Scree scree scree.

I really don’t want to be a pill about this, but here goes: I keep running into the World’s Loudest Lawn Service. No matter where I go, they are my neighbor’s choice for lawn care, lawn treatment and especially running a goddamn gas-powered edger — talk about the world’s stupidest lawn chore — around the perimeter of the lawn, preferably twice, getting right up next to the pavement so sparks fly from the blade and the sound goes SCREE SCREE SCREE for 30 minutes or so.

After which they will fire up the gas-powered blower.

The blower is always last. I am accustomed to working in newsrooms, and I like to believe there’s no noise I can’t tune out if it’s just consistent. Teletype machines, phones, colleagues with droning nasal voices explaining tax policy to their editors — all of these can become white noise with a little mind yoga. (In fact, I’ve often thought teletypes are even soothing, that chugging sound they make, occasionally punctuated by bells. New lede! Writethru! Fixes Burns’ title, adds spokesman comment, background!) But people operating gas-powered lawn equipment are like the sorts of people who own motorcycles — they don’t know this thing we call “idle.” The sound of a motor just going put-put-put doesn’t satisfy. And so they must throw in little revs every 12 seconds or so, goose the throttle a little, just to show all the other bitches out there how we roll.

Ann Arbor wasn’t lawn-crazy. You found shaggy, weedy lawns in the nicest neighborhoods in town; leggy saplings, little more than lignifying (look it up) weeds, sprouted in every park strip. Tree Town always looks a little scruffy and mossy, the sign of a populace preoccupied with grading papers or translating ancient Greek or arguing over Hugo Chavez, and far too bohemian to worry about something as stupid as crabgrass. Also, quiet.

Ah, well. The owner of my gym says his aches and pains remind him he’s alive. I suppose, when you open windows, you have to listen to your neighbors from time to time. I just wish they’d let me finish my goddamn coffee before they start.

The New York Times has a pretty good package today on the Steve Jobs liver transplant, and the question it’s raising. Looking for justice in American health-care resource allocation is a fool’s errand, but I am interested in the investors’ angle, i.e., can a CEO with this high a profile get away with claiming privacy when he’s obviously gravely ill? This is a publicly traded company and Jobs is hardly another cog in the Apple wheel. I’d be interested in hearing anyone else’s thoughts about this. I’m equally amused by how quickly Jobs abandoned the alternative therapies he was said to be trying after his diagnosis. Nothing like an organ transplant to make one a believer in the miracles of western medicine. Which is one way of saying one reason American health care is so expensive is because, hello, you can get a liver transplant. You can take statins. You can replace your damn knee when it falls apart. I’m old enough to remember ads in magazines for trusses. I’m sure Jobs had great insurance, but still.

OK, off to the gym. Speaking of achy knees. Back later, but not for long, because hello? Eighty-six degrees and sunny? I’m going to the pool.

Posted at 9:59 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

46 responses to “Scree scree scree.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 23, 2009 at 10:28 am

    God forbid the new health care policy include any rationing, because of course there’s no rationing in the current system . . .

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  2. brian stouder said on June 23, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Well, I was all set to offer a mild protest against the calumny heaped upon what the proprietress calls a “goddamn gas-powered edger” –

    but THEN I saw this context clue: “…getting right up next to the pavement so sparks fly from the blade and the sound goes SCREE SCREE SCREE for 30 minutes or so.”

    and so I must agree with her.

    But if anyone wants to argue about gas powered weed whips (with fishing line instead of metal blades, and which says “FFFFFFFFFFT” when it so satisfyingly causes grass and weeds to retreat off of our driveway ad sidewalk edges) – I’m ready to go to the mat (so to speak). We use ours for edges and so on, every second or third mowing of the lawn. (plus – I HATE grass and weeds growing up in cracks)

    Anyway – we’re on the way to a funeral; probably no cake there

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  3. Colleen said on June 23, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I have a neighbor who likes to light what I can only imagine is some kind of smudge pot. So on the approximately five lovely evenings of summer, you can’t open the windows because of the putrid stench. Hello? We’re in city limits. I’m pretty sure he’s not supposed to do that. My firefighter friend actually said to call 911 and report it. Um. No. Only if he lights ME on fire.

