Part Two Best Howard Stern-Obsessed Website …

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Part Two

Best Howard
Stern-Obsessed Website
Marksfriggin.com

King of
All Losers.
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: we’ll
temp till we’re dead. And since that means having to be at work around
9 every weekday morning, there are whole chunks of Howard Stern that we miss.

Not to fear,
though, because Marksfriggin.com provides as excellent a summary of all the
grotesque blather we need from everyone’s favorite Jew (or “half-Jew,”
as Stern insists) as we can find. But beyond the utilitarian value of his website,
Mark’s own semi-developed sense of humor has us laughing our asses off
quite often. We call it “semi-developed” for two reasons. One is that
Mark is always deprecating his own ability to spell and/or write effectively.
And the other is that anyone who’s as much of a fan of Stern as Mark is,
is obviously arrested in one form or another. If Howard is Christ, then Mark
has got to be John the Baptist. There’s something breathtaking about how
he veers, within a single paragraph, between monkey-spanking misogyny and childlike
wonderment about mundane details of no inherent value.

Then again,
if you check out the site’s archives (which date back to January 1996)
and compare them to Mark’s ongoing daily log, it’s clear that he’s
barely evolved as a human being during the last five years. Never mind that
we hardly ever get to read anything of a significantly personal nature about
Mark in the first place. The bipolar tone remains unchanging throughout. Read
enough of Mark’s stuff, and it actually becomes appealing for how real
it is. His relative incompetence as a writer is as big a part of why he’s
a great writer as anything else.

Eventually,
Mark is going to have to write about something beyond Stern and any number of
the porn queens who appear on his show. But while Howard is still around, we’re
glad Mark provides the service he does. We even e-mailed him once, to that effect.
His reply? “Yeah, I’m kind of glad I don’t have a life, too…”

Best Fourth-Rate
Imitation of Maureen Dowd
Maureen Dowd

A Bag Lady
in 15 Years?
Sorry, citizens of Zabar’s Nation and DC’s Palm restaurant,
but even when The New York Times‘ Maureen Dowd was allegedly
at her peak, influencing pea-brained journalists at big-circulation dailies
and small, we didn’t buy her sweet-streetgal-with-a-dagger shtick. The
front-page Times stories were bad enough, but when she traded up to the
op-ed page and dopey pols said dumb things like “I tremble when her column
is in the paper,” it was only a matter of time before Dowd became a parody
of herself.

That she’s
a buddy of wormboy Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who probably
bribed (not in cash, silly!) the rigged Pulitzer panel to tap her over
far worthier competitors like Michael Kelly, Nat Hentoff and Charles Krauthammer,
makes us want to rage against the machine.

Not that Dowd
isn’t capable of a clever line or two. We thought this Aug. 9 insight was
worth one and a half nods:

“As though
this presidential campaign did not already have enough father-son drama, now
comes the mother of all [points deleted for egregious cliche, and one more worthy
of Andrea Peyser or John Podhoretz] contests between Father and Son.

“The main
battleground state is the state of grace. Democrats and Republicans are seeking
a geographical advantage, but it is celestial. Both sides seem weirdly obsessed
with snagging a divine endorsement.”

And after Al
Gore kicked Bill Clinton out of the country, Dowd, on Aug. 23, was actually
funny, even though she once again fell off the wagon and wrote in the voice
of her subject: “I am feeling so empowered today, I’m going to do
an extra set of reps. Man, those biceps are looking especially chiseled today!
Watch out, rural waitress moms, suburban soccer moms and 18-to-24-year-old single
female urban dwellers! This stud is coming to a town meeting near you!”

Finally, on
Aug. 27, Dowd landed a blow to GWB’s glass jaw: “W. won’t come
out of his room. He’s curled up down in Austin around his favorite feather
pillow. When the going gets tough, the Napster hits the sack.”

But Dowd’s
fatal problem is that, aside from an admirable loyalty to her Irish-Catholic
family (strange that she would continually mock the Bushes for their own fealty),
she has no core beliefs. At least not that she’ll let on to readers, even
when that happens to be her job. It’s objectionable enough that the dowdy
middle-aged woman can’t let a week pass without fouling a column with Hollywood
allusions, but when she writes about politicians sticking a finger in the wind,
she might as well be looking in a mirror. Not that she owns one.

