Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fans of Wayne Booth and Stable Irony

This Bud's for you.

Something I Want to Read Again Later

So I'll link to Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake talking about how difficult it is to make sure the contest between Clinton and Obama does not turn toxic as partisans try to tease out the difference between what we might call hurtful but unintended "racism/sexism" (its uncertain nature indicated by those quote marks) and cleverly constructed and carefully aimed Sexism/Racism (the pernicious thrust of it indicated by those loud capital letters).

What she says strikes me as smart and necessary. But sometimes you want to read something again later to make sure, so I park it here.

She concludes:

I don't know how to repair the situation other than to acknowledge that people's feelings are legitimate with regard to what they hear no matter the intent, and presuming malicious intent is a great way to make an enemy of someone who probably really wants to be an ally.

Easier to say than to do but disastrous not to try to do.

Seinfeld Fans Will Understand. (But Damn the Doc for Spoiling My Feasting Upon Fallen Food.)

This is from a New York times story about a scientific experiment to determine the disease potential in "double dipping." I need provide no more context than that. I know my reader.

I mean, readers.

Professor Dawson said that Timmy was essentially correct. “The way I would put it is, before you have some dip at a party, look around and ask yourself, would I be willing to kiss everyone here? Because you don’t know who might be double dipping, and those who do are sharing their saliva with you.”

Professor Dawson encourages his undergraduate teams to test popular conceptions about food safety in the laboratory. Last year he published a paper on the five-second rule, which states that food dropped on the floor can be safely eaten if you pick it up before you can count to five. The rule turned out to be false.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

By the Way, It's an Ugly Room. All Things Considered When It Comes to Your Artful Nonfiction, Ugly Works

Here's my exercise for today in feature writing. I warn the kids against pathetic fallacy, that literary technique in which inanimate objects display emotion, especially when that emotion reflects the emotional states of fictional characters. But it is certainly reasonable to make note of objects in the real settings in which nonfiction characters present themselves that resonate with -- or possibly contradict -- the writer's judgment of who these characters are. It's a nice way to foreshadow or imply, a kind of artful editorializing.

Or so I argue. Like everything else in this whole business of literary journalism, a little more than a little is by much too much. Try it, I tell them. If I don't like it, I'll trim but give me something to work with, please.

Describing the room: An exercise for feature writing

You have arranged an interview in this room with the person named below. You arrive 30 minutes early. Since you will be writing on deadline, you decide to do a brief sketch of the room before your subject arrives, thinking you might be able to use it as part of your story.

You are interviewing a 60-year-old architect who has been hired to remodel all the classrooms on this campus.

A 35-year-old nun who is leaving holy orders to get married.

A 40-year-old USF employee whose job is cleaning this building.

A 70-year-old priest who is about to retire from USF.

The 40-year-old widow of a USF professor who died of a heart attack in this room last year.

A 20-year-old student who has just been expelled from USF for drinking.

A 10-year-old child prodigy who has just started college at USF.

A 50-year-old prison inmate who has a day pass to take classes at USF.

A 16-year-old high school dropout who is part of a campus tour run by an organization devoted to getting kids back in school.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An Oscar Wilde Moment

I fear John McCain most because I fear him least.

Oh Great

Finally, I told my doctor I wanted to try a statin to get my cholesterol down. I, of course, had been reading in the popular press for some time how all these docs loved them so much they were taking them even if the docs didn't have bad cholesterol.

I started, felt kind of bad, stopped and then started again three weeks ago. I feel fine! Now this morning my wife reads to me from the NY Times that some researchers are now down on statins, saying (among other things) that they may cause more problems more often than was previously understood. Among those possible difficulties?

Cognitive problems and impotence.

So maybe these problems will balance out. I'll forget what the darn thing was for.

You say that's not a very good joke. I respond that it's no joke at all.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chimes at Midnight. Maybe More Like a Fire Alarm

Last night in bed I said something to the effect that well, I guess, we may not vote for Edwards in the primary, figuring his quest is now impossible, in which case it'll be Obama for us, right?

And my wife said no. This is going to be a frank and useful discussion.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I, Pundit

I don't follow the fine texture of the news closely enough to evaluate the degree to which the Clintons injected race into the run-up to the South Carolina primary. Are the pundits misrepresenting or merely exaggerating?

