BEST AGGRAVATING MEDIA AD CAMPAIGN Part One Best Aggravating …

Written by None - Do not Delete on . Posted in Best of Manhattan, Posts.



In My
Homeland, You’re a Dead Man.
If you watched five minutes of tv in the
New York metropolitan area over the past year, you saw this commercial twice.
The New York Times must have spent the annual budgets of several Third
World nations on this media buy. There has to be a term ad agencies use for
a campaign like this that achieves such market oversaturation that it begins
to have the opposite of the intended effect and only makes people hate the product.
Relentless, remorseless, ubiquitous, inescapable–you couldn’t channel-surf
fast enough to get away from it; often it is running on multiple channels at
once. “Hi, I’d like to start–” Click. “–ting home
delivery of–” Click. “–our financial sec–” Aaaiiieee!


Not only ubiquitous,
it’s repulsive. The characters, whom we correctly identified some weeks
ago a “rainbow coalition of hideous yuppies,” are so carefully chosen
for a p.c. spread–young, old, Asian, WASP, brown, male, female–and
yet all cut an unmistakable figure of complacent upper-middle-class suburban
domesticity. Notice they all seem to have big houses and sun-filled rooms, not
a dim little Upper West Side rent-stabilized apartment-dweller in the lot. Clearly
this is an ad pitched at the suburban LI-NJ-CT-Westchester-Rockland market.
So why must the rest of us suffer through it? Don’t they have a way to
narrowcast it only to those markets and leave the rest of us alone?


But back to
that rainbow coalition. We got to know these people this year as intimately
as our most hated neighbors. The Filipino-looking pederast who simpers, “First
thing? I think about my family here–and in my homeland.” Nice kneejerk
liberal save-the-world touch, the way he overarticulates that word home-land,
like he’s auditioning for a community theater production of The King
and I
. (“King is king of all people–here and in my home-land!
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.”) The gender-stereotyping throughout the
ad is also remarkably blatant: Man Breadwinner, interested in the business section;
Woman Breeder, loves the crossword puzzle. Thus the presumably gay actor playing
the empty suit droning about “our financial security” while his brainless
Stepford wife literally leans on his elbow and gazes insipidly into middle distance,
dreaming of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and making babies. There’s the old
WASP lady who cherishes “another day to learn something new…” (“…that
I’ll forget in five minutes because I have Alzheimer’s. The paperboy
has actually been delivering the same issue of the paper every day since 1996
and I haven’t noticed!”) The positively scary woman with OCD who must
finish
the crossword puzzle. And the mocha hottie who just loves the arts
and “nothing satisfies my passion like The New York Times.”
Nice subliminal messaging there. Very subtle.


Two or three
times during the ad, one of these noids will look directly at you through the
lens and repeat in their best, slow, hypnotist’s repeat-after-me voice,
“I’d like…to start getting…home delivery…of…TheNew
York Times
…” The ad ran so often, in so many places, that the message
became Pavlovian through sheer, heartless repetition. Pretty soon you were shambling
the streets of the city like a George Romero zombie, hollow-eyed, unkempt, muttering,
“must…order…home delivery…of…TheNew York Times…must…order…”


Condescending
and yet browbeating, like the Times itself, this commercial was like
an unwelcomed guest on our tv screen who just wouldn’t go away. People
complained about the Taco Bell dog and the Pets.com sock puppet (the latter
our favorite tv figure of the year, and when does he get to host his own talk
show?), but both those campaigns combined didn’t add up to the sheer volume
or aggravation of this single Times commercial.



Best Example
of Youth Wasted on the Young

Franklin Foer



Just Try
to Catch a Cab in Georgetown.
We admire eager beavers like Franklin Foer,
a 26-year-old who’s written for U.S. News & World Report,
is currently an associate editor at The New Republic and even has a piece
in the October issue of Spin. And for a Washingtonian the young man has
balls: he wrote a cover story for TNR in May skewering The Washington
Post‘s walking-conflict-of-interest media reporter Howard Kurtz,
under the headline “What’s Wrong With This Man.”


