My years-old-but-just published interview with the Israeli troubadour and folk hero, David Broza, is here.
My Oscar Nominations:
Best Picture: Blue is the Warmest Color.Honorable Mention: The Past, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Before Midnight, The Spectacular Now
Best Actress: Adele Exarchopoulos. Honorable Mention: Amy Adams, Julie Delphy, Berenice Bejo
Best Actor: Robert Redford. Honorable Mention: Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tahar Rahm
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto
Best Screenplay: Richard Linklater. Honorable Mention: Asshar Farhadi
Best Foreign Film: Blue is the Warmest Color, Honorable Mention: The Past, The Hunt, The Attack, The Great Beauty, What’s in a Name?
Soundtrack: Anchorman II
Biggest Disappointment: Blue Jasmine
Petition in favor of academic freedom and against academic boycotts like that of the ASA, here.
This day in history: Thirty-six years ago yesterday, I was mugged coming out of Disc-O-Mat in Times Square buying Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy three days after its January 18, 1978 release. Those were the Bad Old Days. Afterward, I ate dinner at Beefsteak Charlie's and endured four-plus hours of "Renaldo and Clara" which was a kind of mugging in and of itself. The album is still great.
1) Craig Handy: Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith at the Blue Note Jazz Club
I had never heard of Craig before, but I needed something fun on my birthday and he, his band and special guest Dee Dee Bridgewater turned out to be just the thing. Craig was in Dee Dee’s band until recently, and his band gets its name from their (successful) desire to combine New Orleans-style jazz with the B-3 dominated compositions of the great Jimmy Smith. It was the band’s first-ever gig and while casual to the point of “let’s talk about what we might want to play and see what it sounds like” was aces both individually and as a unit. They are Kyle Koehler on the B3, Matt Chertkoff on guitar, Clark Gayton on a big, funny-looking sousaphone, and Jerome Jennings on drums. The diva, Dee Dee Bridgewater, delivered in Billie Holiday mode and a splendid time was had by all. They’ve got a new album on Okeh, also with Dee Dee, but I’ve not heard it yet.
2) Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at Sondheim Theater
Here's what you need to know about this musical:
a) It will play for years, the way jukebox musicals often do, because the music is so damn great.
b) Jessie Mueller, who plays Carol, is adorable, and has pipes.
c) The first act could not be more fun. It is wonderfully staged and sung, the sets (and costumes) are terrific and the producers had the good sense to add the Mann/Weil songbook to the King/Goffin one, which, while wonderful, is actually quite thin. The combination of these terrific songs with fake versions of the Drifters, the Shirelles, Little Eva and the Righteous Brothers, among others, makes for a first act that I never wanted to end.
d) But when it does, the play kind of dies. The book, by the usually-excellent Doug McGrath, has some excellent banter early on, but then pretty much ceases to exist.
e) Ditto the second act, which makes the transition from Brill Building-style three-minute pop masterpieces to earth mother/Tapestry pop masterpieces (there is even mention of a cat), but loses both the characters and the momentum.
f) Though to be fair, the adorable Ms. Mueller really only comes into her own on the vocals on “Natural Woman.”
g) The encore of “ I Feel the Earth Move” is pretty fun
h) There’s no mention of James Taylor—or King’s eventful post-Tapestry life (and some of the rest of the story does not exactly track with the historical record, but hey, this is Broadway. What did you expect?)
3) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at thePearl Theatre
Tom Stoppard wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in 1970. He was 33. And he’s become a much better playwright in the period since. (I’d say that, together with Tony Kushner, he is the best playwright in the English language.) This play was based on a briliant conceit and in many respects, it is brilliant executed. But in at least as many respects, it is overlong, too cute by half, and overly impressed with its own verbacity. The deal is that Hamlet is retold from the perspective of his innocent and doomed schoolmates, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and while I remember loving it, I did not love it so much this time as I would have if it had been a third shorter. This performance by the Acting Company, directed by John Rando, is appropriately over the top and filled with fun performances.
4) The Rolling Stones' Sweet Summer Sun and George Thorogood and the Destroyers: Live At Montreux 2013, both live on Blu-ray.
The Stones played their first ever post-Brian Jones concert (with the much under-rated Mick Taylor replacing him) in Hyde Park in 1969. It’s actually amazing what Jagger can still do on stage—and what he is willing to do to try to keep up the mantle of the world’s greatest rock 'n roll band—at his age. I think Dorian Gray is the only appropriate comparison. Anyway, there's nothing shocking about this show; Taylor is back for the first time since he left before the 1975 tour and they play the forty and nearly fifty year old hits like they were written yesterday. The bonus features are just three extra tracks. There is no Springsteen, alas.
