Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sundried Tomatoes That Slither Into Your Bathtub Are Delicious

I mean, am I wrong? Don't they look juicy and yummy, garnishing your salad or a nice pasta? This helps me not be squishily freaked out by this movie. These nuggets from the Yahoo! movie page also help: (1) There is a character named Grant Grant; (2) apparently the heroes "come face-to-face with an older-than-time organism intent on absorbing and devouring all life on Earth" (which is hard core); and (3) the movie was shot in Vancouver. Yay Canada!


Jill Carroll has been released. Wow. There IS good news from Iraq! This is a great day.

The Left and Right agree: plagiarism is bad

Here's a link to my latest post on HuffPo today, wherein I celebrate the union of the Left and Right in denouncing plagiarism. Tomato-watchers may notice that it went up briefly here and then I took it down - I drafted it in Blogger because the type is easier to read in draft than on the HuffPo system, where it is very small. I know there is a way to fix it but I haven't yet figured it out.

I also call Jack Shafer on his assertion that critics of WaPo online editor Jim Brady were specifically criticizing him for not pre-screening Ben Domenech for plagiarism (it seemed to me that critics wondered what of Domenech's earlier work qualified him to fairly counteract Dan Froomkin, and they also criticized the assumption that Froomkin needed to be counteracted). I noted that Shafer's two links did not, in fact, provide evidence that the blogosphere was dinging Brady for the non-plagiarism check. In the comments section to the post, someone says that no, plenty of people were, in fact, doing said dinging for the said non-pre-check. I say, sure, but that's for Shafer to prove. In the blogosphere, if you're going to assert it, you gots to link to it. If that paragraph made any sense to you at all, I will be very surprised.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

This Is The Line That Will Break A Thousand Sox-Fan Hearts

"In the driveway of Johnny Damon's boyhood Orlando home, his father's Honda Odyssey still sports a Red Sox bumper sticker. 'I have to change that,' says Jimmy Damon. 'I keep forgetting.'"
New York Magazine, April 3, 2006

Gigantic huge honking girlcrush on Lara Logan


Girlfriend smacks it down on Howie Kurtz, Laura Ingraham and all the media hatas something fierce:
KURTZ: ...But critics would say, well, no wonder people back home think things are falling apart because we get this steady drumbeat of negativity from the correspondents there.

LOGAN: Well, who says things aren't falling apart in Iraq? I mean, what you didn't see on your screens this week was all the unidentified bodies that have been turning up, all the allegations here of militias that are really controlling the security forces.

What about all the American soldiers that died this week that you didn't see on our screens? I mean, we've reported on reconstruction stories over and over again, but the [official responsible] for Iraqi reconstruction says that only 49 of well over 100 planned electricity projects happened.

So we can't keep doing the same stories over and over again. When a police station's attacked, that's something new that happened this week. If you had any idea of the number of Iraqis that come to us with stories of abuses of U.S. soldiers and you look at our coverage over the last -- my coverage over the last few weeks, or even over the last three years, there's been maybe two or three stories that have related to that.

So, I mean, we have to do the stories that when we've tested them and tested them and checked all our sources, and that they are legitimate stories on that day, that that is the biggest news coming out of Iraq, then that's what we have to do.

KURTZ: So what you're saying...

LOGAN: I mean, I really resent the fact that people say that we're not reflecting the true picture here. That's totally unfair and it's really unfounded.

KURTZ: So what you're saying is that what we see on the "CBS Evening News" or other networks actually is only a snapshot, is only perhaps scratching the surface of the kinds of violence and difficulties that you are witnessing day after day because you can only get so much of this on the air?

LOGAN: Oh, yes. Absolutely. And, I mean, our own -- you know, our own editors back in New York are asking us the same things.

They read the same comments. You know, are there positive stories? Can't you find them?

You don't think that I haven't been to the U.S. military and the State Department and the embassy and asked them over and over again, let's see the good stories, show us some of the good things that are going on? Oh, sorry, we can't take to you that school project, because if you put that on TV, they're going to be attacked about, the teachers are going to be killed, the children might be victims of attack.

Oh, sorry, we can't show this reconstruction project because then that's going to expose it to sabotage. And the last time we had journalists down here, the plant was attacked.

I mean, security dominates every single thing that happens in this country. Reconstruction funds have been diverted to cover away from reconstruction to -- they've been diverted to security.

Soldiers, their lives are occupied most of the time with security issues. Iraqi civilians' lives are taken up most of the time with security issues.

So how it is that security issues should not then dominate the media coverage coming out of here?
I mean, BRAVA! I can't explain the combination of exhilaration and pride I felt first reading the transcript, then watching the segment. Here's where she smacks down Laura Ingraham for dissing journos in Iraq for only "reporting from hotel balconies."
LOGAN: Well, I think it's outrageous. I mean, Laura Ingraham should come to Iraq and not be talking about what journalists are doing from the comfort of her studio in the United States, the comfort and the safety.

I mean, I don't know any journalist that wants to just sit in a hotel room in Iraq. Does anybody understand that for us we used to be able to drive to Ramadi, we used to drive to Falluja, we used to drive to Najaf. We could travel all over this country without having to fly in military helicopters.

That's the only way we can move around here. So, it's when the military can accommodate us, if the military can accommodate us, then we can go out and see.

I have been out with Iraqi security forces over and over again. And you know what? When Bob Woodruff was out with Iraqi security forces and he was injured, the first thing that people were asking was, oh, was he being responsible by placing himself in this position with Iraqi forces? And they started to question his responsibility and integrity as a journalist.

I mean, we just can't win. I think it's an outrage to point the finger at journalists and say that this is our fault. I really do. And I think it shows an abject lack of respect for any journalist that's prepared to come to this country and risk their lives.

