Stop shaming me for shaming airlines on Twitter

People like to complain about things on the Internet. People also like to complain about the vast amount of Internet devoted to complaining. I rise today to defend an unjustly maligned form of gripe: Twitter-shaming airlines for bad service.

Since Twitter became the main method by which journalists talk to each other, some have spoken out against the microblogging tool as a way to yell at airlines. To wit, just to quote people I know in DC:

And, most relevantly, here is Jack Shafer reacting to my gasket-blowing about a botched American Airlines flight today, which as of this writing might strand me in O’Hare for seven hours and cancel two in-person interviews.

Here, I would refer to the wisdom of Ricky from “Trailer Park Boys.” If you’re inclined to nag someone for using Twitter to talk to an airline, make like a tree and fuck off.

Consider:

1. A problematic flight is a time-suck at every level. If I’m on a work trip, I likely spent a few hours setting up interviews, a rental car, a hotel room, etc. A late flight or blown connection means I erase that work and start over. Emails, phone calls, online wrangling to reshuffle plans. You can see why the person doing all that might also take to social media to say “hey, this is no fun.”

2. Stranded airplane time is arguably the most unproductive time. Trying to do work? You need to hunt for a place to charge your device. Oh, and most planes don’t have places to do that, and neither do (most) airplane restaurants.* No, you’re likely be spending this time in a cramped space, at high risk of proximity to a baby (loud but harmless) or someone who doesn’t want to dirty his hand by using it to block a cough.** You could make a phone call, but you can’t exactly tell people to call you back, because — optimistically — you want to be in the air. Also, how effective are you when your brain is calculating and recalculating whether you can make a connection or land before Hertz shuts down?

The answer is “not very.”

3. Twitter gets results! Honestly, most of Twitter — the part I love most — is bullshit self-promotion and joke-telling. Do you need that in your life? You do not, fun as it is.

Ah, but airline-shaming — airline-shaming is a shotgun wedding of stupid form to beautiful function. As popular as Twitter is, it’s easier to reach a human being at an airline there than it is over the phone. Let’s use the example I’m most familiar with, today’s. I needed to connect in Dallas to a flight to O’Hare, which would connect me to a Sioux City flight. (I note here that I woke up at 4:10 am to do this.) Two stupid events intervened. One: A plastic bag had blown on the plane’s wheels earlier that day, and melted a bit. That took twenty minutes to clear. Two: A plane in O’Hare needed a part, so our (already delayed!) flight was chosen as the vehicle to bring it. Another twenty minutes.

I was supposed to land at 12:41 in pursuit of a 1:34 connection. Good enough! Instead, I spent 40 minutes watching as the arrival time crept just late enough to likely guarantee that I would arrive as the gate closed. (Let’s say 1:24, to be safe.) At 12:05 I tweeted:

Will you slam the doors to my connection and strand me in the airport overnight? Flight 3404 to SUX. This delay is outrageous.

At 12:30, this DM came through:

We’ve alerted ORD of your tight connection. We can’t guarantee that they can hold the connection, but they’re aware. In the event you don’t make it, you’ve been protected on the next flight to SUX, which is at 8:39p.

See? That… technically did not solve my problem at all. But that confirmed my presence on the airline’s radar, and gave me something to point to if I’m screwed again. (A few times I’ve been given airline miles and whatnot to make amends.) In a pre-Twitter world, what would I have had? Maybe, maybe, some ear time with a call center staffer who could not help.

In conclusion, hail Twitter. And fuck O’Hare. I swear if I give myself a 20-minute connection, I sprint across the entire airport. If I have a three-hour connection, I get a two hour 40 minute delay and spring across the entire airport.

*Some appreciation here for Minneapolis, with its identical but convenient bars that plunk down stools right in front of outlets.

**Not to capsize an already-irritating post with something yet more irritating, but if you have an Apple Watch — yes, yes, I know — and do not engage in some light walking or aerobics every hour, you get an alert shaming you to do so. Getting that alert when stuck in a tarmac’d airplane is a special sort of shit-nudge.

