SOMETHING TO ASPIRE TO! A documentarys involving ideas help show what the press corps is not:
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2005
SOMETHING TO ASPIRE TO: Well join the pro critics in strongly recommending The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Amazing! A small documentary about a little-known man who turns out to be the rarest of breeds—a deeply interesting person! Wesley Morris makes the key point in his Boston Globe review:
MORRIS: Judy Irving's terrific documentary "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" is ostensibly about birds, but only in the way that a game of Scrabble is about tiles. The movie's actually about Mark Bittner, a sensitive specimen of West Coast humanity whose eccentricity is something to aspire to.Bittner is an acutely compassionate man, and Irving is careful to question the details of his life without prosecuting him, Morris writes. In the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan waxes further. [B]ecause he turned out to be an acute observer with a wry and intelligent point of view, [Bittners] voice-over narration is filled with involving ideas about the parrots and their world. Involving? Its rare to find a true rumination in the world of contemporary film. This film lists at 83 minutes. We would have guessed we were somewhere near 50 when Wild Parrots came to an end.
Critics have tried to suggest the films surprise ending without revealing what it is. Among the reviewers we have read, Turan comes closest to tattling:
TURAN: The other key [to the movies appeal] is the benefits documentary filmmakers get when they shoot over a long period of time, in this case more than five years. "Wild Parrots" benefits greatly from a confluence of gradually unfolding events that takes it to places neither the subject nor the filmmaker could have anticipated.See how well the surprise has been hidden?
For ourselves, well be going again today or tomorrow. Having pondered the Washington press corps so long, we thought Bittners acute compassion and involving ideas truly were things to aspire to.
ASPIRATIONS: To hear Ebert and Roepers review, just click here. Ebert: This is a word-of-mouth hit...I think this movie could be an underground hit because it is so warm and so involving.
Will Parrots become a word-of-mouth hit? At this point, it seems to be in limited distribution. For folks in D.C., its currently playing at the Avalon and at the E Street Cinema. It leaves our own Charm City tomorrow.
FOR LACK OF INVOLVING IDEAS: Weve been pleased to see pundits banging the National Press Club for next Fridays gong-show event. Dear readers, Who is a journalist? The Press Clubs inquiring minds want to know! Meanwhile, not content with the stupidest topic on earth, the Press Club scrambled to put together the stupidest possible panel as well! In the past day or so, the Club has rushed to add some respectable names to its original line-up. But when it first announced this event, the Club announced a three-member panel. And good grief! One of the three was kooky crackpot Jeff Gannon. And one of the three was Wonkette.
Strangely, a few big pundits still voice surprise at the mainstream press corps vacuous culture. Kevin! Kevin! Kevin! Kevin!! Kevin Drum does tons of excellent work. But why in the word was he surprised by what he read in Mondays New York Times? Drum quoted the Times Katharine Seelye, who—finally having found her level—was writing about gossip columnists:
SEELYE (3/28/05): The real-time pace of Internet gossip has made it difficult for newspaper gossip columnists to stay ahead of the curve. [Gossip columnist Richard] Leiby said that many people in the Post newsroom monitored Wonkette.com, a Washington blog, all day long. "She often has the lead on me because she's in real time," he said.Drum seemed surprised by what Leiby had said. There are many scary things about modern journalism, but surely this one belongs on the list, he wrote:
DRUM (3/28/05): "Many" people in the Post newsroom monitor Wonkette "all day long"? Sheesh. Wonkette isn't even a very good gossip writer, let alone someone worth monitoring continuously. Is that really the best the Post newsroom can do?Earth to Kevin: Yes! A thousand times yes!! As theyve made quite clear for years, that is the best the Post newsroom can do! To state the obvious, it was the vacuous minds of the insider press that produced the two-year War Against Gore—the mindless, vacuous press corps wilding that put George Bush in the White House. To their credit, press corps honchos rarely try to hide their cohorts vacuous soul. That being so, we dont understand why people like Drum are still surprised by the corps empty values.
Vacuous; empty; perfumed and powdered; an addled press corps rules in D.C, and they rarely make the slightest attempt to disguise their Millionaire Pundit Values. Only a gang of raving fools would have announced a three-member panel in which two members were Gannon and Cox. By the way: Is there anyone more vacant than Seelye, who wrote the Times report Drum cites? During Campaign 2000, could anyone have worked any harder to showcase the ways of her tribe?
Is that the best the Post newsroom can do? Lets all say it: A thousand times yes!! Lounging in their bubbling hot tubs, langorous pundits hand you pure pap, as weve described for the past seven years. But then, all through the course of human history, this has been the way of perfumed, powdered courts. History says its the best they can do! Why in the world—why on earth—do pundits still shrink from this fact?
THE BEST THEY CAN DO: For ourselves, we never criticized Wonkette—nor would we have done so—until Tom Brokaw insulted the nation by dragging her onto NBC after the second Bush-Kerry debate (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/6/04). Who is Wonkette? A vacuous figure who peddles a pre-feminist, backlash persona—the smutty vamp with the dirty mouth, the slut who cant stop talking about booze and sex. Theres a certain kind of man who loves that crap—and yes, the press corps is full of them! At any rate, Brokaw dragged her onto the air, and E. J. Dionne dragged her out just last week, with the completely predictable outcome (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/28/05). Adding insult to injury, of course, Brokaw put Cox on the air as a liberal. But lets let Leiby describe her further. Heres the liberal spokesman Brokaw threw on the air to discuss a presidential debate:
LEIBY (9/28/04): Celebrating her 32nd birthday and arrival as a New York Times Sunday mag cover girl, Ana Marie Cox—better known for her dirty-minded Internet persona, Wonkette—had a predictable reaction to the latest article boosting her fame: "I liked the part about me being a bitchy lush," she told us at a party in her honor at a U Street rooftop bar Sunday night. (Also predictably, she was quaffing champagne.)Yes, that is the best the Post newsroom can do, a fact weve discussed for the past seven years. When will people who do fine policy work accept the unpleasant but obvious truth about this lack of involving ideas—this trait which defines our modern press corps?