Saturday, April 30, 2005


Cole Slaw Blog has added a new site, Angry Black Bitch, to the permanent links list. Ms. ABB is like The Rude Pundit, but more volatile. I love her. Here's a sample:
Misguided Media Bitches. Please take notes. The school should have called an ambulance and had that bad assed child drugged. Keisha had become a danger to herself and others and needed to be taken down! Remove that shocked and appalled look from your face - if Dakota Fanning did that shit on the set during an interview you'd have her ass forcibly restrained! And you fucking know I'm right about that!

Riding the Bus With My Sister

If you do not watch this movie, you will not be invited to the next Monkey Clap Dance Party. That, homey, is not an order. It's a threat. Here's how CBS summarizes the key plot twist:
With no one else in the family willing to take on the responsibility, Rachel is forced to spend time with Beth (O'Donnell), her endearing, feisty and developmentally disabled sister who fills her days riding city buses.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Lamer than us

I'm watching Bill Maher interview Jeff Gannon/James Guckert. He/he has a blog. This is great news, because CrimeNotes and Flop are no longer the dumbest people on the internet.

Oh, and Paris Hilton. She's dumber than us, too. She doesn't have a blog insofar as I know, but she has a sex tape.

Cole Slaw Blog concert review: Bob Dylan is inscrutable

In summary, it was worth the price of the $100 ticket to hear "Tangled Up in Blue" and "Hard Rain" performed live.

It's more of a ritual than a normal concert experience. It's about being able to see one of the great American artists. It's hagiography. So even when he rocked out to "All Along the Watchtower," and his band sounded like a more polished, less spontaneous Crazy Horse, the feeling wasn't so much visceral as it was respectful.

The Victoria's Secret ad was the mistake of a career. He recovered with the great, rambling Chronicles, an encylopedic cultural history masked as autobiography. After the book, I appreciated him more than I had at any time since high school when I first found him. He isn't so flashy in reinventing himself -- unlike Neil Young, he doesn't pick fights. That's why Neil's current work is culturally relevant, while Dylan's new stuff is hit and miss. Masked and Anonymous, Chronicles, Love and Theft -- he's now more persuasive as a writer than a musician, and definitely more than as a filmmaker.

Listening to the great bootleg concert recordings published by Columbia, especially the 1975 recording of his performances with the Rolling Thunder Review, it's clear by contrast that he's not bringing the juice to his live shows. But unlike the Stones, there's no sense of cynicism. He isn't milking his image for a buck. He's craggy and snarly. Hearing him play "Tangled Up in Blue" at the Beacon Theatre, it's still like getting to hear Walt Whitman do a reading or standing over Picasso's shoulder while he paints.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Thursday Stylin': Let Them Wear Trunks

Today's desperately pathetic attempt to fill pages and grub ad revenue reminds us of the loss of that grand old tradition, the swimming pool full of naked guys; some articles on eye bags and beards; advertorial embarrassments; and the typical offensive assumptions.

The Paris 6: Before we learn that there's six fashion designers who have been rather successful at a young age, and probably have some shit in common, we get hit over the head and instructed that high fashion really is for everyone (and presumably, fit for consumption by everyone). Check it:
You don't have to be a fan of the reality show "Project Runway" to appreciate that fashion has become more and more populist. This is the age, after all, of the adolescent designer, the celebrity designer, the hip-hop designer, and the claimants have been as varied as Sean Combs and Esteban Cortazar, who was 18 when he held his first show.

And though fashion, like politics, is still an insider's game, with its own addicts and agenda-setting editors, nothing, it seems, can compete with the authentic judgment of bloggers and Web viewers. Ask yourself: How elitist can fashion be when the 20 most popular fall 2005 collections on received a total of 22 million hits in 12 days?

The rest of the article is an impenetrable forest of fashion-insider references and subordinate clauses. One assumes that only the most Stylin' of copy editors handled this piece. Or some poor bastard used to reading actual news threw up his hands, assumed it was all good and went to go buy some Snackwell's from the vending machine. If this makes sense to you, you're a better fashionista than Cole Slaw Blog:

Although one can point to designers who have achieved empire without a loss of prestige among insiders - Karl Lagerfeld and Ms. Prada for sure - and to others who have remained influential through innovation, like Rei Kawakubo and Azzedine Alaïa, members of the new group have come to the fore because their influence has derived from clothes. Not marketing campaigns, accessories or chatty celebrities, but clothes. This represents an ideological break from the late 90's, and the business model of Mr. Ford and Gucci.

Cole Slaw Blog read more accessible paragraphs in sociology textbooks. This could all be total bullshit, or not. Cole Slaw Blog lacks the fashion sensibilities of Stylin' Central, but we know abuse of the English language (as well as bullshit) when we see it.

The Tao of Skinny-Dipping: My co-blogger e-mailed me to say that this article, about the pleasure of males swimming naked with other males, and why it's something to aspire to, actually made him throw up in his mouth. I didn't ask why, but it's clear I should have. There's so many things in here that could easily make one spit up one's chicken curry. It's a classic example of NYT Stylin' sensibilities.

Sympathy for the privileged? Check.

The article's first two sentences are the kind of writing you imagine Sherman McCoy himself finding refuge in, as his world crashes down around him. "After long days spent defending their positions atop New York's most competitive fields, Manhattan's alpha males need to unwind. From mistresses to treadmills, these men have as many forms of relaxation as sources of stress."

Yes, why do our city's robber barons have it so hard? Between the taxes to pay and the mistresses to pork, certainly a capitalist needs a way to unwind. But what better way than to do so with one's wang on full display! The increasing rarity of such a pleasure (life's a bitch when you have it good) is a theme throughout the rest of the article, as is ...

Lust for the perks of wealth? Check.

All these private clubs! So exclusive! Five recommendations needed to get in to The Racquet Club! And just look at the members: Bond traders! Investment bankers! Hedge fund analysts! And in their 20s, for the most part! Successful alpha males! Oh, how the Stylin' crew longs for some baggy trunks to conceal their excitement.

