Four Newsmen of the Apocalypse

What will have the greatest impact?

  • Brian Williams “misremembering.”
  • Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show.
  • Bob Simon dying.
  • David Carr dying.

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While the deaths are a serious blow and Williams’ crime heinous, I vote for Stewart’s departure. According to State of the Media, the average network news viewer is 53. Elsewhere 60 Minutes skews the same. Those people  will miss Simon and maybe even Williams, but the networks will find other anchors, etc. Carr may be less replaceable because of his position at the NYTimes. His writing and reporting are priceless. Again, the audience was limited — to regular Times readers and media denizens.

Fellow journalists observed that long before Williams had a memory lapse, Carr had far more serious problems. (See The Night of the Gun  in which he does some reporting on himself). People seemed more forgiving because his failures of memory were fueled by cocaine and alcohol. Sooo, it’s OK to lie, especially to oneself, when one is addled by substances. I suspect the forgiveness has to do with the brilliance of Carr’s writing and his amazing rehabilitation.

Why pick Stewart’s departure as the most impactful event? He continues to have the greatest influence on the demographic that pays the least attention to the news. He holds powerful people to account in a way that “traditional,” “main stream” media used to. He also offers cultural commentary that reaches a huge audiences. Over the years, he has launched or ratcheted up the careers of people like Stephen Colbert and Lewis Black.

The Daily Show of course did not originate with Stewart, and it will no doubt find a suitable replacement, but I’m betting that no one will ever again do righteous indignation with a large helping of compassion and huge doses of humor as Stewart has for so many years.

What I’m Reading Now

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Another in an occasional series. Actually I’ve got three books going, plus the NYTimes and the N’Yer. The books include pearls of wisdom from Bernie Siegel, a prize-winning historical novel, and a brand new acquisition. The most enrapturing of the bunch, as in, it’s now midnight and time to go to sleep, is The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Café. The latest Alexander McCall Smith was a birthday gift from my dear friend Thelma.

As I mentioned in my review of Morality for Beautiful Girls, (“Book Review”), AMS writes his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency mysteries faster than I can read them. Morality is number three in the series. Deluxe Café is fifteen, and I’ve been stuck around five or six  for some time now. Thelma said I didn’t need to read them in order, so I’ve jumped ahead and am once again entranced.

Precious Ramotswe, the owner of the detective agency, has taken on the case of a woman with total amnesia. That’s all I know about the mystery because the opening pages, as always, describe matters concerning the families of Mma Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi, former secretary, now co-director of the agency.

Anyway, the book is full of the usual sound philosophy, larded with descriptions of the gorgeous Botswana landscape, of bush tea, of a slow pace of life. It’s the perfect counterpoint cold and snowy New England.

 

 

Blizzards, Kangaroo Chaser

The time I normally spend composing the blog went to writing a bit of a tribute to a former Courant colleague. I may share it at some point but am feeling blue.

These photos are for all of you who have expressed sympathy/curiosity about our weather.

Snow the First, taken January 28:

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Snow the Second, taken February 3:

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Snow the Third, taken February 10 after five or six hours of melting.

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And here’s the chaser, which I double checked to make certain it wasn’t written on April 1. With all this snow on the ground, it better not be! It comes courtesy of Poynter.

 

 

Please Vaccinate

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I grew up before the MMR vaccine became available. When measles struck my first-grade class, I became one of those kids who had way more than a rash. There was a raging fever and a bunch of stuff I don’t remember except that my eyes hurt in a way I’ve never experienced since.

My parents tracked down some World War II era blackout shades, and Daddy put them over the windows in my room. The doctor said I could go blind. Though I don’t have much memory of the seeming eternity I spent in that cave, I do remember hearing my mother’s worried voice outside the door, wondering when they would know if I would see again. She said I asked her, “Mommy, am I ever going to be well again?” The answer was yes, but it took weeks with at least three in isolation. I was lucky. Some little kids have developed lifelong neuro deficits because of encephalitis. Still others have died.

Though the CDC doesn’t list blindness as a complication, the WHO does. And I continue to wonder how many of my vision problems connect to those horrible days.

