Dec 20

The week with bad titles, part three

I forgot to include this here earlier this week. So, without prelude, give us the fancy old-fashioned banner.

I talked with Dr. Siering a week or so ago about pedagogy and remote learning and all these sorts of things that faculty and students are dealing with just now. It’s a good episode if you’re a faculty member or a student. (And you know they all stop through here.) It might be only for them. But, nevertheless, we’re covering all the bases.

And now I have to go out and find a few more people to interview. Should be fun! What topics should we cover?

We haven’t filled out this space with other stories recently, let’s do that now.

Birmingham woman raising 12 kids after sister, brother-in-law die from COVID

Already raising seven biological children ranging in age from 2 to 17 as a working, single mother, the 40-year-old Birmingham resident’s last conversation with her dying sister in UAB Hospital about the arrangements for their kids was no longer hypothetical.


And her sister’s children are not without anxieties of their own, she said. On top of the grief of losing both their parents, the children are reluctant to go outside out of fear of catching COVID-19, Francesca McCall said.

But all things considered, she said, “We’re doing OK. They have their [tough] moments at times, processing everything.”

The GoFundMe account has raised $40,000+ since that story was published.

These seem like charming people. Philly’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping dishes the dirt on the news conference heard ’round the world: ‘It was nothing we anticipated’:

The merchandise sales of Four Seasons Total Landscaping have taken on a life of their own. The conference room at their office has become a makeshift fulfillment center, as Siravo and the company’s 28 full-time employees take turns bagging orders and printing labels, starting at 6 a.m and racking up overtime hours working long into the night.

Partnering with half a dozen local vendors (all but one is located in the Philadelphia region), the company has sold over 35,000 orders for T-shirts, ugly Christmas sweaters, face masks — totaling $1.3 million in sales. (Much of the money will be used to pay back vendors, shipping costs, and more, Middleton said, making clear that Four Seasons won’t be putting $1.3 million in its bank account.)


In hopes of helping others during Four Season’s moment in the sun, Siravo said the company is participating in a Toys for Tots drive with St. Christopher’s Hospital. Through Dec. 11, visitors can drop off unwrapped toys at the office in exchange for a Four Seasons sticker. Separately, Siravo said the company is also collecting coats, hats, socks, and other cold-weather clothing to donate to local charity.

This looks like a nice place to visit. The Munich Atelier where stained glass comes to life:

The Mayers oversee the business from a series of sunny, art-filled rooms on the top two floors of the building. Dozens of warrenlike workshops and ateliers crowd the four floors beneath — here, workmen restore historic stained-glass windows and mosaics, while others make contemporary works. The labyrinthine basement archive houses an extensive collection of vintage stained-glass works.

The only problem is that he’s going to look like Carlton Banks for the rest of his life. The hardest-working man in show business:

Yet as much as the world equates Ribeiro to Carlton, the years following The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air may have revealed more about the man—his persistence, his versatility, and his undeniability. If you let him tell it, for a while the role Ribeiro played so well was the role that held him back. “Imagine for a second you do a role so well that they tell you you’re not allowed to do anything else ever again because they can’t believe that you’re not that guy,” he says. But the ceiling Ribeiro hit as an actor forced him to develop other skills, which helped him emerge as one of the most versatile—albeit underrated—performers in Hollywood.

I’ll never understand. You’d think casting agents and directors would be … imaginative.

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Jul 20

New month, old paper

Here’s video from dinner the other night, because I uploaded it and never shared it. And because we needed something colorful here.

Doesn’t hurt that it was quite tasty, either.

Anyway, not much here right now, so we go back, back, back in time. This is 105 years ago, 1915. Let us see what was going on around here.

Newspaper design was not going on, that is for sure. This is a four-page rag, and it was a slow week in a sleepy town and we’re going to get into all of the news and, this time, ignore the society pages altogether. I am inclined to think there was the editor, the typesetter and, otherwise, the old Evening World was a slim operation. There’s not a lot of unique local stuff to see. Let’s see what there is to see, though.

Do not go fast. Charley Stevens, who doesn’t pop up in a lot of search engines today, is warning you. You’re supposed to do 10 miles per hour, and no more. Ten miles to the hour, excuse me. Town squares are fascinating features. It looked exactly like this in 1915. It looked nothing like this in 1915.

This is the editor of the other paper in town. And this is a big description about an out-of-town trip. And this has to be an inside joke or something. Also, this is on the front page.

No one was in trouble. Grover Lazelle messed around got a triple-double. It was a good day.

This seems impressive. Remember, it was four years before Dwight Eisenhower’s transcontinental Army movement. His caravan covered 3,242 miles through 11 states in 62 days, an average of 52 miles per day, going from Maryland to California. Ol’ Willie Curry did the hardest part coming the other direction.

Ike lost two days in Nebraska. Curry apparently lost two tires over the whole trip.

