Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Tie between Me and Wieder

The New Yorker cartoon caption contest. The finalists (rather lame) are:

"Why did you think angels had wings?"

"It's not the tedium. It's the uncertainty."

"I always figured Hell would be less ironic."

Brother Wieder's (unsubmitted) were:

“Obviously, His so-called ‘perfection’ doesn’t extend to furniture design.”

“All those images of the wings probably should have tipped us off.”

“Sure it’s ‘heaven,’ if you’re crazy about omelettes.”

And mine (equally unsubmitted) were:

It’s no fun for the kids if they are too hard to find.

Ten thousand years of this, and your back won’t bother you for the rest of eternity.

Same thing he said to you. “You can’t have a dinosaur until I’m sure you’ll take responsibility for it.”

He Jests at Scars That Never Felt a Flea Comb

For the excellent story, race to USA Today.

Grade It Yourself: Would You Have Aced? Would You Have Passed?

American Journalism Ethics Midterm

October 29, 2007

Place these in the context of our discussion of journalism ethics. Keep it brief.

1. Seditious libel (3 points)

2. Ben Franklin (3 points)

3. Master narrative (3 points)

4. Prior restraint (3 points)

5. The telegraph and objectivity (3 points)

6. List three of the four sources for the typical American journalist’s “ideology” that Altschull presents in our textbook (3 points)

7. List four of the five characteristics of objectivity according to the scholar David Mindich (4 points)

8. Hobbes and Locke on Contract Theory (6 points)

9. John Peter Zenger and Cato (6 points)

10. “Trolley problems” and “double effect,” that is, the difference between foreseen and intended effects (6 points)

Short essay question (20 points)

Talk about the ethical implications of the following things during interviewing:

* manipulating body language;

*laughing at jokes;

* using the “some people say” or the “my editor insisted I ask this” technique as a preface for a question that you want to ask;

* handling what you learn during exit questions/exit comments (those exchanges that take place when you have put up your notebook or tape recorder and are literally walking out of the interview)

Long essay question (40 points)

Use the system of the Potter’s Box to analyze the following ethical dilemma.

Your answer will consist of two parts: a Potter’s Box diagram with key words placed in its quadrants and an essay elaborating on that diagram. As part of that analysis, consider the dilemma in terms of each of the five ethical approaches Potter uses as part of his framework. If you have another ethical context that supplements or goes beyond the Potter Five, feel free to add it. Tell me which of those approaches – if any – seem most useful in your attempt to resolve this dilemma.

The problem: A reporter with a big-city newspaper is assigned a story on the newly emerged leader of a local white supremacist group. The leader is a powerful and charismatic public speaker who seems to be an effective spokesman for the group’s ideology: that all those who are not of “pure Aryan blood” are inferior. The group singles out Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Muslims for contempt. The group is also anti-homosexual. The group does not advocate violence against anyone but does urge: “racial” separation; laws allowing schools to segregate by race; laws against intermarriage of the races; laws protecting the right of businesses to refuse to hire homosexuals and of school districts to remove homosexual teachers from the classroom; stringent restrictions on immigration by “the mongrel races.”

The group seems to have an active membership of only a few hundred.

The reporter receives an anonymous tip that the leader of the group is actually Jewish. By working carefully and patiently through public records, the reporter tracks down the leader’s family. The tip is accurate. The leader is Jewish and, in fact, participated in his own Bar Mitzvah before abandoning his faith and his culture. It is clear that the members of the group do not know of their leader’s background. The reporter confronts the leader, who – when the scope of the reporter’s research becomes clear – concedes that the reporter has it right. First, the leader threatens the reporter but soon he is begging the reporter not to publish the information, suggesting that he will kill himself if he is exposed. It is perhaps worth noting that the reporter, who is Caucasian, is what one might term an “out” Christian; that is, in the newsroom he freely, even aggressively, shares his religious faith with his co-workers, inviting them to his church and attempting to involve them in personal conversations about their own faith or lack of it.

The question is: How should the reporter proceed? The reporter is confident that if he presents the story to his editor, it will be published and that, if he protests after having presented the story to the editor, his protests will be ignored. He is, in effect, the gatekeeper on this story

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Larry Craig and the Foot Tapping Spell

He was told it cured loneliness, but he was shaky on the details.

But now the details are clear.

P.S. By the way, I am getting the impression that a coaltion of deconstructionists and conservative Christians is arguing that Dumbledore is not gay -- like Hamlet he is confined to the words with no presence beyond it -- that the text is entirely indeterminate on this point and reader trumps writer just as critic trumps reader.

Having not read any of the novels, I must lay my weapon down and step away from the car.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lakeshore Trader Joe's: Uh-Oh

After all the excitement, the puffing out of our collective chest
over the coup of TJ's coming to our little neighborhood, the store
is a big fat disappointment.

Actually, it's not a big fat disappointment. It's not big enough,
and that's where the disappointment begins. The innards are
thin as a rake, funneling the elbow-knocking customers back
toward the rear, where the sign rather ominously announces:

You mean, me? I think.

It really does remind me of that Monty Python sketch about
the misguided architect.

**** The Architects Sketch
Scene: A large posh office. Two clients, well-dressed city gents, sit
facing a large table at which stands Mr. Tid, the account manager
of the architectural firm. (original cast: Mr Tid, Graham Chapman;
Mr Wiggin, John Cleese; City Gent One, Michael Palin; Client 2:,
Terry Jones; Mr Wymer, Eric Idle)

Mr. Tid: Well, gentlemen, we have two architectural designs for this new
residential block of yours and I thought it best if the architects
themselves explained the particular advantages of their designs.

There is a knock at the door.

Mr. Tid: Ah! That's probably the first architect now. Come in.

Mr. Wiggin enters.

Mr. Wiggin: Good morning, gentlemen.

Clients: Good morning.

Mr. Wiggin: This is a 12-story block combining classical neo-Georgian features
with the efficiency of modern techniques. The tenants arrive here
and are carried along the corridor on a conveyor belt in extreme
comfort, past murals depicting Mediterranean scenes, towards the
rotating knives. The last twenty feet of the corridor are heavily
soundproofed. The blood pours down these chutes and the mangled
flesh slurps into these...

Client 1: Excuse me.

Mr. Wiggin: Yes?

Client 1: Did you say 'knives'?

Mr. Wiggin: Rotating knives, yes.

Client 2: Do I take it that you are proposing to slaughter our tenants?

Mr. Wiggin: ...Does that not fit in with your plans?

Client 1: Not really. We asked for a simple block of flats.

Mr. Wiggin: Oh. I hadn't fully divined your attitude towards the tenants. You
see I mainly design slaughter houses.

