Monday, March 31, 2008

Talking with Friends

A young friend recently got a tenure-track job here after a couple years as a term appointment during which he won the college-wide service award. This year he was nominated for the college-wide top teacher award. He is not only liked but well liked, and deserving of it all.

I'm talking with a mutual friend about this, and MF says, "He's doing so well do you think there's a chance he might be able to move on to a better program?"

I said no I don't think he looks at it that way, that we're a teaching school, and I talked about all the reasons this is a very good job for a certain kind of person, one for whom -- how nice for once to say this without irony -- it really is about the kids. Our young friend loves to teach. Whether or not he loves to inspire or if it's simply a byproduct of which he is unaware, I don't know.

My wife, the estimable E., was listening in. Later she said, "Don't you think that was a subtle dig at you?"

And I said: Oh. Maybe. At this stage of life, you have to hit me with a shovel.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Busy Weekend

Went into work with E. yesterday and will go in today again after we drop by our godson's birthday party. (He is also named E. Hmmmmm.)

A cable channel is going to film the installation of artificial turf -- the turf donated, perhaps because the cable channel is willing to film it; one thing seems to depend on the other -- at a city park, and (from my point of view) E. is the key player among the city bureaucracy in making it happen.

Others may disagree if they wish.

It's all tentative still. Anyway, she's on this seven days a week. No one else seems to be in the building when we go in on weekends, but it's a very large building. I sit in a conference room and keep an eye on things. I've go her back, ya know. I also grade, and my damn flu woes of the past -- lord, lord: past two months -- have put me behind in grading, so there's plenty to do.

Thank god for my feature writing class. They are all competent enough as writers and reporters that I am mostly praising and tweaking, which is happy work. But the reporting class (most of whom didn't know what they were getting into; why isn't it fun?) are fighting the fight that never ends against the demands of listening, seeing, thinking, getting nosy, getting pushy and then boiling it all down into a summary lead.

It certainly was neither my strength or my joy as a journalist, the old summary lead. Yet I think it is what I need to teach them, and I will do it even at the cost of mutual misery.

A small bravery but mine own.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Visiting with the Externals

Individual visit with the Exters went swimmingly. I dared to be dull, a great silence settled on the room and I sank beneath the radar.

I should write a how-to book.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quite Fascinating But I Don't Think I'll Take it to Class

Brother Peter Moore directed me to this.



Get the F out

Washington Post TV writer Lisa Moraes has been pushed over the edge by her paper's inane self-censorship. This time they've forbidden the F-word. Not "fuck" — "F." The letter F. Really.

Moraes today attempts to write about an episode of 30 Rock revolving around a fake reality show called MILF Island. See if you can detect her displeasure at the rules imposed on her.

On the April 10 episode of "30 Rock," the staff of the late-night show "TGS" has become obsessed with a new reality hit called "MIL[letter that's been deemed too naughty for The Washington Post when it follows M, I and L] Island."

For the uninitiated: MIL[WaPo Scarlet Letter] stands for Mothers I'd Like to [have sex with].

In this episode of "30 Rock" -- which NBC says also is titled "MIL[WaPo Banned Letter] Island" -- network bigwig Jack (Alec Baldwin) is watching the riveting finale of this reality-series hit, pitting the final two contestants, Debra vs. Deborah, when he is blindsided by a blind item in a newspaper gossip column. In it, a network staffer calls him a "Class A moron" and adds, "That guy can eat my poo."

Yes, it really says "poo" -- I have not been compelled to use "poo" by the WaPo Decency Police.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tomorrow the Outside Reviewers Arrive to Review the Media Studies Department


We greet them with smiles, with singing, with small gifts. We say, "Welcome, stranger. Abide with us awhile. What we have is yours. That includes our opinions."

And those opinions will fall about their heads like blossoms in spring as when one walks through a beautiful orchard.

And then they will say: "May we suggest some changes."

And we will say: "Oh yeah. Change is good."

