Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ideation Session

From: Jeff Johnson
To: David Roth

Is it horribly naive to suggest to Papa John he actually have a chain of sit-down restaurants?

Aren't his margins HUGE elsewhere?

Is it not easier for store managers to have sexual encounters with their subordinates in "spaces" without a lot of customer foot fall?

Is it not enticing though, to think of a pizza/pigskin BONANZA, shepherded over by Papa John himself? 34 HD screens? College girl waitresses. Miller lite flowing.

Special appearances by Jeff George?

To: Jeff Johnson
From: David Roth

I like the idea of this happening along the lines of those commercials where he randomly shows up at peoples' houses with a bunch of pizzas and then throws a tight spiral in the street. Like Papa John gets to your house really early in the morning with a breakfast pizza -- like the Papa Benedict, with six eggs, "real bacon," spinach, etc. -- and then moves in a bunch of TVs, an industrial fryer, etc. And your home becomes Papa John's Conference USA Football Ground Zero for a day, more or less with your consent but not entirely with your consent. Strong yes on the Jeff George thing, obviously.

From: Jeff Johnson
To: David Roth

When he leaves it is beyond trashed. But the people feel blessed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Anthropology Project: What Is High-Bro

I'm not an accredited anthropologist. As longtime readers know, I was in fact trained as a dentist, and so am barely qualified even to be doing this. I had to lie to the people at Blogspot just to get this blog. I told them I was Asher Roth. But what I'm saying here is that I am not an anthropologist. And yet I am embarking on an anthropology project. On Tumblr, where all the best work in that field is currently being done.

And I'm honestly even less qualified to use Tumblr than I am to attempt thumbnail anthropology projects. But I've been fascinated -- in large part due to the stumbly launch of the weird, ranking-happy TV club/bro-backrub-society at Grantland, but also because it's everywhere in our culture -- by the rise of High-Bro culture, which I define at Excursions in High-Bro, where I'll be parsing this further, as a sort of older, self-important elder-analog to bro-bro culture -- the difference between Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow, for shorthand purposes. I go into greater depth at the Tumblr (it's like I can't stop typing it!), and hopefully in a future article/charticle/whatever on this. And I will continue to do so. If you have any thoughts on it, or if you don't, get on over there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Rich Are Always With Us, Sad Aussies, And So Sadly On

So, here are two paragraphs on the Murdoch Fam/hacking-corruption-general-suczzy-malfeasance story. Try to find some overlap, and good luck. The first, from the New York Times' Monday rundown on the story:

Evidence indicating that The News of the World paid the police for information was not handed over to the authorities for four years. Its parent company paid hefty sums to those who threatened legal action, on condition of silence. The tabloid continued to pay reporters and editors whose knowledge could prove embarrassing even after they were fired or arrested for hacking. A key editor’s computer equipment was destroyed, and e-mail evidence was lost. Internal advice to accept responsibility was ignored, former executives said.

Now, the New York Times does not like Rupert Murdoch -- which is fine, many people don't: he's a gnarled, ultra-cynical raisin of a human being who has smeared the vilest, greedheaded anti-human poop on the discourse of several nations for generations. But they also wouldn't have run that paragraph if they couldn't hang with a lawsuit on some component of it, because that lawsuit would come if any of it was weak. Ditto for The Guardian, which has been on the general scuzzy malfeasance at Murdoch's British newspapers -- and their creepy-crawly, creepily familiar spooning with Britain's power elite -- for years. That there's quite a bit to these allegations is, at this point, seemingly not under dispute. We're quite nearly past the "what did X know and when did s/he know it" phase as well, it seems. We're nearly to the the how-did-this-happen/how-can-it-be-prevented/how-to-punish-the-malefactors stages. Which is great. It won't undo the decade-plus of creepery on News International's part, but if it prevents it from happening again, that would be great. And, honestly, if it makes Rupert Murdoch sad... well, the easy way around that was not to create a breathtakingly ugly and patently lawless corporate culture. But that last bit -- how it makes Rupert feel, and how that makes us feel -- is the sort of thing you'd have to be a blinkered, misprioritized creep of world-historic proportions even to care about. Meta-backlashery inna Murdoch Agonistes stylee can wait a few generations, or it can wait forever, but it's also maybe something to save for a while, given all the actual and astonishing wrongdoing being discussed, right? Okay, here's the second selection, from the New York Observer's unsigned editorial "Murdoch and His Enemies."

While it’s clear that many things were amiss at the News of the World, and while many questions remain to be asked of the relationship between British reporters (including those who don’t work for Mr. Murdoch) and Scotland Yard, it is simply wrong to assail Mr. Murdoch simply because of his politics. Yes, he was a part of London’s tainted tabloid culture, but that does not make him a symbol of that culture.

Rupert Murdoch has apologized, profusely and with genuine humility, to the family of Milly Dowler, the young murder victim whose phone was hacked into by reporters from News of the World. The family’s attorney said that Mr. Murdoch put his head in his hands as he expressed his grief. What more could he have done? How many publishers have apologized to families whose suffering has been exacerbated by media coverage? How many publishers would have closed a valuable property like News of the World? Mr. Murdoch did that, and more—he dropped his bid to purchase B Sky B, which was extremely important to him.

So, there's also that. It is simply wrong to condemn this guy for his politics or nauseous anti-ethics, but it is (apparently? it's barely addressed) complicatedly wrong to weasel into the voicemail of a teenaged murder victim or suborn payoffs to police officers. As Choire points out at The Awl, the Observer has a long, proud history of astonishingly poor rich-people-thing editorials. He pointed this out after I sort of freaked out about this editorial (see above, or see here), which probably wouldn't have affected said freakout much. But while I'm as offended by the fatuity of the Observer's full- and weird-throated defense of The Embattled Mogul, the real reason it got to me -- beyond my own misplaced priorities -- is... well, it's the same reason I got all het up about the similarly fatuous post-partisan rich person's political party No Labels last year, and why I tend to read too much into sports lockouts (and other sports lockouts). And that all comes back to the discursive problem that extreme wealth presents, and how poorly our discourse has navigated it.

