What’s wrong with the news today is us

I just got mad at a chyron. (Which I think was originally a minor Greek god who announced short summaries of things best listened to in full as pronounced by major Greek gods.) It was on CNN, the video was of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi speaking, and I have no idea what she actually said because the volume on the TV was low and I was actually busy paying for lunch. But the text under her face was something like “PELOSI DOWNPLAYS RESULT OF NEW YORK PRIMARY.”* I fake-screamed, “Why doesn’t she support ALL Democrats! She’s the leader, it’s her JOB!”

The woman taking my money just nodded and tried to stay out of it.

Mind, I have no idea what Pelosi was saying. All I know is what some video editor type at CNN thought was the main story. As I walked away, I realized what I had done, and I felt more than a bit sheepish though no one else seemed to care.

There are so many problems with the news business in America. I was about to add “today,” but the complaints I would make are the same as those that surfaced in the days of William Randolph Hearst in the late 1800s, and they probably were not new then. We think there was some halcyon time when the news sources could be trusted as not only impartial but unhyperbolic. If something serious happened, you could trust it was serious, because newspapers were not overplaying EVERYthing. And if they said some politician had a concern about something, you could rest assured that politician did, and that the news source was not trying to peddle a narrative that would bring them more eyeballs whether it was true or not. They have, in fact, never not peddled a narrative that would bring them more eyeballs.

Consumers, of course, eat this stuff up with a big spoon. We need our news fast, and we always want to be entertained. If the story was a party leader saying “We are happy for so-and-so and we look forward to helping her win and working with her in the next Congress,” that would probably be dull, even if that’s what a party leader should say on the day after a primary. And it would be impossible to hear all that when you’re standing in line at the company cafeteria paying for a tuna sandwich.

All I can do is remind myself to be a more careful consumer of news, and to perhaps ignore the news when I cannot be that more careful consumer, because in the latter case it’ll just distract and inflame me, and I need a lot less random distraction and inflaming over half-understood crap.
* https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/26/nyregion/joseph-crowley-ocasio-cortez-democratic-primary.html if you want background.

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Need something new to do on Sunday afternoons

See, I know something about football. I never played it on any organized level, but I was a fan of the college and the pro game since childhood. A football game on TV is something I can watch in the background or really pay attention to. I know what’s going on, at least at a high level, know what the basic rules are, and can come to care about certain teams.

Except, I can’t care about any of them anymore. Football as it is played in the United States is about as corrupt an institution as any other, these days. I’ve barely watched any games in the last couple of years, no more than a couple of minutes worth at any one time. And no, it’s not because the hometown pro team has a 61-year streak (and counting) of missing the championship game.

At the moment, I’ll just stick to pro football, though I have as many objections to collegiate football.

Reasons to boycott the National Football League:

1. The new rule with the penalty for insufficient respect toward the national flag and anthem, which, why are they even part of football games?

2. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and other chronic post-career conditions requiring extensive health care and shortening lives that the NFL doesn’t seem to care about.

3. Blacklisting of players such as Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow, and Michael Sam because they aren’t cookie-cutter traditional football players, and owners fear change….

4. … while turning a blind eye toward other football players who physically abuse the people in their life.

That doesn’t even count the usual reasons: the cost of attending games, owners robbing government treasuries for new stadiums while threatening to take the team elsewhere, and the attention they steal from other worthy interests and endeavors.

So don’t look for me at the Lions’ Super Bowl celebrations this year (ha).

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Periodic work upheaval

This April, my employer offered early retirement packages to selected staff. I was not included in this group; I’ve heard I missed their age cutoff by one year. (Age was just one criterion for selection.) This offer hit my department especially hard. Out of nine members, four are leaving, including our manager.

In my opinion, they’ve done a poor job informing the remaining staff of the wherefor and why of this. Obviously some details would have to be kept secret, but we’re lacking the background that informs the action, which causes rumors to fly and morale to settle into darkness. We have a “town hall” scheduled for next week, but it’s being held in conjunction with an annual sales conference, so one might expect less than full candor mixed with the “Rah rah Fiscal Year 2019 Go!”