KURTZ: All right. I do...

LOGAN: And that's not just me. That's the crews, that's all the people that make up our teams here.

KURTZ: I do want to point out that Laura Ingraham was in Iraq last month for eight days, and that was part of the reason for her appearance.

Lara Logan, stay with us. I want to bring...

LOGAN: For eight days.
Did you hear that, Cheney? Did you hear that, Rummy? How do you like them apples, Harvey Mansfield? Three cheers for Lara Logan, reporting live from Baghdad.

Transcript here, video here. Her words are so powerful that you're not even distracted by how drop-dead beautiful she is.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What's nu?

It's official: I'm writing a book. As reported in Publisher's Marketplace and Arianna's lovely welcome post at HuffPo, I'll be working on JEW-ISH, the essential guide to shiksas, latkes, and why there are so many ways to spell Chanukah. Oh, you already knew all that, big shot? Yes yes, you're very smart. Now go call your mother.*

Actually, in addition to being a primer on all things Jewy it will hopefully be an exploration of why being Jewish matters nowadays and what qualities define being Jewish to the world and to ourselves, like identifying strongly with Israel or Larry David or ordering very specifically in a restaurant. What? We like things how we like them.

In addition to basic info ("The Bible in 500 words or less!")(NB: One of those will probably be "smote") I'll be talking to plenty of people about what makes them Jew-ish. So far I have discovered that many Jews have opinions. Yes, I am breaking new ground with this one. Other fun topics will include Why Our Parents Still Wish We Were Doctors, The Purpose of Shabbes Goys (and what to do with them for the rest of the week, wakka wakka) and The Jewfro: Oy, There Goes My Blowout. Also addressed: "There are Jews in Canada?"

I am extremely excited about this project and extremely grateful to HarperCollins, baruch hashem, and to my Jew-licious agent Kate Lee. I am also grateful that I get to write off my trip home for Pesach this year. Woo hoo, Toronto, I'm afi-komen home! Eek. That one maybe crossed the line.

*Yes, I know the "call your mother" joke was used in the announcement and Gawker etc. So sue me (not that I'd advise it, seeing as I once brought my parents much nachas by becoming a lawyer).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Every little bit counts

I've taken my crusade against slimy Senator Bill Napoli to the Huffington Post, where I reiterated my surprise at how the fetishized violence of his, er, "justification for abortion" has caused nary a ripple at the major news outlets. I was also happy to provide readers with a link to Sen. Napoli's contact information via the helpful South Dakota Legislature webiste — and happier to learn that by 4pm today his contact information had been removed from the site. Chekkit here: Napoli no more. Which is pretty freakin' awesome, because it means that the message has gotten through (check out a few of the emails dropped by HuffPo readers in the comments to my post. Awesome). Thanks to those who read and emailed, and thanks to those who won't let this thing go just because the news cycle has left it behind. Power to the people, baby. Love it.

p.s. Our Zeitgeist-Tracking Google Search for "sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it" is now at 16,800. Ha - make that 16,801.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Zeitgeist, Tapped

I just went to my original "Tapping Into The Zeitgeist" post to see how many hits the "sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it" Google search was up to. Thanks to the amazing guys at Wonkette (including guest-star sub-in DCeiver), who publicized South Dakota Senator Bill Napoli's hateful, sickening comments not once but twice, the Google hits are now up from the original 757 on March 13th to...are you ready...drumroll, please....15,000!!!!!

That is SO huge. The power of the internet! I'm grinning like a fool. How cool is that? HOORAY! New York Times and Washington Post, take note: this IS a story. Time to acknowledge it.

Tapping into the Zeitgeist
[Tomatoes Are Delicious]

Tallinn, Harjumaa, Estonia

This merits an update — since my last post on the subject, the international community agrees: Tomatoes ARE delicious! I'm giddy with joy to welcome my reader from Tallinn, Estonia (where I will forever regret not visiting when I lived in Stockholm) and also my brand-new friends from the following international cities (and provinces/principalities/states, helpfully provided by Sitemeter, which has so much to teach us):
  • BELGIUM: Mortsel, Antwerpen (is that Flemish or, um, Twerpish?)
  • MALAYSIA: Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan
  • CZECH REPUBLIC: Prague, Hlavni Mesto Praha
  • AUSTRALIA: Chullora, New South Wales
  • UK: Leeds (where The Who once played live)
  • JORDAN: Amman (or a woman, har har)
  • ISRAEL: Undisclosed location, but look at that! Readers from Jordan and Israel, united by tomato-love! Could we have stumbled on a diplomatic solution?
  • CANADA: Downsview, Ontario (Hey! Could you stop by Pancer's and pick me up a pastrami on rye?)
  • USA: Mountain View, California (oh, Google. I love watching you watch me. But now you can't pretend that you didn't know about this.)
By the way, if these hits are being generated by some auto-bot international web-crawler thing, please don't tell me. I will be crushed. I'm happy being at the center of my own little United Nations, even if it's just in my mind.


(God, I really hope my humour translates. Person from Amman, please understand that that's just my way of making a joke.)

When does the fun start, again?

From Sunday's New York Times business feature, already #1 on the Most-Emailed List:"Why Do So Few Women Reach the Top of Big Law Firms?":
Ms. Matthai said that conditions for women had improved a good deal over the last 30 years, but added: "We have a long way to go. It's my dream that more women will stick it out in the law until they get to the fun part, and it just breaks my heart to see them giving up the dream."
The speaker, Los Angeles County Bar Association President Edith Matthai, misses the point: if they're not "sticking it out" until they get to "the fun part," it's probably because "the part before the fun part" kind of sucks (some might call it a soul-straining, spirit-breaking nightmare of stress, pressure, all-nighters, mind-numbing work and erosion of an outside life, but why get into specifics?).

