Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I am transferring this blog to Wordpress. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Wit is cultured insolence."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Soaring at the Midnight Sun" Sarah Palin's goodbye poem

This is just too funny for words. The Sarah Palin farewell speech as read by William Shatner. (You have to sit through an ad first, but it's worth the wait.)

Quiz for people who know everything

This came via email. Not that I needed the lesson (the lesson being I don't know everything...if I know anything, I know that!) but there you have it. And here it is:

These are not trick questions. They are> straight questions with straight answers:

1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?

3. Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?

4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?

5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the> bottle?

6. Only three words in standard English begin with the letters "dw" and they are all common words. Name two of them.

7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?

8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.

9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter "S."


1. The one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends: Boxing

2. North American landmark constantly moving backward. Niagara Falls -- The rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.

3. Only two vegetables that can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons: Asparagus and rhubarb.

4. The fruit with its seeds on the outside: Strawberry.

5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bottle? It grew inside the bottle. The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.

6. Three English words beginning with "dw": Dwarf, dwell and dwindle.

7. Fourteen punctuation marks in English grammar: Period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation point, quotation mark, brackets, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses.

8. The only vegetable or fruit never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form but fresh: Lettuce

9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet beginning with "S": Shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Frenzied Waters

This site is pretty cool. Extremely creepy, but cool. Warning: Don't visit this site if you don't like the idea of seeing yourself in the past tense. But if you can get past that, it's actually pretty clever. It works in conjunction with your Facebook account. Simply go to the site where you'll see this video with four bottles bobbing in the water. If you want a generic sneak preview, click on one of the three to the left. If you want the personalized version, click on "My Story" and follow the prompts to access your Facebook information.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dot-Dash-Dot or was that Dot-Dash-Dash?

Apparently spelling is not all that fundamental, especially if you're doing it in Morse Code.

There is a Pittsburgh landmark, the Grant Building, that since 1929 has used Morse Code on its beacon to spell out Pittsburgh. At least that was what everyone thought. According to Scott Carmichael on Gadling, a travel blog, for 80 years it's been spelling out something else.

No more Rock of Boston

The Rock of Boston is rocking no more. Another local institution is closing its doors, as WBCN is putting away its drum kit and guitars, according to

Truth be told, I haven't listed to 'BCN for quite some time. I migrated over to 'ZLX when the rock music I grew up with became classic rock. But it was the first station I listened to when I arrived on these shores (OK...I came over from Western Mass., but I think you need a visa to travel from Western to Eastern Mass. these days...) in the days of Charles Laquidara and the Big Mattress, and it was years before I changed the dial, following him and the Mishigas madness to 'ZLX.

At the risk of further dating myself, my first true Boston experience was through 'BCN. Shortly after I moved here, John Lennon was killed. I was living in the dorms at Northeastern and a bunch of us joined a candlelight procession from the Commons down Boylston Street to the radio station. It was the moment when I truly bonded with the city that I have called home ever since.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Saying goodbye to the Bay State Banner

The Boston Globe reported today that the Bay State Banner is ceasing publication. As they put it, they are hoping to find investors, so maybe something will happen, but these days that's unlikely.

This is a sad day for Boston. The Banner served an underserved community with grace and dignity. They were a true part of the fabric of the community and will most definitely leave a hole. It's probably safe to say that the Miller family were merely the custodians, the neighborhoods they served were the true owners.

It's also a sad day for me. I wrote some of my favorite articles for the Banner, and learned tons about journalism and Boston, and gained confidence from working with Yawu Miller and Kay Bourne, the editors I worked with at the time.

I remember talking one time to Kay about covering an event. I was concerned that I would be the only white person there and would not be able to interview anyone. First she admonished me for using the term white, "that's a political point of view," she said rather abruptly. Then she reassured me that no one would care: "What they are going to see is your notebook. Once they see you are representing them, they will begin to trust you." And she was right. People saw me not as that crazy white chick infringing on their space, but as the reporter from the Banner. It was a valuable lesson, and one that I never forgot.

Whether I was assigned articles or uncovered the stories myself, they each became a part of me, from the cosmetics entrepreneur who modeled her business plan on Bobbi Brown ("What would Bobbi do?" was her mantra) to the man imprisoned for life for murder seeking to get his sentence commuted.

It was an honor to write for the Banner, and while it doesn't look good, hopefully they will be able to find a way to continue their mission. They will be missed.

