January 3, 2003
WOTS. Weighing its 2004 options. WOTS begins 2003 by noting that purported Fray Editor "J.D." Connor has called WOTS a "must-read." Thanks "J.D." but don't think WOTS will let up on ya for your praise. Speaking of which, it'd be nice if D.J. blogged more often in the afternoon. Oh, and WOTS's staff is still debating about whether Connor exists. WOTS note: Shouldn't "blogging in the the afternoon" be a euphemism for something? In clone war news, Jim Lewis thinks that a clone is the sister of the woman who bears it, not the daughter (insert West Virginia joke here). WOTS's problem with Lewis's article is that it did not discuss the implications of such a labeling decision, namely i) its effect on inheritance and other legal rights, and ii) whether labeling clones anything other than the norm would create a de facto "clone class," thereby setting up the kind of Brave New World/Gattaca world we'd want to avoid. Of course, for those opposed to cloning, propping up the idea of abnormal labeling is a nice tact to take against cloning, unless you just decide to not label clones unusually, as we should. After all, isn't there enough discrimination in the world already? WOTS. An uncloneable lover of the great state of West Virginia. The wonderfully named Maia Szalavitz (bless you!) must have been on drugs writing about drug testing. First, she wrote "increases in drug testing increase the numbers of offenders." Sorry Maia. Increases in drug testing increase the number of offenders caught, not the number of offenders. She also cites a "1998 study of nearly 150 teenagers." Nearly 150? 146? 149? Is 150 out of about 135,000 teens in teatment programs even close to a statistically meaningful number? Not nearly. Finally, she cites the case of "Michael" who is supposed to be somehow representative of the other 134,999 teens in drug programs. She says his negative reaction to his program's methodology "may be the rule for teenagers, not the exception." Does Maia supply any facts to support this? Not nearly. Oh, and she says teens are more subject to peer pressure than adults. Shocker!WOTS notes something Timmy Noah doesn't but should have: Not only does it stink to die around Christmas, its bad to be born then too, what with all the gift combining.WOTS question: Would you rather get one nice $100 gift or two nice $50 gifts? In nuke news, with all due respect to the Bush administration (whatever that means to you...), North Korea will sell the nukes it is now building to people (yes, people) we don't want having them! Hello! WOTS doesn't mean to be fatalistic, but, can we please, um, stop them? Thanks! WOTS note: WOTS's existence is entirely dependent on it not being nuked (and eating a high fiber, low fat diet). Now that's foreign policy for you!In hair news, with all due respect to John Kerry (whatever that means to you...), John Edwards has better Presidential hair. It remains to be seen whether Sen. Edwards can talk to dead people. WOTS wonders: Is Edwards Clinton with or without the wonk? Stay tuned.NyQuilissue of the Week: top ten best/worst movie lists. WOTS knows there are few things more boring about movies than the end of year top ten lists. Why? Because without exception, the "bests" list are filled with box office duds, movies that have had limited releases so no one sees them (sometimes not even the critics), and the "surprise" sobaditsgood. The "bests" lists usually are about critics pushing small films, not rewarding great ones that happen to be big. Critics like doing this because i) critics are sometimes the only ones to have seen the small films, ii) since everyone goes to or at least knows about really big films anyway, it doesn't matter what the critics say, so iii) critics can only maintain their facade of critic-hood by propping up movies no one sees. The "worst" lists almost always include a movie that a bunch of other critics think is a "best" (as Davey Edelstein does this year with Adapation). Plain dumb. WOTS notices the irony of it being a critic of critics of movies no one sees, as it suspects it comments on articles no one reads....Meanwhile, Slate's movie reviewers called their subjects "depressive" and "suicidal." What, bad presents this year?Note to Kaus and Shafer: Do us a favor and shut up about the New York Times already. Thank you.In other Bloggy Kaus news, Mick dismisses out of hand the idea that political/liberal radio talk shows haven't worked because they are not mean enough. He shouldn't. The number one rule of most local TV news stations is still "If it bleeds, it leads", and that's because people are drawn to noise and excitement. Liberals, unable to get