I was glad to see that the NYT didn't fall back on its usual pet — and pat — rationales that women either (a) are going into the workforce with a plan to opt out; (b) get into the workforce and decide to opt out; or (c) really really tried but just aren't capable of doing it all, so they opt out. Still, I think it would have behooved the author to actually interview young associates — female and male — to see what they actually think (Ms. Matthai's experience notwithstanding, I'd rather hear a young associate explain firsthand why it's not worth "sticking it out" at a law firm). AK at Penguins On The Equator makes a good point, namely that "most of the lifestyle problems at firms likewise present difficulties for male lawyers who want a fulfilling family life or social life outside the confines of the office" — see that played out thoughtfully at Opinionistas (who is an expert in the lifestyle challenges of law firm life!), in a telling conversation with a male co-worker.

As for the gender divide, well, I can say from my own experience that there certainly doesn't have to be a difference between the male and female experience, but there usually is. This does not mean that women can't have a fulfilling and enjoyable career; I can think of a whole bunch of whipsmart, happy, balanced, productive and successful lawyers amongst my female friends. But, that doesn't mean that there aren't certain challenges, or situations where suddenly you feel your head smack into a heretofore-unseen glass ceiling. Again, it doesn't mean you can't crash through it, if you want to; I just know a few other women who didn't want to fight that hard (NB: we're talking about law firms here. I know plenty of women — and men — who have gone one to happy, fruitful careers in-house). I'm just saying that it can be rough: my most enthusiastic and gung-ho lawyer friend, a mid-level associate at a midtown Manhattan law firm, has spent the past three weeks straight in the office, round the clock, sneaking furtive catnaps under his desk as more assignments come his way. He's on track for a 300+ hour month of March. Opinionistas has more stories like that (this is a good starting point). If firms are serious about retaining good people, they should pay attention to stories like these — and if the New York Times is serious about finding out why young female associates are dropping out on the way to the corner office, it should just ask them.

UPDATE: Opinionista weighs in.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Shout-out to Wapella, Saskatchewan!

It's been two weeks since I added Sitemeter to the blog, and I have spent way too much time checking back to see if any new readers have visited the site. I know. Nerdy. But fun! I'm excited to say that Tomatoes has clocked over 3,000 visitors, which might not be much for one of them fancy blogs but is certainly exciting for me.

Probably the coolest feature Sitemeter offers is the chance to check out where your traffic is coming from. I've been floored to see how far-flung my visitors have been and I just wanted to say domo arigato to the reader in Japan, tack så mycket to my amigos in Sverige, kiitos to their neighbors in Finland (no hard feelings for the hockey, my Nordic friends), and "g'day, mate" to the nice Aussies in Heidelberg, Victoria, AU. No doubt this varied and variegated visitation is due to the generous linkage by the slap-happy lads at Wonkette (thanks for taking up the cause, gents!) but either way it's been cool to see visitors from Selma, Alabama to Sofia, Bulgaria to Puglia, Italy to Hudson Heights, Quebec (Vive le Candada! Vive le Quebec!), plus my new BFFs in Souths Africa and Korea, the Philippines, Poland, and Civrieux-d'Azergues, Rhone-Alpes, France, which sounds delicious. Supa-special shout outs to "Are You From" Willowdale and "It's Worth The Drive To" Acton, both in my lovely home province of Ontario, Canada. Finally, a little love to Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. I'm sure it's worth the drive there, too.

The point is, it's been SO cool seeing you pop in for a visit. This newfangled internet thingie really is something. Please come visit again soon, and feel free to holla back if you're jealous of the fella from Wapella.

p.s. Here's where I got that pie graph. Mmm, pie.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It's all Greek to me

I have no idea what any of this means.


I am really, really excited about this.

(And this, but in a different way.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Liza with a Zed

You'll never turn her vinegar to jam, Mein Herr.

(NB: That's how we say it in Canada, kids.)

Harry Potter and the Welcome Lack of Magazine Pretension

Hard as it is to believe, there are some grown-ups out there who scoff at Harry Potter and the lovable gang at Hogwarts. Which is why I was so pumped to find a totally earnest Harry Potter-related item in New York Magazine, complete with in-refs and a non-patronizing use of the word "Muggle" (possibly the most over-used word in the "let's describe the crowds waiting for Harry Potter books" media lexicon). Props go to author S.Jhoanna Robledo for dropping lesser-known HP arcana like galleons AND knuts, plus the correct use of "apparating" (which some publications can't take for granted). If this post is indicative of too-high levels of Harry Potter geekery for you, relax, I'm only doing it for the hits. And if you believe that I've got a S.P.E.W. button that you can wear.

Harry Potter and the Montauk Hwy.? [New York]

Related: My impromptu HP essay on the eve of the release of "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" this summer. One of my favorite things I did at Fishbowl, reaching extraordinary heights of nerditude as it was written on a Friday night from about midnight to 1 am. Oh please, what exactly are you doing right now that's so impressive? Hmph. Exactly.

Harry Potter And The Hordes of People At Bookstores Right Now [FBNY]

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tapping into the Zeitgeist

From Google:
  • Number of hits for "What are you benching, buff guy?": 13,400
  • Number of hits for "sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it": 757
Getting there. Don't forget about South Dakota Senator Bill Napoli, everyone! He deserves censure, too.

