Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ready For Her Close-Up

Slouching Towards Oblivion
Published: April 25, 2009

Maureen Dowd continues her California vacation hunting for the perfect metaphor for the end of the newspaper industry. Being a fan of old movies, it only makes sense that she would stumble upon Sunset Boulevard, the classic Gloria Swanson movie about an aging star unwilling to adjust to the reality of a changing marketplace.

Maybe it’s because I’m staying at the Sunset Tower on Sunset Boulevard, but I keep thinking of newspapers as Norma Desmond.

Papers are still big. It’s the screens that got small.
That paraphrase of the classic line gets hammered into metaphor one more time.
...old-school newspapers seem like aging silent film stars, stricken to find themselves outmoded by technology.
With the Movies With Maureen® reference out of the way, she goes for the distance record for a Dowdversion™ compare/contrast. She starts with...
Journalists are still hot in Hollywood.
And an entire paragraph later sums up with...
But in real life, journalists are feeling the chill.
And to get that walking past the graveyard feeling she takes a newsroom tour with her Celebrity Quote of the week, Phil Bronstein, whose claim to fame is that his celebrity ex-wife tried to feed him to a reptile.
“This is called the Komodo Dragon Room, for obvious reasons,” he said dryly, referring to the time his ex-wife, Sharon Stone, gave him a meet-and-greet session with a Komodo dragon, who mistook his foot for a snack.
And what better metaphor could you ask for than for a denizen of the newsroom to be devoured by a dinosaur.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Road Tripping With Maureen

While Dowd Central has been shuttered for Spring Break, Maureen Dowd has taken to traveling the highways and byways of this great nation hobnobbing with the common people like Silicon Valley billionaires to get her hand on the pulse of the nation, among other places. Let's catch up on the tour and see where she's been.

Striking It Poor
JAMESTOWN, Calif. (April 8)

Single Sentence Synopsis: Panning for gold is harder than digging for quotes.
Classic Dowdism: A Movies With Maureen® Moment as she goes all Fred C. Dobbs.

I’d seen “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” the 1948 classic starring Humphrey Bogart and directed by John Huston. (“Badges? ... I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”) That movie was the best meditation on prospecting for gold, and falling prey to greed, ever done — until the Bernie Madoff story.
Cocktail Reference: Ramos gin fizzes and a lemon drop martini

Amazing Insight: Her foray into Kirsten Gum territory is a bust. Maureen's going to have to find another way to fund the 401(k)

Demi in Des Moines?

Single Sentence Summary: Ames is the new Castro Street

Classic Dowdism: With Iowa allowing gay marriage, Maureen makes with the Dowdversion™.
Now it’s flyover country that’s starting high-flying trends.
Celebrity Source: Max Mutchnick, the co-creator of “Will and Grace"

Cocktail Reference: “Vitamin V” vodka

Her Amazing Insight: Gay people are just like her. Single and envious.

Dinosaur at the Gate
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (April 15)

Single Sentence Summary: Google is destroying newspapers just in time to keep Maureen from retiring in luxury.

Classic Dowdism: A double Alliteration Alert™ over Google's gameplan.
Google is in a battle royal over whether it has the right to profit so profligately from newspaper content at a time when journalism is in such jeopardy.
Celebrity Source: Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google

Cocktail Reference: Wheat-grass shots

Her Amazing Insight: The effort required to program a DowdBot is trivial, only nobody has bothered to do it yet.

The Aura of Arugulance
BERKELEY, Calif. (April 19)

Single Sentence Summary: Peace can be reached through peas.

Classic Dowdism: Quoting a coined word and making it her own.
[Alice Waters] says wryly: “I’m just put into that arugulance place..."
Celebrity Source: George Lucas (explaining that Dick Cheney is too evil to be Darth Vader, he's really the Emperor)

Her Amazing Insight: I don't know, but the column made me hungry.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Single Sentence Summary: Twittering is amazingly annoying, especially in column form.

Classic Dowdism: A formatting conceit that can be loosely described as clever. In this case, doing the interview in Twitter length questions and answers. Sample exchange:
ME: If you were out with a girl and she started twittering about it in the middle, would that be a deal-breaker or a turn-on?
BIZ (dryly): In the middle of what?
Celebrity Source: Biz Stone and Evan Williams, founders of Twitter.

Amazing Insight: At ages 35 and 37, the Twitterers-In-Chief are prime cougar prey.

Taken individually, these recent columns can be seen as an innocent way to expense a trip to the Left Coast. But here at Dowd Central we sniff book deal research disguised as Friedman level reporting. Can Is Silicon Valley Necessary? be far behind?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

She Said 'Hummer'

No More Hummer Nation
Published: March 31, 2009

Maureen Dowd has stumbled on a cute little portmanteau of a Crossword Clue complete with a definition she lifts straight from Wikipedia.

As President Obama renegotiates the terms of American leadership this week in Europe, those of us left at home struggle to get over our affluenza. That condition, the bane of the middle class, is defined in a book of the same name as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.”
Somehow this ties into Obama's Sunday night massacre of the former GM president. Rick Wagoner was clearly in a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't situation.
The Wall Street Journal had an article last week reporting that, now that gas prices have gone back down, almost half a million fuel-frugal small cars are piling up unsold at dealers around the country.
And later in the column:
Wagoner showed no foresight or willingness to curb an unhealthy appetite for the big. He failed to eliminate brands and launched the Hummer line in 2001.
Wagoner stuck to gas-guzzling pickups and S.U.V.’s long after it was clear that higher gas prices meant he should vary the fleet with more fuel-efficient vehicles.
So that they could sit around unsold when gas prices drop again. Anyone else see the fallacy here?

But it's not a Dowd column without at least one Movies With Maureen® moment.
I heard a French scientist on a radio show once explain that Americans would always insist on supersizing things because our “reptilian brain” likes things big. We’re still big, as Norma Desmond said. It’s everything around us that’s collapsing and shrinking.
And the mention of anything French sends Maureen's reptilian brain free-associating to her longstanding crush for Carla Bruni.
How big do we need to be to still feel American? How big can our national debt grow? How big can our cars be? And how big is our clout abroad these days? Will Michelle’s style in Europe make as big a splash as Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s?
How many rhetorical questions can you fit in one column? At least two more.
How do we come to terms with the gluttony that exploded our economy and still retain our reptilian American desire for living large? How do we make the pursuit of the American dream a satisfying quest rather than a selfish one?

How do you fill eight hundred words when your only news pegs are a trip to the G20 summit and a fired executive? You do a fashion report.
But, hey, nobody’s perfect — except maybe Michelle Obama, who landed in London with a huge Obama entourage, wearing a daffodil yellow dress and looking like a confident ray of U.S.A. sunshine.
At least next week we will have Michelle's inappropriate hugging of the Queen to discuss.

photo from Mrs.O.org