A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from the folks at Pom Wonderful, the super-expensive fruit juice in the Mae West bottle. Apparently they trawl the web looking for food bloggers, and the souffle post came up in the net. They asked if they could send me a free case. I didn’t reply. But I did Google the woman’s name on the e-mail, to see what turned up, and what ho, there were several blog posts that ran something like this: “The Pom Wonderful arrived today! It sure is delicious! Yum yum! Thanks, Pom Wonderful!”

Welcome to the future of journalism. Which is a lot like the past, only maybe with a bit more transparency.

Here’s how the 20th century Journalism Ethics 101 class would analyze my offer from Pom Wonderful: Turn it down. I’m not a food blogger, and even if I were, if I wanted to write about pomegranate juice, I should buy my own. That way, my opinions are not influenced by the fact they sent me a case free of charge — about $22 for an eight-pack of eight-ounce bottles.

In reality, it doesn’t work like that, mainly because companies don’t ask first. If I had an office with a publicly listed address, I’m sure they would have just sent it with a press release, and once it’s in the office, it’s too much trouble to send back. Every newsroom in America gets piles of freebies, most of slight value, sent in the hopes the product might turn up, by name, in a story down the road. Among the things in my own house that I didn’t pay for: An apron with the “Hell’s Kitchen” logo on it, a blue bowl and a single spoon (part of a cereal promotion), T-shirts galore, an airline-size bottle of Chivas Regal, books, bookazines, oh my the list goes on.

Different newsrooms have different distribution policies for this stuff. In Columbus, it all went into a drawer, and when we had enough for everyone in the department to get one or two pieces, we drew lots on a Friday and distributed it amongst ourselves. In Fort Wayne, whoever opened the mail would stand up and say, “Anyone want a bowl and a spoon?” or “Anyone want a banana bread mix?” or “Anyone want a T-shirt?” and if no one said yes, it went into a pile and either found a home later or went into the trash. The other paper held a semiannual sale, and the money went to a good cause, or maybe the newsroom flower fund, I can’t recall. Later, we had an editor who thought that, ethically, she was beyond reproach, and the rule became: All gifts, no matter how small and crappy, must be donated to charity. And so every quarter or so someone would have to drag a box of junk, most of it useless, to the United Way office. Sources say they rarely smiled when they saw us coming, as I doubt there was a pressing need among their client base for giant buttons that played the Purdue fight song.

You may notice something: No one ever opened the bowl-and-spoon box and said, “Wow! Great idea! Let’s do a story on cereal!” or “You know, this banana bread mix is just the thing for the busy homemaker with no time to smash ripe bananas! Get right on it, cub reporter!” It is safe to say we are thoroughly jaded about this crap. (Although mainly that’s a matter of degree. I’ve been on fashion-writer outings where there were drawings for diamond jewelry or designer clothes, and there was no jadedness there, I regret to say.)

I should pause here to note that this applies only to newspapers. Magazines are another breed of cat, particularly fashion magazines, which have a much cozier relationship with their advertisers. We all saw “The Devil Wears Prada.” I’m told the movie oversold the legendary Vogue sample closet, but only in the sense that it implied staffers were free to plunder it at will. They are not.

Anyway, here’s my point, a few hundred words later: Bloggers, some of whom are amateur journalists, are the new recipients of the banana bread mix and pomegranate juice, and some of whom don’t know you’re supposed to disclose how it came into your kitchen, as well as noting that they didn’t give it to you because they like your smiling face. Someone on Facebook noted the other day that the travel-writing game is already filling with professional PR people who have no qualms whatsoever about recommending a resort with crummy food or dirty bathrooms, because hey, they got a free vacation. It’s buyer beware all over again.

That said, there’s a restaurant in Sterling Heights here with a signature drink — the pomegranate martini. God, is it good. I don’t know what they make it with.


There’s a new resident at Coozledad’s Vegetarian Farm and Petting Zoo, and lordy, is he ever cute. I think his difficulty coming into the world was due to that adorable Disneyesque punkin head of his. Also, watch the YouTube link, just in case you’re called upon to assist a laboring Holstein.

Roy drops in on Brother Dreher, and finds his readers discussing where to move when they abandon Obama’s Amerikkka. Remember all that right-wing jeering about Alec Baldwin’s threat to move to Canada? Yeah, me too.

Oh, and just in case you missed this when Moe posted it in comments over the weekend: Extreme shepherding. Really entertaining video.

Me, I’m off to edit citizen journalism. Because I’m crazy that way.

Posted at 9:49 am in Current events, Media |

68 responses to “Freebies.”

  1. jcburns said on March 24, 2009 at 10:05 am

    I just got a $10 Starbucks card in the mail yesterday! Yum yum! Thanks, Starbucks! (Well, seriously, it was an apology for a screwed up visit to a SBUX in Richmond KY, where one barista dumped, oh, about 4 gallons of hot coffee all over the floor and counter during their morning rush with a half-dozen folks in line inside and at the drive-through and the coffee they told me would be ready in about 4 minutes never materialized and they charged my credit card anyway.)