    I often wonder what it is about noise….people just looooove to make noise. And really….one guy with a gas trimmer can ruin the nice morning for people several blocks around. What power!

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  4. moe99 said on June 23, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Out here in the unaccustomed sunshine of Seattle in June, the lawn services don’t show up until Saturday. Which, of course figures since that is the only day I could even consider sleeping in, if such a thing was possible.

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  5. judybusy said on June 23, 2009 at 10:54 am

    I am weirdly super annoyed by our neighbors two doors down when they mow the lawn. It’s tiny, no hill, and should take about _12 minutes_. But, Mrs. O_____ is out there for at least 45, obsessively going over the lawn. Plus, she is about 75 and has TWO adult sons and a husband who live with her, so in a sexist and ageist sort of way, I seethe that they aren’t doing it. (She also shovels the snow in winter.) Thanks for listening. I told you it was weird.

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  6. Jen said on June 23, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Oh, man, your lawn care stories make me glad to live where I live. Due to years of neglect (our house was a shoddy rental property for years), our yard is full of weeds and very pitted, and it’s not even close to the worst yard on the block. We mow it weekly, which is better than many. We are working on trying to get it to look better – we weeded one of the massively overgrown flower beds Saturday, and planted some bushes a week ago – but it’s nice to know that the neighbors aren’t going to call the neighborhood association on us if it’s not perfect.

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  7. Sue said on June 23, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Colleen, if you are within City limits you should have some kind of reporting option. If you are in a city I’m surprised burning is allowed at all. Your municipal code should have some regulations regarding when and how (and what) you can burn. If you are concerned about anonymity, you might be able to complain through your alderperson without bringing your name into it. My suggestion is that you figure out code coverage before complaining – it’s too easy to dismiss a complainant who seems vague about what’s happening. Look for either a property maintenance, nuisance or fire chapter in the code and start reading.

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  8. LAMary said on June 23, 2009 at 11:01 am

    My beloved (for so many reasons) next door neighbor has her gardener in at least twice a week using as many kinds of gas powered equipment as possible. It drives my dogs crazy, so we get the combo barking dogs gas engine noise and fumes package. I have succulents, cactus, rosemary, lavendar and geraniums. No grass. We use the weed whacker when necessary, and it’s electric.
    Same neighbor has removed and installed concrete patios three times in fourteen years. Jackhammers and big mobile mix cement trucks were involved.

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  9. Julie Robinson said on June 23, 2009 at 11:19 am

    And all those gas engines are terrible for the environment besides the noise pollution. But there’s a fine line between letting the yard be a bit more natural and hello! hillbilly.

    At half an acre we have only a push mower; most of our neighbors find it necessary to own a big lawn tractor. I find it hilarious to watch them negotiating sharp turns on their big behemoths. Compared to where I grew up these lawns are postage stamps.

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  10. Jen said on June 23, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Colleen, what about calling the non-emergency number for the police or fire department? I’m not sure how it works everywhere, but here when you call the non-emergency number you can still talk to a dispatcher, but you’re not tying up 911 for non-essential calls? I would hope that within the city limits there would be a decent burn ordinance.

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  11. alex said on June 23, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Well, here’s a burning story to beat all. The dumb broad next door who did a Mr. T on all her trees so she could have a ChemLawn oasis in the forest is now burning her grass clippings. They’re in a big metal cage where they smolder for days and it makes the air smell like cat piss for a mile. We’re in an unincorporated area, so there’s not much recourse. This noxious old bag also has a black lawn jockey on display.

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  12. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

    With the white rings around the eyes?

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  13. nancy said on June 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Alex, you’re not really in WhiteTrashville until your neighbors burn their construction waste and home-improvement detritus. One of Alan’s colleagues died of lung cancer a few years ago, and wondered whether her neighbor’s asphalt-shingle fire, which smoldered for a YEAR, might have had something to do with it.

