Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why I Keep It in the Fairway (And Never Out of Bounds)

Klubbladets delar. Bild skapad av Stefan Berg ...Image via Wikipedia

E. thinks that Tiger Woods probably has been slipping around, and after a couple of belts (alcoholic) his wife gave him a couple of belts (clubwise), and the drama spilled out into the yard, which is a phenomenon shared by mansion and trailer park.

E. figures Woods' wife used a nine iron. E. is no golfer, but she understands a driver might have killed him. The point was to punish, maybe a little light maiming, not homicide.

If I go bad, I assume E. will pelt me with doughnuts, an act more contemptuous than injurious unless the missiles are really stale. But I'm not complacent. E. still has a strong arm and a keen eye, and all these years with no reason to exercise them.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Classic Post from Yesteryear: Hitching Home for Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thumb Riders

This is the day before Thanksgiving, and I remember certain days before Thanksgiving more vividly than most iterations of the actual holiday. All of those recollections come from college days when I was a student at Whooping Jesus Bible College in the Indiana barrens, location as metaphor but also literally far away from my home in Old Virginny.

God, I was a homeboy. The notion of not going home for Thanksgiving was painful. Thus, I cut afternoon classes those long-ago Wednesdays and started hitchhiking.

The goal was Cincinnati, Ohio. At Cincinnati I picked up the midnight train that would take me across West Virginia and on into western Virginia -- between which wonderful place and the feuds and intermarriages of West Virginia we felt a great gulf existed -- where nestled my hometown, Roanoke, "the Star City of the South."

So they called it, and so I believed it.

The midnight train, you see, was free. My dad was a yard engineer for the Norfolk and Western Railway, and I had a pass. But the train rides are not the story, not today. It was the hitchhiking.

Do kids hitchhike today, what with murderers and perverts everywhere? I was much impressed and a little dismayed that my parents were so little concerned about my falling victim to murderers and perverts -- but if they weren't, who was I to worry?

Thinking back, I don't recall making a destination sign, you know, the ones on cardboard held chest high, garnished with a smile. I'm not saying I didn't, but I can't remember doing so.

What I do remember is that I always wore my three-piece corduroy suit. It seemed to me that suit made me look wholesome, benign, even conversational, that is, with something interesting to say. (I did not. But I was a good listener.)

I also carried a huge old brown striped suitcase that was either a gift from my Aunt Odell (who was a Depression pack rat) or something inherited from my Uncle Dumps (who whacked his head when he ran his car off the road and spent the next 20 years shuffling around the VA in Salem, Virginia).

I filled the suitcase with dirty laundry to take home to mama, convinced she would be glad to see it. I still remember that when someone stopped to give me a ride I felt it incumbent to run toward the car, thus showing gratitude and forestalling second thoughts on the part of the driver. How that clunky suitcase dragged through and bounced across the gravel.

All this was before the Interstate system was as widespread as it is now. One grabbed one's rides on the two-lanes that bridged the gaps in the interstates. Lots and lots of gravel.

I always got to Cincinnati in plenty of time, sometimes before dark even, and had one or two mild adventures, but none involved gorgeous widows twice my age -- the gold standard of hitchhiking fantasy for a good Christian boy back in the day -- and I will not talk of those mild adventures because the writerly energy has started to wane, and I have not yet expressed the point of undertaking this long and wandering furrow in the thin soil of this blog.

I am writing this because I canceled my Advanced Reporting class today and am still at home in my bathrobe with our crippled cat on my lap. I canceled my class because at WJBC afternoon classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving were never canceled and, indeed, I think my chemistry teacher may well have carried out his threat to dock the grade of anyone cutting his class.

Such penalties were school policy.

Which reminds me of the semester the school said that all the top honor roll students did not have to go to class if they didn't want to, since the school figured that all the top honor roll students would go to class anyway. But we didn't. And the school reversed itself.

Well there you go.

Anyway, that's why I cancel afternoon classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. There it is, kids. Sometimes I really am looking at you. But a lot of the time I'm looking in the rear view mirror at my own past, holding onto it, refusing to give it up, refusing to let it go dim, reliving it, savoring it, all the pleasures and all the pains that -- it turned out -- were just the tip of the iceberg.

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House with Curly Columns (One Step Closer to a New Paint Job)

If you click it, it gets big.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

E. Says Something Smart about the Portrayal of Conrad Hilton on Mad Men

I was saying I really liked the way the actor who portrayed the hotel magnate during the show's most recent season portrayed him, and E. said that his work was both exaggerated and nuanced, which quality is not a contradiction in terms.