    470 chars

  2. Dorothy said on March 24, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Purley the calf is mighty purdy. I haven’t read a description on delivering farm animals since reading the James Herriot books about 25 years ago. I don’t think I could do something like that if my life (or the cow’s) depended on it. Then again maybe I could. It would be cool to brag about to anyone who cared to listen. WTG Cooz and Tammie!

    347 chars

  3. brian stouder said on March 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

    But if SBUX charged your card anyway, and you didn’t get the goods, then the ‘gift’ card looks a lot less than heartfelt!

    speaking of them, here’s a GREAT article, on Eddie Vedder, now 44, with a 4 month old daughter and 4 year old son, and happy about our 44th president (unlike Dreher)

    I loved his little riff about being a “rock star”, and the metaphorical use of his job title (“the rock star of politicians” or “the rock star of columnists”. He says he wants to be the plumber of Rock Stars…!!)

    545 chars

  4. Kirk said on March 24, 2009 at 10:31 am

    In Columbus now, freebies are piled in a closet until twice-a-year silent auctions, with proceeds going to charity.

    115 chars

  5. Gasman said on March 24, 2009 at 10:41 am

    The foaming mouthed acolytes of Brother Dreher are apoplectic with anti-government rage and openly talk of succession or emigration (we should be so lucky). The problem is, the last time the right wing spent so much time fomenting anti-government rhetoric, Timothy McVeigh thought that bombing the Murrow Building in Oklahoma City was the highest form of patriotism. Slightly less activist armed moron groups like the Michigan Militia and Posse Comitatus felt emboldened and were probably planning similar acts of “patriotism” to be unleashed on their hapless fellow citizens.

    No good at all can come from frantically irrational, well armed mental pygmies who hyperventilate at the merest mention of the word “Democrat,” let alone any real political decisions that are to the left of the Third Reich. The Republicans ARE the Know Nothing Party. They do not openly claim these nitwits, but they certainly welcome their activism and any money they might contribute.

    970 chars

  6. coozledad said on March 24, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I made some lame joke about a new age cleaning product on my blog once, and I got a reply from the head of the company. There were no threats, but I couldn’t help but imagine a vanload of Birkenstock wearing attorneys hauling my ass into court.
    I went to their site and apologized, and got a fistful of coupons! Now my home is clean the natural way. Thank you “________” cleaning products for spreading wa and liberating my chi.

    The destinations mentioned by Galtists on Roy’s breakdown of Dreher’s piece are a tell. Poland? Russia? One is a theocratic sump of white slavery and destitution, the other is a Stalinist sump of white slavery and destitution.
    Just what is it that drives these people’s hatred of liberal democracy?

    733 chars

  7. Sue said on March 24, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Suburban Kamikaze, that Miami transplant blogging out of the Chicago area, just wrote about “whoring for overpriced chicken products”. She was referring to a contest sponsored by Eggland’s Best eggs, and she included a picture of a carton of eggs overdraped with a black lace panty. Obviously she doesn’t want to get ahead in the blogging world; something about journalistic ethics or some such nonsense, I suppose. She mentioned a group of bloggers who “reviewed” a Discover Card product. I think she was making fun of them.
    And when I was working in a hospital, sales reps didn’t bother with silly things like t-shirts and kitchen utensils. I don’t recall them ever bringing anything but food – they knew their marks. This prescription brought to you by a dozen doughnuts in the doctors lounge and two dozen in the nurses lounge.

    841 chars

  8. Jen said on March 24, 2009 at 11:10 am

    We put all the “goodies” that come to our newspaper in the break room for people to take if they want it. Currently, we have a little tube of toothpaste and two containers of dental floss sitting there, presumably from the company. Either that, or someone is trying to tell us we need to have better oral hygiene.

    313 chars

  9. jcburns said on March 24, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Well, rounding up a $1.86 coffee to a $10 card seems like at least a polite ‘sorry, and thank you.’ And it was in a real nice envelope and everything. And I think my credit card is getting charged back too.

    206 chars

  10. jeff borden said on March 24, 2009 at 11:11 am

    If I am going to flee America, I’m heading to Tuscany, where I will get as fat as a Limbaugh on the local cuisine while I learn Italian. I guess the taxes would be too high for the Dreherites.

    The reactions of these hard-right creatures isn’t unexpected, but the quickness with which they are reacting is. The O-Man has been president for, what, 60 days and they’re already casting their weary eyes to faraway lands where they can return to the soil and work the land as simple freedom-loving patriots.

    And who can blame them? Just look at what Obama has done: Issued more than 1,000 “signing statements” that abrogate him from following legislation passed by Congress; created secret prisons and “black sites” where anyone he deems an “enemy combatant” can be held without recourse to legal counsel; eliminated habeas corpus; launched two wars including one against a sovereign nation with no ties to 9/11; eavesdropped on Americans without using a court order; given no-bid contracts to corrupt firms that have delivered shoddy goods and services to our troops; skimped on proper health care for returning veterans; grown government and entitlements at a rate not seen since FDR while increasing the federal deficit to new depths; watered down environmental and safety regulations to the point where consumers no longer can assume their food is safe to eat; staffed entire departments with ideological appartchiks whose only loyalty is to the president and his party.