noise and excitement from political radio, do what they have always done, listen to loud music and have lots of sex. WOTS reports, you decide which is better.Incidentially, Bloggy now has a car blog (yes, "autoblog" is already a dot com). WOTS wonders: How is Bloggy qualified to write this column? Maybe he is, but he hasn't said so. Speaking of loud, Ann Coulter shrill? Shocker!WOTS shoulda been an Explainer: What's the deal with the arap in Daniel arap Moi? WOTS, which kinda forgot about its weekly TMQ watch, went back and found that Slate failed to link to its former best column once during the regular football season, despite Slate's repeated links to ESPN, a fellow MSN'r. The only TMQ mention was this week's link to an old TMQ from last year. To borrow a phrase from Mr. Easterbrook, "Ye Gods!"If you are a WOTSie, you know Slate's sports coverage is usually awful. WOTS free hint: Do a weekly Breakfast Table or "Movie club" thing. "Sports club" has a nice, sporty ring to it. Get some players, coaches, refs, actual sports journalists to write the thing. WOTS prediction: Miami 27, Ohio State 16. WOTS's other potential "should be a euphemism" of the year: "catching the meme"Finally, in case you missed it, WOTS hopes you'll check out its First Annual Worst of the Slate Awards, which can be found by clicking the SAP button on your remote. WOTS thanks it loyal readers and wishes them a Happy New YearJan. 10, 2003
WOTS. And All That Jazz. In Iraq news, Freddy Kaplan says, "You can say we're going to war because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. You can say we're going to war to keep him from developing weapons of mass destruction. You can't really say both at the same time." Actually, yes you can. WOTS know we can say that Saddam has some limited number of weapons of mass destruction, and we don't want him to develop bigger and better ones before the cost of ousting him becomes too high, as it arguably is in nuclear North Korea.WOTS curious potential timing note: Super Bowl: January 26. Weapons Inspectors Report: January 27. War with Iraq: January 28. War with Iraq over: March 30. Baseball season begins: March 31. Hmmmmm..... WOTS "should be a euphemism" of the week: "Bishop Spong."In political wife news, Tim Noah wrote a whole wittle article about the problems with Linda Daschle and her lobbying for the airline industry that was made moot both before and after it appeared. Before, because Tom D. decided not to run. After, because Linda herself said she would have quit lobbying if Tom ran for Prez. Awww. Tim says she woulda been a liability as an ex-lobbyist. WOTS knows the American People are usually too confused about mudane lobbying rules for the candidate's wife's ex-job to matter, not that most people pay attention to those things anyway.In an effort to avoid being too political, WOTS will merely note, without further comment, that Noah also used the words "Bush" and "genius" in the same sentence. In music news, Lee Smith (retired from his closer duties) says pop music will makes Arabs love us instead of becoming terrorists. Smith apparently hasn't listened to much pop music lately. Smith also implies that Egyptian, and later, Moorish, art and architecture was not "visually interesting." WOTS knows it was amongst the most visually interesting and still is. Still, WOTS thinks that if we have to send some potential Islamic terrorists some American music, go with the following from Messr. Springsteen: "Baby this town rips the bones from your back. It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap, We gotta get out while we're young." Now that's a message we want to send to potential terrorists!WOTS's dumb review of the week: "The premiere of The Bachelorette was good!, " says usually dour Ginney Heffernan WOTS wonders what would happen to the world if Smith and Heffernan ever got together on foreign policy....In movie news, Jimmy Suroweicki, a finanical reporter, says: "Without digital technology, there's no way a visually convincing film version of The Lord of the Rings—like the one we now have—could ever have been made." Wrong. Animation. Thank you. Also, his points about LOTR's techno commentary were made decades ago. Stick to the numbers, Jimmy!In shopping news, Danny Gross misses the big reason why Restoration Hardware isn't making it: They have lousy stores. WOTS's design team (which tells WOTS that its bad to have a mirror opposite the foot of your bed) has noticed that every R.H. store is way too small and, resultingly (is that a word?) fails to display enough of its furniture. Why is that important? Because people want to know what the Ye Olde $99 Grammophone is going to look like in their living room. WOTS item related to the Salvador Dali mention: WOTS's art critic wants the world to know that one of the best Dalis is "Pierrot Playing the Guitar," which while can be seen in the Renia Sofia in Madrid, cannot apparently be bought as a poster anywhere. WOTS's misleading headline of the week: "Should the Democrats draft a General?" Chris Sullentrop never answers the question. WOTS's take: He's potentially a great pick for Veep. NyQuilissue of the Week...Atlanta has some bad sports teamzzzzz...... WOTS thanks its loyal readers!January 17, 2003
