Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mistakes Were Made: My Bad by Paul Slansky and Arleen Sorkin

My Bad: 25 Years of Public Apologies and the Appalling Behavior That Inspired Them by Paul Slansky and Arleen Sorkin

Since it's Olympics time, I've been finding myself very much in need of potato chip books that I can pick up at every commercial break (can someone explain to me why McDonald's is such a big Olympics sponsor - it would seem that they are working at cross-purposes), but then just as quickly toss aside when Nastia takes to the uneven bars.

And for that purpose, My Bad is perfect reading, with chapters compiling the most shameful moments from television, radio, sports, politics, and so forth. Of course, it's rarely the apologies themselves that are notable. These tend to be fairly bland and rehearsed, unless, of course, the penitent in question is clearly not sorry, or unless the person in question is Wade Boggs, who likes to apologize in the third person.

For example, this apology offered by John "Class Act" McCain in 1998 is rather unremarkable: "I made a very unfortunate and insensitive remark. It was the wrong thing to do, and I have no excuse for it."

What prompted it, however, was that McCain said that the reason Chelsea Clinton was "so ugly" was that she was "the child of Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno."

Some chapters get a little repetitive, like the one on sports figures, for example. Apparently, there are three kinds of sporting gaffes: flipping off/physically assaulting your fans and/or opponents, committing a criminal act off the court/field, or saying appalling, racist/sexist things in interviews and then being completely surprised when people are offended.

Still, I had completely forgotten at least half the things that former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott had to apologize for.

Along those lines, what's most entertaining about the book is realizing how quickly most scandals fade from memory as they're replaced by others. Rev. Jesse Jackson's anti-Semitic remarks in the 1980s? Forgot about them. Allegations that Gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger groped a whole bunch of women? Slipped my mind. Howard Stern? Dr. Laura? Actually forgot that they ever existed.

And it's also interesting to see how American ideas have changed in the past 25 years about what constitutes appropriate punishment for the transgressions of public persons. While sleeping with a 17-year-old girl might have necessitated an apology in 1983, it did not necessitate a resignation (see former Rep. Daniel Crane).

But some things never change. There's fairly steady representation through the decades of judges who make comments about the attractiveness of rape victims, journalists and reporters who fake news stories, and talk radio personalities who make Don Imus look like Mother Teresa.

If you need something to keep you entertained during Michael Phelps's 83rd interview, or if those Visa commercials stopped being inspiring and started being annoying by Wednesday, this book is for you.


Ang said...

I wonder if that's the same Arleen Sorkin who played Calliope on Days of Our Lives.

Not that I ever watched Soaps or anything. Ahem.

mary_m said...

I just looked her up on IMDB. Yup, that's her.