Gawker earned laugh of the week for noting, in its post on the auction of Johnny Rotten’s* wine collection, that his widow denied any link between his liquidity and his legendary expense account and then “winked so hard her eye fell out.” For all the fury directed at the banksters by journalists who missed the financial story of the decade, this last bellow of newspapering extravagance is a reminder of what really went wrong with the profession. Even the most influential reporter on my first big-city paper in 1976 did not have two fancy homes, let alone “a cottage in the Midlands.” And certainly it would have struck his overseers as unseemly if he palled around with the people he covered. By contrast, all the poor wage-and-stock slaves on the desk at the Times seemed proud that Betsey’s “big guy” had his own cost center. So much for “without fear or favor.”
*I’m sure I’ve told this before, but for those who need a decoder ring: He got his nickname the morning I came in to work during a political convention and mentioned I had seen Johnny Rotten was there. To which my boss responded: “Of course he is.” And then realized I was talking about the performer, not our copy editor-kicking colleague. . .
The JGold Wannabe tried out yet another new voice in mystifying readers like my consort, who braved a few grafs and could not understand why the rave added up to only three stars. Poor Britchky’s fingers must have been twitching in his grave. I’m so naive I believe even a Poor would not have hurt a restaurant that does what it does so well, and has for so long — I will not soon forget walking out of the deserted Four Seasons last summer and seeing the floral Frog jammed; if you’re going somewhere for a scene and not cuisine, flowers are a fixed face’s best friend (I ate there for my long-ago Allure story on how restaurants make women look good or bad). What was most surprising is that no attempt was made to connect the news dots between that review and the profoundly depressing information that the chef on whom Ruth once lyrically bestowed four stars is now slaving at a Midtown East joint one step up from Tout Va Bien. Of course I’m so old I got addicted to quenelles before I ever had to face down gefilte fish. But I do know that there’s a whole food truck devoted to schnitzel and that people make special expeditions to Cafe Sabarsky for the strudel alone. I just can’t tell the Egotist from the Drivelist sometimes. Or understand how “blackened fruitcake” saw print. Sloppy is as sloppy ledes.
You know almost everyone down at the shrine to Sulzberger ego is working too hard when you read stuff like “Up and Adam” and corrections on “Normal” Rockwell. So maybe killing off a few thousand blogs would be a good start. It would free up hacks to spend a little time polishing prose for a star turn on the cover. Of course, when you’re competing with bondage accouterments you might as well hang it up anyway. Especially when strange phrasing leaves readers imagining where else a ball gag might go besides a mouth. . .
Maybe it’s because I grew up with dead deer hanging in the garage to be butchered every fall, but the one lying across my hometown paper the day before turkey struck me as the print equivalent of the annoying PETA “grace.” I guess this is what you’re reduced to when you blow your trimmings wad so close to Halloween. Coulda been worse, though: Imagine Rudolph bleeding out the red nose on December 23. But then I guess the latest wave of buyouts has many staffers in the offices they can’t afford feeling a bit addled (and not in the Middle English way). They’re clarifying brussels sprouts and still can’t get poundcake and potpie right. And what was with the story celebrating the manly man catching his tuna, running so close behind all the end-of-fish hoo-hah? Has everyone married a cousin down there?
The hysteria is bad every year, but for some reason this Thanksgiving is being treated like “The Road” to “2012.” It’s really not the end of the world. It’s just a goddamn chicken dinner with a big bird and extra sides. Why the lunacy has to kick in so far in advance baffles me. And everyone who succumbs to panic is just encouraging the Cassandras. You have only yourselves to blame for Valentine’s angst starting December 14.
And in the annals of ginned-up controversy, sides vs turkey takes the juniper. Especially since it made me embarrass myself by Tweeting about the recipes I couldn’t find so far from the nonsense. Saw them online and wondered how in the hell fresh corn belongs on a November table. I know the oblivious serve asparagus, but fall’s fall. Saint Alice would have a heritage cow. At least this explains why moldy “fresh” ears turned up at the Greenmarket at Union Square on Saturday. As the farmers say, DI/DO readers are a flock of sheep. And not grass-fed.
One of the too-many-to-count reasons Twitter is addictive is that it lets you rant and get an amen. Like about why a quote whore gets quoted in every fucking story about restaurant trends. Seems to me that someone who’s consulted on something more recent (and, uh, successful) than Sign of the Dove might have a bit more to say. Even funnier, when I checked for a status update I saw the blog-mocker is now . . . blogging. The thing’s a bit dusty, of course, but what’s being mocked on this new blog? Bloggers. Don’t just stand there. Go consult.
And it was a rare misstep by the hyper-image-savvy White House to have Mrs. O pose alongside Molto’s bare flesh and schticky footwear. Even Carla Bruni could not deflect attention as assertively, but hers was visual seduction, not assault. Judging by the reaction in my email, DI/DO should have been delivered with a free bottle of brain bleach. Then again, what better way to get your eat-right-and-exercise message across than standing with poster boys for the second deadly sin?