    Why pay for trash removal when you can light a match? It’s the Redneck Way.

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  14. LAMary said on June 23, 2009 at 11:48 am

    My overmaintaining and renovating neighbor also has a panic room and an emergency generator that automatically switches on when there’s a power outage. It turns on all the exterior lights including a large flashing yellow light at her front gate. Last Saturday, when she wasn’t home, we were enjoying her elderly deaf fox terrier going yap yap….yap yap….yap yap…for going on six hours, when someone’s stray mylar balloon hit the power lines and everything went dark. Her house lit up like Vegas so we didn’t need flashlights. She’s got some serious wattage going in with her exterior lighting. That flashing yellow light is just the touch to accelerate the feeling that you are rushing towards temporary insanity.

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  15. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 23, 2009 at 11:48 am

    No, that’s the WhiteTrash trash way — the Redneck Way is to drive your pickup out beyond the edge of paved roads and find a good gully, then back up enough to shove it out the gate and watch it bounce down towards the streambed.

    And every so often, either the truck gets backed up too far, or the shoveler gets too enthusiastic and flies off the end of the bed (because the gate probably is gone years ago when you were loading a ‘fridge onto it, just snapped off one side so you kicked it off the other hinge and left it by the road). Then the county sheriff who has to come help retrive you or your vehicle also gets to write you a ticket for “unauthorized dumping.”

    (LAMary, i’m thinking you live next to Tanned Trash, what with the panic room and the fox terrier. Or would it be Lexus Trash?)

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  16. coozledad said on June 23, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I guess most zoning restrictions prohibit sheep. They’re mostly quiet, except for a kind of chuffing/choking noise they make when it’s hot, and the occasional Blarrgghh! (I think “Baa” is an anglicization of “mehblah”, or “bebluh”, which is the only other thing I’ve actually heard them say. They all mean the same thing, which is “Watch out! My tiny brain is itching.”)
    If they manage to get out of your yard, your neighbor will no longer have any need for noisy lawncare equipment. But guns are pretty loud, too.
    These are useful for small acreages, although they take a little while to learn how to use:
    It took me a couple of years to really get the hang of it, but it’s a kind of tai chi once you learn it. With a good blade, you can also do close work about as effectively as with a string trimmer.

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  17. LAMary said on June 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Lexus it is! A Lexus SUV.

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  18. Joe Kobiela said on June 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Pictures!! Pool pictures Please.
    Pilot Joe

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  19. coozledad said on June 23, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    The previous occupants of our house just pushed their junk into the woods. We’re still cleaning up an old creek bed that was full of household rubbish, white goods and portions of old cars. There’s even an old Studebaker straddling our northern property line.
    I’m afraid we do torch our animals when they expire. Especially the larger ones.
    I don’t mind digging a hole, but I’m not too keen on chopping off legs to get an animal in a shallow grave. Plus, since I’m a vegetarian, I figure I get barbecue credits.

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  20. ROgirl said on June 23, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    What about goats? Keep your lawn trimmed and make tangy, delicious cheese in the bargain.

    Mystery solved!

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  21. Catherine said on June 23, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I hear goats are good for landscape maintenance too, but smarter than sheep. (on edit: Hah! cross posted w/ ROgirl!)

    We have a neighbor with the world’s noisiest attic fan. To me it’s more white noise, but it drives DH nearly around the bend. The thing that mystifies me is that she runs this thing in defiance of the laws of physics. I mean, after the really hot air is out of the attic, the fan cannot make things cooler, so why keep running it? We retaliate with a barky dog and two screamy girls who like to swim with their equally screamy friends. Now that I see this in writing, maybe that’s why she runs the fan…

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  22. LAMary said on June 23, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    For a while I mounted a basketball hoop on the side of the yard near the noxious neighbor, but all she got was bounce bounce thunk type noises. My kids are pretty quiet.