WOTS. Unafraid of Katie Couric.WOTS loves it when writers admit their problems and then repeat them, or criticize others for doing things they do themselves. WOTS beings this week with some primo examples. First, Timmy Noah, in a piece mostly devoted to his claim that some Repubs desire more taxes on poor people, admitted previously to writing "two (possibly superfluous) columns explaining why poor people shouldn't pay more taxes," both of which he ironically linked to in his third such article on the subject. Noah then basically Kearns Goodwinizes the point of a piece by Edmund Andrews – which he quotes at length to hide the fact he says nothing original! So, in sum, Noah's article was rehash and a reword. Good job Timmy! Incidentially, there was more blue in that article (from the links) than on the Boise State football field. Too much linking will now be known in WOTS as a "Boise State Violation." WOTS had to provide eye care coverage to its employees before they would look at it. WOTS note: Legend has it that hundreds of water fowl have plunged to their deaths mistaking the Boise State "lake blue" football field for an actual lake, thus proving once again, that Dan Quayle can't spell potato. Second, in tall people news, Robert Weintraub proves again to be a total hypocrite when it comes to Yao Ming this week when he criticizes sports commentators for first bashing him and then praising him, calling it a "180-degree turn worthy of the X Games." But as WOTS reported last year, Weintraub, in WOTS Award Nominated performance, did the same thing only in reverse! In 2001, Weintraub thought Yao was worth a lottery pick. In 2002, after criticizing Yao, Weintraub said, "Is that what you want of a top draft choice?" Now Weintraub calls other sports commentators "nauseating" for essentially doing the same thing! Fun!WOTS whoops: Dan Gross, like the soon to be emabrrassed announcer who says "That guy never misses a free throw!" said Tuesday that Microsoft wouldn't pay dividends. Thursday night, Microsoft announced they were paying dividends. Whoops! Meanwhile, in Supremes news (non drunk driving variety), to avoid being too political, WOTS will only note that Dally Lithwick had this to say about Antonin Scalia: "He knows what the law is." In reality, Scalia knows what his dissent will be. Dally remarkably claims to be "moved by his brilliance." Really? Moved to what?. WOTS incidential note: The most fun question to ask and the worst question to have to answer during oral argument is "Really?" Worst failure to read the First Annual Worst of the Slate Awards: Baby pictures are back!Worst failure to read WOTS: As WOTS noticed two weeks ago, and as sharp WOTSies like Ex-Fed are catching on, somebody, please, please tell Bloggy Kaus (and Shafer) to stop, stop, stop writing about The New York Times! This week, Kaus's headline "Are good reporters starting to flee the NYT" is supported by an example of one (1!) guy who left to move back to the Pacific Northwest, where he is from, so he could work for the Washington Post, for which he had worked previously for 21 years. Quick, grab the matzah, we've got an Exodus! Bloggy, enough already! Bloggy's rants on the NYT have become more tiring than ex-Slater Hugo Lindgren's constant dribble about the Lakers. WOTS side note: According to his Slate bio, alleged Fray Editor D.J. Connor vaugely lives "outside New York" and is apparently not one of those who lives "down the street" from Jodi Kantor, who will probably move now that she's at the New York Times, unless she is part of the Exodus. (Yes, Bloggy, people are getting hired at the NYT also!)WOTS note: According to a well placed source close to WOTS, "down the street" means not more than three blocks (streets, not avenues), especially if it is really cold and you are wearing expensive shoes.WOTS guilty pleasure: You liked that dribble/Lakers comment, admit it.In ad news, the wonderfully named Rishad Tobaccowala (thanks to historyguy for pointing it out), who can no longer be smoked in New York bars and restaurants, contributed to the dumb