Clients: Ah.

Mr. Wiggin: Pity.

The Walgreen's in the other fraction of the building -- might
be half; might be less -- was not part of the deal I thought the
neighborhood had accepted during our battle to get a grocery
store into the old Albertson's space. I know I sent a tart email
declaring we didn't need another drugstore, having a perfectly
nice Long's 50 yards away.

But there the Walgreen's is, having pinched TJ's to the point it
is oppressively cluttered and claustrophobic and really does
affect me as if it were a death chute.

But every disappointment has a lining of precious metal
or warm cuddly fur, doesn't it. We feared the Trader Joe's was
going to be so popular that the neighborhood's stock of parking
places would be overburdened, the street swamped by our success.

I rather doubt that will happen. The TJ loyalists will flock. The rest
of us will continue at the Grand Ave. Safeway, which now seems like
St. Peter's Square compared to Trader Giovanni.

And there's always the new Whole Foods a mile or so away, a food palace
of almost decadent loveliness.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Blog's Earnings Push

In the four months since I installed Adsense by Google on this blog, I have made $11.61. My little tussle with South Florida during the last three days is responsible for $2.08 of that.

The lessons in this are obvious, and they are several. One of them is that dollar-wise it is an utter waste of my time to explain those lessons. (But remember I said they were obvious.)

Better I should look for deposit bottles in the gutter, which I am told is fun.

Why, Rowdy Old Skeptic That I am, I Have Beliefnet on my News Aggregator

Jim Wallis says:

Jesus made healing a principal sign of his ministry and of the presence of the kingdom of God. From a biblical point of view, it is simply wrong when health becomes a commodity and accessibility depends upon wealth. Until something is done to make universal health care a reality in America, millions of families will remain poor. SCHIP is one bill – one program – to help fix the health care problem. No bill is perfect. But a bipartisan group of legislators think it is a good bill in the right direction.

To veto the bill, with no alternative plan instead - to simply abandon millions of poor children, to leave them to a market system that is failing to provide health care to enough people - is simply morally unacceptable. We must not allow this to become an ideological battle over the larger issue of health care systems. This is about a specific program for poor children that a bipartisan majority believes is working. This is not about health care theories - this is about children. And now, overriding a presidential veto will become the next faith-based issue.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

It's Over.

My "conversation" with the University of South Florida is over. No posts from here or there for a long time. I reserved the last comment, the capstone, the rhetorical checkmate for myself:
....J.Michael Robertson said...

Everyone out of insults so soon?

Okay: The University of South Florida's mama is SO FAT that if you said to her, "Pi*R*squared," she would reply, "That may well be so, grasshopper, but it's more important to remember that pie are good!"

Made me laugh when I was 12. Makes me laugh now. Laughter is good.

Last Night We Watched Happy Feet (The Movie): From One Point of View How Lovely; From Another How Profoundly Stupid

If the chicken is to be eaten, the chicken must die. I admire this little movie very much.

They Call it Tact, and It's Definitely Old School

Darkling Plain wrote:

You've not quite looked your chipper self. No need to explain *that*.
I am sure that in class you are "concentrating on the material" and that marriage (and cigars?) have their compensations (I wouldn't know, wish I did). But it strikes me as absurd in the extreme that instead of asking you how you are, I went to your blog, and I did this because I was concerned that if I asked you, face to face, then it would be embarrassing if in fact, say, your mom were no longer with us. Bad form. Which means that I am saying -- this cannot be so, can it? -- that I feel I must keep up to date with the blog, not you, in order to have a conversation with you or to ask after your well being.

I Had Always Wondered

Paul Glastris, of (I think) Washington Monthly describes the prep for his Colbert appearance.

Then I was taken to the makeup room, where my face (and bald spot) was covered up with gunk, and then back to my dressing room. A few minutes before the taping, Colbert came by and introduced himself. He was quite personable as he gave me what I presume is his standard prep talk. The character I play, he said, is extremely opinionated and extremely ignorant. Don't get thrown off by the ridiculous questions I ask you. Just focus on making the points you want to make. (His producers had given me very similar advice: don't respond to his jokes, and for God's sakes don't try to joke back, just concentrate on getting your message out).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Just Had to Pull This Up from One of Those Florida Websites

  1. Larry Woods Says:

    Sir Michael:
    Keep on keepin’ on. You prick the conscience of the young, and that’s a good thing. Great professors, born before the blog bloated cyberspace but devilish enough to use it to ignite a dash of Socratic intercourse, are to be commended. More should have the gall, or daring. The snit of USF vs. USF is amusing, especially to a Florida Gator, thank you, class of ‘63.

Full disclosure: He's an old friend who did 20 prize-winning years at CNN.

Editor's Note: You quite reasonably ask, "How you got the time to waste on this?" The answer is I've been sick in bed for most of the week -- went in on Wednesday; that was a mistake -- and this beats thinking, which general description of web conduct the majority of replies to my USF post amply illustrate

Why I Like the TV Series Madmen

I'd been meaning to write on that topic, and this morning I stumbled across a post of mine from years ago that pretty well explains why.

Or, If You Prefer, Our Lady of the Hydrogen Fusion

My wife was ten minutes late for work this morning because she started reading the story in today's Chronicle about the takeover by SBC of AT&T and, as she read, we talked about the breakup of Ma Bell in the eighties and -- going further back -- of Bell labs and, of course, the labs' contribution to junior high school life in the fifties, "Our Mr. Sun."

I must have seen it a half dozen times in one class or another. It was wonderful. So wonderful. Such a classy way for a teacher -- science class, homeroom, home economics, probably even traffic school -- to get a chance to draw a deep breath and go outside for a cigarette. It was a perfectly riveting film. I remember the huge pagan burning sun filling the screen. I remember a mixture of scientists and animations that made me want more than anything to become a scientist and wear a long white lab coat and understand the world in simple declarative sentences.

Of course, in the end it was tales in books about hearts and minds that finally got me -- call it the earthbound astronomy of the imagination -- and I became a watcher rather than a toucher. I ended up just another book rat, filled with sadness when also in the Chronicle this morning the comic strip artist Stephan Pastis wrote "discretely" when he meant "discreetly."

A scientist says things like "discrete particles" and knows what he means. (Or as Harvard President Larry Summers would add: "And I do mean 'he.' You there honey. Get me some coffee. )

He or she. She or he. Or better even: "Scientists say ...... and know what they mean." There. Wordboy pulls his weight.

So: "Our Mr. Sun" didn't pull me into its orbit but pull it did. A quick google provides a surprise. Frank Capra directed it and wrote the script! It is a wonderful sun! Of course, someday it will go nova, but it will have had a wonderful life. Every time it stimulates photosynthesis, an angel gets a coffee break.