But that exclusive inner chamber (the implications of which are manifest), how hard was it to get access? Well, "'It's a matter of the WASP ethic,'" said one investment banker in declining an interview ... " So plummy! So society.

What else have we got? Let's see ...

An utter lack of self-awareness? Check.

The Racquet Club on Park Avenue is a place where alpha males can swim without anything to encumber their precious nads. The article calls it "as much of a time capsule of the Gilded Age as can be found in Manhattan ..." And one can play "obscure racquet sports played since the time of the French Revolution by the kind of people against whom the French were rebelling."

This is the kind of shit that goes beyond the venalities that fill this section (and to a lesser extent, the rest of the paper). These are some serious implications.

I do realize this section is part of the Times' campaign to celebrate materialism, but this seems a few steps beyond holding up $600 jeans and Jonathan Safran Foer's Brooklyn pad as achievements. I know it's helplessly over-serious to allude to the lessons of history or some such shit, but the Gilded Age and pre-revolutionary France probably aren't times we want to revisit. Maybe if there's a revolution, the Third Estate can swear an oath in the pool at The Racquet Club.

Christian Diets: Fewer Loaves, Lots of Fishes: What would Jesus Eat? Well, I'm going to guess he didn't mix meat and dairy, didn't eat pork or shellfish, and occasionally, yes, liked himself a nice piece of fish. Apparently, ever since, Christianity has been about trying to reproduce Jesus' ripped abs on every crucifix. (Hint: Maybe it's genetic.)

Anyway, Christianity is apparently just another angle or way to market a product. How well do Christian diets work? About as well as secular ones. It should come as no surprise that some people who are faithful would appeal to God for help with losing weight. And it should come as no surprise that there are people who would exploit religion to make a buck.

"Look, it's no secret that some of the most popular songs, books and movies now are faith-based," said Jordan S. Rubin, author of "The Maker's Diet," which has sold more than a million copies. "Look at 'Purpose-Driven Life' and 'Left Behind' in books, 'Passion of the Christ' at the movies and musical artists like Switchfoot, who sell in the millions. In the pop secular marketplace people are embracing faith as mainstream."

Rubin, who in another life possibly sold the idea of marching bands or mass-transit solutions to town fathers, goes on to explain just how lucrative a line of work it can be, helping Christians shed pounds.

And like secular diets, they can be big business. Mr. Rubin said his book supports a line of supplements with sales of nearly $60 million last year. One of the largest programs, First Place, which started in 1981, says it is in 12,000 churches worldwide, offering participants a member's kit ($80) and Bible study ($20).

Doesn't sound exploitative at all! Unfortunately, the article doesn't even bother to explore that thread, just picks itself up and moves along, limning the rest of the world of Christian dieting in all it's mind-numbing glory.

One wonders why this piece is even in here among all the glitz and glamour of the Stylin' Section. Cole Slaw Blog is going to guess it's part of an yet another trend these days, called "Red-state pandering."

If we see future articles on the rise of the corn-liquor Cosmo, a blind tasting of smokeless tobacco or exurban gentrification, then our hypothesis will be in full effect.

Shaggy Chic: The Call of the Semi-Wild: Cole Slaw Blog would have loved to be in the meeting that resulted in this story being assigned, because it's basically just an article about beards and those crazy hipsters who sprout them. ("I know, let's do something about beards! I see them all the time on the L-train!")

Seriously, it's an article about beards. God bless its author, author David Colman, who managed to squeeze every single column inch he could out of such a witless assignment.

how do the talented editors at New York Times Stylin' Central manage to keep catch these important trends right at their apogee? It's a mystery. But somehow, whether it was by skill, luck or the need to fill a white rectangle on the page, the full backstory on those shaggy men who capture our imagination so can now be revealed.

And, oh man, what a tale. There are celebrities to cite and authorities to quote.

Like the apparently surname-challenged Jimmy Paul, who's so stylin' he won't even cut your raggedy-ass mop _ he works exclusively on fashion shoots. (Note: in journalism, this is called establishing the credentials of your source.)

Paul tells us that beards are not just of the moment, but "very, very current!" So current, in fact, that he didn't even take a beard trimmer with him on all of those exclusive fashion shoots until recently. Which makes beards not just current, but very, very current.

It's the currentiest trend that's fit to print! The article also quotes the style director of Cargo magazine, a publication which has done away with all pretense to informing readers about anything except what to buy. No wonder he's in the Times' rolodex! Rather fittingly, Colman also penned a beard trimmer buying guide as a sidebar. Hooray for celebrity-worshipping News You Can Use!

Wink (if You Dare) at All Those Remedies for Eye Bags: Even Vogue and Cosmo (probably) aren't this silly and vapid when they're writing about shit like this. Some examples of how even a topic as heft-free as eye bags cant' be made fluffier by The New York Times, which is impressed by the big words known by the manager of a cosmetics counter at Macy's. "'I'm not exactly sure what they're made from, but they get into the Langerhans cells under the skin and plump them up," said Ms. Davis, a tall young woman dressed in a white lab coat, which allowed her to talk about things like Langerhans cells with breezy confidence.

No wonder they got snowed on the whole Iraq war thing. But I digress. Back to the article's other offense, namely a throwaway line that nevertheless laments the lack of genetic research to fix eye bags. Yes, it's just a silly throwaway line in a silly, throwaway story, but because a friend of Cole Slaw Blog is a doctoral candidate in genetic research, we can't help but take some umbrage. Is it OK if she puts that off until after she cures cancer? Or is bald a hip new trend? Let's go to Moby's Lower East Side tea cozy and ask!

Fashion for the Adult Teenager, Too: News You Can Use if, like the rest of us, you scrimp and save in private so you can pick up the lunch tab at Cipriani and pay for that half-share in the Hamptons. Apparently, there's this store where you can buy fabulous clothes and accessories on the cheap! Thank you, sweatshop labor and thank you, Alex Kuczynski! (Weren't you an actual reporter once?)

