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The [Tuesday] Papers

1. Who among the two personalities appearing on the front page of the Tribune's Tempo section today is more annoying, shock-jock Erich "Mancow" Muller or shock-matron Caitlin Flanagan? The voting starts now.

2. The Tribune Company announced today that it will repurchase up to 75 million shares of common stock because, well, nobody else seems to want them. The stock buys "reflect our strong belief that Tribune's current share price does not adequately reflect the fundamental value and long-term earnings prospects of the company's businesses," said Dennis FitzSimons, the company's chairman, president and chief executive officer, in press release.

In another move, FitzSimons will send Andy MacPhail to Wall Street to berate analysts for their unfair coverage of the company.

3. Betsy Hart, whose syndicated column appears in the Sun-Times, won't read current fiction because, like, there's no way it could ever be as good as the classics. She has, however, given in to American Idol, in part because she doesn't detect any sexual innuendo on the show. I asked my senior staff for a punch line to this item, and features editor Natasha Julius responded instead with this far-better broadside:

"I've only seen American Idol once or twice, but I think we need to start the Betsy Hart Grandmother Watch, because if you can't pick up on the blatant sexual innuendo of tarted-up teenage girls caressing microphones, Paula Abdul openly drooling at anyone with a penis (although to be fair the drool may be an involuntary function of being Paula Abdul), and the faux-homophobic banter between the gayest little host in Texas and that nasty British judge, how are you going to have a clue when your children start bringing their 'friends' home to 'study' in their room with the door closed?"

4. Among the goodies in the May/June issue of the the immensely pleasureable PRINT magazine is Dave Eggers's explanation of how he came to use an Icelandic printer for McSweeney's; a historical exploration of the color orange as "a branding tool of democracy" even before the Orange Revolution; a short but appreciative look at the new album covers of Nordic death metal bands Satyricon (Now, Diabolical) and Dismember (The God That Never Was); and why Planters does a better job of retro-packaging than Band-Aid and Morton Salt.

5. If you haven't already, hoist a glass to Red Madsen.

6. I'm sure the Deep Tunnel is every bit the engineering marvel it's cracked up to be, but it took 30 years to "officially" complete the array of tunnels within the Tunnel. And the entire system won't be done for another 17 years, by one account, and 30 years by another.

I wonder who has those contracts.

7. Does this sound like just about the worse idea yet in terms of Iraqi reconstruction? "On the western bank of the Tigris River, scenes of intense activity rarely witnessed in Iraq are unfolding behind the fortified perimeter of the closely guarded Green Zone," the Tribune's Liz Sly wrote on the front page Monday.

"Trucks shuttle building materials to and fro. Cranes, at least a dozen of them, punch toward the sky. Concrete structures are beginning to take form. At a time when most Iraqis are enduring blackouts of up to 22 hours a day, the site is floodlighted by night so work can continue around the clock.

"This is to be the new U.S. Embassy in Iraq, and it will be the biggest embassy in the world. It also is the biggest construction project under way in battered Baghdad, where the only other cranes rising from the skline belong to Saddam Hussein's abandoned project to build the world's biggest mosque."

8. "People ask: Why don't they come legally? Why don't they wait in line?" Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization in Washington, told The New York Times. "For most Mexicans, there is no line to get in."

The Times reports that the United States offers 5,000 permanent visas worldwide each year for unskilled laborers. Last year, two of them went to Mexicans. In the same year, the Times says, 500,000 Mexicans crossed the border illegally - and most of them found jobs.

In another recent account - where I can't recall - I read that Mexicans who "wait in line" will wait for 16 years before getting a chance to emigrate. If it was your family in a desperate situation, what would you do?

9. Convicted exortionist Joe Cari's face shows up in a campaign TV ad - in California. Soon, I suspect, we'll be seeing a similar ad from the Topinka campaign.

10. CHA CEO Terry Peterson vs. Residents' Journal publisher Ethan Michaeli. Who are you apt to believe? (Midway down on the link.)

11. Fred Barbara appeals to Carol Marin. But why did she let him have his say almost all off-the-record? Marin is so good she gets the benefit of the doubt here. I'm guessing she'll put what Barbara told her to good use.

12. "The Chicago Skyway sale scores poorly in terms of the public interest," a senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government testified recently before a U.S. House subcommittee.

But the Chicago press loves that deal, and they're the experts, right? I mean, surely they gave it a thorough going-over?