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  23. Catherine said on June 23, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Getting all serious for a moment, I think it’s clear that Apple should be telling shareholders more about Jobs’ health. It’s material, blah blah. However, when I think of the number of new and creative ways in which shareholders have been totally screwed by the boards and executive committees of publically held companies in the recent past, it kind of pales in comparison. Which makes me think that it’s Jobs’ rock-star status, and the fact that it’s a health issue, that makes it news. If only there was as much interest in, say, Moody’s debt-rating methodology and the coziness of their relationships.

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  24. Sue said on June 23, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I like the sound of kids, I don’t know why. I hope that doesn’t go away as I get older (or older-er, I guess). Noisy kids, even noisy teenagers late in the evening, sound like happy life to me. I like it as a background noise. Noisy kids with cars, not so much, but that hasn’t been a huge problem over the years with various crops of neighborhood children.

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  25. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 23, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Had a parsonage with an attic fan, and i’d say it worked better than chasing the elusive “cross breeze” even on a steamy hot day. I’d trade an attic fan for central air, but lacking A/C, running an attic fan all night starting pretty early in the evening works awfully well.

    By the way, if you haven’t been over to Roger Ebert’s blog lately, he has yet another marvelous reminiscence of an average everyday early 60s childhood, which overlaps enough with mine to feel absolutely in tune with my memories, a few counties over.

    The problem with Jobs and Apple is the closeness of the branding between the two; you haven’t seen the like since Uncle Walt. Even Hewlett or Packard had less direct public identification with their company, let alone Bartles and Jaymes. What happens to Jobs happens to Apple, which isn’t the same as saying the company can’t survive his loss (may he live decades longer in peace and joy), but the impact would be huge.

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  26. Julie Robinson said on June 23, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I’m so relieved to know that I grew up as only white trash, not redneck…
    There was no trash pickup available so we had a burning barrel, and it let me get any incipient firebug leanings all used up.

    All those dumps are providing our college son with gainful employment in mosquito control again this summer. They are going to a site this afternoon with acres and acres of woods filled with tires. The entire department will spend the rest of the day there.

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  27. Jolene said on June 23, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Another tree falls: Gene Weingarten has taken the WaPo’s buyout offer. Says he will keep doing his weekly columns, but no more longer feature articles, as he will be working, instead, on book and movie projects. No more weekly web chats, although he’ll do a monthly chat instead.

    Does it make me a bad person that I feel sadder about this news than the news that nine people died in yesterday’s Metro accident?

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  28. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 23, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Wow — what editor let *that* happen?

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  29. Jolene said on June 23, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    The Post has offered buyouts to many of its over-50 stars over the past few years, and many of them have taken the offer. Can’t think of all of them right now, but Tom Shales, Tom Ricks, Stephen Hunter, Marc Fisher, and Michael Dirda come to mind. Many of these people continue to write for the Post, as Weingarten will, but at a reduced level and without the Post being obliged to pay for their health insurance.

    Here is Howard Kurtz commenting on the buyout program last spring. As he says, the loss in these cases is to the paper and its readers rather than, in most cases, to the bought-out individuals.

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  30. nancy said on June 23, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    I recall reading that Bob Woodward collects only a token salary from them, but retains his title and an office and a few other ceremonial trappings. Keep the overhead a little lower and gives him the freedom to do what he wants. Win-win.

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  31. Jolene said on June 23, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    That’s right. As far as I can tell, Woodward shows up at The Post when he has a new book to sell or when there’s some other special issue where he has expertise to convey.

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  32. Dorothy said on June 23, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Oh Sue I’m the same way! I never mind hearing kids laugh and play outside. I don’t get to hear it enough now that we’re on 3 acres. But catty corner from our house is a nice home and they have four little ones under the age of 7. I’ve only met two of them. But when I walk Augie and Husky after I get home from work, they never fail to come skipping down to talk to me. I’d rather be around most little ones than many adults – they are such entertaining conversationalists. I babysat for my co-workers little girls two weeks ago (ages 5 and 2) and taught the older one to sing “Hot Diggity, Dog Diggity, BOOM what you DO to me!” She thought that was the funniest song she’d ever heard.

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  33. Jolene said on June 23, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Here’s a description of the specifics of the WaPo buyout program. I suspect that many 57-year-olds (Gene’s age) would view themselves as quite fortunate to be separated from their employer under such circumstances.

