Let’s hear it for mediocrity!

Like many busy people, I spend roughly 40 percent of my waking life wasting time on the internet. The problem: The many commentators and reviewers who pollute the internet only ever talk about good TV shows and movies. Nobody wants to talk about the mediocre ones!

It’s a challenge, and I accept it.

“Apollo Gauntlet” (Adult Swim, 2017)

This defiantly stupid Canadian import began as a YouTube series and was picked up for a six-episode test run, a bit like “MDE Presents: World Peace,” but with less alt-right transgressions and more dumb pop culture references. Myles Langlois’s vision was a parody of the detritus of 1980s D&D culture, sort of resembling the infamous CD-based “Zelda” game cutscenes but with choppier animation. Upgraded for a mass audience, it even more closely evokes those “Zelda” comes, some of the most immediately hate-watchable entertainment of my generation.

The show itself is… fine? Langlois himself plays Paul Cassidy/Apollo Gauntlet, whose fortuitous discovery of magic talking gauntlets transforms him into the superhero for a generic fantasy world. His delivery is one of the best things about the show, lazy and distracted. It’s a bit like “One Punch Man,” a much, much superior show, in that the humor comes not from setbacks but from a hero laconically conquering every challenge he comes across.

I enjoyed the randomness of everything else, and the voice acting owns; Betsy Sodaro, a UCB veteran with a voice like a clogged paper shredder, is particularly good as the most competent member of the adventuring crew Gauntlet stumbles into leading. But too often, the jokes consist of out-of-place references and little follow-through. One example: When Gauntlet teams up with Dr. Benign, the James Urbaniak-voiced villain who sent him to this word, Benign suggests a plan that will be “just like ‘Shadow of the Collossus.'” It’s a video game, get it?

The punchline, delivered by Gauntlet: “Nobody understands your pop culture references.”

That’s it. Fine stoner entertainment, but not much more. Binge-watching will get you maybe through half an edible.

“I’m Dying Up Here” (Showtime, 2017)

My favorite hate-watch of 2017, a deeply flawed show packed with enough funny performances that I keep turning it on and suppressing my groans. Based loosely on what’s supposed to be a very good book about the alt-comedy scene in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, the show’s set largely in the fictional Goldie’s, owned by — get this — a woman named Goldie, played by Melissa Leo with dramatic chops and a lot of corny dialogue. Goldie’s is basically The Comedy Store, which, fortunately for set designers, has not changed since the 1970s.

Goldie presides over a sophisticated comedy slave trade, where comics work for no pay for the right to hone their acts and maybe catch the eyes of producers. The plotlines that don’t resolve around personal drama usually focus on the workability of this scheme, which, in the pilot episode, is complicated by a comedian (Sebastian Stan) getting a big break on “The Tonight Show” and then killing himself, because there was nowhere to go but down.

God help me, I was compelled to keep watching, mostly because of the performances that anchor the b-plots. The a-plots are often excruciating, usually involving Bill (Andrew Santino), Nick (Jack Lacy), and Cassie (Ari Gaynor) battle their egos — and in Nick’s case, every drug available in 1975 Los Angeles — to Make It. But the b-team of actors are funny in a way that overcomes the occasional drab script — Clark Duke, Erik Griffin, Jon Daly, and Al Madrigal as a comedian who is, correctly, mocked for making every single joke about Mexicans. There’s a throwaway scene in which Duke and Daly argue over whether the drowning death of Daly’s father makes any sense as an analogy that’s one of my favorite things all year. (Another favorite: A hanger-on comedian played by Dom Irrera walking absent-mindedly into a fight, kicking a sleazy radio producer on the ground, and only then asking “hey, who we kickin’?”)

Also, to be fair, it’s damn hard to make fake “comedy” work, as the people who suffered through “Studio 60” can attest. “30 Rock” usually got past this problem by making its show-within-a-show completely surreal; “I’m Dying Up Here” does a good job manufacturing stand-up that sounds like it was delivered by people who haven’t quite made it.

Both sides do it!

I’ve been traveling for work, so — maybe blessedly — I didn’t initially see this AP story by two reporters I like very much personally. It’s no patch on them when I say that “Welcome to the Trump-Clinton conspiracy election” is a textbook-ready case of how the search for equivalence can wreck a piece of journalism.

