off the hook.
MEDIA MOMENT 18: FOR THIS HBO CHARGES $18 A MONTH?
Outright theft? Scene a faire? Or just a comic sensibility that’s fifteen years late for the cutting edge?
“The father of the multiplex movie theater died this week… His funeral will be held on Saturday at 12:20, 2:40, 6:30 and 10:15.”
— Dennis Miller, July, 1999
“Martin Levine has passed away at the age of 75. Mr. Levine had owned a movie-theater chain here in New York. The funeral will be on Thursday. At 2:15, 4:20, 6:30, 8:40 and 10:50.”
— David Letterman, c. 1984
MEDIA MOMENT 17: NEWSWEEK, ON THE OTHER HAND, STIFFENS UP NOTICEABLY.
“Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho is comfortable with homosexuals.”
— Compelling lead sentence of Newsweek’s Aug. 2 review of “I’m the One That I Want.”
MEDIA MOMENT 16: SOME SAY THE CLASS IS HALF EMPTY…
In today’s episode, three New York dailies in no way let their editorial opinions on school vouchers bias their news coverage.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS FARE LITTLE BETTER ON NEW 4TH-GRADE TESTS
Students in private and religious schools did only modestly better than those in public schools in New York State’s new and tougher reading and writing test last winter, state officials said yesterday — fueling the debate over the relative merits of public and private schools.
— The New York Times
PRIVATE SCHOOL FAILURES
56% OF NONPUBLIC PUPILS DON’T MEET STANDARDS
Fourth-graders in the city’s private and parochial schools outperformed their public school peers on the tough new state reading and writing exam, but more than half of them still failed to measure up to state standards, according to scores released yesterday.
— The Daily News
PRIVATE SCHOOLS A CLASS ABOVE IN READING TESTS
City parochial and private school students posted a double-digit lead over their public school counterparts, scores of the fourth-grade state reading exams show.
— The New York Post
MEDIA MOMENT 15: AND LET ME JUST QUALIFY WHAT I MEAN BY “UNQUALIFIED.”
“Kubrick was about the only English-speaking director for whose films (apart from ‘Lolita’) I had unqualified admiration.”
— Frederic Raphael, in the New Yorker
MEDIA MOMENT 13: ALL THUMBS
New York Post editorial cartoonist Sean Delonas is not known for his warm and fuzzy outlook. And his rare attempt at uplifting material on today’s Page Six reveals that he probably shouldn’t even try.
The panel, labeled “Gene Siskel’s Day of Judgement,” shows the film critic arriving at Heaven’s gate and smiling as he is welcomed with two thumbs up from God and, um, Jesus Christ.
We can only hope Jesus doesn’t change his vote when he learns that Siskel has arrived straight from his funeral at Chicago’s Beth El Synagogue.
MEDIA MOMENT, EPISODE 11: BUT WITH WALL STREET GOING THE WAY IT IS, WHO’S REALLY COUNTING ANYWAY?
From Newsweek, Feb. 8:
In our cover story “Your Next Job” (Business, Feb. 1), we reported that corporations laid off 103,000 people in 1998. In fact, 678,000 workers were let go. Newsweek regrets the error.
MEDIA MOMENT: EPISODE 8: AURAL SEX
It’s a print reporter’s greatest challenge: how to fill those column-inches when the only news literally can not be expressed in written words. How, that is, to describe the sound of a human voice. How to fully describe to TV- and radio- eschewing readers what the Washington Post termed “a sighing, giggling, sobbing soundscape of the American night.”
Herewith, Media Moment’s first foray into poetry. Two very-free verses composed entirely from descriptions in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Daily News, The New York Post and USA Today.
ODE UPON A MONICA
Weeping, wheedling, gabbing girlishly
Lost, playful, rather nasal
Naive, bewildered, confused, ditsy
plain angry, and a bit nutty
Matter-of-fact, not thin or childish
Girlish, teen-speak, insecure, childish
Rapid-fire ramblings, more Buffy than Bacall
Vulnerable, sympathetic, honest, small
Much younger than her 24 years
Heartbreakingly sad, pathetic, near tears
Smarter and more strident than expected
Not that of a Valley Girl bubble head
Dumb, Valley Girl, star-struck, adolescent, little girl, teeny-bopper
Desperation, stammers, self-absorbed
Determined, furious, very believable
Quite mature and analytical
Fluid and sincere, not delusional
Sharp, shrill, incomprehensible
Calculating, bitter, flirty, needy
Young and trapped, pouty, dreamy
Pleading, anxious, almost a whisper
Sentences that rise like questions
Classic teen-ager upspeak patterns
A little afraid, painful to listen to
Rants, storms, blurts, chokes, sobs, murmurs, rises to a screech
Using her voice as an instrument
An average American
ON FIRST LOOKING INTO LINDA TRIPP
Calming, cajoling, apparently caring
Casual, comforting, brassy and bold
Self-assured, self-righteous, nasal
Hectoring, badgering, powerful, loud
Vulnerable, loving and sympathetic
More impatient than sympathetic
Unemotional, assertive, exasperation
Robust rasp, something like despair
By far the more nuanced performance
Sounds like a mean analyst
MEDIA MOMENT: EPISODE IV: TO TELL THE TRUTH
The writerly journalist’s dilemma: You are composing an article about presidential body language. You witness a scene in which a certain movement of the body would illustrate your point beautifully. Unfortunately that movement does not manifest itself. Or at least, you don’t see it. But it’s a small movement, the gentlest uptick of the shoulders. You could, plausibly, have missed it. (Or maybe you could swear you did see it but you forgot to put it in your notes and the fact-checkers are extra picky this week). Still, you don’t want to put all your delicately restored credibility behind a potential fabrication, even a harmless one like this. Look what happened to that guy in Boston. What do you do?
The Clintonian solution from Joe Klein in this week’s New Yorker [EMPHASIS MINE]:
“Neither President seemed to move…[Clinton and Yeltsin] were suddenly caught mute. They glanced at each other, AND MAY HAVE shrugged. It was a moment reminiscent of the old game show ‘To Tell the Truth.’”
MEDIA MOMENT #1
A cruise ship fire shows how synergy makes the New York Post a better tabloid than the Daily News:
“‘You cannot really see fear on people’s faces, but there is disappointment,’ passenger Ivan Taylor told CNN by phone.” — Daily News, 7/21/98.
“‘You can see fear on people’s faces,’ passenger Ivan Taylor told Fox News as the blaze was at its peak.” — New York Post, 7/21/98