Mr. Thorogood has been around for a while too and this concert from last year’s Montreux Jazz Festival will show you why. It ain’t particularly pretty but “Who Do You Love?” “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” “Move It On Over” and “Bad To The Bone” sound as awesome as ever, and the man does work hard for the money.
5) The Jerry Garcia Band, Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman, Fall 1989: The Long Island Sound (six CD box set)
A six-CD box set featuring two complete, previously unreleased performances mastered from original soundboard recordings captured during the Jerry Garcia Band's fall 1989 East Coast tour, which featured fellow Grateful Dead co-founder and guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir with bassist Rob Wasserman as the opening act. The JGB is the same brand you'll find on three previous releases: Jerry Garcia Band, How Sweet It Is and Pure Jerry: Merriweather Post Pavilion.
This box features both bands at the September 5, 1989 performance at the Hartford Civic Center and September 6th show at the Nassau Coliseum. This is towards the end of Jerry's still-great period, though after the learn-how-to-play-again period. The repertoire is pretty similar to all those other releases but the band has really gotten to know one another. The sound quality is great and the Weir/Wasserman acoustic sets are a real pleasure to have around.
6) Margaret MacMillan's The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 (audio)
I am about halfway through the audible, 31 hour and 57 minute version of Ms. MacMillan's book. It's a beautifully rendered version that begins in 1900 and carries the reader through most of the main personalities and all of the diplomatic machinations—and some of the cultural and intellectual ones—up to the great war. I did not actually plan on sticking with the whole thing. I was just giving it a chance. But it's a marvelous read (listen?) and well worth the investment, assuming prior interest in the topic. It is well read by Richard Burnip. (What a job that must have been).
Our National Drought of Climate Change Coverage
by Reed Richardson
Increasingly, it has become an article of faith among political leaders on the right that anthropogenic climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated on gullible Americans. To conservatives like Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, greedy scientists are spreading a phony tale of impending climatic disaster as part of some socialist takeover plot, all of it propelled along by a complicit “liberal media.” There are various reasons why this conspiracy theory is patently false; most notable among them is the overwhelming scientific evidence. But the alarming scarcity of climate change coverage in the national press shouldn’t be overlooked either. Indeed, if you’re looking for an actual hoax, you might start by examining the mistaken notion that our establishment media actually covers the environment in a serious way.
Consider these alarming statistics about the sorry state of climate coverage in our country:
-Any mention of climate change was completely frozen out of the 2012 Presidential and Vice Presidential debates by the journalists moderating them (and politicians too), for the first time since 1984.
-In 2013, evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC cumulatively devoted just thirty stories—roughly 100 minutes—to climate change out of the thousands of stories reported across the year. This level was essentially unchanged from the twenty-nine stories broadcast by the three networks in 2012.
-Not one of the broadcast news networks spent as much as one full hour, across all shows, covering climate change in 2013. CBS and NBC came closest with fifty-six and fifty-two minutes, respectively.
-The Sunday morning news shows (including Fox, but excluding CNN) spent just twenty-seven minutes of airtime covering climate change in 2013—roughly one-third of one percent of their total annual airtime. (NBC’s Meet the Press aired zero minutes on this issue.) Remarkably, this figure represented a tripling of Sunday morning news coverage from 2011 and 2012.
-After nearly a decade of steady increases between 2000-07, climate change coverage has fallen significantly in recent years. And last year, cumulative climate change coverage at the five major newspapers in the US dropped noticeably again.
-Most notably, climate coverage at The New York Times fell by one-third in 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, after the paper shuttered its environmental desk and Green blog early last year.
-Climate change and global warming coverage also dropped significantly at The Washington Post last year after it reassigned the paper’s dedicated environmental reporter, Juliet Eilperin, to the DC political desk in March. (Eilperin still covers White House environmental/climate policy.)
Tellingly, this broad retrenchment stands in stark contrast to the rest of world. According to a survey by The Daily Climate, climate coverage jumped 30 percent among the world’s media in 2013. (Note: According to its methodology, The Daily Climate also counted “energy” stories that did not include the phrases “climate change” or “global warming.”) To be fair, some US news outlets, like the Associated Press, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal boosted their coverage significantly last year. And climate change undoubtedly got plenty of attention from alternative, environmentally-focused news organizations like Grist, Climate Progress, and Inside Climate News, which won a Pulitzer in 2013 for its investigation into a massive oil spill in Michigan that the national press mostly ignored.
