Recipe for a red-hot editor's note
by Roberto Friedman
A few weeks ago Out There caught a screening of director Gereon Wetzel's documentary El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, a candid look at the influential chef Ferran Adria ; his experimental cuisine, a so-called "molecular gastronomy"; and the ephemeral temple of his art, his now-closed restaurant/cooking school outside Barcelona. It was an interesting cinematic look at a demanding, creative professional.
We got to thinking about the exalted place that chefs hold in our current "foodie" culture. Adria is shown to be imperious, opinionated, impatient, even short-tempered, but that is all OK because after all, he is a genius, and El Bulli is the result of his persistent vision. Popular culture has room for television programs and Internet hype about chefs and restaurant culture in ways it never celebrates teachers, social workers or nurses. What does that say about our never-sated appetites, our ever-gaping maws?
If a newspaper or media outlet is a great restaurant, then its editor is its chef. The character and strengths of a publication follow from its editor's vision, her or his choices of spices, seasonings, even portion sizes. Think of an editor as the one wearing the toque. Would a master chef tolerate being interrupted in the midst of preparing a meal, for example, to take a call from a paprika salesman?
We're in a ruminative mood this week after a misinformed blogger posted sensational claims on the Internet to the effect that the Castro Theatre would stop presenting films on its silver screen in the new year. This blogger's only source was a disgruntled former employee, and before going public with his incomplete (indeed, misleading) information he did no fact-checking, made no effort to confirm the claims with a second source, never reached out to Castro management for comment. Of course this unsourced rumor-mongering went viral on the Net, cropping up on lazy blogs that never do any independent reporting of their own, climaxing when veteran film maven Roger Ebert tweeted the death knell of the Castro. Hearsay Gone Wild.
Last week we spoke by phone with the Castro's new general manager and film booker Keith Arnold, who assured us that the theatre will continue offering classic films, festivals, rep programming and live events. A subsequent press release and letter from Castro Theatre director Don Nasser put it clearly. "Recently, there have been rumors about the theatre's future and that radical changes will occur. There is absolutely no truth to those rumors."
We have no qualms about calling out this blogger on his lack of professionalism, since he's made a meal out of telling other people how to do their jobs for a long time now – and frankly could stand to skip a lunch or two. But the failure of this new media model is larger than one blogger's belly, it's systematic. Namely: what might have stopped misinformation from fast becoming disinformation? All together now: It might have helped if this blogspurt had had an editor.
Here's another SF blogger reporting on a recent concert of the San Francisco Symphony : "I will always remember the sound of this 15 minutes and particularly Elizabeth Rowe on solo flute literally morphing herself into a babbling brook in the center of a huge, clear ensemble." Really, literally? That must have been something to see. Most people don't think they need an editor. Most people are sorely deluded.
As the great humorist Fran Lebowitz once said, "Some people want to go back to nature. I want to go back to the hotel." One odd result of Out There having spent quite a bit of time in hotels, often on press trips, is that we have all sorts of hotel schwag lying around our domicile, provoking one dear old friend who should know better into inquiring, "Do you work for the W Hotel?"
In "Room with a Purview," author Will Self stays in the W Hotel in London and says "Wow!" for T magazine. "'Wow' is very W – it stands for 'whatever, whenever,' as in, 'whatever you want, whenever you want it,' and they aim to fulfill this preposterous promise, although I didn't put them to the test since most of my extempore desires are either obscene or illegal, or both."
Journalist Guy Trebay in the NY Times Travel section describes "My Life in Hotels," from the Hotel Ritz in Paris to a Best Western in Gallup, N.M., and offers helpful hints, such as: "You hear stories in hotels because strangers volunteer information," and, "I am aware that the bed may have cooled just moments before my arrival, and I also know by now to ditch the bedspread at first chance because, as the gossip columnist Cindy Adams once put it with jaunty crassness, 'That thing has seen more action than Kim Kardashian .'"
But we love a hotel room and really don't mind that its bed might have been a red-hot spot in the hours before the last check-out. Remind us to tell you about the time a bouncing baby concierge in a Berlin business hotel accompanied us to our room and personally demonstrated all of our bed's remote-controlled amenities. He got tipped big.
Cheeky PR of the week
1. "Frank DeCaro reminds us that many Hollywood celebrities enjoyed cooking long before it was 'cool.' The man everyone knows as the movie critic on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has compiled recipes from over 145 of Hollywood's favorite stars who are no longer with us and included them in The Dead Celebrity Cookbook. People are breaking tradition and inviting their favorite dead celebrities to their Christmas dinners via their recipes; in fact, having dead celebrity cooking parties is fast becoming the latest Hollywood trend. This has huge appeal for Hollywood trivia buffs, foodies, or anyone who loves great recipes spiked with hilarious commentary, such as, 'feasting on Sinatra's barbecued lamb, taking at stab at Anthony Perkins' tuna salad, or wrapping your lips around Rock Hudson 's cannoli' (and really, who hasn't?)." It's so much harder to sue for unauthorized use when you're dead.
2. "NuVo Condoms announces NFL Week 12 winners for the NuVo Protection Plan: Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers sacked nine times! The results for the Week 12 winners of the NuVo Protection Plan have been tallied, and this week was a blow out! Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers killed the competition this week as a third-time recipient of the NuVo Protection! Poor Smith was sacked nine times over the weekend, as the 49ers didn't take care of business for the third time. With all that penetration, Smith needs some real protection this week!
"Luckily, generous NuVo Condoms donated a 48-pack of condoms to help keep Smith safe, since he clearly needs some serious help."
"All that penetration!" Does this count as actionable libel?
Correx of the week
From the old Out There mailbag!
'[Opera director] Francesca Zambello enjoyed the article 'Easy on the eyes & ears [Out There, Dec. 1, 2011] discussing 'barihunks.' However, she would like to note that she coined the term 'barihunk when she cast Nathan Gunn in Iphegenie en Tauride at Glimmerglass Opera, now the Glimmerglass Festival, in 1997. Francesca then later used the term in France with War and Peace at Opera de Paris in 2000, when she cast Nathan Gunn as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky.
"All the best,
"Carolyne Hall, Assistant to the Artistic & General Director, The Glimmerglass Festival."
You're hunkily welcome!