Archive for August, 2009

Quote of the Day

Posted on August 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

”I regret that I went to vote. What is the benefit of voting to me?”

—Mohammed, an Afghan man whose nose and ears were cut off by the Taliban as he was on his way to vote in the August 20th presidential election in Afghanistan.

Worth Watching

Posted on August 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

My colleague Patrick Williams appeared on Bloomberg to talk about Worth.

Out of Alaska

Posted on August 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Just in case you didn’t think she was running for president in 2012….Sarah Palin is making her first trip to Asia.

Then again, she is getting paid for it….

Still Dick

Posted on August 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Dick Cheney comes out against prosecuting torture, which means that it’s a good idea to do just that.

Also: He argued for bombing Iran, but President Bush wouldn’t go along.

A history of the Bush administration yet to be written should tell the story of the push and pull for power between these two men….

The Facebook Rebellion?

Posted on August 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In the Times, Virginia Heffernan reports (argues?) that there’s a mini-exodus of users away from Facebook.

Leif Harmsen, once a Facebook user, now crusades against it.  ….“The more dependent we allow ourselves to become to something like Facebook — and Facebook does everything in its power to make you more dependent — the more Facebook can and does abuse us,” Harmsen explained by indignant e-mail. “It is not ‘your’ Facebook profile. It is Facebook’s profile about you.”

If people really are leaving Facebook, I suspect it’s an inevitable function of modern-day ADD, and that this quote has more explanatory power than the one above (although I think Harmsen is right, I’m just not sure that anyone cares about what he cares about).

Julie Klam, a writer and prolific and eloquent Facebook updater, said in her own e-mail message, “I have noticed the exodus, and I kind of feel like it’s kids getting tired of a new toy.”

Still, I think for most people Facebook will continue to prove useful. Why would you throw out your address book just because you know all the people in it?

Monday Morning Video

Posted on August 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Ever since I got back from Iceland, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sigur Ros, who are probably Iceland’s most famous band. (To be sure, there isn’t a lot of competition.) Sigur Ros make ethereal, haunting music, which I think I understand much better having visited where they come from; the music fits the scenery.

Here’s the video for one of their better-known songs (this is actually more accessible than most), Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa. It’s a love story with an unhappy ending.

Letter from Buenos Aires, #2

Posted on August 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The second missive from my cousin George, who has left his job as a television producer and his life in New Orleans for the boulevards of Buenos Aires.

Right now I´m reading apt. rental information en espagnol.  Difficult, because you are looking at abreviations of words you might not understand anyway.

It´s possible I could find a decent studio in a good neighborhood for about $300month.  If I can pull that off, I might be here through December.

I am going to be talking with a tv producer in a few days (or maybe a couple of weeks, not sure due to language issues).  Apparently he did a pilot on UFO sightings, and other “creative” projects.  Fortunately, I am going to have my current roommate translate for us.  I can be a little shy, so I´m having to “just say yes” to whatever.  I need to meet as many people as possible.  I would love to do some production work.  A lot of the terms are basically the same as in english: producer, director, cable, etc.

BAians are walking dichotomies (sp? I am on a Spanish computer right now and it doesn´t know what the hell I´m writing).  On the street they have a frigid demeanor.  They won´t even look at you.  However, literally as soon as you are introduced to one via a friend, they kiss you on the cheek.  And men do too.  No wonder the flu loves BA.  What good is a mask if you are going to shake hands and kiss everyone you know, you know?  At the airport it was a joke.  The customs officers were sort of wearing the masks. Some were around their necks, etc.  In the states we have 6 degrees of separation of people you know.  Here they have 6 degrees of people you´ve kissed.  And everyone kisses someone who kissed the pope sooner or later….

ANYWAY…..I keep reminding myself that “Wherever you may go; there you are.”  People are people no matter what the culture.  It can be intense here, because there is serious poverty and when crime hits, it´s vicious, and complicated.  Not as much as in other South American countries, but apparently there are occasional kidnappings and these are used to get ransom.  As a result there are private security guards in every single apt. building and even cafes have security.  One plain clothes guard was staring at me today from outside a nearby cafe while I worked online.  He was looking at me for so long, I had to ask my usual waitress to let him know I was ok.  I guess my sunglasses and wool cap make me look like IRA or something.  My street cred just took a big jump.  I´m a suspect!