She said he was plausible -- dangerous, crude but seductive, willful, spoiled by his own success, certainly manipulative and finally unreliable if by reliable you mean enduring emotional commitment. In some ways, Hilton is like Betty Draper, E. said.

Foxy lady. (E., not Betty Draper.)

Footnote: The actor who plays Hilton is named Chelcie Ross. I've seen him a lot -- forgive me Father for I have wasted time on trifles -- but I remember him as the "hard" Notre Dame coach in "Rudy." I never cared for him before, but he is charismatic/repulsive in Mad Men, and that's an ice cream flavor I like.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Suspect? Suspect, My A**!


What I emailed my reporting students:

I'm sorry. The 'suspect' didn't do it. If the suspect did it, then the suspect isn't a suspect. They don't even *have* a suspect!!!! See, the problem is one of sourcing. The cops don't want to keep saying, "The person who said he was robbed said...." They also don't want to say "the robber," which would suggest they believe the person who reported the robbery. So "suspect" becomes shorthand for "the person who did the robbery if in fact what the person who reported the alleged crime told us is actually true." It's shorthand. But *it's still a stupid use of language*

-----Original Message-----
From: USFconnect Message []
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 8:40 AM

To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: Public Safety Bulletin

On Monday, 11/16/09, at approximately 1 pm, a USF student was walking westbound on the north side of Turk St., near the School of Education, when she was approached from behind by an unknown suspect. The suspect pressed an object into her back and demanded the student's money. The student gave him a $20 bill and the suspect fled. The suspect told the victim not to turn around so there is no description of the suspect.

The incident has been reported to the SFPD. USF Public Safety will increase patrol in the area of this incident.

Individuals are reminded to always be aware of their surroundings. Wearing headphones to listen to music and texting or talking on cell phones in public places can be a major distraction. These activities limit a person's ability to remain alert.

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What the Cat Promises, the Cat Delivers. Now, in its Network Premiere....

drummer boyImage by *CQ* via Flickr

Bob Wieder's 'The Little Kenyan Boy'

Said the pros to me, "Barak Obama,
It's sheer insanity, Barak Obama,
To seek the presidency, Barak Obama,
So young, so ebony Barak Obama,
Barak Obama, Barak Obama...

When I won, some said, "Barak Obama,
Glenn Beck swears you're a Red, Barak Obama.
Your health care hopes seem dead Barak Obama.
You should have stayed in bed Barak Obama,
Barak Obama, Barak Obama..."

Salonistas say, "Barak Obama,
Long live your White House stay, Barak Obama.
We’re with you come what may, Barak Obama,
Let’s kill Glenn Beck, okay? Barak Obama,
Barak Obama, Barak Obama...

Peace on Earth to those who smile when they say,
Barak Obama

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last Sunday's Poetry Salon

1835 Version of Amazing Grace (New Britain)Image via Wikipedia

If your prime criterion for a prime poetry salon is remembering such with pleasure, and revisiting that memory more than once, last Sunday's evening in the homespace of Gayle and Richard was indeed primo.

The theme was music. Yours truly -- shyly; urged on by a loving crowd -- read Browning's "A Toccata of Galuppi's." (I am a modest man, but I have to admit I fell in love with myself all over again.) Then Gayle read a poem by some Southern poet, one "Bo" De Lare -- never heard of himself but the rest of the gang nodded knowingly.

Our guestess of honor Tashery flipped the deal. Instead of reading something of her own, she played a recording of a piece of hers that won a Pushcart prize some time ago, the piece read by Edi Gathegi of "Twilight" fame at a Pushcart Press benefit in June. (A very vigorous *sexy* reading -- in the spirit of my Browning.)

First half finished with Paula and Kate, to the background of some jazz licks, doing a contrapuntal improvisatorial reading of Leonard Feather (jazz legend writer) interviewing Dr. Yusuf Lateef (jazz legend jazzer) in which Doc Lateef came off as nutty but fun: Don't call it jazz, he said. Call it Autophysiopsychic music, he said.

Which we did. Several times.

Now all this was wondrous, indeed, but then the Lady E. upped the ante right up to the empyrean. Inspired by worry that we weren't actually going to sing anything during an evening devoted to music she prevailed upon our host to print out some copies of "Amazing Grace." To lead off the second half of the night, she shared some stories, and some tears, about growing up in Africa and hearing the locals sing "Amazing Grace" a Capella in the missionary chapel her father built, and of her mother's recent death and of the part that wonderful old hymn played in her funeral.