Despite that
terrific hype, Foer wasn’t thorough in examining Kurtz’s penny-ante
column; he destroys his argument by lamenting that the prolific Post
writer isn’t a modern-day A.J. Liebling. That’s hardly the point:
Kurtz writes a column, from a left-of-center perspective, that details the minutiae
of the incestuous media community. Did David Broder let the dogs out without
his wife’s permission? That’s a scoop in Kurtz’s world. Mickey
Kaus (kausfiles.com) is the man to read when it comes to the racket of Howard
Kurtz.


Still, Foer
gave it the old college try. He was completely out of bounds, however, with
a “Diarist” piece in the June 19 New Republic that made a ludicrous
case for Washington, DC, being a more cosmopolitan, and intellectually rigorous,
city than New York. The naive boy argues that Manhattan is now filled with chain
franchises like Barnes & Noble and the Gap, adding the hilarious hiccup
that “its popular culture isn’t far removed from that of Minneapolis
or Dallas.” Frank, we’re afraid you’ll have to sit in the corner,
wearing a New Republic beanie, and read a year’s worth of Michael
Kinsley columns. Your transgression is that severe.


Most laughable
in Foer’s DC booster article is his contention that the New York-based
publications once synonymous with his view of highbrow intellectualism (Partisan
Review
, Dissent, Esquire, etc.) are now mere shadows of former
glory years. We’ll grant Foer his thesis there. However, he completely
destroys it by the following parenthetical sentence: “(Exceptions like
The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Book Review
usually rely on contributors who don’t live in New York.)” Is this,
as every political pundit writes about George W. Bush, a fratboy prank? If Foer
really does believe that anything in the Times (or the moribund New
York
Review of Books) is worthy of discussion, then perhaps his career
isn’t on the fast track after all.


The great irony
is that Foer, unless he’s exiled to Slate or Salon, will
inevitably wind up in New York within two years, and probably write a “New
York Diarist” essay for his former magazine about this cool pickle store
he found down on the historically stimulating Lower East Side.


Kids.



Best Player-Hating
Website

Urbanexpose.com



The Jiggy
Dig Dot-Com.
We’d been wondering for a long time where the real hiphop
writers were hiding. We still don’t know, but at least we can read their
works from time to time, thanks to Urbanexpose.com. An almost completely anonymous,
wildly disputatious forum for the discussion of “urban” media, the
site has been consistently hilarious since its launch in June. Mainstream coverage
of the site has focused on the gossip, bile and rumors that are an inevitable
part of any free-speech discourse. But much more interesting than the who-fucked-who-wheres
and the who-must-be-behind-this-site-and-whys is the way UE has successfully
made a laughingstock of every single one of the many overfunded and mismanaged
websites hyped as “portals” and “virtual communities” for
hiphop-loving youth. Hustling a living out of hiphop, letting no lack of artistry
or originality stand in the way, is almost as old as the culture itself. But
since all of the major urban pop magazines were run by such hucksters and phonies,
the story had hardly ever seen print. Last year’s flood of venture capital
to some of the business’ most shameless opportunists–who quickly culled
staffs from the same group of hacks, whores and smooth-talking mediocrities
who’d made Vibe, The Source and now-defunct Blaze
high-profile insults to hiphop’s good name–was the latest and greatest
travesty.


It was also
to be something of a final straw. UE’s format is simple. It consists of
a few sharply opinionated, well-informed, unbylined tirades, each augmented
by an uncensored message board that runs alongside the piece. A new article
is posted every few days, but the message-board activity is constant. It probably
takes no more than a couple of staffers, working a few hours a week, to run
the whole thing. And it’s kicking the ass of competitors with staffs in
the hundreds and budgets in the millions.


Within a couple
of weeks of UE’s debut, management at one of the worst urban-digital boondoggles,
Urban Box Office, had to erect a technological barrier on its server to keep
its employees from posting inside information on UE. It was too late–a
scathing “typical day at UBO” had already revealed what the fucked-up
shop was like. Besides, someone else posted instructions for evading the barrier
almost immediately. UE also played a role in the demise of Russell Simmons’
awful 360hiphop.com, which was sold to BET and gutted a few months after its
ludicrous attempt at a jiggy launch.


