Lichen Frittata

Post Angst

Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on August 5, 2009
Dazed and confused.

Dazed and confused.

Is Columbia Heights full of hipsters? Sure, there are a few. Do they find Target convenient, while also feeling uncomfortable with its mall-like newness? Some of them, certainly. Is this dynamic, perhaps a topic of discussion over a bottle of three-buck chuck, worthy of news coverage? According to the Washington Post, yes indeed!

If this story were just a one-off anomaly, I would roll my eyes and move on: Oh WaPo, trying to show off the fact that you know what hipsters are–even “quasi-hipsters” and “post-hipsters,” as if all white people in gentrifying neighborhoods fell on a continuum of more or less hipster–and have an edgy reporter who understands their ways. But a week ago, there was this story, in which the Post reveals that people like to work in coffeeshops rather than offices, terming the demographic “digital nomads.” Zeitgesity! And then, in a stunning waste of newsprint, reporter Ian Shapira is given some 2,000 words to whine about a profile of his that Gawker linked to and summarized, which Shapira complains was a rip-off of his reporting.

Now, Gawker’s response was typically snotty and triumphal. And yes, it bothers me when aggregation outlets sell ads against content reprinted from newspapers. But the key thing is that the Post probably benefits more from the traffic Gawker drives over there with every link. Page views are not a zero sum game; it’s not like Gawker is taking ad revenues away from the newspaper. You’ll rarely see the New York Times complain about this kind of thing, at least using their own valuable real estate–they’ve made peace with the blogosphere in a way the Post seems unable to do.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this is Dana Milbank and Chris Cilizza’s utterly un-funny attempt at web video, in which Milbank even outdid his latest childish snit. Andy Cobb perfectly captured the frat boy idiocy of the whole endeavor, and also articulated exactly what’s at the heart of this rash of strangely strained stories: The Post can’t figure out what the internet wants.

WaPo, you’re my hometown paper now. Please stop trying to simultaneously be Gawker and getting mad at Gawker for being itself. What was wrong with just covering the news anyway?



Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on August 5, 2009


Access points

Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on July 28, 2009
Just a bunch of dudes in a room!

Just a bunch of dudes in a room!

I expected this to be a useless fluff piece of the sort the Times puts out when it’s written so much about a given topic that something is needed to lighten the tone. And it is fluff, but strangely–perhaps only because I’ve consumed a critical mass of healthcare coverage and this piece came at the breaking point–it helped me grab on to the whole discussion in a more concrete way. I think it’s because I think in personalities, rather than numbers and policies. Realizing that these are eight people together in a room hammering out this legislation bit by bit makes it into something that I could understand as well, because I do not think of senators as super-wonks who operate on a level way above my head. I think of them as people who are constantly running for office and angling for partisan advantage, which is something I understand much better.

Although I think they missed one key detail: According to my friend interning in Baucus’ office, the preferred native snack is fried cow testicles, which puts North Dakota’s chocolate-covered potato chips to shame.


Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on July 27, 2009

You cannot rule over such divergent kingdoms at the same time!


Henry Waxman Spills the Beans

Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on July 24, 2009

My review of Rep. Waxman’s new book, The Waxman Report, didn’t quite cut the mustard with the two D.C. publications to which I am currently wired. This blog, with its ridiculously low standards, gladly took their reject.

A very dangerous book!

A very dangerous book!

The most dedicated environmentalists were not happy with the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill as it passed the House in June, watered-down mess that it was. The more practical ones, however, knew that Henry Waxman was in charge, which meant it was the best they were likely to get.

This was just the latest in a lifetime of overreaching, sometimes downright crazy, and eventually successful projects for the California Representative—from critical pharmaceuticals to AIDS treatment to Pentagon waste, now dispatched and as he would say, taken for granted. In fact, Waxman measures the chapters of his life in legislative campaigns. Chapter 6 is entitled, “The Nutrition Labeling and Educational Act of 1990 and the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.” That’s the longest header.

Waxman’s new book, The Waxman Report, isn’t really a memoir. Biography factors in only near the beginning, as he—or his co-writer, Atlantic journalist Joshua Green—sets the scene for his 35-year career in Congress. Other personal details are offered in the service of relating to policy issues, like how his lifelong struggle with weight gain illuminated the need for nutritional labeling (a Waxman triumph) or why relapsing into a smoking habit fired his crusade against the tobacco companies (perhaps his greatest).