This feature, called the Critical Shopper, shows us all how to look fabulous for less, beginning with a fun little anecdote about how everyone thought Kuczynski's earrings were like totally expensive, but they totally weren't. (Next week: Kuczynski replaces the coffee at Per Se with Folgers crystals.)

The astonishing part of this article is not the way that Kuczynski shows she can roll with the Stylin' Crew, with turns of phrase like "the words 'Forever 21' are simply a phrase one utters to the plastic surgeon" and "If stores were Hilton sisters, H&M would be Nikki, and Forever 21 would be Paris."

Thankfully, Kuczynski does mean to say that Forever 21 is badly overexposed and should just go away already. Not in the Stylin' Section, where Paris Hilton could make Profiles in Courage! No, Forever 21 is where readers can find "a dazzling array of silk chiffon halter tops, sequined denim jeans and terry cloth hot pants."

We're also treated to a slice-of-life vignette from inside the store, complete with all the guesswork and projecting that characterizes New York Times-style journalism, from political coverage to sports to the Stylin' Section.

At the same time two young women were clearly preparing for an evening out. One of them held a black key-ring halter ($15.80) to her chest and spoke a sentence in what sounded like Russian that ended with two words in English: "Friday night."

Her friend picked up a diaphanous green silk shirt and, holding it up against her friend's face, uttered a similar sentence, ending with the words "Saturday night." Judging by her tone and the emphatic lift to her eyebrows, Saturday night date's was definitely the more promising one.

Sounds like someone's gettin' laid! Or maybe not. Who knows when the journalistic sensibilities of the Stylin' Section and Alex Kuczynski combine! I'll spare our reader the rest of the article, which basically ended with Kuczynski getting all wistful about the days when she and her pals would prepare for nights out without, it should be noted, having a reporter who didn't speak her language guess at her plans.

The Power of One Foot Pushing: A half-page advertorial for scooters, but scooters that have a big wheel in front. Seriously.

Chanel Just Says No: Eric Wilson's indispensable column about some people who wanted to borrow Chanel gowns for a party to celebrate a gala for an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art sponsored by Chanel, but were told to dress themselves. Apparently, some people care about this. This is supposed to be the party of the year, but frankly, we can't see it topping the impromptu Monkey Clap Dance Party that broke out two weeks ago.

Off the Trail and Into the Woods: An entire column devoted to online shopping. Which, in 2005, is apparently still pretty hard to do. Nevertheless, our intrepid correspondent manages to walk us through the rigors of finding just the right equipment for a really light hike. Also, how to drop $25 on a lunchbox. Because the ad staff only was able to fill a third of the page with ads, there's also a helpful sidebar, about how to buy colorful objects online. What a valuable service the Thursday Stylin' section provides for our city's doltish materialists!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Future Welfare Queen

Cole Slaw Blog takes for a given that the way much of this country's right-wing commentariat demonizes anyone who doesn't hew to its worldview.

But the stunning venom in this recent piece on Marla Ruzicka is still surprising. To the point where I really don't know what else to say.

One can only assume that the author (I forget her name and am not about to go look it up) has tired of her role in the right-wing commentariat equivalent of the Gulf Coast League and has decided to make a splash by pissing on the grave of someone more thoughtful and courageous than she.

If true, this is someone without respect for the power of the printed word or the value of public discourse. Which would make her pretty much indistinguishable from most other right-wing pundits. Nice try, then.

I suppose she could get on the government's pundit dole. But then again, would that be taking personal responsibility?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Sunday Stylin': wherein the Times portrays women as masochists

In today's desperately pathetic attempt to fill space and gain advertising revenue, the Times exposes one very bad doctor, finds Brooklyn acceptable, and discusses a "sexless couple."

The Irish Patient and Dr. Lawsuit: Warren St. John wrote a good book about Alabama football called Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, and for that, Cole Slaw Blog is precluded from despising him. St. John isn't too bad today. Turns out that there's a plastic surgeon on Central Park South who fucks up. A lot. A very nice Irish lady visited him for a face lift and ended up dying. Because it doesn't feel right to be obnoxious about this article, I'm honing in on a paragraph that underscores some tangentially related sucking:
He also appeared in an article in the Wall Street Journal about Botox parties, in The New York Observer commenting on the appearance of Senator John Kerry and in an article in The New York Times about holiday tipping habits in Manhattan. (Dr. Sachs had given his masseuse and nanny cosmetic surgery for their tips.)
This brings back bad memories of the last election and the Kerry-Botox apocrypha. It also serves as a reminder that reporters are lazy. Lazy enough to quote a dude who's perpetually sued for medical malpractice. Somewhere, someone read this New York Observer article, in which a known quack riffed on John Kerry's alleged Botox injections, and was persuaded. You stupid goddamn reporters.

As for this junk about giving people plastic surgery for tips, screw off. Is there a more obnoxious Christmas gift than a dude who looks like a bloated-out Buster from Arrested Development implying that you're ugly?

When You Contain Multitudes. Times gets all literary in the Sunday Styles section! Quoting Walt Whitman in a headline, and in a teaser, ripping off Yale literary scholar Harold Bloom's phrase on the anxiety of influence to pimp a non-story about retailer H&M. Sounds like somebody got a B in poetry class!

In an article reminscent of a Friday Focus that Anu and I might have put together, the Times finds out that there are people of mixed race. Geetha Lakshminarayanan in Ann Arbor worries that someone might date her because she's exotic, "like an animal at the zoo." The article observes that "[i]t is hard to miss Heidi Klum and Seal in celebrity magazines."

Bullshit. Only hard to miss if you spend your life reading a bunch of crap.

"The so called ambiguous look is hip," notes writer Mireya Navarro notes. Later she observes that people of mixed races are "perceived as cool." This observation might be credible if the Times weren't declaring everything "hip" and "cool," including, in the past four days, wearing jeans, not wearing jeans, "big skirts," and, as we'll soon discuss, sandals. So, add racial mixing to the list.

Anyway, the article goes into a lot of stuff reminiscent of college orientation, and ends with an anecdote about a dude who hits a racist hockey player with a belt.