Every few days,
some dimwit who probably edits for Vibe and prefers Steely Dan to M.O.P.
gets on UE and posts a can’t-we-all-just-get-along plea. Invariably, the
bore tsk-tsks the “haters” and asks why, if all these bogus hiphop
sites are so bad, doesn’t someone come up with a better idea for an urban
media product? As if UE’s thousands of passionate and witty contributors
are going to stop short and say, “Gee, what would be a good publication
about a gritty, technologically savvy, outspoken and meritocratic movement against
bullshit, lameness and complacent hypocrisy?” Just goes to show how some
people don’t know good media when it slaps them in the face.



Best Suspended
Columnist

Jeff Jacoby



Yes Sir,
Mr. Sulzberger.
That the hapless Boston Globe was already an oasis
of retro-liberalism wasn’t disputed when The New York Times Co. bought
the family-owned business in the mid-1990s. What should’ve been suspected
when the Sulzberger family took over, and slowly replaced longtime Globe
managers, was that the New England paper would become a virtual farm team
for the Times. And, unlike the Taylor clan, which presided over the Globe
with a casual, Tom Yawkey-like demeanor, the hypocrites from New York inevitably
demanded a jackboot philosophical rigidity in the paper’s pages.


Therefore,
Jeff Jacoby, the lone conservative voice on the Globe‘s op-ed page,
was suspended for four months, without pay, for a minor infraction last summer.
Jacoby, in a throwaway July 3 column, rehashed the common story about the fate
of some signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Sloppily, he neglected
to mention at the top of the piece that he was updating, with some original
material, a topic that’s been discussed by Paul Harvey and Ann Landers,
and on countless Internet sites. It was a slap-on-the-wrist offense, especially
considering the Globe‘s laggard pace in jettisoning plagiarist Mike
Barnicle a few years earlier.


Jacoby, an
award-winning pundit, was understandably astonished at the severity of his punishment;
as were literally hundreds of other journalists, both liberal and conservative.
Dan Kennedy, the Boston Phoenix‘s left-leaning media critic, wrote
on July 13: “Jacoby got screwed… Given the nature of his transgression,
it would indeed seem that a lesser sanction would have sufficed–anything
from an explanation in his column and a royal chewing-out to maybe, at most,
a two-week suspension.”


The jihad against
Jacoby also provoked an internal display of outrage among Globe staffers,
a rather remarkable event considering that the columnist’s sharp opinions
didn’t make him many friends in the newsroom. On July 17, the Globe‘s
moronic ombudsman, Jack Thomas, wrote a pathetic opinion piece on this incident
that sparked criticism not only in Boston, but in the country’s entire
journalistic community. Thomas rejected a staff petition that read: “It
seems to us that a four-month suspension without pay is a punishment far out
of proportion to Mr. Jacoby’s error.” Thomas responded: “I disagree.
Jacoby is lucky he wasn’t fired.”


For good measure,
Thomas added the following advice to the blacklisted Jacoby, suggesting that
if the columnist returns to the Globe he should be assigned to the city
desk. “He could chase fires. He could cover meetings of the sewer board.
He could spend time in Boston’s poor neighborhoods, write about homeless
shelters, interview alcoholics, unwed mothers, gay teenagers, cops, clowns,
politicians, and assorted scalawags. It would make him a better columnist because
he’d learn something about the newspaper business. And he might learn something
about life.”


What an
asshole!
We wouldn’t be surprised if Thomas’ column were dictated
from 43rd St. in Manhattan, such is the familiar condescending tone, but in
any event, the ombudsman’s advice is so vile that in a more just world
he’d be the one thrown out in the street without a paycheck.


In reality,
it was Jacoby’s opinions that provoked the Globe‘s Castro-like
reaction. A few examples of the journalist’s work will suffice.


June 15: “For
naked class warfare, it is hard to beat the estate tax.”


June 22: “Texas
had no hate crimes law on the books when James Byrd Jr. was dragged to his death
behind a pickup truck. Nor did Wyoming when Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence
and beaten to death. And that, Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy and others claim,
is why a federal hate crimes law must be enacted… Equal protection means telling
all would-be criminals that they will be punished fully, regardless of the identity
of their victims. The bad bill passed by the Senate declares that some victims
are more deserving than others. That is not a message that should be allowed
to stand.”


And March 9:
“If it isn’t universally obvious by now just how dishonest and ruthless
the vice president can be in the pursuit of power, it will be by November.”