When Bill Clinton
finger-wagged at the American public, Dowd was incensed. When Ken Starr investigated
the President’s self-inflicted troubles, she called him a peeping Tom.
When Gore distorted primary opponent Bill Bradley’s record, the Times
box-office draw cried foul.

And when Bush
had the audacity to call her colleague Adam Clymer an asshole, she self-righteously
wrote (Sept. 6): “President Smirk can’t get elected. If W. is not
mature enough to hold his tongue around an open microphone during the big kickoff
day in a week when he desperately needs to turn things around, how do we know
he won’t get up to his old frat pranks in the Oval Office, chasing world
leaders around bilaterals, trying to brand them with hot metal coat hangers?”

Why, Maureen
Dowd is positively existential!

However, even
this weird, off-putting woman, who revels in the company of similarly vacuous
journalists in Washington, DC, isn’t completely thought-free.

She don’t
believe in Clinton!
She don’t believe
in Tipper!
She don’t believe
in Poppy!
She don’t believe
in Karenna!
She don’t believe
in Reno!
She don’t believe
in Kissinger!
She don’t believe
in Woodward!
She don’t believe
in Reston!
She don’t believe
in Menck-en!
She just believes
in McCain.

Yoko and McCain.

That’s
reality.

Best Reason
to Hate Donna Shalala
Swing Shalala from Those Bridges.
When she was president of Hunter College,
Shalala caused to be built two bridges across Lexington Ave., thus ruining one
of the fine urban vistas in New York: the view down the avenue from the 90s.
She could accomplish this because, as a cultural institution, Hunter hadn’t
to abide by the kind of zoning regulations that the rest of us have to accept.
But when cultural bureaucrats like Shalala act on our behalf, they are able
to act like esthetically antisocial pigs.

Best Masquerade
Journalist
Gail Sheehy

Schoolmarm
Strikes Out.
Republican candidates for national office, with the once-in-a-lifetime
exception of John McCain, can expect a double standard from the elite media,
which is accurately viewed as a unofficial satellite of the Democratic National
Committee. Fair enough. The GOP has the NRA and Corporate America in its pocket;
Democrats have the unions, the trial lawyers, Hollywood and the press. Those
are the rules, and if you don’t want to play by them, don’t seek a
career in politics.

However, given
those parameters, there are “journalists,” often afforded large readerships,
who aren’t honest or ethical. We’re not talking about gnats like The
Boston
Globe‘s Thomas Oliphant, who runs errands, undoubtedly
free of charge, for the DNC; or even gadflies like The New York Times
Maureen Dowd, a sad woman lost in the balcony of an empty movie theater.

No, there’re
bigger fish to fry. Years ago, Sidney Blumenthal was a double agent, writing
for The New Yorker while advising the Clinton White House. Eventually,
he took an official job with the administration and no longer polluted that
magazine. We could be wrong–there are many, many candidates–but currently
there’s no greater journalistic fraud than Gail Sheehy, the psychobabble
witch who struck it rich ages ago with the now-forgotten book Passages.

Sheehy, who
last year published a hagiography of Hillary Clinton called Hillary’s
Choice
, is now in the news for her smear on George W. Bush in the October
issue of Vanity Fair. Never known to concern herself with small details
like facts, Sheehy concocts a profile of Bush, just in time for the presidential
election, in which she claims he’s a dyslexic, lazy man who also suffers
from attention deficit disorder. His sunny disposition, Sheehy writes, might
qualify him for the job of baseball commissioner, but certainly not for the
presidency of the United States.

The lengthy
article, headlined “The Accidental Candidate,” is mostly a rehash
of previous takes on Bush: he gave up drinking at 40; wasn’t involved in
protests against the Vietnam War; once challenged his dad to a “mano a
mano” fight; drifted through Andover, Harvard and Yale; struck out in the
Texas oil business; and made a bundle of money when the Texas Rangers, in which
he had a small financial stake, were sold. Si Newhouse, who is very generous
in the writing fees he gives Conde Nast contributors, was really taken for a
sap with this piece, since 95 percent of the story is old news.