I have opinions about the new ‘Star Wars’

tl;dr It was okay and most people will like it, but it offered virtually none of the fresh ideas and visuals that make sci-fi interesting.

So: “The Force Awakens!” I plunked down my $17 to see this in 3-D, and everything went as well as you could hope, with good friends arriving on time to sit together and two of said friends going in on a large popcorn. But I left in a sour mood, partly because I had to wake at 5 am for a flight, partly because, to paraphrase Brian Wilson, it’s so sad to watch a sweet $200 million squandered on old ideas.

Things Which Were Good

BB-8. It’s cute. Slightly disturbing to see copies of this droid celling in electronics stores for a year, based on the strength of that first trailer, but we all know that “Star Wars” is in large part a toy-flogging record.

The new cast members. We were programmed to like them, of course, in that masterful 18-month ad campaign. (Remember the first cast photo was a black-and-white “candid” of a read? Remember the instant debate and hot-takery, a dark Force nightmare of what Internet was to come?) But I’ll be damned if they didn’t live up to it. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are perfect, like the character traits of Luke Skywalker split into two British people who can actually act. (Okay, Mark Hamill got better over time.) Adam Driver, whose “huh?” factor was apparently a worry for marketers, finds a perfect use of his play-doh looks and oddly threatening shape. Speaking of:

Kylo Ren’s tantrums. Something we hadn’t seen before: A villain with Force powers who, instead of taking defeats in stride, starts flipping out like a kid who got Madden 2K15 instead of 2K16 for Christmas. If the filmmakers were committed to rebooting Darth Vader (and it worked, if the number of kids I see in Kylo Ren masks tells us anything).

That big death scene. An indescribable asshole on Twitter — but I repeat myself — spoiled it for me. That I felt myself getting weepy anyway is a testament to how well it was handled.

The action, in general. To appreciate it I’d point you to a copy of the prequels, which I still refuse to hate. In his dotage, George Lucas was a strange and coma-inclined director, whose idea of an action scene was two people (or one person and a CGI droid) standing in a frame, jumping around each other, as the audiences’ eyes wandered to the obvious green-screen scenery. JJ Abrams, for all his lack of imagination, makes this action move, with characters conquering the frame and skirting what looks to us like actual danger.

Things which are bad

World-building (or lack thereof). Did you want some haggard character to sit down and explain the last 30-odd years since the defeat of the Emperor? No, neither did I. But in the words of Sonny Bunch:

An attentive viewer is left wondering why the victory at the close of “Return of the Jedi” led, 30-odd years later, to a fascist empire that looks to have inherited all of the old toys. Dig around online and you can kind of figure out that the Republic got cocky and disarmed, but there’s no sense of how the First Order arose. Speaking of…

The First Order. Oh, the potential of this idea. The Empire collapses, and a younger, meaner, more capricious fascist force rises. These villains are obviously aware of what brought the Empire low: Boondoggle super-bases that had weaknesses their enemies could exploit and explode. So what do the new villains do? They re-use the resources of the Empire, from troop armor to war ships, and they… build a boondoggle super-base that can be blown up if its weakness is exploited.

Music. If I say “hum ‘Duel of the Fates,’” or maybe more helpfully refer to it as “the Darth Maul song,”

Few people argue that the new movie’s music is memorable; maybe they argue that Williams did something warm and subtle with “Rey’s Theme.” But the dominant argument seems to be that the music is forgettable because it doesn’t have to overcompensate for stupid filler scenes. Eh.

Deux ex machinas (machinae?): Like Ryan Vogt asks, what caused R2D2 to wake up from stasis, other than the fact that the movie was about to end? Like Sonny Bunch asks, how did Rey know what Force suggestion was — not how to do it, but what it was — given that she’s skeptical the Force even exists? There’s a larger metatextual problem here, and it’s that science fiction imagined space travel advancing with much more ease than it imagined communication technology advancing. So, in a galaxy where ships can travel light years in seconds, nobody has the ability to google (or flibbertiwock, or whatever it would be called here).

