Breaking breeze news.

It is, at the moment, blowing about 30 miles per hour. So the local police sent out a text alert to tell all subscribers that it’s windy. Police are never happy about sharing information with the stinging little gnats who share it with the rest of the community, but these alerts — touted as a valuable community-information tool — are turning out to be the guy who sends you that thing everyone was sending around two weeks ago, today: Hey, have you seen this issue of the Onion, the one they did after 9/11? It’s awesome!

Earlier this summer a restroom weenie-wagger turned up in one of the parks, peed on a little boy and slipped away. I got the text alert three days after the story had been in both dailies and both weeklies. You can see why I deduct my cell service as a business expense.

The po-pos here aren’t so bad, though; it’s just hard to get the idea of “urgency” to stick with people who don’t share your particular definition of it. Journalists in general love urgency; it’s our dirty little secret, how much we love to pound our keyboards on deadline or take dictation over a two-way radio, and– I’m dating myself, aren’t I? Alan worked Friday night, and came home with a nail-biter about how the pop-music writer nearly didn’t get his review of the Eminem/Jay-Z show in the paper, because 42,000 Twittering/texting/Facebook-updating fans had hogged all the extant bandwidth. He couldn’t get a foothold on the groaning, overloaded data cloud, and as minute after minute went by and the presses began straining to start, he–

I interrupted: “Why didn’t he just dictate?”


“Well, he could call to tell you he couldn’t get his story uploaded. It couldn’t have been that long. I would have told him to dictate it to me. You could get it done in 10 minutes, easy.”

It’s been seven years since I’ve spent any significant time in a newsroom. My husband? Just sighed.

I still think it could work. It’s not a thousand-word analysis on the midterm elections. It’s a few paragraphs about a hip-hop concert. You could rattle off half of it without even hearing it: “Forty thousand fans roared their approval when Lady Gaga appeared on a special throne set apart from the crowd.” (This is true, but a pas de deux with Flickr has turned up no photo proof.) And so on.

Dictation — and its impish twin, rewrite — is one of those things that’s gone for good, along with other antique technologies like using a cell phone for talking. But I think it’s relevant. What is a TV reporter giving an ad-lib standup from the scene of breaking news but dictation by a prettier person? I’ve said this before: I’m interested in how the newest news-carrying technology (the web) uses the language not of old technology (newspapers), but of even older technology (really old newspapers). I can exclusively reveal this because sometimes I watch TMZ, which uses as its framing device a newsroom meeting, everybody sitting around pitching their stories to the boss. And even that is old, because the people are smiling and happy. Today’s newsroom meeting is a grim affair of reading budgets and waiting to see whose turn it is to have a bucket of shit dumped on their head; as my funny fellow Fellow Rob said as we left a Detroit Free Press morning meeting back during our magic year of sabbatical, “Have you ever seen so many miserable people in one place in your life?”

Jeez, I sound like an old fart whittlin’ at the cracker barrel. Time to move on.

As I slept very very badly the night before, I turned on that Alex Gibney doc on HBO last night to keep me company while I worked. “My Trip to al-Qaeda,” based on Lawrence Wright’s book “The Looming Tower” and stage show derived from it, wasn’t Gibney’s best work, but it was very good, and I’m sorry more of you don’t get HBO, so you could watch it. I was reminded anew of my reaction to the book, the way it underlined how many our reactions to 9/11 — from the invasion of Iraq to the Patriot Act to the current lowbrow sideshow over the so-called mosque at Ground Zero — were pretty much by the book dictated by Osama bin Laden himself. He said, “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch,” and that’s what we did. Meanwhile, even the smart Republicans I know still refer to “Obama’s apology tour,” suggesting everyone’s taking their talking points from Fox News these days.

Why do we have such a hard time grasping situations more complicated than a bumper sticker? It’s depressing.


A memory of his mail-carrying days, from our own Coozledad. I’m stealing his description of the local weekly newspaper, “a sort of support group for people suffering from ideopathic morbid ineducability.”

Zorn says he saw the Daley exit coming when the city failed to get the Olympics.