There’s a big block of text about the fireworks you couldn’t buy anymore, and an editorial bit about the stuff you can buy. Some stories, it seems, never change. But to get SAFE AND SANE you had to be unsafe and insane, right?

Someone surely looked at the mangled hand of some kid the year or two before and said, “Y’all. This is insane.” Then there was legislation, and the marketplace kicked in to high gear. And, sure, stuff got safer, and more refined over time, thank goodness, but some of the stuff you couldn’t use anymore, by 1915, even, sounds kind of awesome? And terrifying?

Finally, this news update is brought to you by this advertisement. You figure Mr. Man, sitting there at his desk, let his eyes drift over the society mentions and saw that and thought, “You know, I haven’t had any look keeping the books all week … ” It’s easy to think he put two and two together there, but, you know.

It went on for two more paragraphs, but given what we know of the digestive habits of the time, surely this is all anyone need read. Sentanel, despite the unfortunate spelling, stayed an operating concern until at least the 1930s, but you don’t see much of it after that. I guess their job was done.

And so is mine, for now. Tomorrow … I’ll have something or other for you here. You’ll see!

Jun 20

A flashback before a big flashback

We were sitting in a corner booth at the OK Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia in 2006 or 2007 and I was, as usual, thinking out loud. The Yankee had to have known that by then — this guy does all his thinking outside of his head — and she still decided to hang out with me.

We were talking about this trip she’d made to New Orleans. She was a TV hotshot and a station down there wanted her to come work for them and, as part of the tour, they drove her around to see what New Orleans was like after Hurricane Katrina. One of the job interview meals was at McDonald’s. There still weren’t a lot of options even at that point in the aftermath.

We’d watched it from afar, fearful for our friends and thankful it wasn’t our coverage area, and knowing that in all that horrible devastation that the media down there would do good, solid, amazing, real work. The year before we’d done the same when another hurricane right into the Port of Mobile. Our corporate boss forwarded us a very complimentary email he’d received, saying our work deserved the Pulitzer Prize. Only Pulitzer didn’t offer it in that format for which I would have been eligible in 2004. But they surely did in 2005 when Katrina roared ashore in New Orleans and our peers in the newsroom down there did the work and got the prize and to live and struggle and grieve and upend their own lives and look after their families and then go back to work to do it all again the next day.

It’s probably easy to forget, if you weren’t there, or somehow otherwise immersed in it, what New Orleans was like after August of that year. In the last week, a quick Google News search tells me, that three dozen stories referencing the storm have been written. It was 15 years ago and it’s still on the tip of their tongues. Which is why the news director wanted to give her the tour when she went down there for the job interview. You need to see, he said, what it is like right now. Usually when people bring you in from out of town they show you the good stuff. Back then, they had to show you the real stuff.

It was, I am sure, sobering. She ultimately turned down the job, but we talked about it a lot, and in that cafe in Atlanta I remember formulating what I thought would be just the neatest job in the world. Because I think out loud it started out pretty ragged and never really got much better, especially the name, but I called it a history journalist, reporting the journalism through the prism of time and past events, and history through a lens of journalism.

None of the things we cover or experience or watch or read about happen in isolation, after all. And New Orleans, a place hip waist deep in history and hip deep in tragedy, would have been a place for that sort of work.

They didn’t invite me down for an interview, which is fine and probably for the best. I would have pitched something like that idea and it would have been dismissed out of hand. A role like that is a passion project. It would take time and vision. And it is, admittedly, incredibly niche, when all of my media work was incredibly immediate and niche in some other sort of way. Besides, most journalists that do that sort of work? They have another name: Author.)

Anyway, I was thinking of that cafe and that corner booth and that conversation and how, all these years later that still sounds like the coolest idea. I interviewed a medical doctor and a professor who somehow holds appointments in seven different areas around the university. He’s written hundreds (literally, hundreds and hundreds) of journal articles and 12 books and he is still practicing medicine and who knows what else.

The subject was how the coronavirus pandemic is sometimes sorta similar to the influenza pandemic of 1918. He answered these questions in his role as a medical historian.

And if Dr. Gunderman, there, can find time in his day to be a medical historian on the side, I should be able to figure out some way to be a history journalist. Right? We should dive into some of that soon.

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Jun 20

Dip your toes in, the water’s fine

And, now, a scene from “the beach,” which is how I mistakenly thought of the lake’s shore line when we were out there for a few minutes today. That says something about how long since I’ve seen a beach.

It was Christmas, last time I saw a beach, and that was just looking into a sound, so it might not even count. If you don’t count that you have to go back to last July. I’m not the biggest beach person in the world, but that still seems like too long.

So we were at the lake for a few minutes. It rained. I sat under an umbrella talked on the phone while The Yankee did some considerable distance of freestyle swim. And that was lunch. Down to the lake, in for a quick dip and then produce a show.