Why We Blog

I twigged the Professor of Pop about his blogging because, as a tenured *full* professor, in that armor as a blogger he goes where he wants and damned be him who first cries hold! enough!! I asked him if there is any Kryptonite out there, anything he fears as he blogs. He said only the face of a bad writer in the "mirror that is the blog." And I replied:

From the poet W.B. Yeats in his old age. Section III is the money shot. I'll cut the middle, which refers obliquely to his themes and triumphs.

The Circus Animals' Desertion

I

I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.

- snip -

III

Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

We are so damn cool.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Bathroom Petition

There is a story behind this. A fire was set in the bathroom. The bathroom was closed. The rumor was circulated -- note the passive voice; I should say that colleagues passed on the rumor that seemed to come from no one in particular -- that the bathroom would not be reopened because the whole floor is moving to Kalmanovitz Hall in two months, and the floor will be renovated.

I was moved to action. I fashioned a video petition. I was ready to collect signatures. The morning after the vid was done, I discovered the bathroom was.... Well, not tanned, fit and ready. More like scrubbed, bright and ready. But I'm not one to waste a video.

video

An Email from India

heat and dust . . . . and SO many stories to tell. D. (a bit) better (for now) but still hightailing it home via London/Mumbai today. In Varanasi now, on the goddess Ganges, and yes we witnessed it all, from the dank back alleys to the cremations at the ghats (no boat rides or swimming, thank you), not to mention the cute kid who, when he sussed-out we were from CA, shouted "Goldie Hawn" with a big smile. Many minutes of broken English later, we figured out he had a picture of her with his family on the wall of his father's shop when she visited here several years back and would we like to come see it. Otherwise, Indian cities (and attempts to walk or plow through the streets in auto-rickshaws) are like "Escape from NY" meet "Toon-Town" (in Dolby). On the 'quieter' streets, all sadness is ancient. The truth doesn't care what we think of it. That, to me, sums up the faith that allows . . .that enables these folks to get up every morn and carry on (and carry on they do!). We have NO problems, but if I may put all lessons in perspective aside for a moment, a big salad and a hot bath in London are greatly anticipated, as well as a home-return and closer proximity to loved ones. Even David admits we haven't yet completely 'done' India but, at least for the time being, it has 'done' us. Namaste, D & J

I Tried to Say This to My Wife Last Night But Stumbled. So Thank You Atrios dba Eschaton

Atrios:

Aside from disparate treatment of left and right and black and white in our mainstream discourse, there's also a difference in the basic narrative provided. The narrative from the Right - and its representatives in the conservative religious community - is of an America which was once the garden of Eden, until its tragic fall at the hands of (feminists, liberals, civil rights movement, whatever), and they wish to bring the country back to its former state. Thus they can hate the America that is while dreaming of the perfect America that was. Thus there's no conflict between their unquestioned patriotism and their hatred of the country, as their patriotism is for the True America that was, not its current corrupted incarnation.

While the mirror image rhetoric from the Left is about a country which was flawed, often tragically so, but which has the capacity for improvement. Be disgusted with the country as it was and is, while hoping for an evolution to a better country.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Go Back. I Take More. (None Dare Call It Treason)

By Devilstower

on Election 2008

Damn you rich! You already have your compensation.

Damn you who are well-fed! You will know hunger.

Damn you who laugh now! You will weep and grieve.

Damn you when everybody speaks well of you!

A rant from a radical preacher? Without a doubt. Someone on the Obama campaign? Well, Sen. Obama says so. That's the Scholars Translation of Luke 6:24-26, and the speaker is Jesus of Nazareth.

The King James Version, the first part of Luke 6:24 reads "But woe unto you that are rich!" That comes off as quaint and a lot less shocking to modern ears -- not the kind of preaching that nets you space on Fox News. But Jesus meant his words to be shocking. He meant them to strike against the status quo and shake up the comfortable.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I Go to Daily Kos. I Take What I Want. (Call Me Genghis)

The Wright Stuff

By Scout Finch

on Barack Obama

Without weighing in on whether or not the content of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's sermons should be denounced by Barack Obama, I do find one aspect of this story quite troubling. We have now seen more sermons from Barack Obama's minister in 48 hours than we ever did of Mike Huckabee ---- and Mike Huckabee was a presidential candidate for 14 long months. Why is it acceptable to scour every last sermon given by Wright, but only weeks ago we weren't allowed to see or read Mike Huckabee's sermons? In fact, not only was it totally ignored by the traditional media, but the few times the question of Huckabee's sermons was raised, it was brushed aside as inappropriate.

