Saturday, June 28, 2008

I Love to Play Games

A few of us meet New Year's Eve to play Fictionary, but last year the usual suspects were scattered, busy or momentarily morose, so it didn't happen. I am a man who loves him some tradition, so last week at the summer solstice -- which I think balances nicely with our rather fuzzy antipodal notion of when our lives reset -- we had that familiar crew over.

(Apologies to our non New Year's game crew. You are up next.)

Five fine words that emerged from the game:

1) Hebephrenia

2) Oxycoccus

3) Palule

4) Praiss

5) Griffinage

I could have linked to their definitions, but that would spoil *the fun.*

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blogging on Empty

Why am I posting so little this summer? I certainly have more time. I could write at length with more thought. Apparently I do not conceive of this blog as a place where I write at length and thoughtfully. Rather, it's a place where I stuff random thoughts into crevices in the day.

But now I have time enough to do more than that. And freedom becomes paralysis.

Interesting. About as interesting as writing about it in three grafs.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Berger *Blahgs*

That Kevin Berger is smart. We are glad he does his work.

Nailed Again

Thank you, Pajama Guy, via Geraldo.

Classic Profile

Janet Macolm's classic New Yorker essay "The Journalist and the Murderer" begins: ""Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible."

A bit strong, but there's an important point. Journalists are out to get their story, and will often do it at the expense of the people they report on.

I thought of that when reading this in a New York Times Magazine profile of Mad Men and its creator, Matthew Weiner:

After my first day on the set, I met Weiner for dinner at L’Ermitage hotel in Beverly Hills, AMC’s base for out-of-towners. He was outside finishing a cigarette. Earlier in the day he commanded, “Don’t say I smoke!” Why not? His face changed, and he seemed about 12 years old. “My parents don’t know.” I found that appealing, though I could see him wince once he said it.

This is a good detail, the kind that spices up a piece. It's also a betrayal, but one so common in journalism that I'm not sure writer Alex Witchel even sees it as such. I'm not even sure if readers notice it either.

Do I have a bigger point? Not really. I guess you should think twice before agreeing to be the center of a big article in a magazine read by millions. At least remember your parents are bound to see it.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Yeah.

Thanks, Teresa. This is apparently from Craigslist/DC.

Are you looking for an exciting opportunity make a real impact with your business and marketing writing talents? A dynamic, entrepreneurial for-profit college in Northwest DC is looking for an experienced copy writer and desktop publisher to lead aspects of both internal and external written communications.

To apply: Provide a resume and the following writing sample to demonstrate your abilities. (This is the type of thing we'll ask you to write, so if this doesn't interest you at all, you shouldn't apply) Draft an email that we could send to a student that has taken several courses at our college, but who has withdrawn, encouraging that student to come back and continue her studies.

The details:

You will report directly to the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing and will be responsible for writing, editing and proofreading a wide range of print and online materials including content for our web site, emails to students, and other marketing materials.

The twist: while you are writing copy you will also fill the role of security guard, working 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. We will buy your uniform. You won’t carry a gun. Applicants must be able to pass a drug screen as well as a criminal background check. The security guard spends most of the shift seated at the reception desk, and there will be very minimal security duties. Practically the entire shift you will be able to focus on writing copy – you’ll just happen to be wearing a uniform.

The ideal candidate will bring a BA or BS Degree in Journalism, Communications, English or other Liberal Arts degrees.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I'm Not Joking

A "gay" Othello set in contemporary California in the aftermath of the legalization of gay marriage. Does this sound homophobic? The intention is anything but. I'm serious. It would be -- as the youth say -- awesome.

Of course, it's probably been done 19 times already.

The Fat Othello. I'm ready for my closeup if that one goes.
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I Have Just Downloaded Firefox 3

Everything now seems to load faster. Or is it late and my mind is closing down?

Speaking of one's mind closing down, it seems to me that the Cliffhanger is the best Sylvester Stallone movie. I love those nausea-inducing vistas, and Stallone's face looks like a rough draft of something from Mt. Rushmore.

Rocky? Watched it again on cable recently and Rocky's lunkheadedness seemed so calculated, so disingenuous, all which manipulation I somehow missed back there in the 70s.

Talking about Stallone after midnight and striving for the right word: My mind rally has slowed to a walk.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Whither Oliver?

Kitty is doing better than we ever thought he would again. He is still much compromised in the rear parts, but he insists on going up and down the steps, with more diligence than expertise, and we let him because it seems to give him joy.

