Archive for May, 2010

Next Week on the Blog

Posted on May 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

SITD readers will want to pay special attention to the blog next week, when there’ll be a unusual and, if I do say so myself, kind of cool event.

I can’t tell you what it is, but it involves Old Media vs. New, a threatened lawsuit, a blogger under siege, and a mutual victory.  Plus some deep stuff.

Be sure to check it out, starting the day after Memorial Day.

Oh, and Standing Eagle—could you drop me a line?

Kindle: Stick a Fork in It

Posted on May 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

A couple friends have bought iPads lately, and though I didn’t think I would want one, having seen theirs I am now lusting after the device. It is gorgeous, and the functionality is impressive. I never thought I’d particularly warm to reading a book on a handheld, but the iPad’s reader is so crisp and cool, I’m coming around. So are lots of other people.

At the gym the other day, I saw someone reading a movie script on an iPad, and someone reading a book on the Kindle, and the Kindle looked pathetic by comparison—its screen a dreary gray, its lack of apps, the odd little buttons on its surface—like a prop from some old scifi show. “Lost in Space,” perhaps.

Amazon might be able to milk suckers for another year or so, but Kindle is done. Throw it in the trash next to your typewriter.

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The Rest of Us Fight Back

Posted on May 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Greenpeace is staging a competition to rebrand British Petroleum, which for years has been marketing itself as a “green” energy company even as, I saw on the news last night, it had by far the worst safety and environmental record of any energy company last year, which is saying something.

Here’s one of the entries. Click here for others.

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Quote of the Day

Posted on May 26th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

“I have colleagues who’ve been consistently wrong for 30 years, and they continue to draw quite generous salaries from the University.”

Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, who is a member of the department of history and also a professor at Harvard Business School.

Ferguson was talking about economic forecasting at the Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference, held at Lincoln Center this afternoon (and still going on).

Worth Wins an Award

Posted on May 26th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

As you may know, I have a day (usually more) job editing Worth magazine. (I downplay it here since I’m quite professional about Worth and sometimes less-so on Shots in the Dark.)

But I do want to share some terrific news regarding the day job: Worth has won the Society of Publication Designer’s award for best magazine redesign of 2009. We beat out, among others, the New York Times Magazine and Maxim—some high-powered competition in the mag world.

As the top dog says,

“The SPD competition yields thousands of entries from around the world to find the best examples of design, photography and illustration represented in the editorial work of 2009,” said Adam I. Sandow, CEO, Sandow Media. “This year, from among a total of 48 magazines submitting ‘before and after’ issues for redesign consideration, only four finalists—Maxim, The New York Times Magazine, Tennis and Worth—were chosen by the judges as the representatives of the very best work and possible Medal Finalists for Redesign. We could not be more thrilled that Worth received the Gold award.

Here’s our forthcoming cover:

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Speech! Speech!

Posted on May 26th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Drew Faust delivered the Baccalaureate address to Harvard’s graduating seniors yesterday. Her theme? Living life without a script.

came your junior year, and suddenly there was no script. The world had shifted. It was the year of Obama. Who could have anticipated that? It was the year of entropy [Blogger: the year of entropy and the year of Obama ], with catastrophic floods and fires, an imminent flu pandemic, and the biggest meltdown of world financial systems since the Great Depression. Jobs you had counted on evaporated. Opportunities vanished. Phrases like “bailout” and “too big to fail” were suddenly being applied to companies you had hoped would someday recruit you. And the University was not immune. We didn’t have to melt down the roof of Harvard Hall into bullets — as we did in 1775. But we did curtail plans, and you watched, unsettled, as last year’s seniors felt their way onto a shaky economic landscape they had in no way anticipated.

The lessons to be learned from such events? Be humble. Embrace risk. The world needs you. [Blogger: Potential tension with lesson #1 here.] Be creative.

Unfortunately, Faust went on to quote David Brooks—Faust does have this conventional NPR streak in her that is sort of lame—and Louis Menand, whom she draws on for quotes like a hankie in the pocket. (See This Republic of Suffering.) It gets a little embarrassing.

On the whole, though, a perfectly nice speech; Faust is strongest when she challenges the culture of competition uber alles and traditional definitions of success at Harvard. Her efforts  may be like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon, but her message is an important one in the 02138 world.

Meanwhile, down in Virginia, Christy Romer addressed her alma mater, William & Mary, in a speech which explained and defended the Administration’s economic policy. This prompted a flurry of snarky comments from people who feel that the speech was a) political (this is bad, apparently), and b) generic (this is bad).

As one commenter put it,

I’m sure she’s brilliant and nice and certainly has an impressive position. But I have to say, that was the worst graduation speech I’ve ever heard. As noted, she barely mentioned the school; she could give the same speech, word for word, to another school, and they’d never know the difference. Equal parts political posturing, wallowing personal self-aggrandizement, some thin economic history….

Interesting. If she’d given this speech at Harvard’s commencement, it’d be completely appropriate. I can’t help but wonder if this W&M newspaper headline—Samantha Casey ’10 Places Third at Miss USA—doesn’t tell you more of what W&M is looking for.

