Page One Review

Page One is a compelling and revealing look in to one year at the New York Times; the Old Grey Lady. By dumb luck, the documentary is filmed during an incredible and controversial time at the paper. During a round of layoffs, as the news world crumbles around their feet causing people to question whether the paper can survive, and during the publishing of the wikileaks of secret government cables; the viewer gets an unfiltered look in to the behind-the-scenes goings on at the paper.

The film really centers around David Carr, a journalist for the NYT. David is a compelling character to center the film around. He is outspoken, unapologetic, and profound in his writing. David, after years of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and dark times in his life, shines as a traditional reporter in the new media world. The documentary covers the Media Desk, which was created to follow the changes in the media and new industry, including what was happening at the NYT.

It is a fascinating study in the changes in news-gathering, which includes film from symposium about news, and how many new media figureheads seem to resent the NYT and big newspapers for a perceived lack of credibility, which David Carr takes an exception to, and at one presents a web front page from one of the aggregate sites, with all the stories taken from big newspapers cut out…there wasn’t much content left.

David is a great protagonist for the film, the look in to story pitch meetings, and real news gathering, trying to get confirmation on stories, get people to go on record, and the minutia of doing proper journalism which seems to occur mostly through a series of tedious phone calls.

The documentary is fascinating. As a “writer,” I found it to be truly provocative, exciting, and a fascinating look in to the back room hard work that goes on to make a daily publication such as this happen. There are great retrospectives in to some scandals the NYT has endured to compromise its integrity, a little history, and a daily walk through reporting and getting copy from a journalist’s desk to the front page.

It comes from some of the people behind Waiting For Superman; Food, Inc.; and An Inconvenient Truth. Though you can argue that there is a liberal bias to these earlier films, there is enough stark fact and truth to keep it from feeling too much like an agenda-bent film. I highly suggest a look in to the film to see what work goes in to the words, and to maybe make you reconsider your potentially toxic distaste for “lame-stream” media.

Page One is available for online streaming on Netflix, so pop it in to your queue.

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Statute of Limitations: Happy New Year–EXPIRED

The holidays have ended, but there is a greeting still lingering in the social fabric that is about to reach its expiration date: Happy New Year. The expiration date is more a “best by” date, but nonetheless, the date is January 7, 2012; so get it in while you can because tomorrow you’re just gonna sound like a crazy person. While we’re on it, I’m going to provide for you a helpful guide to holiday related greetings so you can avoid a social faux pas in the future sounding like a grizzled homeless man in six coats and a tin foil hat in July.

General Rule: For all holidays worth their own greeting, you have to abide by the “week of” rule. The of the holiday is when salutations about the holiday are acceptable. Happy Halloween, Have a great fourth, Happy Labor Day, Happy Memorial Day…weekend. Okay, frankly I don’t think any of these are greetings-worthy, but if you must come up with something regarding Columbus Day or Earth Day, just stick with “week of” and you’ll avoid the awkward glances and stares. Now, on to the heart of the calendar that brims with so many holidays that it is its own season like Deer and Duck have their own fated seasons.

Nov. 20-Nov. 26

Starting at the beginning, Happy Thanksgiving is the obvious beginning to the holidays. As a general rule I think you should refrain from using this greeting until the week of Thanksgiving. Any earlier and people are going to raise an eyebrow. Most people have just nailed down their plans for the day at the one week mark. They just are figuring out whose house they will be driving to, and whether Karen is bringing her new boyfriend flavor of the month. After Thanksgiving you can’t wish anyone a Happy Thanksgiving, but you have a two-day grace period to ask, “How was your Thanksgiving? Do anything special?” After this period it is time to move on to our next holiday slogan.

Nov. 27-Dec. 17

It is time to switch to Happy Holidays at this point. You are in the thick of events. You are surrounded by festivities from Hanukkah to New Year’s and everything in between, so it is time to get a little more generic. This is not a dig on Christmas, or a salvo in the phantom war on the holiday, it is simply an inclusive term that takes in to account the feeling of the season. Don’t get your panties up in a bunch and cling to Merry Christmas like someone is fisting the Virgin Mary, it’s just too soon to drop Merry Christmas while most people are so crazed and annoyed, they don’t want to be reminded that they are desperately running out of shopping days as the clock winds down.