Nothing new to look at. This was the problem that left me lowering my rating of the film. Even the weaker George Lucas-verse properties put in effort to create weird new worlds. We never saw an undersea Star Wars city until “The Phantom Menace.” We never saw a clone factory until (ugh) “Attack of the Clones.” We never saw a lava planet until the genuinely great final battle of “Revenge of the Sith.”

Abrams’s “Star Wars” just gives us the best of what we saw and liked already — a cynic might think they adapted the toys and playsets that sold the best. If this wasn’t Lucasfilms approved, you’d call it plagiarism.

Ink-Stained Wretches

Truth (James Vanderbilt, 2015) and Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015)
As I finish my book about the progressive rock movement — or, more to the point, as I procrastinate by spending 20 minutes writing something else — two nagging demons keep jumping on my shoulder. One says that I need to do a bit more work to get the story right. (That’s for the second draft, asshole.) One whispers the possibility that someone will cover the same subject, and drop it when my book drops, and make me wilt in the shadow.

So: I do not envy James Vanderbilt. Under normal circumstances, in which there are no movies about journalism in theaters, he would have just made a frustratingly bad one. The cruel god of timing cursed him to release that bad movie just weeks before “Spotlight,” probably the best movie of 2015, and one of the best-ever about journalism.

Talking to another friend (a journalist) who sat through both, we found ourselves wondering why Truth‘s story of hubris and failure was so much less compelling than Spotlight‘s story of success. It’s more than the clunky writing or Truth‘s seemingly endless use of slo-mo for effect. It’s that Spotlight is just so much smarter, and finds the darkness, the lack of real satisfaction, even in what seems like success.

It’s a smart movie, is what I’m saying. Truth is most decidedly not. It adapts the memoir of Mary Mapes, the CBS producer who we would remember as the scapegoat of the botched story on George W. Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service, if not for the fact that Dan Rather threw his scalp on top of hers. Cate Blanchett plays Mapes, Robert Redford plays Rather, and both seem to be stretching the thin material into Oscar-shapes. It does not work, because they are trapped in the kind of movie that introduces a heroic veteran with a slow-mo shot of him saluting at a rainy military funeral; the kind of movie where a character warns that “you’ll know it’s bad when they ask to see our source,” then later has a villainous executive ask to see the source, and the same character turn and wryly tell his companion “now it’s bad.”

These are decisions that assume a very stupid audience. Strange, because… who did Vanderbilt think his audience was? The “Rathergate” disaster was compelling enough to inspire a similar story in Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, but the only people who want to revisit it are journalists and partisans who know the basics of the story. They — okay, we — are not permitted to watch a straightforward drama about how ego and speed and outright fraud can throw lives off course. No, no, instead we get Lt. Colonel Roger Charles (Dennis Quaid, who unfortunately is the character I keep citing as example of the cinema sins here) telling a colleague that Mapes wanted to break this story in 2000, but her mother fell ill, and you know, “537 votes in Florida.”

We feel whipsawed between two equally stupid theories. One: The story of George W. Bush skipping out on TANG service was big enough to change the election. Two: The story was true, and repressed by partisans. Both are highly dubious. Add to this a cringe-inducing scene where a reporter on the story, played by Topher Grace, is being escorted out of the CBS News building and rants about how corporations are trying to suppress any news that threatens their power. It’s the sort of thing the whole narrative is implying, and then a character actually vocalizes it, and we shudder at the stupidity.

There is nothing like that in Spotlight. Actually, the only thin criticism it’s received has focused on the lack of character-building. I found that criticism totally misguided. McCarthy’s script perfectly captures how journalists talk, and more specifically how these journalists talk. (I only know one of them, Marty Baron, who hired me at the Washington Post, and anyone who wishes Liev Schreiber’s Baron was more animated or explosive is wishing he got the role wrong.)

