Tuesday, October 25, 2005

An Ode to Krucoff

As much as I've poked fun at him within the Gawker comments section, Andrew Krucoff is a damn good guy, a hell of a writer and top-notch in the art of research-- there were plenty of times he helped me out of a jam when we were both at Jupiter Research.

So, I was more than a little disheartened to see the news yesterday that he had been let go from Conde Nast. The punishment did not fit the "crime," as I and others believe.

Still -- since it involves Krucff -- there's has to be a twist, in some fashion. Here's Krucoff, as quoted in the October 17 Crain's New York Business:

"A simple rule is to not blog about your job and to not blog during work hours,'' says Andrew Krucoff, the author of blogs YoungManhattanite.com and Blottered.com. As a freelancer for publishing powerhouse Conde Nast, Mr. Krucoff, who had been a frequent contributor to media gossip site Gawker.com, has curtailed his blogging on media topics. "I think people who blog about co-workers should be fired,'' Mr. Krucoff says. "Just use your common sense, for goodness sake.''
As Krucoff has himself said, what sweet, delicious irony.

Still, on the plus side: How many fired freelancers-bloggers get a story written about them the next day in the New York Times?

I have a feeling that, in the end, everything will come up Krucoff. Next beers are on me, bud.

Monday, October 24, 2005

White House Leaker Fired-- Albeit in Fictional "West Wing"

Last night's "West Wing" was extremely well done, one of the best post-Sorkin. While long-time fans are likely be angry with the departure of Richard Schiff's character -- there since the beginning -- from the series as a regular, I think it was a long time in coming. Godspeed, Toby Ziegler, and it is my hope you stay out of the pokey and make some reappearances on the show. Maybe a fictional pardon is in your fictional future?

The most interesting aspect of all this -- to me -- is that the producers and writers seem to have craftily timed this to endgame of the Plame investigation, which is likely to make some headlines this week. I would love to see if an intrepid reporter could get to the heart of this, whether this was fortuitous timing or something more. I'm betting on the latter. Lawrence O'Donnell, care to blog about this at the Huffington Post?

It'll be interesting to see how much next week's episode of "Wing" captures what may happen this week, if I think what happens actually happens.

(Related note: Saturday saw a wonderful profile of the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, in the New York Times-- while there is not much information in there that is not already known, it captures his character quite well.)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Best That Never Was

Alex Beam, a columnist for The Boston Globe, has a wonderful article in the November issue of The Atlantic, looking at some of the best unpublished pieces of journalism. The article's called "The Greatest Stories Never Told" and looks at what Beam calls modern-day samizdat.

My favorite of those mentioned? An article written by the Globe's Thomas Farragher that "reproduced the Gettysburg Address, as if the speech had had to pass through the meat grinder of the Globe's main copy desk."

As written there: "Fourscore and seven years ago (can't we just make it 87 years ago?) our fathers (WHO ARE THEY?? Any mothers???) brought forth on this continent (North America?? Northern Hemisphere??) a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men (people, men and women, what???) are created equal. (Why don't we just say they founded the United States and leave it at that? Pacing's better.)"

Be sure to check it out-- great article.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Bushmills...Good to the Last Drop

The Friday before last, I was at Orchid Bar with some friends celebrating one friend's visit from Los Angeles, as well as my-then-approaching birthday.

As I am wont to do, I was drinking my usual drink, a Bushmills on the rocks. It's a wonderful Irish whiskey. As the distributor's official site notes, it's "dried in a peat-fired oven rather than directly over a peat fire. Scotch whisky malt is dried over a peat fire and has a distinctive smokey characteristic. The absence of smoke in the production of Bushmills whiskey yields a cleaner, honeyed drink in comparison."

Just copying and pasting that makes my mouth water for a glass.

Had a great time (thanks Bob, Trevor and Kara!), but what would a night be without the odd occurance: The waiter kept trying to steal my glass of whiskey, like an alcoholic version of the Hamburglar. Sure, you say I should have been drinking faster, but I tend to savor it. Argh. A tip to waiters everywhere-- if the glass still has a drop or two of alcohol, ask if you can take it before you spirit it away. That waiter was extremely evil in my book. Evil.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Colbert Report" = Just as Bad as O'Reilly's Show

Yesterday saw the launch of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report", Stephen Colbert's take on the cable talk world. While I fell asleep before its debut last night, was able to watch the first two episodes today of the series today.