Dec. 18-Dec. 25

Okay, release the hounds of hell. Christmas is coming like a steaming locomotive and it is time to drop Merry Christmas to both greet and say goodbye to people. Saint Nick has burnt up your credit rating, is driving you to drink, and all the plans for the day in question have been carved in to stone and replayed in your mind a hundred times. The anticipation is there and those f-ing Lexus commercials and Macy’s Christmas muzak has buried itself so deeply in your psyche that therapists nationwide know that bed and breakfast at Wit’s End has no vacancies. So, just let ‘er fly with reckless abandon.

Dec. 26-Dec. 28

This is a tough spot. Happy New Year is acceptable from the moment Christmas Day ends, but this is a time when asking about how Christmas was is acceptable, while Happy Holidays is still socially acceptable as well. This is a time where full conversations can stem from just trying to cover all of your salutation bases. Seriously, just asking about Christmas and plans for New Year’s can get you jammed up for ten minutes just trying to hit every bullet point. It can be tough to choose, and the onus is on the speaker, but choose carefully if you’re in a hurry, because you might get sidetracked in to discussing every present, the Christmas Day dinner, and where everyone is ringing in the new year. Ugh.

Dec. 29-Jan. 7

Okay, the meat of the thing. This is a time where Happy New Year is the only way to go. Obviously, leading up to New Year’s Eve and Day is Happy New Year, but after New year’s Day is a tough one. I have heard guesses at acceptable time frames of using the phrase from one week to all of January. Saying Happy New Year after NYD is basically wishing someone luck. Good Luck is a bit on the nose, so we use Happy New Year in its place, but you are basically wishing someone a good year when you say it. It is loaded, but wishing someone luck in a new year is weird once the year is no longer new.

I go with the one week rule because by this point. This means you’ve got one more day to get it out of your system. Everyone is back to their regular work schedule. No more vacations, school breaks are mostly over, and people are settling back in to the grind. The rosy cheer has drained from their face. They are burnt out on turkey and cookies and nogs of all kinds. The family has left town and left a mess of both emotional and physical proportions that keep gyms, dry cleaners, and therapists in steady work. Even the homeless know that the free ride is over; the well of generosity has dried up. At this point, forget the holidays and just pat each other on the back, because you’ve survived yet another whirlwind year you will spend the next ten months trying to forget, work off, and pay off…then we do it again…so an early/late Happy holidays to ya.

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A New Spin on the New Year’s Resolution

It’s that time of year again. We’ve seen all the year-end round-ups. We’ve had our fill of Turkey, spiked nog, agitating relatives, and our credit cards still sizzle from the endless desire to fill that void that the feeling of giving seems to carve in to our hearts every year when we see an ethnic couple give one another a Lexus. The stockings have been put away, the Christmas tree is on it’s last legs, and the lights are still up–probably will be for a while, maybe until next Christmas–and we’re in the final stretch of the holiday overload.

The last holiday to hurdle is the NYE celebration. You know where you’re gonna be and who you’re gonna be with and you’re titillated at the idea of spending the rare moment with the one you love in a pseudo-drunk stupor counting down integers until the clock strikes midnight. The only thing yet to be decided is which resolution you will make and break this year. It’s time to dust off that old past time and make yet another annual effort to improve one’s self on the eve of a fresh year.

The idea of a resolution is a valiant one. A chance to define a new you you intend to be…for about a month. Is it any wonder that gym memberships see such a spike in sales in January? You gorged ourselves from Halloween to Christmas and now you tried to squeeze in to the dress for the big night…well, we’ve gotta to re-lose that freshman fifteen for the 18th consecutive year. Shit, this year will be different. I’m getting to the gym and I’m gonna firm it all up. Yeah, last year it lasted as long as that Freshman boyfriend you had, too; about a semester.

