Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stewart, Colbert the new Kronkite, Murdoch

Maybe the title is a bit exaggerated, but here's my point. John Stewart on the Daily Show and Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report are some of the best outlets for no-bullshit news. I originally wrote "unbiased," but I think the incredibly democratic feeling of the crowds in their New York studios takes that word off the table. I do believe though, that both Stewart and Colbert pick on both sides of the party and hold them accountable for their ridiculous actions.

Because I'm a democrat, I probably liked this little segment a little too much but it explains exactly what I'm talking about.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

Palin quit. She did. It doesn't matter what you think about her. She made a promise to fulfill her term, and she didn't do it. She quit. John Stewart knows that, and he's allowed to say it because he's got his own TV show. He's calling her out for humor, but he's also doing it because the rest of the media can't seem to just say that. CNN will throw Chris Matthews at you and he'll criticize her decision, and FOX will have Bill O'Reilly come on TV and say he supports the move. It's like nobody ever reports just what happened anymore.

Stewart and Colbert don't really do that either, but at least they swim through the waves of crap to find the real truth and make it funny and enjoyable. They make the news a joke because most of the time, it is a joke.

And just to prove that they do it on both sides, here's another clip showing my favorite president Obama screwing the pooch on his overreaction and "apology" in reference to the Skip Gates issue.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Henry Louis-Gate
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

I don't have as much fire for this argument because it gets complicated when you try to assess the major networks as a whole with all of their shows in comparison to just two shows on Comedy Central, but I thought the idea needed to be said.

John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are some of the best sources to hold the media accountable. It's true. Watch their shows for an hour and then turn to some national news on those lesser-used lower TV channels. You'll see the difference not just in enjoyability, but also in the no-bull-crap attitude.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Yo ho, yo ho, a journalist's life for me.

When was the last time you were called "a little fucking prick" to your face?

It sure doesn't happen often, but it happened to me tonight. So I thought, a story's in order.

It starts with an article I wrote last Wednesday. I interviewed a bunch of people to try and learn as much as I could about clams and their buyers, sellers and diggers in Essex, Mass., and I came out with about 900 words about the bivalve shellfish.

The first guy I interviewed, Kelly Corrao, was a little fidgety and awkward. He was tentative but aggressive, and he knew a ridiculous amount about clams. I talked to him for a while and got some really great information for the story. He said that Periwinkles and Tom Shea's, two Essex restaurants right on Main Street, had taken steamers off the menu because clam prices were so high. He told me he didn't want me to print the particular names of the restaurants because it would be bad for his business. So I told him that I wouldn't attribute the information to him.

Five days later, he saw me at an event I was covering and stopped me. He said I was a "little fucking prick" and that he'd never talk to me again. He wasn't quiet about it.

I maintain that I did nothing wrong, but I'll let you be the judge.

Here's what I wrote in my story last week:

Kelly Corrao, owner of Essex Shellfish on Centennial Grove Road, a seafood wholesaler that usually buys directly from local clammers, said he has been ordering most of his clams from Maine despite the widespread red tide closures along much of that state's coastline.

Corrao has been amazed at the high prices; he said that a week and a half ago he was selling bushels at $170 each. Anything over $100 per bushel, about 60 pounds, is good, he said, but he hasn't seen the price climb that high in a long time.

"Prices were out sight," he said. "They were so high it was bad for business. People were taking it off the menu, and this is a clam town."

Make no mistake, I quoted him accurately. But later in the story, I talked to a chef at Tom Shea's who had taken clams off the menu and then to another chef, this one from Periwinkles, who actually said he never took clams off the menu and wouldn't ever consider doing so. I believe those sources and that particular piece of information is what ruffled Kelly's feathers.

Corrao believes I promised him I wouldn't print the names of the restaurants. I didn't. He believes what I did was wrong and disloyal to his word. I disagree.

See, what Kelly doesn't understand is that even as an intern, I have a job to do. I'm responsible for researching, interviewing and writing every story to the best of my ability. Sometimes I leave the "to the best of my ability" part a little unfulfilled, but not with this clam story. I didn't want to write it when the idea was pitched, but I enjoyed it by the end.

Research means finding information and investigating it. So when I found out that clam prices were high, I had to ask why. I also had to ask what that meant for business. Corrao said "some restaurants" had taken clams off the menu. He could have stopped there. I would have found out anyway. Periwinkles and Tom Shea's are on Main Street and I know both the owners by name now that I've worked in Essex for nine weeks. I wouldn't have turned a blind eye. Maybe I wouldn't have talked to them first, but all Corrao really did was speed up my search.

