Posts from April 2002

I’d like to thank…: I’m

I’d like to thank…
: I’m very proud and happy that two of my sites — Epicurious and — were nominated for Webbys.

Nonetheless, I was disappointed that the high-falutin’ “International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences” did not see fit to notice and award the only new trend on the Internet in two years: Weblogs.

That’s what is wrong with awards. They are always two steps behind.

Extra! Extra!
: Click here to subscribe to the new L.A. paper. No, it doesn’t exist yet. But if you all show passionate interest in the thing, then it will exist.

: Bennett on the paper.

A year after
: ABC plans to devote a full day of programming to the one-year anniversary come Sept. 11.

: Quick responds quickly to the post below.

A nation of ideas and

A nation of ideas and ideals
: I spent last week vacationing in Williamsburg, soaking in history along with sunlight (thank you, God) and beer (ditto) and Busch Gardens water rides (a price of paternity).

Now it so happens that my son soon has to appear as Thomas Jefferson in a fourth-grade wax museum (no, I don’t know what that is; it sounds like a teacher’s clever way to get a little quiet — “Johnny, make like wax!”). Anyway, it was fortuitous that an ersatz Thomas Jefferson happened to be speaking to a large assemblage of citizens (and tourists) behind the Governor’s Palace the day we were there. My son stood at the feet of the great man and soaked up his ever word on a digital recorder. 1774 meets 2002.

I soaked up his words as well, for I found everything he had to say all the more relevant these days.

After the speech, while taking a walk with my son, I told him that now is a particularly good time for us to study our history, for we need to remind ourselves of what we’re defending as others attack us; we need to remember the ideas and ideals we stand for; we need to reaffirm our belief in America. I’m not usually quite that dull and pontifical a dad (or at least I hope I’m not), but I meant what I said, for that afternoon, I heard Thomas eloquently recite our democratic creed:

We believe in the right to free assembly and free speech.

We believe in the right of a people to elect their government.

We believe in the right of a people to self-determination.

We believe in freedom of religion.

We believe it is the responsibility of the majority to protect the rights of the minority.

We believe a government should represent its people.

We believe all people are created equal.

This is what we believe as Americans. This is what we as Americans brought to the world now more than two centuries ago. This is the touchstone of modern civilization. This is democracy.

Now look at the combatants in the Middle East. How many uphold the right of their people to elect their government? One. How many do not allow their citizens free assembly and free speech and freedom of religion? Too many. How many treat all their people as equal? Too few. How many are fighting against the right of the Jews and the Palestinians to self-determination? How many of these people are attacking us for these beliefs, these ideals and ideals?

Sorry to be so basic, so obvious, so fundamental. But I do think it is time to remind ourselves of these fundmentals. And I could tell that most or all of the 200-or-so citizen-tourists on that green lawn were inspired to hear Thomas Jefferson remind us of them, especially now

: Andrea Harris echoes the same sentiment, less sentimentally:

One effect of September 11th, on me anyway, was the immediate banishment from my psyche of any vestiges of the belief that there was something inherently wrong with being an American. Anyway, Opinion Journal is starting a new pro-Western Civilization column: The Western Front. Some might quibble: how much more pro-Western can the Wall Street Journal be? But not me.

That column at Opinion Journal begins with something that will warm the hearts of many a blogger: a slap at a journalism prof.

“The problem with America,” a college professor told me recently, “is that it can’t get over the idea that it is somehow special among nations.” His name is Robert Jensen and he teaches journalism at the University of Texas, Austin. He’s flat wrong. The problem with America and Western civilization in general is that it lost confidence in itself and started accepting relativist arguments….

The main purpose of this column will be to argue for rebuilding confidence in the West’s ideal of human freedom–spiritual, political and economic liberty….

Now it’s time for Western culture to stand up again. Worries about imperialism, especially cultural imperialism, should be cast off. Global free trade isn’t imperialistic; it’s the spread of a natural right, economic freedom. Demanding that a country respect its people’s basic rights isn’t imperialistic, and neither is standing for an unfettered media.

The column has its predictably shrill moments (trying to blame the media for a lack of pride in all Western civilization… oh, give it up, Journal). And we still need to guard against jingoism and blind nationalism and smug superiority. We are not better because we are American. It is our ideas and ideals that are better. Indeed, as the column ends:

Yet whatever its failures, the West is worth defending. Indeed, it is in rising above these shortcomings that give hope to the world, establish peace among men and spread freedom to lands that have known only tyranny. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Let’s start acting like it.