Since he hasn't leaked for two weeks or more, he now has access to the bed again. In short, we are now imagining we might have him for longer than the next 48 hours.

What caused his improvement? He's had chemotherapy, steroids, daily applications of potassium paste and daily applications of a dark brown vaseline-like substance designed to improve his regularity. We've been pumping his bladder, though we haven't done that for two days since he hasn't made a mistake in so long.

Of course, he rests most of the day and doesn't ask to go out and wouldn't be allowed out if asked.

He's old. That's a fact. This good news can't last obviously, no more than I would be justified making table reservations to celebrate the year Twenty One Hundred. But perhaps I will have a lap buddy as I do the sacred business of The Chair for the rest of this summer.

We are hopeful people here in Oakland. It's our stock and trade.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Conversation with Tim Russert

Because Russert got a degree from John Carroll, which is a Jesuit school -- and certainly for many other reasons -- USF gave him an honorary degree back in 2001. As USF's resident journalist professor -- at the time the one and only -- I was asked to read the official proclamation.

I didn't write it. I was still nursing a grudge from some of Russert's commentary during the Clinton impeachment, but I was certainly not going to step away from the spotlight.

After I read the proclamation (the instructions said), I was supposed to approach Russert (who at this point in the ceremonies was standing center stage listening), shake his hand and return to my seat (the instructions said).

So: I read the proclamation walked over to Russert and said:

"I shake your hand, and I return to my seat."

As the instructions said.

I guess I thought I was being funny. Russert did not seem amused.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Baby Time

Miss Baby Cleo and/or Naomi Wachtel arrived at 7 this morning. We were number two on the watch-the-boys-while-we-race-to-the-hospital list, the idea being that we topped the weekend roster but that others -- perhaps better known henceforward until the end of time as The Layabouts -- would step up during the week.

The Layabouts, however, had turned off their phone or otherwise shirked their responsibility, so we got the call at 1 a.m. -- today? it seems like days ago.

E. stayed with O. -- kitty still needing some tending -- and I put on my fuzzy track suit and answered the call. The moon was low in the sky and half full, and it pleased me to think it was waxing, not waning.

After sitting on the Wachtel sofa for a while, attentive to any restlessness on the part of the boys slumbering nearby, I concluded that they, at 3 and 6, were probably capable of getting up for a glass of water -- indeed, I had no idea where the water glasses were and would probably cut myself -- so I went upstairs and lay down on the comfy bed and fell sleep, rumpled and fuzzy.

About 6:30 a thump-thump on the stairs woke me and thus arrived little Oliver (person, not cat) who had been prepared more than once to find an interloper in the parental bedroom but had, in fact, forgotten all that preparation and was about to slide from wonder to distress when Eliot came thump-thumping-thumping (a little louder and a little quicker) and greeted his godfather with a howl of pleasure, and much trampolining on said godfather ensued.

About 7:30 we got the call. Mom, baby, world doing well. And after a while Seth came home from Kaiser Hospital Oakland to pick up the boys for their first view of the new wonder.

And I yawned and came home, feeling privileged to have helped when help was needed, which is the sweet spot on the Louisville Slugger of life.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bill Moyers Thinks on His Feet, Steps on the Feet of a Punk

USF's own Juliana Walters sent me this link. What we have is a punk O'Reilly producer trying to ambush Bill Moyers. Moyers doesn 't fade. He steps in, puts his hand on the punk and dominates the moment.


And I don't mean an easy manner or casualness that suggests indifference or unconcern. I mean imperturbable.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

'Expressing' Oliver's Bladder. A *Vet* Showed Me How to Do This. Seek Professional Instruction Once You Have Been Inspired by Our Demonstration.


Actually Oliver is not a young cat. He is 16. Was I concerned about his feelings by declining to state his age when the cameras were running?

Also, his problem is not just piddling in the wrong place. For ten days, he did not void; he leaked. That was when we were inspired by Sue Russell's treatment of her cat Spenser, who was paralyzed in the back parts from kittenhood, to squeeze Oliver's bladder.

Oliver is not quite paralyzed, but the video makes clear how limited is his control over his rear legs. And that poor little tail! Think of a furry overcooked noodle.

Today I Am 64

The good news is that 64 is the new 62. My only insight is that no one would be interested in my insights if I had an insight.

The iron rules of logic suggest you will disregard what I have just said.

Coming soon: My new haircut.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I Like This. I Have Invited My Wife to Read It....

Someone named Rebecca Traister over at Salon with a vigorous and thoughtful valedictory to Hillary.