Sheehy, who
on the July 17 edition of Rivera Live had the gall to call herself a
nonpartisan, “straight-arrow” journalist, contributes money to political
candidates and causes. According to the Federal Election Commission, she’s
given $3550 since July of 1999; recipients include the left-leaning Emily’s
List, Hillary Clinton, Bill Bradley and the New York State Democratic Committee.
Laughably, through a Vanity Fair spokeswoman, she contends that
the Bradley donation was necessary in order to attend one of his fundraisers.
As any legitimate journalist will attest, political candidates not only waive
for reporters the cost of admission to such events, they pray that they’ll
show up. Free publicity beats television advertising by a mile.

Here’s
a sample of Sheehy’s nonpartisan style: “Normally, people would take
a man at his word. Except when he is running for president. And not when he
is running what sounds more like an evangelical movement than a political campaign,
and fervently declares, as Bush does, that ‘to truly change the culture
we must have a spiritual renewal in the United States.’”

“Evangelical
movement”? Surely Sheehy is confusing Bush with the splendid Alan Keyes.
They do all look alike.

And what of
Al Gore? In a June 2 New York Times op-ed piece, Sheehy laments that
the Veep “tries too hard to be perfect.” Now consider that this blessedly
short essay was written when Gore’s campaign was in meltdown mode: If Joe
Lieberman’s God has any mercy at all, He’ll forbid a Sheehy update
on Gore to appear in the Times.

So we’ll
have to make do with what this mentally challenged woman said four months ago.
“Bill Clinton gets away with being brainy by sounding folksy and never
making voters feel stupid. George W. doesn’t worry about improving on his
father’s malapropisms. He doesn’t read books and is proud of being
nonintellectual. But he gets his ideas across as fast as Instant Messaging,
and in a caffeine-high, dumbed-down America, that’s what counts… Won’t
somebody tell [Gore] he doesn’t have to be Ozymandias? Americans don’t
want a king, but they might like an authentic Al Gore.”

Here’s
a novel thought. The next time Vanity Fair assigns a writer to cover
a political candidate, perhaps an editor could actually spend an hour or two
of research to find out if the proposed author has any conflicts of interest.
Is that naive? We’re not sure: maybe it’s time for another passage
of our own.

Best Hypocrisy
in a Bookstore
Politics and Prose

And Partisanship.
On Sept. 12, The Washington Post reported that Politics and Prose,
an independent DC bookstore the article called “influential,” had
“banned” Matt Drudge from making an author’s appearance there
when his Drudge Manifesto comes out. Drudge, of course, played it up,
replying that he in turn would ask his publisher, New American Library, not
to ship copies to the store. On Sept. 13, the store’s owner, Carla Cohen,
posted a reply on its website (www.politics-prose.com) that was a marvel in
dissembling. First, it declared, “we absolutely will” carry Drudge’s
upcoming book. Over his dead body, apparently. And yes, while Drudge had been
turned down for a speaking appearance, this was not the partisan play it seemed.
Here’s Cohen’s explanation:

“Politics
and Prose has approximately 30 speakers each month. We turn down three out of
every four requests that we get. [From figures of Drudge's stature? We
doubt it, judging from the posted September schedule.] We try to balance our
program with authors of politics and history, science, fiction, and other subjects.
We select authors on the basis of the quality of their work, as well as the
subject matter.

“We did
say no to Matt Drudge’s publicist… His publicist asked and we said no
thank you; our calendar is full.

“Matt
Drudge does not need Politics and Prose as a venue, nor do I wish to sponsor
an event where I find the author engages in gossip and slander
.” Our
emphasis.