Lots of people have heaped praise on the plotting and momentum of this movie. I think the characterization has been underrated. We do not get or need expository scenes of how months of work on the Catholic Church abuse scandal is affecting Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams). We get a scene of her struggling with a dishwasher, and a telling look from her husband when another reporter (Mark Ruffalo) shows up late at night and asks for her. We get that reporter, Mike Rezendes, living in a hovel that he says he can’t really move out of what with the story consuming his time. We get that fact when the Boston Globe’s assistant managing editor (John Slattery) shows up with leftovers, because he knows Rezendes doesn’t have time to cook.

I loved everything about this movie, but what stuck with me was the lack of finality. After Rezendes delivers a copy of the paper with the first (of 600+) Catholic Church expose pieces on the front, he walks past two children who have an appointment with the attorney. They’d been molested two weeks earlier. Two weeks — after we’d seen a lengthy legal fight for documents and a six-week reporting delay due to the 9/11 attacks putting demands on the newsroom. We are told this iteratively, not force-fed. Strangely, it’s Truth that sanctifies the act of journalism and Spotlight that clarifies it.

Correcting the Record

Yesterday, Chuck C. Johnson made me the subject of one of his rambling, fact-challenged assaults on the media. It happens. Unfortunately, in mocking Johnson, I made an error, and I want to correct it here.

Short version: In a post ostensibly about why I was re-hired by The Washington Post, Johnson attempted to explain why I had praised his obsessive reporting in 2013, but become a critic since then.

The real answer is simple: I thought Johnson did some amazing spelunking on stories in early 2013, especially on the resume of key Republican aide making the case for bombing Syria. His obsessive digging produced facts that eluded other reporters. I praised his work, and at the time, the praise was warranted.

Unfortunately, Johnson appeared to take a running leap off the deep end with a run of vicious and false “investigations” — starting with a laughably bogus story about whether the mayor of Newark actually lived there, peaking with the personal harassment of New York Times reporters. (Johnson printed their home addresses out of pique that they mentioned the neighborhood that Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson lived in, an abhorrent act that he actually brags about in this same post, which I’m not linking to.)

That’s my answer: Johnson did some good stuff then turned rotten. Johnson’s alternate answer is that I am “mentally ill.” He sums it up in a sentence that made me laugh out loud. “GotNews.com did some research on Weigel and found a history of mental illness–which makes sense.”

That “research” consists of a link to a story I wrote about my history of depression for Slate, in August 2014, after the suicide of Robin Williams. It’s been shared on Facebook more than a thousand times and shared on Twitter almost as often. Sorry for the brag; it’s just a sign of how far Johnson has tumbled that googling a well-read article is now his “research.” I self-institutionalized in 2002, and have treated my depression ever since. I’m proud of that, not ashamed.

On Twitter, which Johnson has been banned from since May, I chided the “report” and got some friendly responses. I told Becket Adams, a reporter for the Washington Examiner, that Johnson’s exploitation of my depression was strange because, when cornered, he’s accused critics of cruelty to people with disorders.

On his website, Johnson (rightly) points out that I misspelled “Aspergers,” the calls this “malicious falsehood,” as he has “never had” that particular syndrome. My apologies. I was misremembering something else: How Johnson excused the publication of a false and defamatory article by claiming that he is on the autism spectrum and does not get jokes.

That started in January 2014, when Johnson published a strange hit piece on the New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick. After Kirkpatrick published an exhaustive story about the circumstances of the September 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Johnson published a story titled “Benghazi reporter Kirkpatrick showed off his naked body at Princeton.” (Please don’t stop to think about what that had to do with Benghazi. You’ll sprain something) Johnson dug up old articles about Kirkpatrick’s participation in a campus streak, and in a nude art project, then claimed that the future Timesman had posed for Playgirl.

It took no time at all to find the source of that last claim — an obviously satirical edition of the Princeton Daily News. Johnson had run satire as a “scoop.” Over e-mail, I asked Johnson how he missed this, and he explained that he simply did not understand some humor. “I am rather notorious for not understanding sarcasm or satire and I am deeply embarrassed by the whole article,” he wrote. (The whole e-mail is up at that Slate link.)

