Teen Score and Whole Foods Ago, An Onion

The knobs on the amp of guitarist "Nigel Tufnel" go to 11 not 10. The 1984 fictional documentary "This Is Spinal Tap" continues to be a locus of cultural history.

Shy of a Load

A longtime Onion fan, I had to see Scott Dikkers, an early editor and former, longtime owner of the satiric website. He spoke March 10 at the University of Arkansas. About a hundred people attended the midweek evening lecture, which the sponsoring Honors College publicized widely.

Also compelling me to learn more about this successful enterprise was my being a working journalist, sometime educator and freelance media ethicist. Yet, the Journalism Department did not co-sponsor the speech, nor were any faculty apparently present. The campus newspaper did not cover the event. Dikkers asked if any journalism students were in the audience, and one person raised a hand. One.

Instead of considering what that says about my ol’ haunt, here are highlights of the talk, on behalf of a friend who couldn’t go and asked for them (she was an Arkansas State University J major).

Dikkers’ Five Principles — for magazine publishing, business or maybe life in general — followed by paraphrases of his explanations:

  1. No Permission — just do what you want to be doing
  2. Invest Your Passion, Not Your Money — this is anti-Shark Tank thinking, he said, noting that for him financials come second to drive when it comes to making something a success
  3. Be Prepared to Scrap Everything — use your brain and your hard work but do not deplete your savings so that you can move on if needed
  4. Trust Your People — this Dikkers called his biggest lesson, you should be the best boss, hire the best people, who will be smarter than you, and trust them
  5. Don’t Just Work Hard, Work Smart; Not Just Work Smart, Work Right — learn from the mistakes and successes of predecessors, rivals, competitors because that’s efficient.

Also:

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Tea, Careers and Calm

Shy of a Load

0512 brick logoCults, Conspiracies and the Twisted History of Sleepytime Tea” by Megan Giller may well keep you awake. Celestial Seasonings had somewhat predictable beginnings in the hippy movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But besides free love and illicit drugs, that period saw lots of spiritual explorations and offbeat theories.

The herbal tea founders were inspired by one called “Urantia.” It is definitely strange. And unsettling, the opposite of Sleepytime, which My Beloved and I have enjoyed a few evenings a week for many years. The story is in the online Van Winkle’s, an electronic publication about all matters relating to sleep, produced by the new online mattress company Casper.

• • •

Next week, the Career Development Center of the University of Arkansas is hosting a “Media, Communication and Design Career Fair” in the campus union. It is posted in the emailed daily newsletter of University Headlines. The write-up, published today, lists “advertising, public relations, graphic and Web design, broadcast radio and TV, communication, editing and writing, marketing, recruiting and account management.”

Does anyone see “news” or “iournalism” in there? Maybe they’re implied, if you squint, but otherwise, nope.

• • •

Roberto A. Ferdman posts his long-form Q-and-A in The Washington Post’s Wonkblog with Bill Marler, a lawyer who works in issues concerning food-borne illness. Marler is fascinating, and the question-and-answer format is perfect for  “Why a Top Food Poisoning Expert Won’t Ever Eat These Foods.”

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Angela, We Have Heard on High

Time Magazine’s selection of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as 2015 Person of the Year is fascinating.. It shows the magazine still heeds that this award is not for popularity nor just for Yankees. It’s for the person who’s been, what, the biggest newsmaker of the calendar year.

Its cover story profiling Merkel proves the point. Not least interesting is that she has a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry. If there’s just two biographical bits that make her the kind of leader she has been, that’s one. The other is she grew up in the now-former East Germany. She understands that life.

The article is long but rewarding. To see the highlights, view the sidebar, “The 13 Most Surprising Things You Never Knew About Angela Merkel.” For ease click “View as List, as the default “View as Gallery” is a slideshow that you have to wait each time to open a page.

Germany has been fortunate to have such a strong, focused and clever leader this past decade.