It’s not your fault. Maybe you wanted to learn a language, volunteer more, lose that weight, or something abstract like be happier or find true love. Ummm, failure calling, we’d like our clichés back. That not withstanding, the problem is the idea of the resolution. By definition, resolution means “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” Wow, a firm decision? Let’s not get carried away with ourselves. “To do or not to do?” A little Shakespearian for my liking, but I’ll forgive the Oxford dictionary for being a little Elizabethan in its definitions. The very definition of resolution is wishy-washy at best, so you can’t be blamed for taking not so serious a definition the is not so definitive.

Herein lies the problem. If you truly want to change yourself and see the turn of the calendar year as a perfect opportunity to redouble your efforts to improve yourself, then you are hitching your wagon to an old mare that’s seen better days. Sorry Bessy, but it’s to the glue factory with you. We need a new concept that better suits the grandiose effort that the date should spur us on to changing in a way we could have started on June 13th or any idle Tuesday all year long.

I did some searching, but I had a tough time with an abstraction that would allow for failure, but not for a lack of trying. You know the old adage, “Shoot for the stars but don’t be disappointed with the moon.” No? Well, I think I’m paraphrasing or just making it up. We need a word, a concept, that allows for falling off a horse and getting back on; oh, THAT one you know. We need something that takes in to account the endless possibility a new day holds. An organic notion that keeps us company as we venture in to the construct of white, blank, exciting newness of a new year. No more weight loss promises to our thighs broken. No more Rosetta Stone boxes left unopened and dusty. No more nicotine patches and gum tossed asunder for the real thing just one more year.

Oath felt too strong. It is the “divine witness” that got me. Breaking an oath is often punishable by prison today. In the past it would have garnered exile or excommunication, even execution, often publicly displayed as a deterrent to others…we don’t need a head on a pike for failing to save up for a summer trip to Paris.

Hope was just to childish. Hope is only good when accompanied by action. Though this is a fair pairing, action will be the rod and staff to whatever word we send in to the valley on this occasion. Hope is good, but is a bit wistful for such a task as turning over a new leaf this new year.

Promise is good, but the fallout from a broken promise stings painfully. Broken promises, even to one’s self, can be painful and can ruin even the strongest bonds and deepest trust. This one’s not for us either.

As with any quandary I might be in, when I am at a loss I turn to the source of any answer I might need; I turned to Kevin Smith. On this occasion I felt that Dogma would hold the answer. A favorite of mine, if only for the apparent blasphemy masked as an interpretation of faith, I turned to one line in the film. Chris Rock’s character Rufus talked about Jesus and that he had a philosophy. “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier.” Aw, leave it to Chris Rock to deliver the nugget I needed. Thanks, Chris.

An idea. What a novel concept. An idea is just “a possible course of action.” It is an option, a path. You can go that way, or not. You might be thinking that this is a bit soft for trying to turn things around in the new year for yourself. Fine, go ahead, take a harder line with yourself, but when you fail you only have your own shame, anger, and self-loathing keeping you company. Me, I just got a new idea because that other one wasn’t working.

Life is a series of brainstorming sessions. A series of moments taken to really get outside the box. Not every idea will work, but the important thing is the spitballing and the possibly outlandish ideas that can lead to a much more reasonable, actionable idea.

If you want hard and fast goals, then by all means, etch that shit on a slab of granite and hold yourself to it. Do everything in your power to align yourself with plans laid in a panicked moment of a desire to change. When we take these oaths, make the promises to ourselves, or make these resolutions, it is nothing but heartbreak that will come, because this coming year doesn’t care. Life changes, your situation changes, and you change. You didn’t plan on falling in love with photography on you trip to the coast…well, fuck that, I have this goal I set 7 months ago and I can’t break a promise I made to myself! What kind of man would I be!? To hell with being open to unexpected change. Loosen up your mind, your life, and if you have a desire to better yourself, then just lay down a list of ideas. Turn a piece of paper in to the white board of life; no idea is bad, no idea is wrong. Let it all fly, see what sticks to the wall, and then go from there. You can always go back to the drawing board, but you can’t unbreak that promise you made to your steadily expanding ass. Happy New Year…a new year for a good idea or two.

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