Why the hypocrisy? After all, Mike Huckabee was an evangelical Southern Baptist minister who's entire campaign was based on the fact that he was the Christian candidate. Are we to believe that he didn't rail against the US government over abortion in previous sermons? Or homosexuality? We know what he had to say about AIDS victims. I don't imagine one gets to be the be president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention without passionate fire and brimstone sermons as part of his repertoire.

So, I find it curious that the traditional media now has its white hot focus on Barack Obama's religion and a few select words by Reverend Jeremiah Wright. After all, Huckabee made his career as an actual preacher. Why the change of heart in the last few weeks? Why does Obama have to be held responsible for every word spoken during Wright's passionate sermons - while Huckabee is allowed a free ride and never questioned about his own words? From his own mouth?

Well, it's fair game now. If Huckabee reappears as a VP contender or decides to get in the race in 2012, I think we can safely point to this as justification for wanting to see Huckabee's past - in his own words.

I Go to Daily Kos. I Take What I Want. (Call Me Genghis)

The Wright Stuff

By Scout Finch

on Barack Obama

Without weighing in on whether or not the content of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's sermons should be denounced by Barack Obama, I do find one aspect of this story quite troubling. We have now seen more sermons from Barack Obama's minister in 48 hours than we ever did of Mike Huckabee ---- and Mike Huckabee was a presidential candidate for 14 long months. Why is it acceptable to scour every last sermon given by Wright, but only weeks ago we weren't allowed to see or read Mike Huckabee's sermons? In fact, not only was it totally ignored by the traditional media, but the few times the question of Huckabee's sermons was raised, it was brushed aside as inappropriate.

Why the hypocrisy? After all, Mike Huckabee was an evangelical Southern Baptist minister who's entire campaign was based on the fact that he was the Christian candidate. Are we to believe that he didn't rail against the US government over abortion in previous sermons? Or homosexuality? We know what he had to say about AIDS victims. I don't imagine one gets to be the be president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention without passionate fire and brimstone sermons as part of his repertoire.

So, I find it curious that the traditional media now has its white hot focus on Barack Obama's religion and a few select words by Reverend Jeremiah Wright. After all, Huckabee made his career as an actual preacher. Why the change of heart in the last few weeks? Why does Obama have to be held responsible for every word spoken during Wright's passionate sermons - while Huckabee is allowed a free ride and never questioned about his own words? From his own mouth?

Well, it's fair game now. If Huckabee reappears as a VP contender or decides to get in the race in 2012, I think we can safely point to this as justification for wanting to see Huckabee's past - in his own words.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Yeah: Me, Miss Baby and Big Pat Doing This Soon

Big Pat a-birding goes. If I had a tough clear style like that, I'd be better off.

But you play what you got as well as you can. Now the good news is that when Miss Baby finally quits tying knots in the crazy quilt she calls a job, she (inveterate birder that she was), Big Pat (crazed as all new converts are) and me (along for the ride, glad for the company, dumb but happy) will be out there, and afterwards I'll throw the multi-syllables like a bag lady assailing the pigeons with stale bread.

Off the Record

Those of you who have been following the resignation of the Obama advisor after a British journalist failed to follow her instruction that her "monster" comment was off the record might have missed the journalist's interview with Hunter Tucker Carlson in which he praised the supine attitude of beltway journalists toward commands from their betters.

A friend sent this message:


http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/03/08/carlson/



Scroll all the way -- there is a lot of cool stuff here.



We were taught that nothing is off the record unless agreed upon ahead of time.


Were we wrong?



To which I replied:


Carlson: full of shit. American beltway reporters: all too often conduits for misinformation and objects of manipulation. Now, the interesting ethical dilemma is how often allow sources to speak anonymous, which concession to high ethics is often the only way to get important information before the public.