To take a well-thumbed page from the President's book, this would probably be the place where I mention something about Not Having A Problem With Rich People and hoping that everyone gets rich and so on. And I suppose that's true, and I suppose I do. But between the uniquely American problem of reverse engineering great merit into great wealth -- which is a bummer, of course -- and the fact that our discourse often seems run by and for rich people who have come to believe all that happy noise about themselves, it would seem that we're all in a pretty tight spot. Or, if you prefer a more metaphorical metaphor, we are all in a gold-plated echo chamber, going deaf while billionaires innocent of self-consciousness and self-restraint (and occasionally guilty of quite a few things) blast compliments to each other through platinum megaphones and periodically discuss whatever's on their minds, from the deficit to running McKinseyan sensitivities on a public school system they don't use. Oh, and outside the echo chamber everything is on fire. It would seem that way, sometimes, if you look at it too long.

Or, option three, without any metaphor: great and greatly terrible decisions are being made by greatly fatuous people too rich to feel their consequences; those consequences are being absorbed by people too far from power to influence the aforementioned decisions. And it really, really isn't working.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Isn't it weird when one of these the-entire-internet-barf/laughs-at-the-same-time things actually winds up being good?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Got That Work

(If/when I write a book that requires a cover, I sure hope that Pen and Pixel is still in business)

There's freelance-related anxiety that concerns having too much work, and there's freelance-related anxiety concerning not having enough work, and there is the rare and beautiful anti-nirvana state that is achieved when those two nervousnesses occupy the same consciousness. Obviously there are hundreds of thousands of worse things than feeling jittery and overworked, but as explanations for falling behind on my own self-spammery goes, it's a pretty good explanation. So I'm taking a brief break from attempting to take a longer break to get caught up on my catching up. Then I'm going to make this chimichurri for a party I'm supposed to make chimichurri for, and maybe spend 45 minutes staring at a Word document containing an assignment that I have avoided working on because of how much I hate it and hate working on it. But right: a break. So here's what I've been doing instead of blogging or feeling comfortable.

The good news is that there are some things, besides the usual Daily Fixery and daily day-jobbery. Foremost among these, probably, is the fact that I'm writing a sports column called The Mercy Rule for Vice Magazine. Which is a cool but also an intimidating thing, both because -- with the exception of my Awl NFL columns, which was not so much easy, either, but also just sort of felt different -- I've never written this sort of thing before and because, you know, it's Vice. That obviously means something different than it did back when it was Do's and Don't's and mid-aught cocaine libertarianism/libertinism -- it's a different and more serious and more complicated thing now, and my editors are both quite serious and good at editing. Also the commenters are kind of hilariously negative, so the fact that I've only gotten one "TL;DR" and been called an "asshole" once in three columns is actually kind of good, I guess? But yeah: overall the response has been good, and I'm enjoying doing it. The three columns I wrote, about Frank McCourt, the NBA lockout and Not Saving The All-Star Game<, are here and here and here. Feel free to hit the comments and call me a retard or whatever.

I'm also still doing the Yakkin' thing at The Awl, usually with the very great David Raposa. That David R, though, also has work, and this week was covering a Lil Wayne concert when he would ordinarily have been on gchat with me making fun of Ron Gardenhire. Which is a pretty good deal for him, and which gave me an excuse to write something stupid about baseball and food, which is the sort of thing I don't actually need an excuse for. But I liked doing it, and was especially delighted that one of the more ridiculous bits of the piece -- a totally made-up bit involving paunchy journeyman reliever Mike Fetters running a renegade concession stand at Miller Park -- actually seemed to have convinced Larry Granillo, the man behind the great Wezen-Ball baseball blog, that Mike Fetters was indeed hauling a cheese-vat around a big league ballpark. See if it convinces you:

While Fetters says that he "does fine" on his mobile concession, it's clearly a labor of love—only love, after all, could compel a 40-something man to pull a bubbling cauldron of Colby cheese and that cast-iron skillet around the ballpark while evading Miller Park security. Fetters charges fans just $2 to dunk any of the other concessions available at the ballpark into the "cheese tank," and will put a fried egg—that’s where the skillet and hot-plate come in—atop any concession for just a dollar. And I do mean anything: during my visit, I saw Fetters put a fried egg atop a pile of nachos, a double-patty burger ($11) from Gorman Thomas Prime, and directly into a New Era fitted cap. "Security guys are going to bust balls, because that's what they do," Fetters says. "Food inspector guys, same thing. But the way I figure, these fans gave me a lot when I pitched here. A lot of love, a lot of support. I want to give them something back, too."

Incidentally, the idea of a ballpark steakhouse called Gorman Thomas Prime is actually my favorite joke in the piece, and this is a piece that has a few hundred words of totally made up Guy Fieri BS. You can read the whole thing here. Or you could not, that'd be fine, too. I know how it feels not to have time to do things. I know because I need to make chimichurri.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Am I allowed to be proud of this? Because, and not to toot any horns here, but what I started to kill time while my wife watched an episode of "Criminal Minds" (with Cybill Shepherd AND Lolita Davidovich in it!) wound up lasting NEARLY 20 MINUTES LONGER THAN EXPECTED.

Twitter makes new universes of idiocy not just possible, but probable-unto-inevitable. I guess I should just accept liking it.