There wasn't a dry eye in the house, or in my face anyway. And then we sang it all together.

Hostess Gayle than read an excerpt from her current novel in which the principals attend a macabre musical performance in the catacombs of Paris, a beautifully written bit that left me more than a little uneasy about her heroine's future romantic entanglements.

(Just occurred to me! That was the point! Oh the emotional sinuosity of powerful prose.)

Troubadour Mort stroked his mighty guitar and sang us a Dylan song -- sang it wonderfully -- and then led us in singing "As I Went Down in the River to Pray."

Damn, people. We were *good*.

To preserve the delicate mood, Bobby W. led us in singing scandalous blasphemous parodies of hitherto unsoiled Christmas carols.

Well, of course, once more I was in *tears* but this time not the good kind.

But I have to admit that his parody of "The Little Drummer Boy" with rum-pum-pum-pum replaced by Barack Obama (Barack Obama) has redeemed, nay elevated, the original. And if Bob W. sends me a copy, it will receive its Net debut right here.

All good things must end. Brother Jon read two Dylan poems -- Dylan, the One, not Dylan the Zimmerman -- "Fern Hill" and .... The second was an old man's poem, or Thomas's young-man vision of being an old man, quite an inconvenient state, and *being* an old man, my memory washes it off. (There. All gone.)

Jon read them beautifully, though. It was really quite a special salon, which makes two in a row. I think we shall crank one up here come early February. Needs a theme, though. Suggestions?

Masters of Foreplay...

... is the motto of Team Viagra.

Now let's see if the Google search worm takes notice.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yesterday in Journalism Ethics We Discussed Lou Grant, Season One, Episode Five

Jonah Hill, american actor (MACBA, Barcelona).Image via Wikipedia

Reporter friend whose name I reserve:

Pretty good discussion yesterday! Nothing earthshaking, but the kids did note many of the “dated” elements – Billie’s flirting; the “patriarchal” newsroom – and their possible “ethical” significance -- and we had quite a good time talking about how the presentation of the text – the casting; the direction – pushed us toward taking Billie’s side. We talked about how different out reaction might be if the Nazi had been played by Jonah Hill, whom I assume you enjoyed in Superbad…

Dig the opinions of my other experts. I said you were the only one of the four who was not pretty much constantly drunk during the workday.

Ehe Education Reporter

I think the issue here is less about the ethics of the case than in how reckless they were in ignoring the Jewish Nazi's threats to kill her and maybe take others down ("I have nothing to lose," he said in the newspaper office.) They should have gotten the police or FBI involved to watch this guy, if not the entire terrorist organization.

But I guess that's a 21st century perspective. (Also, Billy's coy 'li'l ol' me' behavior at the beginning would never wash today.)

Strictly on the run/don't run question, sure they had to run the story. Not only was it a great tale -- which your crazy Jewish Nazi always will be-- but it's kind of like ol' Lou said at the end: It's a valuable lesson in how hateful behavior comes about. (Or words to that effect.) That's important for people to understand before terrorism gets out of control. So my view is that it would have been more irresponsible to sit on it than to run it, despite the suicide.

But getting back to my earlier point, they got off easy. He could have taken them all down. Btw, there was a real-life example of this, sorta. Tanya Schevitz was covering the hell out of UC in about 2006 or 7 when the UC chancellor (a woman...can't remember her name) hurled herself off a building in SF. Poor Tanya actually heard the words "you killed her."

The Columnist

Watched the Lou Grant episode, pleasantly surprised to see the reporter and boss meet in a bar. Ah, good times. As to ethics, I didn’t see an ethical question. The reporter played it by the book mostly. She asked if it was all right to use her tape recorder to a friendly interviewer, didn’t mention it to the Nazi, used the old, “accurate quotes” explanation when he brought it up. A minor sin and how business is done. The episode showed the work involved in a story, while avoiding the boredom, fear and discomfort of talking to strangers. A minor sin. The Jewish-Nazi guy is a legitimate news story, what people do with it is up to them. Nobody knows the future.

So, I don’t see an ethical dilemma. It’s more of a made-up TV ethical dilemma.