Tom would be proud.

Searching searches
: Via Matthew Haughey, an impressive new meeting of Alexa and Google: search for a site and find out what people who visit that site also visit and find the links and a traffic ranking. Try (I am apparently disadvantaged by switching urls to; it hasn’t scraped me for a bit under the new address.)

Remember anthrax
: The NY Post — with its cousin, the Weekly Standard — have a sizable package today demanding action on anthrax and arguing that it’s lazy of the feds to assume that this was a domestic attack. Here’s the Standard piece, plus a Podhoretz column taking on the FBI, plus a Post editorial:

Sadly, we have no answers this morning – just a growing conviction that Washington, and the FBI in particular, aren’t even asking questions.

The power of celebrity
: Here’s an observation Lileks and fellow parents of young ones will understand; others won’t.

Tonight, Nick Jr. had a special saying goodbye to Steve, the host of Blue’s Clues (he’s “going to college”) and saying hello to his “brother,” Joe, the new host of the show. It was an event in my 5-year-old’s life.

What’s amazing is that even young children now understand the power of celebrity.

This, too, is American.

Los Ahngeles in the summah
: It’s sad when a Californian — a Southern Californian, a Southern Californian politician — tries to act all continental cosmopolitan — and fails.

I was listening to NPR this afternoon report on the breakup of Los Angeles (potentially losing the Valley, the port, and Hollywood and leaving… what?) when the mayor complained that he didn’t want to see the city become just a bunch of enclaves.

But he didn’t say enclave. That is, he didn’t say en-CLAYVE or ahn-CLAYVE.

He said ahn-clahve.

It was a small moment. But I enjoyed it.

Rossi’s art show is on
: Details here.

The Mr. Bill Show: I’ve

The Mr. Bill Show
: I’ve seen the rumors that Bill Clinton is up to replace Bryant Gumbel in a few places.

I love the idea for one reason: It would be different. CBS has failed many times to create a successful morning show by copying the other successful shows.

Clinton would be entertaining. If you love him or hate him, you’ll be entertained by him in any case. He’s smart. He’s born for media. He’s charming. He’s a supreme communicator. He’d have something to say. And wouldn’t that be fun to watch?

Search me
: Nick Denton added a cool Google search of his site to his page. I plan to steal it if he lets me.

: I just did it anyway. My son showed me how to create the Google search, then I stole Nick’s adaptation of it. Thanks, Nick.

: Kottke is trying to tell someone something:

You know how after you poke a hornet’s nest with a stick and all the hornets come streaming out and they are all buzzing around pissed off and they sting you with their stingers but it’s not really their fault because they’re hornets and that’s all hornets know how to do even though all you would like is for them to stop stinging you and go back into their nest? Yeah, that.

Get me rewrite
: Ken Layne is right: It’s apparently a good thing when Matt Welch loses his internet access for 40 hours, for he spends the time staring intently at the LA Times until the newsprint spontaneously combusts and then he writes about it. Go there and start with “One last note about the LA Times…” (well, that’s a lie if I ever saw one) and keep reading. He gives you what should be a 101 course in journalism at the University of the Streets.

Matt demonstrates why a reporter showing off his writing style (“He works amid ghosts. Downtown ghosts. Buildings and streets that once held a city together…”) is a service to no reader (save perhaps the writer’s possibly proud mother). I hate having to read a story for 10 paragraphs before getting to the point.

That, students, is why God invented The Lead (or, if you insist on not getting to the point in the first paragraph, at least get to it by the third in what became known as The Hook Graph). Getting to the point is the most basic service to the reader. The reader is busy. The reader bought a newspaper to find out what the hell is going on. So tell your dear reader.

When I was TV critic at People, I started ending my reviews with grades (which later became the essential conceit of Entertainment Weekly) and many colleagues actually got mad at me; they said that people wouldn’t read the review if they could get a summary in one letter; I said that was exactly why I did it: It’s a service to get to the point.

I’ve been telling some people lately that this is one lesson print can take back from the Web: Print, too, needs a good user interface. On the Web, we have very little space and time to get to the point and to entice our readers to invest the time in a scroll or a click. Print reporters and headline writers would do well to remember this even when writing for their captive readers: Get to the point in the head and lead and spare us your show-off style.