And look at the cast:

Eddie Albert is The Fiction Writer -- soon Green Acres would exert its pull. Frank Baxter is Dr. Research, a characterization quite distinct from his later role as Mr. Scientist in "Hemo the Magnificent." Richard Carlson is ... somebody. But who can forget Richard Carlson in "It Came from Outer Space" or as the undercover Commie in "I Led Three Lives"?

The brilliantly raspy-voiced Sterling Holloway is "Chloro Phyll." And Marvin Miller, who as Michael Anthony gave away the checks on "The Millionaire," is the voice of "Mr. Sun." (Today that million-dollar check would be worth a cool $6.5 mil. Okay!)

Wordsworth said it best, though to be fair he was describing Revolutionary France and not Eisenhower America:

Bliss it was to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.

Bliss. In the fifties you figured you would get a job with a big corporation like AT&T and spend the rest of your life there and then retire with a nice pension. In fact, in the December 29, 2004, Economist there's an article describing how we are losing our social mobility here in the U.S., about how our "meritocracy" is failing to deliver. According to the Economist, the experts say those long careers at huge companies provided talented people without fancy degrees and family connections -- those with no degrees, no connections -- a chance to work their way up from the mailroom to the boardroom.

Good good days in many ways. Or so it seemed at the time.

Editor's note: This has been slightly revised because in the original I wrote something that don't quite understand. I think it had something to do with Jerry Falwell and the Teletubbies. And if you were a woman back then all bets were off, which Madmen quite brilliantly shows. Does that need to be said?

Credit Where Credit is Due

Down below my valentine to the University of South Florida continues to be misunderstood by the Floridites -- but who would have thought that many people would not only have the nickname of "Gator" or "Possum" but also be so eager to broadcast the fact? If you go back to the original posting of my little essay in the Tampa Tribune sports blog, you will find even more comments.

And I must say that one of them is pretty darn funny:

Posted by Joe Humphrey, Wesley Chapel, Fla. on 10/25 at 06:24 PM

Never trust a man who uses the first initial followed by a name.

F. Lee Bailey
L. Frank Baum
G. Gordon Liddy
J. Edgar Hoover
J. Howard Marshall
H. Ross Perot
M. Night Shyamalan

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Feel Like I'm Running a Telethon: People, If You Will Only Reach Down into Your Hate *Just a Little Deeper*

This Month's Visits and Page Views





Better Know a USF:I Don't Know the Tune. Sorry.

The University of South Florida Alma Mater. The "through eternity" part is particularly fine.

Hail to thee, our Alma Mater,
May thy name be told
Where above thy gleaming splendor,
Waves the green and gold.
Thou our guide in quest for knowledge
Where we all are free,
University of South Florida,
(The bands performance of the Alma Mater starts here)

Alma Mater, Hail to thee!
Be our guide to truth and wisdom,
As we onward go.
May thy glory, fame, and honor
Never cease to grow.
May our thoughts and prayers be with thee
Through eternity
University of South Florida,
Alma Mater Hail to thee!

Better Know a USF: You Asked for It and Now You Have It -- The University of South Florida Fight Song!

It's quite rousing.

Better Know a USF: I Know I'm Not Supposed to Hype my Google Ads....

But this, my friends, strikes me as an excellent value.

S. Florida Bulls Ringtone
Download a South Florida Bulls fight song ringtone to your cell.

If someone were to gift me with it, I wouldn't say no.

More Interesting Data

Darwins Cat
Entry Pages Ranked by Visits

Entry Page
86 http://jmichaelrobertson.blogs...-usf-and-i-am-its-prophet.html
2 http://jmichaelrobertson.blogs.../coward-dry-little-coward.html
2 http://jmichaelrobertson.blogs...ern-life-is-insult-to-our.html
1 http://jmichaelrobertson.blogs...nd-chaney-gone-completely.html
1 http://jmichaelrobertson.blogs...-his-deeds-warrior-may-be.html
1 http://jmichaelrobertson.blogs...2007/01/dolly-want-cookie.html

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Not All Modern Life is an Insult to Our Dignity

Last night my wife got lost in San Ramon after visiting a coworker whose daughter is in the hospital. She called me on her cellphone. I googled San Ramon and talked her back onto 680. Tonight she took the "other turn," which must be the correct one.

Except she got lost in Walnut Greek.

Phone. Google. Home safe. And she never stopped moving, which -- when she is alone in the car at night so sweet and pretty -- I prefer.

Next car: GPS!

Meanwhile, there is a fire down below. The blogside of the Tampa Tribune has picked up my innocent jibes from earlier in the week aimed at the University of South Florida, whose use of USF is foul and blasphemous if I may describe it in neutral language. I pointed this out in the nicest way possible.

Oh see the wit and wisdom that pours forth from the Sunshine state. Me being intentionally rude to SoFla (pronounced Sew-flah)?


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Yorker Caption Contest: Hurrah!

Brother Bob Wieder (friend of the blog) over there at Humor Me II dealing in drollery.

But What If Dumbledore Says He's Not Gay

By which I mean sometimes characters have a mind of their own. The recent perturbation in the force caused by Rowling's outing of her own character (and wouldn't that be a nice dilemma for ethics class) makes me think of my own fine novel -- caught now in the half-world of manuscript, tapping at the windows of publishing but not yet let inside -- in which certain of my characters turned out to have minds of their own.

My novel, which takes the back of the hairbrush to a Christian college in the middle of nowhere, was half-written in 1976, half-written in 1982 and rewritten last year. When I reread it before rewriting, I was suddenly struck how homophobic one episode was. It wasn't intended so. At the time, I would have said the novel was one long hymn to tolerance and kindness -- except for my "impatience" with fundamentalist education, which impatience has its savage moments.

Yet there the scene was. Times change. Perceptions sharpen. The world moves ahead. And when I read again what I had written I thought: "BIGOT!"

So last year I'm rewriting, tweaking, altering a detail, sharpening the self-knowledge of my protagonist and suddenly -- and it seemed out of nowhere -- as my protagonist begins to defend himself:

Well I guess Professor Hands is not a homosexual, I said.

“Of course, he’s gay, you nasty little homophobe” the Og said. “But he chooses not to prey upon the juicy boys that surround him every day….”

“So easy for the praying with to turn into preying upon,” the Bear said.

“He has a very nice boyfriend who teaches down the road in Muncie at Ball State,” the Og said. “Professor Hands would teach there himself, but he has only a Master’s degree, and the standards at Ball State are high….”

