October 01, 2002

Been spending most of today trying to catch up on e-mail. After a couple of hours, I've caught up with most of my e-mail from this week.

I still have yet to reply to e-mail from folks who have been waiting for months to hear back.

Before Alexander was born (he's currently lying on a play mat in my office, playing quietly as he discovers that his hands can grab things around him), I had no excuse for being such a bad correspondent. Now, I can say, "Well, the kid has been taking a lot of energy, time, and effort out of my day."

He's a regular excusinator!

And, yes, there will be more pictures posted soon. So there.

I'm pleased to report, however, that I've finally resumed real writing this week. I polished up and sent out a story on Monday that has not been in circulation before, and I hope to get another one into circulation by the end of the week.

Still no takers on my novel, but I'm still sending it out.

I have set a personal goal of at least one professional sale by Labor Day of next year (2003). Not much of a goal, but one needs to start somewhere. I'm confident that one of my short stories currently in the works will snag a slot in a professional publication.

The weather is here. Wish you were beautiful.

Let's see, what else is there to report...

Oh, yeah, I have to make a political observation. Now, I don't have a live television feed (no cable, no satellite, and the rabbit ears hardly work out here in mountain country), so I've missed any television coverage, but I've been reading from time to time about the recent arrests in Washington DC of protesters. These are the folks protesting the IMF and the World Bank and all that.

The protesters were complaining that they are being arrested in violation of their constitutional rights. And yet, as I look at my copy of the constitution, the bill of rights provides that Congress shall make no law abridging "... the right of the people to peaceably assemble...." Where is there a problem here? The protesters were not peaceably assembling. Assembling with the purpose of disruption is not peaceable. It is disruptive.

And yet, there are even legal provisions for the kind of disruptive behavior the protestors were engaged in, in the form of permits for that kind of massive assembly. By filing such a permit, you enable the authorities to better accommodate and mitigate the disruptiveness of your assembly. The protesters were not interested in being accommodated. They wanted disruption, not peaceable assembly. Their Constitution rights were not violated. QED.

Just some food for thought.

Posted by at 10:29 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (3)
 October 09, 2002
The Worlds Funniest Censorship

Paulette recently sent some friends and me a link to an article on abc "news" dot com about research into the "World's Funniest Joke." While I'd hardly call this news, it certainly fills the infotainment genre that ABC, CNN, and others call news. I was very infotained, as several of the jokes listed were quite fun.

The winning joke, as quoted by ABC:

"Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other man pulls out his phone and calls emergency services.

He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator in a calm, soothing voice replies: "Take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."

There is a silence, then a shot is heard.

Back on the phone, the hunter says, "OK, now what?"

I like it. This would probably work better as a radio sketch than it does as a written joke, but I still like it. A friend, however, who was on this discussion thread said she had heard about the contest results on a local (New Jersey) radio station, and that the station had said that the winning joke was about New Jersey. Alas, looking at the ABC "News" article reveals nothing about New Jersey.

Then, on a lark, I checked the site of the actual contest, which revealed that the winning joke *does* mention New Jersey:

A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: "Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: "OK, now what?"

Notice that the New Jersey reference is not the only change made in the ABC "News" article.

What galls me the most, insofar as anyone can be galled by an infotainment piece about the World's Funniest Joke, is that ABC "News" presented the winning entry in quotation marks and then paraphrased it, rather than quoting it.

And, why? Why? Did ABC's rewording of the joke make it any funnier? Any less offensive to New Jersey hunters? Any less shocking to the squeamish, with the original joke's reference to his eyes being rolled back? I mean, what gives?

I'm very accustomed to the "news" getting it wrong. Misquotes are a fact of life, and always have been in infotainment. But what gives when you have the original text right in front of you to cut and paste into quotation marks? What?

Censorship isn't funny.

Say, that reminds me of a joke. How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb? Oh, wait....

Posted by at 02:52 PM in the following Department(s): Essays , Humor | Comments (2)
 October 10, 2002
That Was Then Isn't Anymore

ABC-TV's drama "That Was Then" is no more. It has been cancelled. After a mere two airings, the show has been removed from the ABC primetime lineup because, according to this infotainment story, it's ratings were lower than Mike Tyson's IQ.

I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing (with regard to my novel, which has an almost similar premise), insofar as I never saw the show and have no idea whether it was done well or not. But if your ratings are Very Bad after only two weeks, it does suggest either that either the premise wasn't compelling or the quality of the show was somewhat worse than Rosanne Barr's singing.

Did anybody see the first episode? The last one? I guess the ratings indicate the answer is, uh, no.