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Chance furnishes me what I need. I am like a man who stumbles along; my foot strikes something. I bend over and it is exactly what I want."
~~James Joyce

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Green Chartreuse

So, I was talking to this woman yesterday who was in town visiting from North Carolina. Not that this is integral to the story, but she was.

She was visiting her son and they were at the bar of the Cottonwood Cafe where he worked (or was a regular and/or where he once worked--I didn't catch exactly what) having predrink drinks, as they put it. He knew the bartender, and I just happened to be there having lunch (just lunch, not prelunch lunch) and dropped in and out of the conversation, which veered every which way, from work to napping to sleeping habits to family.

The talk turned to unusual liquors and how long it took the bar to go through this and that. (If you go there, don't order the Harvey's Bristol Cream--that hasn't been touched in years.) She then told this story about her father: She said when she was young, her father would take her out to dinner periodically and would always order green chartreuse after the meal for the two of them. She said it was awful, and she could never drink it, so he would drink her glass as well. (He knew what he was doing when he ordered it for her!)

After he died, she said, he had had a half a bottle left, so she poured it on his grave. What a touching tribute, I thought, until she added, "No one else was ever going to drink it!"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"We become what we think about"

Self-actualization, not a new idea, but it could be a powerful one. On the one hand, the question is could it be that easy. But on the other, maybe the alternative is even more easy, making
it harder to achieve.

Earl Nightingale proposed it in 1956. He was, quite possibly, the founder of the self-help/new age movement. is reviving his message. Personally, I'm not sure what to make of it. It is easy to be negative, especially these days. But there is something to be said for being goal oriented, and why not make that goal be one of becoming a better person? The website has a link to his message on "The Strangest Secret," Earl Nightingale's recording--one that millions of people bought, but few achieved.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"If you are going to yell at me, tell me exactly what you want or you'll get exactly what you asked for."
Neil Young on PBS's American Masters. At this point, he was talking about the album This Notes for You.

This clip is also from the American Masters show. The whole show is recommended!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Journalism without a net

The New York Times ran a background story today on the journalists recently arrested in North Korea. I’m not really sure they can be called journalists, at least not in a very news sense. Who knows what anyone is called or should be called anymore. But just because there is no clear-cut criteria as to what a journalist is or should be, doesn't mean that it's not a valid question.

This is more than just a semantical question, and more than just an isolated story about two women trapped in a North Korean prison. This is an important story about the new face of the journalism industry. I saw what went on behind the scenes when Jill Carroll was abducted in Iraq. The difference between her story and the story of these two women is another type of fallout of the current precarious state of the news industry. All three women were arguably reckless. But even though she was a freelancer, Jill Carroll was lucky enough to have not just the moral support and visibility of a major newspaper (The Christian Science Monitor), but their skill, contacts, and compassion, all of which helped lead to her release. This type of network is not only not available to the two women sent out by a fledgling website to gather edgy video clips, but it's in danger of becoming just a quaint, dusty relic of another time.

As newspapers fold, surprise, the content they once provided is also disappearing. So new outlets are springing up to fill the content void. It’s an exciting time, but I think we would do well not to abandon all the things that make for good journalism. The format is definitely changing, but there's no reason that the basics have to be discarded. Some places, like GlobalPost do seem to be a legitimate sources of news. But other sites are just sending people out with camera phones, but with no training and no resources. (Can you say "exploitation"?) These “new journalists” may be younger and closer in age to the target audience, but that’s hardly a credential!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

There goes the neighborhood (tales from the South End)

This store just moved in replacing a shortlived, modern interior design storefront that in turn replaced an upscale kitchen/bath store. (To be fair, it moved from another South End location, but this is a more visible spot.) I am reminded of my friend J who regularly pines for the "good old days" when all you had to worry about was the random shooting or date violence.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Boston Globe: Pressmen Under Pressure

In this clip, the Boston Globe's pressmen talk about not just their jobs, but their relationship with the paper. (You can also read the associated Boston Globe article here.)

Aside from showing these guys at work, hearing them talk about how long they have been at the paper, and what it will mean to them if the paper closes, this clip also illustrates why the Taylor family put in the clause in their deal when selling the Globe to the New York Times that their employees would have their jobs for life. The Taylor family knew that what they had was truly a family business, and they wanted to make sure that they didn't abandon their employees through a business decision. Perhaps this clause doesn't stand the test of time, but it really is more than just a frivolous union "perk."