Jacoby has
said he hopes to remain in Boston, where he and his family live. We doubt that’s
possible, given the intolerance at the Globe toward anyone who doesn’t
march to Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s orders. Unlike The New York Times,
The Washington Post, although a liberal newspaper, is far more open-minded
about the people it employs. The Post has a large roster of op-ed columnists;
surely its editors realize that the addition of Jacoby would only enhance the
daily’s reputation.



Best Writer
About Sports Media

Phil Mushnick, New York Post



A Bitter
Phil.
Okay, at times we’ve found Post columnist Phil Mushnick
to be a bit of a Nervous Nellie–running around as he does, claiming that
the sky’s falling and that the holy institution of team sports is being
ruined by selfish athletes. But we admire the way he turns his gimlet eye on
the announcers and writers who cover the games. In so doing he’s scored
some major hits against that confederation of knuckleheads.


Take his Sept.
10 attack on Sports Illustrated for turning into another waste
of a good hour. It was a classic hit job. And his abuse of the self-serving
and self-absorbed Yankee announcer John Sterling is always good to hear. Now
Mushnick has taken to lobbying fans not to attend games anymore since they’re
being consistently screwed by owners and MLB. A sound bit of advice, and one
we’ve been following for years.



Best Sissy
Fight

Timothy Noah vs. Eric Alterman



I’ll
Give You Such a Smack.
Regular New York Press readers probably know
how extremely rare it is for us to find something to agree with in the kneejerk
platitudinizing of Timothy Noah, who writes Slate‘s “Chatterbox.”
But when an even bigger weenie, The Nation‘s Eric Alterman, picked
a fight with him last June, we had to admit our sympathies were leaning a little
toward Noah.


Alterman, like
many other liberals who took courses in the Dave Marsh School of Rock Criticism,
displays an unhealthy naivete when it comes to that paragon of working-class
values, Bruce Springsteen. He lashed out when Noah suggested that The Boss might
have written “American Skin,” his Amadou Diallo song, to help Hillary
Clinton in her Senate bid. Alterman claimed that The Boss is above mere politics.
He also used the occasion of their tiff to plug his own Springsteen bio. In
his response, Noah deftly tut-tutted Alterman’s silly Springsteen worship,
noted the blatant self-promotion and got in a beaut of a sucker punch: “Chatterbox
finds this an odd argument to be waged by anyone who writes for a political
journal like The Nation, much less one who’s spent the past decade
telling anyone who’ll listen that George Stephanopoulos is his best friend.”
Oww! You go, girl. Alterman sputtered some weak, I’ll-scratch-her-eyes-out
defense, but this bantamweight duel was already over: We scored it a TKO for
Noah.



Best Bet for
a U.S. Senate Upset

New Jersey



Turn That
Channel!
It’s likely that Al Gore will carry New Jersey this fall,
unless George W. Bush pulls a Harry Truman out of his hat, but as the weeks
go by Democrat Jon Corzine looks increasingly vulnerable. You’ll remember
that Corzine bought the Senate nomination last June, spending some $35-$40 million
of his own money, and was proclaimed the immediate favorite over the bland,
and underfinanced, GOP candidate Rep. Bob Franks.


But as the
general election approaches, Corzine has four major problems. One, voters are
sick and tired of seeing his mug 18 times a day on the tube. Two, his far-left
positions aren’t in sync with New Jersey; even Frank Lautenberg, the retiring
Democrat whose open seat is at stake, seems like William Safire compared to
Corzine. Three, on Sept. 18, after months of hemming and hawing, he disclosed
that he’d donated more than $100,000 to groups, as the Times put
it, “whose leaders or sponsors later endorsed him.” Finally, and perhaps
most damaging, the former Goldman Sachs chairman refuses to release his tax
returns, implausibly citing a confidentiality agreement with the company. Did
Corzine, admittedly a political novice, really think he could survive a campaign
without such a disclosure?


What’s
the big lug hiding?



