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!
I’m not the most cynical person around when it comes to the practice of journalism today…really, I’m not. If I was completely cynical about what passes for a lot of the journalism being published these days—if I believed it was a lost cause, a total sellout to the evil forces of what David Shaw called “the four horsemen of the journalistic apocalypse: superficiality, sensationalism, preoccupation with celebrity, and obsession with the bottom line”—then I wouldn’t bother talking about it at all; there’d be no point. I feel there’s still some good in there, or can be, perhaps in the way that Luke Skywalker could feel the Anakin Skywalker that still remained within Darth Vader. I must still try to turn it back to the good side of the Force.
Many of my contemporaries in the post-Watergate generation went into journalism with an idealized and inflated vision of what journalists could do, and we really did (and do) believe in the vital importance of the role of journalism as a watchdog over government power, a role that was understood and respected by the Founding Fathers to a far greater extent than it is by today’s civic and government leaders and a growing percentage of the general public. But without doubt, the excitement of being a reporter was part of the attraction, too.
Jim Romenesko linked to a recent Brain Pickings post highlighting a 1940 Encyclopedia Britannica film from the Your Life Work series, which called the film an “idealistic manifesto for the deeper ethos of journalism as a calling.” Yea…and it’s funny to see how they were selling it to the pre-World War II student body; enjoy…
While you’re at it, take a look at this video that fights against itself trying to disprove the idea that a pretty girl in a bikini is not necessarily a distraction to effective instruction.
And when you’re done, nose around Brain Pickings…some interesting stuff there on the notion of creativity.
I’m ashamed of myself for something I did this afternoon…except that I’m not, not really, and that bothers me, too. Clear?
I was flying X-wing fighters (on the computer, not for real) when the phone rang, and I was peeved because that meant I was going to have to look away from the screen to find the two-key combination for “pause” and I hoped I wouldn’t get killed in the meantime. Just don’t answer the phone, you say—yeah, but it might be my wife.
It wasn’t. It was a man’s voice asking if this was the Ryan residence, and immediately I’m thinking, jeez, some knucklehead selling something or asking for a donation is taking me away from what I want to be doing; the nerve of this maroon. He launches into what immediately felt to me like the opening of a sob story that had the skeptic in me—OK, the cynic in me—thinking that someone was trying to con me. So I became very restrained, tried to concentrate and not stupidly reveal that one crucial detail that would let this guy get away with it (whatever it was).
He explained that he was calling because of misdelivered mail: he’d opened an envelope and found a check that wasn’t for him, so he looked more closely and saw it was from an out of state bank –“Do you have an account in Boston?”—addressed to a woman at my address—“Is your wife’s name Florence?”—and that he got in his car and brought it to our house but no one was home except the dogs (who aren’t allowed to open the door to strangers), so he left it hidden inside the Christmas wreath on the front door so it wouldn’t blow away, and he wanted to let us know it was there—“Is it there?”
Of course, I’m way too smart for this: I’m not going to rush over and open the front door, eight entire feet away, to see if there’s an envelope hidden in the Christmas wreath (puh-leeze!) because I think this guy—or better yet, a confederate!—is strategically positioned so he can see me open the door, and then he’ll…well I don’t know what, but something, I’m sure of that!
Since I was in a good mood I didn’t go off on the guy; I asked his name, learned that his street address is not the same as mine (not even close), thanked him for his efforts and ended the call, all with the quiet confidence of a man who knows he has skillfully avoided danger and is eager to get back to fighting the Empire. A few minutes later I casually opened the front door, and…there’s an envelope stuffed into the Christmas wreath; it’s addressed to my wife, from a bank in Boston, and inside is a check for more than $22,000!
One reason I was suspicious of the call was we weren’t supposed to receive a large check from any bank in Boston, or anywhere else. My wife’s employer is liquidating its old pension plan, though, and neglected to explain that when she elected to roll it into the company’s existing 401(k) that she would still receive a check that had to be delivered to the mutual fund.
Time to review: a man we don’t know opens his mail and finds a check for $22,000 that doesn’t belong to him; rather than just send the check back to the Post Office, he gets in his car and drives the few miles to our house to put it in our hands; when we’re not home to accept delivery he secures the envelope so it won’t become lost; and when he calls us to make sure we found the envelope, he gets mistrust and skepticism rather than the thanks he deserves.
A couple of months ago during the frenzy over a Muslim group’s plan to build a community center a few blocks from the hole in the ground where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood, Houston’s Leading Information Source reported on the local Muslims who were introducing themselves to neighbors and assuring them that they were not terrorists; I thought, have we really become so fearful now that the whole world is guilty until proven innocent?
Today, I’m wondering where I should be drawing the line between prudence and paranoia.
Some news of the day, in easy to swallow bites
A Supreme take on tolerance
One cool thing about retired justices of the Supreme Court is they tell us what they really think about things, like John Paul Stevens dropping his impartiality to talk about the community-center-with-a-mosque-near-ground-zero affair that we discussed back in August.
He said that a nation built by people who fled religious persecution “should understand why American Muslims should enjoy the freedom to build their places of worship wherever permitted by local zoning laws.”
He called the [National Japanese American Memorial] “a powerful reminder of the fact that ignorance — that is to say, fear of the unknown — is the source of most invidious prejudice.”
Princess Leia inspires boy—to build hologram
Another cool thing—real holograms!
Worst thing about being president was name-calling?
Former President George W. Bush says the lowest point of his presidency was when Kanye West called him a racist over the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Really? It wasn’t September 11, or not catching bin Laden, or the economic crash with the bankruptcies, foreclosures, debt, and job losses? It wasn’t lying to start a war that’s cost thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, or Abu Ghraib? Not even the fact you couldn’t help ease the very real suffering of those victims of Katrina? (And why do you care what Kanye West thinks? Are you really so self-absorbed that you think that’s the worst thing that happened during those eight years? Really?)
A lot of that daily 200 mil is for Michelle’s hairdressers
You can say almost anything and be believed, if you’re careful who you speak to. Citing only a report in one Indian newspaper, which cites only one unnamed source, the geniuses of the political right have been trumpeting their disgust about the “fact” that our government is going to spend $200 million a day on President Obama’s diplomatic trip to India, including sending 34 warships to sit security off the coast of Mumbai. Yeah, more than the daily cost of the war in Afghanistan, or the full purchase price of the New Jersey Nets. Talk about your willing suspension of disbelief…
We’ve also just learned that water is wet
No, really: they sequenced Ozzy Osbourne’s DNA and confirmed what had long been suspected: he’s a mutant.