Archive for the ‘Fair and Square’ Category

Service of Book Reviews: Is it Fair to Select a Reviewer with an Ax to Grind?

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Photo: myeducomer.com

Could Bernie Sanders write a fair review of a book about Donald Trump or President George H. W. Bush, known to dislike broccoli, a balanced opinion of a cookbook about that vegetable? I read Joseph Epstein’s review of Richard Aldous’s new book “Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian,” in The Wall Street Journal and learned more about Epstein’s dislikes—Harvard, the Kennedys and Schlesinger’s career choices—than about the book.

He started by sharing his resentment of the importance of Harvard in its heyday as a stepping stone to a successful career no matter how ineffectual a person turned out to be. He gave as an example a friend with a Harvard sheepskin who went higher and higher in job after job, and who “improved none of these institutions in any way I could determine, which did not stop his relentless progress in the world.” Next he criticized the University today for “having committed intellectual hara-kiri through multiculturalism, political correctness and the general surrender to victimology.”

Why Harvard? The university impacted the first half of Schlesinger’s life. Epstein wrote: “Richard Aldous frequently notes the services that a Harvard connection afforded Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.” His father, Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr., “was on the Harvard history faculty and, along with being an historian of originality, was a clever academic politician.” He then shared a long list of how Jr. benefited in Cambridge, subsequently landing an interesting job during WWII thanks to connections. Epstein acknowledged Junior’s many talents during this period. Schlesinger, Jr. returned to Harvard after the war but subsequently made a frightful career choice, according to Epstein, who was clear in his disdain for the Kennedy family.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr Photo: anb.org

According to Epstein, “Few young men could have seemed more promising than the younger Schlesinger, until he met a Waterloo named the Kennedys. Once that fatal encounter occurred, Schlesinger went from boundlessly promising brilliant historian—with three volumes of an anticipated five of his never-finished Franklin Delano Roosevelt biography already completed—to a man variously called ‘a servant,’ ‘a stooge,’ a ‘poodle’ and ‘a hagiographer.’”

“During World War II, with its rationing and shortages of gasoline, a popular poster asked, ‘Is This Trip Necessary?’ The same question might be asked of this biography. Is its subject worthy of the full-dress biographical effort Mr. Aldous, a professor of history at Bard College, gives him? No one would claim great-man status for Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.”

Epstein described how ineffectual Schlesinger, Jr. was in influencing President Kennedy: “In taking his White House job, Schlesinger saw it as his duty to steer Kennedy onto a liberal track and keep him there. His success at the task, we learn from Mr. Aldous, was slightly less than minimal.”

Photo: Amazon.com

Epstein disliked the award winning book about President Kennedy, “A Thousand Days,” for his pandering. As for “Robert Kennedy and His Times,” wrote Epstein: “the jig, you might say, was up. Reviewers called it ‘a 916 page promotional pamphlet of exculpation and eulogy.’ …Even Mr. Aldous, who strains to be fair to Schlesinger, reviews his various coverups of Bobby Kennedy’s more egregious behavior and concludes that ‘it is difficult for the reader not to wince.’”

Epstein gave the author credit for keeping his political views out of the book, [which is more than I can say for the reviewer]. And he complimented Aldous for describing the “inner conflicts of presidential politics.”

There is one political commentator on Cable who asks questions of his panelists and doesn’t give them a chance to answer because he then bellows his opinions and talks over them. I felt this review was like that. It reminds me of a restaurant review I read eons ago in which a perfectly good restaurant was trashed by a sainted reviewer because a couple next to her table argued loudly throughout dinner. She interspersed their uncivil conversation in her copy and blamed the owner for not kicking them out and gave the place a bad mark because her neighbors spoiled the meal.

Do you think that a person with an ax to grind should be chosen to write a review even if, like Epstein, he’s a crackerjack writer with sharp wit? Might Epstein be irritated that Schlesinger became the darling of café society and the publishing world as a result of his political connections made after he sold out and dropped the life of academia and a promising career writing serious history?