The problems previewed by the headline get worse in the nut graf.

Donald Trump and his surrogates hint at a mysterious “illness” afflicting rival Hillary Clinton. Pushing back, Clinton warns of murky ties between Trump and the Russian government, insinuating that her Republican opponent may be a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Two problems here. One: The ties between Trump and the Russians are by no means as “murky” as the conspiracy theory that Clinton’s doctors (and her campaign schedule) are covering up a devastating illness. Two: The Russia talk is not a pushback on the “Hillary’s health” stuff. It’s been happening independently; indeed, Clinton was been pushing it before Trump elevated the health rumors.

The second point is just obviously misleading, while the first requires the application of blinders that characters the worst both-sides journalism. Much of the story deals with the ways Trump has tried to exploit Internet theories about Clinton’s health, and how Clinton’s pivoted from that to an attack on Trump’s embrace of kookery more generally. The “but Russia!” equivalence platter is saved for the final two grafs.

In the aftermath of hacked Democratic emails, Trump encouraged hackers from Russia to find Clinton’s missing State Department emails, an apparent invitation for a foreign power to intervene in a U.S. election.

Clinton’s team frequently points to Trump’s ties to Russia. Her campaign has a page on its website devoted to a Q-and-A about Trump’s “bizarre relationship” with Russia, fueling an unproven theory that Trump is a shill for Putin.

So on the one hand, Trump is elevating theories that rely on rumors or forged medical records; on the other, Clinton’s accusation that Trump “is a shill for Putin” is “unproven.” But the first attack is baseless; the second is political rhetoric based on — wait for it — reporting from the AP.

I’m not fond of quickie campaign “fact sheets” like “5 questions every voter should ask about Donald Trump’s bizarre relationship with Russia.” Question 5 suggests that “Trump publicly encouraged further Russian espionage to help his campaign.” That’s true, though Trump later tried to pass it off as a joke. Question 4 is fishier, noting that “some suggest” that Trump’s as-yet hidden tax returns might reveal deals with Russian oligarchs. But the basis is a 2008 quote from Trump’s son Donald: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

Question 3 suggests that Trump would fulfill a Russian “wish list.” Again, there’s a basis: He has talked about lifting sanctions on Russia, and he rather uniquely among Republicans has said he wouldn’t contest the annexation of Crimea. Question 1 quotes a few instances of Trump praising Putin.

But Question 2 is the humdinger. Asking why Trump “surround[s] himself with advisers with links to the Kremlin,” the Clinton campaign… explains the links several Trump advisers have to Russia. The outdated page spends the most time on Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager until this month. The “kill shot” on Manafort is generally understood to be the AP’s August 17 story on his secret work for Ukraine’s pro-Russian faction.

Donald Trump’s campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy.

So, on the one hand, Trump’s campaign and surrogates are speculating wildly — and in some cases, citing bogus medical information — to question whether Hillary Clinton’s health has collapsed. On the other hand, Clinton’s campaign is citing Trump’s public statements, his family’s public statements, and the financial ties of campaign advisers to say that he’s shilling for Russia.

I am wracking my brains, and I can’t imagine how these two stories were conflated. In the quest to say that Both Sides Do It, the AP elevated Trump’s conspiracy-mongering about Clinton’s health to the level of his campaign’s well-reported Russia friendliness; it downgraded that friendliness to the level of a conspiracy.

The word for this is not “balanced.” It’s “pathetic.”

Hey, why doesn’t the media investigate this Trump guy?


Brian Beutler has a little fun with the conservatives who insist that The Media went easy on Donald Trump, knowing that he’d be an easy kill (or something) if he got through the primaries. This is not a fringe group, or some guy on Twitter — it’s a group that includes Sen. Ted Cruz, whom we all expect to run for president until the FEC files a restraining order against him.

In general, campaigns outgun and outpace the press at investigating rival candidates (particularly with respect to archival information that can’t be found online, and that requires expertise to obtain and decipher). They have more resources, no daily print deadlines, and no need to worry about impartiality. For a variety of reasons, the other Republican campaigns and anti-Trump activists did an absolutely abysmal job sifting through his dirty laundry between June 2015 and today. Bad researchers might’ve been part of the problem, but for too long most Republicans mistakenly assumed Trump would collapse on his own—and why bother investigating someone who was sure to implode?