Johnson never wrote for The Daily Caller again. But months later, when the Kirkpatrick debacle or my name came up on Twitter, Johnson had a new reason for his face-plant. Johnson’s Twitter account has been deleted, but Tom Kludt captured a representative tweet from July 2014.

“Weigel posted this story he did on how my autism caused me to miss humor in a parody issue,” Johnson tweeted. “He leaves out apology.”

Later that year, when reporters profiled Johnson’s role as a relentless social media troll, he repeated this detail.

“Johnson told me that he has trouble recognizing satire because he is mildly autistic,” reported Tim Murphy in Mother Jones.

“In interviews and on Twitter, Johnson has attributed some of his lapses to being ‘neuroatypical’—that is, on the autism spectrum,” reported Jacob Silverman in Politico.

“Maybe it’s because of my weird autistic tendencies but I tend to find joining tribes boring,” Johnson told Business Insider.

That was what I was trying to recall, late on a Friday night. I do apologize for referring to Johnson’s self-diagnosed “autism” as “Aspergers,” which is a specific autism spectrum disorder. Yet Johnson did not tell me anything about autism when I wrote my January 2014. For more than a year, he insisted that I had cruelly exploited his autism and failed to apologize for it. Then, when it served him, he decided that “mental illness” was a perfectly good reason to attack someone personally.

I don’t feel attacked, frankly. But I should work on my spelling. It’s important if people are thinking of publishing your work — fortunately, a problem that Johnson no longer has.

Some personal news: Later this month, I’ll be joining the Washington Post as a national political correspondent. I didn’t expect to leave Bloomberg before the 2016 elections, but I’m proud of the Bloomberg Politics launch, and any role I had in expanding the ethos of Josh Tyrangiel’s Businessweek into the rest of Bloomberg’s news operation. General advice: If you get a chance to work for Josh Tyrangiel, take it.

(In)famously, I left the Post in 2010 after a short stint as a blogger/reporter covering “the conservative movement” writ large. I resigned after a successful campaign by The Daily Caller and the Media Research Center to exploit my arrogant and sometimes hateful social media and email snark. This is pretty well covered, and while I don’t regret resigning, I regret the comments.

Oh — one thing, though. In the mists of time, one of the controversial comments has lost all context. When college journalism students talk to me about the scandal (yes, this happens), I often have to correct them about it. It’s that I dismissed supporters of Ron Paul as “Paultards.” Tim Graham, the factotum at the Media Research Center, writes in his spittle-flecked post about my news* that “Weigel’s going to cover the Rand Paul campaign, when he used to refer to the Tea Party as ‘Paultards.'” An angry reader emailed me last night to ask how I could cover Rand Paul: “You’re writing about him while you call people “paultards”?

Anyone armed with Google can learn that I voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 presidential primary. Anyone with access to Twitter can find my personal phone number and email, and ask what I meant — so, thank you to the reader who did.

For anyone else: It’s pretty simple. On September 12, 2009, someone on JournoList started a thread about the day’s massive Tea Party rallies around the country.

“How much of this crowd is just spillover Ron Paul fanatics?” asked on lister. “Having gone to a few Paul events last year, the rhetoric and demographic looks very, very similar to me.”

Another lister, Jon Schmitt, suggested that “more people were there on Saturday than voted for Ron Paul in all the primaries combined.”

I responded (and spelled “Schmitt” wrong):

Just to address Jon Schmidt and this comment: “I think more people were there on Saturday than voted for Ron Paul in all the primaries combined.”

More 1 million people voted for Ron Paul in the GOP primaries. That said, many of those votes were cast in primaries held after the nomination was sewn up. But just in Pennsylvania, Paul polled 129,247 votes against McCain. And that’s more people than showed up on Saturday.

It’s all very amusing to me. Two hundred screaming Ron Paul fanatics couldn’t get their man into the Fox News New Hampshire GOP debate, but Fox News is pumping around the clock to get Paultard Tea Party people on TV.

Just to break that down:

1) I jumped into the thread to defend Ron Paul supporters, and say that someone had underestimated their numbers by a factor of 10.