The Prize Winner

Enjoyed the opportunity to view the old Lou Grant episode and maybe contribute a “true blue” journalist’s opinion of the ethical question(s) raised in the TV production. No question that the newspaper was justified, and duty bound, to run the Striker story. Young Striker’s fatal destiny began the day he rejected his Jewish birthright for the ideological hatred of Adolph Hitler, a vile, deluded murderer sworn to eradicate the Jewish race--- his people, his family, his heritage. From my perspective the paper’s profile on Striker and his gang of crazies did not drive him to self destruction. The man’s horrific guilt of inflicting pain on his family, and the Jewish community worldwide, took him over the edge. After all, here was a man who was a, “clear thinker”, intelligent, grounded, according to a former teacher. Exposure by the media, highlighted by Striker being a Jew, prompted the man, I believe, to grasp the realization of a series of unforgivable choices. Hitler did not have the right idea. Neither did Striker in aligning with the architect of the Holocaust. Good reporters should not get weepy if a misguided, guilt-driven young man ends his life because the beacon of truth found him in a dark lonely crowd idolizing violence against selective humanity.

The Executive Editor

I parse the dilemma in two steps:

1. Before you decide to publish, you weigh how public the person is and what his danger to society is. If the guy has been the public face of the American Nazi party and an out-there KKK member, then he has made himself public and his politics and background are relevant and fair game. If he is a closeted Nazi and KKK member, and otherwise a nice guy, his politics and background and personal beliefs are none of your business. But if the guy is a private person, and you have clear evidence that he is a serial killer, child molester or otherwise presents a clear and present danger, then you must take action (perhaps going to the cops rather than publishing a story, but that's another discussion).

2. Assuming you decide there is a story and it is worthy of publication, you ask yourself: What is the worst that could happen? If you can live with that worst, then publish. If you can't, then consider your alternatives. Among those might be: Should you be in the reporting/editing business? Another alternative is to make the information public is a less threatening way: Slip the item to your gossip columnist so he/she can print a "blind item" that won't identify you or, directly, the Nazi/KKK fellow. Or, these days, post anonymously on the Web...

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bullet Points

My word. I calculate it's been months -- nay, years -- since I went six days without posting. Certainly many a week I've filled the air with many a "faux" post -- a link, a jape, a picture of a cat -- but like the shark I *have* kept moving, and thus the blog kept breathing. (It's alive. It's alive.) So I have let you down, Friends of the Blog.

I rather think my lack of posts means the world has been too much with me, so my silence is symptom. (Say that three times fast.) Let's reverse engineer this puppy: I'll post as if all were well, and the semblance may become the thing.

A bulleted week:

* Big doin's at the U. The administration has announced that our habitual Monday-Wednesday/Tuesday-Thursday teaching sked will now become TR/MWF. The idea is eliminating underuse of classrooms on Friday. I don't think the new scheduling works for a lot of reasons, and we don't like it for a lot of reasons -- though the two sets of reasons are not necessarily the same. More to come, dear reader.

* I have a cold. Like Frank Sinatra.

* E. misses her mom.

* I went biking by the bay (try to say that... oh never mind) with Big Pat Daugherty on a brisk fine day, weather crisp enough to fool you into thinking the next day would be crisper still and the next crisper still, until: winter cold. But that's not what happens here. Just a whisper of winter but, like Godot, it never comes.

* I had a nice visit with Eric Mar's legislative analyst Cassandra Costello (a former student) and Daniel Homsey, who works for SF getting neighborhoods tanned, fit and ready to solve their own problems. He had some great ideas about getting USF journalism students out in the neighborhoods around us. A light bulb flashes in my head: hyperlocal news.

* And why don't you welcome me back as a potent poster by watching the episode of Lou Grant I've linked to below. I've asked the journalism ethics class to watch it as prep for Monday discussion of Ethical Dilemmas!!

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Richard Has Started Up the Leaf Lottery for This Year

The Commissioner's Letter

The Leaf Lottery is back. A review of the rules

* Email back the date you think the last leaf will fall from the crab apple tree in our front yard

* Costs US$1 to enter. Winner takes all.

* Must send your date by 11-16-2009

* Last possible date is Valentine's Day, 2/14/2010

* If someone else has your date already, you can pick another Commissioner Impressions Many leaves have fallen and lots are yellow, but the green ones look strong.