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  34. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 23, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    And i ruefully note that once again health insurance contorts rational business decisions, whether in the auto industry or the news biz.

    Or why so many of the key players in juvenile justice are 12 and 30 hour a week skilled professionals, and the full time jobs are held by mostly 20-somethings and a cadre of greyheaded supervisors/administrators. Craziness.

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  35. Jolene said on June 23, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Well, I should say that I wasn’t speaking on the basis of real knowledge when I referred to health insurance. But, clearly, the idea is to cut labor costs, and one does that by reducing the ranks of the most expensive employees and offering more limited benefits to newer ones.

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  36. deb said on June 23, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    julie, we had a burn barrel, too. i was just telling somebody this morning about one of my favorite childhood amusements — burning trash with an aerosol can and waiting for the explosion. almost as much fun as smoking in the barn!

    sometimes i think it’s a miracle i survived my rural childhood.

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  37. MichaelG said on June 23, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I had a neighbor out there one day for over an hour trying to blow wet leaves.

    We had goats in Auburn. My former still has them. She always felt they should be fed nice stuff. This was all well and good, but they refused to eat any crap like grass and weeds. I called them the welfare goats.

    Burning stuff in CA is just not on. You can do some burning in rural areas, but the drill is to call the county hot line first to learn if the day is a burn day. Be quick. There aren’t many. Usually cool drizzly days. Also what you burn and how you burn are regulated. They do watch and they do enforce. This is one area where rural neighbors will inform on you. The stakes are just too high.

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  38. Rana said on June 23, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    MichaelG – I grew up in California, with family friends who lived in the country, so I know what you’re talking about. When I first moved to the Midwest it freaked me out a bit to see people burning stuff in their yards, near trees, without several someones standing guard with the hoses. I still think “brushfire” (or, as they now call them, “wildfire”) when I smell burning leaves, not “trash pile.”

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  39. coozledad said on June 23, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    They’re a little more disciplined about burning leaves and assorted garbage here in NC now, but you still often drive by unattended leaf mold fires blazing in a ditch and casting a blanket of smoke across the road. Admittedly I’m an enviro-pain-in-the ass in a lot of ways, but it strikes me that composting the things would be far more productive, less labor intensive, and far less likely to cause the stray head-on collision.

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  40. Dexter said on June 24, 2009 at 1:13 am

    I mowed Tuesday. I have been mowing every five days, as all this rain makes the lawn grow double-fast. Tomorrow I have to weed. I had a plastic fish-line weed cutter but it died, so I just pull them out.
    I had the best showing of roses this year, ever. Probably three times as many roses bloomed as ever before, as I have been pruning that bush for years.
    Now I have the best mulberry crop ever, my tree is yielding thousands of berries.
    Now as for mowing, I try to mow with my reel-mower (motorless) four days after I have used the power mower. It makes the yard look really nice to cut it that way, as I don’t harvest lawn clippings, I let them dry a few days and then shred them with the reel mower.
    I had a bike ride planned but after two dog walkings at two parks and the lawn care in the heat, I couldn’t get out of the chair , especially with the best game of the year on, a see-saw affair beween the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers, won by a Tiger home run in the bottom of the ninth.

    Two years ago my neighbor tore down his garage and burned it every night, a smoldering heap . It took at least ten weeks, a little fire each night.
    You are NOT supposed to burn that stuff. Oh well…at least the next-door neighbor quit his nasty fire-habit ( I think the landlord must have forced him to quit). Oh, and they half-assedly mowed part of the yard last week…FOR THE FIRST TIME ALL SUMMER.

    The coverage of the I-69 head-on crash that killed the golfer’s wife over the weekend was quite good (kpc news, but ya gotta have a paid sub) .
    The soldiers that were passing through, the parishioners of St Anthony’s, the athletes on the bus who were not injured too bad, all pulled out all the stops to handle the situation, even as to preparing a LZ for the helicopter ambulances.
    Why are so many people crossing lanes and smashing into other vehicles? it happened in Butler Monday night, too. And near Auburn Monday eve, I saw a semi-truck veer off onto the shoulder and scrape some of those reflective poles, and then do it AGAIN five miles down the road!