But let's assume the Clintons did it. The only practical reason that I can see for doing it -- if their intent is not only to get the nomination but to make sure the nomination remains worth having, and antagonizing black Democrats would not serve that purpose -- would be as a way to discount Obama's victory in South Carolina, where there are so many black Democrats.

If the Clintons did it, now they have to stop doing it. If they did it, it's "one off." It won't work for Florida, either as a way to win or as an explanation for a loss.

Anyway, Clinton leads in Florida. On Super Tuesday it won't matter. It can't matter if Hillary hopes to win in November.

And if you ask where we come down in all this, we support Edwards but may vote for Obama. Hillary is fine with us, however. Seven years of Bush is like strong poison, drop by drop. Hell, dig up Scoop Jackson and dust him off.

There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that sprang to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white's their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
--I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

Young People Creating Content Online: Lots of It

This is from Pew Research.

Some 93% of teens use the internet, and more of them than ever are treating it as a venue for social interaction -- a place where they can share creations, tell stories, and interact with others.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that 64% of online teens ages 12-17 have participated in one or more among a wide range of content-creating activities on the internet, up from 57% of online teens in a similar survey at the end of 2004.

Girls continue to dominate most elements of content creation. Some 35% of all teen girls blog, compared with 20% of online boys, and 54% of wired girls post photos online compared with 40% of online boys. Male teens, however, do dominate one area -- posting of video content online. Online boys are nearly twice as likely as online girls (19% vs. 10%) to have posted a video online where others could see it.

The survey found that content creation is not just about sharing creative output; it is also about participating in conversations fueled by that content. Nearly half (47%) of online teens have posted photos where others can see them, and 89% of those teens who post photos say that people comment on the images at least "some of the time."

However, many teen content creators do not simply plaster their creative endeavors on the Web for anyone to view; many teens limit access to content that they share.

A subset of teens are super-communicators -- teens who have a host of technology options for dealing with family and friends, including traditional landline phones, cell phones, texting, social network sites, instant messaging, and email. They represent about 28% of the entire teen population and they are more likely to be older girls.

Update from New

In case you missed out here's a brief recap of what happened in '07 and a hint at things to come in '08. Our newest project! We wrangled thirteen news organizations who each donated a reporter towards this project. They will each use the internet to build an online network of sources that will support and inform their reporting around a specific beat. To follow, join or learn from the reporters and how they approach reporting alongside a smart mob, check out the blog:

OffTheBus.Net: Our project in collaboration with the HuffingtonPost to cover the 08 campaign with a new angle. This isn't about journalists covering the candidates from within the structure of mainstream media. Instead, this election coverage is about how the campaign sweeps into and effects our lives, from the view of citizens. Our most recent lab project. A wiki to turn legalese into plain English. If this idea sounds intriguing - check it out:

Assignment Zero: Our first experiment in collaboration with Wired. We covered the topic of "crowdsourcing" gathering 80 interviews and 10 feature length stories. Although it was not the wildest of success stories it is still being discussed in journalism communities as pushing the boundaries in citizen journalism.

Polling Place Photo Project: A quick lab where people around the country documented what their polling place looked like on Super Tuesday. We tried it over a year ago and now the New York Times has picked up where we left off:

Laughter. Laughter.

Yesterday afternoon when I got back from my walk in the rain in my wool watch cap to get some minestrone -- a day you wouldn't go out in is just the kind of day to motivate you to go out and get a quart of minestrone -- I had a phone message from HR at USF apologizing for messing up my paycheck. The caller reassured that the money had now been wired to my bank and that I shouldn't worry, that I'd be getting confirmation about why I shouldn't worry by mail.

But not to worry, HR said, in a voice filled with some anxiety. So I didn't worry. It's not like we're living hand to mouth. Maybe foot to mouth but not hand to mouth.

This morning the letter from HR at USF arrived, bringing joy. It seems the bright new computer system the university has just installed to some woe and much confusion had me coded as a Jesuit. There it was on my pay stub: Religious Salaries. So my money had been dropped into the Jesuit pot because faculty Jesuits are not paid directly but are compensated ....

I don't know how they are compensated. They live in the Jesuit residence on Lone Mountain, which is quite a lovely building. Maybe they get an allowance every week? How do you say lunch money in Latin?

But my money has been sent to my bank and all is well and Father Robertson has been expunged from the Jesuit rolls.