Photo: youtube.com

Service of Debt Collection

Monday, September 14th, 2015

where's my money

I read this on a Facebook posting on September 10: If you write for _______, please beware. I filed my invoice on June 1 and still have not been paid. The editor gave me the wrong info on who to send my invoice to–twice! I’ve sent numerous emails and it’s been so time consuming trying to collect my money.

“I got a few emails from their accounts payable dept. saying all my info was in and I should be getting a check soon. Today, I checked on it and was told that they do not have all of my paperwork. I finally heard back from the editor and she said, ‘I really hope you won’t tell people not to write for us because of $300.’ I’m not telling you not to write for them. I just–at this point–really dislike them. I just want you to beware.

Social mediaWriting about this kind of exploitation infuriates me as do people who either play games, working the float on small fry suppliers making them wait for months or worse—ordering work they know they can’t/won’t/don’t plan to pay for.

I’ve written before about a writer friend who was stiffed a fee in the middle five figures by people she knew in an industry in which she was well known, causing such havoc on her finances that she had to move precipitately to another/less expensive city where she didn’t know a soul. The company was going bankrupt and the owners took advantage of her. This was years ago and I still want to take a shower when I think of them.

I knew a flim-flamer who told a graphic designer he worked with for years, “You designed those logos on spec,” when nothing of the kind had been said. Contracts don’t protect you: They cost too much in time and/or lawyer’s fees to defend in court. I’ve not been immune nor have other honorable, hardworking colleagues in PR who provided topnotch counsel, creativity and results.

The typical victim is not too big to fail so who cares?

I used to see typed or handwritten names of people on bits of paper taped to grocery store cash registers representing customers whose checks the cashier was forbidden to accept. Because the honor system doesn’t work so well, instituting a similar online virtual list, by industry, of individuals and companies who have swindled others wouldn’t be viable. People who disliked or were jealous of someone could add a name that shouldn’t belong and anyway, nobody is guilty here without a trial.

taking candy from a babyWhat’s the difference between these perpetrators and youngsters who mug the elderly or adults who abuse children?

What do you think about resorting to social media to accelerate/stimulate/embarrass a company to pay? Before hiring someone, even for a project, smart employers check a person or company’s Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages where they’d see such postings. The writer in the intro was angry and rightly so, but would a reputation of blabbing to the world about a grievance frighten away future clients?

Exploitation

Service of Sticking to the Rules

Monday, May 4th, 2015

camera 1

I read about an Italian photographer–Giovanni Troilo–whose first prize in the Contemporary Issues category was revoked by the organizers of the World Press Photo competition because he’d staged the winning images in his “The Dark Heart of Europe” series. Staging was against the competition’s rules.

First PrizeHenri Neuendorf reported in “World Press Photo Winner Giovanni Troilo Busted for Faking and Stripped of Prize,” on artnet.com: “In a statement Lars Boering, the managing director of the Amsterdam-based organization, said ‘We now have a clear case of misleading information and this changes the way the story is perceived. A rule has now been broken, and a line has been crossed.’” Neuendorf credited The New York Times with breaking the story.

What did he do? Troilo lit the back seat of a car in one of the photos of a couple supposedly making love. Turns out the man was his cousin. Another was staged in a Brussels photo studio, not in the town supposedly featured: Charleroi, Belgium. How was he discovered? Because the Charleroi Mayor saw his photo essay and objected to the negative portrayal of his town and observed that some of the photos weren’t even taken there.

styling photo shootWhat interested me was that other photojournalists felt he should have nevertheless been awarded his first prize. Neuendorf wrote: “New York-based photographer Yunghi Kim conceded ‘I don’t fault the photographer, it just seems World Press is having an identity crisis.’”

Do you agree with Kim–that there was wiggle room to let Troilo keep his first prize and that the competition’s judges were too harsh? Or was World Press Photo competition management correct in awarding the prize to the second place photographer?

no big deal

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