Matt then respectfully takes the Times to task for not reporting until now on the new newspaper project, he, Ken, and a few others are working on. Reporting on yourself and your own industry is tough but necessary and it’s pitiful that the Times came in last here. He also tweaks them for printing an unsubstantiated rumor that Rupert Murdoch is an investor. I wish Murdoch were involved and if he isn’t, I hope the rumor at least gives him the idea. LA could use a NY Post. It is a far better model for an alternative paper than the NY Sun. The Post isn’t about journalism. The Post isn’t about showing off. The Post is about New York.

I love tabloids because they get to the point. They think like a reader. They fight on behalf of the reader. They respect for readers’ time and don’t waste it on pud-pulling stylistics. They aren’t afraid to say something.

And then (or actually, this being a weblog, first) Matt uses a Howard Rosenberg TV column to give a wise lecture on the virtues of covering news — yes, even crime — instead of just sucking thumbs in 17-part series, as too many columnists and prize-hungry newspaper editors do; again, they are more interested in showing off than actually serving the reader’s needs.

Read it all. And get ready to subscribe to the paper coming from Matt, Ken, et al.

: I hate that I often dredge up stories from my professional past here. It’s so damned egotistical (it’s showing off) and it makes me seem like some old warhorse hack (it makes me feel as if I should start writing my memoirs… but I’m only half the age of Jim Bellows, who just wrote his).

Anyway, Matt’s post about TV criticism in the LA Times reminded me of the time I almost went to work for the Times. So here’s one last story from my past (that’s a lie):

After I left San Francisco for New York, I quickly missed California. At first, I missed Northern California but soon it was generic California, anyplace with iceplant on the freeways. So I went job-hunting at the LA Times. I ended up seeing the then-editor of the entertainment section and he wanted to hire me as a second TV critic, besides Rosenberg. He said he wanted a critic “who actually watches TV.” (I don’t mean to slap Rosenberg; he has always been very nice to me,but it’s what the guy said). I loved the idea; was going to take the job. But then, at the last minute, the entertainment editor got bad news: He wasn’t allowed to hire another TV critic; office politics, he explained. But a top editor offered me a consolation prize: I could come to the paper to cover the LA Olympics Arts Festival. Me? Arts? I’m a TV guy, a tabloid guy, a mass guy, a guy of the people, a cultural slob! I don’t do ballet. I don’t do ethnic folk dance. I don’t do performance art. What the hell would I do in that job except growl? I said no. My mentor and pal at People, Peter Travers (now the movie critic and more at Rolling Stone) used all this, without my knowledge, to get my other mentor at People, then-editor Pat Ryan, to make me TV critic at the magazine. And that’s how I became a TV critic afterall. And the rest is… Entertainment Weekly.

: Howard Owens also weighs in on the LA paper here (he could use permalinks; I went to some effort to get you this one), raising some concerns about the business of papers. I say it depends on the business plan. The new paper is not going to defeat the Times in classified ads or big display advertising; it can work as a business with extremely low costs and targeted advertising and a loyal audience paying a fair price. My one business concern for them is distribution. It’s easy to distribute in New York; we have newsstands — and we have sidewalks on which to place them. We also have homeless people happy to don ugly T-shirts and sell newspapers to people walking on said sidewalks. LA is going to be tough. They need creative distribution — say, along with the morning copies of Variety, on freeway exit ramps, and such. Maybe parking valets can double as hawkers.

Ovation: I predict that when

: I predict that when the Spiderman movie shows the World Trade Center towers, audiences everywhere will erupt in applause.

: We are not the only country to suffer the tragedy of school shootings.

Welcome home: Mr. Hartung’s LakeFX

Welcome home
: Mr. Hartung’s LakeFX is back.

Reply to sender
: Efrem (below) forwards the response he got from

Thanks Efram. We think the United States of Israel is a great little country too. Maybe one day it will be our fourteenth province. Just kidding.

And Will Vehrs sends this to the Saudis:

Align yourselves with freedom and democracy, not with

violence and oppression. Support peace with Israel, not the Intifada. Urge the Palestinians to accept the boundries of a new state and help them build a nation based on a free people and free markets. Seek the US as your partner in peace and prosperity; stop the support of dark forces that attempt to undermine the only nation that can offer you military and economic security.

You stand at a historic crossroads. Follow the suicide bombers and radical Islamofascists into the dustbin of history, or embrace peace and freedom, teach it to your children, and achieve greatness.