Finally, the
truth: she doesn’t like Drudge, surely doesn’t like his politics or,
no doubt, his anti-Democratic slant, and didn’t want him in her store.
Fine. Absolutely her right. Why couldn’t she just say it, instead of dithering
about the store’s chock-full calendar, and telling the Post it had
nothing to do with politics? “It is a privilege to be attacked by Matt
Drudge,” Cohen declares. Drudge might want to reply in kind: It is a privilege
to be snubbed by such a smugly complacent DC insider.

Best Example
of Bill Clinton’s Hubris
2000 Democratic Convention

This Could
Be a Long List.
It wasn’t apparent at the time–last Aug. 14, when
the Democrats convened in Los Angeles–that Al Gore’s Herculean achievement
just a few days later was to successfully separate himself from the man he served
with for almost eight years. Instead, it was Bill Clinton’s night, and
as he kept the crowd, as well as the compliant major tv networks, waiting, and
then strode to the podium as a mutant Roman gladiator, the Vice President’s
campaign team was grimacing.

Clinton is
unchallenged for self-absorption among all the political scoundrels who’ve
soiled the White House. While he was certainly the most gifted politician of
his generation–perhaps in the past 50 years–that’s the only characteristic
that historians will put in the positive column of his legacy. We didn’t
agree with Clinton’s social philosophy–actually, who could, when it
constantly changed to suit his permanent campaign?–but he was given the
opportunity in 1992, aided by a Democratic Congress, to craft a singular domestic
and international doctrine. Instead, the country got lies, obfuscation, temper
tantrums, criminal fundraising, dirty tricks, oratorical fluff and the most
corrupt presidency since that of Richard Nixon. And at least Nixon had the dignity
to resign his office.

At the end,
Bill Clinton was the original Mr. Me, Myself and I.

And so it was
fitting, at the conclusion of his speech in Hollywood, that he left the rapturous
crowd of quota-selected union teachers, labor leaders, gay activists and PETA
kooks with the following tribute to himself.

Clinton said:
“And remember, whenever you think about me, keep putting people first.
Keep building those bridges. And don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”

After his speech,
Gore actually lost polling ground to Gov. George W. Bush. It was only after
Clinton left the city, and the public’s mind, that the Vice President began
his astonishing comeback in the upcoming presidential race. We have a hunch,
given that result, that even Democrats won’t ever be thinking about
Clinton, except in a sour, did-we-really-ever-support-this-con-man sort of way.

Best Professional
Revisionism
“The Pulitzer Prize Photographs: Capture the Moment”

Newseum/NY

All the
News That’s Shit to Print.
The facade looks like we’ve always
pictured the Ministry of Love: impeccably polished metal and plate glass, stretching
farther and farther upward. Above the doors is written FREE SPEECH. FREE PRESS.
FREE SPIRIT. Taking its cue from discriminating Barnes & Nobles, details
from the exhibits are ornamentally festooned on the exterior of the building
dedicated to the history of American journalism, which, we can’t help but
notice, is located on Madison Ave.

Assuming New
York were London, with Madison Ave. transposed across the Atlantic, a journalist’s
museum on that strip would be the sort of wry joke we’d grin at while drunk.
But the American media culture is vastly different from its British counterpart,
much to the detriment of those with little patience for sanctimony, and so the
Freedom Forum’s Newseum looks and functions like the architectural ambitions
of Regis Philbin. We learned what sort of unscrupulous posturing that entails
during a visit to this exhibit honoring nearly 60 years of Pulitzer Prize-winning
photographs and their photographers. After descending the curved staircase,
we encountered some familiar images; in particular, the anguished Columbine
students snapped by George Kochaniec Jr. of the Denver Rocky Mountain News.
The photos are tight around the crying faces and the relieved hugs from parents.
For a media museum to display these pictures is disgraceful, committing the
mortal sin of omission. Any shot of the bereaved survivors at a wider angle
would have included the vultures that descended, local and network, print and
broadcast. However scandalous the British media may be, with the summer’s
“name and shame” campaign against pedophiles being the most recent
controversy, the British would have handled Columbine with the solemnity that
didn’t occur to American media when the tragedy occurred and isn’t
even an afterthought at Newseum.

