Monday, September 05, 2005

NYT: What can the Times do about Todd S. Purdum's smelly jock strap?

What can you do with the former copy boy in the sweaty jock? I'm sure Rebecca would have a few ideas. She returns today at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, but when I spoke to her earlier, she said it would be either her usual evening posting time or else a little later. She's throwing a huge Labor Day party so I'm guessing later. But what can the New York Times do with Todd S. Purdum? Hose him off?

Todd was musky when musky wasn't . . .

And the fumes continue to damage the brain. Witness today's "News Analysis" entitled "Week of Chaos Leaves Administration Reeling." Purdum's rank athletic cup is leaving his own mind reeling, judging by the opening statement:

Perhaps not since Richard M. Nixon faced Vietnam-era tumult abroad and at home has an American president had to meet quite the combination of foreign war, domestic tribulations and political division that President Bush now confronts, from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf Coast to Capital Hill.

Yeah, Todd, we caught the Woody Guthrie allusion (one of the better bits, honestly) but "Perhaps?" Perhaps? Geez, crack a window and get some fresh air in already, Purdum, the fumes from your foul jock strap have really done a number on you. (This is a "News Analysis" after all.)

Purdum's always suffered from a very Democratic sense of "balance" which plays out as "let me run to Republican Day Camp for quotes!" Possibly the people there are less likely to remark on the foul odor of the jock since the place reeks long before Purdum shows up? (He might actually act as air freshener.) That's why this "News Analysis" provides historians and Republicans to offer their perspective.

Where are the Democrats? Purdum will get around to them right after he washes out his jock.
(Translation, don't hold your breath.) (Unless of coarse you're standing next to him.)

As Billie notes, John Cornyn (Repube Senator from Texas) offers another Conryism (he's becoming infamous for demonstrating, repeatedly, that there does not have to be any connection at all between speech and thought). "When it rains it pours."

Yes, Corny, and as Stevie Nicks once added to that ("One More Big Time Rock 'n Roll Star") "and there's no one at the door." There's no one answering the knocking upstairs in Corny's cranium either. But Purdum runs with it as though there's any significance to the Cornyism.

Did Purdum slap his forehead and exclaim, "Insight!" when Corny graced him with that tired saying? Or he was he too busy running the bases at Republican Day Camp in search of another "source" to realize how worthless the Cornyism was?

Sliding into anonymice, Purdum finds his own Deep Throat (we'll dub him Deep Spin) who assures him that Bully Boy will not be effected by current events. Well that's not really a surprise to anyone who's observed the last five years, now is it?

But Deep Spin's not offering that insight, he's spinning on how Bully Boy could have nominated a woman, he could have gone Hispanic, he could have . . . but instead went with the blockhead John Roberts Jr. defying all conventions!

Purdum runs with the spin, never noting, in a "News Analysis," that it's hardly surprising that Bully Boy found yet another white, male crony to elevate. Maintaining the status quo plays as counter-culture in Purdum's article.

And where are the Dems? Nowhere to be found. He speaks for them, Purdum does, or channels them. He offers that Roberts nomination will go through ("all but his most dedicated opponents" see Roberts as a sure thing).

The Bully Boy's in a crisis, "perhaps," and the "News Analysis" can't find one Democrat to quote?
"Perhaps" that's something Todd S. Purdum needs to take a look at? "Perhaps" to quote Purdum. (He actually uses "Perhaps" twice in the article. The second time as a single word sentence: "Perhaps.") Maybe this feature should have been entitled not "News Analysis" but "Perhaps a News Analysis." Perhaps?

Long term members will remember when allowed posting and two people who especially irritated the community would rush in with their statements in praise of the centrist Dems.
One of them showed up this weekend in the public e-mail account to venture that there's nothing wrong with a sweaty jock strap.

Well to each their own fetish.