    Yes, that is quite a bill of particulars. Oooops. The above is a mere sampling of what happened under George W. Bush. The Dreherites were unmoved by all those issues, but when Obama makes a move or two, they are ready with bags packed.

    What a bunch of candy asses.

    1746 chars

  11. Rana said on March 24, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Thank you “________” cleaning products for spreading wa and liberating my chi.

    This made me laugh!

    As someone who buys and consumes a fair amount of “alternative” products, it’s always entertaining to see the ad copy on the containers. For every one that’s “This is made with X, Y, and Z and can be recycled” there’s one talking about the love of Mother Earth and the transformative energies of the product. I appreciate a little planet love, but there’s woo, and then there’s woo-woo.

    Just what is it that drives these people’s hatred of liberal democracy?

    My hypothesis, which seems to bear out in most of these instances, is that they resent not being on the top of the heap (or more on top than they are) and have the strange delusion that in a system consisting of aristocrats and peons, they of course would be among the aristocrats. What we see as trying to lift all boats, they see as a failure to recognize their obvious greatness while unduly rewarding the undeserving at their expense.

    In reality, of course, the odds are they’d be peons, and ones likely to get shot for being uppity too – their overweaning self-satisfaction and entitlement combine into an attitude that’s only possible if you’ve grown up in a liberal democracy.

    1279 chars

  12. LA Mary said on March 24, 2009 at 11:27 am

    At the hospital I get samples of tote bags, insulated lunch boxes, tons of pens, tiny bottles of hand sanitizer, flashlights, little boxes of band aids, sewing kits, pill boxes, pill cutters, mugs, water bottles, and badge holders. I select the giveaways for job fairs and for nurse week, so my approval is sought by many. I give all the freebies away, unless it’s a particularly nice tote bag.

    394 chars

  13. alex said on March 24, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Why the hell are the Dreherites looking for a better place on earth? Aren’t they supposed to lead a miserable existence on this plane in order to get their wings and fly to heaven? You’d think they’d love being politically marginalized and having to watch a black man serve as president.

    287 chars

  14. nancy said on March 24, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I like what this doctor does with his drug-company freebies. It’s like conceptual art.

    Since the drug companies stopped handing that stuff out at the end of last year, I’ll occasionally check eBay to see if the collectibles are going up in value, but so far it’s hard to say. Someone’s asking $25 for a Viagra erection pen, but asking and getting are two different things.

    465 chars

  15. Peter said on March 24, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I did a few projects for the Tribune Company some years ago, and for Valentine’s Day I sent out little boxes of Frango Mints to all of my clients (it’s really good and cheap publicity!).

    The boxes I sent to Tribune were all returned with a lengthy document on corporate gift giving, which was basically Don’t Even Think Of Giving Anything To Us!

    Geez, it was only a $1.25 box of chocolate. God forbid if I sent them a regular sized box.

    443 chars

  16. Connie said on March 24, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Every staff member here that gets sent to a state or national conference/show is expected to bring back one goody for the staff meeting door prize stash. Lots of interesting things come back.

    A couple of years ago I cleaned out a closet that had over 60 assorted canvas bags from many years of shows. Kept a few, took the rest to work and gave them all away. Not only the show bags, but publisher and product bags, other library’s bags, previous library employer’s summer reading bags, and more more more. Can’t go to a quilt show without my Demco bag, and the DRA (long ago merged into some other company) bag has been going to the beach for years.

    Back in 5th grade I overheard my father say that if Goldwater lost we were moving to Australia. I was terrified for months. Yeah right, like a 3rd generation Dutchman would ever leave the Holland area.

    Hey, best headline of the day, found in the Indy Star: gargantuan pothole opens in Fort Wayne. Brian, are you down there?

    990 chars

  17. Connie said on March 24, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I worked in Minnesota some years ago, and they have extremely strict state laws about public employees accepting anything at all. No lunches with your friendly sales rep. No joining the 2000 other customers of a vendor at a free conference lunch program. If I wanted to attend a Chamber or similar event that was underwritten by a sponsor we were expected to request and pay the full price for the event before sponsorship.

    I understand the intent but thought it was strange.

    Best thing anyone ever gave me: the furniture dealer who gave me a Steelcase truck. It sits on a shelf in my sewing room getting dusty.

    622 chars

  18. nancy said on March 24, 2009 at 11:58 am

    That “if X wins, we’re moving” thing is something parents say without a second thought, but kids hear it and take it entirely seriously. One of Kate’s closest friends, and Kate herself, were very distressed for much of last year, because the friend’s dad had said that if Obama or Hillary won, they were moving to England. No matter how much I reassured them, separately or together, they were never entirely convinced it was just talk.

    436 chars

  19. LA Mary said on March 24, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    My favorite retractable badge holder was one I got at a surgical nurse convention. It was from a company called Drain Bags, and it was just a white circle with the words, “drain bags” on it. Kind of says it all.