If we learned
only one thing from Sidney Zion’s 1982 Read All About It! it’s
that a tremendous number of the decisions concerning what we read all about
are made by very drunk men. These men should be respected, but they should not
be venerated, with few exceptions. This is a valuable lesson that will never
be taught at this museum, which rouges over the bruises. Consider the exhibit’s
screening of the TNT documentary profile Moment of Impact, about seven
Pulitzer photographers. It’s narrated by Sam Waterston from Law &
Order
, whose gruff timbre is the English transliteration of the elk’s
language. One of these profiled photographers is Sal Veder, who shot the iconic
1973 tarmac embrace of a returned POW with his overwhelmed family. “Pointedly,”
Waterston announces, “in Sal Veder’s photograph, the hero was invisible.”
The day we accept that a war correspondent’s heroism eclipses a POW’s
is the day we cast a ballot for Al Gore because he “saw action.”

Aside from
noting that the clear plurality of photographic Pulitzers over the last 25 years
have been awarded to documents of journalism’s triptych of starvation,
refugees and natural disasters, we found the subtext of the Newseum’s exhibition
vastly more interesting. The typical jeremiads over balance, dedication and
objectivity were repeated in “Capture the Moment”‘s wall captions.
Dedication was certainly exhibited. Balance would have been demonstrated by
a depiction of the accompanying media frenzies, photographs neglected because
of newsroom politics, photo-doctoring in pursuit of a desired visual nuance
a la Time‘s O.J. blackening–in general, the sort of investigative
pursuit Newseum valorizes when journalism hones its focus to every other profession
or endeavor. As for objectivity, we’re of the opinion that the closest
thing resembling objectivity is intellectual and emotional distance between
chronicler and event. Newseum’s portraiture, of course, was closed airtight
on its subject.

Best Washington
Post
Editorial
Sept. 20

Calling
a Candidate’s Bluff.
There’s little doubt that The Washington
Post
will endorse Al Gore for president in late October, which is their
prerogative. But it’s heartening to see that the Post, one of the
three most influential dailies in the country, isn’t prostituting its reputation,
as is The New York Times, by acting as a newsletter for the Gore-Lieberman
ticket.

A recent editorial
proved that very point. It read, in part: “More than most people in public
life, Vice President Gore has mastered the intricacies of public issues like
arms control and the environment. His current rhetoric demonizing business is
a blemish on that serious record. In lashing out against big oil, big pharmaceutical
firms and big health maintenance organizations, Mr. Gore is playing the demagogue,
and he himself must know it…

“He speaks
with glib certainty of a ‘quality of life’ that people ‘deserve,’
as though post-operative hospital stays were a birthright, or at least a federal
entitlement. But for better or worse, health care for most of the population
is not an entitlement. What’s more, during the primaries, Mr. Gore took
a deliberate choice not to propose a federal guarantee of care, even though
he faced an opponent who pressed him on this issue.

“The candidate
plans to go after, in the same vein, a different industry every day, each target
undoubtedly poll-tested…

“There
are fair points to be made about the right balance between free enterprise and
regulation, and useful debates to be had. Mr. Gore seems more intent upon telling
us that he’s for the people, not the powerful. Given his history, the slogan
seems about as sincere as it is useful.”

Best Advertisement
for a State of Mind
Volkswagen’s “Pink Moon”

I Need More
Quiet Times, by a River Flowing.
You know the commercial: Zoom in to a car
cruising along a bridge across a river at night. Four beautiful twentysomethings–male,
female, multiethnic–are in the car. They drive down a lonely road, surrounded
by trees and stars, to the tune of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon.”
Pull up to a party, note the festivities and, without saying a word–just
a few glances–decide to leave. The viewer understands that they would rather
be with one another, silently driving, than maniacally drinking with 50 of their
closest friends.

So, yeah, appropriation
and all that: blah blah, poor Nick Drake, dead and his songs are being used
for car commercials. But as much as we love Nick Drake, we also love this commercial.
It’s calming. An ad for a car, yes, but to us, it’s also an ad for
contentment. A realization that 24-hour fun is not possible. That maybe the
better option is the Friday night at home, instead of the Friday night in the
adult amusement park below Houston. We’ve been trying lately to be more
like this: to be content, to realize that this is okay. Maybe not the best it
could be, but okay. Okay.