Thank God I'm a Man

Yesterday's NYT mag featured a Deborah Solomon interview with Harvey "I Put The 'Man' In" Mansfield, author of the forthcoming book "Manliness," which laments the loss of manliness in a "gender-neutral" society. I have better things to do than read the book — I think I've got me some socks that need darning — but Solomon's interview provides a preview. Apparently being a man boils down to "confidence in a situation of risk. A manly man has to know what he is doing." Manly men who take manly risks include Arnold Schwarzenegger ("he took a risk with his reputation"), Dick Cheney ("He hunts. And he curses openly") and President Bush ("What are you benching, buff guy?"). Women, on the other hand, are neater, and "make nests."

For the record, not even my kindest friends would describe me as "neat," though there may be something nesting in my oven since I haven't turned it on in over a year. I curse. I hunt (I think that qualifies, with the added bonus that no one gets shot in the face). As for confidence in a situation of risk, well, the surest example I have is of a mother's instinct when her child is in danger. I've seen it. Wowee, them little fillies can shore move fast.

Of course, it wouldn't be a discussion of manly men without a nod to how much smarter they are, too. Consider this compelling excerpt:
Were you sorry to see Harvard's outgoing president, Lawrence Summers, attacked for saying that men and women may have different mental capacities?

He was taking seriously the notion that women, innately, have less capacity than men at the highest level of science. I think it's probably true. It's common sense if you just look at who the top scientists are.

But couldn't that simply reflect the institutional bias against women over the centuries?

It could, but I don't think it does. We have been going a couple of generations now. There are certain things that haven't changed. For example, in New York City, the doormen are still 98 percent men.
Ohhh, the doormen. Well, that explains it.

Here's the thing: how good can these men be at science if they never offer any goddamned PROOF that they're better at it than women? Sheesh.

Of Manliness and Men [NYT Mag]
The Manly Man's Man [Boston Globe]
The Manliest of Manly Men, Man [Broadsheet/Salon]
AUDIO: Thank God I'm A Man [Shock Treatment*] (lyrics here)

*Via Big & Sharp. Thanks Kyle! You're manly!

Far be it from me to say "I told you so," but...

"I am a Liberal. Fire away."

Attractive, principled AND quotes Pat Benetar? Now THAT's presidential.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Blog Synchronicity

Back when I was at FishbowlNY, I desperately tried to popularize a phrase I coined called "blog synchronicity": The phenomenon that occurs when two or more references to the same thing come up on a blog independently of each other, like references to devout Christian major-league baseball players or Franz Ferdinand or fish soup. Delicious, if you like fish soup.

Well, in any case, I thought I'd give blog synchronicity another shout-out because it's been popping up right here on Tomatoes over the past few days. Very randomly, I mentioned Jessica Alba (as Playboy cover girl and fave of a starry-eyed Tom Shales); Dolly Parton (as awesome Oscar performer and as the subject of a White Stripes cover version I'm seeking); and also hardened, blind creatures who exist in a prehistoric world of darkness and the leaders of South Dakota.

The funniest irony of this post: I started it on Friday and left it in draft form over the weekend, just getting back to it now. When I went to FishbowlNY to search out "blog synchronicity," a forgotten post popped up which featured not only my go-to definition of the term but also one Jonathan Coulton. Cosmic!

Real-time semi-freaky example of blog synchronicity: this is actually kind of cool. As I type this I am listening to a mixed CD I made back in November, culled from some very random sources, inlcuding MP3s from an ex who tried to learn me some hip-hop. Right now, Wyclef Jean's version of "Wish You Were Here" is playing, which is truly hilarious given the title of the aforementioned go-to definition. Critics, don't mistake this for just any cover tune!

Well, anyway — blog synchronicity. With your help, we can make it a cool blog term! Or, at least, a blog term.

You can't make someone love you with a song

...unless you're Jonathan Coulton, with whom I fell violently in love back in the fall based on his hilarious, melodic cover of Baby Got Back. My idle weekend bloggery has led me to Coulton's latest Zeitgeist-tapping creative marvel, his Flickr-inspired song-and-slideshow which has made some guy named Dwyer famous in certain circles. I actually laughed out loud repeatedly and clapped my hands in delight. Highly recommended. Watch, listen, and procrastinate. Hat tip to Screenhead via Wonkette via Lindsayism, with props to Her Space Holiday for the song ref above. Dear sleeping giant panda, pleasant dreams.

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend [Her Space Holiday]

Wow, it's older than I thought. See Coulton's original post about it on Dec. 22/05.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Jack White is the new, er, White

Score from Kyle at Big & Sharp — the first single from The Raconteurs, the latest in the Jack White musical collaboration oeuvre. White's teamed up with fellow Motor City musician Brendan Benson and friends Brendan Keeler (drums) and Jack Lawrence (bass) (yes! There is bass!) to, er, racont. Kyle's got "Steady As She Goes" up on his site, and rightly points out that it evokes the first few chords of "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" by Joe Jackson, if it had thrashier guitars and was played in a minor key and was recorded in a Detroit attic. Look over there. Where? Yes, exactly.

Nerds will love the Raconteur website, which is a throwback to old-school Commodore 64-style DOS-style screens in a typically Jack White neo-Luddite style. Your mouse is no good to you here; you have to go search out the "H" key for "Home" or the "B" key for "Back." Kind of funny, though annoying if you're in a hurry.

More to the point: I took this pic of Jack White at the White Stripes concert in Union Square in October 2002, and was struck by two things: (1) He's smiling. How often do you get to see that? and (2) Is it me, or does he totally look like Meg Ryan? That shaggy 'do, those dimples, that pert, mischevous smile. Look, and then look again. It's true.

If you haven't already clicked to hear the song above, you can do so here too (I know, Mom, blogs are confusing).

p.s. If anyone out there felt like sending me mp3 of the White Stripes covering "Jolene" I'd be very pleased.