My mother had no love for doctors. Her pre-writing career followed her father into the pharmacy business. They saw the mistakes firsthand. One of my first jobs at James’ Pharmacy was to call doctors’ offices and ask, “Excuse me, did you mean 40 mg or 400?” Not reassuring. For her own part, Mother refused all meds except for aspirin and pitched a fit when the doctor wanted to prescribe an antibiotic. She was eighty, and it turned out she was right. She had a hellacious reaction that spiked her blood pressure and gave her an awful rash. Nevertheless, she had no problem allowing me to be vaccinated against small pox and against polio. She fully understood the alternative not only risked my health but that of other children – and adults. I know she would have seen to it that I received the MMR vaccine had it been available.

This request for parents to vaccinate not only comes from personal experience. It is also a plea to protect those who can’t be vaccinated. Usually these children are receiving chemotherapy or have immune systems that are compromised for other reasons. They are already sick, and exposing them to unvaccinated children increases their risk of serious illness, if not death. There are sad and frightening stories online of parents whose debilitated children have been needlessly exposed to a virulent and preventable disease. It was a scary surprise that I cried while writing this post, so I’ll let you find those accounts on your own.

Please, please, please vaccinate.

To Gateway

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To wrap up the final  adventures from last week, here’s an account of the prelude to Wednesday’s talk about African American Connecticut Explored at Gateway Community College.

The weather deities cooperated. (I’ll be posting photos of the outrageous piles soon.) It snowed Tuesday but had cleared when I drove to New Haven.

Venturing into the city always feels like “Alice down the rabbit hole” because of the one-way streets, which all seem to go the wrong way. This time the highway “engineers” have redesigned what little I knew of getting into downtown. And streets that were normally two lanes had been reduced to one or one and half, which made travel even more of a challenge. Oh, well.

Finding myself within a couple of blocks of the college, I pulled into a parking space, which put me three-quarters into the travel lane because of piles of snow. I dutifully called the number of the professor who was to arrange parking. No answer. I tried to update the map on my phone and got the message “no signal available.” That’s a new one.

Around the corner, I thought I had found the right parking lot but saw no signs for the college so continued on and found myself at Yale and then at the Green. Not a good sign. Returning more or less to the same spot, I swore and pulled into the suspect garage.

It was one of those designed to maximize the number of spaces with the sacrifice of sixty-degree inclines and hairpin turns. At last I found my way to the ground floor and asked two student-looking people for the college. They directed me around the corner,to which I slipped and slid because snow removal sucked.

The security people had no idea where I was supposed to go and had never heard of the professor, but they validated my parking ticket. Then they found her name in the directory and directed me to her office.

No one was there, and I walked a half a city block before I found another professor who didn’t know her but took me back to her office, where one of her neighbors said she thought the event was in the library.

A voyage that should have taken forty-five minutes had consumed almost twice as long, and it was now ten minutes before the event was supposed to start.

Fortunately the audience was welcoming, and the presentations went well.

Driving home in rush hour proved relaxing by comparison.

Unified OTR

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I’ll save a report about my presentation for Monday and here report on a happy performance I attended Wednesday evening. Middletown Unified Theater lit up the house and warmed a frigid night with Life Is a Highway. Unified Theater “is a student-driven initiative that facilitates inclusion of students with disabilities through the performing arts. Unified Theater’s model is to partner with middle and high schools, train students leaders, and help them reach a successful final production where students of all abilities are included.” Boy, did they succeed!

Life Is a Highway features three groups with different goals and destinations in mind. They meet on the road, have disputes, and eventually unite.

Stops along the way include Busch Gardens, D.C. with the White House included, and Dallas. My favorite: the meeting with President and Mrs. Obama after confronting the motley crew of Secret Service Agents in shades, one sporting an arm in a sling. Wish Larry had seen the performance. Great music plays a starring role, beginning with the title song. “Lean on Me,” “All About That Bass,” and the rest had the audience dancing in their seats.

I’m late with a shout out, but here’s to my nephew, Tony Petruzzello. You got us with that whistle and with your RV drivin’ skills. Way to go, Tony!

