A not-so-nice Segway from Rhone reds to Parisian peds.

Cellar Dweller: Sarvis offers his services to any pathological, oenophilic hoarder on the following premise: “Wine ain’t art, although it is artisan. It isn’t a Micky Mantle trading card either. Don’t just hang it on the wall or stick it in the closet - the damn stuff is meant to be consumed.” To wine cheats – profiled in Mike Steinberger’s “Grape Deceptions,” – burdened with the spousal ultimatum of “it’s me or the hooch,” Sarvis will

come to your house (or take delivery, if your preference) of key elements of your cellar and give them the fitting release that they deserve. The wine is happy, and your guilt is relieved.
Moving Violations: Like the kid on the bicycle in Better Off Dead chasing John Cusack, Geoff has been on Tad Friend’s tail all week for Friend’s Segway spin through the arrondissements of Paris. Geoff takes a generational swipe here, then here jumps on Friend for having “no business driving down the sidewalk (aside from his fantasies that the entire world marvels at him for his fancy little gizmo.),” and finally, upon reading Friend’s revelation that a middle-aged clerk “would never have approached us if we had been standing on our Segways,” scoffs:
I care enough to notice, but… *sob*… not enough… *sob*… to care…who knew the Segway would render your silly feet so obsolete? Who knew that this device would finally usher in the stratified dystopia we’ve always expected?
Geoff reportedly has a lunch date this week with Oakland mayor Jerry Brown to stem any incursion of Segways into the streets of the city…KFA2:45 p.m.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

The Courthouse Steps at High Noon: In response to Michael Isakoff’s review of Sidney Blumenthal’s, The Clinton Wars, Tim Noah files a second round (Sid Blumenthal Framed, Part 2), reprising a Chatterbox from October 1998 in which he takes up for Blumenthal against charges that the former Clinton aide-of-indeterminate-value-and-proximity overstated Starr prosecutors’ inquisitional zeal during grand jury testimony. Noah reviewed the book for Slate on Tuesday, as well.

The sticky point is Blumenthal’s motive in naming specific networks and media outlets when asked by the grand jury, “Did you distribute [talking points denigrating Kenneth Starr’s prosecution team produced by the Democratic National Committee] to anyone outside the White House?”

To answer Chatterbox’s barb of “[W]hom does Isikoff suppose the prosecutors had in mind when they asked Blumenthal about distributing DNC talking points ‘outside the White House’? Blumenthal’s cleaning lady?,” Isikoff promptly jumps into the Fray:

Chatterbox strains way too much. Blumenthal’s grandiloquent statement on the courthouse steps proclaimed that he was ‘forced to answer questions about my conversations…with the New York Times, CNN, CBS, Time magazine, U.s. News, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Observer and there may have been a few others.’ There was no way to listen to that and conclude anything but that the prosecutors had asked him about each of these news organizations and what he said to them.

Isikoff continues:

Blumenthal’s public statements about his testimony were misleading. It’s not just me who thought so. It was also the grand jurors who chastised him, through the grand jury forewoman, for his “inaccurate representation” of what took place…

Isikoff’s complete rebuttal to “Part Two” is here.

Not one to surrender home-Fray-advantage, Noah concedes that “it was Blumenthal, not the prosecutor” that enumerated the catalog of media shops, 

But it’s a petty point. As I noted in my original item about this, it’s obvious that the prosecutor, having first asked if Blumenthal had distributed the material outside the White House, and having received an affirmative answer, was next going to ask to whom Blumenthal had distributed the material. It was a pattern well established in the earlier questioning…

Noah concludes here

Among the Fraysters piling on Isikoff is zinya who zings, “There is something very troubling about someone who calls himself a journalist who carries around in his head (about virtually anything) such self-justifications as ‘There was no way to listen to that and conclude anything but …’”…KFA10:25 p.m.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The Fix Is In: Slate throws one of its two reviews of Sidney Blumenthal’s newly released, The Clinton Wars, to Newsweek correspondent and author of Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter’s Story, Michael Isikoff. DoctorGarage sums up the general sentiment in the Fray pretty well with:

Of course, Isikoff has a plain reason to be deceptive about Blumenthal’s book: He and his friends are its target! Would you let Rockefeller review the History of Standard Oil? Why would Slate do this? Why, why, why?
In the same thread, pear-la-lu asks, “why wouldn’t the editors at least qualify the piece with an asterisk spelling out the relationship of Michael Isikoff to Sidney Blumenthal?” and promptly bangs out his answer here. J_Mann takes up for Isikoff, pointing out that he “was there, and has something to say” – not unlike Hanna Rosin who offers her review of the Stephen Glass novel here. Byline: Kevin Bacon: CaptainRonVoyage finds it all icky and incestuous:
Hannah Rosin was “best friends” (in her own assessment) with Steven Glass, who was edited and nurtured by Mike Kelly, who was friends with Maureen Dowd, who worked with Jayson Blair, who was promoted by Howell Raines, who fired Andrew Sullivan, who succeeded Mike Kinsley, who edited Slate, who commissioned Hannah Rosin.Do you think with as many Ivy League degrees as they have, these clowns have failed to make the connection between all the beastly journalistic offspring running around be due to all the, um, journalistic INCEST they’ve been practicing?
More on the Captain’s conclusions here. Nuclear Holocaust and Dystopian Postmodern Vision review White Noise: For your gaming pleasure, toss your literary submissions over the transom into historyguy’s thread here. The game and its rationale:
Over in Books, Slate has assigned Michael Isikoff to review Sid Blumenthal’s book, in which one villain is Michael Isikoff. Surprise! Isikoff doesn’t like it much. The next day, Hanna Rosin reviews Stephen Glass’s book, in which one apparently unpleasant character is a thinly disguised version of Hanna Rosin. Rosin doesn’t like it much either.