To prepare for the Miss Virginia pageant, Casey took the Fall 2009 semester off from the College….

Or, as one commenter put it, “Congratulations, Samantha! What a tremendous achievement.”

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Samantha Casey, Miss Virginia Teen USA, with Bootie Chewning, first vice president of the Miss Virginia Pageant.*

Ah, well. It’s a big country.

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* The Miss Virginia Pageant has a first vice-president?  (Who, I wonder, is the second?)

Is Nothing Sacred?

Posted on May 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Columbia’s valedictorian plagiarized a joke! A lengthy one.  At length.

Weirdly, though, it’s not even a very good joke. Why would you plagiarize a bad joke?

The Still-Unloved Larry Summers

Posted on May 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Harvard’s ex-president, now one of President Obama’s top economic advisers, hasn’t caused any controversy in some time, which is unlike him. And many serious economic thinkers credit Summers and the Obama team with staving off a depression.

But Summers still seems unable to completely shake his past—or move beyond the compartment of “brilliant economist” to the category of “popular brilliant economist.”

In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank chastises Summers for his use of cold, impersonal language at a time when millions of Americans are feeling economic pain.

Summers spoke recently at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, Milbank reports:

What he delivered…was a lot of econo-speak that could only baffle Americans worried about finding or keeping a job. He spoke of “the multiplier process” and “a range of catalyzing investments.” He invoked the “liquidity trap” and “tail risks.” He alluded to the “width of the confidence interval” and the need to “achieve the sustainability criterion.

Milbank’s conclusion? (Which I think is right on the money.)

Obama has a problem. There’s building evidence that he’s pursuing the right economic policy, but his administration isn’t very good at explaining it.

…In part this is because Obama lacks a credible economic spokesman to deliver the message. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner lacks gravitas in public appearances. Paul Volcker is 82 and only a part-time adviser. Christina Romer, head of the Council of Economic Advisers, is perceived to lack clout. CEA member Austan Goolsbee is a gifted spokesman but doesn’t have one of the top jobs. Then there’s Summers. He’s radioactive because of his tenure at Harvard, where he clashed with women on the faculty. The clashes have continued at the White House, according to Jonathan Alter’s new book, “The Promise.” When Romer protested that Summers tried to cut her out of important meetings because of her sex, Summers reportedly yelled at her: “Don’t you threaten me!”

“Don’t you bully me!” Romer replied.

Kinda wish you were a fly on that wall, don’t you? Christy Romer, whom Drew Faust rejected for tenure for no good reason, feeling that Summers was excluding her from meetings because she’s a woman…remarkable.

Meanwhile, in New York magazine Jonathan Heileman writes this about Obama’s choice of Tim Geithner as Treasury secretary:

Summers, a past occupant of the post who’d emerged as candidate Obama’s dominant economic adviser, badly wanted the job. But his confirmation would have been problematic thanks to his controversial tenure as president of Harvard and his part-time job at hedge fund D. E. Shaw and Co. And then there was his famously abrasive personality. “Fifty percent of the people Obama asked about Larry said no fucking way,” remembers an Obama adviser.

Ouch.

Of course, it’s a testament to Summers’ determination and, yes, strength that he recovered sufficiently from his Harvard ouster to be doing what he’s currently doing. (And to his book smarts, of course, if not emotional intelligence.) It just doesn’t sound like the experience changed him much.

Students of journalism, by the way, might consider the difference between the way Geithner is presented by Milbank and how he’s presented by Heileman, who presumably is working on a book and needs ongoing access. Bleh.

Sorority Girls in Trouble

Posted on May 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The Smoking Gun reports that the sisters of Pi Beta Phi are out of control.

At a March 6 party sponsored by the group’s Ohio University chapter, attendees engaged in sex acts, used plates as “missiles” during food fights, vomited on carpets, defecated in urinals, and tried to tear off the clothes of a female bartender….

In a letter of complaint, the director of the local art center used for the party wrote,

The professional bartender hired for the event personally  witnessed [blogger: personallya couple engaging in sexual congress, while surrounded by a throng. The catering team interrupted two of your members [blogger: who needs fraternities?] engaging in sexual relations under one of the banquet tables. In her statement, the bartender noted that she feared for her safety when a number of guests attempted to tear off her clothing….

This falls under what we might call the “shameless commerce division” of Shots in the Dark.

Spitting Mad

Posted on May 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 18 Comments »

What would you do if you were spat on in your workplace?

Probably wipe it off and take a swing at the spitter, right?

Not New York busdrivers, who were spat on (an unfortunate) 51 times in 2009, according to the NYT.

What did they do?

They took, on average, 64 days off. Paid.

Being spat upon — having a passenger spit in your face, spit in your mouth, spit in your eye — is a physically and psychologically traumatic experience,” said John Samuelsen, the union’s president. “If transit workers are assaulted, they are going to take off whatever amount of time they are going to take off to recuperate.”

Don’t unions realize that this kind of absurdity that discredits them to the non-union public?

The next shoe to drop? Bus drivers who’ve either lied about being spat upon or paid someone to do it in order to get the boondoggle…