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Shafer Gone


The contrarian truth is that under Plotz Slate has become an excellent magazine; the occasional Jonah Weiner atrocity notwithstanding, the overall quality of writing is very high.   Several regulars are indispensable — Lithwick on the Supreme Court most notably, and Dana Stevens is an excellent film critic (cf. her recent dissections of the male chauvinist anti-sex comedies spearheaded by the Farrellys, who have gone from merely overrated to menaces with dismaying speed.) Which makes this all the more unfortunate.   Although I certainly didn’t always agree with him, Jack Shafer was always worth reading, so this layoff isn’t good news.   I’m sure there were market-based reasons for it, but it’s still hard to see that there’s room for Dear Prudence and not Shafer…

…and I’m neglecting Tim Noah because he’s been on leave for a while, but his series on inequality was indeed superb and he’s always been a fine writer.

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  • dave3544

    It might be possible that the word Slate is missing in that first sentence.

    • I would totally subscribe to a magazine called “under Plotz.”

      That sounds like an interesting read.

      • Bill Murray

        it’s no Under Milk Wood, but it would be bursting with goodness

  • Oh, man, that last sentence is an especially depressing thought, since as far as I’m concerned there’s not enough room on the whole internet for Dear Prudence.

    • Scott Lemieux


    • Malaclypse

      I don’t know – an advice columnist who is always, always wrong is almost as good as one that is always right, as long as the audience is aware. And really, aside from Bill Kristol, is anybody as consistently wrong?

    • howard

      anything’s possible, of course, but i start with the assumption that dear prudence probably gets way more traffic than shafer and noah did.

  • witless chum

    I’m kind of a Farrelly Bros. defender in that I think “Shallow Hal” and “Stuck on You” are okay to amusing and their “Fever Pitch” remake isn’t terrible.

    But “The Heartbreak Kid” is the “The Battlefield Earth” of comedy. Or maybe it’s the professionals’ “The Room.”

    My wife and I flipped it on HBO without the knowledge that it was a Farrelly movie, because we missed the credits. It was a bizarre realization that what we were watching was supposed to be funny. The first few scenes play like some kind of community theater version Neil LaBute and it doesn’t get better. The evil female lead is revealed to actually have some sort of snapping appendage in her crotch. The reveal of which, they play like it’s supposed to be a big shock laugh moment, a la semen in Ben Stiller’s hair.

    I can’t begin to describe how bad that one is.

    And it’s too bad about Jack Shafer. He’s consistent and honest, if not always right.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I came across the Heartbreak Kid in the same way, and it is indeed hard to express how awful it is. As their sexism has intensified, the humor has completely evaporated. (And while I think TSAM wasn’t nearly as funny as its reputation, it certainly had its moments.)

      • Bettencourt

        I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who found Something About Mary highly overrated, but I was still shocked how terrible their Heartbreak Kid was — it was remarkably mean-spirited, and their earlier work at least had a general good-heartedness (the final gag with Malin Ackerman finding her ideal lover was especially hateful and appalling).

        I still have a place in my heart for Shallow Hal, especially the degree to which the filmmakers were willing to carry the premise (namely, Hal’s return to the children’s ward).

    • The last good Farrelly Brothers movie will be the one they get around to making.

  • partisan

    On the other hand Slate still has Ron Rosenbaum, the Andy Rooney of anti-totalitarianism. We still have Dickerson and Saletan’s gutless centrist contrarianism. Quite frankly, the movie coverage could be knocked up a knotch. If the most famous non-Stevens movie piece in the past five years is an article dissing The Searchers, there’s clearly room for improvement. And I’m not a fan of Anne Applebaum: if I were sleeping with the French foreign minister do you think the right and center-right would be too chivalrous to point that out? So why does Mrs. Radowslaw Sikorski geta free pass? And the coverage of Israel is as bad as The New Repbublic’s.

    • snarkout

      Rosenbaum’s work in the ’70s and early ’80s really was outstanding, at least. (Of course, so was Pacino’s, and that doesn’t make his last 15 years of work any more tolerable.)

      • Bettencourt

        I really liked Rosenbaum’s book Explaining Hitler, so I’m shocked by the quality of his current work.

        Since I went to college with a successful screenwriter named Dana Stevens (City of Angels, For Love of the Game), I find it strange that Liz Penn should choose that as her pen name (no pun intended) for her reviewing. Can I start reviewing as “William Goldman”?

        • Dana Stevens is her real name. Liz Penn was the pen name.

          • Bettencourt

            Thank you for the correction; I was sure the Slate review footnote used to say that her name was Liz Penn but she wrote as “Dana Stevens.”

            Since Mr. Goldman is still with us, I plan to start reviewing as “Paddy Chayefsky.”

            • BigHank53

              Piker. Go ahead and call yourself Charles Dickens.

  • Laura

    I’ve always thought Tim Noah is terribly underrated. Glad to see him get some props here.

  • DRickard

    Tim Noah is generally good–except when he gets his exquisitely sensitive knickers in a twist. He is, after all, the guy who said that summer-house lit is evil–because there are people in the world who don’t have summer houses. And who can forget his three- or four-article crusade against racist ice cream?

    • Halloween Jack

      Unfortunately, the piece that I associate most with Timothy Noah was the one in which he goes after Livestrong-type bracelets, and while he makes some good, if obvious points against them (like ribbons, they’ve multiplied to the point of oversaturation, etc.), he ended it with the note that his late wife, Marjorie Williams, who had just died of cancer and whom he missed terribly, hated them. As heartfelt as this was, it’s one of the worst arguments to make (really, it’s not an argument at all), and served only to remind me of what a horribly overrated writer Williams was.

  • Joe

    Jack Shafer was always worth reading,

    I don’t think so. I found his multi-part hit piece on Bill Moyers particularly distasteful but repeatedly his contrarian anti-liberal media columns (with a “I’m so contrarian and independent, ain’t I” tone) were tedious.

    There is a mixed reaction to readers to Dana Stevens. Dahlia and various other Jurisprudence articles are good, but she really needs to tone down her schtick a tad. Saletan is obviously a mixed bag. Today’s Papers is no more. The others are mixed. Anyway, I won’t miss Shafer, though the idea of a media critic is good.

    • rickhavoc

      Saletan very nearly tears down single-handedly all that Slate carefully builds over time. I assume he knows where at least one body is buried.

  • Yes, Tim Noah was an especially fine writer when Bill Clinton’s cock made him think that Reggie Walton gave Scooter Libby a raw deal and George W. Bush did justice a solid by pardoning him.

    Good riddance to Tim Noah.

    • Joe

      On the whole, Noah wasn’t a wanker.

      • I respectfully disagree. That one article made Tim Noah, on the whole, a wanker.

  • NCG

    Sorry but you’re all wet about Dear Prudence. She’s usually quite good, and I’ve read advice columns for years.

    Is there a specific beef people have with her?

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