2) My use of the derisive “Paultard” was intended to refer to how Fox News viewed Ron Paul supporters. I was in Manchester, in 2008, when Ron Paul was denied entry to the final pre-primary debate. This crystallized a lot of the anger of Paul supporters, who had been listening to Fox’s Sean Hannity dismiss Paul, even (or especially) when they swarmed online polls or call-in phone lines to support him.

One night in Manchester, some Ron Paul fans — who had made Murphy’s on Elm Street into their unofficial post-work HQ — spotted Hannity and his crew entering the Radisson, also on Elm Street. They chased him to the doors of the hotel.

So, 20 months later, I remembered how Fox News and Ron Paul supporters were natural enemies. I used the “Paultard” term to distinguish the people who had been hated by Fox in 2008, and loved by Fox when they became Tea Party activists.

Stupid way to put it? The smart way would have been “Ron Paul supporters-cum-Tea Party people.” But I was trying to quickly demonstrate just how loathed these activists were until they linked up with the Tea Party.

*The post, which I won’t link to, also cheap-shots me by illustrating the post with a photo of me doing a TV hit, without makeup, in the sun, my mouth half-open. Why do I look so haggard? Well, that shot is from when I covered the riots in Baltimore, interviewing dozens of people at the scenes of fires and looting, on four hours of sleep. That’s the sort of work I’ve done over the last five years, while Tim Graham has stewed behind a keyboard.

“House of Cards” is Terrible and You’re All Bad People

On the way out of the Senate yesterday, I heard tourists talking about House of Cards, the popular Netflix show that has supplanted The West Wing as the preferred pop culture window into Washington. My chief problem with the show is that it is terrible — clunkily written, drunk on cliches (name a female journalist on the show who doesn’t end up schtupping a powerful man), hammily acted.

Two examples of why I loathe it so.

1) Season two and the first half of season three spend some solid time building up Senator Hector Mendoza, a Latino Republican who is elevated to majority leader over the course of the series. He’s powerful enough to be invited to a quasi-State Dinner where foreign dignitaries recognize that he probably will be elected president soon.

Yet in episode eight, he is written off — literally. President Underwood greets the House and Senate leaders. Mendoza is not there.

“What happened to Hector Mendoza?” Underwood asks viewers, through the fourth wall. “Well, you don’t declare a couple of speeches as income, and — boom! You’re no longer in Congress, and certainly not running for president.”

And that’s it. A scandal never previously mentioned, hinted at, or foreshadowed took out a key antagonist. There’s not even a wink at Underwood or his operatives pulling the strings. It just happened.

2) In that same episode, a novelist named Mickey Doyle, hired to write a campaign memoir of President Underwood is finishing an opening chapter about how, as a young man, he tried to swim from the shore of Charleston to Fort Sumter. The story is fake, but in the House of Cards universe, no journalist ever uncovers a story, so this can slide. No: The problem is that Doyle, a troubled but talented rake, is pounding out some of the shittiest prose this side of a Cliff Bar nutritional panel.

“He’d reached the point of no return,” writes Doyle, narrating as he punches keys. “Turning back was no longer an option.” Later: “One thing can’t be denied, however: What others saw as impossible, he refused to believe as such.”

Several scenes later, Doyle meets with Underwood to deliver some pages. The president reacts as if he was just handed a first draft of The Corrections. Doyle confidently pronounces it “the best thing I’ve written in years.”

David Carr, RIP

Look, I hate it as much as you hate it when some beloved person dies and some less beloved person tries to ride the hem of his garments. Gimme a pass on this one.

Four and a half years ago, I was caught out for sending rude, childish emails about conservatives — whom I’d been covering as a reporter — to a liberal email listserv. In short order, I resigned from a very nice (but increasingly pressure-cooking) job at The Washington Post. Torn between an idea of quitting the profession and the desire to make rent, I wrote two pieces about what had happened, the first of them for Andrew Breitbart’s site Big Journalism. When media reporters called, I answered. In the early days, only two of them actually called me to get the story.