Given the rush of pre-show publicity, what a disappointment this "Report" is.

Background, for those who know nothing about the show: It - as the Washington Post wrote last week -- draws "from the "dazzling hubris" of Bill O'Reilly, along with Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough, plus "the folksiness of Aaron Brown, the way he mulls the news and loves to chew the words. And the sexiness of Anderson Cooper. Certainly they sell him as attractive." Watching O'Reilly and company inundate viewers with opinions, [Colbert] says, is like witnessing a spectacle "as natural as a gorilla beating his chest.""

The question for me has always been whether the viewers of "The Daily Show," seen as an intelligent lot, would watch a satire of those shows they themselves, by and large, cannot stand? (What's next, Samantha Bee takes on something Oprah-esque?)

The interview O'Reilly did with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" tonight really helped to crystallize for me why this show doesn't seem to do it for me. O'Reilly is a showman able to prance around from subject to subject -- able to even adapt to a show where the studio audience mercilessly boos him -- while Colbert is a better with interplay and not as steady with a distinct voice. He looks uncomfortable in his own skin here.

There was one extremely funny moment in the first episode (which is now available online here), in which Stone Phillips and Colbert face off in who can give a news story the most gravitas.

But while it's still early for the show, the farce-focus can only take it so far. While this may be better than the now-cancelled (but similarly focused) "Hardballs," Colbert is a wonderful correspondent, but he's no host-- get him back to "The Daily Show" pronto. It's telling that the funniest lines that Colbert had tonight was in his interactions with Stewart, in the "toss" between the two shows. "It's French, b*tch!"

Related TV note: I've given up on this season of "The Amazing Race." Terrible what they've done to this franchise.

Well, at least there's a new episode of "Lost" on tomorrow night.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Jack Shafer Vs. "The Apple Polishers"

Slate's Jack Shafer takes on the tech journalists who go gaga over each new Apple product here, and hilarity ensues. While I don't always agree with him, love reading each of his columns and think he is dead-on here.

A taste: "I don't hate Apple. I don't even hate Apple-lovers. I do, however, possess deep odium for the legions of Apple polishers in the press corps who salute every shiny gadget the company parades through downtown Cupertino as if they were members of the Supreme Soviet viewing the latest ICBMs at the May Day parade....

Apple manipulates several narratives to continue to make its products interesting fodder for journalists...reporters love cheerleading for the underdog without ever pausing to explore why it isn't the overdog. (This is why the Brooklyn Dodgers will always rate higher in the minds of writers than the superior New York Yankees.) Apple incites fanaticism about its products via ad campaigns and evangelist outreach programs designed to make its customers feel as though they're part of a privileged and enlightened elite."

His parting shot is a bit below the belt, but well-taken: "If the press corps possessed any institutional memory, it would recall the introduction of the Apple III+, the Lisa, the Macintosh Portable, the Mac TV, the Newton, the Apple G4 Cube, and eWorld."

That sound you hear is David Pogue bashing in the mirror closest to him right now.

Friday, October 14, 2005

"Well, What's Wrong With a Little Destruction?"

While the new Franz Ferdinand album "You Could Have It So Much Better," most likely had critics sharpening their knives in anticipation of a thorough skewering (Sample negative review: "Indeed, Franz Could Be Much Better"), it isn't warranted. Damn good disc. Enjoy so much here.

The first single, indeed, has a novelty feeling to it and I'm sure I'll be sick of it in a month, but the thing is pretty catchy. But the stand-out tracks here are "The Fallen" (from where the title of this post comes from) and "What You Meant."


Monday, October 10, 2005

Book Pick-- "Skeletons on the Zahara"

I've been having a hard time reading books lately, indisciminately picking one up and then casting it aside a few days later. While I may have sold "The Historian" back to the Strand a few weeks back (read my review here), Dean King's "Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival" is a definite keeper.

It tells the story of the Commerce, a boat that ran aground in Africa in 1815 and whose crew is forced to survive on the unforgiving Sahara Desert. Forget any of the true-survival stories you've read recently, these guys truly had it rough. Quickly sold into slavery being discovered by the nomads of the desert, the book focuses mainly on a band of 5 who plot for freedom through offering their hard-luck slave-owners wads of money. Drawing from the accounts of two sailors, King weaves a forceful and jarring tale of how these men survive in one of the most inhospitable places on earth.