Talked to an economist today. Bottom line is … we know a lot of things, but that really just illustrates what we don’t know. We’re about to start stage four of back-up-and-at-’em here, which will be normal-ish but for some restrictions that won’t get honored a lot, I’m sure.

The good news is that the jobless claims are coming down from the spring. The bad news is they are still very high. The other bad news is that state tax revenues are taking a hit. This was not a surprise, but still, it is underway and impactful. The good news is that people are going back to work and so there is progress to be made. But don’t take my word for it. I have a minor in economics. This is an actual economist:

I have a love-hate relationship with security-footage-as-news stories. It doesn’t devalue a story, but too often it elevates a story beyond its natural worth because of suddenly compelling available video. Compelling, easily available video. (That part is important.) Or, even worse, it elevates a story because there’s video and no one else has anything better that day.

It’s a tricky thing, when visual drive messages. I see and have worked with and teach this stuff, so I consider all sides of the argument. I think we all should consider all sides of its use before using it, and that’d be a great starting point, I’d say.

And then there’s stuff like this …

Funny how video has helped bring to light rampant injustice in society. Funny how necessary that video is for this sort of circumstance. Sometimes the visuals have to drive the message.

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Jun 20

Let us all be upset together

I don’t know who needs this — goes the well-meaning message on social media, which was instantly copied to the point of becoming a satirical meme all it’s own — but here are a few seconds of quiet video of the creek.

We walked down there on Sunday. Kids play there. Sometimes little, sometimes small. Always it’s fun. It’s a place filled with the screams and the shrieks and the joy of families doing things that young families should be doing. It’s a place where people create soggy memories and stay cool and promote wonder and it’s all free, because it’s a stream. The cost seems to be trampled grass, and occasionally a bit of litter, but someone keeps this area nice and tidy.

And sometimes, like that little moment there, it is nice a quiet.

It was a nice and warm summer day today, 89 degrees and definitely not spring any more.

It was slow, except for the swift parts, which only punctuated the slow parts. Highlighting them, if you will.

We’re going to talk about the news.

First, look at the source. Ahead of Trump Bible photo op, police forcibly expel priest from St. John’s church near White House RNS is an 86-year-old outlet and it is affiliated with no less than the Missouri School of Journalism. This is a place with history and bona fides. And there’s a lot more to that carnival you saw last night than you realize.

The church appeared to be completely abandoned.

It was, in fact, abandoned, but not by choice: Less than an hour before Trump’s arrival, armored police used tear gas to clear hundreds of peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square park, which is across the street from the church.

Authorities also expelled at least one Episcopal priest and a seminarian from the church’s patio.

“They turned holy ground into a battleground,” said the Rev. Gini Gerbasi.

Bishop Budde, who oversees that church, got in front of The Washington Post immediately. She called in to CNN and they cut off a three-way panel, in fact interrupted a retired three-star general mid-sentence, to express her outrage. And here she is on PBS:

Much of the talk is about clearing out that path for this gigantic overreach — there’s no two ways around this, the administration overreached and it’s hard to imagine them not realizing it almost immediately — and it should be. And people see the violence in New York, California, Philadelphia. I also watched really spotty coverage of riots that followed peaceful protests in my hometown early this morning in anger and despair. I also watched a reporter I know there get mugged by looters. And this happening in smaller towns, too.

In Little Rock, like a lot of places, reporters are catching it from all sides:

Not for nothing, but that would have been me 18 years ago. It could be my peers and friends and former students today. It could be my students tomorrow.

This is a paragraph or two after we should remind ourselves what terrible injustice brought that on and why we are here. Let’s remember who brought us here. And those authorities are doing this too:

They’re doing it in great numbers. When police across the country know that people are watching them more closely than ever, this has been their reaction. That’s instructive.

160 Threats to Press Freedom in the United States—This Week (Part I):

In this spreadsheet, I identify 160 threats to press freedom that have transpired amid the George Floyd protests in the United States this week.

Let’s note: Not every item is equal in gravity. Some instances are simple and you may be well reasoned to wonder “How could the police avoided that?” Others are serious violations of press freedom by an over-militarized state.

I include arrests, police beatings, pepper spraying, shootings with rubber bullets or other projectiles, incidents where police forced journalists to the ground, forced them into pepper spray, or wrongly denied them certain access.


Many of the incidents I document came after or seemingly because journalists identified themselves as press. Many had press badges on, gave verbal indications, wore press vests or helmets—and many were blatantly ignored or targeted for that.

It’s going to get worse. It’s going to get better. There’ll be no rhythm or reason to how it waxes and wanes, this pain and this anguish. But so long as we’re referring to American cities as “battle spaces” and, God, help us from that, and this sort of thing is taking place …

It’ll keep happening. And let’s let this ring with the clarity of the bells: This is happening to all of us.