    211 chars

  20. Sue said on March 24, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Our library director used to take his family (wife and two kids) to seminars and State and National conventions, incorporating a vacation into it. We think this is why most of the organizations no longer allow family members into the vendor areas. This group used to clean the place out – it was like Christmas for them. When the kids got older, they used to split up and work the place. We found it hugely amusing but could never admit it, of course.

    455 chars

  21. Catherine said on March 24, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Best work loot ever was the quarterly box o’ books when I worked for a publisher. With 4 or 5 different labels, there was always something for everyone. I really felt like I’d arrived when I got my name on that list.

    218 chars

  22. Kirk said on March 24, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Food writer here some few years back turned out to be a wino and had arranged for lots of free wine to be sent to her regularly. We got rid of her, but the wine kept coming until we could finally persuade the vintners to cease and desist (and they wouldn’t take it back). HR, of course, sternly forbade distributing alcohol to employees, so the boss asked me and another editor to join him in cleaning out the stash. I think I walked out of there with 22 bottles of wine, the great majority of which was just fine.

    514 chars

  23. MichaelG said on March 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    I work for the State of CA. We don’t get anything. Nobody has ever tried to bribe me. Makes me feel worthless, insignificant and unloved. How do I know what my price is if nobody even tries me? Seriously, the State of CA is death on freebies. They don’t even want you to pick up a pen at a trade show. Lunch? Unthinkable.

    329 chars

  24. adrianne said on March 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    We hold a semi-annual “swagathon” with gifties to the newsroom, proceeds go to the employee fund, which stages our Xmas party (sorry, Nance, no karaoke or booze!) and the occasional lunch.

    I enjoy the Pomtini myself – only way I can swallow martinis is make ’em big and fruity.

    281 chars

  25. harrison said on March 24, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    as for those people who say they’re going to leave … let ’em. it’s a free country. anything to make the united states a better place.

    but something tells me that these folks are what an uncle used to label these people: all-talk, no-action jacksons.

    262 chars

  26. LA Mary said on March 24, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Michael, I get State of California freebies at job fairs and conventions. A household favorite is the California State Department of Mental Health coffee mug.

    158 chars

  27. Catherine said on March 24, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    An agency with which I did a lot of business once gave me an ipod at Christmastime. I had to return it, with a thank you note and an explanation about the company’s gift policy, which was nothing over $75 per year. My account manager was stunned: “No one else from your company has ever, ever turned down anything from us, and this is the first we’ve heard about a gift policy.” Fortune 500 company, which did $$$ business with this agency.

    444 chars

  28. Connie said on March 24, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    If you’re in the area stop in my office, I have swag to give away. A coffee mug with our cool new domain name on it, a stone coaster with our Main building, on it, lots of other goodies. Used for give aways at local shows where we have a booth. I am out of wallet card print enlargers and bubble blowing necklaces.

    317 chars

  29. Jolene said on March 24, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    You might want to take the pomegranate juice, Nancy. It’s believed to have diverse health benefits, enough so that NIH has funded numerous studies dealing with various medical conditions. Prostate cancer seems to be the main topic, but other problems are being studied as well. I’d heard from a friend that they were funding studies related to effects of pom juice on aging of the brain, but I don’t see that on the list.

    508 chars

  30. Jolene said on March 24, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I hadn’t heard about the elimination of the tchotchkes that drug companies give MDs. I suppose it’s a good idea, but it seems a rather small step and not much related to improving the practice of medicine. Some years back, a friend doing research about how docs learned about new meds said they got their info from patients who came to their offices asking for things they’d read and heard about.

    398 chars

  31. brian stouder said on March 24, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    “gargantuan pothole opens in Fort Wayne.” – yes – on Anthony by the bridge over the Maumee; right on the way to my mom’s house! They say it was caused by the collapse of an 1880’s vintage storm drain.

    If your employer ever gets a pass to a vendor’s hospitality tent (or rv, or suite) at a race, you should go!

    Aside from inexhaustible free food, you generally get all sorts of toys and goodies, too

    405 chars

  32. Kirk said on March 24, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Brian, I enjoyed Interstate Batteries hospitality at a couple of Winston Cup races at Michigan in the ’90s, courtesy of my brothers-in-law. It was definitely fun. Good seats, plenty of free fried chicken, taters, dessert, hats, ear plugs, key rings, flashlight and stuff like that, pit tour and all the beer we could drink starting about 8 or 9 in the morning. Oh, yeah, I also won an Interstate Batteries shirt and, had I wanted to stand in line, could have gotten Joe Gibbs and Bobby Labonte’s autograph. If only they would have arranged for a helicopter to get us out of what is always one of the worst traffic messes on the NASCAR citrcuit.

    644 chars

  33. Rana said on March 24, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    A couple of friends of ours are a pediatrician and a psychiatrist, and we’ve always gotten a kick out of their various mugs with disturbing medications featured on them. They also have a lot of livestock – so you never know whether you’re going to get your tea in a cup advertising horse wormer or one touting schizophrenia meds.