Best Example
of the Post Parodying Itself
“Granny Killed in West Side Traffic Tragedy,” Aug. 17

Amnau, the
Sidewalk Aristotle.
It was the dead middle of August, reporters bored and
cranky and, we figured, their editors all on vacation. Perfect chance to slip
a little ultra-tabloid black humor into the pages of the Post. Or maybe
all the adults were away and the summer interns were running the ship. Either
way, Eric Lenkowitz got our attention with a boxed report, which had this beautifully
surrealist nonsequiturian lede: “An 80-year-old grandmother who had a passion
for the theater was hit and killed by a truck yesterday as she walked to buy
tickets for a play, a relative said.” The poor “Granny,” we learned,
was crossing W. 20th St. “on her way to pick up tickets for a show”
when she was smashed under a truck. Comes now that favorite prop of tabloid
reportage, the shocked sidewalk eyewitness–in this instance, one “Amnau
Karan, 37, a writer”–to report and philosophize:

“She had
no head on her body. They put her head in a bag. It was like a horror movie.

“Who would
think you just walk out of your house and now you’re laying there with
no head?”

Indeed, that’s
one to ponder.

Best Political
Website
National Review Online

www.nationalreview.com

Kickin’
a Little Ass Every Day.
William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review,
the seminal conservative journal he started in 1955, was getting a little musty
around the edges by the mid-90s, a plain fact that was only accentuated by the
debut of The Weekly Standard. Due to financial constraints (which is
beyond us, since it’s not as if conservatives can’t tap wealthy contributors),
NR is a biweekly; consequently, despite a deep reservoir of talented
writers, the magazine is often stale by the time it reaches subscribers’
mailboxes.

A few years
ago, however, bold changes were implemented at NR (we could only imagine
the howls from its readership), including an overdue redesign and the installation
of young Rich Lowry (now 32) as editor. This year, under the leadership of editor
Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online has solved the magazine’s
timeliness problem: every day, about a dozen new entries are posted, written
by staffers and guest contributors (such as New York Press‘ Russ
Smith). Unlike most websites, like the Standard‘s or New
Republic‘s, which simply post a partial list of that week’s
print stories, National Review Online presents up-to-the-minute commentary,
sort of like the rapid-response tactics that successful political campaigns
employ.

A few excerpts:

Stephen Moore,
Sept. 15, 10:40 a.m.: “So if the Austin powers are listening, my message
is this: Start pounding Gore-Lieberman for lurching the party back to the loony
Left. Bush should debate Al Gore dozens of times before the elections. Every
time the veep opens his mouth he utters some new scheme to grow the government
and undermine individual liberties. That’s an act that wears thin over
time.”

Say it again,
Brother Moore, and louder!

Rich Lowry,
Sept. 13, 5:00 p.m.: “The New York Times is on a roll: Yesterday,
the paper splashed on the front page a Rick Berke ‘scoop’ about the
word ‘rats’ appearing in a Bush health-care ad, an item that had been
reported by Fox News two weeks earlier. Today, the Times runs a misleading
editorial on the story. It all may represent the poorest journalistic performance
of the campaign season… It wasn’t until the word ‘rats’ was
noticed by a Democrat, and brought to the attention of the paper by the Gore
campaign, that the Times pounced.”

And one of
our favorite NRO pieces, “Love on the Arno,” written by occasional
New York Press music writer Jay Nordlinger for the July 29-30 weekend
posting, recalls the author’s 1984 stint at the Istituto Michelangelo,
where he was alone among American students in not feeling ashamed of his country.

Nordlinger
writes: “One day, a teacher at the Istituto decided to conduct a little
political session. After the usual denunciations of the U.S. and its cowboy
president, the teacher turned to me (I must by now have acquired a reputation)
and said, ‘And now, Jay will defend America.’ I stood up and said,
‘America, given all that it has done for the world, particularly on this
continent, has no need of a defense.’ Then I sat down… In the fall of
’84, after I had gotten home, Vice President Bush debated Geraldine Ferraro–and
he said something that sounded strange to many ears, but that was sweet music
to mine. He said (speaking of Reagan, of course), ‘It’s a joy to serve
with a president who does not apologize for the United States of America.’
I knew just what he meant. Exactly.”