Dialouge: "Will the internet become a significant advertising medium?" Answer (duh!) found in first sentence of week long spittle, no need to read on. Ok, WOTS would now like to slow things down a bit for dramatic effect.....seriously, this would have been a great question in 1992, but Slate, in 2003, are you kidding? On a side note, WOTS knows internet ads won't really work until they stop being so gosh-darn annoying. WOTS definite euphemism: "gosh darn."Tobaccowala (!) later says, in a combo potential WOTS NyQuilissue/line of the year, "Any reader of this discussion who is willing to spend an hour browsing the online industry sites of the Internet Advertising Bureau or Online Publishers Association will see a plethora of independent research, success stories, and compelling creativity with minimal heavy breathing or ranting to become a believer in the future of Web marketing." WOTS thinks anyone who has spent time reading the Dialouge and then reads the cited industry websites for an hour needs to get out more. Speaking of 1992, WOTS figured out another problem with tv hater Ginny Heffenan: She does far more play-by play than color commentary. WOTS knows a good movie review is about 25% plot recap, 75% commentary. Ginny is the reverse, and is worse for it.WOTS note: Wouldn't "compelling creativity with minimal heavy breathing" be a great review for a lot of movies of the non-porn variety?WOTS conspiracy-fiction writing contest: What exactly ARE the North Koreans doing in New Mexico? 1000 words or less. In honor of the University of Michigan law school, twenty extra points for showing "compelling creativity with minimal heavy breathing." Have fun!WOTS thanks its loyal readers!March 28, 2003
(Note: For new Fraysters, WOTS is a MOAB attack on Slate's weekly targets of opportunity. It appears between Friday at 5pm and Monday at noon, unless it doesn't. WOTS has been around for a while now, which is more than you can say about most Slate writers.)Worst of the Slate, Vol. 2, Ed.4.Don't be fooled by the WOTS that I got.WOTS's trend debunker this week focuses on Johnny Fasman's claim of a mass Arab boycott of American fast/junk food. Sure, sales are down in Arab countries, but Fasman forgets that sales of American fast/junk food are down right here in America also! Coke's coke sales have been slumping here (though not in Belgium for some reason) and the Hamburgler seems to have run off with McDondalds profits. So if sales figures aren't evidence of a boycott themselves, does Fasman provide any actual evidence of mass Arab boycotts of McNuggests? Nope. Nothing. What he does provide evidence of are companies marketing their products better to Arabs. Fasman fails to appreciate the irony of supposed Arab boycotters submitting to American style marketing techniques. Oh well.In another WOTS trend debunker, Timmy Noah claims "calibrate me" is the big phrase-o-da-war so far. While "Calibrate Me" may be a song by Atom Bomb Pocket Knife (WOTS checked!), WOTS's staff had never heard it (and WOTS staff hears everything...). WOTS knows its too early to predict these things, but "irregulars" is a better choice, or WOTS early favorite, "target of opportunity," which incidentally would make a great name for an album.WOTS trend debunker, working overtime, also sends Adam Kisrch's claim of a Dante rage to Hades. The Amazon rankings of books by or about Dante (on the day of Kirsch's piece) are: 96; 2,378; 4,589; 12, 771; 90,303 and 96, 405! And the book at 96 is about Dante the way The Name of the Rose was about Aristotle (in other words, its a rip off), even if it has made other notable best seller lists. But WOTS knows that surely one book doth not a rage make. WOTS's silly line of the week comes from Explainer, which informs us about "the banks of the Euphrates River, where vegetation and mud are present." Ah, as opposed to the riverbanks where vegetation and mud and not present, like the East River!In Oscar news, Davey Edelstein says "Nicole Kidman was excruciatingly inarticulate." He then says after viewing the tape, that "she wasn't as bad as I'd thought." So, Davey, to be correct, she's wasn't excruciatingly inarticulate, you first thought she was excruciatingly inarticulate, then you changed your mind a little.WOTS is also confused why Davey thinks anyone might "have a legitimate beef" with Nowhere In Africa's Oscar win just because it happens to be about Jews in Africa. Care to explain, Davey? Anyway, everyone know the only reason the film won is because Y Tu Mama Tambien wasn't nominated, which really makes it the second best foreign film anyway. So what is Davey really saying here? On a side note, WOTS's entertainment