This is all true. Tim Miller, the very smart co-founder of the oppo group America Rising who went on to be Jeb Bush’s game but constantly beleaguered spokesman, has admitted that Bush simply didn’t have the resources to dig into Trump by the time Trump became a threat. Cruz himself openly whiffed on attacking Trump on the theory that his support would collapse and he would reap the benefits. (Cruz’s tendency to delineate his plans while reporters listen is one of the things I like best about him.)

But this gripe is even worse than we’re letting on.

No one’s trying to protect Hillary Clinton. That’s the undercurrent here, and it must be based on zero conversations with political reporters. Washington mostly dreads the Clinton Restoration, with its promises of tightly controlling media teams, jobs for people with long-nursed grudges, and — let’s be honest — none of the cool factor that Barack Obama brought with him.

Reporters did investigate Trump. He launched his bid on June 16, 2015. Within three weeks, before he had fully taken command of the race, the Washington Post was up with a story about undocumented immigrants working on his D.C. hotel. Every story you know about Trump was excavated by journalists, be it the old quotes assembled by Buzzfeed, the old court documents assembled by Wayne Barrett, or the new looks at his business failures reported by my employer and other fine outlets. If voters wanted to read it, the material was there. We could hardly force-feed it to them.

Conservative media outlets failed and want to blame everyone else. Every presidential cycle brings forth new, well-funded (at first) conservative media outlets, often with the promise of hard-hitting news that the MSM (mainstream media) won’t cover. With time (and with exceptions), they eventually regress to the mean and become hot take factories. Nobody told The Daily Signal, The Federalist, The Daily Caller, Bold, Rare, etc that they were banned from investigating Trump’s finances or past statements.

Yet they didn’t do it. To use The Federalist (which I generally like) as an example, Trump coverage usually fit into the the categories of Blaming the Media (“Trump Proves Super PACs Can’t Buy Elections, But Free Media Can“), Insisting That All is Well (“6 Best Things About Paul Ryan Being ‘Not Ready’ To Support Trump“), or keying off of facts reported by the MSM to say that Trump was going down (“If Trump Runs America Like Trump University, His Campaign Promises Are Lies“). Coverage on the right generally debated what was happening, and did not shape it. The old conservative media quandary, of too many wannabe George Will and not enough Bob Woodwards, held up. (Separately, a lot of popular right-wing media figures just kind of rode the wave.)

UPDATE: Some folks point out that I left the Washington Free Beacon off the list. It did have good Trump reporting, though I think of it more as a source of good original Hillary reporting.

When a candidate wins, more resources are used to cover him. Like I said, there has been plenty of gimlet-eyed Trump coverage. That there’s more now does not mean it was lacking before. It meant that there were X reporters in a newsroom, and Y many candidates to cover, and the opportunity cost of digging into a story that might not be about the nominee is high. (I am convinced that one reason for snarky media coverage of Sen. Rand Paul is that big resources were used to profile him, for years, and editors/reporters came to see it as a bigger wasted investment than an igloo colony in Arizona.)

The strangest contradiction of this point was probably the one Fox News viewers saw on Sunday, when my colleague Bob Woodward was chided over the resources the Post was using to crash a book about Trump.

“Are you making an equal effort, because that’s something that we’re hearing from folks, an equal effort on Hillary Clinton?” asked Chris Wallace. “You’ve got 20 people on her?”

Well! Clinton, a political figure since the 1970s, has had quite more than 20 Washington Post reporters look into her background. Several Washington Post reporters, present and past, have written books about her. What does that have to do with the effort (which I’m not part of) to power through and publish a book about Trump, in time for the election?Look at the work of Ros Helderman, who published scoop after scoop about Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, during the period when 1) that story was new and 2) she was the presumed Democratic nominee. Now, Ros is doing more about Trump.

I’m fascinated by the qualms people have about the political media. When it comes to how cable news has covered Trump’s campaign — particularly, the full coverage of his rallies, a privilege awarded to no other candidate — I share those qualms. But enough already with the blame. The Fourth Estate held nothing back.