At the Barbershop

Shy of a Load

Illustration of traditional barber poleIt’s December, and for a month I’ve avoided writing about the state of national politics. Other blog-columnists are doing a good job. I’d do fine, but I have nothing to add that’s different.

Until today?

Yes, as it’s not me opining. This is reporting.

I was at my barber’s this morning. He and I were talking about the latest pronouncement of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, that as president he’d prevent all foreign Muslims from entering the United States.

The next customer for the barber’s chair had this to day:

“I don’t like him, but I’d rather see a man like Trump as president than a woman like Hillary.”

Pulling down a stranger’s comment like this should be unusual, as I ought to be quoting my barber of 15 or so years. I have never done so, as he’s been a very good guy to me and it would violate my being a civilian in his chair. Otherwise, I’d quote him often. He’s eager to be nonstop outrageous except when he’s spot-on common-sense or clever.

On hearing this guy’s statement, Eric just looked at me with the corner of his left eye and sighed. I was leaving, and he was escorting the fellow to the shampoo sink. The guy was casually dressed in flannel and jeans, but better quality materials. There was a little gray among his sandy locks. He looked to be in his 40s.

• • •

My Facebook friends cover the gamut of my life, from grade school through senior year, college friends, Texas and Little Rock friends, and Northwest Arkansas friends. Also there are columnists from everywhere. They’re all over the map politically, economically and spiritually. None has said on Facebook he or she is supporting Trump.

Some of them must be: The mogul’s the front-runner for the conservatives. Is this sample uncomfortable to be out on Donald?

With this Shy of a Load series, I normally have several briefs linking to background stories, separated by dot-dot-dots, on the Web. Today, this soon-to-be barbered fellow just might be speaking for all those who incredibly support Donald Trump.

It’s clarifying.

Never Meta Trump Like This

Shy of a Load

"Saturday Night Live" logoThe Nov. 8 Saturday Night Live, hosted by magnate Donald Trump, was more significant than hilarious, although it was lots funnier than most weekend pundits claim.

A scan of website headlines shows mine is a minority view. I have not read their texts yet to prevent their influencing mine.

The first review for me to read will be that of my friend Gene Seymour at CNN.com, “Trump on SNL: The Ultimate Implosion of Reality.” Gene’s certainly will be a full write-up and thoughtful. Below contains impulsive impressions.

There’s making fun of yourself, self-deprecation (not necessarily funny) and destroying-then-reconstructing your image. Trump may well have deliberately gone for the last. When political candidates have appeared on SNL, as recently as October when Hillary Rodham Clinton played a phantom bartender, it’s for a single skit or a walk-on with line. Politicians thus can be seen by the youthful audience, appear hip and control the message. Clinton used it to claim she was self-aware, relaxed, competent and a few shades warmer than her cool reputation.

As host, Trump appeared in most of the sketches in the 90-minute program. It’s live: The room for misspeaking and other errors is huge — HUGE — especially for amateurs. He’s been on camera for thousands of hours but not as a professional comic performer.

This is at a time when Republican candidates including Trump are reconfiguring debates to increase their control.

Why did Trump take this risk? My take is that he doesn’t want to be president, unless we just hand it to him. What Trump proved Saturday that he really wants is to improve the candidate selection process by warning the American people to watch what they ask for, they might get the likes of him. Continue reading

Biden Exeunts, Fox Guards the Geo House

Shy of a Load

Joe Biden appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday, in the show’s debut week.

Seal of the Vice President of the United StatesMost main media reports and commentaries seemed to agree this morning that the vice president was favoring not running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, but that his decision was not set. As an example here’s NPR’s report “Emotional Biden Still Doesn’t Sound Like A Candidate.”

As he’s said before then again Sept. 10, the vice president’s loss of a son (former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden) to cancer earlier this year has rocked his plans for what he does after he’s downsized Jan. 20, 2017.

I saw the interview and heard Biden say strongly but indirectly he remains too distraught to campaign then serve as an effective president.

Joe said he is not running, with sufficient clarity.

But:

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