Best Use
of Giuliani’s Jackbooted Storm troopers

And Tell Phil Lesh the Same.
We were at the Black and Blue Ball VII, that
annual gathering of s&m fetishists who can’t wait to flaunt their fancy
vinyl pants and leather underwear. Things were ludicrous and harmless as ever.
Our only concern was keeping an eye on our drinking glass. This is the one kind
of crowd where you don’t want to drink out of somebody else’s glass–not
because you’re worried about exotic drugs, but about herpes. There’s
a reason those gals wear so much black lipstick.


Then we looked
out from a balcony and discovered another new concern. A platoon of police cars
has lined up across the street. We’d heard a few stupid people talk about
Mayor Giuliani shutting down the ball, but those were just dolts looking to
feel oppressed. Or so we thought. Still, we weren’t all that worried. Like
any intelligent New Yorker, we know that police shootings of civilians are down
dramatically from the days when that fascist David Dinkins was in office.


We eventually
came out of the fashion show, and the battalion was still lined up outside.
We asked a very nice policeman to fill us in on the commotion. He pointed to
the darkened area across the street. We hadn’t noticed them before, but
the sidewalk was covered with dopey-looking college kids. It turned out that
Phish had just announced a surprise show at the Roseland Ballroom across the
street. Tickets were going on sale at 8 a.m., and, the officer explained, the
Phish fans had begun camping out at midnight. It was a pretty dazed and seedy-looking
crowd. We were almost tempted to go back into the ball. At least there was less
facial hair in there.



Best Punk Rock
Newspaper

The New York Waste



Holmstrom’s
Demon Offspring.
New York has seen more than its fair share of local music
zines over the years. You can find them anywhere, from bars to restaurants to
laundromats, even in health clubs. They’re usually distributed by the guy
or gal who edits and prints them up, and for the most part they’re free.


But sometimes
even free isn’t free. Sometimes you pick up a paper or zine that’s
so bad you would have paid not to have looked at it. Sleazy ads for hookers
in Jersey, riot-grrl-wannabe band interviews and, the worst, major-label ad
after major-label ad after major-label ad.


Then there’s
The New York Waste. A New York punk rock newspaper that brings to mind
the old days of Punk. Edited by a guy named Glen, it comes out about
once a month, and can be found almost anywhere in the East Village. Our favorite
spots to pick it up are Mars Bar and CBGB. Featured in each issue are interviews
with cool bands, awesome photos of locals hanging out taken by a chick named
Lucky and columns from local punk rock celebs like Mickey Leigh (of the Rattlers/Stop),
Doby Danger (of public access), Miss Adena (of Bikini Contest) and even guest
columns from those lucky enough to be published in such a cool rag. And, most
importantly, it’s funny.


The New
York Waste
is more than just a newspaper. Like Punk, it has somehow
developed its own subculture and following. On any given month, CBGB usually
has a show put on by the paper, and every time, no matter who’s playing,
the show kicks ass. We’ve been fortunate enough to see such acts as Sexy
Christ, Man Scouts of America, Charm School, the Bullys and many other great
punk legends in the making at these shows.


The New
York Waste
is no waste.



Best New
Yorker
Article

“The Hell-Raiser” by John Cassidy


David Remnick
Scores Again.
The Sept. 11 New Yorker ran a magnificent profile of
Steve Dunleavy, the Australian New York Post columnist who’s been
a fixture at Rupert Murdoch’s enterprises for the last generation. The
author, John Cassidy, certainly one of this nation’s marquee writers, tackled
a subject that a lesser journalist would’ve reduced to a sour cliche. In
fact, the sensational aspects of Dunleavy’s persona are well-known: he’s
a hard-drinking, chainsmoking cad who competed with his own father for tabloid
scoops; a right-wing ideologue with a soft spot; and he was the butt of a famous
Pete Hamill quip after a snowplow ran over his foot. The smug Hamill, to the
delight of his snooty friends, said, “I hope it wasn’t his writing
foot.”


Cassidy mentions
all this, but digs far deeper at what makes Dunleavy, now 62, tick. We doubt
there will ever be a collection of his alternately bellicose and mawkish columns,
but, as Cassidy painstakingly makes clear, this is a man who loves his
job and is glad to be alive. That’s more than can be said for 90 percent
of his colleagues. (Funny how Adam Clymer comes to mind.)