The Baltimore Sun uses the word “limn” in a headline. As a former copy editor, I see the appeal immediately — a four-letter word with a head count of three.

Off to work. Office hours and a haircut today. Oh, and an interview, too.

Posted at 8:45 am in Media |

51 responses to “Breaking breeze news.”

  1. LAMary said on September 8, 2010 at 9:35 am

    I have to spend my morning at the Arleta DMV today. I used my drivers license as ID to write a check last week and haven’t seen it since, so I booked the earliest possible DMV appointment within reasonable driving distance. The appointment system here for DMV appointments is something that actually works well. I’m sure Michael G could give me a pre-visit list of the charms of the Arleta DMV.
    Also… did anyone else think that Sunday’s Mad Men was brilliant? I just loved it. This might have been at least partly because I watched Law and Order, Criminal Intent beforehand it was one of the worst things I’ve seen on TV in years. Total crap.

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  2. Deborah said on September 8, 2010 at 10:23 am

    LA Mary, Sunday night’s Mad Men may have been one of the best yet. My husband and I couldn’t stop talking about it. That show is totally brilliant. We have been watching Rubicon before Mad Men, MM is so much better.

    Regarding limn, there used to be a good design furniture and accessories store in San Fran called Limn. Maybe it’s still there? Because of my associations in the art world it’s always been a familiar word to me.

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  3. brian stouder said on September 8, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Office hours and a hair­cut today. Oh, and an inter­view, too

    Here’s wishing you well during office hours, and a successful haircut. As for the interview, the first thing I thought was “she must be interviewing the mayor, if it warranted a new -do”. And then the thought occurred that the Proprietress may be the interviewee rather than the interviewer, in which case – break a leg!

    And then there’s this, further to the discussion about forward-looking, proactive police, in this case involving a program in the UK (programme?) of using cardboard police to deter crime

    an excerpt:

    Don Morris, Basildon councillor and chairman of its community safety committee, said: “I never really thought much of the scheme in the first place and now I have been proved right. The troublemakers out there were bound to steal them and do all sorts of things to them. The thing that is really effective is having more police out on the beat and doing the job.”

    Turns out that the cutouts are a great crime deterent, right up ’til people discover that they’re cardboard, at which point they steal them!


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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 8, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Ditto Sunday’s Mad Men, and the look on Peggy’s face/Elizabeth Moss’ acting when Don broke down and cried after the phone call. And I’m finding myself fascinated by Roger, somewhat against my will or at least my better judgment.

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  5. coozledad said on September 8, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Re: the weenie wagger, People are always talking about a more innocent time in the recent past. Growing up in the South, we used to call a guy standing by the freezer section at the grocery store playing with his dick “Thursday”. The fundamentalist revival had nothing to do with it, since this guy was likely quoting the Bible at you (Be sure your sins find you out!) while he worked it.
    I think you can chalk up that small victory directly for feminism. Probably one of the reasons the fundies hate it so.

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  6. MichaelG said on September 8, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Well, Mary, I had a nascent project at the Arleta DMV wherein they were going to replace and upgrade the parking lot lighting, but it sort of died. Like all the rest of the offices, it’s way overworked and parking is difficult. Maybe just stay out of the lot and find a spot on the street and walk a half block. Look out for parking restrictions. I got a ticket in Fresno a month or two ago. Since you made an appointment, you’ll be avoiding 90% of the grief.

    The Glendale office on Glenoaks is closed which you probably noticed. The place has been gutted and they are redoing all the interior and the HVAC which is my part of the job. New units going on the roof tomorrow. I can’t make it but I’ll be there next week.

    Nance, tell us more about that firestorm business that destroyed 85 houses overnight. That sounds awful. And good luck with the interview. Whether you are the ‘er or the ‘ee we are all behind you.

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  7. Mindy said on September 8, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I speak fluent Gregg shorthand, talk about an elderly technology. My textbooks are just old enough to buy beer in Indiana, and when I took the classes this antiquated skill was a faded memory in modern places. Yet the olde tyme secretarial college demanded shorthand in order to complete a medical secretarial program. Which I didn’t. Ten years later I listed this ability on a job ap and the boss got all excited – shorthand! He could dictate! Made me wonder if he listened to eight-track tapes in his car.