Speaking of premature exultation, though, the Nobel committee had nothing on whoever it was who designated Panchito’s successor as the next Bill Keller. I mean, he’s a nice guy and everything, but he hasn’t even fucking started the gig. But I guess his anointment sends a clear message to any women and minorities and bootstrappers aspiring to move up the ladder: Connected white guys win! (And I can’t even get too worked up about that, given what a bitch Jill Abramson comes off as, trashing Adam Moss’s feature work as meaningless when she herself only rose to prominence with a dog blog.) What really makes me laugh is thinking about how the Chimp’s enabler must be roundly eaten with envy as he watches the new guy on the beat being showered in roses before filing his first review. As their mustachioed colleague would say: Suck. On. This.
Similarly, the first thought that sprang into my cranial sieve when I heard Saint Alice was mystified at being told she had won the French Legion of Honor: She wasn’t punked by those pranksters from Quebec who scammed Sarah Palin with the call from Sarkozy, was she?
Only someone who had never worked on DI/DO could have been surprised when the curtain was pulled back on the MoDo magic show. She got nailed stealing a Josh Marshall graf (oddly enough, the same one I had thought was uncharacteristically muscular for her) and came up with a clumsy explanation that tamped the outrage that plagiarism generally generates. But I still remember her calling old cronies whenever she needed a food-related bon mot for one of her airy little thought pieces. The OC was always so thrilled to be consulted that it was win-win, I guess. But Times must be tougher. The blue cheese in the follow-up silliness should, given the news lately, have been Roquefort, not Gorgonzola. Wrong surrender monkeys, Ms. Brunello Talk.
Speaking of unfortunate nomenclature, I have to admit Handy Corn makes me laugh every time I hear it. For the dumbest reason: It activates the ear worm of Cheryl Wheeler’s silly “I’m gonna poop in the Handy House.” But at least the Cod’s description of the condiment’s having been approved after sampling on a “unicorn antler tasting spoon from a secret underground lair” outclassed “asparagus pee and runny stools.”
Then again, work is challenging for editors down at the Fleur de Sel Mines, who seemed to have had a particularly hard time lately informing “superiors” that what they had brought forth was not chocolate but shit. Exhibit A was a stunt review that was as embarrassing as those really lame bums who stagger through the trains wailing “Lean on Me” for spare change. And the magazine piece — yes, Jay has no pizza — demonstrates what happens when you put penis to keyboard. Copy editors used to lose it over “indirection.” Now they allow blind alleys. But at least he didn’t start out with George Lucas and wind up with Saint Alice. Moron Dowd should have availed herself of the good organic wine at the expensive restaurant in Berkeley; then maybe she could have noted that the fairy godmother behind the White House garden was not even mentioned in her own paper’s announcement. Which appeared on the front page. Where She Who Must Be Worshiped says food stories never run. . .
The head that wears the gray crown must be feeling lighter these days, though. How else could his DI/DO editor get away with Tweeting for all the e-world about the mystery meat served in the Glitzateria? I still remember when Mme Ami dissed the food and a Sopranos-ominous sandwich materialized on the section honcha’s desk next day. But I guess they just figure anything that directs traffic to the twitching corpse is good. Either that or the shoeless count has no inkling of that Twitter thing the kids are all doing instead of slogging through nut-graf-free stories in print.
The good news just keeps coming these days. One day I’m informed that baby broccoli (a k a sprouts) will ward off stomach cancer, the next it’s licorice kicking bowel cancer’s ass. Ever since the Franklin Mint famously went to the Pom land, the first question I have is: Who sponsored this miraculous discovery? And of course I sat right up in suspense the other morning, wondering when the writer of a damning op-ed on “free-range” pigs would disclose who exactly underwrote the study finding animals raised in filth on antibiotics are safer. I jokingly Tweeted and soon had an answer. Yep, it was your friendly National Pork Board. Those guys want you to eat pork like chicken; they certainly will not get fat and happier by promoting meat from small farms where pigs get to live as pigs should, the now-unnatural way. I can’t fault the catapulter of the propaganda. But I do wonder where the backstop was on the editorial side. As the Journal has demonstrated, you lie down with Turdblossom and you wake up with no credibility. If I were the cynical sort, I’d propose a piece on how endangered snapper is the answer to pirates in the Indian Ocean. Hungry Somalian researchers say it’s so.
And that, of course, was the other big-laugh bonus of newspapers today. The Pollan Wannabe let his carnival mask drop and smart readers suddenly noticed he’s just talking the talk for maximum gain. And I would be bonding with all the alert readers who wondered where his editors were if I had not slogged through the Drivelist in gap-jawed fascination yet again. While she was dragging mollusks all over the kitchen in search of a nut graf, who could possibly look away long enough to wonder what the Google says? No worries, though. A Colbert shout-out is worth lost credibility any day. Just ask a certain new Dallas resident.
I also did not venture very far into but got a good laugh out of the stop-the-presses piece on wine without end. That has been the bane of my drinking existence for almost as long as I’ve been drinking better than Mateus. I get the shivers just thinking about it, and I have had it everywhere in the world. My suspicions about the care with which it is treated were confirmed one memorable day when we were walking past a cafe in Rome near the Piazza Navona and saw a tanker pulled up with hose extended into the cellar. The whole idea of vintners slaving over planting, weeding, harvesting, pressing and blending only to have wine pumped into a glass is unsettling. Gentlemen, start your gyros.