I told him I wouldn't attribute that information to him, and I didn't. I left the subject broad, from his perspective. But that didn't mean I wouldn't pursue it further.

If I told my editor that "some restaurants" had taken clams off the menu and didn't say who in the story, he would've given me a quiet-but-serious-verbal slap in the face and questioned my instincts as a reporter. So I did my job. I researched, I interviewed and I wrote.

And apparently, that's what Corrao was mad about. He gave me some information, told me he'd appreciate it if I didn't print it and then assumed I had promised him I would write a one-source story without any concrete information.

I can see my actions being considered a little weasely, at worst, but certainly not worthy of such an aggressive interaction. It scared me a little, considering he nearly followed me out to my car, but I sniffed out his bark-but-no-bite threat by the time I put the key in the ignition.

Still, it bothered me. It's not easy to simply shake it off when a middle-aged man calls out a 21-year-old the way he did. But maybe that's the kind of reaction a good investigative journalist gets from time to time. I don't really know. I just thought it would make for a good story.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reilly Overload

I've got Rick Reilly on the brain. In the past month, I've read three of his books (Missing Links, Shanks for Nothing, and The Life of Reilly) and continued to monitor his spot on ESPN.com for his weekly column. I watched his Homecoming special with Michael Phelps. I'm entirely convinced I'll never in my lifetime be as great a writer as he is. I love his metaphors. He's just fantastic. And today, he came out with what I think is his best column of the year. It deserves more than just a link; I'm quoting the whole thing right here for simplicity. Enjoy.

Tiger Woods has outgrown those Urkel glasses he had as a kid. Outgrown the crazy hair. Outgrown a body that was mostly neck.

When will he outgrow his temper?

The man is 33 years old, married, the father of two. He is paid nearly $100 million a year to be the representative for some monstrously huge companies, from Nike to Accenture. He is the world's most famous and beloved athlete.

And yet he spent most of his two days at Turnberry last week doing the Turn and Bury. He'd hit a bad shot, turn and bury his club into the ground in a fit. It was two days of Tiger Tantrums -- slamming his club, throwing his club and cursing his club. In front of a worldwide audience.

A whole lot of that worldwide audience is kids. They do what Tiger does. They swing like Tiger, read putts like Tiger and do the celebration biceps pump like Tiger. Do you think for two seconds they don't think it's cool to throw their clubs like Tiger, too?

He's grown in every other way. He's committed, responsible, smart, funny and the most talented golfer in history. I just thought we'd be over the conniptions by now.

If there were no six-second delay, Tiger Woods would be the reason to invent it. Every network has been burned by having the on-course microphone open when he blocks one right into the cabbage and starts with the F-bombs. Once, at Doral, he unleashed a string of swear words at a photographer that would've made Artie Lange blush, and then snarled, "'The next time a photographer shoots a [expletive] picture, I'm going to break his [expletive] neck!"

It's disrespectful to the game, disrespectful to those he plays with and disrespectful to the great players who built the game before him. Ever remember Jack Nicklaus doing it? Arnold Palmer? When Tom Watson was getting guillotined in that playoff to Stewart Cink, did you see him so much as spit? Only one great player ever threw clubs as a pro -- Bobby Jones -- and he stopped in his 20s when he realized how spoiled he looked.

This isn't new. Woods has been this way for years: swearing like a Hooters' bouncer, trying to bury the bottom of his driver into the tee box, flipping his club end over end the second he realizes his shot is way offline.

I can still remember the 1997 Masters -- arguably the most important golf tournament ever played. Woods, then 21, was playing the 15th hole on Sunday. He had just hit a fairway wood out of the rough and was watching it. A young boy came up from behind just to touch him -- just to pat the back of this amazing new superhero. That's when Tiger pulled the club way back over his head and slammed it down, nearly braining the kid he couldn't see behind him. And this was with a huge lead.

Look, in every other case, I think Tiger Woods has been an A-plus role model. Never shows up in the back of a squad car with a black eye. Never gets busted in a sleazy motel with three "freelance models." Never gets so much as a parking ticket. But this punk act on the golf course has got to stop. If it were my son, I'd tell him the same thing: "Either behave or get off the course."

Come to think of it, if I were the president of Nike, I'd tell him the same thing.

Put it this way: Will Tiger let his own two kids carry on in public like that?

I know what you're saying. We see more Tiger tantrums because TV shows every single shot he hits. And I'm telling you: You're wrong. He is one of the few on Tour who do it. And I keep wondering when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is going to have the cojones to publicly upbraid him for it.