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  8. adrianne said on September 8, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Since I run the news meetings now for my old-school newspaper, I try to take grimness out of the picture as much as possible. However, there’s always some a-hole who wants to use the meeting as a chance to criticize some other department publicly. I cut that kind of crap off immediately! And some of our reporters still are masters of the art of dictation over the phone on deadline – the court and cops reporters in particular. They all have laptops, but the connection isn’t always reliable. I can take dictation at a lightning pace.

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  9. Joe Kobiela said on September 8, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Agree with the mad men episode this past Sunday, simple brillant. Need a recomandation for supper tonight, will be over nighting in Cadillac Mich. Any one know of a good place to eat?? Plan on running 7-mile loop around the lake in the morning, but any suggestion on how to kill the rest of Thursday Up there??
    Pilot Joe

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  10. Dorothy said on September 8, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I am guilty of thread highjacking all the time so I avoided bringing up Sunday’s Mad Men in the comments yesterday. So imagine how excited I was to see Mary bring it up @ #1!! We were at a bonfire on Sunday night so when I got home, I went to the DVR and started playing the episode back at 10:50 PM. I could not take my eyes off of it, it was so damned wonderful. And I had the bonus of being able to fast forward thru the commercials to get to the next segment even faster. My daughter and I thought it was the all-time best one to date. Don’t forget to check out Tom & Lorenzo’s comments on Project Rungay.

    It was so good it warranted a subsequent entry:

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  11. John C. said on September 8, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I was once assigned to cover Princess Diana’s visit to Chicago, which meant I stood outside of buildings and watched her go from limo to door, door to limo, etc. I did get to know some crazy-arse British tabloid types. But what NN’s story reminded me of was the big gala fundraiser. Reporters weren’t allowed. But our High Society Columnist wrangled an invite, so the editors decided she would bring a cell phone in her purse and call me with anything interesting. I waited dutifully in the press area (basement of the Field Museum). And I waited. And I waited. I finally got the all-clear from the desk to leave, since the aforementioned High Society Columnist was inside in case disaster struck. I went out for a few beers with friends, and arrived home very late to a gaggle of messages from my new pals, the crazy-arse tabloid guys. Seems a drunken, obnoxious American type had rudely cut-in on the Princess as she danced with the President of Northwestern University, causing a big stir. Next day I walked in and got loudly summoned into the Big Boss’ office. “How is it,” the formidable New Zealander asked, “that the Princess of Wales is MANhandled on the dance floor by a drunken lout and we have nothing in the paper!” Wondering if I was about to get fired I calmly reminded him that he was in the meeting where we decided our High Society Columnist would be our eyes inside. “I understand,” he said. I started to mumble some more and he raised his hand. “I understand.” Clearly the focus of his anger was no longer on me, so I ran back to my desk. Later, I approached our High Society Columnist.
    “Did you see this guy cut in on Diana?” I asked.
    “Of course,” she said with a huff. “He was unspeakably rude!”
    “Um, did you try and call me?”
    “I tried just as soon as I excused myself from the table,” she said. “But the battery was dead.”
    “Um, there’s a whole row of pay phones right off the main hall.” (Yes, that was back when there were pay phones.)
    She looked at me with sincere, offended bewilderment. I might as well have said: Couldn’t you have hiked up your gown and taken a dump on the table.
    “A pay phone, John?” she said. “Puh-leeeeze.”

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  12. basset said on September 8, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Chef Hermann’s on North Mitchell right in the middle of downtown is your best choice… he is a Swiss chef who has cooked in a bunch of interesting places and ended up in Cadillac, excellent food.

    and end the evening with a beer at the Cadillac Party Lounge a couple blocks north of Hermann’s, same side of the street… Mrs. B. and I met there lo these many years ago. I had an apartment over the Montgomery Ward store across the street, believe it’s an appliance shop now… and Mrs. B. lived over the drugstore in the same block as Hermann’s.