There are no easy answers when it comes to saving the Boston Globe specifically or the newspaper industry generally. More than anything else, this clip puts a face, several in fact, to what it will mean to those who are spending their lives, not just making their living, putting out the paper every day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

“Writing about people helps us to understand them, and understanding them helps us to accept them as part of ourselves.”

~Alice Walker

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Worst Slide Story

In these tough economic times, it helps to laugh. (Well, it just helps to laugh period.) Here's an animated parody, courtesy of Walt Handelsman at Newsday. Click here and feel free to sing along.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My dog's better than your dog.

Puh-lease. OK, this is a humorous story. But the #1 story on Christian Science Monitor's website?

Well, to be technical, they can call it an article, but it's really a blog post. The original story, with video, is on the Syracuse Post-Standard. And the reason it's #1 is because people like me are linking to it and sending it around. And sites like the Monitor (I'm not sure if they can be called a newsite anymore. The jury's still out.) know this and are therefore more interested in courting this traffic than in trafficking in real news. It's what the market will bear. This phenomenon is the real story. And it's not as pretty and fluffy as either Bo or Champ.

But back to the dogs. Whose dog is better? Well, mine, of course! (Thanks, Kent, for the picture.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Random Humor

Playing Pong with lighted sheep. It's as funny as it sounds.
Watch it here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"The dissonance of today is the consonance of tomorrow."
~~Claude Debussy

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Khalil Gibran: Prophet and local boy done good

One of those books that should be on a reading list, one that I have read several times over the years, is The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.

Gibran, born in Lebanon, spent part of his childhood in Boston's South End and returned to Boston after spending several years in Lebanon. He moved on to New York where he died in 1931. There is a memorial to him in Copley Square, in the park between the library and Trinity Church.

In a recent blog post, Phil Metres offers a glimpse of Gibran as a houseguest of Metres' parents in Brooklyn Heights. Definitely well worth reading.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

100 must read books, really?

OK, I'll admit it upfront. I am procrastinating. Otherwise I probably wouldn't be dwelling on this so much. So there it is.

Anyway, while tooling around on Facebook, I came across this list: the BBC Reading List. The idea is that the BBC put together this list of 100 books with the claim that most people probably only read six of them. Always up for a challenge, I went through the list. But I was a little suspicious. Why, for example, was the Harry Potter series (the whole series) on there and yet Upton Sinclair's The Jungle not?

So I did some quick research as to where this list came from. Well, this wasn't a team of experts, literary or literate professors or librarians. It was a survey. In 2003, the BBC had a project called The Big Read, where they asked their readers to submit their favorite book and they put together the top 100. So now, this has been spreading all over the Internet as a challenge for people to read all 100 books, for, as it turns out, no other reason than they were the most popular in the UK in 2003.

In the interest of full disclosure (not to mention the fact that it's already on my Facebook profile), following are the top 25 books on the list along with my checkmarks. I could let this go, but of course I probably won't. My challenge is not to read the unchecked books on the following list, but to either find a better list or fool around with this list. Stay tuned!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen X
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte X
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling [Why is this here?]
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee X
6 The Bible X [parts]
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte X
8 1984 - George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens X
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott X
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy X
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare [I have read some, but not the entire collection.]
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger X
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot X
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell X
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald X
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy X
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams X

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came."

~~Abraham Lincoln (from his second inaugural address) who was shot on this date in 1865.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Close observation of a passion often reveals the panic that feeds it."

~~Nick Bantock (from The Museum at Purgatory, 1999)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Forty-one years ago today...

...Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these words:

"...and I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man."

The next day he was assassinated.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him."
~~Aldous Huxley

Sunday, March 29, 2009

WAM! 2009

This morning I participated in a panel at the WAM! (Women, Action, Media) conference sponsored by the Center for New Words in Cambridge.

The panel, titled "Making Money From Your Writing: How to Negotiate Money and Rights with Editors," was an initiative of the Boston chapter of the National Writers Union and part of our ongoing effort to educate writers on valuing their work, knowing their rights, and getting paid for their writing.

This was our second year there. So, what exactly did we talk about? Lena was there and covered this (and some of the other panels) for her blog, the ch!cktionary. Click here to read what she had to say about it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Life on Mars" dialogue quote of the week

"When I'm done he'll be in Rikers eating bologna out of a straw."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Blogging is like having coffee with friends, only they aren't the people you would want to sit around the table with."