editor watched the Oscars in HDTV and wanted WOTSies to know that HDTV really lets you know which actresses are makeup beautiful and who are natural stunners (Jennifer Garner). WOTS suspects you'll be hearing more about this as HDTV begins to take over.In other news, Danny Chiasson compares the Pope to Morrissey. Really.In tv war news, Maggie O'Rourke says "many are discovering that watching the war on TV, while drearily hypnotizing, is at best an inefficient use of time." She cites no support for this statement. WOTS hates that kind of thing.Next, Deanne Stillman offers these totally contradictory statements about the fragging incident: Compare 1) "It's increasingly clear that there is a small group of soldiers for whom anti-American fatwas issued in mosques around the world supercede the oath of loyalty they took to their nation." with the very next sentences 2)"Almost nothing is known about radical Islam in the ranks. Very little is known about Islam in the ranks, period." Her article is a total guess, at best, and relies only on vague terms like "many," "most," "some," "a few," "estimate," and helpfully, "vague." So without any actual evidence, she claims that "[c]ertainly, the military can do a better job screening its recruits." How does she know? WOTS thinks this kind of article causes irrational, reactionary fear. Shame.In other war news, WOTS potential understatement of the year: Jack Shafer says: "All of the embeds [embedded reporters] have a strong stake in the outcome of any hostile action they might encounter." Really? Nasty death is a tad more than a strong stake, Jack. Speaking of death, WOTS sees Tom Noah's piece on Sen. Moynihan continues Slate's distasteful habit of knocking down the recently dead. Why Slate does this seemingly the second some famous bloke dies is beyond WOTS. What's next? Piling on dead Marines? Please stop this. Thanks!In WOTS soap opera news, alleged Fray editor D.J. Connor is on his way out for some reason. Perhaps he is also "going back to England" like his predecessor. He hasn't said. Someone named Kevin Arnovitz is taking over. WOTS, as always, is pretty skeptical this guy really exists, so we'll see. Until WOTS decides he's real, WOTS will call him "Arny," whether he likes it or not.WOTS, happy to be back, thanks it loyal readers, particularly those who recently wrote in!April 9, 2003
Better WOTS than never.Starting light this week, WOTS begins with Rob Walker, trying to explain why hip-hop artists brag about top-o-da-line brand name cars. Rob forgets to mention that "Mercedes" rhymes with "ladies" and that as so much of rap and hip-hop is bragging, no one is likley to be frontin for Ford. Speaking of ladies, WOTS was saddened to hear that Jennifer Garner is now single again. Right...Speaking of Jennifer Garner, WOTS thinks "a paragon of harmony and finesse" and "all discreet charm, understated, reserved, but unmistakably sensuous" is a good way to describe her, though Mikey Steinberger was speaking of wines. At least Steinberger will never be called a wine snob after his remark about "holy-sh-t wines." A wine hick, perhaps? Steinberger's also up for a WOTS observation of the year award for his line: "But you can only bite a tongue so much." WOTS did not know that.WOTS knows wine is made to be drunk. In war news, Andy Bowers needs to read WOTS before he writes his column. WOTS last week identified "target of opportunity" and "irregulars" as its two top contenders for terms to come out of Operation Iraqi Liberation (woops, that would spell OIL, so we mean Freedom, which is OIF.) His article ignores these obvious terms in favor of ones no one has ever heard of (vertical envelopment, FIBUA), many (homicide bomber) that are unrelated to the Iraq war, and curiously, Sojo, which involves the former Yankee utility player who always came up with the key hit in the clutch. Luis would be proud.Incidentally, WOTS hears Haliburton is the tops company in the world in the development of oif. Dumbest war article of the week goes to Freddy Kaplan, who on Thursday seemed to think he had some insight by highlighting meaningless side-developments indicating the demise of Hussein's regime while glossing over the massive bombing of the Republican Guard out of existence. Way to put the pieces together, Freddy! Hint for Freddy: Super-massive killing of the enemy and almost no good-guy deaths is the number one way to know that they are losing! Speaking of good guys, WOTS was saddened to hear of the passing of David Bloom. Although Bloom was not killed in combat, his death was surely the result of his embeddedness. WOTS thought from the outset that while the embed idea was