How Jane could cost Playboy big

By now you all know that Playboy's March cover girl, Jessica Alba, neither posed for the cover nor consented to have her bikini-clad image placed there. Alba flat-out refused to pose for Playboy, so the magazine instead finagled a publicity still from her upcoming "Into The Blue" and smacked it on the cover, complete with the bunny watermark over one bikini'd breast. Alba hit the roof and has threatened to sue Playboy for the "immeasurable harm" caused to her reputation; a February 23rd demand letter from her lawyers demands that Playboy cease distribution immediately and pay Alba an unspecified "monetary settlement" for its "unauthorized and tortious" use of her image. Needless to say, Playboy has not done so.

I read the letter*, and, they seem to have a pretty damn good case: according to Alba, Playboy offered her money to pose, she turned them down, so they obtained a saucy image of her by a ruse to her studio, Columbia Pictures. Despite Playboy's lame assertions to the contrary, it's a pretty decent assumption that a woman on the cover of Playboy appears nude or semi-nude inside (epsecially when it's encased in plastic, a la a certain issue of Vanity Fair). The caselaw seems pretty clear, too: Playboy clearly stands to benefit from Alba's "marketable celebrity identity value" (they branded her with a bunny, for God's sake).

What I find interesting about the letter is this: Alba's lawyers never actually describe exactly what her reputation is that it will be "immeasurably harmed" by the association with Playboy. I was expecting a long, florid paragraph about Alba's sterling and wholesome reputation as a role model to young girls, etc. etc. But then I realized that would open the door to Playboy to point out that she's played a stripper, appeared on the cover of Maxim (with quotes like "The scripts I get are always for the whore, or the motorcycle chick in leather, or the horny maid"), attended the MTV Movie Awards in a see-through dress, and gives interviews like this (on the phone to GQ: "I just wanted you to know that I'm half-naked right now and eating chocolate cake)."

Playboy could well make the argument that it doesn't owe her squat for so-called "harm" to a reputation that's already pretty sexed up (as one blogger wrote, "what reputation?" NB don't shoot the messenger here, kids, I'm just pointing out what Playboy might feasibly argue). What's an unwitting Playboy cover girl to do?

Prove that refusing to post nude is, in fact, part of her reputation. And this is where Jane comes in (yes, you'll read my buried lede and like it). In the October 2005 issue (in which she appears consensually on the cover), Alba is described as someone who "famously turns down nude scenes" and was actually "mortified" about her MTV Awards dress. But here's the kicker from the interview:
"Would you do a nude scene if someone offered you crazy amounts of money?"
She shakes her head. "So? A whore can do that."
That quote is a big ol' callout on page 83, emphasized so all of Jane's 700,000+ readers can see it: Jessica Alba, on the record, saying she'd never go nude and isn't a whore. That sets up a pretty distinct reputational line that an implication of nude posing by Playboy would surely cross. Which opens up a world of possibility for a "monetary settlement" for "irreparable harm."

Now this is, of course, just speculation on my part; so far all we have is Alba's legal letter and the fact that Playboy is still on the racks (er, no pun intended). But I do think it's interesting that it's a subject about which the letter was silent, and one which hasn't really been explored (at least from what I've seen, but it's a big world out there). I for one hope Alba kicks Playboy's ass and extracts the maximum amount from their sneaky, image-appropriating asses — Playboy shouldn't have the right to smear its smutty self all over a woman without her consent, especially when she's out-and-out said no. To the extent that my back issue of Jane can help her do so, so much the better.

*Yes, I'm a lawyer, but if you're Jessica Alba, I wouldn't rely on me.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

To Hell in a Hand(maid's) basket

Yesterday was International Women's Day. Yes, South Dakota noticed too.

A few super-special things to celebrate on Women's Day:
  1. Samuel Alito and his polite thank-you notes
  2. South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds and his compassion for the "most helpless persons in our society"
  3. Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi and his taxpayer-dollar saving frugality. A penny saved is a penny earned!
  4. South Dakota Senator Mike Napoli and his vivid imagination
As far as effective posts go, this would be more effective if I left it at that. Snappy, sarcastic, succinct. Except then I'd run the risk that you might not click through to the links. So I'll just say it straight out: women's rights are under real, tangible, scary threat in this country. South Dakota governor Mike Rounds has signed anti-abortion legislation that prohibits abortion with no exception for rape or incest. Mississippi is set to follow suit. Senator Enzi (R-WY) has proposed legislation that would allow insurance companies to opt-out of providing contraception. Meanwhile, the South Dakota ban will not go into effect unless it is upheld by the Supreme Court; good thing, then, that Alito is so chummy with James Dobson (yes, that James Dobson).

I've saved the scary best for last. Read this, from PBS's "NewsHour" report on abortion rights in South Dakota, in an interview with Senator Bill Napoli:
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.
Who thinks it's scary that a Senator has a graphic, fully-formed rape fantasy off the top of his head? There are so many things disturbingly wrong with this, I don't know where to begin. But I think this woman says it best. Kudos to her for her bravery. I read that yesterday, on International Women's Day. So at least I found one thing to celebrate.

NB: By the way, a Google search for "sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it" yields a number of blog hits, but nothing so far in the mainstream media that I've seen. Let's get on this guy, people. Please.

UPDATE: Newspapers are picking up Molly Ivin's syndicated column on this. Good. Now, more.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rock Furry Lobster

Welcome to the (new) family, little crustacean!

p.s. Is it me, or does "Rock Furry Lobster" sound kinda dirty? Motion in the ocean, indeed.

Huge burn on MSNBC

Wow. I just saw on TVNewser that NBC and CNN cleaned up at the AP's National Headliner Awards. NBC received nine awards. CNN received eight. MSNBC received one.