No, this isn’t an autobiography—it’s a strategy manual. To a packed house at the Sixth and I synagogue in Washington, D.C., Waxman described his campaigns as would an old general, waffling only briefly on which one he thought was his favorite. The publisher Twelve books asked him to write it, he said, because they knew it would be important. And he might have titled it The Art of Legislative War.

“Not every legislative battle is decided on a dramatic showdown on the House floor,” he writes, in Sun Tzu-esque dicta. “Some are won quietly through the clever drafting of a bill, and victory seized before the matter can ever come to a vote. This became our strategy.”

“When confronted by a steamroller, as we were about to be, you first need to slow its momentum,” goes another Waxmanism. “There are two ways to go about this. One way is to stall, by whipping up a blizzard of amendments that demand the committee’s attention, while pursuing every parliamentary maneuver in the rule book to delay the proceedings. The other way is to win a skirmish, to prevail on an amendment and force the other side to have to fall back and regroup, in the process sowing doubt and discord in its ranks.” One useful tactic: read every amendment aloud to “throw sand in the gears.” No wonder a former U.S. Senator called him “tougher than a boiled owl.” (more…)

Buzz Machine

Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on July 24, 2009
College Republicans, casting about.

College Republicans, casting about.

The College Republicans have a new online gimmick! In 2008, there was STORM, meant to mobilize activists on the ground through viral communication and competition, which appears to have been an expensive failure. Their latest foray into Web 2.0 organizing is Operation Waiting Game, which tracks a participant’s online “actions”–a Tweet, a Facebook status update, etc.–taken in opposition to President Obama’s healthcare plan.

Like STORM, the incentive for participation is competition; some status is accorded to those who top the rankings (the leader right now has taken some 38,000 actions, topping his closest competitor by 12,000). Unlike STORM, this is not at all rooted in substance, or at least the potential for two people to discuss an issue in any kind of real way. There is almost nothing to explain what exactly they are opposing, except for the barest of tired talking points about socialized medicine in Canada and Europe; no attempt to suggest an alternative. The most striking blindness, however, is not the CR’s reactionary, one-dimensional response to Obama’s plan–it’s the confidence in the power of buzz itself to turn the ship. They think they’re beating the Democrats at their own game, but progressives on various issues are actually much more likely to mount a public protest or go door-to-door, which changes more minds than Twitter ever will.

Congratulations are in order to the social networking consultants–David All in particular–who must be making a bundle off the CR’s insecurities. Too bad no one’s telling them that buzz has no point without something solid underneath.

Recycling watch

Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on July 22, 2009

Newsweek discovers Facebook-driven dating three years after the New York Times and about five years after the rest of the world.

Headlines that need to stop

Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on July 22, 2009

A running list.

  • Variations upon “Go Green”, especially paired with “getting green” in reference to money
  • [insert climate news] is “heating up”
  • “It Ain’t Easy Being Green”
  • “Goodbye to All That”

Perplexing PSA of the day

Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on July 21, 2009

Unsure why Giant felt the need to bring this to my attention. It was a pleasantly harmless myth.

What next, beets?

What next, beets?

Why Starbucks doesn’t get it

Posted in Uncategorized by lichenfrittata on July 20, 2009
A contradiction in terms!

A contradiction in terms!

Sigh:  Starbucks is trying to convert a few of its Seattle stores into local-feeling coffeeshops by shedding the name “Starbucks” entirely, and getting a liquor license.  I understand the desire to not cede its home ground, to try to reclaim its roots as a purveyor of good brews and a cozy atmosphere. It helped being these essential elements of Seattle cafe culture to the world, and I think really considers them part of its corporate ethos. But let’s face it: Starbucks has cannibalized local coffee shops in Seattle for years, and residents will only resent a cheesy makeover. Trying to manufacture authenticity inevitably rings hollow–last summer they put in a community bulletin board at one shop on U St., but overplayed their hand by proclaiming, “This is YOUR coffeeshop!” If it were, why would they need to declare it so?

Starbucks, I rely on you for a decent cup of coffee in brew deserts like Chicago O’Hare, and the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I don’t need more of you in my bean-crazy hometown, with its honest-to-god bauhauses on every corner. If you want to improve your facilities, please make them smell less like cleaning agents, and keep toilet paper in the bathrooms. Now is a time for the basics.