13. What George W. Bush should have said about the Swift Boating of John Kerry, if Bush were a real leader and statesman: "I'm not going to stand by and watch my opponent - a decorated war veteran and patriot who loves his country and risked his life to serve - be smeared by this ridiculous nonsense. That's not the way I want to win this election, and it's not the kind of presidency I intend to lead."

What John Kerry should have said: "If you want a fight, you've got one. I'll meet anyone anywhere at anytime to talk about the combat we saw in Vietnam. We can talk about the bodies we saw blown apart, about the limbs strewn on the field, and the emotional messes that washed up on our streets afterwards who were forgotten by our leaders. I'll meet anyone anywhere at anytime, and that includes the president, who can tell us what he was doing during the war and how he chose to serve his country."

Then again, Bush should have said in 2000 that it was clear that not only had his opponent won the popular vote, but that it was clear that a majority in Florida at least intended to vote for his opponent, and the best thing for the soul and unity of the country was for Al Gore to become the president. A moment later, he could have declared his intention to run again in 2004 and stand as the loyal opposition until then. What a wonderful world it could be - if our leaders (and the media who instead thought the statesmanlike move was for Gore to concede) weren't children.

14. Channel 5 anchor Marion Brooks gets a DART in the May/June 2006 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review for an egregious violation that should end the career of any "journalist." Here it is:

"DART to WSB-TV, the ABC affiliate in Atlanta, for discretion without valor. The recent trial of former mayor Bill Campbell on federal corruption charges raised embarrassingly belated questions about news practices at WSB-TV when a key witness named Marion Brooks described first-class trips and high-end gifts she got from the big-spending mayor during their four-year affair in the 1990s. During some of that time, Brooks was a reporter and anchor for WSB, where, according to accounts in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the relationship was common knowledge in the newsroom - though not deemed appropriate, evidently, for public airing."

15. ABC News recently hired Charles Gibson as its new nightly news anchor. Maybe they should have hired Bob Schieffer. In fact, Schieffer and Marion Brooks would make a good match.

16. I must take issue with Tribune pop culture blogger and print writer Mark Caro on two recent points: I always took the Who lyric "Hope I die before I get old" to be metaphorical, not literal, as Caro seems to assert in his piece about Paul McCartney turning 64. I'm not sure lyricist Pete Townshend really wanted to die before a certain age. Instead, I always thought he was saying, he would rather be dead than to think old, kind of like how the Tribune tends to think.

Also, I like the song "Seasons in the Sun." And not even ironically, but for real. I like it. It touches me. I am not ashamed. And it's not a goof; it was originally written by in French by a Belgian poet-composer and reminded singer Terry Jacks, who re-arranged it, about the death of a close friend. It was also covered by Nirvana.

17. The National Review's John J. Miller says The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" is the best "conservative" rock song of all-time. I think he may be right, though much of the rest of his list is ridiculous. I've always had trouble with this song because it sounds to me like a broadside against the idealism of the 60s, and seems to advocate instead a cynical, punk-like withdrawal from politics and causes - otherwise known as life - in favor of sitting around by your self-absorbed self playing your guitar.

(Pete Townshend responds to Miller here. Miller catalogs other responses and adds a second round of songs here.)

18. Dump your Home Depot stock. Start shopping somewhere else, too, just to stick it to 'em.

19. I haven't seen Al Gore's new movie, but whatever you think of him he is enormously smart and talented. Can you imagine George W. Bush making a movie? Or starting a TV network? Or having a coherent policy discussion? What will a Bush post-presidency look like? It's hard to imagine him doing much of anything except sitting on a couple corporate boards or being the commissioner of Major League Baseball one day - and bungling that job too. He certainly isn't capable of writing his own book. Maybe he can join the military and learn a trade.

20. "The days of being charged $4.50 for a Diet Coke from the minibar may be coming to an end, Hotel magazine reports," according to the second item in this New York Times piece.

21. We fixed a glitch with our cool Beachwood Link Buttons. Now you can paste them all over the place.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Sort of like the Deep Tunnel, only not as deep. Or extensive. Or complicated. Or wet, really.


Posted on May 30, 2006

MUSIC - Who's Next In Chicago Rap.
TV - Tribune-Nexstar Deal Is Bad News.
POLITICS - Big Soda Hates You.
SPORTS - Harold vs. the Haters.

BOOKS - Wright Brothers, Wrong Story!

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Go Ahead, Eat Raw Cookie Dough!

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