And then everyone you meet wants to help you out and convince you what a wonderful city it is.  A lot like New Orleans, I guess….

Monday Morning Zen

Posted on August 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Rainy bikes on a Jamaica mountain

Rainy bikes on a Jamaica mountain

Remembering Teddy

Posted on August 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Obama’s eulogy was eloquent, if unemotional. Patrick Kennedy’s was too political. But Ted Kennedy Jr.’s talk was really moving. He mixed a sense of history with a conveyance of the personal. He was serious but appropriately funny. And he told some good stories. I got a little choked up when he told this one.

When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed with bone cancer and a few months after I lost my leg, there was a heavy snowfall over my childhood home outside of Washington D.C. My father went to the garage to get the old Flexible Flyer and asked me if I wanted to go sledding down the steep driveway. And I was trying to get used to my new artificial leg and the hill was covered with ice and snow and it wasn’t easy for me to walk. And the hill was very slick and as I struggled to walk, I slipped and I fell on the ice and I started to cry and I said “I can’t do this.” I said, “I’ll never be able to climb that hill.” And he lifted me in his strong, gentle arms and said something I’ll never forget. He said “I know you’ll do it, there is nothing you can’t do. We’re going to climb that hill together, even if it takes us all day.

Sure enough, he held me around my waist and we slowly made it to the top, and, you know, at age 12 losing a leg pretty much seems like the end of the world, but as I climbed onto his back and we flew down the hill that day I knew he was right. I knew I was going to be OK. You see, my father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable and it is what we do with that loss, our ability to transform it into a positive event, that is one of my father’s greatest lessons.

Ted Jr. closed with this simple but poignant thought:

I love you dad and I always will. I miss you already.

Part of the reason that watching the memorial service got to me was because it brought back memories of John Kennedy Jr.’s funeral, back in 1999, when Teddy had been a pillar of strength, saying of John that he “had every gift but length of years.”

In American Son, I wrote a short section about Teddy at the reception afterwards. For what it’s worth, I’ll share it here.

I heard the sound of singing and followed it into a small, sparsely decorated anteroom where the gospel choir from the hurch, a clean-cut, racially diverse group, stood in a circle. Holding hands with a singer on each side was Ted Kennedy, who was leading the group in an Irish ballad. I’d never heard it, but I got the feeling that if you were Irish, you’d have known it by heart.

When that song was done, the choir launched into a slow, mournful hymn. Tedddy didn’t seem to know this one, so, still holding hands and rocking back and forth a little bit, he listened and waited until they finished. By now a crowd had gathered, watching as much as listening, knowing that this was a scene we would not forget.

“We can’t end with a sad song,” Teddy declared. He launched into another Irish sing-along—faster, cheerier. Teddy’s voice was strong. It wasn’t polished and it wasn’t smooth like the voices of the singers around him. But it was resilient, the voice of a man who knew death and so realized that the rest of us needed someone to offer hope.

Tears came to my eyes again, as I watched Senator Kennedy muster his strength to lift the spirits of others. This is courage, I thought. Ted Kennedy, standing in a circle of black and white, singing for his lost nephew, his brother’s son.

People will debate Ted Kennedy’s contributions to public life, as well as his personal successes and failings, for years to come, which is as it should be. But there should be no debate that his was a remarkable life and there will probably never be another American life like it.

Does What You Read Matter…

Posted on August 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

….or does it matter only that you read?

The Times reports on a fascinating trend among schoolteachers to abandon fixed reading lists and allow students to read whatever the hell they want, from James Patterson novels to chick-lit to serial novels.

The reason? They say it promotes greater passion about reading than assigning kids books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Moby Dick,” which they may not like.

But of course the underlying reason is the concern that kids today simply aren’t growing up with the habit of reading books that older people did.

“I actually used to be a real hard-line, great-books, high-culture kind of person who would want to stick to Dickens,” said Mark Bauerlein, professor of English at Emory University and the author of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future.” But now, in the age of Game Boys and Facebook, “I think if they read a lot of Conan novels or Hardy Boys or Harry Potter or whatever, that’s good,” he said. “We just need to preserve book habits among the kids as much as we possibly can.”

On the whole, this seems encouraging to me. But why not a mix of books that have to be read in common—works that define our cultural history and help bind us together—and books that kids read because they choose to do so?