~~Connie Schultz, author of "And His Lovely Wife" speaking at the Nieman Conference in Boston on March 20.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

From the Nieman Conference--quick hit on memoir

Andrew Lam, a writer and a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered, spoke about writing memoir. A Vietnamese American whose father was an army general and who left Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in 1975, said he wrote it because it was a way for him to carve out a space for himself and not be invisible in America.

During a conversation on writing about family and dealing with the inevitable fallout, Lam summed up the issue with this cautionary statement: "If there's a writer born into a family, then that family is totally screwed."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

From the Nieman Conference--talking with agents and editors

On Saturday, I spent most of the afternoon hanging out in the J-Cafe (how could I resist?) in a conversation of several writers in various stages of book development (from "I have this idea that I never talked to anyone about before" to "I submitted a proposal that was rejected" to "I am working with my agent fine tuning my proposal") with a couple of editors (Helene Atwan from Beacon Press and David Patterson from Henry Holt & Co.). The Nieman fellow who was acting as the point person for the room managed to track down an agent who later joined the conversation.

Most of the talk was about the projects that people were working on or considering. The agent and editors offered advice specific to the idea development and also in dealing with agents and editors in general. (The most helpful advice came from the editors.) Some notes from the conversation:

The most important advice was on the book proposal. It was emphasized repeatedly that the book proposal is the most important part of getting the contract. And that the book proposal should have a heavy marketing component. You need to do your homework and find similar books and also explain what differentiates your book from them (a seeming contradiction). You have to be able to explain what the market would be for your book--where would you sell it and who would buy it. And, as if that's not all, you also need to have a handle on the best way to advertise your book, including making use of your own contacts. Phew!

A recommended book for writing a proposal is Thinking Like Your Editor by Susan Rabiner. In addition to a thorough discussion of what works and why, it contains some sample proposals. You may want to also ask your agent or editor for a sample of one that was successful to them. (Note to NWU: a repository of successful book proposals submitted by members would be a useful addition to the new website.)

When looking for an agent or editor, look to books in the same genre as the one you are writing in that you admire, and read the acknowledgment pages. Also ask fellow writers and colleagues. If using a directory and approaching an agent or writer cold, do your homework and look through the books they have sold/worked on that you admire, or otherwise find a connection to them. The idea here is that when writing your query letter, you should personalize it and mention up front why you selected this agent/editor over all others. (Even if you are sending out 100 letters!)

When looking at publishers, know whether or not they work with agents. At Henry Holt, for example, they always go through agents. Beacon Press, on the other hands, does both. They have an activist agenda, so they will even approach a writer unsolicited if they think there's a project there that they want to pursue!

The publishing industry is in a state of disarray. Even over the past couple months, large houses are merging, shutting down divisions, and laying people off. Most large publishers are looking for the next blockbuster and aren't willing to take a chance on midlist titles.

With memoir, the whole thing is about the writing. There are dozens and dozens of titles out there (especially the death-in-the-family type) that the writing has to absolutely sing. So you really need to have your heart in it and be writing the type of book that you want from the outset. When looking to create interest before pitching your book, try to get excerpts or related articles in literary journals, especially. Agents and editors read them to get ideas.

Beware of agents who charge to read your manuscript. No reputable agent does that, and most editors don't work with these types of agents. Another thing to avoid is services that offer to send your query out to hundreds of agents/editors. These emails are easily identified by the recipient, and they just hit delete without reading them. (On a side note, there's a whole industry of people making money off of writers, so generally beware of anyone selling you anything related to getting your book published.)

They also echoed the advice in my earlier post about developing an online platform and presence for yourself and your book.

The agent didn't really add a lot to the conversation. Her advice was general and pretty obvious: Don't use cute stationary with color or photos, don't be overconfident and sell yourself as God's gift to the publishing industry, and don't call your agent at 4:30 in the afternoon and keep them on the phone, either rambling until you get to your point or asking the same question that you asked to day before at 4:30.

From the Nieman Conference--maximizing online opportunities

At the Nieman Conference in Boston today, Josh Benton (who either needs a new head shot or needs to shave and hit the hair gel), of Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab, spoke about how writers can maximize their presence on the Web.

Right now, there are no direct opportunities for writers to make money online. (This is not exactly true, but what he said. There are some websites that pay for articles. The trick is to find them.) And when it comes to blogging, the vast majority of writers do not directly make money from blogging. There are a couple ways to do it indirectly, though.