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.

If You Want Reporters to Check Stories Before They Publish, You’re a Hater

Instead of doing something productive, like finishing chapter two of my book (it’s going well anyway!), I spent about an hour today noticing how the Internet had fallen for yet another hoax. Elan Gale, a producer for “The Bachelor” and thereby one of the worst people on the planet, spent part of Thanksgiving live-tweeting what he said was a feud with an irritating woman “in mom jeans” who complained too loudly about her flight delay. Gale sent her drinks and notes telling her to shut her mouth and “eat a dick.” The Internet loved it, especially Buzzfeed, whose Rachel Zarrell aggregated Gale’s tweets and photos. Her post, on one of the year’s slowest news cycles, got nearly 1.4 million reads.

One problem: Gale’s story was bullshit. Maybe people should have sussed that out, as he took many photos but none of his “target.” But they didn’t. Zarrell got to write a follow-up aggregating more Gale tweets about how he punked everyone. I got irritated, not really at Buzzfeed but at Gale — again, “Bachelor” producer. This guy, for a living, comes up with ideas that stimulate the pleasure or anger centers of the lumpen proletariat’s brains. He did it on Twitter and captivated the Internet with complete bullshit. I ribbed Buzzfeed about this (after all, the phony story was worth 1 percent of their record November traffic) and, after a friendly back-and-forth, Politics editor McKay Coppins snarked me off.

McKay and I are friends IRL, and I wish our every Twitter interaction did not devolve into dick-swingery, but come on — fuck this. Elan Gale successfully hoaxed the Internet with a dumb, mean story. Buzzfeed fell for the hoax, with Zarrell tweeting at Gale to ask for an interview but never confirming anything about the flight. Any news organization should consider this a screw-up.

It’s not quite Lara Logan nodding like a parrot as her Benghazi source lies to her, but it’s the sort of shoddy reporting that would get a reporter at a small newspaper fired. Imagine you worked at the Pleasantville News-Leader and you ran an A-1 story about a fight that never happened. It goes viral; it gets debunked.You think you’re able to just walk away from that by mocking the haters?

Oh, I’m not saying Buzzfeed should fire anyone. They ran an update at the bottom of the post. I did ask the reporter, Zarrell, how this came about, but I’m not going to make some federal case out of this. Gale wasn’t grubbing for money or anything. As hoaxes go, this was mostly harmless.

But I remain fairly disturbed by the glib response. What is aggregation FOR, anyway? And are people willing to create a lower standard for “reporting” — Zarrell is a reporter, who has worked for other news organizations — if it’s only about a viral story? Earlier this year, the Washington Post fired an overworked aggregator-reporter after she botched some facts. The Washington Post’s aggregation style is fairly unpopular — the paper wants to have SOME version of stories on its own site, so readers stay there instead of Yahoo! or Politico. But none of its aggregated tales go as mega-viral as “This Epic Note-Passing War on a Delayed Flight Wins Thanksgiving.” And Zarrell’s story WOULDN’T have gone viral if she’d decided that Gale’s story was too flimsy. She wouldn’t have gotten 1.3 million hits. She would be, today, a less valuable employee to Buzzfeed.

This is fairly fucked. Yes, people on the Internet want to believe salacious stories. Reporters want to publish stories that people read. If there’s a great reward, and little downside, to be had in publishing bullshit, the Internet’s going to get more bullshit. As one of my colleagues put it, “‘Too good to check’ used to be a warning to newspaper editors not to jump on bullshit stories. Now it’s a business model.”

Listicles, 2010: The Funniest Stuff I Saw All Year

I’m going to keep adding to this list as things occur.

Tim and Eric, “Italian Massage.” This listicle might collapse under the weight of Tim and Eric skits. Was the final season of their “Awesome Show” a step down from previous seasons? Eh, probably. But there were several fantastically dada sketches I’ve replayed for months. In this one, Heidecker and Wareheim don unrealistic wigs and facial hair and become “Sal and Al,” racist Italian stereotypes who sell massages complete with cheese and tomato sauce. “Almost like a pizza pie!”