Like it or not, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first female battering ram to rattle the Oval Office door, and while sorrowful Hillary-heads may lyrically and lovingly catalog her many achievements, her bravery and grace, I'd prefer to think of her as she actually has been: a pain in the ass to support, an often inept and ungainly campaigner. She was ill-behaved, she made mistakes, and waged an often dirty and tone-deaf campaign, performing precious few electoral pirouettes. But she also pulverized any quaint notions of what presidential races are supposed to look like and how girls might compete in them.

Language fails us when we say that Clinton "ran for president." Hillary Clinton didn't just run for president. She hustled and jumped and slogged and cried and ate and drank and didn't sleep and put up with her nutty underminer of a husband for president. She lit herself, and everything around her, on fire for president.

Clinton behaved with the kind of naked drive and aggression and mercilessness we revere in, for example, football greats, wrestling stars and military heroes. Her political ambition and ruthlessness are qualities native to anyone putting themselves up for the job of running the country.

Friday, June 06, 2008

So Many Thought It. He Said It.

This is from a post at ethicalwerewolf on why HC should NOT be BO's VP.

When I want to see how people think of a candidate (and therefore, whether they'll make a ticket more or less likely to win), I don't rely on my own subjective impressions. My youthful fantasies of being the young White House intern Hillary would use for post-Monica revenge, for example, shouldn't have led me to believe that everybody liked her the way I did.

Even Though I Am a Fabulous Feature Writer, I Spent Class Time Doing A Few Crude Videos. (Technically Crude. Not *Naughty*.)

And here, from today's Chron, is one reason why.

We are talking about more than Hillary Clinton here:

Conquering video in the digital age has less to do with being telegenic or smart, as both Clintons are. Being a politician in the YouTube era means being comfortable with giving up control of your message and realizing that everything you say or do can be uploaded within minutes for the whole world to see - and then mashed up into something new.

Video is the media currency of the millions of young Americans who voted in the primary season this year, many for the first time. Stories told through video percolated to traditional media from blogs and online advocacy sites, from the tirades of Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to the off-script comments of Bill Clinton.

Authenticity is more prized online than high production values - the only thing worse than being caught in a gaffe is being perceived as overscripted. (emphasis added)

And thus my philosophy of: good enough for the Net.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

All Kitty All the Time: We Are Like a Cable Network

What happens if the cat's current state endures, if we have achieved a kind of equilibrium?

Oliver now has minimal control of his hind legs, and he never moves further than three feet from his cat basket in which we have placed a heating pad set on low. But within those three feet are his two food bowls and his litter pan, and the one improvement in his state that has endured is his ability to control his bladder. As a kind of backup, we palpate his bladder -- I think "palpate" is the word -- and if it's plump enough I give it a nice squeeze. Whatever the cause, O. is using his litter.

His appetite has also returned in a small way. Early in the week we started squirting his potassium gel (for appetite) and his CatLax (for elimination) down his throat, and both seem to be working. So we now have a cat that can barely move, but whose condition may be tolerable -- for us. We keep him in the bedroom once again, and we give him some lap time and some bed time during which he is generously stroked.

He doesn't purr, though. He arranges his body as if he is comfortable and seems to like being petted, assuming we can read cat body language. But how does he feel?

How many cats can dance on the head of a pin? What goes on in a cat's brain, that meat microprocessor? If the pattern over the last three weeks holds, Oliver will be stable for only a short time and will soon lose: appetite and/or bladder control and/or mobility, and then we will "euphemize" him. But for right now it's equilibrium, and he lives on.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Too Late

Next week when this arrives from Hammacher Schlemmer, it will be probably returned -- unless some Kitty Jesus wanders by with healing in His paws. Reason for return?

Expiration of intended recipient

The Three-Step Pet Ramp And Staircase.
Item 73900
Gift Wrap: No

Postscript: And here it is: Jesus Cat.

I'm Sorry, So Sorry (That I Was Such a Fool)

From James Wolcott in Vanity Fair.

Markos spurned the classic liberal temptation to make nice and salve the bruised feelings of the angered and offended, something conservative opponents such as Ann Coulter and Limbaugh never bothered doing. The gibe used to be that a liberal was somebody so fair-minded that he wouldn’t even take his own side in an argument, and in the blog world the term for such namby-pambies is “concern troll.” A concern troll is someone perennially anxious about going too far and doing more harm than good by alienating moderates.

Note to Self

Call vet and see if they do home euthanasia. Not today and perhaps not tomorrow. But soon.

(And if they do, when my own time comes I'll douse myself with catnip...)