But, for the record, we'll continue to use the smelly jock as a motif when addressing Todd S. Purdum's groaners. Why? I'd once dubbed him "Toad." Then someone who spoke with him for a piece asked if I could please not call him "Toad" because he's "really a nice guy." So, for that friend, we're not calling him "Toad." But considering that he gets his share of groaners yet none of the commentators, who are so delightfully vicious when it comes to Elisabeth Bumiller ("tongue bath" for instance) have ever treated him to the Full Bumiller, we'll continue to do so here.

One Sunday, Ava and I noticed the "White House Memo" and started thinking how Elisabeth Bumiller's "White House Letter" is ridiculed (rightly, she's writing a floating op-ed but she does so in a personal manner that invites the attacks). But what about these men writing the "White House Memo?" Why aren't they, or other males, open to the Full Bumiller?

Bash the Bitch is apparently an Ameican Institution. If we can subvert it by playing Bash the Bucko, we will do so. Purdum will leave the batting cage to enter the spin zone and few will bat an eye. That's partly due to whom he's married to but, guess what folks, what matters is what's on the page if he's a print reporter.

Here, we hold Bumiller accountable (outside of her "White House Letter" which is a floating op-ed and we don't comment on op-eds here -- not even when the Times pulls Warren Farrell out of mothballs, as it does today, to offer the crackpot theorizing he's become . . . unknown for?).
When her writing warrents it, we'll hold Bumiller accountable. We'll hold any other female accountable as well. But we won't turn a blind eye to the males of the paper. And in our criticism, we won't be "jocular." By that I mean, we won't bring out the knives for Bumiller or another females, and then, when it comes to the males, stroke gently with oven mitts. (Stroke them off?).

Bob Somerby, I admire his analysis and writing, even falls into the category of reserving his sharpest knives for the women. Visitor Joe wrote that he couldn't believe I called Bob Somerby "sexist." I'm not aware that I did. He does take part in Bash the Bitch. Bash the Bitch is a sexist game but it's also an American institution. It's very easy to fall into that game without realizing it. (Or falling in due to personal sexism.)

On my end, when Bumiller (squad leader of the Elite Fluff Patrol) has anything in print, numerous e-mails come in saying that they can't wait to see how I'll take her on that day. Sometimes, she actually reports. So there's no need to take her on. But it is a crowd pleaser for some to see Bumiller get the Full Bumiller.

If I thought Somerby was personally sexist we wouldn't note him here. (I also think he's gone to strides in recent writing to note women in a more positive light when their writing warrents it. Something that's always been done at The Daily Howler with regard to men.)

So Todd's our designated whipping boy. He's got the talent to do more than he does. His groaners aren't on the level of Juan Forero's (Forero gives me a migraine and I avoid him on most days for that reason but braver souls should really focus on fact checking his work). And we'll josh and kid Purdum here. (When the work warrents it.)

But there's something, to me, troubling about the fact that the hallmarks of Times criticism revolves around Judith Miller and Elisbeth Bumiller. Maybe it's not because they're women, maybe it's because their names rhyme? (Yeah, right.) Miller often had a co-writer on her WMD work and yet only Miller bears the brunt of the criticism. (The criticism of that reporting is deserved. The scope, however, should be enlarged. It's also true that her immediate editor during that period deserves criticism as well and that you can carry it up to the top -- Howell Raines during that period.)

Dexter Filkins should be infamous for his rah-rah reporting (especially on Falluja) but he's not. But when the crimes of the Times are listed, there's Miller and Miller alone. Where's Forero (who's work often exists on a pure propaganda level -- maybe commentators aren't familiar with the countries he's covering) on that list? Where's Dexter Filkins on that list? For my money, Filkins is the one that future generations will be asking for the prizes to be pulled from.

When the misdemeanors are listed, Bumiller's the only one with a rap sheet. There's Richard Stevenson and David Sanger, among others. There's smelly jock Todd. There's a whole host of men. But their spins don't get noted. Or, if they do get noted, it's dealt with in a sort of "old boys network" manner, when it is noted, and the next time they file a more clear headed report, it's time for back slapping. I'll note Somerby here because I have a high opinion of him. How many times will he rescue Richard Cohen? The boos and hisses that greet Bumiller are in contrast the "bad game, maybe next time" coverage of Cohen. (My opinion.) With Cohen, there's always the chance for redemption. That same trait doesn't show up, to me, in the critiques of Bumiller or other women.

