October’s Daily Diary

I have not read every paragraph in the continue revelations of legal phone and other electronic snooping that began last June when government secrets brought to light by Edward Snowden were confirmed and published in leading newspapers around the world. But I stay pretty current on it as well as study the journalistic underpinnings and ethics girding this significant topic.

So Monday, when The New Yorker released online its Oct. 7 issue, I read about Alan Rusbridger, editor of London’s Guardian newspaper, where most of the revelations have been published. He’s an interesting bird, put in a lot of years reporting, naturally, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he is a former columnist. The magazine’s media analyst Ken Auletta said Rusbridger wrote for The Guardian a “daily diary column.”

A what?

It’s a British term, and it may not translate well to America. Although The New York Times does have its “Metropolitan Diary.” BBC online ran a story three years ago, “The Death of the Newspaper Diary?” and the form appears to be, yes, daily, and after that, it could be short takes/items or one continuous essay. Quips or straight reporting, or just pointed comments. One writer or a team. But this certainly is not a gossip column, the story says, that gets its own genre. (Or industry.)

Still, a blogger or columnist these days could take the term “daily diary” as inspiration to motivation for writing.

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Logo[This Brick is adapted from my director of online media column in the October 2013 edition of The Columnist newsletter of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.]

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Also, another insight from England, a coinage from the satirical sci-fi movie The World’s End — the verb “starbucking,” meaning the commodification of small shops, cafes and, in this show, pubs.

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Speaking of the National Security Agency, it has a children’s website, www.nsa.gov/kids. Seriously. And it opens just fine, despite the federal government sequester.

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Ah, here’s one now: A corollary to “Watch what you ask for, you might get it.” It is, “Watch what you sometimes loathe, you might lose it.”

Here’s a slight expansion of that. You often get some form of what you ask for; if you squint, it’s true often enough. Thus, you can wish bad things into existence.

This is similar to how you can’t will to win, but you can will to get beaten in
games and lose in more serious matters.

I came up with the “watch” tangent (don’t Google it and tell me how many thousands came up with it first), after reading a story at Slate.com, “An Important Life Lesson from Blackjack and Baseball: You Gain More by Not Being Stupid Than You Do by Being Smart.” That’s a anti-author headline. It totally gives away the story so you don’t have to bother.

Well, it is worth reading to see the science behind the theory.

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The NSNC Education Foundation met online Sunday, Sept. 29, for its formal annual session.

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The NSNC board itself met online Tuesday, Sept. 17, in a called session to accept a new set of by-laws. The reason was to ensure solid nonprofit standing in the eyes of the law, not to mention the Internal Revenue Service. The NSNC-EF remains a 501( c )3, and the NSNC is unambiguously a 501( c )6.

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The Sept, 3, 2013 episode of NPR’s Fresh Air featured jazz-influenced experimental composer John Zorn. Eccentric, as expected. But he had a fresh term for what people like creativity coach Julia Cameron calls “crazymakers.” Zorn calls them such folks “psychic vampires,” that is, friends or relatives who drag you down, or drain or frustrate you in your endeavors. Or simply drain your good cheer. My Beloved and I began reading Cameron back in 1998. Psychic vampire resonates.

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Great, thoughtful concept: There’s post-traumatic stress but there’s also “post-traumatic growth” — Dr. Norman Rosenthal in interviews promoting his new book The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections.

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“[C]oronary artery disease and heart attacks are nothing more than a toothless paper tiger that need never, ever exist. If it does exist, it need never, ever progress. It is a benign food-borne illness.” — Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., interviewed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

What a way to view heart disease, and as a preventable condition, according to a number of specialists, it makes sense. Esselstyn was featured in the documentary Forks over Knives.


Spread It

Facebook often is positive, and rightfully so. A Brick from 11 months ago supported that: The Future Just Showed Up: Like. Facebook is not all feel-good happy talk but controversy and deliberate negativity get moved down and out quickly — posts get “hidden” and friends become “unfriended.”

My last weekend post fell in between. Sunday afternoon I wrote a message on my Facebook wall for discussion:

Ever wonder about those fancy coffees and other products that promise to donate 5% of the price to some worthwhile charity?
Here’s how to donate at least 6% to education, law enforcement etc. in Arkansas: Buy school supplies anytime but today. (9.25% in Fayetteville)
2011 Sales Tax Holiday http://www.dfa.arkansas.gov/offices/exciseTax/salesanduse/Pages/taxHoliday.aspx

It got one “like” from a friend. Another friend reposted this to her wall, where it got no comments or “likes.”

