Review: ‘Poisoning the Press’ by Mark Feldstein

Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington's Scandal CulturePoisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture by Mark Feldstein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am fascinated by Richard Nixon.

The man is straight out of Shakespeare — sometimes Iago, sometimes Lear, sometimes (in his better, though rare, moments) Prince Hal himself. (Never Falstaff, though.) Nobody doubts his brilliance or cunning, but oh, what venality. He could never get over the contempt he had for the kinds of people LBJ called “the Harvards” — those golden boys who effortlessly controlled the levers of power and sneered at awkward ladder-climbers like Richard Nixon.

Mark Feldstein’s “Poisoning the Press” pairs Nixon with one of his fiercest critics, muckraking columnist Jack Anderson. In Anderson, Nixon had more than a foe in the media — he had someone who was surprisingly like the 37th president himself. Like Nixon, Anderson had a ne’er-do-well brother and a fractious relationship with his father; like Nixon, Anderson was a working-class striver; like Nixon, Anderson grew fond of a wealthy lifestyle at the expense of his ethics. (One of Anderson’s early gets had to do with payoffs Nixon received from rich benefactors. Anderson would later sacrifice much of his regard for money.)

Naturally, the two became mortal enemies.

Continue reading

(Late) Sunday read: They don’t say, ‘Work ball!’

bljatzbccaa-4xw
Image from Twitter.

Today is baseball’s Opening Day. It’s changed a lot since I first started following the sport; back then it was usually on Tuesday and always started in Cincinnati, in honor of the city’s status as the first home of a professional team. Now it’s on Sunday so ESPN can get a big audience, and one of the games will feature the Yankees, because we don’t see the Yankees enough the other 161 games of the year.

(Tonight’s marquee game is Cubs-Cardinals, the National League’s version of Yankees-Red Sox.)

The New York Times has a wonderful piece on six baseball lifers — a coach, an umpire, a pitcher, a slugger, a hitter and (my favorite) a broadcaster. Dip into it; it’s my Sunday read.

Continue reading

This blog has been quiet …

feeling_fatigued_and_drained_ayurvedic_tips_to_re-energize_yourself

… because a) I’ve had a lot of work; b) I’m dealing with the legal and financial bureaucracy that comes with buying and selling a house; c) I’m supposed to be cleaning out the attic (and my bookshelves and record collection) in advance of said buying and selling, but after an initial attempt last weekend, I’m a bit immobilized.

That last will be addressed in a future blog entry to be titled, “The things you discover while moving, part 1.” Which is to say, Who was this person I was 25 years ago?

Sunday read: An eye on the time

Nomos-Zurich-Welzeit-Nachtblau
Image from GentlemensGazette.com.

I love watches. I love the fact that some minuscule gears, springs and rotors can be arranged to tell time to within seconds every 24 hours. I love the designs, though I tend to favor minimalism over the dinner plate-sized wrist weights that have gained favor in recent years. I don’t care that my phone, my pedometer and my tablet all display the time in easy-to-read numbers. I look at my analog wrist.

In this I have something in common with author Gary Shteyngart, he of “Absurdistan,” “Super Sad True Love Story” and “Little Failure” fame. (Gary, I’m linking to your publisher’s page because your own appears to be down. Update, 11:24 a.m.: It’s back up.)

In a recent New Yorker article, Shteyngart confesses his own fascination with watches. He started with a cheap Casio, progressed to a Seiko and Fossil, and then mentions the day in 2016 he walked out of a New York Tourneau store with a $4,000 Nomos on his wrist.

His story is my Sunday read.

Continue reading

Tonight

Young man in pajamas sleeping on sofa at home with teddy bear
This is not me, and that is not Mulligan. Photo from ashagoldstein.com.

I will go to bed early. I will not stay up to 11:30 watching basketball or surfing the Internet.

I will sleep a sound and peaceful eight hours (at least). I will not wake up because a cat jumps on my chest. Nor will I have to get up to pee.

And tomorrow I will wake up rested and start going through all the crap I don’t want to keep. I will be unsentimental and channel my inner Marie Kondo. I will finish writing an article and I will have time to watch basketball and surf the Internet.

So I say.

Goodbye, Chuck Barris

chuck-barris-gong-show
Image from NBC via Philly.com.

I knew who Chuck Barris was even before I saw him.

I was the kind of kid who watched shows right through to the end credits, and I noticed the Chuck Barris Productions logo was very similar to ABC’s and Dick Clark’s. That made sense, since both Clark (who employed Barris in the late ’50s) and Barris had relationships with ABC. (It’s hard to beat a Paul Rand logo.)

Game show geek that I was, I did watch “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game,” though I didn’t understand any of the snickering double-entendres both shows wallowed in. But somehow I knew they were related to Barris, and that his shows were low-brow fun. (He also did “The New Treasure Hunt.”)

Then came “The Gong Show” and Chuck the smarmy host.

Oh, man, did I watch “The Gong Show.” I loved how they gave out $516.32 for the big prize. I loved the Unknown Comic. I had no idea who Jaye P. Morgan was, but I knew Jamie Farr from “M*A*S*H” and Gary Owens had that wonderful voice.

And then there was Barris, clapping his hands, making crude jokes, taking off his bow tie within five minutes of the show’s opening. Stupid? Absolutely. Fun? Of course.

Of course, “The Gong Show” quickly got mannered — what started out as something between a real talent show and vaudeville became a planned freak parade — and “The Gong Show Movie” was even worse. (Yes, I paid to watch it in the theater.) And “The $1.98 Beauty Show” never did it for me.

But Barris was always a fascinating figure. He liked us to think so, anyway. Who else would claim he was both a TV producer and a CIA agent?

Chuck Barris shuffled off the stage Tuesday. Much to his credit, he wasn’t gonged.

We’ll leave you with Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine.

The first day of spring 

gillespie090812

Yesterday in Atlanta dawned chilly, but by midday the sun was streaming in all its glory and the temperature was in the 70s — a perfect, shiny day.

I spent the morning in a frantic race to finish grading papers before class and take care of paperwork on the house we hope to sell.

And then I went to visit Gillespie. I hadn’t seen him since I took him for boarding at the vet a little more than a week before.

They brought him out at Paws, Whiskers & Wags and placed him on a table. He looked so sad, his head poking out of a blanket, furry and quiet and lifeless.

Maybe the sadness was me. I burst into tears.

Continue reading

Sunday reads: Chuck

o9ehhy

Some stories about the death and life of Chuck Berry, the man who helped start a revolution:

And if you aren’t in the mood to read, well, just listen. Nobody said it better than Charles Anderson Edward Berry.

In memory of Gillespie, 1999-2017

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gillespie died Friday while I was away. He was 17.

He was about 9 months old when I got him in the summer of 2000. Thelonious had died suddenly a few months earlier, and though Queenie probably liked being an only cat, I liked having two. Sarah had a colleague whose daughter was giving away kittens, and though you’re always reluctant to take a new animal into your life, I couldn’t resist the shy, sweet feline Sarah had suggested — a “barn cat” whose whole experience in life was probably dodging cows. I imagine him as an awkward wallflower, letting his siblings pursue mice while he stood back, too kind to take part.

Why reluctant? Because you know they’ll find a way into your heart, and you also know full well you’ll almost certainly outlive them and there’s nothing you can do about it. So you love them and wag your finger at them and feed them and play with them and love them, and they join you in bed and wake you up at 5 a.m. because they’re hungry and bat the Cat Dancer and, it appears, love you back.

Continue reading