Dunleavy’s
an unapologetic conservative, who specializes in propping up the police department,
and while we often agree with his views, his prose isn’t what you’d
call elegant. He’s also wildly contradictory: while the Kennedy clan, especially
tubby Teddy, is an evergreen for Dunleavy’s venom, when John F. Kennedy
Jr. was killed last year his columns were drenched in tears. A fallen prince,
the rich kid with an everyman’s touch, the icon of a world far better than
we know today. And more malarkey like that. It was really quite a disgusting
rash of hyperbole spewing from an undoubtedly stewed Dunleavy, rivaled only
by the “friends” of the slain president’s son who made the talk
show rounds to display their grief and wisdom.


Yet after reading
Cassidy’s piece it’s easy to believe that Dunleavy, at least at that
moment, wasn’t trying to con his audience or sell newspapers; he was simply
carried away by emotion. Instead of the one-dimensional portrait of Dunleavy
that’s presented by a lesser writer at, say, New York or Brill’s
Content
, Cassidy describes the “skin and bones” columnist’s
anachronistic thirst for a “scoop” with an evenhanded tone that’s
rare in personality profiles today. We loved reading about Dunleavy’s friendship
with Jack Newfield, a generally liberal Post columnist with whom you’d
think he’d have little in common. But they do: journalism and boxing. And
the dig at Andrea Peyser, the moronic right-of-center writer who doesn’t
get on with Dunleavy because of his smoking, is priceless.


An excerpt
from a Sept. 8 Post column shows the essence of Dunleavy’s style.
It might not be Mencken, but can you possibly imagine a Times writer
punching to the gut like this?


“If the
Rev. Al Sharpton wants to become a true servant of God, I will turn my sword
against him into plowshares.
“If he swears
to go to a cop’s funeral, tragically inevitable, I will pledge community
service to him.
“I will first
demonstrate with him outside 110 Livingston St., Brooklyn, at the Board of Education,
the castle of real racism.
“Nearly a million
kids going to school this week are forever condemned to systemic stupidity.
“I want you,
Al, to say to the teachers union that merit raises for deserving teachers is
a good thing.
“If you do that,
you have me forever.
“Tell me who
your well-labored tailor is. I will buy you a much-needed suit.
“The teachers
union is not worried about turning out functional morons. They are worried about
their next trip to Italy on sabbatical.
“Where
you, Al, see white devils at the helm, I see poor black and Hispanic kids in
the school system.”



Best Horoscope
& Dream Analysis

Swoon.com



Star Lite.
Which came first, Swoon’s horoscopes or our life? Since we’ve been
Swooning, no other daily, weekly or monthly star chart will do. You can have
Swoon’s daily horoscope delivered to your e-mail box, somewhat reliably,
every morning. However, if you don’t see it by noon, log onto the site.
You’ve got important decisions to make! Besides, at Swoon.com you can check
out the dream dictionary, which is worth wading through the site’s grrlie
exterior for. It was there we learned that Jim Knipfel’s eyes staring at
us from a 50-foot poster merely meant that we’d be having good luck in
the business department soon. More complex or esoteric dreams, like the one
Jim had about Billy Joel and a pack of attack dogs, remain a mystery.


The site also
dabbles in numerology, Chinese astrology, and 100 other quiz and flashing-button
distractions to help you avoid working. And for those godless heathens among
you who consider astrology, or anything larger than yourselves, limiting: What
do you think you are? Something special?



Best Fifth-Rate
Maureen Dowd

Gail Collins



Affirmative
Action Isn’t Restricted to Blacks.
New York Times op-ed columnist
Gail Collins deeply cares about the real people of this country, the
citizens who live in real towns like Salem, Dayton and Des Moines, who
hold down real jobs like shipbuilding, hairstyling and, of course, waitressing.
God, if only she weren’t forced to work behind a desk, making a cushy salary
as a lowly journalist, when she could be playing bingo after work and drinking
Pabst from a can!


But Collins
compensates by dispensing wisdom to her middle-class sisters and brothers. For
example, on July 28 she wrote: “Time’s up, people. We’ve got
political conventions coming, with running mates, protesters–all the stuff
you need to hold an actual presidential election. No more pretending this campaign
isn’t really happening. Duty calls.”


Now, this is
sheer poetry… [Ed. note: At this point, the writer refused to continue, complaining
of abdominal pains. Our sincere apologies.]



