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The [Tuesday] Papers

For those who saw my earlier note, I'm actually going to post this column first and then resume working on our other posts for the rest of the site today because that's taking quite some time. And now on to the news . . .

I haven't been this stunned about a Pulitzer Prize winner since, well, last year when the Sun-Times won for a wholly flawed series on crime. (I never got around to that exposition, but maybe I can return to it later this week.)

Actually, I'm never stunned, just bummed out, because the Pulitzers are almost as bad as the Grammy's (and not quite as bad as the local Lisagors) when it comes to rewarding the profession's best. I mean, consider who's doing the judging.

As Jack Shafer once wrote for Slate:

"As a judge of other, lesser journalistic contests, I can tell you that it's a good thing the winners are chosen in private rather than under the scrutiny of C-SPAN's cameras. There's no real science or even fairness behind the picking of winners and losers, with the prizes handed out according to a formula composed of one part log-rolling, two parts merit, three parts 'we owe him one,' and four parts random distribution."

So with a slightly heavy heart, let's take a look at the Pulitzer Prize-winning Mary Schmich, now ordained as one of the best in the business - ever.

First, from my inbox:

oh my god

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did you see the pulitzer list? it is official. newspaper commentary is dead.

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Subject: OMG

Mary Schmich.

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Subject: Seriously?

A Pulitzer?

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And my favorite:

When did the Pulitzer Awards create a category for "Beating a Dead Horse With Narcissistic and Maudlin Bullshit"?

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Well, since forever.

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I once had the idea of dumping a year's worth of Schmich columns into a tag cloud generator to test my theory that the biggest words would be WEATHER, WINTER, SUMMER, FALL and SPRING. And maybe HATS, SWEATERS, CLOTHES.

*

Frankly, I find Schmich's columns to be so banal as to be banal, and I find her vaunted advice to wear sunscreen and not be reckless with people's hearts to qualify her for a job at Hallmark but not so much for providing useful insight into navigating the travails of the real world.

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You can read her winning entries here.

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I don't spend a lot of time with Schmich on this site, mostly because I'm so uninterested in her, but I pulled these from the Beachwood vault:

February 20, 2009:

Mary Schmich repeats the utterly false narrative in her column today that "[Burris] reached an advanced age without political taint."

Maybe Schmich doesn't read her own paper's Op-Ed pages.

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From May 18, 2009:

Mary Schmich calls the Blackhawks turnaround the most dramatic of any sports team she knows. She must not be know any other sports team in all of human history.

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From July 31, 2009:

"And only Chicago, I'd wager, would have been the incubator of The Cheeseburger Show, my colleague Kevin Pang's entertaining TV program about, yes, burgers," Mary Schmich writes today.

I'll take that wager!

I'm beyond certain that other cities have or would dare to produce a TV show about cheeseburgers.

I'm not certain, however, that in any other city would such a highly paid newspaper columnist make such a claim.

From August 20, 2009:

Whet Moser is smarter than Mary Schmich. And a better writer. Think he gets paid nearly as much?

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From September 28, 2009:

Mary Schmich: "An O Globo editor told me that people in Rio know little about Chicago and think Rio's biggest Olympics challenger is Madrid."

And vice versa. People in Chicago don't know anymore about Rio than they do about us. So what.

Did the Olympics in Sydney or Athens or Innsbruck make anyone from Chicago move their business there? Or vacation there when they otherwise wouldn't have?

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From October 1, 2009:

Mary Schmich: "[W]e shouldn't let our cynicism, however realistic when applied to certain aspects of city life, corrupt our view of the Olympic possibilities."

Certain aspects like the city's record with big projects?

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From November 6, 2009:

For $9.99 a year, a guy featured in Mary Schmich's column today will send you e-mail and text alerts the night before the street sweepers are coming so you remember to move your car.

Funny, but I get those alerts for free from my alderman's office.

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From March 31, 2010:

Okay, already, Blago can't type. But has anybody stopped to ask: How did he write his book?