Fray Game: write Slate reviews of other works, from the perspective of the least sympathetic character.
Look for winning entries in this weekend’s Fraywatch…KFA11:15 p.m.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Twelve Hundred Angry Men: Fraysters, en masse, blare a collective pshhhh at Steven E. Landsburg’s modest proposal that maybe it’s time to compensate jurors with a “big fat check” for getting it right and hit them with a “big fat fine” for getting it wrong. A_R goes so far to suggest that Slate editors slap a label on Landsburg’s works “to make it clear that they are satire, intended to parody economists by presenting ludicrous examples of economic reasoning.”

Those taking Landsburg at face value pick him apart with a prosecutorial fervor. JLF writes:

Landsburg shoots his own argument down when he writes: “Of course, the goal is not to get jurors to convict everyone they think is probably guilty; it’s to get them to convict everyone they think has been proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

This confuses a not guilty verdict, rendered because there is reasonable doubt, and an innocent defendant. Clearly with the burden of proof being guilt beyond reasonable doubt, guilty defendants will be set free by hard working and thoughtful juries. 

MikeDennis here and Fel here concur. 

Belinda v. The Baron: Diplomacyskills maintains that “it was the practice of the English at one time to hold the jury under house arrest in the Tower of London until they reached a verdict on a case.” He excerpts Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock here:

Meanwhile, declining from the Noon of Day,
The Sun obliquely shoots his burning Ray,
The hungry Judges soon the Sentence sign,
And Wretches hang that Jury-men may dine.

Others, such as clea,

think that the moment you introduce the idea of financial reward for jurors in order to influence their performance, you introduce the idea of paying jurors for a result.

More from clea here, and from JoeUser,who acerbically and facetiously suggests that

since Landsburg believes that money always produces the correct results, I have an alternative modest proposal: give the prosecutor a pool of money, to divide up based on his/her best judgment. The prosecutor and defense attorney can both invest money as they see fit to influence the jury. Since Dr. Landsburg believes that the market always produces the best results, the jury can vote based on their judgment as to how to maximize their economic prosperity. May the best dollars win.

Chafe goes one better: “The courts should provide pari-mutuel betting on the outcome of trials so more citizens would pay attention to and actively participate in the judicial process… Ain’t economics a hoot. It explains everything.” … KFA4:40 p.m.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Mush! Mush!: Paul Boutin drops into the Fray to debrief his Webhead piece, “Escape From SimCity,” which breaks down the multiplayer online virtualfest  Second Life. After taking a look at Second Life and Boutin’s review that applauds the “playful anarchy” of the game’s Otherworld, Arthegall comments that “Second Life sounds like nothing more than a 3D version of an old-school MUSH.…Mult-User Social Habitats.” Arthegall concedes that

If an online game can truly capture the spirit of the old MUSHes with the graphics of today’s best games, it’d be…. well, amazing.

Boutin responds to arthegall that “It’s very much like a graphical MUD or MUSH. One player described it as ‘less like a program and more like a programming language.’ “

For an in-depth explanation of what exactly a MUSH is, as explained by arthegall, click here.

Boutin slams The Sims Online as “the gaming industry’s Hudson Hawk,” a characterization that TSO loyalist Salome takes issue with here and later, more passionately, here. Salome even makes Paul an offer: “to host you in my home in lovely Blazing Falls and show you the ropes as well as how fun it can be.” Renchelle, too, is vociferous in her defense of TSO and harks back to Steven Johnson’s November 2002 review:

While Second Life sounds very interesting, if the only thing I wanted to do was build, I could do that offline in the regular Sims. I want the interactions and social aspect—that’s why I pay $10 a month to play ONLINE.

I would argue that those who would rather play online games “successfully as a loner”, as Steven Johnson lamented as an impossible feat in his November Slate article, are missing the entire point of gaming online. They may be happier locking themselves in a solitary closet with a television and Atari 2600.

Just Wait a Menudo: Speaking of Atari 2600, Virginia Heffernan’s “VH1’s ‘80s Nostalgia” credits the network’s quasi-docu for “creating the Berlitz version of America’s purported pop lingua franca.” To a frustrated poster, a feathered hair and New Wave partisan who’s despondent that the ‘80s is perceived as the ugly sister among decades, RTev reassures:

Give it time.

One of the rules our highly compressed sense of eras in which each single decade is considered significantly different that the one before or after, is that the first rediscovery of that long-ago time must be tinged with irony. Kitsch precedes reverence.

Does this mean that unnamed northeastern lib arts colleges next semester will be offering “Television Patriarchy & the Picaresque: from Dick Van Dyke to Al Bundy”? … KFA 3:50 p.m.