noble, it was also shockingly presumptive and dangerous. Only a seriously overly confident military would intentionally send mostly untrained, out-of-shape civilians into actual combat zones and not expect many casualties. Although at times it looked like it, war isn't Easy Rider. If predictions of Iraq's tough resistance had been more accurate, who knows how many journalists would have been killed? WOTS wonders what would have happened if, say, NBC, lost two or three prominent reporters. While WOTS admires the courage of the embeds, WOTS thinks the military should exercise some serious paternalism and that the networks should reassess the value of the lives of their reporters. WOTS note: Despite Slate's trend of seriously ragging the recently dead, you didn't hear one negative comment about any journalist who died in the war. Nothing like protecting your own, right?WOTS suspicious fact: The Republicans bombed the Republican Guard. WOTS better question than Explainer: If you had to walk on a cake, what kind of cake would you walk on?WOTS hopes Mike Lewis is ok, so won't rag on his column this week. WOTS, however, thought it would have been nice if Slate had warned readers about the rather graphic picture of Michael Lewis. Lewis' injury, however, should remind WOTSies that despite the dangers of terrorism, you're more likely to get hurt ice skating, unless you don't skate, in which case, look out!Speaking of ice skating, hey Slate Sports! Those were great articles on the NCAAs, the start of the baseball season, the hockey and basketball playoff previews, and the Masters! Thanks!WOTS thanks its loyal readers. And if any of you know where to send Jennifer Garner flowers, please let WOTS know.April 12, 2003
WOTS. Not particularly interested in grilling anyone's stomach's in hell.Speaking of which, In Other Magazines makes an appearance this week because Julia Turner, in repeating the Economist's hope that Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf' get a Al-Jazeera talk show, stops there. How uncreative. Mr. Credibility should absolutely get an MSNBC talk show. The show should be called MSaSNBC. Or he could just be paired on Fox with Sean Hannity. Judge on American Idol, perhaps? WOTS question for Jack Shafer: If certain journalists unintentionally killed in war zones are "victims of their own contributory negligence" who "placed themselves in harm's way, "then why do you start your article by calling the deaths of "any journalist in a battle zone" "appalling and grievous." Because they are journalists? Jack, you can't have it both ways.WOTSbervation: Did anyone else think that the picture of Bush in front of the weird orange background with Arabic just below his chin was one of the most unintentionally funny pictures in recent memory. Kind of an "Hello Martian visitors, the people of the Earth are your friends" moment. WOTS understatement of the week: Freddy Kaplan's claim that we dropped lots of bombs on Iraqi forces "in order to ease the path of U.S. Army soldiers and Marines thrusting north to Baghdad." How chivalrous of us to ease our troops path! Look Freddy, we dropped bombs on Iraqis to kill as many of them as possible so we didn't have to fight a major ground war because there would be no one left to fight it against. Kaplan makes it seem like he's revealing this inevitability as some kind of surprise. It isn't, mainly because Kaplan says nothing in his piece that hasn't been reported to death either in whole or in part for days. This is the second week in a row Kaplan has failed to appreciate something obvious about the US's unique unopposed ability to drop huge numbers of bombs on people we don't like. WOTS side note: Isn't inevitability a great word? Say it out loud a few times. Trust WOTS.WOTS "should be a euphemism" of the week: An "US-PUK Operation." The key here is to pronounce the letters as words. Say it out loud a few times. Trust WOTS.Meanwhile, Slate sports is truly remarkable. Last week, WOTS sarcastically thanked Slate for all of its good coverage of the NCAAs, the baseball season, the various upcoming playoffs, and the Masters (none). In response (?), Slate recycled a truly dumb Masters article from last year. Indeed, Alex Heard's piece was a WOTS Award nominee for worst sports article of last year. Slate, really, this is the best you can do?WOTS entertainment department is wondering if Virginia Heffernan is the Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf of the television critic world. What do you WOTSies think? Also, can't you just see Dennis Miller salivating over being able to throw out al-Sahaf's name a few years from now?WOTS thanks its loyal readers!