The Cry of the Sandal Is Heard in Our Land. This headline is intended to be melodramatic in a pseudo-funny/lame-irony kind of way. In contrast to the Thursday Styles stunner about people liking comfortable sneakers, it appears that ladies love sandals that hurt. Sandals give them blisters. Sandals cut up their feet. Sandals swell their feet. Sandals callus their feet. Women "walk into the store with their feet completely covered in blood." But it's all cool, because they get used to it.

So basically, all these ladies are masochists. And I'm wondering whether The Times doesn't have some kind of misogynist agenda. The Times's style sections seem geared toward portraying women as self-involved, self-destructive buffoons. Maybe someday they'll write an article that doesn't condescend to chicks, but we're not holding our breaths.

No Sleep Till Brooklyn. Here's another tired story about Brooklyn being cool, underscored by the uncreative use of the Beasties Boys in a headline. This article lacks timely relevance, but nonethless uses as its hook the long-known development that novelist and serial media whore Jonathan Safran Foer bought a new pad in the borough. A short article, but still a waste of space.

Elvis and My Husband Have Left the Building. Lady marries gay dude for immigration purposes. Dude gets a green card. They divorce so she can get into a Manhattan co-op. It's the dark side of Will & Grace.

Weddings/Celebrations: It will be Cole Slaw Blog policy not to mock the Times's wedding announcements. The announcements are symptomatic of people who've been corrupted by the Sunday Styles worldview. They are the victims. Instead of mocking them, we seek to offer hope, Coaster Pong, and a small glimpse at a better way of life.

The month in review

As of today, Cole Slaw Blog has been posting for exactly one month. To save time for our fans (all three of you) here's a summary of what you might have missed. In honor of Ralph Williams, I call this the "Yea/Nay" list.

Yea: coleslaw; Wing; Improv Everywhere; University of Michigan; Neil Young; Cleveland; columnist Connie Schultz; Saul Bellow; Coaster Pong; The Office (UK); the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Jeffrey Sachs; Jodie Sweetin; Topher Grace and friends.

Nay: stealing elections; timid college newspaper editors; as-yet-unidentified fiction writers in Brooklyn; police brutality; the Upper East Side; exorbitant wealth; Time Out New York; Tom DeLay; The New York Times; John Cloud; Meatpacking District.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Cole Slaw Blog celebrity sighting: Topher Grace

Cole Slaw Blog's proprietors, along with official blog pin-up Brian and blog perv Danielle, were enjoying some beers at Tavern on Jane when Topher Grace and friends took the table next to us. Mr. Grace was with two attractive but thoroughly non-skanky lady friends, and a gentleman whose apperance was compared to gadfly/provocateur [redacted]. Mr. Grace, best known for That 70s Show and In Good Company, struck us as unassuming and thoroughly normal. He dined on a large dessert, appeared to be a little drunk, and had no obvious connection to the Times's appalling style sections.

As surprising as it was to have Mr. Grace within poking distance of our group, the bigger surprise was how well behaved we all were. No one asked him to monkey clap; no one threw a projectile at him; no one dropped a Fez dig. Indeed, had he eavesdropped, he would have heard nothing more scandalous than Danielle's views on porn, an argument about Bright Eyes, and remarks about my co-blogger's lovelife. All in all, an impressive evening.

I just found this image of Mr. Grace, which bears no semblance to his behavior tonight:


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Thursday Stylin': sneakers, jeans 'n fatties

In this week's desperately pathetic attempt to fill space and draw advertising dollars, we get blue jeans, "big skirts," sneakers, and snark about weight.

Who Pays $600 for Jeans?
Not Cole Slaw Blog. Again proving that the Times is not just for smarties, this article presently is the most-emailed piece in today's paper. It depicts unimaginative people who think they need to distinguish themselves via bluejeans, most notably one Ms. Colette Leonard, who claims she wears jeans twice a day and needs to stand out from the other girls.

In what may be a credible effort to point out the lameness of the haute jean phenomenon (which we never knew existed, but hey, no one with an ounce of self-preservation would come to us for fashion advice) the Times includes the following:

Both the surfeit and the numbing sameness of goods on the market have conspired to produce a nascent cult of connoisseurship, experts like Mr. Brown say. In this new marketing sphere, even ordinary objects can be told apart by consumers whose extreme discernment becomes a subtle way of signaling status. Like Luis Buñuel's Tristana, Mr. Brown's new niche consumer can see three peas on a plate and know instantly which is the best.

"Every consumer decision now carries with it class and status implications in a way it didn't used to," said Barry Schwartz, the author of "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less" (Ecco Books, 2005). "As you add dimensions to goods, you add ways in which people can distinguish themselves." Thus is created a perpetual chase after status and cool.

In other words, these people are no better than the mall-wandering zombies in George Romero's 1978 zombie masterpiece Dawn of the Dead. Consumers are automatons, doing exactly what they're told, and willingly manipulated into spending outrageous sums of money for crap they don't need. Dear assholes: take your exorbitant income and write a check to the charity of Jeffrey Sachs's choosing.

By accident, this article teaches a profound lesson: they sure as hell don't hate us for our freedom.

Making Sure the Shoe Fits. This article is easily summarized. People want sneakers that fit. Thanks, Stephanie Rosenbloom.

Going With the Flow. This article is not targeted toward Cole Slaw Blog but that doesn't mean we can't hate on it. In direct contrast to a previous piece, writer Ruth La Ferla asserts that women are eschewing jeans for "big skirts." Cole Slaw Blog isn't sure what this means, except that the next time one of us Frenches a lady, she probably will be dressed like Little House on the Prairie.

Simple Store to Clear Your Mind, and Your Wallet, or, as Cole Slaw Blog calls it, simple article to clear your mind and your self-respect. We're going for a very simple critique here by ripping the shit out of the first sentence in the nut graf: "For the rarefied crowd that fits these guidelines, the Stella McCartney store in the meatpacking district must be a kind of paradise."