Nevertheless, mainstream news outlets still have an outsized influence on the public’s perceived risk from climate change. As Robert Brulle, a Drexel University social scientist who tracks climate change coverage, noted in the Daily Climate survey: "When you look at public opinion data, it's still the nightly news, believe it or not. That's still the single biggest driver.”
How to explain, then, the national TV news’s unmistakable reticence to covering something that two-thirds of Americans acknowledge? One reason, extremist Republicans, through their rhetoric and electoral record, have quite successfully politicized the reality of climate change. This plays into the media establishment’s discomfort with pointing out when a party or ideology is starkly at odd with the facts. Two, the press sometimes justifies its lack of coverage by pointing to polls that show that climate change ranks near the bottom of the American public’s priorities. Of course, this logic begets a self-fulfilling prophecy, since the public’s perceptions are, in part, driven by the media itself. The less the press covers climate change, the less the public considers it an important issue, which then excuses even less coverage, and on and on it goes. Over time, this politicization and circular reasoning can combine to breed a subconscious self-censorship—or, in the case of Fox News, strategic misinformation—in environmental reporting.
Last week’s outrageous chemical spill in West Virginia, for example, demonstrated that breaking news can lead the media to contaminated water, but it can’t make them cover it. Or at least not the potential long-term health impact from it. And this week, the historic drought in California is teaching us that the media can’t see the climate-change-compromised forest for the trees on fire.
Case in point, this CBS Evening News story. Its structure perfectly captures how the mainstream media has been framing this story since it began: find a person affected by the fires, get some B-roll of the flames and firefighters, give some current facts on the drought, and talk to a fire expert. Right at the end of this story, though, CBS correspondent Carter Evans has this brief exchange with fire behavior analyst Captain Brendan Ripley (1:35 mark):
EVANS: “Is this the new normal?”
RIPLEY: “I hope not.”
EVANS: [soberly nods head]
What to say about this? The good news, Evans asks a very good question—the question, in fact—about the larger context of the wildfires. His instincts are on target, but his execution is fundamentally flawed. He asks the wrong person—a fire expert, not a climate scientist—at the wrong moment—the end of his report, rather than the beginning. Therefore, Evans gets a vague, uninformed response and affords himself no time to tell the public that the real answer to his question is "yes." Or, as this 258-page California EPA report from last August unequivocally concluded: “Climate change is not just some abstract scientific debate…It's real, and it's already here.” But instead, the noise of the wildfire overwhelmed the signal of climate change’s ominous impact, which was lost in an afterthought.
To be clear, I’m not trying to pick on Evans, as he is by no means alone in choosing this same, simplistic frame to report on the drought crisis in California. Perusing the TV and newspaper coverage of the wildfires the past few days reveals plenty of similar examples. And even The New York Times is not immune.
In fact, when not overlooking the climate change aspect altogether, the Times could also be found burying the lede, waiting until the very last paragraph in this story to connect a warming climate to the unprecedented drought and devastating wildfires in the Southwest. Also of note, on the day the WaPo ran this bland, context-free news article about the Glendora wildfire, reporter Juliet Eilperin was co-authoring a process story on environmental groups pressuring the White House to address climate change more rapidly. Would the latter have been covered adequately if Eilperin were still on her old beat, aggressively reporting on the former? Most likely, and I’d argue Post readers would have been better served because of it.
Ultimately, all these little, daily missed opportunities of resource allocation and story emphasis add up to what has become a pronounced drought in climate change coverage. As with other recent blockbuster stories that the media failed to recognize in time—no WMDs in Iraq, the financial crisis of 2008—the warning signs of an impending climate crisis are all around us. But we can’t afford to wait around for the media deluge to belatedly arrive again. For, if we do, the consequences this time might be so dire that it won’t just be the press corps and our country that pays the price, but the entire planet.
Contact me directly at reedfrichardson (at) gmail dot com. I’m on Twitter here—(at)reedfrich.
Last week’s post on the media’s general disinterest in covering the chemical spill in West Virginia, and the resulting water crisis, generated a lot of—often poignant—responses. For continuing information on the aftermath, I recommend checking out WVgazette.com, which has been breaking story after story and doggedly holding both local and federal officials accountable for their mismanagement. If it isn't already, that newspaper surely ought to be on the 2014 Pulitzer Committee’s radar.
I can't thank you enough for this article. I am beyond furious at how little national media coverage the WV Water Crisis has received. I started filming and collecting written stories from affected West Virginians on a blog here: http://
Ohio State University
I just happened to read your article "Let Them Drink Coke," and I just wanted to thank you for the attention you have given to the policy debate surrounding the West Virginia chemical spill.