But letting folk who have been interviewed time and again play the "oh by the way don't quote me" game: bullshit. Now, Jessica Mitford the muckraker wrote about an interview in which a source said he did not want to be quoted, and she said something to the effect, "Well, restate it if you are unhappy with how it sounded." He did, and she said, "No. I will use both." My *only* criticism of the Scotsman's reporters is that the highest ethical act would have been to say immediately, "No, I will be using that. Perhaps, you'd like to elaborate." Letting people think you won't use something could be seen as dishonest, though perhaps the Scotsman's reporter assumed the Yank should have known the quote was fair game and that she understood that silence in response to her request did not mean it would be acceded to.

One last point: When you are quoting inexperienced folk who have never been interviewed, I think you proceed with compassion. You really might "hurt" them with no good reason. At minimum, if *they* announced in mid-interview that something is off the record, you stop and say it isn't and then go over the rules again. Oh. Off the record is supposed to mean you are supposed to behave as if you have never heard what is OTR, that you can't repeat it later on to get confirmation. OTR is not the same as "not for attribution."



Editor's Note:


Buckminister replies: Then OTR in the press is the same as in real life. Someone tells you something, and no one else (and I mean no one else) ever knows about it. Thought as much. Thanks for the clarification. I was surprised by the smarmy one's attack on The Scotsman journo, it was ruthless & efficient and he "won". She was rattled. And, like me, rather surprised! I'd *never* heard of anyone arguing that you could invoke OTR retroactively! A child can see that this means that nothing is ever really *on* the record...

Come See the Noise

If I understand it correctly, this video was placed on YouTube by the St. Petersburg Times to attract young people to its website that does traditional print analysis of political claims. I do not interpret this to mean that young journalists need to know how to do this sort of thing. This is marketing, I think. But it is certainly interesting. Look at the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O80WRuLNp4g


Then, look at the site:

http://www.politifact.com


The site has bells and whistles, but it’s print based.

I got all this From the website News Videographer

The guys at the St. Petersburg Times also have some great ideas we can steal.

Politifact.com is the kind of site that makes politics accessible and interesting to lots of people. Especially young people, we thought. So a few of us on the editorial side started brainstorming ways to get the word out in a more viral way — that is, ways that would be easy for people to share with each other …

Yes, we made this video for YouTube specifically. We also seeded it on over a dozen other video sites, such as Crackle (where it was featured as their top political video for some time), Yahoo!, MySpace and MetaCafe. It has appeared on our main site, tampabay.com and is still linked off the Politifact.com home page.

So far the video has been viewed more than 200,000 times on YouTube. Unfortunately, we can’t track how many of the viewers then clicked to our site. We did see a week-over-week spike in Politifact.com traffic of 67% when the Gimme the Truth video was featured on YouTube’s homepage. Of course, it was also the week we hosted a GOP debate in our hometown and we were doing a lot of other promotion of the site. That said, I’m thrilled with the response and consider it a successful marketing effort.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Kitty Gets a Reward

Back from the Vet

Vet appreciated the video since, he said, take a cat to the vet and it either cringes or "slinks around." He did x-rays. He thinks kitty has arthritis of the spine or -- less likely -- a tumor. The x-rays will be sent to a radiologist, so a more definitive judgment is coming soon.

He talked about surgery, but that ain't happening, not on a 16-year-old cat. A series of shots into the spine is another possibility. If kitty keeps limping, that is probably what we will do.

Kitty (and His Diagnostic Video) Go to the Vet

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Friends Afar

J. writes:

Subject: six word novels from India

Baby slips through train loo. Lives!

India drivers HEAVILY invested in reincarnation.

Tried everything? Fly in your pajamas!

Many old hippies, still 'just looking'.

In Puri now, on NE Bay of Bengal coast. D. dragging me to Calcutta on Tues, variously been described as the cultural center of India, or 6 mill people living on 1 meter of garbage. All in all, tho, all is well. No dehli-belly, we've found peanut butter, the sea is nearby (at least for now), and even the 'serenity' of squat toilets in the privacy of one's own bathroom. Missing friends tho, among the squawkers, gawkers, and hawkers. The rest is silence, beautiful guileless smiles, lots of great photos, and mystery menus with lots of ghee. Namaste

The Brave

Yesterday we went for a drive in the hills above San Jose. We drove along the west edge of the Calaveras Reservoir -- which in its bucolic beauty you would not imagine to be close to our urban bubble -- and started down toward habitation.. The road had some twists and humps, and I spotted there on ahead....