Purdum's a big boy, he can handle the criticism. Our centrist visitor (who feels he should be considered a member because "I go way back" -- keep feeling that way, it's not happening) is alarmed by the commentary (mine) on Purdum. He doesn't mention Bumiller though. And we've commented at length on her. Centrist visitor wants to "call a personal foul" on me for my Purdum commentary. Feel free to do so.

But I stand by it and toss back to centrist visitor, who writes that the commentary on Purdum is "among the nastiest, most vile" he's seen "on anyone" while surfing the net, "perhaps" he needs to read a little more closely? He also notes that I've "repeatedly attacked Scott Shane."

If I could, I'd forward that to the people at the Times who've whined that we play favorites here and that Scott Shane is always given a pass. For the record, the community and I think Shane's one of the stronger reporters at the paper. Outside of an aside ("when Scotty gets snotty") involving a slam at the entertainment industry, I'm not aware of any negative criticism I've offered re: Shane. In that article, Scotty got snotty. We noted it. But if you did a search of Scott Shane on this site, I'm pretty sure that's the only negative criticism you'd find here. (Which may be why some at the Times write in to complain about how he's given a pass while others aren't.)

(Shane has a strong article today entitled "After Failures, Officials Play Blame Game," by the way.)

If there's been any confusion among members (none have noted it), I hope that clears it up. As for the centrist visitor (whom I believe is the one who noted that there's nothing more beautiful in fall than a centerist Democrat -- new members, I'm not making that up and Keesha posted a wonderful response to that nonsense), read a little more closely. (And reconsider the hallmarks of the fall season.)

Marcia guessed correctly in an e-mail that I was postponing putting up the Dateline review here until it was a slow day. However, I'm now noting Ava and my review of Prison Break. The reason? Jim asked me to on Sunday night. The Third Estate Sunday Review had huge problems with their site and posts wouldn't go up. All that could be saved (or rewritten in the case of Ava and my review) went up Sunday evening. But on the phone last night with him and Ty while we tried to figure out what was going on, he asked that the review be posted here to "drive home" the fact that a full, new edition went up on Sunday. (We'll be noting their editorial in full tomorrow.)

"TV Review: Prison Break Tease"
Ever run a program on your computer to check for viruses? You really don't want to find anything but when two minutes turns into ten, turns into twenty, you start feeling like something, anything, has to happen to make the time you're expending worthwhile.