Why is this a burn on MSNBC? Here's the thing: one of CNN's awards went to "Paula Zahn Now" for Best Newscast, for her "Jet Blue Plane/Tornado/Hurricane Rita."

Who remembers the tale of JetBlue Flight 292? September 21, 2005: JetBlue flight 292 takes off from Burbank, realizes its landing gear is stuck, and circles tensely for three hours burning through fuel before luckily landing safely at LAX. The plane may be broken but DirectTV works just fine, which means that passengers end up being glued to their seat-back TVs, where MSNBC is reporting on the scary life-and-death situation, live.

Did you catch that? MSNBC. Back in September I called it "The Official Network of Watching The Plane You're On Almost Crash." This is because JetBlue doesn't carry CNN — something I figured out on a Sunday morning flight to California, confused as to why I couldn't find "Reliable Sources" on my dial (it does carry Fox; no idea why no one was watching). Either way, MSNBC owned this story — not only was it a huge part of the unfolding drama ("We were watching our own demise on TV!"), but Flight 292 passengers happened to include several NBC Universal employees returning to New York, which meant that MSNBC scored the first passenger interview with passenger Todd Schwartz, husband of MSNBC media relations director Leslie Zeller-Schwartz, who patched him immediately through to anchor Allison Stewart ("Glad you're alive, honey, thanks for the get").

Okay, so they've got a massive exclusive and they're an integral part of the story but — get this — there's more. Paula Zahn's report actually got a major fact wrong: she reported that the plane was dumping fuel. The JetBlue aircraft in question, however, was an Airbus 320 — and the Airbus 320 has no mechanism for dumping fuel. Zahn was incorrect. MSNBC, on the other hand, reported that the Airbus 320 could not so dump, instead creating drag with the wings to burn more fuel. MSNBC, as we now know, was correct.

Yet CNN still got the award. Oh, MSNBC. That must really mean you sucked.

Passengers Learned About Landing Gear Problem From MSNBC [TVNewser]
Transcript: Paula Zahn Now, Sept. 21/05 [CNN]
JetBlue Emergency Landing* [You Tube]

*Ironically, featuring CNN and Fox.

Let the Blue Plate Special shine a light on me

There are many reasons I wish I were in college again*, and now there's one more: Jay Rosen's "Blogging 101" class at NYU. I was intrigued last month when he told me about it when we spoke for my "Fishbowl Final" interview series (scroll down for his recommended reading), and have been doubly delighted and impressed this month with the launch of "Blue Plate Special," the class' slam-dunk website.

The first special on the menu is newspaper blogging, served up hot and delicious by Rosen's bloggy brood (memo to Blue Platers: nothing says "delicious" like tomatoes!). Newspapers should be paying attention: their analysis is rigorous and exhaustive, and they make a strong case for their conclusions. Editors should take notes and thank them for the free consulting services (NB to the NYT: Jay Rosen wasn't kidding, he really thinks WaPo is kicking your ass). Blue Plate's "State of Newspaper Blogging" chart is so very interesting, as are the comments (see how TimesSelect blogs didn't make the cut! And, why don't you make it sortable?). As a Canadian, I must admit that I was a bit disappointed to see the data limited to the U.S.; you can imagine my tearful joy to find a whole entire juicy big long blog post devoted entirely to the state of Canadian newspaper blogging (which itself is not nearly as big and juicy as it ought to be. C'mon, Edward Greenspon, read your email!).

There is a lot to be learned from Blue Plate Special, for newspapers and bloggers and readers alike. This is what happen when smart people take the time to really look at something: discoveries, insights, and thoughtful observations ensue. Let the Blue Plate Special shine a light on all of us; we'll probably learn something.

p.s. If you don't know CCR when you see it, maybe you'll know it when you hear it. Click! Listen! Sing along!

Blue Plate Special [PressThink]
Introducing PressThink's Blue Plate Special [PressThink]

*I'd say low metabolism, but this blogger was well-acquainted with the Frosh Fifteen back in the day.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

No love for Tom Shales

Today I am annoyed by Washington Post critic Tom Shales, and this is after loving his work on "Live From New York" which was an engrossing, fascinating and extremely thorough exploration of the "Saturday Night Live" phenomenon. When I found it at a Barnes and Noble for $4.99 several months ago — in hardcover — I bought two more to give as gifts. That makes me look like a big spender.

But I digress. The point is, his Oscar review was absolutely awful, on pretty much every level, as he contradicted himself and made more than a few — say it with me — facile and unsupported conclusions. Allow me to support these statements.

  • He makes the point that Jon Stewart bombed, with a monologue that "lacked a single hilarious joke" with the "possible exception" of the Bjork-shot-by-Dick-Cheney line. Talk about damning with faint praise. This completely ignores (a) the Brokeback cowboy montage — an unequivocal crowd-pleaser; (b) "I think I speak for all Jews when I say, "I can't wait to see what happens to us next"; (c) the joke about "introducing the presenters in order of how talented they are" and (d) "Night of a Thousand Sweatpants," which was typically and refreshingly goofy, especially for those of us in actual sweatpants.

  • Those are just a few high points from the actual monologue — in the rest of the show there was his Scientology barb; gentle pokes at Clooney's lothario rep; a close-to-home joke about how women are judged on their looks, undervalued and underpaid; the Tom Hanks vignette, which took stupid Gil Cates to task (or does it? Then I saw this); and riffs on how hard it was out here for a pimp ("Martin Scorcese: 0; Three Six Mafia: 1" off the cuff? Brilliant). Let's also not forget the mock campaign ads, an original and clever idea laced with subtle political commentary (lest we forget how "swift-boating" became a verb).

  • For those of you keeping score at home, these are all things that Shales did not mention.