“Astonishingly high,” the Bull said, “a fact that begins to explain the genius of David Letterman….”

“Though who can explain genius,” the Bear said.

“So there it is,” the Og said. “Professor Hands is one of those rare men of character who should be honored, not tormented, trapped as he is among the Pharisees.”

“I think he’s actually a Druid,” the Bull said. “But that’s neither here nor there.”

Well, he looks gay, I said just to say something.

“You think you can tell?” the Bull said. “Would it surprise you to know that one of us is gay?”

“Not merely gay but deeply and sincerely gay,” the Bear said. “One of three.”

“One of you three?” Cliffy said. “But there’s the Lady Bear!”

“Neither here nor there,” the Bull said.

“Lady Bear could be a very lovely boy who has found his own special space in which to flower,” the Bear said, looking neither more nor less manly than usual. “Certainly you have heard of chicks with dicks.”

Certainly, I had not, not even in the Iron Room. Judged by the expression on his face, neither had Cliffy nor had he ever ever wished to.

I love that little exchange because it came from nowhere. It was not intended. It was not considered beforehand. It was not vetted, polished and then plugged in. And the part I love -- and the point of this discussion -- is even though I created the characters and even though, of course, one of them is gay because I, as author, have the right to know, I cannot tell you which of them is gay.

Well, that's the point, the "textual thrust," that not knowing, but to my surprise I am still on the outside looking into my own conceit. I could decide, but then I'd just change my mind.

When my book is in its 17th printing and the fans are lined up, I'm not saying "Don't ask, don't tell." Ask all you want. But I can't tell. I don't know, and unless I begin once more to write (not talk) I never will.

I mean, none of them look gay.

Monday, October 22, 2007

In my Sick Bed Grading Speech Stories

If I grade one more speech story that begins, "At 7:30 last Tuesday in Room 100 on Lone Mountain University of San Francisco Professor of Geology, Theology and Applied Interstitial Ontological Mechanics Dr. Bob Brown, 38, gave a talk," well, I'll just spit. I really will.

I'll spit.

Their Bodies Were All Crammed into the Car in the Garage, Its Engine Idling. There Were Wine Glasses in Their Hands, and a Plate of Cheese and Fruit.

Just in time for Halloween I thought of parlor game: If one of the Republican candidates *had* to be the next president, which one would you settle for. Let's talk about their relative appeal.

That, my friends, is what down South we call a "hard liquor" question.

There is One USF and I Am Its Prophet

The University of South Florida was founded just after 10 o'clock last night, and the idea that that so-called USF might supplant in the public mind this mine own venerable University of San Francisco as the one true object that casts the shadow You Ess Eff on the walls of the world is just plain wrong.

Seniority matters. Excellent climate matters. Liberal politics matter. High Jesuit principles matter. Bill Russell matters. The success of your lousy upstart football team does not matter.

You are SoFla (SEW-flah). As far as higher education is concerned you are powder to which water must be added.

But we are the thing itself, rich in natural vitamins and minerals.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls. For Me. Right Here in Oakland. Me.

In bed with a heavy cold, having collapsed with joy and fever after collecting my lady wife at the airport.

Trying to be marginally productive by going through email. I have more than 600 in my queue, which I'm guessing is probably average. I think I am going back to phone messages. Too many emails are beads on a string, discrete elements of a chopped-up conversation, a time waster, not a time saver.

Also, one thinks one controls the dialogue by emailing. One doesn't. *This* one has gotten in more misunderstandings with friends and colleagues by email than by conversation. It's irony, you know. It's trying to be funny and being offensive, instead. And then you have to clear up the mess the best you can, and that takes time and that's *more* time wasted.

Indeed, no more phone conversations either. From now on if you aren't looking me in the face, I'm not there: It's my doppelganger -- though *that* raises another question. My hearing grows iffier every day and recently I was in a restaurant with friends, and one of my friends starting talking about "doubles" -- as in literary doubles -- but I thought he was saying "devils," and responded accordingly.

Friend said later he was beginning to worry about my mental competence. I think it's time for a handwritten note. That little tradition kept communication to a blessed minimum.

Hack hack, he said. Hack hack hack....

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Edith's Home

Properly welcomed, too, you may be sure.


My sister and brother-in-law were supposed to come for a visit next week, but the visit has been cancelled. That is just as well because my wife returns today after three weeks nursing her 96-year-old mother and her mom's caregiver, my sister-in-law, who just had major back surgery and apparently will not be allowed to fart with force and conviction for the next six months.

I'll be doing major handholding, refuelling and providing R&R for my lady wife for the next ... as long as it takes.

Oh about the Terrors of the Fart. That is not true. However, it is true that my brother-in-law has spent most of the last week lying face down because he just had a detached retina. You can "tack" the retina down with a laser, but Bill's doctor decided to inject an air bubble into the eye, that bubble holding the retina in place until it heals.

For the first day or two, Bill was supposed to lie on his face all the time. Now it's only two hours out of six. He can't sleep. Sleeping is Job Two. Breathing is Job One. So he can breathe he has to lie on a mattress on the floor with his head sticking over the edge and his forehead resting on a pillow. His forehead hurts.

I am miserable just thinking about it. I read in this week's New Yorker that brain scans suggest that people in certain kinds of vegetative states are more aware than we like to think, and if that cheers you up, I step aside to make way for the Lord High Philosopher King.

Thus, I am learning all the time, like it or not. A mind is a terrible thing to use.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Looking for a Job, Ms./Mr. Video Broadcast Person?

Video Reporting Instructor’s Position at USF

The Journalism program, which is a minor in the Department of Media Studies at The University of San Francisco, is currently seeking an adjunct faculty member to teach Video Reporting Spring semester 2008. This is an undergraduate course limited to 12 students combining lab and lecture. Our semester is 16 weeks long.

Professional experience is required. Teaching experience is preferred, as is an M.A. Instructor will be expected to introduce students to the various elements of reporting news for video broadcast, including: news judgment; professionalism and ethics; on-camera interviewing techniques; writing and editing broadcast copy; editing digital video; developing news sources and story ideas. Students are expected to have mastered the basics of field reporting, including the production of short news packages for Internet and for campus television.

Additional: Knowledge of Protools would be advantageous and knowledge of Final Cut would be highly advantageous.

Please send letter of interest, resume and example of video reporting syllabus by November 1, 2007 to:

Lydia Fedulow

Media Studies

2130 Fulton Street

SF, CA 94117

If you have any questions please email Journalism Director, J. Michael Robertson:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Great Bike Excursion III: Long Morning's Journey into Late Morning

Today I borrowed Brother Kamrath's mountain bike, which is as manly as they come -- he and his sweet lady have one little Kamrathster in pre-school and another well well *well* on the way -- manly except perhaps for the tire acne (the bumps, man; the knobs and protrusions) that if you thought about it gave the whole ride a vaguely adolescent feel.