I'm told he was a whiskey priest.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Preparing for Next Week in Feature Writing, I Find a Handout the Source of Which I Do Not Know. (I Googled the Title, Of Course. But No Luck.)

The People Two-Pager

Leelee Sobieski commands up to $1 million a movie but she has been known to perform for less, much less. "One time we were standing on the street corner in Manhattan," says a friend, actor Anthony Roth Costanzo, "and she said, 'If you sing, I'll do some Flamenco dancing, and we'll see if anyone gives us any money.' One woman finally came up to Leelee and handed her a dime and said, 'I just didn't want you to feel bad."'

LEDE It can be anything: a revealing scene, a provocative quote, a reflective comment that sets up the story. In a world filled with competing distractions, this is the first make‑or‑break moment where the reader either takes the bait or moves on, Veteran editor Dick Burgheim often speaks of the "beanball lede, " the stop‑'em‑in‑their‑tracks intro that compels a further look. That's the ideal.

Caution: Beware of the mis‑lede, the entertaining first graf that, in fact, does not really lead into the story that follows.

It's just as well Sobieski has that acting thing to fall back on. With a starring role as a Jewish resistance fighter in NBC's World War II mini‑series Uprising (which airs on Nov. 4 and 5) and three movies out this fall‑-the drama My First Mister and thrillers joy Ride and The Glass House‑-the free‑spirited 19‑year‑old has plenty to feel good about. What sets her apart from the current pack of young starlets? She has the smarts discuss abstract art in French‑-"I can be intimidating sometimes," she admits‑-yet she's still silly enough to busk on street corners. "Part of Leelee is very sophisticated," says Joy Ride director John Dahl, "and another part of her is a goofy teenager."

BILLBOARD Perhaps the trickiest part of the story. It occurs high in the text, usually around the second graf It explains why this story is being written (the peg), and it hints at the interesting tale ahead if the reader keeps going. (As one editor puts it, "This is where we tell them what we're going to tell them.)

Sobieski the sophisticate is a seven‑year veteran of Hollywood who already has an Emmy nomination (for 1999 miniseries Joan of Arc) and a seduction scene with Tom Cruise (in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut) under her belt. The goofy teen is now enjoying the freedom of college life as a freshman at Brown University, where she's taking classes in poetry and Japanese literature and jousting with her roommate over music. (Sobieski favors Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong; her roommate is into Ben Harper.) Though she doesn't have serious boyfriend--"I don't think people date anymore. I think people hang out," she says‑-Sobieski has no trouble fitting in with her classmates, despite her fame. "They don't come up to me and say, 'What's Tom Cruise like?"' she says, "but if I start talking to someone, 20 minutes into the conversation, they throw that in."

One downside of a grown‑up career is missing out on teen milestones like the senior prom‑-Sobieski skipped hers to shoot Joy Ride‑-and scoring a driver's license. Sobieski, who as a career gal and Manhattan native never learned, had her first driving lesson with an assistant director on the Joy Ride set. "They practiced in a huge parking lot, but still she managed to run into something and scratch his car‑‑a brand‑new Lexus SUV," says Dahl.

In Paris over the summer to film the upcoming French movie L'Idole, Sobieski indulged her silly side with friends. "We went to good restaurants and drew all over the tablecloths," she says. Still, speaking with Sobieski, who paints abstracts as a hobby, "you can forget that you're talking to someone much younger than yourself," says her My First Mister costar Albert Brooks.

BODY By now the set‑up is complete, Here you tell the story you came to tell. In a two‑pager, this part of the text generally goes for about three grafs. This is the area where tertiaries (see following page) often fit best.

Credit her upbringing among New York City's bohemian set. Leelee, (full name Liliane Roudabeh Gloria Elzvieta Sobieski) "was always unbelievably outgoing, never intimidated by anyone or anything," says her mother, Elizabeth, a screenwriter whose French‑born husband, Jean, is a portrait and abstract painter. Along with brother Roby, 12, Sobieski spent her childhood days wandering art museums and summers visiting France. At 11, she was discovered in the cafeteria at the Day School in Manhattan by a casting agent looking for a preteen bloodsucker for Inteview with the Vampire. Kirsten Dunst got that part, but Sobieski landed a role in the 1994 TV movie Reunion. Other television gigs led to film roles, including one as a young bride in 1998's Deep Impact.