First point is this seems normal for me, with 341 Facebook friends. Over three-fourths of my postings — I’ll send something up about 10 times a week — get no visible response. Responding to everyone all the time is not how Facebook works.

Second thought is I might have overshot. I was subtly, maybe too subtly, commenting on the national debt crisis. The Washington compromise promised spending cuts but no revenue changes at all, not even closing loopholes. Taxes pay for things we all expect. They’re not voluntary so they have to be fair. Waste must be kept to a minimum, which requires continuing oversight. That’s here, and nationally. I want the ambulance here in five minutes, and if there’s a nationwide pension, defense and now health care, I’ll pay but it better be done well.

So I didn’t buy sunglasses, shoes or even a ream of paper on School Tax Holiday Weekend, which were exempt from sales tax. I’m heading to Wal-Mart today (buying very few if any “school” supplies, incidentally). And pay my rightful share back into the community.

3 Cheers for Saturday

What, not four? Others are punditing U.S. economy very well.

Why there’ll always be real estate agents and contractors

In the HomeStyle section of the Saturday regional/state paper is the weekly Personal Space brief. Most weeks the subject, who is asked about her or his home and some biographical information, maneuvers to plug their business or charity. Tacky.

Today, though, the homeowner of the week praises the property.

My favorite space: There’s a road that leads up to our subdivision. It’s this great windy road that goes in between two wooded areas. … You come out of the city, and it’s almost like you’re in the country.
“… If I could do one thing to improve this space I would: Make it a little more accessible.”

That’s the American dream, in short metaphor.

Easy profit weekend

A tax-free weekend for school supplies runs today and Sunday.

In a somewhat restricted inventory, items that can be used for school, from office supplies (although, interestingly, nothing higher tech than calculators) to clothing (including “wedding apparel” Continue reading

Chair Up

Portable chairs these days are of a kind: metal rods supporting a hammock seat and back, designed to collapse and fit in a tubular cloth bag. It’s been impossible to find those web chairs, strips of woven plastic interlaced on a frame of light aluminum tubing; it just folds for transport. Web chairs are more comfortable and to me about even in carrying convenience: their light weight counters the heavier but smaller package made by the hammock chairs.

That’s before a recent trip to Sam’s Club. Weighing in at 37 pounds is the Kingpin Chair. While the box has a picture of a couple of people sitting on it side by side, it’s not sofa-shaped but surely intended for a plus-sized person.

No photo here because it’s a proprietary item. Click here for Amazon’s photo and description. At Sam’s Club it cost a bit over $100.

The intent here is not to mock big folks. On recent visits to hospitals I’ve spotted at the doors of the emergency room a several wheelchairs, as always. Among them now sit several extra-wide models. This is a fact of current American life.

Something here is worthy of mockery, the cynicism of the manufacturer, seen by the name but mainly on the arm rests. The new style portable chair often has a fabric cup holder sewn in. The KingPin Chair has six cup holders, three on each arm.

Thinking about a half-dozen cans or bottles lined up at either elbow makes me need to stop typing and head to the little boys’ room.

By George

With apologies to George Orwell:

Winston gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two Victory Gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose, only to be absorbed by crumbs from two Rick’s Bakery cookies. A just dessert for submitting to a biometric fingerprint scan, not for national security, but a private employer’s time clock. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

A vuvuzela blast.

Mosque, Ow, on the Hudson

Some blasts from the vuvuzela. I used to play instruments, not just blow my own horn.

While avoiding graven images, there’s no writ against craven puns.

Mosque, ow, on the Hudson? Saying where houses of worship do not belong raises all sorts of red flags, no matter the neighborhood, no matter the religion. How could a house of prayer in the vicinity of New York’s Ground Zero not be a splendid idea? Besides, Moscow on the Hudson is recalled as a delightful movie from 1984; I wonder if it’s dated?

Ground Zero? Ground Zero Mostel!

Now there’s a Jewish radical with humor and chutzpah. I remember Zero Mostel best for appearances with Jim Henson’s Muppets. He is quoted as saying of Henson: “He has the best possible actors. If you have a disagreement with them, you can always use them to wash your car.” Ground Mostel, a real New Yorker.

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Foodie program: Tomatoes no longer are tomatoes. A couple of the major frozen pizza brands, I saw when shopping this week, state in their ingredients list, “tomatoes (water and tomato paste).” In reaction I bought a Wal-Mart Great Value (house brand) pie. Its sauce ingredients start as, “Water, Tomato paste.” As it should be.

Continue reading