No no. It was a manly manly ride: 18.7 miles and 2 hours 13 minutes, all the way from the Berkeley pier to the Richmond end of the Bay Trail and back.

This is a real Long March, for it crosses the Greater Hill of Death and the Lesser Hill of Death (which are really just two sides of the same hill, one side being steeper), which lie behind Golden Gate Fields, Albany's only one true racetrack (hay for horses and catnip for developers).

Now, Pat -- who is the Ricardo Montalban of bikers, and when it comes to manly Ricardo Montalban is XXL -- has managed the Lesser Hill of Death but never the Greater Hill of Death, the latter feat all the more challenging because that hill confronts you on the way back from Richmond, a good 16 miles from the beginning of the ride.

We talked as we rode of how we would dismount and walk up the G-class Hill of Death, for we are not fools. But when we approached the hill -- what's this! Pat is not slowing down!! And up the hill he rode and up the hill I followed, pulled along by that invisible thread of doubt, vanity and preening self-love that binds all American males together.

I explained it all to my lady wife, described the huffing, the puffing, the final mighty beat down of the hill in spite of the aching, the chafing, the long shadow of myocardial infarction that lay across our path.

"Men," she said, you can imagine how admiringly.

You Were Wondering How the USF Journalism Alumni Panel Went (And If You Weren't, You are *No Friend of This Blog* and of All Those Who Sail in Her)

Blog ethics smethics. I'm just going to copy Tiffany's piece over there at

Thursday, October 18, 2007 3:01 PM/EST

Back in my day...

A couple nights ago, I sat on a "Journalism in the 21st Century" panel at my alma mater, the University of San Francisco. Myself, and seven other alums faced roughly 30 bright-eyed, aspired student journalists, hungry to be the next bulldog reporters, scooping, analyzing, and shaping the content of their (and our) generations.

Ok, so they actually looked kinda bored, and in hindsight, it's probably because we were telling them a lot of what they already knew.

Yes, we dared to stress the importance of tech savvy on kids practically nursed on webcasts, podcasts, blogs, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc. etc.

Now that I think about it, the kids are the ones who should have been seated on the panel, and us fogies should have been listening to them, letting them school us on the meaning of media in the 21st century.

Instead, we rattled on about being oh, so versatile in this tech-driven world. Even print journalists should be comfortable in front of cameras. Be podcast and webcast savvy. Know how to post online. We explained the significance of blogs likening it to the importance of brushing their teeth after meals and looking both ways before crossing the street.

Though not a single one of us had yet cracked 40, to these kids, we were dinosaurs; the equivalent of a mimeograph machine and Betamax.

As if these kids didn't host their own regular podcasts or already have footage posted on YouTube. Now some of them did raise their eyebrows when the validity of Wikipedia was challenged, but I digress.

Honestly, it only became heir apparent to me just how much that 21st century media, an enormous and voracious confluence of content, is pushing old-timers like me, in their 30s, to dramatically reshape our views on how media and information works. We're the ones racing to keep up, while they simply take the wild ride in stride.

A few days later I was chatting with Taylor, a hip young lady majoring in art history at USF, nearly 10 years her senior, telling her how myself and a few colleagues lamely explained the significance of technology to 20-somethings (possibly even 18 and 19-somethings).

Her response was interesting.

Though I expected her to laugh, she said the she and her pals tend to take that stuff for granted, you know, the fact that they have all these advantages at their fingertips, tools that essentially can launch their careers right now. Unlike me, who left college without even a proper resume, Taylor and her peers will leave college with blogs, short movies, online portfolios, or heck, even new start-ups to shop around. And heavens knows the number of social networking sights available, keep these newbies tightly aligned with one another, giving all new meaning and depth to the age-old mantra of "it's not what you know, it's who you know."

In fact, what really seemed to be missing from their media edification was the art of story telling. One young lady had no idea what a "nut graph" was. For all you non-journalists, it's the single most important paragraph a story can have; the who, what, when, where, and why.

They perked up when Jennifer Jolly, a veteran broadcaster on CNN and KTVU talked about being held at gunpoint her first few months on the job, or how I managed to engage the wrath of an entire police department after publishing a piece lambasting them for racial profiling practices. Or the day I sat with an elderly schizophrenic in her assisted-living room, as part of a pilot project that attempted to at once build independence and companionship for her and people like her.

Funny, they have the most sophisticated tools at their fingertips for building the most intelligent content, and to do so immediately, yet, still need to nudge of knowing how knowing how to tell it and what to tell.

So we were their premature grandparents, regaling them with stories that took place back in the day, and most likely exaggerating and romanticizing some of the circumstances. It's not the worst role in the world to have. It was kind of fun, and maybe it means I can retire early and get my Bingo club on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Talkin' 'bout the New Q: Or, People Who Won't Post, Preferring the Email

Darkling Plain Writes:

Robertson what have you been smoking? That film so sucks. It's a 2 hour trailer! Clive Owen? With that moustache. You. Have. Got.

To Be. Kidding. Me. Awful! What was the point of that film? I could've Wiki-ed a history lesson & had time & $$ to spare for a couple of scotches in the Lucky Lounge. And btw, I have seen Cate B and let me tell you senator, she is no Helen Mirren.

Indigo replies:

Well, it's 3 against 1 on Clive. He was fabulous. The movie was visually gorgeous, and may lure some of the ignorant to find out more. Helen Mirren was a fascinating Elizabeth, but so was Cate. I think Cate might even be closer in feel, but I'll have to see the Helen one again - the history was certainly much better. No argument there. I was just happy that this one didn't screw up the history as much as the first one did.

Glenda is still the Queen.

Is this the fellow who only likes old noir movies?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bad Day at Irony and/or Satire Rock

Surprise: Borat is now available at Comcast On Demand. I knew a great deal about the movie before I began watching it. Indeed, I had seen in part or in their entirety many of the scenes. Prepared to laugh I was, youngling.

I was surprised that its unkindness disturbed me and soured much of the humor. I usually relish cruel humor and since I have contempt for so much and so many, I am prepared to urge cruelty on. But not reflexively. Not for every damn thing under the sun.

Other better evidence of American bigotry exists than that which we find in this movie. Creating and holding the character is impressive, and perhaps I am focused on the wrong thing. Perhaps, Cohen's execution is the point, not the people who become his props.