    Meanwhile, flood house update: counter tops and water heater went in yesterday, new furniture arrives and appliance installation will be finished Saturday, we have a truck lined up and B. Jr. will be home from school to help lift and carry.

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  13. Dorothy said on September 8, 2010 at 11:22 am

    That’s a great story, John.

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  14. Dexter said on September 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Good one, John…before I read this I was wondering if stadii still have wall-banks of pay phones. ( I doubt it.)
    I remember Wrigley Field still had a wall of pay phones in 2000, last time I was there. I have been to Comerica Park a few times but I don’t recall any phones.
    At the local abandoned gas stations there are just empty shells where the drive-up pay phones used to be…the courthouse square authorities removed their pay phones a few years ago. I wonder if the Chicago Skyway has even the emergency call boxes…do college campii still have emergency “rape prevention phones”?
    It’s been years since we have been forced to buy cell phones; I was late to the game, getting my first one in 1995, and I never warmed up to texting, only because I am rarely in a situation where I have to text someone, and of course it’s easier to text anyone using my desktop pc than to try to text on my little phone with my thumbs.
    I am so close to home most all the time I don’t even have a car phone charger.
    My brother was telling me last night how he had taken his then-ten year old son on a winter bicycle ride when a snowstorm furiously dumped so much instant snow on them they could not pedal home. This was 1990 before he had a cell phone, and he had to knock on a door for help, which he got when a friend rescued them immediately.
    I witnessed a bad scene once when I saw a couple cars in a wreck and I knocked on a country house door and told a kid to call 9-1-1 immediately. That was about 23 years ago.
    Now I don’t walk the dog around the house without my cell phone with me. I do nothing without it almost glued to me. When I misplace it for a minute I panic. It’s my lifeline to my family and safety and potential rescue , and life without it was worse. And when I get a flat bike tire, I just call my wife to come get me, and I haven’t fixed a roadside flat ever since I got my first cell phone. When you get to be 60, pushing a flat-tired bike is a real drag, too. I did that once this summer, had to push for two miles. It seemed like ten miles.

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  15. paddyo' said on September 8, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    What Dorothy (and Dexter) said. I’ve loved stories about dictation since seeing the Lemmon-Matthau remake of “The Front Page” back in college.

    I’m so glad Adrianne’s students are learning how to dictate. I, too, was a fast dictation-taker — and, I hope, partner to the reporter on the other end of the line, helping fashion sentences with questions when he or she got stuck (and EVERYone got stuck at one time or other).
    As a reporter, I was just OK at dictation myself, certainly never great. And once technology took over, there was less and less need to employ it.
    But then five years ago last week, at Katrina, I had one of those big moments. Two nights after the hurricane hit, I found a working pay phone (the cell towers had all already died, backup generators sputtering out of fuel) in a pitch-dark Sam’s Club parking lot in Old Metarie, just over the Jefferson Parish line from New Orleans. Sometimes halting and sometimes jabbering, I was able to dictate from my notebook about the M*A*S*H-style scene I’d witnessed out at the I-10 cloverleaf: Never-ending helicopters whirling in out of the darkness, hundreds of ambulances and thousands of hurricane refugees, all amassed for first aid and evacuation. Unbelievable.
    Anyway, I had a flashlight and the phone receiver in one hand and my notebook in the other, and an understanding, if slow-keyed desker at the other end of the line as I flipped back and forth through my scribble for quotes and notes and such.
    What. A. RUSH.

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  16. Connie said on September 8, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Joe, where to eat in Cadillac: we like the Timbers, on 115 a mile or two north of the state park, the Pines on M55 just off 115 is owned by my husband’s cousins and has great pizza. Enter in the back. Lakeside Charlies sort of across the street from the Pines has good steak. Avoid Da Dawghouse. And the Waterfron -115 south of the state park, across from the Sands, has a good breakfast buffet and a nice patio. Basset is steering you downtown, I am steering you out west to tourist/state park country.