I spotted something, a silhouette coming into view and then disappearing. I knew what it looked like, but since I doubted that's what it was I said nothing. Eydie wondered if it was a cow. As we got closer, I kept discounting what it seemed to be, but finally there was no denying that what we saw was....

A wild turkey in full display, wings down, tail feathers spread, neck back.

Then we saw why. His harem of a dozen hen turkeys had apparently wandered down the steep bank on the right side of the road to sample the grass up against the fence on the left side of the road. Our tom got (I guess) the idea that loitering so close to a country road was unwise, and he decided to "man up," challenging and (hopefully) discouraging what might come their way.

I suppose. He was certainly strutting and posturing. We stopped and got out the camera, the one with the dead batteries in it.

I put on our hazard blinkers, and we sat there for a while looking at the turkeys. Then a car approached from the opposite direction. It stopped, but perhaps its appearance was too much for the females. One by one they scampered back up the bank on the right, at which point the tom furled and left the road, last man out, no female turkey left behind.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

You are Entering the Middle of the Conversation

Michael Robertson wrote:


I didn’t look at the video, but it illustrates one of my
concerns. If online video is just flash, dash and eye candy, it
trivializes and does not illuminate. Obviously, “home movie”
quality might also repel reader/viewers. *But challenging network
TV by becoming network TV – I don’t see the point.*


And Trader Horn wrote back:


Michael,

No doubt the internet will serve as an ad hoc TiVo, but that's not what the internet's really about. And homemade video is nice and new, but that's not what it's about in the long run. And those of us who hate to shop can buy anything, anytime, but that's not what it's all about. And Porn has done really well, but it's a specialty (albeit huge, according to the numbers), but that's not even what it's really, really about. Social networking will be there, I think, but it's not the complete real deal, either. I keep running across the question, "If creativity is so rare, why is there so much on the internet?"

Good question!

I just came upon this recently, and in my opinion, this is what the internet was born to do:

(MUSIC: Thus Sprach Zarathushtra)

http://www.ted.com/

There's some great stuff here. I think it's the future. What do you think?

And so I wrote back:


I have yet to get my head around just what the Internet will prove to be about! What I am most concerned about is newsgathering and news dissemination. Newspapers are mass communication with all the distortions and limitations of that top-down model, but at least the economy of scale professionalized newsgathering (with all the distortions and limitations and self deception of *that* job model). Any amateur is now a journalist -- and I gladly grant them the term. Any aggregator is a now a gatekeeper and a publisher. I am curious (and, because I am old, all curiosity devolves into worry) about whether the internet "opportunity" will produce underfunded amateur journalism that will be cherry-picked by those who like what they see/hear to the exclusion of that which they do not like to see/hear.

Of course, maybe this will all be just like an episode of The Transformers. The parts will shift and the "new machine" will look different, but the practical result will be the same. People will acquire about as many facts and come to about as many informed decisions. The ambitious will triangulate and seek out a variety of sources, and the incurious and the ideologically rigid will be no worse off. As your presentation of Ted suggests, there are now more delicious items on the buffet right in front of us, many of them prepared by amateur chefs motivated by altruism or the creative impulse. But isn't there something called Gresham's Law: Good money drives out bad? If I knew exactly that that means, my question would be more useful!!!

I always come back to the same place. I worry about people getting paid for good work, for pursuing a vocation, not just an an avocation. The glory of old-style newspaper was the daily grind, of doing the story you did not care about because someone thought a few readers might care about it even if you, the newsworker, did not. I worry about the new online news media ethics achieving the mediocrity -- which is better than nothing -- of the sad old news media ethics. I worry for the sake of worry. Yet clearly the new models are a wonderful opportunity. But so was the opposable thumb.