Best Baby Boomer
Couple

Al Gore & Jann Wenner



Rock &
Roll Often Forgets.
There’s a photo in the Sept. 25 issue of Time,
on page 47, that was shipped last week to Hollywood’s Hypocrisy Hall of
Fame. The image is one of the most brutal of the 2000 presidential campaign,
showing Al Gore and Joe Lieberman at Radio City Music Hall on Sept. 14, flanked
by their wives Tipper and Hadassah, as well as Rolling Stone publisher
Jann Wenner and Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein. Before a concert featuring
washed-up rock stars like Crosby, Stills & Nash, Gore made a few pointed
remarks criticizing the entertainment industry; Wenner and Weinstein, major
Democratic fundraisers, smiled as the Veep spoke. The event raised $6.5 million
for the Democrats.


As any number
of the characters in Weinstein’s movies, or the pop music stars that Wenner
deifies in his magazine, might say, there’s something very fucked up
with this picture
. Gore and Lieberman have threatened the entertainment
industry–essentially promising censorship–by day, and taken their
money by night.


As Lieberman
told radio talk show host Don Imus on Sept. 15: “The question is what you
do when you disagree with people who are your supporters and friends. And I
think the reason this is not hypocritical is because Al Gore and I spoke out
early, quickly and strongly and the show-business people have to stop marketing
to kids. We’re going to give them six months. If they don’t, we’re
going to ask the Federal Trade Commission to take action against them legally.”


It’s news
to us that Lieberman had any friends in Hollywood–we thought he partied
with insurance company executives from Connecticut–but why not let that
slide for now. After all, Lieberman is a born-again apostle to the Clinton-Gore
Crusade for Corruption.


As criticism
mounted, Gore tried to soothe some bruised egos. For example, he bribed Wenner
with a Sept. 20 ride on Air Force Two, letting the publisher join the small
group of reporters who usually accompany the Vice President. Wenner was on board
as a “journalist,” a Gore spokeswoman said, joking, “Editor by
day, fundraiser by night.” There’s no question that the media is biased
in favor of Gore, but we doubt any of the 16 other “pool” journalists
have contributed, as Wenner has, $2000 to Gore and $13,500 to other Democrats
in this election cycle.


A Sept. 18
New York Times story quoted a number of entertainment insiders who expressed
disgust with the Gore-Lieberman ticket’s hypocrisy. Rod Lurie, a screenwriter
and director, said: “When you have Al Gore saying that Hollywood has six
months to get its act together, that sounds like McCarthyism to me and I find
it very troubling.”


And Lurie is
correct. Gore is characteristically trying to have it both ways: he knows that
music and film moguls, as well as IQ-challenged actors and pop stars, are going
to support him with their votes and money. So why not get a little extra? Why
not curry favor with cultural conservatives who believe Eminem and Spike Lee
should be thrown in jail? Can you spell p-a-n-d-e-r-i-n-g?


Gore’s
scolding of Hollywood is farcical, equal to that of sanctimonious idiots who
blamed the Columbine tragedy on loose gun laws. (One could argue that cable
stations like CNN, which covered the massacre nonstop, as well as O.J. Simpson’s
trial, are more at fault than the NRA.) It’s not the government’s
purpose to tell artists what to create and how to market it. If Americans like
the product (as they do), they’ll buy it; if not, they won’t. As for
children being exposed to violence in films, music and television, it’s
up to parents to advise their offspring. The notion that stiffs like
Gore and Lieberman are going to dictate what our children can watch or listen
to is repugnant.


John Waters,
in that same Times article, summed up the Democrats’ threat in a
typically succinct manner: “It seems to me that we have more pressing problems
in this country than kids sneaking into R-rated movies. I think this is all
ludicrous. You tell a kid there’s something they’re not allowed to
see and of course they want to see it. You show me a kid who’s not sneaking
into R-rated movies, and I’ll show you a failure in the making. The future
C.E.O’s of America are all sneaking into R-rated movies.”