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  17. Jason T. said on September 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    From Nance’s BaltoSun link re: the word “limn”:

    “I had to keep looking at it again and again,” complained Carol N. Shaw, one of a number of readers who contacted The Sun yesterday. “I consider myself an educated person. I graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Maryland, College Park some years ago with a degree in international relations/economics. I have never heard of the word “limn.” … To put a word like “limn” in the headline for the lead article on the front page of this newspaper seems to me to be unbelievably arrogant and patronizing.”

    If Carol’s a Phi Beta Kappa, she probably also knows how to use a dictionary. “Arrogant and patronizing”? Oh, brother.

    People like that are one reason that newspapers get dumber all the time. I don’t know that I would have used the word “limn” in a hed or anywhere else, but I’m not going to get my underpants in a bunch because of it. See, I read to learn, and if someone uses a word I’m not familiar with, I look it up.

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  18. Jason T. said on September 8, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    paddyo @ 15

    I’ll do you one better … I dictated from a payphone in Shanksville, Pa., nine years ago this Saturday. My mom saw me on CNN. That and a buck-twenty will get me a cup of coffee.

    My first newspaper job (in 1996) was really a throwback. We had two editions … one for a more rural county and another for our “city cousins,” and I can remember being at a fire scene, dictating a new lead to my story between the first edition and the second.

    And as the lowest-ranking reporter there, I also worked rewrite on occasion, taking dictation from senior reporters — say at the courthouse or on election night: “Donald — D-O-N-A-L-D — Smith — standard spelling, age twenty, two-zero.”

    “Wuxtry, wuxtry! Read all about it! Area Man’s Skills Useless in 21st Century!”

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  19. Dorothy said on September 8, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Re the use of “limn” in the headline. I’m not surprised that it pissed off people, but for what it’s worth, I would look upon that as a little gift the paper gave me if I were reading it. I love to learn new words, and even though I knew how to pronounce that word, I wasn’t sure what it meant, either. That’s not “talking down” to people, that’s educating them. Why should everyone else miss out on an opportunity because a few people got peevish over a word they didn’t recognize?!

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  20. Sue said on September 8, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Why, why can’t they spell? Why don’t they know that you don’t say ‘up to/or more’? You’d think they could find someone, ANYONE, to check these things over, just once, especially when they’re offering fabulous business opportunities and trying to appear professional. IT’S Y-O-U-Apostrophe-R-E, AHHHHHHH!

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  21. Sue said on September 8, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I can’t stand it.

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  22. nancy said on September 8, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    I recall reading a story via Romenesko during the last papal election, about an American reporter in Vatican City during the John Paul I/II era, waiting to dictate his story. Pay phones were in short supply, and he had camped out on one, and had a line open back to the newsroom because they were expecting a signal any minute now. Just then, smoke began to rise from the chimney of Pope Central, but the reporter couldn’t tell if it was black or white. He told his editor he had to move closer to check, and put the phone down.

    A minute later, and the phone is picked up by someone, who says hello, or whatever Italians say when they’re wondering if they should hang up a phone found off the hook. The editor back home starts yelling, “DON’T HANG UP! DON’T HANG UP!” Just then, an Italian-speaking copy editor comes walking back through the door from lunch. The editor is motioning madly, waving him over to the desk, still yelling DON’T HANG UP! DON’T HANG UP! The copy editor gets within reach, and the editor hands him the phone, beseeching, “Tell him don’t hang up! Tell him don’t hang up!”

    The copy editor looks puzzled for a beat, then says, into the phone, “Don’t hang up!”

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  23. LAMary said on September 8, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Hey MichaelG, I got a parking space in the slot closest to the door of the DMV in Arleta (what a lovely hamlet that is!) and with my appointment I was in and out of the place in fifteen minutes. The line for those without appointments went around two sides of the building.

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  24. basset said on September 8, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Connie, is the Pines the place with the softball diamond in the back? I ate a lot of pizza there back in 1977-80 and it is indeed good, don’t think they had a softball field at the time though. we played out on N. Mitchell just south of where Meijer’s is now.