That's what Fox's new Monday night show Prison Break which stars Wentworth Miller as Michael, was like. A lot of exposition, a lot of chatter, a lot of "back when"s, but not a lot of forward momentum.
Let's get our exposition out of the way. These are the Prison Break basics: Michael's an engineer. His brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) is on death row and due to be educated shortly. Being a good brother, Michael doesn't want that to happen. Being a character in the high concept land of Fox TV, Michael decides the only way to save his brother is to get in the prison and break him out.
Now some might get in via a weekend visit or possibly apply for a job as a prison guard. Those thoughts don't appear to have crossed Michael's mind. Instead he does the "logical only on Fox TV" thing of attempting to hold up a bank at gun point to gain entry to the prison. Well if the mountain won't come to Muhammed . . .
A lot things don' t make sense in this show (which broadcast two episodes last Monday). For instance, we were perplexed by all the comments onscreen about Wentworth Miller's good looks which, honestly, aren't all that. Besides the bald spot beginning at the back of his head, Miller also sports a bit of a belly. (We're being generous.) You'll note that belly in his one and only shirtless scene. (Better posture would eliminate much of the belly but Miller's one of those tall men who's gone through life slouching.) Sporting a Sinead O'Connor haircut circa 1991 also does him no favors and only highlights the bald spot.
As characters rush to weigh in on (and shore up) his looks, you may not immediately notice that he's not acting. He's posing. And mistaking a pout for a sneer as he delivers every line in the same self-amused manner. (Even when being slammed around.)
Maybe we missed the memo declaring pursed lips the new Method?
Armed with a pout and delivering every line in some sort of tribute to Cher's variety hour work,while the big talk inside the prison is Michael's looks, we kept expecting Miller to hop on top of an upright piano and break into a few verses of "I Saw A Man And He Danced With His Wife."
A friend swear that Miller's playing Michael as a "power bottom" and the character is just waiting for the "right man to call his bluff." We'd argue that our friend put way too much thought into the series -- far more, in fact, than the writers have.
As we continued to wait for the show to pick up the pace, somewhere into hour two, we realized it was chugging along and circling back in slow-mo. Repeatedly. Nothing changes if . . . nothing changes.
In two hours, Michael went to prison, offered romantic advice to his cell mate, began a fliration with the female doctor at the prison, had a jealous man die in his arms and was hit on by the jealous man's partner.
You'll notice, if you pay attention, how uncomfortable same-sex relationships make the people behind this show. The entire first hour goes by without any allusion to same-sex sex. Haven't they seen Oz?
Almost three decades ago, in Charlie's Angels' infamous "Angels in Chains" episode, a female guard slammed Sabrina (Kate Jackson) down on a bed and leered, "I'm going to be watching you, sweetcakes, watching you real hard." Nothing in Prison Break approaches that level. The scene that finally addresses the elephant in the prison yard plays out as though it were a "Pax Time" broadcast.
The show treats same-sex relations as something that only happens on a rainy day when there's nothing else to do. And seems determined to reassure viewers that the show wouldn't, in the words of Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby, decide "to go gay all the sudden!"
That explains why less than three minutes after the elephant that dares speak its name scene, we're suddenly in bed with Lincolon and Veronica (Robin Tunney). It's a flashback that pops up only to reassue viewers who get the willies over same-sex topics.
Veronica's not only Lincoln's ex-girlfriend, she's also Michael's lawyer. And her life is in danger beginning in the second hour. Why? She might find out what's really going on.
This need to punish anyone attempting to figure out the plot happens onscreen and off as writers mistake obscurity for suspense. Let's trot out Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock was always fond of stating that you could show two people seated at a table and surprise the audience by having a bomb go off. But if you wanted to build suspense, you let the audience in on the fact that there was a bomb under the table while the scene played. This is a concept the writers of Prison Break fail to grasp.
We're trying not to provide any "spoilers" here but what exactly is the point of hiding the face of the woman who tells the two cronies (we could explain all this, but again no spoilers) that Veronica, that anyone, is expendable?
Let's quote the mystery woman:

You can handle a girl who graduated in the middle of her Baylor law school class. At least I'd like to think so given the stakes of what we're dealing with here. Anyone that's a threat to what we're doing is expendable. Anyone. Do what you need to do to make this go away.