Recently, work has taken Sobieski from Joy Ride's Nevada highways to Uprising's Slovakia set. Sobieski, who has roots both Polish (her father is descended from the 17th‑century King Jan Sobieski) and Jewish (her mother's father), was deeply affected by Uprising's story of the Warsaw Ghetto's revolt against the Nazi army. "It's something that, hopefully, touches everyone," she says.

BIO Traditionally, this falls about two‑thirds of the way into the story (the premise being that readers probably won't care about a person's background until we first get them interested in the person). Since this is often the most linear, easily told part of the text, it is often tempting to start the bio sooner, Resist, unless there are extraordinary reasons not to.

Not so universally embraced is Sobieski's eccentric habit of saving snippets of her coworkers' hair as movie souvenirs. "It's just more personal than an autograph," explains the actress, whose collection includes locks from Tim Allen and Stanley Kubrick, all stored in Ziploc bags. "I don't spend my day thinking about hair or anything. I don't even like my own hair." While Tom Cruise claimed his hair was too short to shear, the only problem nowadays, she says, is "I think people get a little bit insulted if I forget to ask them. Like they think, 'Gosh, does she think I'm not famous enough?' I want everybody's hair--pile it on!" The way her career is soaring, future samples shouldn't be a problem.


KICKER As with the lede, this can be anything that works: a cute final quote, a telling scene, even ironic commentary by the writer.

Robertson's comment: What a lame bit of final editorializing. But how would you end it?

About 800 words

8 paragraphs

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

First Day of Class

Talked nonstop and felt very good about myself. It might be a good idea to invite their comments.

Note to self: Invite their comments.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Pollster's Report Card for 2008 So Far

How reliable are these numbers? I don't know. But I do appreciate the chutzpah of Survey USA in placing themselves as the best based on polling a single primary,.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I Was Just Curious

Results 1 - 10 of about 18,700 for Manchurian Candidate John McCain. (0.19 seconds)

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John McCain: The Manchurian Candidate - POW/MIA Freedom Bracelets

John McCain: Vietnam veterans and POW/MIA activists who have felt the fangs of this pit bull call him The Manchurian Candidate. - 39k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Campaign 2000 | John McCain: The Manchurian Candidate

John McCain: The Manchurian Candidate. By Ted Sampley U.S. Veteran Dispatch December 1992 Issue. Those following the proceedings during the past year of the ... - 36k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

No Manchurian Candidate

Sampley even refers to McCain as a Manchurian Candidate. .... John McCain is now a candidate for the Republican nomination for President. ... - 48k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

McCain(The Manchurian Candidate) Calls Ad Criticizing Kerry ...

John McCain (The Manchurian Candidate) Calls Ad Criticizing Kerry's Military Service 'Dishonest and Dishonorable'. Friday 6th August 2004 : Republican Sen. ... - 5k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

[CTRL] John McCain-Manchurian Candidate?

The movie may have been fiction... but Senator John McCain is without any doubt the real Manchurian Candidate. When I look at his voting record in the ... - 9k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

What Bush did to McCain in the 2000 S. C. primary

John McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries is doing the job against Kerry this ... who spent five years as a Vietnam POW, with ‘the Manchurian Candidate. ... - 22k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

John McCain - the Manchurian Candidate? « Killbuck Creek Politics

Is John McCain a real life Manchurian Candidate? The original 1992 John McCain: The Manchurain Candidate report can be found on the internet at: ... - 81k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

APFN - John McCain: The Manchurian Candidate

POWs? Have the Vietnamese flipped you a Queen of Diamonds? John McCain: The Manchurian Candidate By Ted Sampley ...;article=116416;title=APFN - 10k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

John McCain: The Manchurian Candidate « THE “G” BLOG

John McCain: The Manchurian Candidate. John McCain By Ted Sampley U.S. Veteran Dispatch December 1992 Issue Those following the proceedings during the past ... - 58k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Fresh Intelligence : Radar Online : John McCain's Brainwashing Exposed

Credit the Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain for detecting the Manchurian conspiracy most observers overlooked for its absurd stupidity, and for alerting ... - 31k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

From Gawker, of All Places: Before My Time, Of Course

Old school odes

To The Golden Age Of The Press

Finaloldschool Things we miss about old-timey journalism: bourbon in every desk drawer, the sound of 400 Underwoods clacking away at the same time, teletype rolls cascading out into the hallway and the undivided attention of the American public. Things we don't miss? Alcoholic colleagues (Balk aside), carbon copy paper, the glass ceiling and mini-fridge-sized tape recorders. Would we go back to the golden age of newspapers, the days of afternoon editions, hearty circulation, fat expense accounts and the magic of the rewrite desk? Oh, probably, but we'd like to take our iPhones, if that's cool. With that, we announce the beginning of Old School Odes, in which we remember The Press The Way It Was.