    Still get up to the area now and then, the inlaws retired to Caberfae and deer camp is out in the country west of Big Rapids.

    just back from the DMV here in Nashville, license renewal and a new picture took about ten minutes. during lunchtime in the center city. amazing.

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  25. Julie Robinson said on September 8, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Looking up words is a joy I learned from Mom, who loved reading William Buckley’s columns for the vocabulary. In college I kept a notebook where I’d jot them down to look up later and write out the definition. I wonder, do people still play “dictionary”? It was a staple of high school parties way back when. That’s how nerdy we were–we played dictionary and sang along to musicals.

    Was anyone else really irked by the lady bragging about her Phi Beta Kappa? The most intelligent people I’ve known have been modest about it, including one man who I knew for five years before hearing that he held a doctorate.

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  26. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 8, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    I’m just not getting trying to brag about both having a PBK key *and* never having heard “limn.” Which is it we’re supposed to congratulate you for, ma’am?

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  27. Bob (Not Greene) said on September 8, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Sue, that teapartybizopp deal is a straight-up pyramid scheme. They know their demographic, that’s for certain. Nothing a tea party hillbilly loves more than a get-rich-quick scheme and, at the same time, “Stopping Tyranny too help us raise finances to fund conservative organizations to defend our freedom and to help stop liberal tyranny.” Click on the “join us” link at the bottom and cash in!

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  28. Dexter said on September 8, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Damn, paddyo’, that’s a helluva picture you paint of N.O.-5.

    The little things that happen … a few minutes ago I gassed the minivan and decided to go inside for a lottery ticket. I came back out to see a long ball hitch from a pickup truck smashed up into my grill. “Hey! You didn’t FEEL that?”
    “No”, said the geezer with the gas hose in his grasp. He called the cops who were there in five minutes. The cop told me to slowly back up so he could assess the damage for his report.
    The grill popped back out immediately with no damage.
    It’s nice to have a rubber car! Cop went away and everybody left happy.

    I like your story with the punchline, nance…reminds me of those old TCM shows in which the politician makes an announcement and the writers scramble like maniacs for the nickel pay phones.
    Were the original pay phones a nickel, a penny? I made hundreds of calls for a dime, then it went to two dimes, then a quarter, then fifty cents…that’s when I started carrying calling cards around. I got so I would “Howard Hughes” the phones, grabbing a paper towel or a handful of napkins and wipe off the stench and grease and slobber on those damn phones…really…pay phones are disgusting, and always have been, but I used them for years. Most vivid recollection: NYC pay phones in those old style phone booths that smelled like piss so bad I had to choke back becoming sick.
    Still, I miss the old phone booths with the door.!.JPG

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  29. Jeff Borden said on September 8, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    One of my favorite stories about using telephone technology back in the day involved a reporter covering a very big trial in Columbus. There was something like three or four pay phones in the lobby of the courthouse, certainly too few to handle the mass of reporters.

    On the day the verdict was to be announced, things got even worse. There was an Ohio Bell cardboard sign on one phone proclaiming it out of order. When the verdict was read, our guy walked out into the lobby, where the reporters were all elbowing and jockeying for a shot at the working phones. He calmly pulled out a dime, removed the out of order sign and phoned in his story. The phone worked fine. He was the guy who had placed the sign on the phone the night before.

    They don’t make journalists like that anymore, do they?

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  30. paddyo' said on September 8, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    And hey, Dexter, some snitches still say they “dimed” somebody with a call to the cops, and some miscreants still say they “got dimed” . . .

    But I guess it’s better than saying “quartered,” since that could involve sharp objects — not to mention all four limbs* tied to ropes that lead to draught animals like the ones Cooze keeps.

    *(not to be confused, of course, with limn)

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  31. Rana said on September 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Can’t say that I was impressed by that woman, who clearly has never heard of either a dictionary or Google (amusingly, if you now search for “what does limn mean” references to that article are in the top ten hits). I tend to find degree-boasters a bit tedious and silly; if you have an advanced degree, you learn pretty quickly that most of your peers are no more or less smart than the rest of the general herd – they’re just more stubborn or obsessed than the average schmoe. (There are a few people with frighteningly brilliant intelligences, yes, but it’s not that the degree makes them smart – the process of getting it simply polishes what’s already there.)