I am not sure what I feel about being one of the survivors. I don’t feel my future here is certain by any means, but I’m showing up until they tell me to stop coming. The company still produces the books that I work on, so it needs people to do that work until they decide to not produce those books. Someone else might be working on retooling their skill set so they can take on other challenges, or some silly buzzwords like that. For several reasons, some of which will sound more negative than others, I’m not inclined to go that route. That probably means I’m hoping this early-retirement package thing is not a one-off, and “hoping” is perhaps not a wise move in 2018 corporate America.

My main issue right now is, ultimately, abandonment issues. That sounds a little odd to say, but when I tell you that many of the people who are leaving have been part of my work life for three decades or so, it might be understandable. I’ve worked for my manager directly for over ten years, but before that, when I was an editor, she was the one I had to whom I had to deliver books when I wanted them to be composed as pages. That also meant she was the one (aside from my manager) for whom I had to have an explanation when I couldn’t do deliver the book on schedule. That was a big part of my education. Over the last quarter-century, I got better at it, she got used to me, and we’ve worked together well. I actually like her quite a bit, within the bounds of professionalism. And now … she’s gone.

I know which manager I’ll be reporting to next, and I’m not concerned because I think he’ll be cool, but there will be a get-to-know-you phase that I haven’t had to handle in a while. There will also be a few other faces I won’t be seeing regularly who I’ll miss. Not to mention there will be a lot of new work on my desk that I have to figure out how to handle. Finally, there’ll still be what a coworker called the anvils hanging from the ceiling, with the issue of whether these will descend on me slowly attached to a parachute or not. So excuse me if things seem a little subdued here.

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What’s up?

Long time, no write. Sorry.

Work continues. Still composing large-type books. Only sometimes does it seem like the same book over and over.

My sister and her husband moved another thirty miles north of where they were before. They’d been hoping to do it before winter but things happened. They had a pretty good day for moving if I recall, though, for winter at any rate.

I’m trying to eat less and move more. I’m not being wholly successful at this yet. My doctor’s office is getting quite a lot of money, considering I’m not really ill with anything acute. They’re having me see dietitians and exercise physiologists and such. They would do better to hire me a cook and get me a dog that needs a lot of walkies. I don’t think insurance would pay for that.

I’m not playing music much, and haven’t been to any open mics all year. I’ve been to a couple of Detroit Symphony concerts with Dave. In February we Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 (the Organ Symphony) and three other of his works. Last week we heard Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Benjamin Britten’s violin concerto with Sibelius’ Pohjola’s Daughter. Everything was outstanding, simply incredible. And I got to see my friend John Finan play a birthday show at the Plymouth Coffee Bean, which he did very well.

My SecondLife avatar, Gus, bought a parcel of land adjacent to his, and then managed to lose his house somehow. No flames were involved, fortunately, so the furniture is intact. Good thing he likes wildflowers because that’s all he had for a while. Gus is alternating between becoming a cyberpunk or a full-time werewolf. No, I don’t know what it all means, either. His friends are indulgent, if not actively corrupting him.

In real life, we’ve had one week of snow while watching about three other storms slide by to our south. The weather patterns have been strange here but not in a terribly bad way. There have been a few occasions where it’s been warmer here than in Louisville.

Haven’t done much genealogy lately. Sometimes it’s best to let things be for a while, and then some new clues or thoughts surface and progress happens again.

As for the nation, I’m trying to decide whether it’s a trash fire or a tire fire. This week, I’m leaning toward the latter. Tire fires are pretty noxious, after all, and the way things are right now really stinks.