Leaf History

2003 first blossom not recorded
last leaf fell on 11/16/2003 no lottery

2004 first blossom not recorded
last leaf fell on 11/19/2004 no lottery

2005 first blossom not recorded last leaf fell 2/13/2006
lottery winner Reah jackpot $8 Reah had last date allowed some leaves still on tree on Valentine's Day

2006 first blossom 4/1/2006 last leaf fell 12/26/2006 lottery winner Reah jackpot $9 Leaf Dominatrix wins second in a row winning pick made from Malawi donates 2 years winnings to 2007 pot

2007 first blossom 3/16/2007 last leaf fell 2/7/2008 lottery winner Jennifer winning pick made from Dubai jackpot $13 Dubai champ donates winnings (including prior years) to Oakland Children's Hospital

2008 first blossom 3/11/2008 last leaf fell 12/25/2008 no lottery

2009 first blossom 3/7/2009

I'm Teaching Arts Reviewing in the Spring: A Nice Exercise from the Last Time I Taught It

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Just Feeling Very Quiet, Very Peaceful

San Francisco City HallImage via Wikipedia

Quite a lot has gone on this week, events and explorations of one kind or another, but every time I've sat down to write, I've concluded:

Oh that's nobody's business. Interesting. From whence comes this sudden desire for privacy? Blogger ego tells blogger that what blogger thinks is everybody's business, or should be, since blogger's life is illustrative, microcosmic, fascinating in its particularity and its generality, for are there not lessons in both varieties of experience?

But there's obviously plenty of ego in the sudden notion I should not be sharing since it assumes someone is paying attention!! (Two exclamation points. How many things deserve two exclamation points? The U.S. Constitution? The Ten Commandments?)

I graded my ethics midterm. That's between me and the students. I took reporting class to San Francisco City Hall. The things I could tell you about Supervisor Eric Mar (but won't). Pat and I took our weekly bike ride. (The proverbial fly on the wall would have been left far behind.)

I'm suddenly hoarding my trivia. I don't deserve the name of blogger.
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Augmented Reality

Football Memories

Someone just called this to my attention. If I knew then what I know now: more time in the weight room.

One-Word Wit

with Anu Garg



noun: One who does useless work.

From Latin nihil (nothing).

"You may find yourself worrying that you're turning into a nihilarian."
Sian Prior; Ineffable; The Age (Melbourne, Australia); Dec 16, 2002.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Remarkable Picture of Chimpanzees Grieving (Perhaps)

I include the link because the photo was pointed out to me by my sister, who learned of it from her daughter-in-law who is curator of mammals at the Knoxville zoo.

Odd how sometimes the pointing out -- I personally want *you* to see *this* -- frames the experience and makes it resonate. But the photo does make you wonder about the degree to which animals (the ones who aren't us) feel and think.
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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Lake Merritt Boathouse Restaurant is a Work in Progress

<span class=Image by marymactavish via Flickr

Last month we had a meal at Oakland's own brand new Lake Merritt Boathouse restaurant, which they call the Lake Chalet, a nomenclature a little too Alpine for me, but what do I know from marketing?

Wonderful view. Tasty food. Very slow service.

(But they're learning, we thought.)

Today E. and I walked around the beautiful lake itself. Full of pleasure in ourselves, the city, the beauty of the day, the heterogeneity of those who walked with us -- it ain't Alaska, Sis Palin, where the true darkness is your own heart -- we felt we deserved a treat and thus descended on the restaurant's outdoor dining area.Which was packed. Every table filled save one, which we grabbed.

Our vaguely hipster waiter did not inspire confidence:

And also a pork sandwich.

Drinkin' what with that?


And what to eat?

Pork sandwich.

Potato or pasta salad?


And what kind of sandwich was that?

Pork. Pork sandwich. Sandwich made with pork.

That was E.'s order. I wanted the shrimp poor boy, which the waiter did get his mind around, so tightly around it that he brought us two of them. Us being us we kept it without complaint. It was pretty good.

But when we went to get the bill -- in no hurry to arrive, but I blame the mindlessness of paper -- E. did point out the mistake to the waiter since the poor boys were cheaper than the elusive pork sandwich. Ineptitude is one thing, but chicanery is another.

Our harried hipster removed the second poor boy from our bill: Hurrah! And then he charged us for four drinks rather than two. Which we pointed out and which he corrected.

I tipped him nicely anyway, but E. demanded I tip him grandly, which (bless me) I did, since I suppose sometimes I am a little tight-fisted, and I am sensitive to her opinion of me. But this time I hadn't been tight-fisted in the first place, so the new tip was nonsensically large, as if we were apologizing for complaining.

Oh well. It's a lovely restaurant. And they really are learning, or trying to.

Arnie's Anti-Paparazzi Law in Toto

CA Anti-Paparazzi Law