For instance! Once upon a time in a faraway dead place called Life magazine in the 1940s, edit meetings were, well, much the way they are now. Dull meandering affairs where not a damn thing got done. One day, a young journalist named Scott Levitt, trapped in such a time-sucking summit, spoke up from the end of the table. "I have a report to make," he said. Then he pulled out a pistol and shot it into the ceiling. Corny, but effective, and of course, this being The Way It Was, everyone laughed.

At the risk of reinforcing the average j-schooler's distorted image of his future, we're inviting your own Old School Odes, which we'll post each Friday, because that is the day when we find ourselves wishing we were working next to Cary Grant instead of our server room, plucky though it is. We await your nostalgia.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Via My DD, a quiz on Latin America. I sucked so bad. The point is not rote memorization but that if you follow the big events, the names and dates do float to the top.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

First Day of School

No classes, but I came in to advise transfer students and early-bird continuing students. My advice for transfers is the same as my advice for freshmen: Don't take courses in what you think will be your major your first semester. Take core courses, those courses required by the university for graduation. Tap the gossip aquifer. Be the outsider asking the insiders to justify their choices. See who's together and who's falling apart and pick the brains of the former.

Take two or three majors off the rack and walk them outside and see how they look in the daylight.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Final Cheesburger

I Don't Know, But Nobody Thought I Did

I'm just going to copy today's graph from the Iowa Electronic Markets, which most of my regular readers are familiar with. IEM takes a "wisdom of crowds" approach that I've always thought was a better predictor than most political prognostications. If this chart looks likes a tangle of string -- McCain's up and Romney's down; no they isn't! -- it's because the race for the Republican nomination is a tangle of string.

No, that's too passive an image. On a daily basis, this chart writhes like a basket of snakes.

About six weeks ago, I weighed in at Brother Patrick Daugherty's blog to the effect that the political future's markets had McCain down at around 10 cents and then was the time to buy. Up went McCain! (I was just talking. I didn't buy.) But now to my surprise McCain took major lumps in Michigan, and (I read) the exit polls show the true Repubs still don't like him, which will cause him problems in all those states with closed primaries.

I give up. I have no idea who will win. My inclination is to root for the craziest of that foul bouquet of Republican weeds, but events might then elect the madman come November. My wishes don't matter anyway. Just say no to magical thinking! I suppose I should step back and watch, relishing the comedy, hoping that it doesn't turn into tragedy for Our Team down the road.

Hands off, Shakespeare!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

And Midnight Again


The Power of Expectation

From Tom Rosenstiel at the Project for Excellence in Journalism:

Hillary Clinton enjoyed the most success in the race for media exposure amid her New Hampshire victory last week—far more so than GOP winner John McCain. Fully 37% of all campaign stories studied were either significantly or mainly about the New York Democrat, according to an analysis of campaign coverage by the Project for Excellence in Journalism from January 6 through 11.

That number may illustrate the power of expectations in shaping media decisions. McCain, whose his victory was no less vital saving his campaign but was less of a surprise, was a significant or dominant topic in 24% of stories studied. And John Edwards, who came in third, continues to struggle for media attention, while GOP third-place finisher Mike Huckabee does not.


How Deeply Satisfying to Find Oneself Agreeing with the Kvetching of a 91-year-old Man

Lifestyle/Scene - Media Savvy: NPR's Schorr vital link to 'responsible journalism' -

Q: Because we get news from so many sources, some of dubious merit, is it important to have commentators to sift through it all?

A: Absolutely. In saying that, I guess I justify my own role in life. But what I've found is that people have a lot of information sometimes called data. They don't know what it means, frequently. It gives me the chance to get in there between the gap of information and actually knowing something by trying to provide meaning. The word 'meaning' has become a very important word to me. If there's anything I can do to tell you the meaning of what you already know, I feel I've done my day's work.

The Bee interviews Daniel Schorr. Among his comments, my favorite is that, given the way the news media are changing, he would hate to be 20 years younger. That suggests that in eight years a whole world of opportunities and choices will like before me. Good on you, Dan Schorr.