    My freebies, as a writer/academic have consisted of one canvas sack at a conference (thanks, ASLE!) and a bunch of books to review. The publisher or editor sends you a book, you write the review, you keep the book. Academics (and underemployed bloggers) don’t get paid for the reviews in the first place, and there’s no obligation to write a positive review, simply a fair one. As a result, the collective consensus is that it is not only not unethical keep the book – it’s expected.

    Mostly the review offers come through an academic journal, so there’s already a vetting process, but when it comes to unsolicited requests for review, I turn them down unless I’m fairly certain that I’d be interested in reading the book anyway, and I’m up front about the possibility of a bad review if the book is crap. Legitimate presses have no problems with this.

    Different fields, different expectations, I guess.

    1246 chars

  34. Dorothy said on March 24, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    One of my favorite freebies was a pair of nail clippers I got when I worked for the advertising manager at a large company in Pittsburgh. I still have them. And when I worked for a V.P. at a company in Cincinnati, one of the vendors we dealt with was a fellow former Pittsburgher, and he’d give me their season tickets to the Reds/Pirates games. It would piss off my boss when I’d tell him I was going to see the Pirates play that night after work. He’d say “Don’t you mean the Reds’ game?!” I’d just smile my devilish smile and go back to work. (He had an autographed picture of Pete Rose in his office which I’d give the finger to when boss man wasn’t around.)

    668 chars

  35. Gasman said on March 24, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    When the stucture of the Constitution was being actively debated, there were those – most notably Alexander Hamilton – who favored a monarchical president and a Senate whose members were appointed for life. These Hamiltonians wanted a governmental system that was independent of Britain, but essentially parallel in how it was constructed.

    Throughout our history, conservatives have essentially always adopted this imperialistic/aristocratic view of how government should function. As to why anyone would seemingly vote against their own self interests by supporting a more dictatorial government, remember that in modern Russia there is a wave of Stalinist nostalgia and support for Putin’s neo-Soviet saber rattling.

    I think Rana is spot on in her observation that there is no shortage of schlubs who feel that they will one day be among the ruling aristocracy, so they are willing to support it now. What they fail to recognize is that inherent in the Hamiltonian view is that admission to the aristocracy is by birthright, not by social advancement. This is more a of caste system than our modern notion of democracy. This notion was rejected in 1787 and should continue to be rejected today.

    The modern Republican party is the heir to the Hamiltonian view. Add to that their embrace of racists, neo-secessionists, and the willfully ignorant and it is not surprising that their numbers are dwindling.

    1419 chars

  36. nancy said on March 24, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    A friend of mine had a mug featuring a photo of an old-style desktop PC. The screen was black, but when you poured hot liquid into it, the black faded away and the screen displayed the molecule for caffeine.

    I LUSTED for that stupid thing. Years later, I bought J.C. a set of Star Trek mugs featuring Kirk, Spock and McCoy standing in the transformer. When it got hot, they beamed out. Or maybe it was the other way around.

    Google “thermosensitive mugs.” Hours of shopping pleasure.

    488 chars

  37. Jean S said on March 24, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    My father reviewed books for the Miami Herald (pre-Jonathan Yardley era), so who needed a library when you could just go into his study? Heaven.

    It will be interesting to see how the pomegranate research shakes out. Will take awhile, as the legitimate cancer and cardiovascular studies tend to do.

    301 chars

  38. Mindy said on March 24, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Mug shopping. Oh, boy, yet another fun way to waste time. Found some that aren’t thermosensitive, but still cool. I want the one with knit cables on it for and the one for stashing two cookies for gifts. JC will want the helvetica mug for sure.

    317 chars

  39. Mindy said on March 24, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Mug shopping. Oh, boy, yet another fun way to waste time. Found some that aren’t thermosensitive, but still cool. I want the one with knit cables on it and the one for stashing two cookies for gifts. JC will want the helvetica mug for sure.

    313 chars

  40. jeff borden said on March 24, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Those heat sensitive mugs rock. My wife is a big fan of the Phillippa Gregory books and will watch the PBS version of “The Eight Wives of Henry the VIII” at the drop of a hat, so I bought her a mug featuring portraits of all Hank’s wives. When coffee splashes into it, they all disappear.

    288 chars

  41. brian stouder said on March 24, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Here’s a freebie for you, thanks to Pam. If you need to call your satellite provider, or your parcel shipper, or some other Big Company, and you want to speak to a human being…

    or directly to their list

    285 chars

  42. brian stouder said on March 24, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    By the way – you know what I forgot? I forgot that my drivers licence expired on March 19; so at lunch time today, I rolled down to the Waynedale license branch, and was in and out in less than 15 minutes!

    Three Cheers for Government Efficiency!

    Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!!

    When they posed me for my picture, the lady said ‘lower your chin a little’ and ’tilt your head a little to the left’*…and then I smiled and my lips parted, and she said (with just a little bit of firmness) “close your mouth” – which got me chuckling! – and she said “what’s so funny?” and I told her that my wife is ALWAYS telling me to shut my mouth!

