The Week: Michael Jackson, Iran, Mark Sanford and Transformers

neverland-ranch-auction

You heard it here first: Neverland is the new Graceland.

Man, what a week for news. It’s been a while since we had such a contrast of the important (Iran) and the junk-ridden (Transformers 2 = 2nd highest grossing opening ever).

  • My vote for biggest story: Considering that I live in the U.S., it has to be the start of American withdrawal from Iraqi cities. There’s the potential for the sectarian pot to boil over again now that American troops won’t be piled onto the lid anymore, but the alternative of policing the country forever isn’t going to work. This is all after the fighting there has been all but forgotten by the general public. I’d put Iran second, and the dramatic turnaround the nation’s opinion of Michael Jackson third, but in my mind it was a return to the big story of the decade.
  • Michael Jackson: it’s sad that the guy fell so far from the heights of the ’80s and never made it back, but the country this week seemed to forget the past 15 years in a single afternoon. This is the same thing that happened when Richard Nixon died — granted, Nixon did real harm to the country, while Jackson was just weird — but I wonder if it’s a uniquely American thing for national opinion of a controversial guy to turn on a dime whenever that guy passes on.
  • I first heard about Jackson’s death on Twitter myself, but this is just incorrect. You know what I did after I first read that whiff of the story on Twitter? Started hitting the NY Times, CNN and BBC news sites. You can’t note that people check the “respected” news outlets before they really believe an account of something, then turn around and say that this proves those respected news outlets are pointless. Plus, I don’t get the comment about TMZ representing “the new realities of journalism” when they got their scoop through old-fashioned reporting. The truth is that the base of all news will always be reporting, and obviously you don’t have to be a giant, 100-year-old paper to do that, but it still has to happen somewhere along the line.

    Let’s also face the fact that TMZ had nothing to lose by claiming Jackson was dead at the very first moment there was speculation. He’s not actually dead? “Well, they’re just a tabloid anyway.” He died? “Brilliant job getting the story!”

  • Guy who benefited the most from Michael Jackson’s death: Mark Sanford.
    Guys who benefited the least: Anybody out on the street in Iran. Just as the Iranian government counter-reaction gets ugly, too.
  • Gail Collins said it better than I can on Sanford: it’s not that he committed an affair or that he’s a total moral hypocrite that makes him a bad governor; it’s the fact that by definition, bailing out on being governor tends to make one a bad governor. And no, I don’t feel bad for him, even if I give him credit for a more human response than most politicians caught cheating.
  • And speaking of red-state moralists, who knew that Utah has the highest rate of subscription to pornographic sites?
  • Transformers 2 has been a lot of fun for me, and I haven’t even seen it: every critic has sharpened the knife for the review, so at that point it’s a contest to see who can get it the sharpest. Naturally Roger Ebert’s review is brilliantly written, but I also liked Dana Stevens in Slate and The A.V. Club. I like my wit dry, with just a hint of acid.

    The funniest part of it all is that Transformers 2 has been critically hated-on more than any movie I can remember, yet it also had the second-highest opening of all time. (Thankfully for the American cultural soul, Dark Knight barely kept the top slot.) One of the commercials this week even ran a bunch of critical excerpts with the tiniest possible font for attribution. Interesting move by the studio to do a Terrell Owens on the Dallas 50-yard line.

  • R.I.P., Billy Mays. As I felt the need to tell anyone each time he showed up on TV, the dude was from Pittsburgh. The guy sold some bizarre products, but he was the rare salesman where I enjoyed the pitch.

    As a tribute to the man, I will republish that in the style he knew best:

    R.I.P. BILLY MAYS! AS I FELT THE NEED TO TELL ANYONE EACH TIME HE SHOWED UP ON TV, THE DUDE WAS FROM PITTSBURGH! THE GUY SOLD SOME BIZARRE PRODUCTS, BUT HE WAS THE RARE SALESMAN WHERE I ENJOYED THE PITCH!

    The TV world lost a truly fun character. Vince from ShamWow just isn’t the same.

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