It is widely known that Byron Calame, the New York Times public editor, is the most boring person in the world. But today is a new low. In a column reporting that readers are, yes, posting comments on the Times's website, Calame offers this example of red-hot give-and-take between readership and staff:

“Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to all of us,” a Los Angeles reader wrote to Mr. LaForge in the afternoon. “It’s much appreciated.”


Signs and portents

The market for legal digital music downloads appears to be collapsing.
Strange things happen in your body when you drink a Coke.
The Coup needs your help.


FYI: My comments on New York magazine's Approval Matrix, and NY's editor's response, have been picked up by the mighty Gawker and by Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch blog.


I'm sure this has been reported in the press before its appearance today in James Baker's Iraq Study Group report, but ... there are 1,000 staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. Guess how many of them speak fluent Arabic? Six.

Update: White House spokesman Tony Snow says, "You don't snap your fingers and have the Arabic speakers you need overnight."

Overnight. Right.


Here's the weird thing about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: not that it sucks; it's always possible for talented people to make something that sucks. What's weird is how much it feels like a show in the middle of its fourth season, when everyone's tired and all of the storylines that made the show worth doing have been done. Christmas episodes, office blackouts, characters confessing their love: these are the tropes of creative burnout and sagging ratings and desperation. Next week, Matt's eight-year-old cousin joins the writing staff and teaches everyone the true meaning of Hannukah.

Things that make us feel ashamed to be Jewish, part un

I'm now announcing the launch of what may or may not become a regular Roth Brothers feature, entitled, "Things that make us feel ashamed to be Jewish." Today's "Thing that makes us feel ashamed to be Jewish" is the existence of Joshua Rikon and Rebecca Benjamin, and their prominent position in the NYT's "Vows" section this weekend.

Here's the basic rundown: She's "director of matchmaker operations for two Jewish dating Web sites: SawYouAtSinai.com [hahahahahahahaha!!! - ed] and JRetroMatch.com." He's an associate at Goldstein, Goldstein, Rikon & Gottlieb [Do you think the two Goldsteins are related, or it's just a coincidence?]. They meet at a Jewish singles weekend at Club Getaway, a sports resort in Kent, Conn. He tells her that his sister Shoshanna runs a matchmaking service called "Shoshanna's Singles." Etc.

It gets better though. Unbeknownst to her, a short time earlier he had visited the home of his friend Larry Berger, "with whom he shares Jets season tickets and a passion for Buffalo wings, cheerleaders and sports." There, he had seen a picture of her with Berger and Dan Quayle. When he learned that she'd be at the upcoming singles weekend he "did some form of a touchdown dance," according to Berger.

And finally: "'I am a Jewish mother waiting to happen,' Ms. Benjamin said. 'I used to say that on dates, but guys didn’t like that [can you imagine? - ed]. For Josh, it doesn’t turn him away.'" Check the un-focking-believable picture if you doubt her. And be sure to note the look of demented glee on the faces of all four parents.

Jesus Christ, I feel like killing myself. In all seriousness, something has gone badly wrong with these people.

Comics gain cultural respectability update: Still A Ways To Go. Michiko Kakutani reviews Roz Chast's new collection today in the NYT. I like Chast's cartoons just fine, but Kakutani goes overboard when she says they "reinvent the cartoon form." In what way, exactly, does Chast "reinvent the cartoon form"? By, uh, combining doodly little pictures with hand-written dialogue? Think about what it would take for Kakutani to say of a prose writer that she "reinvents the novel form.


"Police shooting reunites circle of common loss": NYT followup to the Sean Bell shooting: apparently the families of people killed by police form an informal social and support network.


Trading places: Slate's Daniel Gross points out that the Democrats aren't the only party reverting to a protectionist agenda.

There's one final and very important Republican failure when it comes to free trade. Free trade is not simply getting cheap goods from China. It's about creating the social and political conditions favorable to the continued expansion of trade.... Rightly or wrongly, many Americans, even those who reap the gains of free trade daily, identify free trade and globalization with their declining financial security. And the response of President Bush and the congressional Republicans has essentially been, "tough."

Hip-hop's Ivy League hustler: Interesting profile of Ryan Leslie, who got a perfect 1600 on the SAT at 15, gave the class graduation speech at Harvard at 19, and is now a rising hip-hop producer. "Everywhere he goes, Leslie is filmed. This is because he pays someone to film him."