This assertion comes after a lengthy and elaborate description of said crowd and said guidelines, a demographic that makes us puke. Why, Alex Kuczynski (not to be confused with beloved Ninth Circuit judge Alex Kozinski) must you speculate? Why can't you speak to that rarefied crowd, and harvest quotes from that rarefied crowd? For surely, if they "must" find this store "a kind of paradise," their euphoria would be ringing through that third circle of hell known as the Meatpacking District.

But you don't even try, Alex. You don't even try because you're lazy. You're lazy, and you write for an insipid publication.

Losing Patience, Not Weight. This is actually a semi-serious article that belongs in a health section. To make sure that it talks down to its audience, the Times places it in Thursday Styles and begins by describing its lead subject as short and fat. Way to dumb down a major health issue, you tools.

It's a Boy: 228 Pound and 6-foot-3. This is a UPN series in the making. What happens when a 26-year-old dude with a bitchin' Anthrax goatee is officially adopted by his appreciative stepfather? Heartwarming anecdotes.

Cast Jodie Sweetin and Dave Coulier and we're in clover.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Poor, poor pitiful me

After a weekend of beer drinking, fake gambling, and aluminum foil, it's turning into media criticism week at Cole Slaw Blog. We have refrained from posting on the Time Magazine cover story of Ann Coulter. Atrios now points out this Columbia Journalism Review interview with John Cloud, a gentleman, and the chief propagandist behind the Coulter article.

Mr. Cloud is not a professional. He reacts to criticism with ad hominem attacks against his critics. He bashes, inter alia, David Brock and Eric Alterman. He justifies his article by saying that his critics are just as bad as Coulter. He rationalizes and equivocates when his interviewer points out an error. He is wildly defensive and articulates his own paranoia:
Now David Brock is a very famous hater of Ann Coulter. They used to be friends, they're not friends anymore. He is also a serial liar. David Brock wrote a whole book saying, 'Oh, my other books? They were lies.' So I don't think David Brock has a lot of credibility on the question of Ann Coulter. And what they are doing is a smear job. That's his other history -- David Brock has a history of smear jobs. And this is a smear job against me personally.
Nice going, J.C. You simultaneously managed to tip your hand as to your sympathies while portraying yourself as a paranoid with delusions of grandeur. It's one thing for a journalist to privately view himself as the victim of a "smear job," but another to whine about that publicly and inject himself into the story.

You're not a tender freshman being bullied by the seniors. Treat yourself to some lithium, a girlfriend, and a vacation. And save the bullshit neurosis for your therapist.

Losing a little sleep

Staying up much too late for a work night, streaming the nearly-raucous, nearly-inspirational Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on the John Bolton nomination. Great political drama.

CSPAN has the stream here. Watch it, watch it, watch it, and you will rediscover John Kerry (and everybody else).

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Times tries men's souls

It all started with college football. The Times, with its weekly computer rankings, ends up with a top 25 that as comprehensible as the results of blind man slapping magnetic poetry all over the refrigerator. It wasn't a matter of disagreeing with the newspaper's rankings. Disagreement honors the other side with reason. This is slop.

It was a small crack on a mundane subject. When, on June 19, 2002 the paper ran a front-page article about Britney Spears's restaurant Nyla, I was confused, maybe a little entertained. I assumed it was a mistake, or a one-time lapse in judgment. But now, goddammit, that tiny fuckin' crack has turned into one big, stupid canyon.

And the nicest, smartest girl in class got a boob job and skanked out.

The Sunday Styles section has become a balls-out disgrace -- to the Times, maybe even the whole goddamn world. China's navy build-up and Medicare's financial woes got you down? Don't be sad, Amy. Look! It's a bunch of rich, lazy fuckers who like to eat lunch! Lunch, Amy! Look! There's Rob Dimin!
Mr. Dimin wore a black baseball cap with an orange Princeton "P" pulled low over his forehead. "It's the only time to come here," he said. "Weekdays, when everyone else is working."
If this article teaches us one thing, it's that someone should rampage through Downtown Cipriani on a Tuesday afternoon and slug all of its patrons in the balls -- if not for the personal pleasure of seeing overindulged motherfuckers scream, then to limit their procreation.

OMG! Jessica broke up with Ian! OMG! Then she walked around everywhere bawling and annoying the shit out of people on public transportation! And the Times is suffering a total lapse of judgment in validating this dysfunctional menace by publishing her confessions!

The newspaper is in total breakdown. Its Arts and Sports sections are wrecks. Too shallow to appeal to genuine fans, the sections are prone to arbitrary fixations, like two autistic lovers afflicted with OCD. Remember the crusade-like quality of the papers coverage of Hootie Johnson and Augusta National? No? Just as well. The new film reviewer, Manohla Dargis, confuses the overuse of adjectives with analysis and review. Check this sentence-and-a-half from an Amityville Horror review:

[T]hese days, even the dumbest horror movie scares up decent big-screen business before being shuttled off to DVD perpetuity. Just as crucial, horror is relatively cheap to churn out, especially when the supporting cast features interchangeable no-name guys and gals, and the real star of the show ...

The rest of the article is like that. It's all overarching qualifiers, platitudes, sputtered nonsense with bursts of snark and conclusory opinions, like a freaked-out college freshman reviewing movies for the school newspaper, trying to write smart, producing a self-parody. The Times reviews bad movies badly. The Times reviews good movies badly.

None of this is to bitch-slap feature stories, arts criticism, or style writing per se. Between Tom Shales and Lisa de Moraes, the Washington Post achieves more via two writers than all of the Times's arts writers muster on their best days. There are many great critics; aside from Michiko Kakutani, the Times employs none of them.

I cancelled my subscription in July, 2003, and the only time I regret it is when I need a crossword fix. Even the Sunday paper hurts. The first act is to throw out the Sunday Styles section and the revamped, ultra-luxe real estate section, but still, you're reminded of their sick, pitiable existence. Just as often, though, it's hard to resist peeking at the latest over-the-top exegesis on the latest "trend" or downtown hotspot. The Times, therefore, turns into a vice and source of guilt, not one-stop-shopping for global information.