CEO Jann Wenner
knows something about that–his career is loaded with stories about him
being loaded: on vodka, cocaine, pot, whatever was in the Rolling Stone
office. His magazine, in the early days, regularly ran a column called “Dope
Notes.” He started the publication on a whim, mostly so he could meet his
rock ‘n’ roll heroes, maybe ball a few chicks or guys on the side.
It’s testament to Wenner’s entrepreneurship and resilience that he’s
now a multimillionaire media mini-mogul. Here’s to you, mate–let’s
have a round for the American Dream. But please: spare us the palsy-walsy routine
with presidential candidates who want to threaten your very livelihood. Stick
with Mick, Yoko, Bowie and Tom-Boy Cruise.


Last Sunday,
Lynne Cheney, wife of Bush’s runningmate Dick, said on CNN’s Late
Edition
: “Al Gore, I think, must have an extraordinarily low concept
of the American people’s intelligence to think that he can, in the daytime,
ride around in a school bus and talk about values, and talk about how important
it is to raise the culture so that our children can thrive, and at night, go
to a party with the entertainment industry, raise millions of dollars, listen
to scatological jokes about people who are concerned about the entertainment
industry marketing adult products to our children.”


We happen to
think Cheney is bonkers on the issue of moral decay, but she’s right on
the button about Gore’s hypocrisy.


By the end
of last week, it seemed the Democrat ticket was getting a little nervous about
their brash twin-killing of rapping the knuckles of entertainers while taking
their money. Lieberman, at yet another fundraiser in a Beverly Hills mansion,
said: “We will nudge you, but we will never become censors… I promise
you this: we will never put the government in the position of telling you by
law, through law, what to make.”


What happened
to the six-month deadline, Joe?



Best Self-Deluding
Branch of Journalism

Geriatric Rock Critics



Rocker ‘n’
Roll.
A man of 50, let alone 60, is so far out of the context in which new
music is made and received as to make any opinion he may have of it totally
irrelevant. We hate seeing men that old writing critiques of new bands and recordings
as though their opinions and tastes could still be current, accurate or in any
way useful. And yet the major journalism venues are still lousy with first-generation
boomer rock critics, still churning out reviews of records, bands and concerts
they have no business discussing in a public forum, especially in influential
media centers like The New York Times and Rolling Stone, where
their reviews, however daffy, might seriously impinge on the careers of young
musicians.


Robert Christgau,
the self-proclaimed “dean” of rock criticism and inventor of a quasi-academic
A-through-F grading system for record reviews, is approaching 60 and still writing
about new bands and acts for the Village Voice. He first wrote about
music in Esquire in 1967. The New York Times‘ critics include
Stephen Holden (who’s been writing since the 1960s) and Jon Pareles (mid-40s).
The Los Angeles Times‘ Robert Hilburn turned 60 in 2000. Greil Marcus
is in his mid-50s. Numerous less-well-known hacks at numerous other newspapers,
magazines and electronic venues are also writing about rock and hiphop despite
having met or passed middle age.


These old men
of rock criticism are the precise equivalents of Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend
and the other old men of rock. They are simply too old to be making credible
rock criticism. They should be retired. The Washington Post kicked
up a storm of criticism last year when it did just that to one of its geezer
rock writers, but we thought it was absolutely the right decision. Taking old
guys off the youth-music beat is not only logical, it also frees up some slots
for willing younger writers. Let the older writers move on to write about mature
people’s music–the opera, jazz, the blues, even geezer rock if they’re
union and you can’t budge them. We understand: they’re boomers, therefore
they are constitutionally unable to stop liking and caring and writing about
rock. But there is something inherently wrong about them passing judgment on
music made by young musicians for an audience of even younger people.


“Bands
like Rage Against the Machine are not meant for people in their 40s,” Robert
B. Ray of the Vulgar Boatmen told Lori Robertson in the July-August American
Journalism Review
. Robertson’s article–”Golden Oldies”–was
rich with old farts like Christgau and Pareles defending their right to keep
covering youth music. Ray identified two problems. On the one hand, there’s
“critical senility”–the simple, inescapable inability for a rock
critic approaching 60 to really get with a new band–or even worse, a whole
new genre of music. What, for instance, can a white man of 60, who was raised
and had his critical faculties honed on folk and rock and soul music, possibly
have to say about hiphop or electronica or rave culture? At how many raves of
the 1990s did Stephen Holden or Robert Christgau dance th

..