Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Help Is 'Round The Corner

My heart's heavy for friends, family and neighbors in Joplin, Mo. Here's a hurried column I wrote reflecting on the EF5 tornado that decimated my hometown. I'm heading back this weekend to spend a few days trying to capture the immense damage and grief. Right now I'm for the right focus, considering all of the other journalists down there, and the fact that I'm late on the scene. But there are so many stories that need to be told.

This song's been on my mind as a result of all the uncertainly and helplessness in the air.

Stuck here, in the middle of nowhere
With a headache, and a heavy heart
Well, nothing was going quite right here
And I'm tired, I can't play my part

Oh, come on, come on
Oh, what a state I'm in
Oh, come on, come on
Why won't it just sink in?
That help is just around the corner for us

Oh, my head won't stop aching
And I'm sat here, licking my wounds
And I'm shattered, but it really doesn't matter
Cause my rescue is gonna be here soon

Oh, come on, come on
Oh, What a state I'm in
Oh, come on, come on
Why won't it just sink in?

That help is just around the corner for us

Monday, May 9, 2011

Who needs men?

Just browsed an article in the Wall Street Journal that makes the by-now-popular point that women are surpassing men in many fields, including but not limited to the workplace, college, salaries, grades, etc. Here's a taste:
Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men's attachment to the sandbox. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There's nothing they have to do.

They might as well just have another beer.
I completely agree that there's an alarming trend of laziness and failure to launch in modern 20-somethings. I know plenty of guys—and girls—who fall into that category. I do in some ways myself. But somehow this means that men suck they're no longer needed? If a man wrote an article like this article about women (and I'm sure there have been many), how would we feel? When there's a fundamental lack of respect for gender and humanity, little will improve.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Overheard: Sunday breakfast

Late on a Sunday morning in May. A corner diner nestled in the crook of one of Chicago's many six-way intersections.

"Are you going to make up your mind, asshole?" Rodney asks his friend. They're sitting at the triangular bar in the middle of the restaurant. "What are you going to have? What are you going to order? Do you know yet?"

The waitress arrives.
"An Americano, please," the friend says.
"Americano," she confirms. "And you?"
"Uh, gimme a diet Coke," Rodney says.
"Know what you guys want to eat yet?"
"Sure. Are you ready?" the friend asks Rodney.
"No. I need more time. Do I want breakfast? Or do I want lunch? I can't decide."

Rodney scratches his head. He's a young-ish, fair-skinned guy, maybe early-3os, but his hair, sideburns and stubble are grizzled. There's a tattoo of an evil cartoon rabbit on his left forearm, swathed in orange flames. The rabbit is holding a pair of red dice.

"What are you going to get, jackass?" Rodney asks his friend. "Want some pancakes? Some pe-can pan-cakes? With some Georgia pe-cans? You're a Southern boy, so you probably want some pe-cans. What do you think of this place? Okay for a diner, right?"

The waitress is back.
"I'll have the pancakes, please," the friend says. "With some pecans on top, if you can."
"Pancakes, got it. And you?"
"Pulled-pork sammich!" Rodney says. "Pulled-pork sammich!"
"Okay, pulled pork. What kind of side?"
"Pulled-pork sammich!"
"Tots, sweet-potato fries, regular fries?"
"Oh. Um, fries. Regular. Pulled-pork sammich! Oh, and a cup of the chicken soup. And pull out two pieces of pie and set them aside. Do you want pie?"
"Yeah, I want pie," the friend replies.

The waitress sets their food on the counter. Rodney sucks the soup off his spoon.
"Oh, there's wild long-grain rice in this. That wasn't in the description. They should advertise that. It's a selling point. They'd sell more. Stupid white people think it's healthier. Well, it is healthy."
He sets the top half of the bun on his unused coffee cup.
"I hate buns. What should I do with it? I could use it as a hat. Like a bun-yarmulke."

The waitress refills their drinks.
"I'm feeling weird today," Rodney is saying to his friend. "Like, kind and generous and positive toward the world. I'm usually an asshole. I remember when I was in kindergarten, and I got beat up by some first-graders. They were girls. Her name was Melissa Monroe, and she had a box of fancy crayons and a sharpener. She'd make fun of me for having the simple crayons. She had silver-copper and gold-coper and Ferrari red. Who needs yellow-green and green-yellow?"
He looks down at his plate.
"I think I have that psychological disorder where I can't have my foods touching each other. I would freak out. Except corn, gravy and potatoes. You just have to moosh all that together. You know, I don't even like Irish people, but I still like potatoes."
"What about eggs, bacon and hashbrowns?" the friend asks.
"Well, yeah, that's a given."

The waitress brings the pie. She clears the used plates with the forks still on them.
Rodney and his friend look at their dessert, wondering what to do.
"Damn!" says Rodney. "It's like that Greek myth where the guy was neck-deep in water but couldn't drink. What was his name? Damocles? No, of course not. Why did I say that? Oh, because I said damn."
He laughed at his joke. The waitress dropped off their check before bustling off to help another customer.
"I was laughing and forgot to say 'fork.' But the last time I said that, someone said, 'Fork me? Well, screw you, too!'"
"Was it Sisyphus? The guy in the myth?" the friend asks, getting out his smartphone.
"I don't care what diseases he had; I just want his name!" Rodney quips. "Sisyphus? Syphilis? Come on, that was funny!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Journalists Matter #573

This, from Robert Feder's interview with former Chicago Tribune editor Ann Marie Tara Lipinski. Seems especially relevant considering all the misguided talk about how Twitter "reported" the story on bin Laden's death, not news organizations. Booyeah.

Q. Do you feel you’re still as well informed as you’d like to be?

A. When I was an editor I used to say that the value of something like the Chicago Tribune is the hands of all these editors and reporters making choices for you, the reader — culling information, reporting it, writing it, editing it, shooting it. You don’t have time in your life to do that, or you may not know how to do it, so we’re going to do that for you. But frankly, there were times when I suspected I was just saying that because that’s what I did. I wanted to think it was true.

But I am more convinced than ever of the value of that. I crave great editing. I crave it. Because I don’t have time, and I don’t have a bunch of journalists I can send off to answer the question I want answered or solve the problem I want solved. That’s not my work anymore. And I so value it when it’s done well. I don’t want to have to be my own editor as much as I want somebody else doing it for me. I’m a big admirer of it being done well.