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That one time at Altivo’s place

There was a lot to LiveJournal, back in the day. (Same can be said for a lot of things, I suppose. *side-eye look at Gotham City Cafe*) I spent a good lot of time digging this up out of a friend’s LJ, because my friend David remembers it so fondly. David remembers it as a Rabbit Hole Day post, but it was in Altivo’s LJ … well, I’ll tell the story this way:

* * * * *

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we don’t speak often) please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory of you and me. It can be anything you want – good or bad – BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE. When you’re finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON’T ACTUALLY remember about you.

There was that time a few years ago, when Northwestern was having that really good football season, and you invited me and the missus over to watch the U of M game… the wives were in the kitchen talking, I dunno, girl talk I guess, and we were in the living room with your little boy (who’s, what, a senior now? Gawd they grow up fast) watching the Wildcats take apart Michigan’s defense… meanwhile your daughter and mine were upstairs playing with that huge collection of plush animals. We oughta get together again sometime.

I’m speechless, truly speechless. I think you won the “IT NEVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED” award for this one.

/* does little happy dance */
I almost added a bit about drinking cheap American beer, but thought that might be overkill.

Or at least made me feel ill. I won’t even make beer batter out of cheap American (or Mexican) beer.

* * * * *

It probably goes without saying that neither Altivo nor I have wives or children, nor any interest in Northwestern or Michigan football (he went to Michigan State), and we actually have never met, just corresponded on LJ, Dreamwidth, Twitter, and Mastodon for … gawd, thirteen years? But the huge collection of plushies is not fictional.

This was originally posted 29 November 2005, and can be found at Altivo’s Dreamwidth page, https://altivo.dreamwidth.org/166303.html?thread=688799#cmt688799 . Posted without permission, though my bits wouldn’t make much sense without Altivo’s bits so I hope it’s forgiveable.

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Life history of a North American birder

I’ve been watching birds for over 45 years now. Not the same birds, of course.*

My mom got me (age 10) started in November, 1972, in our backyard in Detroit. We kept monthly lists and of course overall “life lists.” We were so thrilled when the first really new bird came to our yard, a “yellow-shafted” flicker, in February 1973. (They’re now called northern flickers; I’ve been doing this so long, several birds have changed names.) Soon we took trips to birding hot spots and our lists lengthened. Mom and I were pretty avid well into the 1980s.

I got geekier than Mom, which is the usual pattern for the things Mom started me on. I memorized the avian taxa of the late 1970s, going so far as adding the Latin names of the birds along with the common names on an index card file that is my master life list. When I took road trips in the late 1980s and 90s, I got the chance to add birds we’d never see around Michigan, such as the prairie falcon, mountain bluebird, and Swainson’s hawk. Mom’s life list topped out at around 167 species, I think.

Even with the road trips, my activity waned in the last couple of decades, as I didn’t push myself to go on bird-specific outings in between the music career and online stuff. Finally, my Black Friday 2017 #OptOutside activity was a trip to Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River to watch ducks and whatever I could find. It was just as much fun as it was when I was a kid, even with the ducks way out in the middle of open water and the wind blowing. As a reward, in a way, I found my official 200th life list bird at the end of the trip (a black-crowned night-heron, to be exact).

I have an unofficial New Year’s Resolution this year of taking time to go birding twice a month. They don’t have to be lengthy outings. Yesterday I went to my sister’s new house in Clio and counted the birds at her feeders, and that counts to me. I also have a relatively new account at ebird.org — yes, there’s an app for birding — where I submit checklists. (It says I have 27 life list birds. I haven’t put in the whole list for technical reasons.) I’ve been out looking for snowy owls, since they’ve wandered south in huge numbers this year, and though I’ve been unsuccessful so far I am still having fun looking.

That’s the thing; forty-five years later, it’s still fun.

* badump-TISH

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We like these words

A few days ago I linked to the Lake Superior State University’s list of Banished Words. Now for a positive post: Here is the list of the top 10 “words that deserve to be used more often in conversation and prose” from the Word Warriors at Detroit’s Wayne State University. So the word story from the past week is eucatastrophic, after all.

Fun fact: Wayne State’s sports teams are known as the Warriors. I hope you do not find that fact nugatory.

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