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 Boston.com (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.