One way is through advertising and sales. Google AdSense won't do it, not in any significant way. But if your blog covers a narrow, specific niche, then you could sell targeted ads directly. And, conversely, if you develop a wide audience and create a persona, you could sell T-shirts and other paraphernalia. (It could happen.)

But the best way that writers can use the Web to their financial advantage is as a marketing tool. Create a dynamic website or a blog that you update regularly. Also maximize social networking sites (i.e., Facebook and Twitter) and even start your own Wikipedia entry. (All your activities should feed off of each other--that way you can maximize your visibility without spending every waking hour on this project.)

To make the most of your blog, you have to generate traffic to it. The No. 1 way is to update it often. Ideally every day, but no longer than twice a week. Otherwise readers will lose interest. Then, integrate into the blogosphere (the modern version of networking). Find other blogs that cover a similar beat or topic, and be a good neighbor. Leave comments and ideally link back to your own blog. (Or sign your comments with the name of your blog.) These other bloggers will find you and return the favor. Their readers will do likewise. Also think "keywords" when titling your blog and the individual posts. This is where the action is for Google searches. Put as many links as possible within your posts.

What do you do with this blog? Use it to market yourself. Before you even start a blog, think about who you are. (In a panel on Friday, Marci Alboher and Dennis Palumbo talked about creating your own brand. Think about the image you want to project or what you want people to call you. Refer to yourself that way and act as if that is who you are. In therapist's terms [Palumbo is a former writer, current therapist], this is known as modeling your behavior. To the rest of us, it's akin to fake it until you make it. You become the image you envision.)

While no one will pay you for writing your blog, you can use it to increase visibility for your work, create a buzz for your book before it comes out and create a base of buyers for the book. You can also parlay your blog into speaking engagements and other opportunities.

There is one caveat. Whatever you do, whether website or blog, don't do it halfway. Invest the time to do it right, as a lackadaisical presence is worse than no presence at all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun."
~~Mary Lou Cook

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Life on Mars" dialogue quote of the week

"You're like the cherry tomato on the end of a kabob stick."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"A frontier is never a place; it is a time and a way of life."
~~Hal Borland

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Nonprofit journalism a la Mother Jones

Mother Jones is proving to be a test case for nonprofit journalism, according to the New York Times.

As newspapers and magazines suffer from declining subscriptions and advertising, the corporate, for-profit model is proving untenable (shrinking profits will do that, after all). Without the pressure of EPS, the nonprofit model, which relies on not just traditional revenue streams but also endowments, may be a better-suited model for the journalism industry.

Of course, the nonprofit model is not without its own problems. Sources of funding are shrinking due to the pesky stock market crisis, and there does have to be a firewall between the donors and the editorial board. The same consideration exists in traditional media, but the appearance of influence is even greater with endowments. If one entity is footing a substantial portion of the bill, the question is in the air, whether it's justifiable or not. It is probably one of the most frequently asked questions about the Christian Science Monitor, for example, is it a "real," independent newspaper? They have successfully answered the question, though, and I suppose if other newspapers and magazines go that route they will navigate it as well. And, of course, if it becomes a more widespread model and less of a rarity, it will become more accepted.

In short, it's all about finding a revenue stream to replace advertising and being able to provide quality journalism (well-written and sourced with original reporting--in case you need a definition). And, of course, whether enough people are interested in reading it and supporting it is probably the real bottom line.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Life on Mars" quote of the week

"I'm gonna punch you in the face so hard they'll find your smirk down on Canal Street."

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap...or pricey, depending on your mood

Breaking up may not be so hard to do, especially if you plan it right. If your significant other suggests drinks at Sonsie's on Newbury Street, he or she may not be planning on being significant for much longer--at least to you. That's according to Meredith Goldstein of the Boston Globe. Just in case you need the pictorial, is happy to oblige.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

So, who really got dissed?

The newspaper industry, that's who.

Last night, Letterman did his regular local news bit and noted the byline from a story.

Some blogger (Aaron Barnhart), looking for something to do, looked up the reporter to get her reaction to getting insulted by Letterman. I don't know, it didn't seem insulting to me. She didn't seem to think so either.

As it turned out, she had just been laid off.

So, ignoring the fact she didn't think she was insulted (why let a silly thing like the facts stand in the way of a good story), he went with " 'Small Town News' journalist dissed by Letterman was laid off last week."