Still: Sour. And odd. Usually I am an undiscriminating consumer of mass humor -- love the crude; embrace the stupid -- and seldom bother much with kindness as a criterion. It may just be a mood. I'll watch it again.


Syncopated Laddie

I once told a dean that I teach the way a jazz musician plays, always improvising because repetition bores me so. Perhaps, it's a bad comparison because I am not musical and am thus not entitled to the metaphor. Perhaps I teach like a junior high school marching band, full of surprises, many of them loud and not all of them good.

But I do throw into my "lectures" -- my mad riffs; my rants; my earnest pleas for world peace and AP style -- certain familiar exercises and insights. I may go two or three semesters without including one of these, and then I may use it three times in a particular semester, to my kids' amusement.

Today I did the "Sam Donaldson," which may or may not have originated with him. I'm sure even if he recommended it, someone else had been doing it for a hundred years.

The Sam Donaldson is the Serial Why, the notion that you can get something good out of an interviewee if you keep asking why? as if the answer to the first why? is somehow insufficient. It creates a kind of boring in without your knowing what it is you are boring for. As I said, it's one of those suggestions I make when it comes to mind, and sometimes it doesn't for months at a time.

Today I asked Caitlin to ask me a question and then to bore in with the whys. She asked me what I had had for breakfast. At first I said that's a bad question, but quickly I recovered, realizing it was, in fact, superlative.



Because I got up late.


Because I got to sleep late last night.


Because I couldn't get to sleep earlier?


Because my wife and I have been married for 42 years and she is with her sick mom and sis and Florida and I can't sleep without her.


Because I miss her so...

At which point I ended the exercise because we were on the verge of blundering into "Because I *can't live without her*," which might inaugurate a subsequent series of whys that should be elicited by someone who charges $85 an hour and after 50 minutes says I'll see you next week.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Spectacle! Boats! Boom!!

Elizabeth (The Golden Age) is one of the great movies of 1944, when the world was at war. The cinematography is lush and stylized, the music is bombastic and symphonic and Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh just stepped out of an Errol Flynn wet dream. If England were currently in mortal combat with Spain, it would be perfect, but it's no problem to substitute either the United States of America and/or those who follow in the trail of Osama bin Laden for the fanatic Spaniards who are just a leetle too much into God and all the meanness he allegedly has in mind,

I liked it very much. I'm not complaining. Cate Blanchette does thwarted lust as well as anybody and better than most, and she does witty, brittle and (when needed) heroic and statuesque better than what is probably an entirely different set of most.

It was as if someone (preferably Cate Blanchette) were sitting next to me in the theater fondling me, so shameless but satisfying a manipulation was this movie.

Scenes of barbarism and torture were not the Queen's fault. Apparently, Walsingham was Rumsfeld gone wild.

Editor's Note: Goodness me. Having written, I go to rottentomatoes and find that I am in the majority. Kind of. In the "liked it anyway" end of the majority.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pride Tinged with Envy

I would never say that life-threatening illness is a good thing. But my former student seems to have used his recent experience in what I can only call a wonderful way.

Envy is so close to vanity, but when I say I never had a similar experience with my own parents .... Indeed, I recall the one or two times after I was an adult that I asked them to step up and they didn't ....

Thank you, George for writing about your own experience. They gave to you, and you give back. I believe that's what they call a virtuous cycle.

The Great Bike Excursion II: Porky's Revenge

As all friends of this blog are well aware, in the company of Big Pat Daugherty I went biking last week for the first time in 25 years. I rented bike and helmet, and BP and I chugged along the Bay Trail for 13 miles, and a great time was had by all. Fun was had of sufficient quantity that this week I borrowed a bike -- partly to save money; partly to explore other styles of bike -- and off we went again.

I did not tape this outing, which was probably a wise decision since I fell off the bike twice. First time came as we arrived at the Richmond Marina. Feeling quite peppy -- feeling, as they say, "my oats" -- I would sometimes pull alongside BP to engage in badinage, mostly about what two delicious manchops we must appear to the retired ladies one encounters walking and biking on the Bay Trail on a weekday.

You've heard of the Plumed Serpent? I am the Wheeled Peacock, confident I cut a plump but dashing figure as I roll. And, oh, I should also mention at this point that the bike I borrowed was that of Peter Moore. Peter Moore is pretty much stalwart. He's the kind of person you would, for example, want as your best man, confident that if your bride-to-be gets a big case of What Ifs the week before the wedding, Peter would not jump into bed with her.

Or if he did, he would dial back the expertise, so you would not be subject to invidious comparison later on.

A mensch, in short, and not a man who you would think might own a bike of great and oppressive macho. Yet you would be wrong to think so. For, as I learned when Peter dropped his bike off after his fork lift class (for Peter is a kind of zoned-for-light-industry Renaissance man) -- his bike is a high-end mountain bike, sturdy, battered and fearsome. Looking at it, I went quite weak in the knees.

And that explains why I had such a fine opinion of myself as I rode along beside the bay. On Peter's berserker bike, I looked as if I were slumming. That's how I looked until I fell off.

As I said, there I was keeping pretty close to Patrick but then he dropped his water bottle and stopped to pick it up, and I was not able to manage an equally quick stop and, as they might say of a NASCAR race, our bikes "touched" and down I went: thump.

There was a nice lady walking nearby, I assume with eyes only for the two mighty manchops and not the gulls nor the sea.

"Should I call 911?" she said.

I jumped to my feet and threw up my hands and turned a full 360 and said, "No no no. I am FINE!"

That was not a parody of male behavior. That was male behavior, which is a parody of itself. I think I mean it's a parody of normal human behavior sans testosterone.

But I really was all right, not a scratch or scrape then nor any bruising later. Where the trail deadends next to a lovely old glassfront industrial building, I fell off again, trying to emulate BP's tight turn around the picnic table that sits in the middle of the asphalt at the end of the trail.

But again: no harm. Apparently at low speeds I fall beautifully.

Peter is a gentleman. When I told him about falling, he smiled, didn't even look at the bike, said he'd dropped it many a time.

Didn't say he had ever fallen, however.

This Thursday I will borrow a bike from either Brother Chris Kamrath or Brother Seth Wachtel, and off Big Pat and I will go on an *18 mile ride* that actually has a small hill.

Peter obscenities in the the mother's milk of 18-mile rides unless they are over lava shards and straight up. But every peacock has to start with his first feather.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Am Right Brained. Can't Wait to Show This to My Wife

THE Right Brain vs Left Brain test ... do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

We, Too, Share the Remorse of It's a Sad Commentary That Anyone Would Pay the Slightest Attention to This Drivel. PBS Anyone?

