Thursday, September 29, 2005

To the Sky I Said Ouch! And The Rest...

A friend whose doggy had to be put to sleep, i.e., humanely put to death, and then whose kitty had a seizure and expired and now who has to have back surgery -- outpatient, sure, but they are doing heart transplants on an outpatient basis now next please -- and the best I could say to him after saying I was sorry was that he would be in my prayers if I had any.

How do you express condolence if you have nothing in particular with which to condole?

Food? Well when it comes to the comforting power of food when it is offered to a friend in pain:

Jews do it.
Southern Baptists do it.
Even famous actors practicing eccentric fringe religions like Tom
Cruise do it.
Let's do it,
Let's meet for lunch my treat.

The rest really is silence

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sad But Pretty Damn True

I had recently had lunch in the Mission with two outstanding USF grads whose intent from the moment they walked on campus some years ago was to join the great fraternity -- well, in one case, sorority -- of print journalists. And so they did. I think this people are going to be lifers. We talked of many things, but the point they both made was that about 90 percent of their problems at work involved dealing with incompetent supervisors.

I mean top editors. I mean bosses.

The problems weren't subtle ethical issues. The problems weren't fierce debates about content or editorial direction. The problems were matters of basic competence and honesty.

In other words, the Peter Prinicple is alive and well. You may not need to become a master of workplace politics to survive and thrive, but you must understand it if you are going to keep yourself off the horns of the bull.

Am I right or am I right?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Almost Betrayed

I've always been amused by the old convention of men being betrayed by lipstick smudges, but I see that in the 21st Century it may have new life.

Today I was almost betrayed by a chocolate smudge on my cheek. We're on a modified Atkins diet, you see. It wasn't even a very good chocolate doughnut. That's part of the older convention, too: "I didn't love her. She was a floozy."

Indeed, that was one floozy of a doughnut, with all that that implies.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bush Takes the Over, Muttering, "I'm Getting *Something* Out of This."

I suppose I should be encouraged that my Google search for the existence of the opportunity to place an over/under bet on the number of NO dead resulted in no hits.

That was shame-facedly done. Still, there was a point there. It wasn't just a manifestation of professional callousness, the kind you are supposed to affect if you are a journalist. Though let's be honest: In this tragedy, some of the best moments came when the "objective" facade of reporters on the scene cracked and fell away and they showed the pain they felt. Their lapses would have meant nothing if their default setting had not been dispassion and distance.

But I do think it is reasonable to note that initial predictions of the number of dead do trend high, as I am far from the first to say. I recall the famous SF Chronicle headline after the '89 earthquake -- 'Hundreds of Dead' or words to that effect. It's all a form of butt covering of course. The immediate desire to minimize culpability drives the low estimate. On the other end, revulsion at the apologists, plus the natural hyperbole of those plunged, perhaps for the first time in their lives, into catastrophe plus the simple fact in an odd way underestimating the scale of a disaster suggests disrespect for those who suffer -- all contribute to the issuing of predictions most dire.

In the end, I think the long-term political damage comes most probably from seeming to underestimate the death toll. All that said the over/under is 4,500. But I'm making a point. I'm not covering any bets.

Addendum: And here's Jimmy Wolcott getting all smart and stuff about the numbers game. And, goddess please forgive me, my friend Deep Iron -- for he is the deepest in irony I know and it's difficult to pin him down to what he really thinks so hard, so icy, so clever, so cynical is his heart -- is confident no more than 500 died in New Orleans. I had to take the over.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Those Wascally Chwistians

An old friend dropped a link on me to a magazine article the thrust of which is that before the hurricane New Orleans was a jewel box wrapped in a hellhole of poverty and corruption, the underclass of which survived on the scraps that fell from the table of hedonistic tourism. It was dysfunctional and hopeless, a rotten piece of fruit that may have needed a mighty wind to bring it down today but would have fallen of its own weight tomorrow. Logic and self-interest dictate the federal government should back away and let it die. (The point at which "it" devolves into "them" was carefully obscured.)

And so my little joke, which is certainly not a new one: all those Christians who are creationists on Sunday and social Darwinists the rest of the week.