He missed the bigger picture. What are the odds that she'd be laid off? Not really that huge, these days.

Kids and Texting

There was a study in England published in the Journal of Developmental Psychology about the effect that texting has on children's language development. According to BBC News, it's actually positive. Fears that kids won't learn real words or will mistakenly use text shorthand in real writing is apparently unfounded. In fact, being exposed to texting is a language-rich activity and makes them more comfortable with the written word. Even if they write it "wrd." Of course, if you could write off their phone bill as an education expense, you'd be all set!

Monday, March 2, 2009

"And that's...the rest of the story"

Radio is a little quieter with the death of Paul Harvey on Saturday. (Read his obit from the Chicago Tribune here.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Life on Mars" quote of the week

"Maybe if you spend enough time with a crazy person, the craziness rubs off on you....Is all I know is the more time I spend with you, the dizzier I get."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Putting a value on blogs—Wall Street style came up with their list of The Twenty Five Most Valuable Blogs. If you're looking for social or cultural relevance, though, look someplace else. This list is all about the money, honey.Link

Friday, February 20, 2009

No, a public train is not your living room

So, I was riding the train back from New York last night and was treated to this half of a cellphone conversation...

When I started listening, this guy, Jeff (never leave your ticket stub behind if you are going to be an ass...if that's not an important life rule, it should be), was telling whoever about a conversation he had with this guy who was shining his shoes that morning. Jeff told the shoeshine guy that he had two young boys (who hopefully are getting their life education from their mother), and the shoeshine guy told him that he had three girls who he had put through college, two Harvard and one somewhere else. His comment on the price of higher education was that it was too high, in fact, given that one really couldn't do anything of substance without it, that it should be free. This prompted Jeff to tell his friend how incredulous it was that he had to listen to this. He then said, "They think they elected this monkey in there, and now it's their turn."

Continuing on this theme and talking about the bailout, prompted these two bits of dialog:

"The noise is the subsidies. You and I know how to work. I can take the reins of any of these places and turn a profit."

And, "Africans didn't come here of their own accord. We drug them here, let's send them back. They can go to Liberia or whereever. Except for the 3% who are hard workers. But Obama the Messiah is going to take care of them all. "

He then talked about his next truck, which, at least, is going to be a Ford. But he didn't mention any altruistic reason like helping the auto industry or the workers.

Finally, there was a story which really shouldn't be repeated. It was offensive to women and men, for that matter, about getting wasted in a bar with his friend, Scott, who was so trashed he couldn't speak, and the situation he "orchestrated" with a "225-pound Belgian" woman who only spoke a little English.

After all this, he pulls out a travel pillow, puts his knapsack on his lap, hugs it, and takes a nap. My guess is that he spent a great deal of time in either boarding school or summer camp and was as much of a jerk back then that he had to protect himself while he slept.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday quote of the week

"Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."

~~Kahlil Gibran

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Lyric of the Week

"There was never any good old days
They are today, they are tomorrow
It's a stupid thing we say
Cursing tomorrow with sorrow"

From "Ultimate" by Gogol Bordello

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"The sun, with all those planets revolving around it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Update on the Devil's Triangle

So, where exactly is this, anyway?

A couple things (based on the comments received): Yeah, I screwed up. I do know my way around town, but for some reason I confused New England Medical Center (which is in the Chinatown/South End/Theater District area) and Boston City Hospital (which is lower South End/Roxbury area, where the methadone clinic is).

And, yes, Skipton Kennels does rock! I used to take my dog there all the time for grooming. (Now he is too old to make the walk, so Simone, who is awesome and who my dog adores, picks him up.) And, no, I never did get lost and head over to Chinatown on my way there.

Regarding the liquor store, I don't know about a Liquormart, but maybe he meant Liquor Land. They used to be on Harrison Ave, but are now around the corner at 1033 Mass. Ave. (I called them just to make sure.) So, technically, these three places--Rosie's, the methadone clinic, and the liquor store--still define a specific area that can be described (as the residents apparently do) as a triangle that keeps away developers and multimillion-dollar homeowners who don't want these kinds of institutions in their backyards. Which is perfectly fine for those who just want a place to live.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Affordable rents in Boston

They do still exist, if you know where to look. And if you aren't that fussy about who your neighbors are.

This guy at a cafe I frequent in the South End (where the best descriptor for the few low-rent apartments I've heard is: You get what you pay for, but you don't pay much) was talking about his apartment. He lives closer to downtown, in a neighborhood that is a crossroads for the South End, Chinatown, and the Theater District.