This wouldn't be a problem if it were a different newspaper. The problem comes when you finish reading about Darfur, and then, a section later, hit an article about Paris Hilton. So you flip from genocide to an article that serves as a PR hack's splooge recepticle. Not content to be the paper of record, it also wants to compete with US Weekly, Teen People, Vogue, Rolling Stone, Sassy, Stuff, The Robb Report, Tiger Beat, and that shitty syndicated show hosted by Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray.

But these audiences will never overlap. The Times is in a Darwinian moment. It must adapt or die. Presumably, it's facing the same crisis of declining readership confronting most daily newspapers, in which case the paper's pop-culture moment is pure economics. But it's never going to draw people who give a shit about Britney Spears or pricks eating lunch all afternoon, and by letting the tail wag the dog, it drives the rest of us away. I also wonder whether the ongoing rankings of most-emailed articles has undermined editorial judgment, and wacko sites like Gawker and Curbed have seduced the reporters into a hip-chasing purgatory devoid of perspective.

But I miss the Times. I miss it and it hurts, like a phantom limb. I want my paper back. I want it to ax Sunday Styles and the new Thursday section. I want it to run only wire stories in the sports sections. I want itto fire all arts critics (except for Kakutani) and hire people with talent. When it runs a feature on the front page, I want it to choose wisely and respect its readers. I want it to cover elections like they matter, not like they're Survivor episodes.

I want a lot of things. I want the most out of life. But most of all, I want a Joseph Lelyveld restoration.

*This post has willfully ignored the Jayson Blair story and the mass of criticism over the likes of Jodi Wilogren, Ad Nags, Judith Miller, Elizabeth Bumiller, etc. Their crimes of commission and omission have been duly noted elsewhere on the internets.

**Cole Slaw Blog is pleased to announce that it will now feature an ongoing weekly critique of the Sunday Styles section. This may expand to include the section's Thursday demon spawn. Our critiques will be based on the premise that these sections fucking blow, and warrant no sympathy or respect.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A Soupçon of Populist Bile

In the coming days, weeks, months or whatever, one thing we may hear from reflexive right-wing types about some of embattled majority leader Tom DeLay's market-based brand of politicking is that this or that was perfectly legal. Which should _ but, needless to say, won't _ lead to some questions about what we're willing to tolerate from our government and why.

Hot Love on the Hotlove Highway

For those whose favorite parts of "The Office" (UK version) included the moments in which David Brent attempted to showcase his musical talent, a link to the pre-Office musical career of actor Ricky Gervais, who played the smarmy, clueless office manager Brent. Some truly astounding facts and photos here. I assume it's all true, as Gervais' desire to be a recording artist is certainly well known. But if it's a hoax, it's still rather entertaining.

(Thanks to the outstanding blog Incoming Signals, which both of our readers should totally visit.)

My baby donkey

I haven't checked out since sometime in 2003. As the site's proprietors say, "Shit's good."

This one never gets old.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Upper East Side Can't Keep It Real

Oh, what a truly offensive pile of bullshit this is. Even after taking a week to calm down (I even made my special spring 'Slaw, and had it with some grilled asparagus), this still makes me want to vomit with rage.

New York magazine has just informed us all how truly lucky we are that so many of our nation's extremely wealthy have chosen to nest in New York and make this city so great by dint of their mere presence (and pocketbooks).

While the piece has been rightly gored by more talented pike-wielders than Cole Slaw Blog can employ at the moment, one thing stands out:

The article is larded throughout with the kind of bootstrap-pulling hokum one expects from a freshman staffer at the Michigan Review. In modern-day Manhattan, crumbs falling out of billionaire billfolds support busboys and sommeliers and waiters and livery drivers and construction workers and secretaries and well, life is just swell.

Except for the people trying to keep it real on the Upper East. The "workaday rich," as author Daniel Gross calls them, are the only aggrieved party to be spotted in the piece. Which shouldn't surprise, considering the source.

In the world of New York magazine, the super-rich make things easy for everyone, while the merely rich shoulder the load.

Maybe this is the White Man's Burden for a New American Century?

These are a few of my favorite things

If you're not wasting enough time at work, here's what you've missed so far this week:
  1. Honoring the Pope in Long Island City.
  2. Wolverines are the toughest mammals ever, and completely awesome. How many miles could you walk with big traps on your legs? Yeah, thought so.
  3. Courtesy of Atrios, one funny video mocking one awesomely atrocious video, plus another video by The Decemberists. (Atrios wants to be the left-wing TRL.)
  4. This American Life did a somewhat moving show last weekend about the Improv Everywhere crew that we previously praised. Who knew antics could be so bittersweet?
  5. Apprentice douchebag jailed.
  6. Stalin inspires Republicans. (Literally. This isn't metaphor.)
  7. Dear California lawmakers: why must you gank on our style?
  8. Idaho legislature honors Napoleon Dynamite. I quote (seriously!): WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representative or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote "Nay" on this concurrent resolution are "FREAKIN' IDOTS! ...
  9. Visit the website of this blog's official band.

Good help is just so hard to find


What a wonderful time it is for the harmless scapegoating of the folks back at the office. It's a long and decidedly grubby tradition, to be sure. And honest mistakes assuredly do happen, and it's still unclear what happened here.

Yet the utter dissolution of several of these cases upon contact with evidence that had disappeared is rather astonishing. In one case, as soon as an unedited video surfaced of an innocent bystander's arrest near a protest during the Republican National Convention, the case against him came apart (as a great writer once put it) "like cotton candy in a hot tub."
For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers and prosecutors.
Among them was Alexander Dunlop, who said he was arrested while going to pick up sushi.

Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop's lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake.
A postscript from Crimenotes: A friend of Cole Slaw Blog was wrongfully arrested during the RNC. When she claimed her innocence, one cop twisted her arm and tightened the handcuffs. She ended up with nerve damage. Aside from the people who go to Bowery Bar, there aren't many things about New York that make me furious. This is one of them.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Coleslaw porn

Gratuitous? Yes. But we're enjoying Flickr.

