Category Archives: News

Idolatry

I knew I loved Matt Lauer.

This morning on Today, following a preview of this year’s commercials appearing during the Super Bowl—one starring Matthew Broderick—it was revealed shamefully that Matt Lauer had never seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Neither have I. It was also revealed that he had never seen Star Wars. Neither have I.

Okay, technically, I did see Star Wars. I was in the theater while it played in its opening week in 1977. But I hated it so much within the first few minutes that I closed my eyes and tried to sleep while the noise gave me a pounding headache that lasted through the weekend. My father, who had taken my brothers and me to see the movie, walked out in the first 15 minutes and spent the rest of the movie in the lobby of the theater.

Matt Lauer has always been my TV personality crush. His picture was posted on the Wall of Men in my office before I redecorated. My husband, God love him, gave me the Matt Lauer magazine cover for my little beefcake display.

I identify with Matt’s germophobia, I love how he both idolizes the greats he interviews and doesn’t let them evade the tough questions. I love the way he dresses. And I love how this TV personality has almost no personality. And now I love his taste in movies.

And I love that my husband helps indulge my little crush.

Come to think of it, I once took him to meet his TV news crush, Paula Zahn, when she hosted CBS This Morning. That’s a story for another day.

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Filed under Marketing/Advertising/PR, Movies, Television and Radio, News

SOPA opera digest

I’d like it to be noted that I endured 24 hours without Wikipedia. But I didn’t. I got in.

Meanwhile, Internet stakeholders-turned-doomsayers appear to have scuttled the online piracy debate captained by the film and television industries. And judging by the millions of followers they engaged by blacking out popular websites, it appears the U.S.S. SOPA could sink, at least as of this moment.

In my aim to be an informed citizen, I spent way too much of yesterday trying to educate myself on this smoking hot issue, another in a long series that has Americans fiercely divided. As if we needed another.

I actually read the entire House bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act, as well as everything, pro and con, that was posted on my favorite websites by my favorite people, and I talked live with several stakeholders. I’ve cracked open the Senate version, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA.

As usual, I came away with mixed feelings.

As someone who has lived and worked in the hotbed of hullaballoo that is our nation’s capital, I continue to witness firsthand how advocacy groups can twist any public policy issue in their favor, and scare people—often with little effort–into supporting their causes. And people are willing to rally on a moment’s notice when they’re told the end is near.

Who remembers the rumor about 10 years ago that the federal government was going to impose a 25-cent fee on every e-mail message sent and received? I received about 50 bucks’ worth of messages from naïve friends urging me to help beat it back. They cited a bogus bill number that anyone with a clue would have known was neither a House nor Senate measure. It was a hoax.

I’m not saying the SOPA/PIPA proposals or the death knell the tech firms are singing are hoaxes. This is a real issue with high stakes on both sides. What I’m bemoaning here is how quickly some people who have never read a piece of legislation in their lives take up arms based on panic induced rhetoric.  You can’t tell me that every website user who is protesting actually understands what’s in both bills. I know I don’t.

Here’s how I see it.

People and companies who create artistic works are entitled to the income they earn for those works. And these aren’t just the big movie, TV and recording stars. They are members of camera crews, editing staff, key grips (whatever they do), hair and make-up artists, extras, even the little old ladies like my Aunt Patsy who play the small parts they work so hard to get. Their income is being taken from them when foreign websites pirate and traffic their work products.

I use Google and Wikipedia an average of 20 times a day. As an unpaid amateur blogger, I consider Wikipedia my official go-to source for unofficial useless information and Google my treasure trove of silly images, legally available and otherwise. Facebook and Twitter? Big fan. I’d like them to be there for me. I don’t believe Google or Wikipedia should solely bear the burden of policing the content that flows through them, nor do I think they should be censored. But I do believe they have a responsibility to refrain from facilitating criminal activity that harms U.S. workers and businesses and to cooperate when law enforcement has to intervene. So sue me.

Here’s what I’d like to see.

First of all, I’d like to see both sides avoid playing the jobs card. There are jobs at stake on both sides. And these days in the United States, everything has a jobs angle.

Next, I’d like to see the bill’s drafters do some redrafting to address any provisions that produce unintended consequences. This is a challenge given the Internet as we know it isn’t even 20 years old, and criminals are typically a step ahead of the law.