Although it plods in parts, this story stays with you.

Next up, among the 30 books to be read on the bookshelf: Dashiell Hammett's "The Continental Op."

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I've Made the Big Time!

Heh. Blogebrity links to a post I make on Gawker. Me vs. Mr. Nick Denton himself.

I'm charming and I smell nice, pick me!

Friday, October 07, 2005

What Happens When No One Wants to Talk About It?

If there weren't Romenesko, I would read three books per week. Every day at, or a little after, noon, the printer near my desks chugs out a number of articles chronicling the day-to-day going-ons of the media world. Damn good reading, all of it.

I wouldn't have found this article at Inside Higher Ed, if not for it. "The Media World as It Is," wrtten by Michael Bugeja, is a fascinating look at the current state of media.

This paragraph late in the article really caught my attention, because it's so true: "Sources who can explain the complex issues of our era, including biotechnology and bioterrorism, often opt out of the social debate. This includes scientists at our best universities. They see the media world as it is … and so have refrained from commenting on it. Increasingly the new silent majority will not go public with their facts or informed perspectives because, they realize, they will be pilloried for doing so by the omnipresent fear-mongers and sensationalists who provide a diet of conflict and provocation in the media."

Just think about this in the backdrop of the current "debate" on the notion of intelligent design, where the majority of scientists have opted out of fighting the battle against the Raelians and other viewpoints-- they're trying to not give it further credence.

But do we suffer because of it? In the case of intelligent design -- although I'm convinced that it's an argument realists will never win -- yes. In a variety of other cases, this is even more true as well. It gives pause to the thought of what happens when a tree falls in a wood...


Monday, October 03, 2005

The Circle of Hollywood Life

James Ellroy ("The Black Dahlia," "L.A. Confidential") is one of my favorite authors, so the news last week that Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran --the creators of "24" -- are now working on a modern-day hardboiled detective series that cites "Confidential" as an influence easily caught my eye.

Called "Thirteen," the possible series (Fox has given it the green light for a pilot and it will be considered for the 2006 fall season ) follows a private eye working a single case over the course of 13 episodes. In the trade articles, Cochran and Surnow have cited Ellroy's book as one of the influences for the series. Interestingly, "L.A. Confidential" was itself considered as a potential Fox series more than 5 years ago.

Here's the history: Following the critically successful film adaptation in 1997, HBO originally ordered it as the basis for a 13-part miniseries in 1999. Supposedly, it was to focus on events prior to the movie, contain various Ellroy characters and made over the objections of Ellroy. HBO eventually passed on the project, but the pilot was then produced for the Fox Network-- and then Fox failed to pick up up the show as well. The pilot eventually ran on Tr!o, under their "Brilliant, But Cancelled" banner.

The kick: The star of the 2000 "L.A. Confidential" TV series? Kiefer Sutherland, of Surnow and Cochran's "24". Funny how things sometimes come quasi-full circle, eh? And, of course, had the TV adaptation of "L.A. Confidential" not failed, it begs the question of whether there would even be a "24".

Maybe this time Fox will get it right. Here's to hoping that a similar situation does not unfold with this series.

*Amazingly, the picture above is of the three non-Ellroy people mentioned in this article-- from left to right: Cochran, Sutherland and Surnow. God bless Google Images.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Happy October!

This is usually one of my most favorite months of the year. It's an amazing time in sports, between the baseball play-offs and the start of the hockey season. And my birthday is mid-month as well.

But, more than that, this might be the month that Patrick Fitzgerald wraps up his investigation into what has become known as "l'affaire Plame". While the momentum has been waning recently, there are two importance pieces of news today worth discussing-- and which might have important repercussions in the Washington news world.

The first came in today's Washington Post, where reporters Jim VandeHei and Walter Pincus write that "[a] new theory about Fitzgerald's aim has emerged in recent weeks from two lawyers who have had extensive conversations with the prosecutor...They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy, the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must have had a criminal purpose."

Now couple the above with a tidbit George Stephanopoulos dropped out of nowhere on ABC’s "This Week", saying that -- according to his sources -- that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually involved in some of the Plame discussions.

Wow. Hard stop. Think about what this means if both of these reports are accurate and how this will change the news cycle, piling on top of all the other Republican-related investigations. Again: Wow.