First is this picture of ladies who like to wrestle in coleslaw:

slaw wrestling

Coleslaw in its natural setting:


Saturday, April 09, 2005

The results of Coaster Pong



An athlete:


How to play Coaster Pong (with apologies to 11th Street Bar)

1. Arrange empty pint glasses around table.
2. Shred coasters by hand.
3. Roll coaster shreds into spitwad-like balls.
4. Toss coaster balls across table into empty pint glasses.
5. Use y0ur indoor voices.
6. Do not chew on coaster balls.
7. Repeat.

Friday, April 08, 2005

On beating up 12-year-olds

Despite the sneering attitude of a prior Saul Bellow post, McSweeney's internet site is a favorite daily read for Cole Slaw Blog. Today's entry about the logistics of beating up 12 year olds is its best offering since the Charlotte Simmons-skewering Rockin' It, Frat-Party Style!, which was so good that I read it about 500 times and laughed until I spit coleslaw all over the keyboard. A Realistic Assessment of How Many 12-Year-Olds I Could Beat Up Before They Overtook Me is aptly described by the title. I take issue, however, with the author's conclusion. The author describes himself as "21, approximately 6 feet tall, tip[ping] the scales at an even 180, and [having] a moderately athletic and muscular build." He proposes that he could beat up "up to seven" twelve year olds before they overtook him.

However, like many a misdirected law and economics scholar, author Matt Schweiger assumes that he is dealing with rational individuals. There are no rational twelve-year-olds. When I was twelve, I was stone-cold crazy, at least four or five times crazier than I am today. If the twelve-year-old Crimenotes had the chance, he would punched, slugged, smacked, slapped, screamed, bit, kicked, clawed, spit, yanked, wept, brutalized, insulted and taunted his way to victory. He would have been more vicious and out-of-control than a rabid bat. Short of death, he would have been unstoppable. Schweiger envisions a gang of ornery Beaver Cleavers, whereas in reality, it would be something closer to City of God.

Cole Slaw Blog hopes that Schweiger keeps this in mind before a pack of twelve-year-olds eviscerates him.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Required reading

Note to self and others: Put down the goddamn coleslaw, stop watching the Real World-Road Rules Challenge on Tivo, and read some more Saul Bellow.

I know an exceptionally well-read, burned-out lawyer who argues that The Adventures of Augie March is the great American novel. (I vote for All the King's Men.) Bellow was the laureate of Chicago, a big-idea man who riffed on both the Classics and the working class in near-perfect prose, and a genuinely canonical figure. Read Seize the Day, then read Herzog, and then ponder the shallowness of today's celebrated novelists. (I'm glaring at you, Park Slope.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Pulitzer Day

It's been a big day by any measure. It's opening day for major league baseball. The NCAA men's basketball title will be decided tonight, as will the disposition of millions of dollars in office pool funds. Craig T. Nelson's birthday is today. But that's not important right now, because Monday was also Pulitzer day.

Cole Slaw Blog, which takes a more active interest in journalism than most, wishes to single out one winner: Connie Schultz of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland _ a paper which precisely one half of Cole Slaw Blog grew up reading, albeit mostly for news on the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers.

For real news our family had a subscription to The New York Times. The Plain Dealer, like Cleveland itself, just had a second-rate feel to it. It was widely accepted that the only good stories in the paper were the ones taken off the wire from other newspapers. The news that The Plain Dealer has actually won a Pulitzer will probably cause breakfast nook spit-takes all over Northeast Ohio tomorrow morning.

The only people who won't be surprised are Schultz's regular readers. Cole Slaw Blog, upon hearing the news, read several of the winning columns and was pleasantly surprised. Schultz, whose colleagues apparently had the common good sense to make her don a tiara to celebrate in the newsroom today, writes without fear. She is possessed of the sense of outrage at injustice great and small that Cole Slaw Blog once felt was innate to all persons driven to journalism.

Schultz's account of attending her church after Ohio (along with 12 other states) passed a ban on same-sex benefits was moving. And her column on how the management of one of Cleveland's tonier boites would keep the tips from the jar at the coat-check counter was, in a word, classic.

To some, this may seem a big deal to make over some scribe from flyover country. But bear in mind, this is a paper whose last Pulitzer was for an editorial cartoon about the Korean War. And it's a city whose previous journalistic achievement was having a local news anchor (from Fox, the choice of values voters everywhere) appear nude on the 11 o'clock news.

We at Cole Slaw Blog had never heard of Connie Schultz before today. But reading her columns and knowing that they've been recognized with journalism's highest honor is encouraging for both journalism and Cleveland.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A quick note on Neil Young

It was reported on Friday that Neil Young suffered a brain aneurism during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony last month. Being the obsessive professional that he is, Neil proceeded to travel to Nashville to work on a forthcoming album before he underwent surgery. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery.

Speaking for one half of Cole Slaw Blog, Neil Young is neck-in-neck with Bob Dylan for the title of greatest living rock star, and if recent output is determinative, the hands-down winner. "Falling From Above," the first song on Neil's Greendale album, summarizes post-9/11 social and political history without seeming pompous or contrived. Neil's 15-minute rendition of "Powderfinger" at Radio City on St. Patrick's Day 2004 -- with its wailing, overwhelming guitar riffs -- was easily the greatest live performance I've ever seen. (I'll see Dylan live twice at the end of April, at which point I'll give a comparative analysis.)

Thrasher's Wheat is a comprehensive resource for all things Neil Young. If you only know his acoustical work, look into his dark masterpieces like On the Beach and Rust Never Sleeps. Jimmy McDonough's biography Shakey gives Neil the Robert Caro treatment, but also reads like a combination of Heart of Darkness and Almost Famous.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

What in the Sam Hell is happening in Ann Arbor?