  • Winger's wanger eases painful week

By Lincoln Archer

October 12, 2007 12:00am

Article from:

Font size: + -

THE list of most-clicked articles on makes for some grim reading this week, with stories of brave sacrifice, family tragedy and senseless violence proving popular....

And then a wanger-wielding winger stepped up to show us all how to make an impression.

NRL runner-up Manly's Michael Robertson made headlines for his locker room antics rather than his on-field prowess. Robertson felt the need to do what is now called "the wang dance" for teammates to lift their spirits after they lost the big one.

Unfortunately for the winger, his genital jig was filmed and inadvertantly broadcast by Foxtel and was then later posted on YouTube. Robertson said he was "acutely embarrassed" that his trouser touch judge was seen by all.

But while Robertson's wriggle was quite unexpected, the next most popular story is becoming all too common: six people were killed when a sheriff's deputy when on a shooting rampage in Wisconsin....

Editor's Note: According to Wikipedia, a touch judge "is an official who monitors the touch-line in a game of rugby union or rugby league and raises a flag if the ball (or player carrying it) goes into touch."

You were pretty sure the reference made you indignant. Now you know why. It is, however, apt.

Which is no excuse.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wikipedia Setting Up Offices on the Dark Side of the Moon

Things happen so fast in this modern Internet age. Just an hour ago I read this on the same website.

Romenesko Misc. | Poynter's St. Petersburg Times
"San Francisco is the center of high-tech in the United States, and will give the Wikimedia Foundation access to a rich array of resources, including best-in-breed online talent, top-tier universities, world-class support services and major media," says the board chairman. || Creative TampaBay chief's reaction: "No surprise to some, it still is a significant loss, despite the fact that only six full-time employees are in the downtown St. Petersburg offices."

It's Morning in Academia

We are about to begin culling the applications that have rolled in in response to our posting a tenure-track job. My paraphrase of the job description is that we are looking for a generalist. Thus, even though Media Studies is not clotted with PhDs like English or history -- I do not derogate; for is not the gorgeous Milky Way clotted with stars? -- we got a handsome crapload of aspirants.

The search is in its first glorious dawn: *Every applicant* looks wonderful on paper. But the search will enter its dark night of the soul soon enough because....

Every applicant looks wonderful on paper.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My Evening Prayer

Dear Lord. For the many misdirected blog hits I am about to receive, I give thee thanks.

I'm Going to Be Kidded, So I Might as Well Get It Out There First (Wait. No. That's Not What I Meant....)

Winger's wanger in live exposé

By Dean Ritchie

October 10, 2007 12:20am

Article from: The Daily Telegraph
  • Manly winger's genitals exposed on TV
  • RLPA wants changeroom vision banned
  • Robertson "unaware of camera"

MANLY winger Michael Robertson last night told of his acute "embarrassment" after inadvertently exposing himself on Fox Sports while a teammate was being interviewed in the dressing room.

The scandal has led to the sacking of a Fox Sports employee and could eventually lead to sweeping changes to media access to NRL dressing rooms.

Gallery WARNING: Footage contains offensive content

An angry Manly camp last night called on the Rugby League Professionals Association to intervene - calling for all television cameras to be banned from dressing rooms until 45 minutes after fulltime.

Worldwide exposure for winger

The vision, shot when Fox Sports interviewed Manly's Steve Menzies after the grand final loss to Melbourne, ended up on internet broadcast site, YouTube.

While Menzies is interviewed by a journalist after the NRL decider on September 30, Robertson can clearly be seen in the background swirling his genitalia.

Fox Sports believes Robertson was unaware of the camera being nearby and has apologised to Manly.

The broadcaster screened the interview before spotting the offensive vision and taking it off air.

Fox Sports employee gets sack

But a Fox Sports employee then emailed the footage to a friend, who sent it on to YouTube. That employee has since been sacked.

Robertson denied he knew the camera was on him, saying: "I'm highly embarrassed for myself, the club and my family.

"Somewhere along the way, a player's privacy has to be respected.

"I would have thought the fact that it wasn't a live interview would have ensured the broadcaster involved would have ensured I wasn't filmed in a compromising position.

"There has to be a period where the dressing room is a player's sanctuary.

"There is no way the skylarking was meant for the cameras."

Editor's Note: Shelley wrote a poem called "To a Skylark." Now, for the first time, I think I really understand it.

Monday, October 08, 2007


I suppose I should go out with my friends while my wife is gone and get really drunk. This t-shirt ironing is a blot on my reputation, and a little junior high machismo may be called for to persuade the boys to let me back in the treehouse.

But what if something like this happened, and there was no sweet wife to call the firemen.

The Girlie Man

I am being ridiculed by certain associates because I iron my t-shirts. These man-apes, who ooze testosterone as they pass like a bull snail, think a man who irons his t-shirts -- the external kind; the kind that advertise -- is one step away from ironing his underwear, a canard and a libel if there ever was one.

All I can say in my defense is that I do not iron them well. I'm kind of lumpy and pretty much a slob. I guess I need to go with it.

The Age of Specialization

The Google spider sees all, knows all, puts its fangs where it listeth.

Note this ad that popped up over there on the left.

Ironing Shirt
Free Video with Ironing Tips Online Learn All You Need to Know Here

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Neatness Counts

Last night I ironed all my clean t-shirts while watching the Stanford-USC football game. Football is perfect for ironing. Something quickly happens -- motion, collision, collapse -- and then there's a pause, often as much as a minute in length. The rhythm of baseball is more elusive. The interval between pitches is shorter, and most of the time the pitch simply pops into the catcher's glove. I think there's about 12 seconds of action in a typical baseball game. It's too easy to be looking down at the wrong time.

But football is perfect for ironing -- do a sleeve, arrange the neck, watch the play, repeat -- particularly a game involving teams I care little about. You could burn yourself if you care. Stanford is local. That's enough. I'm as subject to the gravity of proximity as the next fellow.

I didn't intend to iron all those t-shirts. I wear every one I have, right down to the last two or three, usually the green ones made out of some kind of knit that aren't really t-shirts and make me ill at ease. So it is a significant stack of ironing I have to do when I choose to do it.

My intent was to iron until Stanford was 14 points behind, which condition Stanford never attained, so I ironed on and on: the A's t-shirts; the three Oakland Department of Public Works t-shirts; the luxurious long-tailed black t-shirts from the Duluth Trading Company; the American Federation of Teachers t-shirt; the t-shirt celebrating the 10th anniversary of Arizmendi, our local baker co-op; the four t-shirts from Australia; the Save the Planet t-shirts with the bevy of jolly animals....

That's just a few of them. Most people have more than I do, I reckon.