Further, I’d like to see all of us, as regular citizens playing happily on the Internet, simmer down, become better educated before we panic, and think for ourselves. Regardless of where we stand, on this or any other issue.

Need a chuckle break from the madness? Enjoy  yesterday’s amusing take on what would happen in a Wikiless world, by The Washington Post’s Monica Hesse.

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Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics, Technology and Social Media

Sole food

Does this chilly January morning find Jack Frost nibbling your nose?

While watching news coverage of the New Hampshire primary over breakfast yesterday, I gagged on a banner caption that read:

Paul nibbling Romney’s heels

Once I got the unseemly visual out of my drowsy head, my next reaction was to laugh at the mixed-up phrase. In the race for the GOP nomination, Ron Paul is, figuratively, of course, “nipping at” Mitt Romney’s heels, not nibbling them.

Before I sent an e-dig to a friend who I knew was working on location for the station I was watching, I thought I’d better dig a little deeper. It seems the only error the station made was not putting the nibbling reference in quotes–and perhaps omitting “at.” Paul indeed said in a post-primary speech, “We’re nibbling at his heels.” (Again with the “we.”)

This might be the first time a candidate put his opponent’s foot in his mouth.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics

Civics meets syntax

Even before the 2012 election process begins in earnest in a few days, I already have indigestion.

It used to be that this Beltway baby salivated at the onset of an election year, and all the intellectual and ideological meat it served up. I don’t know anyone who’s hungry any more, except maybe television stations with ad time to sell.

I count myself among those who have lost their appetite from the shallow rhetoric and competitive sparring—and I suspect that’s just about everyone.

However, my particular beef has to do with (surprise!) language. Perhaps my ear is too acutely attuned to misuses, but I’m aurally assaulted day after day, not just by the candidates but those who cover them. Considering the fact that we’re in this for the long haul, I’d like to see us clear a few things up:

“Congress and the Senate” is incorrect. “Congress” and “the House” are not one and the same. Congress is composed of both parts of our bicameral system–the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Congress did not “adjourn” in December. A Congress adjourns just once, at the end of a two-year Congress. Members “recessed” until 2012, when the second year of the 112th Congress begins.

“Re-doubling” is re-dundant. According to some news outlets, the primary season has this or that candidate “re-doubling his efforts” in this or that state. Unless the pol is quadrupling his efforts, this is incorrect.

“We” is not the candidate. Candidates of both parties are equally guilty of the relatively recent practice of pluralizing themselves in speech. If the United States were governed by a monarchy, this might be a “royal we,” but we are not.

Have you noticed this? The candidate refers to himself, or occasionally, herself, as “we.” I can assume “we” refers to his campaign team, his administration, his volunteers. He’s being nice. He’s being inclusive. “We” is fine when he refers specifically to the campaign team.

But to say “We are the candidate who will [reduce the deficit, reform Social Security, insert the promise of your choice]” is not just incorrect, but absurd. It makes me wonder if pluralizing the pronoun is a scheme intended to spread the blame when the electoral matter later hits the fan.

Come to think if it, I might just vote for whoever refers to himself as “I.” (Just as long as he doesn’t use it as an objective pronoun.)

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Filed under All Things Wordish, News, Politics

Write me a letter

All right, wordies, who’s up for a Word Nymph challenge?

Here’s the background:  This week I wrote my first letter to the editor of The Washington Post. That’s significant considering I’ve been reading the Post since I could read. In fact, I still have the Sunday edition my father bought the day I was born. It’s also surprising that I only now penned my first gripe, considering the nitpickiness of my nature.

Like many newspapers, the Post has suffered sizeable cutbacks in recent years, many of which have hit the editing team. Up to now, when I’ve noticed an occasional typo or less occasional grammatical, spelling or punctuation error in my hometown paper, my reaction has been more sympathetic than critical.

However, last Sunday, an erroneous subhead provoked my inner schoolmarm. I fired off a pithy primer on subject-verb agreement that I thought might have a chance of being printed, if not in the daily Letters, then surely in Saturday’s “Free For All” space, typically set aside for granular grievances.

I awoke today—Saturday—with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning, and ran out to get the paper. I flipped directly to the editorial pages. Nada. I wondered: Was my letter too nitpicky? Too esoteric? Not well written enough?