Cole Slaw Blog is a New York-based entity, but its interests include Cleveland, Ohio and Ann Arbor, Mich. That's why we're pretty disgusted with some recent events at our beloved alma mater, the University of Michigan. Three particular incidents raise our hackles, and have led to at least one plastic cup of takeout coleslaw being thrown against the wall. Let's examine each of these incidents in turn.

1. The Joel Hoard column. Joel Hoard is an undergrad at the University of Michigan and a columnist at a once-great publication, The Michigan Daily. Cole Slaw Blog was unfamiliar with Mr. Hoard's work, until he wrote a brilliant and hilarious column satirizing the Christian right's rhetoric on America's biggest social threat, gay dudes. Among other things, Mr. Hoard depicted an incident in which he took his six-year-old son, "Jack," on a walk through Chelsea on their way to a performance of Sesame Street on Ice. Here's a key passage:
I told him what homosexuality is, and that it is an abomination in the eyes of God. I told him about how homosexuality started in the summer of 1967, when the hippies decided to challenge the natural order that God established at the beginning of time. I told him that the two men he saw holding hands were sinners. I even told him about how the liberals were trying to force the homosexual agenda on America and redefine marriage, one of the most sacred institutions God ever devised.
The column appropriated right-wing rhetoric without cracking a smirk. I thought that the joke was pretty obvious, but the column was followed by a deluge of pretty deranged letters to the editor and online comments condemning this kid as an anti-gay bigot. From Cole Slaw Blog's perspective, this elevated the column's smarts to a higher level. See, what happened was, the reaction turned into an illustration of how debased the country's dialogue has become. Written in the voice of a completely insane individual, offering conclusions that no sensible person could reach, the column was misinterpreted by people as a literal account of a day in the life of a madman. Could there be a slyer, subtler illustration of the absurdity of the way people talk about "values"?

Apparently, Mr. Hoard's editors didn't feel that way, because they ran a weird, stupid explanation, apparently in hopes that stupid people won't stay mad at them. Now, apparently beat down by the gross misinterpretation of his work, Mr. Hoard has thrown up his hands in frustration.

Cole Slaw Blog encourages Mr. Hoard's editors and critics to get a life and/or some balls, and encourages Mr. Hoard not to throw in the towel. Anyone who can inspire this kind of misdirected ire has something going for him.

2. Speaker choice irks grads. Cole Slaw Blog has warm memories of college graduation. It was a sunny day that began with champagne at Holmes's apartment. Our commencement speaker was Kofi Annan, and the student speaker was a close friend who slipped in some indirect references to our lives and work.

True, a high-profile graduation speaker doesn't guarantee a good speech. Those who endured David Halberstam's incredibly condescending commencement speech in 2000 can attest to that. (Among other things, Halberstam, who happens to be a great reporter, inaccurately called Michigan a land grant school [Michigan predates the land grant program by about 45 years] and unfavorably compared Michigan to MIT and Harvard.) But seriously, the University of Michigan can do no better than a Xerox research scientist? Are you kidding? Is Michigan buttering up Xerox for a major donation? No disrespect to Mr. Brown, we're pretty interested in stuff like nanotechnology, and it's hard to picture any member of the Bush Administration getting a warm welcome in Ann Arbor. But come on. Michigan isn't a community college or a technical school. If the regents can't draw Steven Spielberg or Bill Clinton, couldn't they at least honor a humanitarian or philanthropist? If I were a graduating senior, I'd feel Punk'd.

3. Fox News Academy. We were a little tough on the Daily before, but tough love is important. On Thursday, the newspaper broke a story on attempted censorship at the Every Three Weekly, a campus satire magazine that, on its best day, is mildly entertaining. The E3W ran a story about Michigan student and Olympian Michael Phelps, titled "Phelps to Major in Pussy." (We're not so sure this was satire, and will venture a guess that said article is pretty accurate.) Enamored with his own power, drunk on ignorance, and generally behaving like a junior high vice-principal in the Bible Belt, "Executive Associate Athletic Director Michael Stevenson said he felt obligated to approach the newspaper and the UAC executive board, which controls the newspaper’s funding."

It gets worse. A self-appointed guardian of taste and "community," Stevenson weighed in further.
“I think that that kind of satire is unbecoming to any student at the University,” Stevenson said. “It adds nothing to our campus community to have that kind of discussion.”

Instead of telling this massive tool to take a hike, the student group responsible for funding the humor publication planted its lips between the cheeks of a second-rate censor, stating:
“(The administration) being concerned means it’s not a good situation and we need to do something about it."

This blog loves the University of Michigan even more than coleslaw, which is why we hate, hate, hate this story. It reminds us of a recent study finding that 36 percent of high school students think the government should pre-approve newspaper content. It's infuriating that the Athletic Department is behaving like the Ministry of Propaganda, but just sad that a student group feels compelled to goose step along.

Maybe next year's commencement speaker will be Sean Hannity.

New rule

Bill Maher had a great New Rule on Real Time last night about these weirdo abstinence pledges and how they've prompted Christian kids to get crazy with the sodomy. It's posted at Salon. Here's an excerpt.

But that's not all -- taking the pledges also makes a teenage girl six times more likely to perform oral sex, and a boy four times more likely to get anal. Which leads me to an important question: where were these pledges when I was in high school?

Seriously, when I was a teenager, the only kids having anal intercourse were the ones who missed. My idea of lubrication was oiling my bike chain. If I had known I could have been getting porn star sex the same year I took Algebra II, simply by joining up with the Christian right, I'd have been so down with Jesus they would have had to pry me out of the pew.

... Is there any greater irony than the fact that the Christian Right actually got their precious little adolescent daughters to say to their freshly scrubbed boyfriends: "Please, I want to remain pure for my wedding night, so only in the ass. Then I'll blow you." Well, at least these kids are really thinking outside the box.
The entire rule is here, in all of its brilliant, sensible raunch.

Top this

Well, now they've gone and done it. Once again, the verve and creativity of our nation's best cole slaw chefs show no bounds. Rockfish, an Annapolis, Md., eatery, has kicked it up the proverbial notch, slaw-wise. How? Pineapple.

I shit you not.