Dear Pat Ryan,

I just thought I’d check in to see how things are going with you.  Some of us have gotten a little curious because we haven’t heard much of anything from you in a while now and we started to wonder what was going on.  I mean, if you say you’re going to write a blog, it is customary to actually write something from time to time.  You know, something to make the customers realize that you’re not stone dead, or ignoring them, or “too busy with work and other things” to be bothered keeping up with your commitments.  C’mon, just six damn posts in the last four months?  What’s the deal?

I mean, fercryingoutloud, in just the last few months you’ve passed up the chance to say something about:

You’ve sort of led people to believe that you cared about civil liberties and the whole gay marriage thing, or were at least interested in the subject, but when

you observe radio silence.  I mean, you gotta understand why the people would at least wonder if you’ve given up, or converted or something.

You even let this great picture on Twitter go by without any acknowledgement!

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So anyway, I’d just like to say I hope you get your shit together and try to be a little more regular contributor in this space, or the owners may start thinking seriously about changing the name up there at the top of the page.

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Posted in American Values, Blogging, Civil Rights, Education, Funny, History, Intellectual Dishonesty, Justice, Media Criticism, Patriots, Politics, Religion, Science, That's Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Watch Cosmos, be less dumb

I wouldn’t be much of a television professional if I didn’t watch a lot of TV, have an opinion on all of it, and insist on sharing that opinion even when you don’t ask.  But I do; I do; and even though you didn’t, here goes.

I hope you’re watching Cosmos.  If you’re not, you can catch it online here as well as on Fox and a few of the Fox-affiliated networks; next new episode is Sunday night.  Astronomer/rock star Neil deGrasse Tyson is an engaging if slightly self-absorbed host for a journey of the imagination that’s not only exploring out in space, but back in time.  This version takes full advantage of the capabilities of the medium in the modern day and tells a great story.  I don’t find it as enthralling as the original with astronomer/rock star Carl Sagan back in 1980, but it’s not fair to compare the two, not for people like me who saw the Sagan series when we were young and the things he talked about were actually new and unknown to us.  For me, it had the advantage of provoking wonderment in a way the current version just can’t; I hope it does for the kids of today.

The new series, produced by Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan, Seth McFarlane and others, is providing easy-to-follow explanations of some difficult scientific concepts.  The writers and producers have found a way to lay things out so you can understand the concept in the same way you eat an elephant (one bite at a time); it’s not scary to learn new things here.  I particularly liked Episode 2 for the explanation of evolution by natural selection.  Anyone who didn’t watch that show with a preset determination that evolution is for atheists could grasp the basics; yes, you’ve got to give up the notion that the Earth is only 6000 years old and that people and dinosaurs lived side by side, but you will understand what the scientific terms “evolution” and “natural selection” really mean.  It should be required viewing for the members of the Texas State Board of Education, that’s for sure.

If you prefer yours in a handy graphical form, here’s a swell chart from Reddit user SlipperyFish done for The Infographics Project (thumbnail image via Thinkstock).  Thanks to Upworthy for the link to this short answer to a perennial favorite dumb question:

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Posted in Admirable Writing, Education, History, Media Criticism, Science, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hang down your head, Hearst Newspapers

There’s been a running argument over the last 20 years or so about whether or not newspapers should run ads on their front pages.  The front page is sacred, the old school guys insist: all news and only news, because this is how we show the reader that they’ve come to a serious source of news.  Yes, of course we need to sell ads to stay in business, but we don’t run them on the front page.  We just don’t.

This is one of those fights that the old school guys have been losing, slowly, one paper after another.  A few years back the American Journalism Review ran a good, short history of the issue and outlined reasons for and against.

Gene Patterson, former chairman of the Poynter Institute and former editor of the St. Petersburg Times, sees the page-one ad as a sign of painful economic times for newspapers. “I find the section-front ads to be acceptable; I find the page-one ads repugnant,” he says. “But if they are done tastefully and held down in size, I think perhaps we have to accept them… We have to police it and monitor it and be guided by taste, but I don’t think the advertisers want to ruin us. We are their vehicle, after all, and I think we can work with them to achieve compromises.”

Others want to hold the line. Gene Roberts, a former managing editor of the New York Times and executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, says front-page ads are just another in a series of industry mistakes triggered by short-term thinking. “It’s one more in this kind of death by a thousand cuts that the newspaper business seems to be administering to itself,” says Roberts, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland, which houses AJR. “In the long run, the big necessity is to get and maintain readers, and I think without question that front-page ads work against readership.”

(snip)

Page-one placement can spark visceral reactions not only from journalists but also from readers. Take the case in March of the fluorescent advertising stickers (for a motor oil company and a carpet-and-flooring company) pasted atop the front page of the Hartford Courant. Reader Representative Karen Hunter received several indignant comments on her blog. “That is disgusting to have advertising on the front page of my newspaper,” wrote one woman. Said another: “This has got to stop.” One reader took it further, accusing the Tribune Co., the Courant’s parent, of “absolutely whoring for advertising… It screams, ‘We’re desperate!’ It screams, ‘Ethics be damned!'”

Imagine what they would say if they got a look at this Sunday’s edition in my hometown.  Today, over at Houston’s Leading Information Source, they threw in the towel on this argument.  Not only do we now run ads on the front page, we run two pages of ads in front of the front page!

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After the initial shock, I decided I’m not really surprised.  More’s the pity.

Posted in Media Criticism, That's Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

This just in: Arizona governor vetoes “religious freedom” bill

Good for Gov. Jan Brewer, for taking a stand against hate and discrimination.  Nobody over the age of reason is falling for this “religious freedom” argument.  It’s a sign—a good sign—that the extremists see the writing on the wall, and are getting more desperate.

Hell, even a judge in Texas has struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage!  What more evidence do you need that things really are changing…

Posted in American Values, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Intellectual Dishonesty, Justice, Politics, Privacy, Religion, Tolerance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Olympics Friday, America

Are you like me, did you think that the downhill skiing could be both exciting and dangerous?  Well, we don’t know the half of it: at Sochi 2014, it’s extreme!

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