    But the funniest part of the experience (to me) was when I got my license – which is now pink! They ‘painted the muh-thuh pink’; so I couldn’t resist commenting to my somewhat domineering – yet crisply efficient – clerk that it looked to me like an homage to John Cougar Mellencamp….but she only smiled politely – so my joke was even weaker than usual…

    *I always get this direction at picture time. I think my mellon is either somewhat mis-shapen, and/or on a tilted axis

    1147 chars

  43. mark said on March 24, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I could see finishing out my years in a different country, particularly if trends of the last twenty years don’t reverse. Still observing, not packing. Conservative white men aren’t perceived as a particularly valuable commodity so I won’t hold my breath waiting to be talked out of the idea.

    I still believe in the the ideal of American Individualism. If I asked the regulars here “what is the unique idea of America?”, I not only doubt that I would receive a coherent response, I’m pretty sure most would tell me the question is offensive, irrelevant, antiquated or worse.

    I’m from the last generation allowed healthy doses of childhood freedom. Never had a “play date”. Climbed (and fell out of) trees, shot (and was occasionally shot with) BB guns, rode a bike without a helmet, had (and lost) a few playground fights without a police report or Child Services intervention. I like freedom and I like making decisions for myself.

    I loathe a government that persuades the bottom three-quarters of the population that all that stands in the way of cradle to grave security is wresting enough from the hands of the undeserving top quarter, then quietly soaks the poor with taxes on cigarettes, booze, gasoline, licenses, and utilities, and fees on every basic life activity. Heaven save me from the unholy alliance of do-gooders trying to save me from myself and politicians anxious to fuel the engines of government.

    Costa Rica, Hong Kong and Thailand all have great potential.

    1499 chars

  44. mark said on March 24, 2009 at 2:58 pm


    Moving back to the discussion of a couple days ago, it’s being reported that Bishop D’Arcy will boycott the ND commencement over Obama’s selection as commencement speaker. Dr Snyderman now has good company.

    217 chars

  45. Dexter said on March 24, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    web-trolling: I got a “thank you” from an author in New York for posting a blog article of his, which I just copied and pasted to my blog, but with large-sized type I had thanked him for letting me post the story. Of course I had just stolen it, and I was new to blogging and I didn’t know what was fair game and what was not. Anyway, this man’s had books published so he must know a thing or two, and he thanked me instead of giving me hell.
    freebies: Interesting to read what you folks have had sent to you and your offices and newsrooms. Outside of USPS bulk mailings, I have had slim pickings as far as freebies. Twice I won tickets to baseball games. (One was n 1967; I saw the infamous Senator Bunning from Kentucky pitch a game at Wrigley Field when Bunning was a Phillie), and once I won a guest pass for 4 at Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox, for a barbeque party, free beer, great catered food, great seats, with the radio station people. I took my brother as one of my guests and he was guzzling the free draught beer and two “sophisto” ladies had his credentials checked as they didn’t want a drunk disturbing their party. The other radio peeps were OK with him…but gee, it wasn’t a frat-boy kegger, ya know? He kept saying “I’m getting my money’s worth!” That was strange, because as Gretel said to Ratso in “Midnight Cowboy”, “…you don’t have to steal it, you know?—it’s free.”

    1412 chars

  46. Lex said on March 24, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    [[This prescription brought to you by a dozen doughnuts in the doctors lounge and two dozen in the nurses lounge.]]

    Pshaw. Amateurs. The day I was shadowing a doc, the reps brought double-pepperoni pizza.

    My last newsroom stuffed all the freebies into a locked closet behind our executive editor’s long-suffering admin asst. Then we held semiannual auctions, proceeds going to benefit the family our newsroom “adopted” every year at Christmas. The co-worker who drove this beneficence was Janet Brindle Reddick, who deserves the recognition irrespective of whatever free food I might have gotten in exchange for this comment.

    631 chars

  47. mark said on March 24, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    And for those who haven’t yet paid the price of admission, today’s sidebar ads feature help on publishing books for children. Click and learn.

    143 chars

  48. Dexter said on March 24, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I forgot that I drink a cuppa Lipton every day out of my “Points” cup my bank gave me a couple years ago.

    206 chars

  49. Rana said on March 24, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    I’m from the last generation allowed healthy doses of childhood freedom.

    How old are you, Mark? I’m 39, just this March, and this describes my childhood as well. It also describes the childhood of my friend’s children, who are currently about 8 and 5. A lot depends on the place, the social class of the children involved, and – shocker – the family.

    So while I agree that there’s a lot of over-protecting going on, it’s not like it’s universal – or even universally appreciated.

    Edited because I don’t think I want to start a flame war in Nancy’s comments today.

    594 chars

  50. LA Mary said on March 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    What Rana said.

    23 chars

  51. alex said on March 24, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    If I asked the regulars here “what is the unique idea of America?”, I not only doubt that I would receive a coherent response, I’m pretty sure most would tell me the question is offensive, irrelevant, antiquated or worse.