Golf is a gentlemen's game. Stomping and swearing and carrying on like a Beverly Hills tennis brat might fly in the NBA or in baseball or in football, where less is expected, but golf demands manners. It's your honor. Is my mark in your way? No, I had 6, not 5. Golfers call penalties on themselves. We are our own police. Tiger, police yourself.

Tiger does a boatload of work for kids. He raises millions for his Tiger Woods Learning Center, which has helped teach thousands. But teaching goes the wrong way, too. Tiger is teaching them that if he can be a hissy hothead on the course, they can, too.

I remember Tiger's dad, Earl, telling a story. One day, when Tiger was just a kid, he was throwing his clubs around in a fuming fit when his dad said something like "Tiger, golf is supposed to be fun." And Tiger said, "Daddy, I want to win. That's how I have fun."

Well, it's not fun to watch.

Hope you liked that. As much as I love watching Tiger, I have to agree with what Reilly is saying. I used to be a lot worse with my golf tempter tantrums, but I'd like to think I have at least calmed them down enough to make the game more fun for my playing partners. Way to stand up and say something, Reilly. You never seem to disappoint me. Nice work.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I caved.

Shut up. You knew I wasn't going to make it an entire summer without writing about hockey again, and so did I.

I held out (sort of, discounting that post acknowledging Stevie Y to the Hall) for more than a month, an impressive feat if I must say so myself, but I can't do it anymore. It's late at night, and I'm ready to talk hockey again.

Wait a minute. Nope. Nevermind. No Red Wings talk. Still too painful to imagine them with all those sad faces. Damn you, Triple Deke, for that slide show of depression you posted a while ago. It would have ruined my work day if I wasn't already bored at work on a Tuesday.

Basically, all I wanted to do was update the blog and declare (through Puck Daddy) that Marian Hossa has a shoulder injury and could be out until December if his rotator cuff needs surgery.

Why the large font? Because this is huge news. This means that, like 2007, the Cup was stolen from Detroit by a lesser team. Call me a whining sore loser if you want, but you know it's true. They've had the best team in every single season since the lockout and they should be working on a five-peat right now. Disagree? Tough. This is my space. I say what's fact and what's fiction.

FACT: Red Wings. Beats. Battlestar Galactica Everyone.

So, a word to Chicago: have fun with Hossa over the next 12 years. I'm betting that for the last four of those, he's on his couch sipping "wodka" and counting Benjamins, retired but still collecting on his preposterous deal. No way that guy's playing til he's 42. At least, not when he's forced to wear this every day. Ew.

Well that's really it. Not a huge hockey post, but a necessary one. It's what I love; don't expect it to take another lengthy hiatus again.

In other news, another Summer Series of Arguments post is brewing. On the Agenda: why Jon Stewart might be more unbiased and a better newsworthy source of information than any of the major networks today. It's a good 'un.

And just because I'm in the mood, here's a video. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

MJ media put the 'fun' in funeral

As Stephen Colbert noted in his first show back from vacation last night, the coverage of Michael Jackson's death has finally come to an end.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Remembering Remembering Michael Jackson
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorJeff Goldblum

Call me insensitive, but I am very relieved that the media have stopped doing anything about the death of Michael Jackson. The news was huge when it came out, but the amount of coverage that has been on TV in the past couple weeks is frankly a bit too much.

Michael Jackson was a great artist and a crazy human being. He made Thriller and Billie Jean, two songs I quite enjoy listening to, along with many others that have made him the King of Pop. His albums have sold millions upon millions of copies, and you have to feel sympathy for his family members because it's always tough to lose a loved one. But I have to stand tough on this point: his "funeral" ceremony was a joke, and it was actually a little offensive.

Funerals are held in churches. Funerals are sad, reminiscent and a celebration of life. Funerals are for relatives and close friends. I've been to a few. There are heartfelt speeches and pall bearers, memories and tissues, people in suits and black dresses. A group mourning a communal loss.

Funerals are not held in the Staples Center. Funerals are not shown on VH1. Funerals don't need $1.4 million of police service. People don't sell tickets to funerals. It's not a performance; it's not a nationwide spectacle; it's a time for reflection and a time to honor the memory of the deceased. Usher should only touch the coffin if Michael Jackson touched him emotionally.

And maybe he did. Maybe a majority of the performers at the "funeral" knew Michael personally, and maybe they were all truly sad that he died. But that doesn't make it right to bring in cameras and microphones to broadcast it to the world.

Michael Jackson was a famous public figure. It's right to honor him. So hold a benefit concert after his family and friends have a real funeral and celebrate his life in a way none of us would understand. Bring Usher and John Mayer and Stevie Wonder back for a concert to remember the man's music, but do it after the fact. Do it after Michael's daughter says a heartfelt goodbye to her Dad so she doesn't have to have her face appear on the front page of thousands of tabloids and newspapers across the world.