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  41. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 24, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Warning, threadjack attempt:

    So if we’re heading south of 5% of America at this rate watching the evening news, and even if you assume every Blitzer/O’Reilly/Matthews/Olbermann/Maddow/Hannity/Cooper viewer is non-duplicated among themselves or with the Big 3 newscasts, you can’t hardly even get to 10% — where are people getting their news from?

    This doesn’t quite sound the way i intend it, but are we already into a zone where most news floating around in the thought bubble of the body politic is that which is picked up second hand, in conversation or FB comments from someone who watched “The Daily Show,” with occasional confirmation/clarification of confusing details (what’s a Uighur, and why does Jon think this is funny?) from a zip through Google News?

    On the other hand, i’m just not convinced that an average conversation on politics and foreign policy is that much more dramatically ill-informed than they were twenty years ago. My theory on newspapers has been that we don’t actually have fewer readers, but just don’t have as many people subscribing & buying papers they never read; ditto books and fiction reading. So could it be that even in the privacy of the home, we only just recently felt (as a society) that it was OK to not turn on Walter or Dan or that nice lady who was on the Today Show after dinner? Honey, just click to that Animal Channel program, it’s more relaxing than all those protests somewhere. . . .

    Even if i’m right about that (people weren’t really watching before, stopped going through the motions in the last few years), it still leaves open the question — where is the critical mass coming from on what people know/think they know about the nation and the world? I don’t think we know. And secondhand watercooler “i heard it on Jon Stewart” is as good an answer as any right now.

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  42. nancy said on June 24, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Interesting topic, Jeff, although I doubt it will take off today. The other I saw one of my Twitter follow mention Steve Jobs’ liver transplant, and another chide him for reporting “old” news, because social media had it two hours previous. As though all you need to know is contained in 140 characters.

    On the other hand, traditional media have been touting bullshit “firsts” and “exclusives” for years, so at least I know where they learned it.

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  43. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 24, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Heh. Well, y’know, if it doesn’t take off — it wasn’t news, was it?

    (I think i’m just going to pull out my VHS of Broadcast News and watch that opening sequence at the TV producers and reporters conference. Holly Hunter’s producer had it pegged all too well. “You’re going to get a lot more of it.” Faint echoing “Good” from the departing crowd.)

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  44. LA Mary said on June 24, 2009 at 9:54 am

    I saw on Colbert the other night that Rush Limbaugh claims the FDA is taking Zicam off the market because Zicam is one of his sponsors, not because it can relieve a person of their sense of smell permanently. Rush called it the Democrat push to put Zicam out of business.

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  45. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 24, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Is that why they made OxyContin a controlled substance, too?

    (Rush, Rush, don’t talk about drugs and unintended impacts on the senses. It’s just too easy.)

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  46. Rana said on June 24, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Jeff (tmmo) – in my case it’s a mixture of trusted blogs and – gasp – newspapers and magazines (the Sunday NY Times, the New Yorker, and the Economist, mostly) and emails from organizations to which I belong (like the Sierra Club) and charities I support (like Heifer and Mercy Corps). No television news, ever – it is eternally shitty and appalls me every time I encounter it anew.

    Part of the reason I’ve shifted away from the classic tv-and-newspaper approach is that few of those actually give me the kind of news I want. Not the slant, the subjects and the approach. One thing that I’ve found, over the years, is that the typical mainstream news outlet in this country is afraid to tackle issues of complexity that unfold over a long span, such as economic developments, the political changes occurring in other countries, environmental issues, gender politics, and so on. Much of it is like reading a child’s version of the world, with all the parts that interest me left out, or so dumbed-down that it’s insulting.

    I consider myself an informed person, who pays attention to what’s going on around her, but what I get from most “news” outlets isn’t information, but noise. (Who cares what Jon and Kate ate? Or that the Obamas went on a date?)

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