Posted by at 02:14 PM in the following Department(s): Novel-in-Progress | Comments (5)
 October 11, 2002
Cute Picture of the Cute Kid

Alexander turned 11 weeks old last Saturday. He'll be 12 weeks old on the 12th of this month (that's tomorrow). I haven't been as good about posting pictures as I was a while ago. Part of that (admittedly, only a small part) has been not wanting for Alexander to take over my web site -- I know that not all of you come here just to hear his Daddy gush about what a great kid he is.

Then again, I haven't been posting regularly, anyway. But I *have* still been taking pictures. Every once in a while, I forward the full images to my mother, who then makes them suitable for the web and posts them on her site. Although, I notice the last batch or two still isn't up yet. Hint, Mom. Hint.

Still, some of you have asked to see something more recent, and I particularly like this photo of Alexander that Paulette took just a few days ago. As the budding photogs we are, we've been playing with lighting, backgrounds, etc., and I think that everything came together quite nicely on this one.

Alexander remains happy and healthy, and he'll be meeting his paternal grandfather for the first time in about a week. Every day, he makes more (as in different) sounds and offers more facial expressions. His smile is huuuuuge. He still can't change the fuel pump in the car but, fortunately, the fuel pump should last a little longer yet.

I'm told that once he's three months old (which isn't that far away at this point), he'll be even more interactive than he is now. I guess once he starts eating solid foods, he be even *more* interactive. (This is a sly reference to the fact that he doesn't produce anything that smells bad... yet.)

Ain't he a cutie? Sorry for the long download time, but I just had to share this picture.

Posted by at 03:40 PM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (1)
 October 14, 2002
Sports Writing

Okay, I've been ranting a bit about infotainment lately, insofar as that which is called "news" these days is really, uh, not news in any sense of the word that pertains to "journalism" or "reporting."

Anyway, back when I was in college -- back when I was the news director at commercial-albeit-student-run radio station WVBR-FM, in fact -- a friend of mine often made the case that the best writing in infotainment (we ironically referred to infotainment as "newspapers" back then) could be found in the sports pages. He would often cite that, while the alleged "news" sections of the paper were devoted to human misery, the sports pages were free to celebrate human achievements. As well as misery.

And even if he didn't make the point at the time, I think we both would have agreed that the sports pages also enjoyed the benefit of readers *knowing* that the text was *supposed* to be opinionated as well as informative; entertaining as well as, uh, interesting. At least the sports pages are up front about that, and suffer no pretensions to unbiased reportage.

Okay, maybe he wouldn't have agreed on that point, I don't know. However, he was pretty clear that the best *writing* was to be found in the sports pages, and given our local papers at the time (we're talking Ithaca, NY, here, folks), he had a point.

Having lived in Buffalo, Ithaca, London, Ithaca, Philadelphia, Boston, Philadelphia, Boston, Princeton, Boston, Seattle, Boston, and Seattle, the argument seems to hold true for every local paper I've sampled. The infotainment papers of each of these cities had (have) deplorable "news" sections, but pretty decent sports writing.

So why tell you this now? Well, I chanced to be reading an online account of a football game today -- in fact, it's a Seattle Seahawks "newspaper" account of the Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans game -- that I found to be a real hoot. Check it out. The author manages to work in a few facts, sure, but that doesn't detract from the writing the way it often does in the "news." Rather, they serve to highlight a wonderful point that is further drawn out with most delicious irony. The author manages to work in political commentary and, I believe, a credible indictment of the particular players, the particular teams, and even the particular sport that serves as the centerpiece, all with a most straight-faced, sledgehammer-like subtlety. It truly is inspired writing.

If you like comedy, that is.

Posted by at 12:10 AM in the following Department(s): Sports | Comments (0)
 October 21, 2002
A turn for the Verse

At this month's RASP open-mic night at Victor's Coffee Company, I learned that one of our regular performers is losing her eyesight. This explained why she made such pains to compose and memorize her poetry, rather than read something committed to paper. I devised a poem on the spot in an effort to try to make a humorous homage, but I have since forgotten it. I am reminded, however, of an attempt I once made at combining poetry techniques and memorizing it. It went something like this:

Roses are Red and
Violets are Blue. This po'm
Rhymes, and it's haiku!

Posted by at 11:29 PM in the following Department(s): Poetry | Comments (0)
One Good Turn...

Yesterday, October 20th, marked the three-month anniversary of Alexander Benjamin's arrival into the world. This evening, while I was out at a meeting, marked another milestone in Alexander's life: he turned from lying on his back onto his side.

He turned! And I wasn't here to see it!

The kid is going to be crawling around in no time!

Alexander's paternal grandfather was here for a visit this past weekend, leaving our fair city just this afternoon (and thus, like me, just missed seeing Alexander turning on his side for the first time). A fun visit was had by all. I'll post a picture or two, shortly. And this time, I mean it!

Posted by at 11:40 PM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (0)

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