I am from West Virginia (Sissonville) and I happened to be lucky enough to leave on January 4 to come back to law school in Alabama and miss the spill. However, my family, including my 74-year-old grandmother, has been without water since Thursday. I believe they finally got the OK to flush their pipes early this [Wednesday] morning.
I love my state, and as someone who hopes to work as a government lawyer in West Virginia, I must say that I admire your attack on the current state of West Virginia politics. For the most part, I support coal and chemical companies because they do bring jobs to rural areas that otherwise wouldn't have them and allow people to make a living. But you're right—the abuse of these people struggling for a livelihood by the rich, mostly out-of-state operators of those industries has gone on for entirely too long. We can no longer neglect the poor, and unfortunately the manner of politics today in general has encouraged those on the bottom, at the local level, to disenfranchise themselves. And why wouldn't they think so, when they feel like everyone who can do anything about the problem turns their back. And this spill is just one more example.
I was enraged when I read a story about the spill on a major network site (I believe it was CNN) that had as its lead picture a photograph of a woman loading what had to be 10 cases of bottled water into the back of her Lexus. I don't criticize that woman in any way (except maybe she could've shared more), but at the same time I don't think that's a fair picture of the gravity of the spill. It didn't just affect people in the Charleston area. There were others in much more rural areas fortunate enough to have city water, but many of them live 45 minutes from a grocery store or a distribution station. Why didn't the news care about those people? Those are the ones really suffering. And how about the homebound people, who were unable to leave their homes to buy bottled water? What if they had no family or neighbors to bring it to them? Thank God for the rain.
Your article resounds of the importance of responsible journalism and the media as an important connection between the people and the government. Thank you for opening the door for policy debate, and I certainly hope it will occur in this situation.
Thank you for the piece. From the absence of national press to the trolling comments I see on message boards, it feels like our countrymen are forsaking us.
This is going to get worse. I have numerous friends and acquaintances who, after using West Virginia-American Water Company's protocols for flushing our plumbing, are waking up violently ill. There are so many unanswered questions; people are angry and afraid.
Again, thanks for shining a light.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! So many of us who live here desperately want oversight and regulation. The opposite of the Republican mantra and also our own Democratic leaders' mantra. I think it is safe to say that most of us are upset by the lack of media coverage because we know that if our local politicians aren't pressured, no one will be held accountable. Thank you for writing a piece that is intelligent and does not insult the people of WV. I especially appreciated you calling us Americans. The people here who are upset are forming groups and there is a small movement building. I am afraid though the movement will be too small to make an impact on our corrupted leaders. I am a nature lover and I love West Virginia, one of the most beautiful states in this country. I believe we should hold dear and value precious things. Precious as in water, air, land and life. I honestly feel like crying.
I just want to thank you for bringing this crisis to light and calling out the big time media for lack of coverage. We're making due here in little WV, a back water I know is not much cared about but for an incest joke or coal issues.
Another thing you might want to follow up on is that the DEP or EPA dropped the ball as much as Freedom Industries. They failed to look into inspecting those storage tanks on the Elk River for over 20 years all the while brutally inspecting coal industries for proper procedures with mountain top removal and coal run off. Both of which could never damage a water supply like this spill did, just a thought.
I enjoyed your blog, but in addition to pointing out that NYC and LA are both more important to the mainstream media, you should know that West Virginia voted against Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Also, there is an on-going battle between the coal industry and the EPA with Obama himself bragging about making it almost impossible for any new coal-fired power plants to be built. The EPA is enforcing stricter regulations here (in WV), although they have not been "officially" put in place.
I'm not pro-mining. Coal mining has destroyed much of the land, water, and scenery here, and especially so in the southern part of the state. However, much of the scenery in the rest of the state is now being decorated with 215-tall wind turbines.
Ashford WVa is where my family comes from and still lives. This State is always lost in the shuffle. I enjoyed your article saying exactly what is going on. I have been advising my family and friends to write, complain and insist something be done for such gross negligence. More importantly, to NOT DRINK THE WATER. Thank you for your support for the over 300,000 people that have been affected by this tragedy.
West Wareham, MA
Hello Mr. Richardson,
I am so thankful that you wrote the article about the spill in West Virginia.
My daughter, her husband and their two little girls (age 4 and 2) live in Nitro and I am one very worried grandmother up here in Wareham, Massachusetts.
I was really hoping that some of the celebrities from W. VA., like Jennifer Garner, Mary Lou Retton or Kathy Mattea would go down and get some news coverage.
Please keep covering this issue in the media.
Editor's note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.
Read Next: West Virginia ERs reported an influx of patients last week.