  • What he did mention: "The audience at home does not want to look at clips. It wants to look at big-time movie stars." Shales goes on to offer evidence supporting this statement, such as polls conducted by the Academy, comments made by Gil Cates, and corroborating statements from other viewers. Oh wait, he doesn't. Let me say this: I, as one member of the audience at home, love the clips. I love seeing familiar images from movies I loved, seeing familiar faces a few decades younger, being reminded of how far the art has come, and how great it has been in the past. And hey, that past? It had a few big-time movie stars too.

  • Also, it occurs to me that VH1's programming consists pretty much of clip shows. Hm. How's that working out for them?

  • Shales qualifies one of his comments, at least: apparently the audience wants to look at big-time movie stars...and ogle Jessica Alba. Last I checked, Honey and Into The Blue do not a big-time movie star make.

  • Oh yes, this is my favorite part: "Stewart had five months, working with his legions of writers from the "Daily Show" on Comedy Central, to come up with good material. It goes to prove that there's still a big, big difference between basic cable and big-time network television after all." Yes, it's a pity that they couldn't have shipped in someone from "According To Jim."

  • Another interesting point: Shales gets through his whole article about how much the Oscars sucked — almost a thousand words — without mentioning producer and Oscar Scrooge Gil Cates. Instead, the whole thing is Stewart's fault. Typical. Blame the Jew.

    Memo to Jon Stewart: Keep Your 'Daily' Job [WaPo]

    NB: Thanks to Stephen Kaus on HuffPo for bringing this article to my attention. Some further salient points there. Joel Keller also touches on this at TVSquad, and a commenter reminds me about another hilarious ad-lib from Stewart after the montages: "We've run out of clips. If anyone has any film clips, please send them in."
  • Monday, March 06, 2006

    This guy's an idiot.

    I'm talking about Michael Kalin, whom the Boston Globe made sure we knew was a 2005 graduate of Harvard College, perhaps in lieu of providing any actual data backing up his ridiculous, simplistic, and attribution-free opinion piece called "Why Jon Stewart Isn't Funny":
    Stewart's daily dose of political parody characterized by asinine alliteration leads to a "holier than art thou" attitude toward our national leaders. People who possess the wit, intelligence, and self-awareness of viewers of "The Daily Show" would never choose to enter the political fray full of "buffoons and idiots." Content to remain perched atop their Olympian ivory towers, these bright leaders head straight for the private sector.
    Oops, sorry, he quotes de Tocqueville. He's SMART.

    Honestly, this article made me angry to read, not because I am an on-the-record fan of Jon Stewart, but because even more I am an on-the-record fan of calling out lazy writing, facile/unsupported conclusions and sloppy journalism. I can't believe the Boston Globe published this tripe. I'm not even going to bother tearing it apart other than to say that it's one of the dumbest fucking things I've ever seen.

    p.s. The author might want to "learn" how to "use" "quotation marks."

    (Thanks to TMFTML for drawing my attention to this. He provides an entirely different reason to hate on it. Ditto Ankush at Penguins on the Equator.)

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    That was the weirdest Oscars ever

    Am I wrong? They were boring, lacking in spontaneity, and almost entirely devoid of spice, despite Ben Stiller in a green unitard. They did, however, have Jon Stewart, who was struck the pitch-perfect note between acerbic and acceptable. Arianna will be pleased.

    Some thoughts:

  • Crash??? Wow. GO CANADA! (Lionsgate, baby.)

  • Robert Altman: Thanks to the thirty-something woman who died so that I could have 40 more years of moviemaking! Except he didn't actually say "thanks."

  • Jennifer Garner: "I do my own stunts." Best. Recovery. Ever.

  • I didn't see Brokeback Mountain. No one told me Jake Gyllenhaal sported such a goofy lookin' mustache.

  • Did no one show Gil Cates those Brokeback parodies? 'Cause it seemed clear to the rest of us that using the same music over and over again creates the same impression. Which may be why there weren't any speeches that really stood out. Jamie Foxx's sing-song speech from last year would not have been possible (remember, last year we weren't annoyed with him). Point being, that irritating music tinkling underneath the speeches did nothing for the show's spontaneity. I've already forgotten all the speeches that didn't have penguins.

  • Two words: DOLLY.

  • Two more words: Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep. God, that was fantastic to watch. Memo to Hollywood: More Lily.

  • As long as we're on the subject, I was loving the 9 to 5 shout-outs. Memo to Hollywood: More Dabney Coleman.

  • Homoerotic moments from westerns was predictable but hilarious. Even better was Jon's follow up: "Charlton Heston is cut! Guy looks like he's been lifting 20 commandments." Love it.

  • Was it me, or did Reese's repeated references to "characters" that had been "written" seem to inadequately acknowledge that they were based on real people that "existed?" But, I do love me a Real Woman.

  • Another Real Woman: Marilyn O'Connor, mother of Best Actor winner Philip Seymour Hoffman: "I'd like it if you see her tonight to congratulate her. She brought up four kids alone and she deserves congratulations for that." Classy and genuine. I wish I could have heard it without that stupid music underneath.

  • Tom Hanks getting bonked over the head with a viola: excellent. I kind of wish it had been Tom Cruise.

  • Charlize Theron has an entire other dress on her shoulder.

  • Line of the night — Jon Stewart praising Spielberg for Schindler's List and Munich: "I think I speak for all Jews when I say, 'I can't wait to see what happens to us next!'"

  • Steve Martin's weird kids: not funny the first time. With David Letterman: freakin' hilarious. For the record, I did and always will think "Uma/Oprah" was funny.

  • I hate those AmEx commercials — they're just so smug. And the M. Night Shamalayan one freaked me out. I was actually eating during that commercial. Not so much, after.

  • Is is hard out here for a pimp.