I ironed. Stanford hung tough. When Stanford actually had a chance to win with a couple minutes to go, I quit ironing, aware that my stopping might jinx them, since it was clear that my ironing was an important part of the gestalt. I had carried them far enough. If only for their self respect, they needed to do it on their own.

And they did. They won. Hmmm. A big upset, one that must have cost some bookies a few bucks, though the line was 40 points, and I doubt there was much wagering. Betting one way or the other on a 40-point dog is masochistic.

It made me think of my student at North Carolina State almost 40 years ago when I taught English there while I finished up my dissertation at Duke. I had one of the famous Buckey twins, who played football for State. One was a quarterback and pretty good. I had the one who wasn't either of those things. It was freshman composition. I was down in the pit. I had four sections: That means 120 students. We had a textbook of essays we were supposed to use as theme subjects, but with some regularity I let them write what they wanted, as much out of my own curiosity about what they would come up with as for any pedagogical reason. Talk about masochism.

My Buckey twin wrote about God. He said upsets in football showed that God existed. That was it, just that sentence, as if it were self-explanatory.

I guess it is. I certainly have nothing to add. Look at those two stacks of t-shirts, which proliferated like the loaves the fishes.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Who Was that Masked Man? The One in the Apron. With the Dust Rag.

My wife is visiting her family. While the cat's away, the mice will straighten up, at least on Saturday. When it comes to house work, I have Attention Deficit Disorder. Clean is a Platonic idea. Somewhere there's a Divine Clean, but on this earth the best we can manage is a "shadow clean" on the wall of the cave.

And the cave needs vacuuming.

With the wife gone, I clean in increments with a timer around my neck: 15 minutes in the garage, 15 minutes ironing my t-shirts, 15 minutes organizing the study, 15 minutes shifting the trash, 15 minutes paying the bills and so on and so on. It all bores me so. I'd rather read a book.

Coffee break's over. Back on my head, as the punchline goes.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Winds of Privilege

I'm copying this word for word from American Prospect.


This is from a few days ago, but I just saw this Boston Globe piece via Jack and Jill Politics, which highlights the fact that rich, well-connected white kids are much more likely to push more-qualified students aside for seats at the country's most prestigious schools than black or Latino students, despite all the chatter about the evils of affirmative action.

Peter Schmidt, deputy editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, writes that researchers with access to the college admissions data that many institutions keep a tight guard on found that 15 percent of freshmen at 146 "highly selective" colleges are white students who didn't meet the school's minimum admissions standards for high school GPAs and SAT or ACT scores. There are more than twice as many sub-par privileged white kids at highly competitive institutions than there are black and Latino students whose race gave them a boost in competing for a spot, the researchers found. Some of the white kids are athletes, and many others are the children or friends of alumni, politicians, faculty members, donors, and administrators.

Schmidt also notes that these schools spend just 40 percent of the money for financial aid on students with a documented financial need; the bulk of it goes to students they think will enhance the college's reputation or become big donors later in life. As a result, kids from the wealthiest quarter of the country are 25 times (more likely) to go to a selective college than the bottom quarter -- so, big surprise, everything about college in America today still perpetuates historical privileges.


No no no, my wife said. It's not anesthesiologists who we believe to be deadly dull. We've never even met any anesthesiologists except in the same way condemned killers meet them, when you are flat on your back watching the fluids begin to drip, hardly the time to gauge the subtleties of their angst.

It's radiologists you're thinking of, she said. It was that radiologist you met who complained about how being a radiologist was like being the whore of the regiment and then took you outside and showed you his $100,000 sports car made of wood.

Yes. Wood. You could look it up.

Had you hated him less, I would have loved you less, she said.

He didn't deserve to be married to a journalist. And I am glad to report he wasn't.

I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of Idiots

I think I've come up with the title for a book.

But I'm not sure about what. Maybe the told-to autobiography of whoever came up with the ".... For Dummies" series?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Not an Anesthesiologist

I have been on Adsense for three months now. Here's my first quarterly report.

Earnings AdSense for Content


Lawyers Are Good, Too. When They Say, "You are my soul," They Really Mean It

Today I told my journalism ethics class that they should all marry anesthesiologists. Journalism is one of those professions that needs to be underwritten, and if you make an ethical stand and walk away from it, it's nice to have a mattess on which to land.

Also, the lives of the poor anesthesiologists are a hellish boredom, punctuated by the occasional mistake. (Code team! That's no fun.)

"Marry an anesthesiologist," I said. "Every day of their lives, you'll be the most interesting thing that happens to them."

Then somebody asked if I just meant single ones, and I said yes absolutely. I mean what are you going to be doing? Slipping out of bed to go through their purse or wallet? That's not ethical and damned inefficient, besides.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Doing Fine All Alone

Watching Colbert while sippin' some nice hot cocoa. In a few minutes I'll drag the cat to bed to see if he'll spoon. Biking with Daugherty on Thursday. That should be a death trip. I seem to be running out of the food Eydie prepared before she left. I've been stretching it with oyster crackers. They go with anything. Also, I guess I should buy some milk. I've heard it's widely available. There was mold on the bowl of diced tomatoes. Did you know gazpacho doesn't make itself? Yeah, things are fine. I wonder who's awake in Australia?

I think I want this person to have my babies.

Wait. What I Just Wrote About What I Wrote Just Before That About Being Morose Was Morose!

As I said, my wife is out of town. So I talk to the blog.

Oh no: Morose!

But it works for Philip Roth.

Well, That Was Morose

Which is what happens when your wife is out of town, and you eat all your meals standing up. One of my ex-students -- yes; one who went on to *graduate school* -- said that research exists that says a majority of people can remember the names of all their teachers, from the earliest on through college. That does not mean you are fondly remembered. But you are remembered.

I attempted the exercise. She was correct. The favorite of those I remember taught me Creative Writing my senior year at Andrew Lewis High School in Salem, Virgina. Her name was Bertha K. Fisher, an old maid built like one of Mel Gibson's wingmen from Braveheart.

Bertha K. Fischer. She advised me that trying to make a career as a writer was not a good idea, but that I should certainly keep writing, if only for the fun of it. Her approval meant something because of her legendary fierceness, her impatience with .....

My God, what was she not impatient with? She had a nickname: Grendel.

Years later when I was working at Atlanta magazine I came back to Salem and brought her offerings, i.e, allowing her to hear me brag a little about how well I was doing. (And I thought I was doing well. Start out working class, and everything is new and wonderful and prideful. No irony here.)

She was pretty damn old. She was convinced I was working at the Atlantic Monthly. I did not disabuse her. I was kind to both of us.