He was saying that, even though there were million-dollar condos nearby, his block was pretty safe: "Within walking distance there's Rosie's Place, the methadone clinic, and Liquormart. The Devil's Triangle. My rent will never go up."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Lyric of the Week

"If I'm that far gone there's nowhere else to go.
I hope that it's only amnesia, believe me I'm sick but not insane.
I hope that it's only amnesia, my friends they don't look at me the same."

~~From Pousette-Dart Band's "Amnesia"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."
~~Henry Longfellow

Sunday, February 1, 2009

New York moment

So, the other other day I had to spend the night in New York and stayed at this hotel in the upper East Side.

I had a late dinner at the hotel restaurant and stuck around at the bar for a little while...the conversations were just too good to up and leave, and I wasn't in a rush.

It was a local crowd. First we talked about eyebrow grooming. (I am oftentimes amused at the conversations that seem to fall in my lap.) The bartender, a man, was explaining eyebrow threading, which apparently is about the same painwise as tweezing, but a lot quicker. I had never heard of it. The other guy who was there and I both were champions of the tweezer method. All three of us were in agreement, however, on waxing. The threading guy had tried it. I've had it done elsewhere on my body and can think of better things to do. That seems painful and risky...I mean one false move and there goes an eyebrow. For the record, I can't imagine I'd try the threading thing, either.

The conversation eventually meandered around to the different boroughs of New York. The consensus amongst those present (besides me) was that Brooklyn was for lost souls, Queens was for families (or at least family-oriented), and the Bronx was a place where if you were born there you loved it and would probably die there. The woman who was there, who had been out on a cigarette break during the whole eyebrow conversation, said that she had lived in Brooklyn for a couple of years, until her father told her about the whole lost souls thing, so she moved. I don't know...I never listened that closely to my parents, but who's to say that's a good or a bad thing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday quote of the week

"We do survive every moment, after all, except the last one."

~~John Updike (1932-2009)

Monday, January 26, 2009

What people are reading

This will either make you laugh or depress you. The "Recommended Searches" on (actual searches chosen by their editors) currently are:

> Weather
> Obituaries
> Mental illness
> Tom and Gisele
> Meat market
> Leather clothing

Bird Watching: Robins in January

Maybe it's the incessant cold. Maybe it's the dreary economy. Maybe it's global warming.

Maybe it's the food. That's the most logical explanation, according to avian experts. (I just had to throw in the cold, even though I am boring even myself complaining about it. And I had to throw in the economy because, well, did you notice, every conversation or news item, no matter the subject, includes at least one reference?)

So, what am I talking about? Robins. Apparently, they're all over the place. When I was in Canada over the weekend I happened to catch a fluffy feature piece on the local news one day about the unusual number of robin sightings in Ontario. And then this morning, there it was in the Boston Globe--a blurb from their environmental blog about the number of sightings here.

But for those who are looking for an early end to this wearying winter or just a sign in general that spring is on its way, forget about it. For the birds, winter hasn't even really started. The robins aren't returning early, they never left. There is still food to be had, so they are sticking around. Either that or the birds that we are seeing here, according to local experts, could be Canadian ones on their way south, stopping by for a nosh before continuing their trip. (Although, from what the Canadians are saying, there's plenty more up there that still haven't packed their bags.)

Either way, foreign or domestic, if you're seeing robins, don't get too excited. But in these tough economic times (I had to throw it in one more time), it's good to have something else to talk about.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Buh-bye. Thanks for stopping in.

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"People say they love truth, but in reality they want to believe that which they love is true."

~~Robert J. Ringer

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Martini lunches

Earlier this week, Joseph Kahn 's "Voices" column in the Boston Globe sounded the death knell for the martini lunch.

Personally, I hope he got more out of Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s Journals 1952-2000 then the observation that Schlesinger drank during lunch (his starting point for this essay). But since he brings the subject up...

All things being equal, perhaps that helped matters. I mean, considering the industries that Kahn quotes John Spooner (Boston investment advisor) as having been champions of the martini lunch--law, publishing, financial investments, and advertising--switching from alcohol to bottled water did nothing except make people more health conscious (not healthier) and self-righteous, and boost EPS for Perrier.