The Last Airbender. You’d think M. Night Shyalaman’s career hit the reef with this horrible piece of shit, but it didn’t — it was a hit! That’s nice, because it promises many years of poorly-acted, incoherently-plotted kiddie punch-ups that provide instant fodder for riffs from the guys who made “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

Jeff Greene’s U.S. Senate campaign. Funny story. In 2008, a real estate investor turned a massive fortune into a yet-more-massive fortune by shorting subprime mortgage CDOs. He built a bizarre and cushy life spent getting celebrities to hang out with him on his yacht. And then some political consultants convinced him he could be a U.S. senator. They gave him one of the strangest, least sincere narratives in recent electoral history — in one ad, he claimed that he wished he’d only been in the Senate when he started shorting CDOs, so he could have shared his wisdom with the nation.

Cracked.com’s listicles. When the hell did Cracked become entertaining? At some point the website of a fading Mad magazine competitor was taken over by smart geeks who churned out daily lists of pop culture oddities. One favorite — the five most wildly illegal court rulings in movies.

Dan Gainor, real man of genius

Since I joined the Washington Post, mid-level Media Research Center staffer Dan Gainor has occasionally nipped at my heels about my “bias.” This attack was something else, though.

Post’s New Conservative Blogger: There’s Video of Drudge ‘Diddling an 8-Year-Old Boy’

Let’s just slow this down so Dan can understand.

Even if it’s a joke

Yep! It was a joke about Matt Drudge linking, for more than 24 hours, to a National Enquirer story about President Obama having an affair. The story was mostly retracted within hours — the key bit about an alleged video tape of the president was removed — and yet Drudge kept this on his site.


My joke: I “heard” a rumor, and just put it out there — like Drudge. If Gainor thinks jokes like that about public figures are out of bounds, he’s even stupider than I thought.

Fairly late in the evening

It was 9:04 p.m., which Gainor doesn’t mention, because that’s not even “late” to nursing home residents.

There appeared to be no follow-up comment, explanation or apology.

That “appears” to be correct! Adorable phrasing, by the way, which makes Gainor sound like a grown-up journalist who “investigates” things — like what’s on a public Twitter account.

Earlier in the evening, he had commented about having too much to drink. “Very cool. I either need to stop drunktweeting or do MUCH MORE drunktweeting.”

Evening? It was 6 p.m.! I was online and noticed this article — which Gainor, being unprofessional and dishonest, does not include — in which James Bennet, editor of The Atlantic cited me as somebody he enjoys reading on Twitter. If you’ll notice, I posted it on Tweetdeck — the desktop-based twitter service — which means I was at home, and sober. Very classy of Gainor to suggest otherwise.

the rest of his comments during the evening were in a similar sarcastic or goofy vein including photos of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow as a bartended at the dinner and a picture of himself in a tux where he commented, “I am ready to either party or wait your table. Or both!”

Other tweets Gainor doesn’t mention — a complimentary tweet about Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), a joke about Democratic strategist Mark Penn and liberal-leaning pundit and mogul Mort Zuckerman, a photo of a Mickey Kaus for US Senate button. But those don’t aid Gainor’s narrative about me only mocking conservatives, or his oh-so-subtle implication that I was drunk, so he doesn’t link them.

I’ve blocked Gainor on Twitter for a while now — he’s a tiresome scold who swings, misses by a mile, and declares victory as real journalists ignore him. But this was a special mix of humorlessness and innuendo.

A Few Words About This Blog

That would be a few more words than have appeared on this blog lately, right? So, what happened was this: Like many twentysomething white male Americans who live in the 202 area code, I became a devotee of Twitter sometime in early 2009. I’d joined in 2008, mostly to suggest things to do to friends, and to be on the early alert for the things they were suggesting. But @daveweigel turned into its own beast, and right now I have 6000-odd people reading my scattered and random and brief thoughts on, like, whatever.

I saw this coming. I intended this blog to become a clearinghouse for lists and short, stream-of-consciousness reviews of books and movies. For a little while last year, it was! And while it’s too late into 2010 to make a “resolution” out of this, that’s my plan, to turn this into a clearinghouse for the pop culture side of my life. That’s still the plan! I’ve just moved to a new place in DC, just put together a new TV-and-directTV-and-DVD setup, and almost finished putting together bookshelves. So expect some related content.