    Not at all, Mark. Liberty of conscience — that’s what America’s supposed to be all about. It’s not offensive, irrelevant or antiquated. (But it does get subverted now and then by those who wrap themselves in God and the flag. If you hadn’t noticed, them folk don’t really want us exercising our liberty, thinking for ourselves.)

    569 chars

  52. MichaelG said on March 24, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I know some state agencies give away merdinhas at trade shows etc, Mary. They just don’t want us to pick up anything. We all have to attend mandatory “ethics” training every year where they go over case studies about people who have been fired for eating a cookie and give us all kinds of terrifying examples of things that could get us canned and the auditorium stage is covered with bosses and managers and attorneys with very serious faces and you’re scared to fall asleep and wondering if anybody saw you nip that piece of candy out of the bowl on the receptionist’s desk at the consultant’s office and if so will you get fired for eating it and in general it’s a happy and wholesome half day of dreadfulness. We’re not talking common sense or constancy here. And yes, morale has been higher.

    800 chars

  53. MichaelG said on March 24, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    “Costa Rica, Hong Kong and Thailand all have great potential.” They used to tell me that I had lots of potential. Boy, that was a long time ago.

    I tend to agree with Rana as well. Here’s a match, Rana. Flame away.

    221 chars

  54. Sue said on March 24, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Lex, perhaps I should have mentioned that’s doughnuts in the lounges a couple times a week, not just once in awhile. I have read stories of reps who’ve been given orders on what to provide when they come in, and admonished for not bringing enough for people to take some home.
    For awhile I was reading a few medical blogs and was surprised/not surprised by what I found there. I started kind of on a whim, because I wanted to see the “on the street” reaction to the infamous Glen Beck ‘I almost died when people weren’t nice to me after my hemorrhoidectomy’ video, the one CNN compared to the story of the woman who died in the ER, ignored by employees. I was not surprised by the general tone of most blogs, because medical people tend to be a surprisingly touchy bunch. I was really surprised by the failure of almost every blogger to hide his/her contempt for patients, and not just the obvious targets. These bloggers put stories and opinions out there for all the world to see, I’m assuming at the same time that they are no doubt attending mandatory inservices on the legalities involved in protecting patient confidentiality. And why bitch for all to read in the first place? Not enough to do it (quietly) at the lunch table or in the lounge, among people you trust? I know a few have caught hell when some reader put 2 and 2 together. And so have their employers.

    1383 chars

  55. Danny said on March 24, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    My best friend’s father had a set of drinking glasses that had a sexy girl on them who got undressed when there was a cool liquid inside. We marvelled at those when we were about 8.

    Michael, why are you complaining about lack of freebies with the state? I thought you once got to go on a free all-expenses-paid camping trip to Southeast Asia.

    Regarding people moving out of the country based on election results, I seem to recall being disappointed that Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon were all talk and no action in 2004.

    541 chars

  56. brian stouder said on March 24, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Alex predicted this weeks ago, I believe:

    Thanks to Fort Wayne Observed for the link.

    The statement is somewhat poorly written; but the tenor is unmistakeable

    “Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame. Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.”

    452 chars

  57. jeff borden said on March 24, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    My vision of the American ideal is evolutionary. I believe it was Vince Lombardi, who I do not really enjoy quoting, who said perfection was impossible, but if we worked hard enough, we could achieve excellence. The American dream should be a work in progress, right? There’s always something to tweak. We should never stop working to perfect it. We never will, but we must keep at it.

    This country truly kept the world safe for freedom by fighting a two-front war on opposite sides of the world against two mad, industrialized military powers. We treated vanquished enemies and helpless refugees with generosity and kindness. We rebuilt their shattered nations, institutions and economies. We did this at great cost in blood and treasure. Yet at the same time, we were denying black people the right to vote, the right to live where they chose, the right to ride in the front of the bus. My father often remarked of his shame that Nazi officers held as P.O.W.’s at the Greenbrier Inn in West Virginia were allowed to go into town on Saturday nights and watch a film with the rest of the audience while the black Americans were herded into the balcony. American citizens were treated worse than Nazi scum because of their skin.

    This kind of racism, bigotry or prejudice is not confined to America. That’s not the point. Rather, we are a great nation, but we also can do much better. When we stop working at being better, we atrophy into a smug and self-satisfied nation looking at itself through rose-colored glasses.

    1523 chars

  58. Jolene said on March 24, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    PBS is doing another Frontline show on the economy tonight; it’s called “Ten Trillion and Counting”. The NYT has a review that says it is “a program everyone needs to watch if the search for solutions is ever going to get beyond the simplistic, accusatory catchphrases that sometimes seem to pass for economic-policy debate in Washington”.

    468 chars

  59. Jolene said on March 24, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Have you folks heard about Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz’s announcement that she had been treated for breast cancer this past year? I was knocked out when I read about this because she was in the periphery of the national political spotlight all through the campaign last year–both as a very active supporter of Hillary Clinton and then Barack Obama and in her own re-election campaign. I had admired her because she was always forceful and fun on TV and because she behaved like a political grown-up by making the shift to Obama with enthusiasm and grace after the primaries ended. And her district is in Florida, so her work on behalf of Obama was meaningful. In the midst of all that, she underwent seven surgeries, never missed a day of work, and told almost no one what was happening. Talk about tough!