Aussie Bee Gees

L to R: "Maurice," "Robin," Barry
L to R: “Maurice,” “Robin,” “Barry”

 

The brief hiatus started because Larry and I went over the river (Mattabesset) and through a bunch of subdivisions to hear the Australian Bee Gees. It was brought to us by Harriet Unger, our friend at Short Girl Productions. They appeared Tuesday night at the Palace Theater in Waterbury.

First impression: Waterbury does a truly awful job of cleaning streets and sidewalks.

Next impressions: The staff at the theater offered friendly and helpful service. We arrived too late to meet the musicians but had a delightful time catching up with a bunch of Larry’s high school classmates.

The pastries – a huge array of mostly chocolate mousses and parfaits – and coffee helped assuage the hunger from not eating lunch and wolfing down a morsel before we left.

The DJ, who was throwing T-shirts and encouraging people to show off various dance moves, belonged more to ’50s era American Bandstand than disco-fueled ’70s and ’80s, but he did no harm.

The show consisted of all the hits and songs recorded by others, including Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers (who knew?).

Another who knew? There were rock ‘n’ rollers setting fires and destroying records because they hated disco.

“Barry” (the falsetto) and “Robin” (much of the lead) represent well and had the audience (mostly female and well north of 50) on its feet a good bit. “Maurice,” who spends most of the time on keyboards has a fantastic voice. Larry noted he sounded like Frankie Valli. Wished we’d heard more lead singing from him.

A couple of disturbances: The lighting designer needs to rethink pretty much everything except the archive footage about the actual Bee Gees and news events. The rhythm guitar player and drummer were locked behind a scrim, which gave the impression that they were not of the Bee Gees. The opposite is true. Like all good disco bands, the drummer drives the beat , and he did a great job with fabulous support from his cohort in rhythm. They shouldn’t remain hidden.

The rest of the lighting made little sense. Were we watching lava lamps?  drug fueled hallucinations? attempts to follow the story in the music? all of the above? My ears were ringing when we left, which I expected, but the residual lights were an unpleasant addition.

Overall, though, the Aussie Bee Gees served up a fabulous diversion for events to come.

Stay tuned.

Good Intentions

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Well, my intention to resume daily posting fell apart before it started. It has to do with a busy, busy schedule, which should calm down by tomorrow, Friday latest, at which point matters of substance will resume.

Blog Is Back

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Blog has returned from an involuntary hiatus. All is well except for the two feet of snow (and climbing).

Here are a few highlights.

  • First a bit of shameless self-promotion. I’ll be at Gateway Community College on Wednesday to participate in the discussion of African American Connecticut Explored. The website says the presentation is free and open to the public. Follow the link for more details. That’s my grandaunt Anna Louise James on the cover.
  • Congratulations to my friend Peggi Camosci for the NYTimes feature on her Tea Roses Tea Room . I just wish the editor had reduced the size of the lead photo and added a more complete description of her magical place, including the varied and reasonably priced teas, tea accessories, and other wares for sale (including my books!)
  • Thank you to everyone for birthday wishes. It was beyond low key, mainly because the area was still under feet of snow. Since more is now falling, I expect to be able to celebrate sometime in March.
  • Jealous of my friend Betsy’s office cleaning. I PROMISE to get to after my next two lectures. And a belated thank you for her commentary on “Headblind.”
  • Ed Clark’s A Man From Ohio continues to amaze me. During an extended stay in Europe, he watched (but did not participate in) the running of the bulls at Pamplona, heard Django Rheinhardt play live, ditto Pablo Cassals.
  • A fascinating bit of information, courtesy of “All Things Considered.” It seems that lead actors and actresses on stage 200 years ago did stand in the “limelight.” The other amusing bit concerns the lamplighter’s phrase “taking the mickey,” which the report says means teasing.
  • I mentioned this item everywhere but here it seems. Mom appears in the January 5 Issue of the New Yorker. The article does a great job of explaining why the paperback covers of some of the world’s great literature looked so garish.
  • Too Poor for Pop Culture is long but more than worth it.