Best Line
About Al Sharpton
We Found Our Church upon This Rock.
Chris Rock is starting to look like
a black Howdy Doody–a wicked twinkle in his eye, that skinny-ass body that
looks like someone’s controlling him with strings, that wooden smile. Still,
the man manages to come up with some good lines on his HBO show once in a while.
Upon noting recently that the Rev. Al Sharpton had been awarded an honorary
doctorate, Rock sniped, ” Al Sharpton is a doctor like Col. Sanders is
a military hero.”

Best Trend
in Commercial Publishing
Do-It-Yourself

How to Stop
Being a Whiny Bitch and Get Your Book Published.
Every year since the mid
1980s, ninnies have whined that the increasing consolidation of commercial publishing
into a single global monolith has been killing the “mid-list” book.
This year it was the Nation ninny Eric Alterman doing the loudest whining.
Every year for the last several years, we’ve expressed the counteropinion
that the fewer boring, formulaic I Went to 10 Writers’ Programs titles
of Contemporary American Fiction the editors at HarpeRandopf & Sons manage
to publish for their friends, sycophants, family members and selves, the better.
Besides, as we’ve also kept noting, the continuing consolidation of the
big corporate publishing firms into UniGlobalOmniCorp Publishing Ltd. is an
incentive to everyone else in the publishing industry to do things smaller,
smarter, better, faster, more cleverly and innovatively. And there’s a
vast world of publishing entities beyond the big half-dozen New York firms,
even though you wouldn’t know that from the way they dominate all discussion.

So it was really
cheering this year to see Stephen King, of all people, decide to sidestep the
slow, ridiculous bureaucracies of big commercial publishing and simply put his
book out himself as an e-book. That Stephen King, the 800-pound gorilla of American
publishing, decided to go DIY was an event of huge significance that should
have terrified all the middle managers at UniGlobalOmniCorp and sent sunbursts
of joy into the hearts of every little poetry publisher and zine grrl in the
land. E-books, print-on-demand technology and zero-inventory publishing are
all workable alternatives to the corporate monolith. They’re not likely
to make Ms. Midlist Author rich and famous or get her a shot on Oprah,
but if she’s got a passion about getting her work in front of potential
readers, the avenues are there. And for Stephen King to give DIY e-publishing
his personal imprimatur is immensely important. Stop your sniveling, Mr. Sensitive
Novelist, and put your damn book out.

The inauguration
of Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s Books sent another signal. It works a
different paradigm, attempting to demonstrate that publishers, authors and readers
are all well served by streamlining the long and tedious gyrations commercial
publishing goes through to put out a book. McSweeney’s produces a handsome,
hardbound edition in weeks, compared to the year it often takes a manuscript
to pass through the bureaucratic bowels of a major publisher. He cuts a very
straightforward financial deal with the author, verging on a gentlemen’s
handshake, eliminating a whole layer of agents and lawyers and accountants.
Similarly, the instantaneous marketing potential of the Internet bids fair to
make obsolete the antiquated system whereby sales reps flog seasonal catalogs
of titles to the bookstores, a process that guarantees a depressingly and needlessly
long wait from completion of a book to its actual appearance in public. Whole
forests of dead wood could be eliminated from the publishing industry were others
to follow this example.

Yes, those
are just two examples, both with celebrity writers behind them, both using funds
they earned from big commercial publishing. We are not unaware of the ironies.
Still, the fact remains that there are hundreds of other university, independent
and online opportunities for the Eric Altermans of the world to publish their
nebbishy books if they must. To whine that UniGlobalOmniCorp won’t help
them get rich and famous doing it is outrageous.