Here’s the challenge:  1. Read the following headline, along with its subhead (sorry, I can’t find a link to the original editorial). 2. See if you notice the grammatical error. 3. Submit, in the Comments section below, your pretend letter to the editor, using fewer than 200 words (mine was 106). The best submissions will win a prize and the opportunity to help me the next time I’m stirred to speak up. Extra credit goes to anyone who can furnish the link to the editorial.

Picking on Catholic University
A complaint of bias against Muslims seem frivolous.

Go.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, News

Sounds like hypochondria

As part of my consulting practice, I do a lot of work for the medical profession. I often work with groups of doctors who are discussing the latest treatments for various diseases. When I’m on a project, I’m immersed in descriptions and data about symptoms, diagnosis, prevalence and treatment.

It’s interesting work and I enjoy it. There’s only one drawback. By the end of every project, I’m convinced I have the disease. In my mind, I’ve had ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Narcolepsy, Colitis and some pretty serious neurological conditions. I imagine there are also some pretty nasty viruses brewing in my system.

If I were to self diagnose, I’d say it’s a hypersensitivity to data and descriptions.

My latest condition? Misophonia. I didn’t pick this one up at work but rather, watching the morning news. Have you heard about it?

As best I understand it, Misophonia is a low tolerance for certain kinds of sounds, thought be the result of abnormal connections between the autonomic and limbic systems of the brain. People who suffer from Misophonia aren’t just annoyed by their triggers. They’re enraged.

Maybe you saw the news story. A woman and her husband had to eat in separate rooms.

Speaking from experience, I can tell you the condition isn’t triggered by loud noises. I can put up with most loud noises. What triggers my Misophonia—and, I trust that of my fellow sufferers—are the quieter human sounds: breathing, chewing (the sound of any gum chewing whatsoever sends me into orbit!), slurping coffee or soup, the shuffling of feet. If I had to name one trigger that evokes homicidal thoughts, it would be a nose whistle.

I’m sure there’s an olfactory equivalent and I’m sure I have that too. I suspect it’s because I’m nearly blind as a bat and, therefore, my senses of hearing, smell, taste and even touch are super-acute.

I’ve heard music in my bedsprings, I can smell when someone has visited a house with a dog and I routinely detect what my husband had for lunch. The toe-tapping of an average human feels to me like the footsteps of the Jolly Green Giant.

Okay, so now you know there’s something wrong with me. Give me a moment and I’ll give you the proper clinical term.

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Filed under Health, Movies, Television and Radio, News

Slow it down, run it back

I don’t suppose the White House, the organizers of political debates or the NFL would consider checking with me first.

The last two nights, I had conflicts that precluded my watching national events or otherwise attending to entertainment needs. I’m still catching up on what happened.

Wednesday night, I twitched and trembled when a social commitment kept me from watching Republican candidates debate the nation’s affairs and poke each other in the eye. I trusted I’d catch enough clips in the morning to catch up, but even a broad scan of news channels—as well as newspaper accounts and commentary—failed to bring me adequately up to date.

Thanks to my cousin, I was able to read the full account online and now feel completely caught up and entertained. The piece even culled the notable language twists and gaffes, just as I would have, had I tuned in.

Last night, the President graciously agreed to address a joint session of Congress at an early hour so as to not delay kickoff of the 2011-12 football season. Problem was, I was on my way to a special dinner and had to listen to the speech on the radio on the way over.

No problem, you think? The president—any president—addressing a joint session of Congress is my red carpet. I like to catch the lead-up commentary, be there for the knock on the door, hear the President announced and closely watch the procession down the center aisle. I note whose hands are being shaken, who gets a wink or a pat on the back, who sits with whom, what colors the women are wearing and the sneers on the faces of members of the opposing party. You don’t get that on NPR.

As if there weren’t enough entertainment on the menu, I also missed my brother’s live interview with Food Network Star winner—and Sandwich King—Jeff Mauro on his weekly culinary radio program.

I have a busy work day ahead but I won’t lie, I’ll be slipping in some personal time to catch up on everything I missed.

You know, they really ought to invent some sort of device that allows you to record programming for future viewing.

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Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics, Technology and Social Media