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From April 16, 2010:

"Signs of a Chicago spring: The mayor's tulips. Flocks of crows. The baseball drunks in Lakeview. And - today's topic - shorts.'

And Mary Schmich's annual signs of spring column. To be followed by her annual "spring is ending" column; her annual "summer is here" column; her annual "summer clothing" special; one additional column musing about summer, perhaps about summer songs or in verse; and then onto "summer is ending" followed by "fall is here."

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COMMENT: From Beachwood reader Terry:

I was going to alert you after reading today's column, but you beat me to the punch. And it has the bonus of an apt quote from a "friend." Boy, her friends are good at summing up the gist of her column with simple quip. And a barista gets quoted too! With a complete first name!

I think this is her second spring one already.

I laughed a few weeks ago when Zorn was talking about how she accidentally sent in a year-old column and it almost got posted (I think it was even a weather one!). I wanted to post on his comment board, "How would anyone possibly tell that the column was a year old. They're all the same anyway." But he defends her like she's his sister.

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From August 19, 2010:

Worst Commentary By A Columnist Who Must Have Just Awoken From A Five-Year Slumber And Maybe Ought To Stick To Poems And The Weather: Mary Schmich

"Money wasn't shown to change hands. Explicit deals weren't caught on wiretap. The former allies who testified for the prosecution could be suspected of selfish motives. Key players never took the stand.

"It's hardly a surprise then that at least one juror - and I'd bet more - added up those insufficiencies and couldn't find him guilty.

"I wouldn't have voted to convict . . .

"The state legislature impeached Blagojevich on the fuel of Fitzgerald's fury. Consensus was born in the time that it takes to say 'mob.'

"It became fashionable to speak about Blagojevich as if he were evil on a par with a genocidal dictator."

NOTE: After Blagojevich's second trial, Schmich saw it differently and implored him to come clean about his crimes.

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From October 25, 2010:

"No need to feel sheepish if, when you heard that Rhymefest is running for Chicago alderman, you said, 'Who?' Or at least there's no need to feel more sheepish than I felt," Mary Schmich writes.

"I hadn't heard of Rhymefest until Thursday, when he appeared at the Tribune's new Chicago Live! show at the Chicago Theatre. A few hours earlier, he'd announced he wanted to be alderman of the 20th Ward.

"Rhymefest's given name is Che Smith. He's 33 and a hip-hop star. A song he co-wrote with his friend Kanye West won a Grammy."

He co-wrote a song with Kanye West that won a Grammy but no need to feel sheepish if you are too old and white to know who he is!

The world is upside down. More appropriate: No need to feel sheepish if you don't know who Barbara Billingsley was.

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From November 17, 2010:

Mary Schmich or Parody Schmich? "Once-hip AOL now seems boring."

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See also Mary's starring role in Chicago Lamely Welcomes Rosie O'Donnell To Town.

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COMMENTS:

1. From a faithful reader:

Thank you for your column today on a certain recent Pulitzer Prize winner. I thought I was losing my mind when I heard the news.

2. From a faithful reader:

Just wanted to drop you a note to say that it was refreshing to read your critical postings about Mary Schmich at Beachwood today. I was stunned - but then, not really - when I learned yesterday that she had won the Pulitzer. After that, I was pretty disgusted as I watched a Mary Schmich lovefest break out on my Facebook News Feed, with people posting all sorts of flowery status updates, praising her as if she's actually deserving - and long has been.

It's appalling to think that Schmich will now be mentioned by some people in the same breath as Royko. Sigh.

In any case, here's to hoping that she brings back her characters "Missy" and "Sissy" to ponder just what a Pulitzer means while having tea at "Inner Self Cafe."

Sigh. Again.

Programming Note:
Working on posts about Lollapalooza, Rahm's infrastructure bank and the proposed Wrigley rehab. I'll get caught up eventually.

See also:
* Blood In, Poetry Out: Jimmy Santiago Baca's Vida Loca.

* One Priest, One Mic, One Message: Father Pontifex And The Chicago Catholic Underground.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Just vida.



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Posted on April 17, 2012


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