Best New Columnist
Robert Bartley

The Wall Street
Journal

No Bark,
All Bite.
Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley, who oversees
the paper’s editorial pages, is unquestionably the most influential and
accomplished journalist of the past quarter-century. Not only are the Journal‘s
editorials the most engaging and provocative in this country–even if you
don’t agree with the opinions, there’s nothing dull about them–but
the brisk intellectual content offered is unmatched by its “upmarket”
competitors. Hence, you won’t find an inconsequential doodle on the winter’s
first snowfall or the annoying presence of mosquitoes at one’s summer home.

Bartley’s
domain is mostly a laboratory of conservative and libertarian ideas, and while
he’s at the upper end of middle-age, often the editorials are written by
men and women who aren’t yet 30. And yet the editorial section isn’t
limited to one political slant–Alexander Cockburn once wrote for the paper;
former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich, too liberal for Al Gore, recently
contributed a piece on school vouchers; and even Camelot stalwarts like Arthur
Schlesinger Jr. are allotted space. And let’s not forget Albert Hunt (a
weekly columnist), a paleoliberal whose political soulmates, and probably cocktail
party buddies, are the dreadful Margaret Carlson, Eleanor Clift and E.J. Dionne.

Last June,
Bartley began a column of his own, a hopeful signal to Journal critics
that he was slowly, in New York Times-fashion, being fattened up for
the slaughterhouse. Happily, the personally soft-spoken and polite Bartley has
disappointed most detractors, for his Monday pieces are as potent and witty
as you’d expect from a man of his stature.

For example,
in his Sept. 11 column, Bartley refutes the right-of-center charge that there’s
a vast-left-wing conspiracy in the mainstream press, arguing that “there
are a lot of conversations about fairness, balance and objectivity; these ideals
are still a powerful force in shaping the media.” We think that’s
a generous assessment, but the editor refuses to point fingers or name names.

Instead, as
in this instance, he uses a scalpel instead of an Uzi, writing: “We also
know, however, that journalists are a remarkably uniform group. In the hothouse
of the Washington press corps, they could just as well have all been stamped
out of the same press… [S]tudies have found that elite journalists are especially
‘liberal’ on lifestyle issues such as abortion, sex and drugs. The
reason for this is simple and powerful: self-selection. These are the people
who want to go into journalism, as opposed to business, engineering, medicine
or whatever.”

He then discusses
the pack mentality of the Beltway media and the tendency of peers to write the
same story. So, in this election cycle readers were subjected to a ream of McCain
Is God punditry, Bush Has It Wrapped Up predictions and, until last week, Gore
Will Win in a Landslide stories. As Bartley writes: “Gov. Bush got a pretty
good ride during his convention, and Al Gore an even better one during his.
And the vice president has sustained his momentum since with a series of largely
unexamined but ultimately preposterous promises of largesse to one and all.”

It’s clear
that Bartley is rooting for a Bush victory in November–even though it was
equally obvious last fall that the Texan wasn’t his or the Journal‘s
GOP candidate of choice–but unlike the Times, which acts as a press
agent for Gore, Bartley is quick to criticize Bush. We agree with the Journal
that Bush hasn’t been forceful enough with his tax cut plans–or as
bold; what happened to capital gains tax reductions?–and Bartley is blunt
about Bush’s rocky campaign in September: “Having taken the hits for
‘going negative,’ Mr. Bush now needs to elevate the issue with a serious,
not mocking, elaboration. I myself would be reassured if Gov. Bush showed he
understands how much the fabric of society has been strained by the Clinton-Gore
coverups.”

He concludes:
“Press stereotypes will change…and the ideal of balance means they do
inevitably favor the Democrat. If the stereotype of the day ever becomes ‘Is
Gore lying again,’ the vice presidential goose will be cooked.”

Also new in
the Wall Street Journal universe is the introduction of a free website:
OpinionJournal.com. Posted every day, you’ll find there the likes
of John Fund, Peggy Noonan, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Mark Helprin, James Taranto,
Max Boot, Thomas J. Bray and Paul Gigot. Links to recommended sites are also
included, as are daily editorials.

Best Campaign
Meltdown
Hillary Clinton

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