My Sister Likes This. She Has a Tattoo. She's 70.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lolcat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -- N kase u wuz puzeld

Lolcat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Lolcat
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lolcats are images combining photographs of animals, most frequently cats, with a subjectively humorous and idiosyncratic caption in broken English referred to as Kitty Pidgin[1], Kitteh, or lolspeak. The idea originated in the 4chan imageboards as the Caturday internet phenomenon.[2] The name 'lolcat' is a compound word of 'lol' and 'cat'.[3][4] The phenomenon is also referred to as cat macros.[5] Lolcats are created for photo sharing imageboards and other internet forums. Lolcats are similar to other anthropomorphic animal-based image macros such as the O RLY? owl,[6] and the term is often used as a catchall for images of the same genre which may or may not feature cats."

Here's where Brother Moore pointed me: lolsecretz, a mix of the sinister and the sentimental.

I Learn How to Do Something New

P.S. What I learned to do is use Paint to put words on pictures.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Damn Clever, These Brits. Too Bad About That Empire.

I tawt I taw a Clinton surge! | Democracy in America | "The idea is that pundits like Mr Matthews were perceived as so contemptuously dismissive of Mrs Clinton that voters, in particular women offended by what they saw as sexist undertones in those dismissals, flooded to her defense. Assuming the point is generalisable, it suggests that the more media-saturated we become, the more likely all political prognostication is to be doomed by a kind of journalistic Heisenberg principle."

The clever part is "journalistic Heisenberg principle." The point about Matthews has already been made.

Bloglines | My Feeds (1453) (5)

Why I Love Me Some Daily Kos: "The next president will inherit from the Republicans a nation at war, a government in horrendous debt, and an economy in shambles. Makes you wonder why so many people seem to want the job."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bloglines | My Feeds (1521) (5)

Daily Kos Explains Why It's Advocating that Michigan Democrats Vote for Romney to Foul Up the GOP Even Though Some Say Such a Tactic is "Not Nice"

You can't bring a spork to a gun battle. There are some concerned that this is 'dirty tricks' and that we shouldn't 'stoop to their level'. This is perhaps the key difference between traditional liberals and movement progressives. The former believe that politics is a high-minded debate about ideas, the latter have seen movement conservatives use every tool at their disposal to steal power and cling to it. The problem is, politics matter, and so does the winner of elections. You can't bring a spork to a gun fight, because like Florida 2000, we lose every time. And while some may feel proud their personal ethics weren't compromised and that we 'took the high road' through the recount battle, how many thousands of soldiers and Iraqis wish that Democrats had fought a little harder for Gore's victory?"

My old roomie Lowell Boileau explained to me how I can highlight text from another blog, go to the Google toolbar and send it direct to my own blog. So I dood it.

The Next Voice You Hear with be That of the USF Media Studies Department

Brother David Silver has done it. He has established a blog on which Media Studies faculty will converse about things that matter to it.

(Hmmm. Interesting grammatical point. I use "it" as the relative pronoun to suggest unity among faculty. Brave pronoun!)

This could be useful. One of the glories of working at an urban school like USF is the city and the greater Bay Area. One of the disadvantages is that the faculty are (oops; things are looking plural) scattered from one end of the Bay Area to the other. Also, there is no faculty club or even an informal meeting place for faculty. So we do not engage in much casual conversation. Meetings are taken up with large and urgent issues. Neither place nor structure exists to encourage the ebb and flow, the ramble, of talk about how we teach, who our students are, what things in common out in the big world towards which we might all turn our attention and the attention of our classes.

In short, if such a blog does nothing more than build a safe BS space into our lives, it serves its purpose. Let it be a space to wander and wonder, not to proclaim!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stewart and Colbert are Back

Without their writers because of the writers' strike.

The two shows we've seen this week are a very small sample, but Stewart seems about the same in tone and delivery -- though all his "sketch" correspondents are absent, except for the Englishman who said his work visa doesn't allow him to strike.

Colbert seems a little more manic, even agitated. Of course, if he is working without a teleprompter, and if he thus is extemporizing more, I suppose the choice is either being more deliberate (to give time to think) or revving up the energy so that there is no opportunity for thinking, any pause being fatal to his performance.