Back in the day, when I worked in business and banking, we didn't wait for happy hour (that was also back in the days of the happy hour in Boston). Summer afternoons we could be found at Lily's outdoor patio drinking strawberry margaritas or the local Mexican restaurant with a Slow Train to Nagales (a strawberry/banana thing). Then back to work, none the stupider. One company that I worked for was innovative in being a solidly no-smoking environment, but the president kept a bottle of scotch in his bottom desk drawer. As a company we were none the worse on either count (except for the day the systems' guy thought he set the computer room on fire, but that's another story). In the late '80s that gradually changed, but in a weird kinda way. People still wanted to, but no one wanted to be the first when the waiter came around. So unless the boss ordered first, there was that pause, then "Diet Coke."

When I switched to writing there were a lot fewer business lunches. But a couple of years ago, when I was writing movie reviews and entertainment pieces, I ran into an arts editor I knew at an interview who invited me to lunch. At 11:45 (I noted the time) we were sipping martinis at the Ritz and talking about the Boston arts/entertainment scene. She was much older and wiser than I, so who was I to argue? And why would I? In fact, I remember thinking, it doesn't get better than this.

(Brief aside: It's good to see that John Spooner is still around and still in Boston--whether or not he drinks anymore at lunch. His 1985 book, Sex & Money: Behind the Scenes With The Big-Time Brokers, a names-have-been-changed account of his early days in the money business, was a fun read and worth reading again.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What does a good journalist look like?

Jeff Jacoby's latest opinion column, "Why should a journalist's race matter?" in the Boston Globe is sure to get journalists and journalism educators and professionals riled up. (Which is, granted, always his primary agenda: to get people in general riled up.) I have never agreed with anything he says, and I don’t wholeheartedly agree with his argument here. His comment on the efforts of magazines such as Jet and Ebony is interesting, but his reasoning is a bit too simplistic and misses the point of the whole industry, education, and opportunity.

He makes a good point, though, that good journalism is good journalism regardless of skin color. But I do think that the field should be more diverse…and by that I don’t just mean more black journalists, but varying backgrounds and viewpoints. (Because being black or being anything--a woman, a liberal, even an evangelical--isn’t a point of view.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Reason is our soul's left hand, faith her right;
By these we reach divinity."

~~ John Donne (From Letters: To the Countess of Bedford)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fun with Google

So, while copyediting a book review, I wanted to verify a couple of things about a title, How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People (While They Are Still on This Earth) by Henry Alford. Just to be quick about it, I Googled the title. I found it right away, of course, but also found (among the top of the total of 95 million listings) the following other guidelines for living:

How to live a life of contentment~a blog of Zen habits, chock full of advice such as: focus on what's important, do less each day, do only one thing at a time, eat slowly.

How to live Online~Not sure why, but the top post of this blog was how to stop being sad, which included advice such as accept why you are sad, talk to a trustworthy person, write/talk/paint your feelings.

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day~A Wikipedia entry for a 1910 book by Arnold Bennett who (as part of a larger philosophy) suggests setting aside 90-minutes (to start) a day to improve your life by reading and learning more about your business, history, and art. Suggested reading includes Milton's Paradise Lost.

Forbes magazine article "Ten Ways to Live Longer"~It all starts with attitude (I stopped reading after that) and references Woody Allen and Hugh Hefner. In the same paragraph.

Audioslave's video for "Show Me How to Live"~Includes the lyrics, "You gave me life/now show me how to live."

Thinking How to Live~From the Harvard University Press catalog, Allan Gibbard's book that is based on his philosophy that our thoughts, actions, beliefs all stem from the questions we ask ourselves. Or, as the university press puts it, "The result is a book that investigates the very nature of the questions we ask ourselves when we ask how we should live, and that clarifies the concept of 'ought' by understanding the patterns of normative concepts involved in beliefs and decisions." Phew! "Metaethics" indeed.

Of course, with all this advice on how to live, one wouldn't really have time to live.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"We will not know unless we begin."
~~Howard Zinn

Monday, January 5, 2009

Everybody was kung foo fighting

This dude was real exciting. (OK, he didn't have a clue.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders, advocates and defenders of press freedom around the world, recently issued their report for 2008.

The stats:

In 2008
60 journalists were killed
1 media assistant was killed
673 journalists were arrested
929 were physically attacked or threatened
353 media outlets were censored
29 journalists were kidnapped

1 blogger (Chinese) was killed
59 bloggers were arrested
45 were physically attacked
1,740 websites were blocked, shut down or suspended

For the full report, read this.