    Now she is launching a campaign to heighten awareness about breast cancer among young women. (She was just 40, w/ three young children, when diagnosed.)

    1082 chars

  60. Sue said on March 24, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    I wonder how that would work, leaving your country because you can’t stand the direction it’s taking? Do you then adopt your new country’s culture or try to maintain your American ways? Do you refuse to have anything to do with the locals, but then do you get upset when people you have brought with you adopt the customs and marry into the population, then have children who will never really know what it’s like to live in the States, and maybe don’t care? Do you deal with hostility among your new countrymen, for having taken their jobs, or if you are just bringing your money in and don’t need a job, for standing out by your language and customs? Does the fact that you can hire a servant at ridiculous wages make up for the fact that those same servants might make you aware of some uncomfortable information regarding class systems, poverty and infant mortality, just by living their lives in close proximity to your own? If you are going to flee to a country that’s closer to a third-world situation than a democracy, is it going to be just an extension of a tropical cruise, where you have to ignore the poverty all around you every day instead of for a couple of weeks? And when you flee the country to show your displeasure, and a decade later the pendulum has swung back, do you come back, leaving children and grandchildren behind because they are not interested in uprooting their lives? If you’re some clueless celebrity who thinks their opinion matters you just jet around as you please. No-names can dream, but damn, that reality just keeps on intruding.

    1580 chars

  61. Rana said on March 24, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Sue – no kidding. I have a hard enough time processing that I may very well spend the rest of my life as a sort of regional ex-pat within my very own country – I almost can’t imagine what it would be like abandoning the entire continent and the family and friends I have here. My brother’s wife is Japanese, and they and their two young children live in Japan now, and the amount of complications that has brought to all of us on both sides are enormous.

    456 chars

  62. Danny said on March 24, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Here’s an article about a bill with some novel ideas that would be aimed at saving the newspapers. Letting them restructure as non-profits…hmm. Interesting. And the added benefit would be no political endorsements. I think there was some discussion here a few months back about this being an odd practice for an editorial board anyway.

    434 chars

  63. CrazyCatLady said on March 25, 2009 at 12:29 am

    I am a nurse (LPN-Licensed Practical Nurse) in a nursing home. As nurses, we are required to get continuing education credits to renew our licenses every 3 years. These classes are often disguised from what they really are.Yes, they do teach some aspect of patient care. But I don’t kid myself. They are sales pitches for medications and salves, creams and equipment that we might use in our jobs. We get all kinds of stuff from the salesmen and women. Like mugs, pens, clipboards, food, candy and even pen lights, all emblazoned with their latest product’s name. We are asked to ‘remember’ the product next time the patient needs their product. Of course, their product doesn’t have a generic or is still an exclusive contract product. Of course we don’t order this stuff, too expensive! We make do with what we have or the closest available stuff. And we can’t write Doctor’s orders anyway to order a new drug. So I consider it a waste of money on their part. I’m just there for the CEU credits, baby. And, hey, a free cookie doesn’t hurt…

    1043 chars

  64. Dexter said on March 25, 2009 at 1:46 am

    Yesterday afternoon I turned on espn and saw they were televising the 1976 NCAA Finals from Philadelphia.
    I had taken a dare and flown to Philly without a ticket to try to get into that game.
    A ticket was easily purchased and I blended in with some NBC executives and sat right at center court, first row…my ticket was for the rafter-seats.
    Indiana was “my team” and after the game I jumped a press table and crawled under another, and was first to congratulate Coach Knight by slapping him on the back.
    Thirty-three years later, and I finally saw it…espn did not edit it out…there I was, full screen presence for about 6 seconds, before a security goon finally yanked me away…all my friends at home had seen it, and I was a mini-celebrity for a couple weeks, and people brought it up for years afterward…and I saw it, too, just 33 years later.

    860 chars

  65. MarkH said on March 25, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Great story, Dexter.

    20 chars

  66. whitebeard said on March 25, 2009 at 3:40 am

    That is a wonderful true fan story, Dexter

    42 chars

  67. Danny said on March 25, 2009 at 11:45 am

    That is so awesome!

    And I’m really glad you weren’t a streaker too. I bet you are too.

    90 chars

  68. Lex said on March 25, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    [[I should have mentioned that’s doughnuts in the lounges a couple times a week, not just once in awhile]]

    Oh, no doubt, Sue. The offices I visited said the drug reps fed them lunch pretty much every day, albeit not the same reps feeding the same offices every day. Interestingly, the docs, by and large, didn’t tend to eat in the office (a lot of them ate at the hospitals); it was the nurses and support staff who did. And given what they are making and factoring in the fact that they have zero influence over what gets prescribed, I don’t begrudge them the free food.

    And given what a tiny fraction of health-care costs that food constitutes, it’s almost not worth mentioning, except that it’s a microcosm of a much larger problem.

    743 chars