  • Clooney for President. Seriously, give it a few years.

  • Rob Corddry's voiceovers: awesome. Lack of Samantha Bee, anywhere: a blow to Canadians, indeed. Thank God for Lionsgate.

  • I'm gonna say it: Salma Hayek has a rack that just won't quit.

  • Runners up: Catherine Keener's hair, Nicole Kidman's dress (is it me or does she have a decidedly ursine look?), Michelle Williams' bold pairing of mustard yellow and bold red lips, Naomi Watts just being drop-dead gorgeous (up in some attic somewhere, a portrait of her is aging). I, on the other hand, am wearing fuzzy gray sweatpants. And a smile.

  • Poor Baldwin brothers.

  • Paul Haggis is my new favorite director, even if his name does not evoke my new favorite food: "I just want to thank those people who take big risks in their daily lives when there aren't cameras rolling."

  • Jon Stewart, ending with "Good Night...and get home safe." Psych! I think he was tempted. I mean, he really loves Clooney.

    Liveblogging the Oscars [Defamer]
    Liveblogging the Oscars [MSNBC*]

    *...which sounds boring but the guy is actually pretty funny. Actually, the MSNBC version is racier than Lisanti's version. That's MSNBC. What's up with that?
  • Friday, March 03, 2006

    Give Nick Sylvester a break

    Ever do something collossally boneheaded, mind-numbingly stupid and heart-stoppingly egregious? Odds are, yes. Okay, now, think of that moment. Now imagine it being plastered across computer screens all over the city, being emailed to all your friends, colleagues, anyone you've ever hoped to impress, everyone you've ever hoped to get a chance from. Nick Sylvester did something very, very stupid, and weak, and wrong. But he's 25. And this fuck-up has cost him his career and his good name. So cut the kid a break, okay? Because there but for the grace of God and a misplaced "Reply All" goeth us all.

    I read that story; he's a talented writer. And it was a good story, to the extent that it was right (The Game has worked — often — for a friend of mine). He may be an entitled Harvard twit; or, he may just have been a kid who cracked under the pressure; or, he may have simply thought the made-up bits were fine, added to the story and wouldn't make much difference. Obviously he knew better — we all do— and has to face the consequences, but still. It's time to leave him alone, and hope that he has it in him to suck it up and come the hell back. On the upside, this will probably make him way easier to work with in the future. Also on the upside, at least he didn't cross Oprah.

    p.s. Suicide jokes: never funny.

    Tomato Plug: Love for Party Central USA

    I'm kvelling: My good friends in the sketch group Party Central USA have two videos up at The Apiary, "kind of like the US Weekly of NYC comedy" according to Apiarist Nate, er, the Apiarist (Nate! What's your last name?). I have had lust in my heart for PCUSA for many moons now, and their latest show at the PIT is so hilarious that I've seen it twice and am going again this weekend (if that makes me sound like a loser, well, afterward I'm going to a party filled with male models, so suck it). Anyhow, I would urge you both to watch the videos and go see the show, because it is extremely smart, funny and high-concept stuff, and also, there is nipple.

    See you Saturday night; introduce yourself and we'll be BFFs and then go stalk hapless male models. In the meantime, enjoy the Herman's Hermits! As if you had a choice.

    Sometimes David Gregory Just Thinks Funny Things

    Today my love for David Gregory went through the roof as I giggled with him through his brief interview on Imus.* It's true, sometimes you do just think funny things. I used to crack up over the word "ganong." Ha, it still works.

    What also works: the power of suggestion. I'm not talking about my eerily prescient dramatic rendering of Gregory, drunk and hurting — that's a made-up story, boys and girls. Also a made-up story: that Gregory was drunk. I'm not saying he didn't sound drunk, or like drunk people we've known (or been). But beyond the fact that that's a fairly damning allegation, it didn't make sense. For one thing, he was calling into Imus before dinner, India time. What, he found a pub and spent the afternoon chilling over a cold one? Highly unlikely. Also, once he mastered the giggles, his description of the U.S.-India nuclear deal was incredibly lucid and succinct, which apparently characterized his follow-up call to Imus (mysteriously not mentioned on Drudge). TVNewser called it a non-scandal; Gregory didn't even think to mention it on his subsequent posts on the Daily Nightly.

    But, who cares — the power of suggestion/blatant implication is way more fun. Tabloid headline writers know that they can weasel out of libel with a well-placed question mark ("Did Jessica Cheat?" Brit Pregnant — Again?"); Drudge knows that trick, too. I don't know what his headline was after Dick Cheney had a beer at lunch and then shot his friend in the face; I'm guessing it wasn't "Dick Cheney Shot His Friend In The Face Because He Was 'Drunk'?" From Imus to Drudge to drunk dial jokes, the path was too easy. NBC denies it, of course, but would they need to had Drudge mentioned Gregory's sober-sounding second call? Keep in mind that a proper journalist would have made an effort to contact Gregory or NBC for comment, which surely could have answered his interrogatory. These are obviously hypothetical questions; obviously Drudge isn't going to make that call, he's not in the benefit-of-the-doubt business. But really, he should have, just as he should update and clarify his story today to reflect NBC's denial. We'll see. In the meantime, David Gregory, I'll see you between the moon and New York City. Ganong!

    UPDATE: No update. Friday, March 3, 2006, 11:06 am ET — nothing on the main site or yesterday's newsflash. In other news, my eyes are very angry at me for making them look at the Drudge Report. How is that site so popular? Red-state optometrists, credit where credit is due.

    Drunk David Gregory Still Smarter Than You [Wonkette]

    *Rejected headline for this post: "Imus? But He Doesn't Even Know Us!"

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    ...and Jon Klein's day is made