And then, the weekend after I resigned, I got this email from David Carr.

hey dave,
I write a monday media column for nytimes.. have been talking to ppl about what happened with you at the Post and how fraught the intersection btrw MSM and the current cohort of reporters/bloggers/commentators.. I got a great sense of you take from what you wrote on Big Journalism, but if you can stand any more weigel talking about weigel and what people say about weigel, I’d love to chat.

Carr, who was by many leagues the best at what he did, had left a number. I called back and missed him. He got my voicemail and replied:

sorry about that. was on phone busy advancing my plot to take over the world. it’s not going too well so far, but the day is young. am back on the grid. call when you come free.

I called back. It’s a dim memory, like most of them from that week, but I can recall Carr running circles around me with Barry Allen speed, rasping like he’d gargled with Tom Waits’s mouthwash. He pushed me away from a patter (not false, but safe) that I’d been giving everyone who talked to me. He empathized. He cajoled. That way he wrote? Exactly like how he asked questions, pushing and pulling me along. I wish I’d taken notes on how he interviewed me, because he knew exactly how to get his story.

Then he wrote his story, and it was just perfect. In it, I was unforgivably stupid — true! — but the people who’d hired me were castigated for making up ethics rules on the fly.

“If you dumped every reporter who ever sent a snide message or talked smack in private, there would be nothing but crickets chirping in newsrooms all over America,” Carr wrote. Then at the end of his piece:

This is a story about Washington, a place that prizes political consistency and punishes ideological deviation. Mr. Weigel is a libertarian who voted for both Ron Paul and Barack Obama, who supports gay rights and sees the bright side in Bob Barr, who supports not just open borders, but also free markets. He was also a newspaper journalist embedded in the conservative movement and a blogger embedded at The Post.

 

Those apparent contradictions gave Mr. Weigel’s writing texture and surprise, but it also made him a pretty juicy target. Regardless of how much blather you hear about the two parties bickering in Washington, the Beltway is really a monoculture that accommodates the two poles of a debate but very little in between.

Carr could have written anything with my interview, and he chose to write that. It changed the way I thought about reporting. When I got back into the business, as a reporter for Slate, I kept talking to Carr. When we talked in person, it was at my first (and still only) South by Southwest, where he stopped me gushing by ushering me into a concert he thought I should see. He’d written a story about me, then he’d moved on, both the writer and the subject a little better for the experience. You know that Janet Malcolm line that people like to quote — “every journalist who is not too stupid or full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible”? David Carr proved that wrong, on deadline, all the time.

Over email, he had a way of totally underselling what he was reporting, writing, and thinking. One time, when he thought I’d know who to talk to for a profile he was writing, I sent him some ideas, and he thanked me with a warning: “I will be back at you as soon as I find a way in that hasn’t been worked over every which way.” This was right before writing a beautifully turned obituary of Andrew Breitbart, “a fresh-off-the-boat Irish storyteller” (no one had come up with such a perfect description of the man) and small, tough anecdotes dug out by careful reporting. They had not been worked over, by anybody.

I don’t have Carr’s facility with language, and I didn’t get to know him as well as the people who are going to mourn him right. All I want to say is: Fuck this. Life is short, but it shouldn’t be this short. Least of all for someone who understood so delicately and elementally how people lived.

 

Important: A Thirtysomething White Guy Has Grammy Opinions

This year, 2015, saw the arrival of a personal milestone that I never expected to see. I am old enough to cheer a Grammy winner. Beck, who’s now spent more years famous than he spent growing up to record his seemingly-one-hit-wonder “Loser,” won the Album of the Year for Morning Phase. Kanye West, being Kanye West, used the many forums available to him to protest that the award had not gone to Beyonce. This was wrong: Beyonce, one of the most beautiful and charismatic singers on the planet, makes generally boring music, all club tricks and gimmicks and vocal galloping.