It's a tragic thing to have a popular musician who shaped an entire decade of music die of a heart attack brought on by a drug overdose. So treat it like a tragedy. Don't force it on television and don't force it on an audience. Heath Ledger's death was equally as tragic, but I don't remember seeing a lineup of famous actors appearing at his funeral on national TV. In fact, I don't remember his funeral being on TV. And that's how it should be.

It's good that the media storm of Michael Jackon's death is over. But it should have been over a while ago. Michael's family will feel the loss for years to come, but for the general public, for people who never knew him outside of an album, the loss has already subsided.

Friday, July 10, 2009

When it comes to comedians, Tosh is tops.

To all comedians who are not Daniel Tosh,

You should be aware that you are all completely inferior to the man with the first good show in the 10:30 p.m. time slot on Comedy Central in forever.



Welcome to the first installment of the Summer Series of Arguments. These posts will vary in length, subject matter and world relevancy. Most of the time, they will be completely useless reading where I simply declare something or someone better than every other counterpart in existence. Let's do this.

Daniel Tosh is a comic monster.

His truthful insight borders on offensive every time, but that doesn't make it any less right. He has the edginess of Richard Pryor, the delivery of Jim Gaffigan, the creativity of Mitch Hedberg, and the energy and zaniness of Dane Cook before his ego got the best of him.

If you haven't listened to his CD, True Stories I Made Up, take a visit to Amazon or iTunes or your local music store. If you haven't seen his comedy central special, go find a TV and watch nonstop until you do; you'll be sure to catch an episode or two of Tosh.0 in meantime. If you haven't even heard of the man, the myth, the legend, say some hail marys or any other sort of ridiculous non-punishment. Here's what I'm talking about:

I wish I could live life that carelessly. He doesn't care what anyone says or thinks and he gets away with it every time. I love that.

His laugh is funny. His jokes are funny. He has this incredible ability to make things that shouldn't be funny, like 3rd world countries or AIDS or racism, hilarious.

I love stand-up comedians; I judge them harshly. Trust me when I say, Tosh tops them all.

That's it. If you're disappointed, hush now. It's 5:00 on a Friday, I want to start my weekend and I've got more in store for you soon.

On the arguing agenda: Why Mike Ricci is the ugliest person in the history of the world. Why NASCAR is not a sport. Why UFC is the dumbest craze since the Tamagotchi. Plenty of others floatin' around in the ol' noggin.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Coming Soon: the Summer Series of Arguments

I've been bored recently. I'm in a rut. I work five days every week, and I often have little to do after the job is finished each day. Some days are better than others, and I actually have some sort of fun post-5:00 plans, but most of the time I run, eat dinner and sit around reading, watching TV or playing guitar. I haven't mustered the effort to write much, though I've certainly thought about posting some thoughts about NHL free agency. But I've found that I'm too stubborn to break my word of not writing about hockey for the summer, and my occasional 140-character Twitter update often gets the point across anyway.

So, I've come up with an idea to climb out of the boredom cave and I think it might be awesome. Of course, I also thought my brilliant Bueller Awards would be awesome too and they flopped harder than Sidney Crosby in a playoff game. Ugh. I hate that kid....deep breaths, deep breaths. No rain cloud game-seven flashbacks on this beautiful Thursday afternoon. On to the idea that will entertain me and this blog for at least a couple weeks and possibly the rest of the summer and beyond:

The Summer Series of Arguments.

You see, I noticed something about myself recently, after Michael Jackson died.

I love to argue.

Why did I realize this after MJ died, you ask? Well, a few people at work were talking about how crazy he was the day after he died. So, I argued how great his music was and that he should be remembered for that and not the zoo of pets and numerous plastic surgeries. But a few days later, a couple friends and I were talking and they said he wasn't crazy. All of those things about child molestation were made up, pure falsities. Naturally, I did a 180 and spoke about how his insanity cannot be forgotten in his legacy. But when it all comes down to it, I really don't care about Michael Jackson dying. I like some of his music, but the guy's a nutjob. It was the arguing I cared about. It really doesn't matter what subject or which person or what time of day. Bickering is my forté.

And, since I'm mostly alone in my apartment and have no one to argue with, I'm going to start doing it here. A weekly installment. Completely biased. Facts will be bent and sometimes broken. Fiction and truth might become synonymous if it helps prove my point. No holds barred.

It starts tomorrow, when I'll be sure to have enough time on my hands (like I do now) to finish a post during work.

On the agenda: Why Daniel Tosh is the funniest, and most truthful, man on the planet.

Stay tuned.