The mystery woman is an example of all that is wrong with Prison Break. For starters, if you didn't immediately recognize Patricia Wettig's voice (thirtysomething, Alias, etc.), you're not watching enough TV. (Words we never thought we'd say.) Besides concealing her face onscreen, there's also an effort to keep her name out of the publicity materials for the show. Wettig being in the cast isn't a matter of national security, but the show's treating it as such. (Reminds us of J-Ass retroactively classifying Sibel Edmonds testimony.) As though mentioning her name will give the "big secret" away.
The "big secret" (as portrayed onscreen -- we're not doing spoilers) is that Lincoln's on death row after being convicted of murdering the brother of the vice-president. In the second hour (which is actually the second episode), you finally learn that Lincoln didn't kill the man. (The sort of detail that The Fugitive addressed in the first minutes of the very first episode.) Lincoln did enter the parking garage with a gun, Lincoln did intend to kill the man (to pay off a debt), but when he got to the car, the man had already been killed.
Lincoln was set up! (Which seems rather lame if you spend too much time thinking about it. Lincoln was prepared to kill the man. But those involved in pulling off the "big secret" apparently had as little faith in Lincoln as the writers of this show have in the audience.) Which leaves Lincoln to sing the sad sack song of "I'm On Death Row For Killing A Man Someone Else Rubbed Out Before I Got There." In the ammoral world of Fox TV, this passes for complexity. (In the real world, it's no get-out-of-prison-free card but leads to charges of participating in a criminal conspiracy.)
Again, that emerges in the second hour. So much more is still kept hidden that we're picturing desperate viewers demanding Congressional hearings to get to the bottom of the plot.
Will people watch? We did. We were actually excited by the show's debut . . . until we watched.
As the summer progressed and our review choices continued to dwindle, we were wondering if our next stop would be the game shows of daytime TV? We can picture viewers, longing for new programming, willing to spend a few hours with this show but we can't imagine many hanging around once the fall season is officially underway if the show doesn't become a little more forthcoming. (We're told that "Cute Poison," episode four airing Monday after next, really "gets things moving.")
What we're dealing with is a show that confuses the viewers intentionally by not, to put it bluntly, putting out. It's all tease thus far and forgive us for not wanting to shove dollar bills into Wentworth Miller's g-string. Purcell has a bit of a cult following but watching the show you may be confused as to why. That's because this is one of the worst visual looks a show has had in years: badly lit, flatly photographed, and a wardrobe department that doesn't grasp the basics. (Clue: Robin Tunney has no waist. Her rib cage is too low and her hips are too high. As with Judy Garland or Tom Cruise, the illusion of a waist must be created.)
Though we're having a hard time seeing the attraction to Miller (you really need a British accent to convincingly pull off crying out, "Oh Wentworth! Oooooh, Wentworth!"), we'll also add that if you're one of the niche audience members whom Miller appeals to, don't get your hopes up over the prospects of non-stop shirtless scenes. Miller's Michael has smuggled in the building plans of the prison via tattoos on his arms and upper torso (front and back). The "tattoos" take over four hours (and two people) to apply. (Partial versions can be done in less time.)
Maybe the show will improve in later episodes? Maybe the writers will stop playing I've Got a Secret? If so, it better happen soon, otherwise, when new programming is offered on all the networks, the headlines may read, "Viewers Make a Break from Prison Break!"
posted by Third Estate Sunday Review @
Sunday, September 04,

Ty backed Jim up, saying that posting the review would "drive home" the point that there was a new edition, in full, up at The Third Estate Sunday Review. So if you missed that, please check it out. (No book discussion was lost, by the way. There wasn't one. It's supposed to return Sunday.)

Bonnie e-mails to remind me to note the Sunday evening entries for those who don't want to scroll down. "Reporting from outside the US mainstream media focused on Iraq" and "Reporting from outside the US mainstream media focused on Iraq" are the two entries. The first one is not on Iraq and I've mistitled it. The second one is the focus on Iraq.

At Ms. Musing, Christine has an entry on the likelihood of John Roberts, Jr.'s confirmation hearing being delayed. (Krista e-mailed to note that.)

Rob e-mails to note that Danny Schechter has a new News Dissector up (a Labor Day one).

(No pull quotes from Christine or Danny because I'm rushing to get out the door. Sorry. How much am I rushing? It just hit me that Danny's title is a ref to a Jackson Browne song.)

For our centrist vistior's easy access, we'll note that Purdum getting the full Bumiller can be found in these entries: "Editorial: Still Timid, the Times takes a dive" and "NYT: The fumes from his smelly jock k.o. Todd Purdum yet again."

Lisa e-mails to note David Carr's "The Pendulum of Reporting on Katrina" in this morning's New York Times. I don't watch cable news so I can't speak to the accuracy of his critique but I'll back her up by noting it reads well. On the same grounds, I'll note Alessandra Stanley's "Reporters Turn From Deference to Outrage."

The e-mail address for this site is