Perhaps, he is immersing himself in the destructive element, if I may paraphrase Conrad, perhaps too loosely since I have no teleprompter.

I don't know. For a while every year of my adult life it seemed I learned that some bit of public spontaneity was scripted. It may be that everything the two are doing is "scabbed up," as carefully prepared as it was before the strike. We're glad to have them back, but not at the price of their working being scabbed up.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Something Obvious

That the contest between Clinton and Obama will now continue is a good thing if that struggle produces a candidate who is tested -- fair questions; weaknesses probed -- and survives that testing and thus emerges strengthened.

If Clinton and Obama bloody one another -- innuendo, slander, irrelevancies presented as gaping wounds -- to the extent the survivor is weakened in the general election and then it's a bad thing. I don't know what will happen.

That the nomination seems worth having may drive either or both of them to extremes. Meanwhile, let us hope the Republicans do worse to one another.

Talking Points Memo Video on the Five Days of Hillary

Monday, January 07, 2008

Why Video Has Potential for Great Evil, or, *The Director's Cut of 'Last Leaf'*

I was proud at how quickly I blasted through my "Last Leaf" video, grabbing what images I could get, putting them up in about the order I grabbed them. I was *efficient*, as befits an amateur who is playing. But then this morning I started tweaking and blew a couple of hours just fiddling, captured by the fact I could change what I had done and -- to many of us -- change is hope.

Pfaugh. Enough. Here it is. Look below and compare. Look left and vote.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Last Leaf is Tenacious

You may recall the Happy Anderson Family Leaf Lottery in which I participate. The count dropped quickly to two leaves and then to one, but that last leaf -- tiny, almost vestigial -- has hung on for several weeks and through several winter storms. A line from an old song kept running through my head and I couldn't shed it.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Late Night. Reading Poetry with Friends.

Friends are Richard and Gayle. Several folk read original stuff, which I knew ahead of time and considered doing something from my novel. But didn't. Diffidence ebbs and flows.

Having spent so much recent time in Florida watching too many Dead Men Walking, I read Tennyson's florid "Ulysses," which feels good coming out.

What you need to know is that Ulysses/Odysseus is finally home safe from the Trojan War, embraces his wife, resumes his throne and quickly gets bored out of his skull.

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: But every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bounds of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachos,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle-
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port, the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have tol'd and wrought, and thought with me-
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads - you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved heaven and earth; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

A Rarity, a Pretty Good Picture of Oliver

Friday, January 04, 2008

Where Was Moses When the Light Went Out?

He was (all together):

In the dark

Why do I think I first read that joke in Mark Twain? Perhaps, because I did.

Anyway, the lights went out today for several hours, which unsettled me and profoundly disturbed my Lady Wife, who fears the cold. She imagined we would have to flee the house to a hotel. She asked if we could bring in the kerosene-fuelled space heater that haven't used since I read about the trail of carnage they leave behind. This led to a moment. I know it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness, but my wife is willing to curse the darkness, light a candle and then curse the darkness again.

But in mid-afternoon the lights came back on, and all is at peace.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Either the storm was a nonstarter or airplanes love to land in high winds. At any rate, we are home and warm and Oliver is on my lap, probably more interested in food than in male bonding. But on his dad's lap -- his anthropomorphizing owner, if you prefer.

Also, the seats were not that cramped. We did have a crying baby next to us, but dad took kinder to the back of the plane where mom was for three hours so Eydie got to stretch out. Since AirTran has XM satellite radio, we were able to follow the Iowa caucuses. Obama won. May I be wrong about the continued existence of pus pockets of racism in the American electorate. I would prefer to be wrong.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


I scheduled us on AirTran, cramped seats and all, because it connected through Atlanta, which I thought reduced the chance of flights cancelled or otherwise affected by weather. Now I learn the storm of the decade is coming into the Bay Area tomorrow, which means we may end diverted to Reno or Fresno.

You play the odds. It's all probabilities.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Today I Went to the K Mart on Cypress Gardens Boulevard in Winter Haven

Central Florida is a world filled with old white people. It's like looking in the mirror. I don't recommend it. I've always said that working among college students makes me feel old, and to a degree it does.

But this.

Let me revise. Working among college students doesn't make me feel old; it makes me wish I were young. That is a much better state of mind -- in some ways forward looking, for the young do tend to drag you along in their wake, like a water skier whose shouts to slow down are ignored and who is secretly glad.