Beck’s award, West’s protest, and the predictable Grammy for British shit-merchant Sam Smith — this got me thinking who I would have given the Grammys of various years to. It was a fun exercise, forcing me to weigh several factors against each other, to create a universe in which songs tuneful enough for the radio could be swapped in for whatever horrible music got awards for various years. I went back 40 years, roughly to the last year of prog rock’s boom. Annotations to follow.

1974
Album: Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Record: King Crimson, “Starless”

1975
Album: Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks
Record: Brian Eno, “St. Elmo’s Fire”

1976
Album: Joni Mitchell, Hejira
Record: ABBA, “Dancing Queen”

1977
Album: Art Garfunkel, Watermark
Record: David Bowie, “Heroes”

1978
Album: Devo, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
Record: The Walker Brothers, “Nite Flights”

1979
Album: The Clash, London Calling
Record: 20/20, “Yellow Pills”

1980
Album: Talking Heads, Remain In Light
Record: Suicide, “Dream Baby Dream”

1981
Album: King Crimson, Discipline
Record: Genesis, “No Reply At All”

1982
Album: Marshall Crenshaw, Marshall Crenshaw
Record: X, “The Have Nots”

1983
Album: Brian Eno, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks
Record: Yes, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”

1984
Album: The Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime
Record: The Smiths, “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”

1985
Album: Marillion, Misplaced Childhood
Record: Tom Waits, “Downtown Train”

1986
Album: XTC, Skylarking
Record: Crowded House, “Don’t Dream It’s Over”

1987
Album: Prince, Sign ‘O’ The Times
Record: The Go-Betweens, “Right Here”

1988
Album: Leonard Cohen, I’m Your Man
Record: EPMD, “Strictly Business”

1989
Album: The Pixies, Doolittle
Record: Michael Penn, “No Myth”

1990
Album: Fred Frith, Gravity
Record: They Might Be Giants, “Birdhouse In Your Soul”

1991
Album: A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory
Record: Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

1992
Album: Adrian Belew, Inner Revolution
Record: Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

1993
Album: The Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Record: Archers of Loaf, “Web In Front”

1994
Album: Nas, Illmatic
Record: Freedy Johnston, “Bad Reputation”

1995
Album: GZA, Liquid Swords
Record: Ben Folds Five, “Brick”

1996
Album: Steve Earle, I Feel Alright
Record: Sleeper, “What Do I Do Now?

1997
Album: Spiritualized, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Record: Sleater-Kinney, “One More Hour”

1998
Album: Belle and Sebastian, The Boy With The Arab Strap
Record: Pulp, “Like a Friend”

1999
Album: The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
Record: Guided by Voices, “Teenage FBI”

2000
Album: OutKast, Stankonia
Record: Queens of the Stone Age, “The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret”

2001
Album: Jay-Z, The Blueprint
Record: Gorillaz, “Clint Eastwood”

2002
Album: The Mountain Goats, Tallahassee
Record: Solomon Burke, “Fast Train”

2003
Album: The New Pornographers, Electric Version
Record: Jay-Z, “99 Problems”

2004
Album: Stars, Set Yourself On Fire
Record: Arcade Fire, “Rebellion (Lies)”

2005
Album: Porcupine Tree, Deadwing
Record: Sigur Rós, “Hoppipolla”

2006
Album: Keene Brothers, Blues and Boogie Shoes
Record: The Gossip, “Standing In The Way Of Control”

2007
Album: The National, Boxer
Record: LCD Soundsystem, “All My Friends”

2008
Album: Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
Record: Passion Pit, “Sleepyhead”

2009
Album: Mastodon, Crack the Skye
Record: The Lonely Island, “I’m On a Boat”

2010
Album: Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Record: Robyn, “Dancing on My Own”

2011
Album: Mates of States, Mountaintops
Record: Tyler, the Creator, “Yonkers”

2012
Album: Scott Walker, Bisch Bosch
Record: Chairlift, “I Belong In Your Arms”

2013
Album: Tegan and Sarah, Heartthrob
Record: Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”

2014
Album: Beck, Morning Phase
Record: Run the Jewels, “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”