    You also figure out that the vast majority of humanity is less impressed with your degree than your colleagues are, in that having a doctorate for most people either means you’re an arrogant twit or a know-nothing ivory tower egghead. Having a degree doesn’t mean that you’re smarter or know more; it just means that you’ve received and mastered specialized training in a field. If she were half as smart as she’s presenting herself, she’d know this.

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  32. Dexter said on September 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    LA Times: “CNN taps Piers Morgan to fill Larry King slot.”
    Yeah? Who?

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  33. Deborah said on September 8, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I’m enjoying all of the newspaper stories. Keep them coming.

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  34. Jeff Borden said on September 8, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Well,Deborah,since you ask. . .

    The same guy who pulled the pay telephone scam was, when not deeply in his cups, a pretty fantastic writer. He was covering a trial where the jury was in deep deliberations for days. One evening, after they’d all dined at a local Italian restaurant, they finally brought in the verdict and proclaimed the defendant not guilty.

    This guy wrote a lead that went something like this…

    “The jury in the Joe Dokes murder trial, filled with pasta alfredo and reasonable doubt, found him not guilty.”

    I always worked hard on my writing skills, but man, I could never come up with something that cool on deadline.

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  35. MichaelG said on September 8, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Excellent, Mary! Last time I was at Arleta I bagged one of the employee spots. I had to go to the Carmichael office here in the Sacto area to get a new license last year. Same as you I had gotten an appt at the DMV web site and was in and out in 15 minutes. I’ve asked DMV people why so many customers wait in line rather than get appointments and they’re at a loss to explain. So to any of you here in CA: Get an appointment at the DMV. Trust me, you don’t want to stand in those lines.

    Just filed for Social Security retirement bennies on line. I’ll be 66 next month. The whole process took me about 15 minutes. I couldn’t drive to a SSAN office in that time let alone accomplish anything.

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  36. John C. said on September 8, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Reading all these stories of the good old days reminds me of another. In the early days of cell phones we somehow must have thought of them as newfangled walkie-talkies. By that I mean we must have thought it was easy for the competition to listen in on us. I remember many times calling in to the desk with breaking news on a breaking story and being told, with great urgency: “Stop! Get to a land line!”

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  37. brian stouder said on September 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Nance, thanks for the link to the Salon article on the Franzen schlomozzle. All I’d read on this was an impassioned discussion over at Laura Lippman’s in the past few weeks, and so I had a vague awareness that an issue was bounding around; although, to be honest, it remained a mysterious fuzzball to me. If anything, I had a negative opinion of Franzen based on what little I had read, until I read this passage:

    “Oprah Winfrey is bent on demonstrating that estimates of the size of the audience for good books is too small,” Franzen told the New York Times Wednesday, “and that is why it is so unfortunate that this is being cast as arrogant Franzen and popular Winfrey.” Fixing that bit of typecasting will be as hard as any of the “corrections” attempted by Franzen’s characters, partly because there are so many people who are primed to believe the worst of him. His lapse hasn’t occurred in a vacuum. America’s book culture too often seems composed of two resentful camps, hunkered down in their foxholes, lobbing the occasional grenade at each other and nursing their grievances. One side sees itself as scorned by a snooty self-styled elite and the other sees itself as keepers of the literary flame, neglected by a vulgarian mainstream that would rather wallow in mediocrity and dreck. Each side remains exquisitely sensitive to perceived rejection from the other, and the fact that one is often characterized as female and the other as male resonates with the edgy relations between the sexes of late.

    Good stuff!

    Michael G – congratulations! And – here’s hoping that the Teapublicans don’t actually shatter Social Security in our lifetimes. (Another fine little book to read is James K Galbraith’s The Predator State, which addresses and demystifies many of the big macro economic themes and memes we constantly hear)

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  38. Connie said on September 8, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Yes, Basset, softball diamonds are out back of the Pines. Building and half of softball diamonds are in the county, other half of softball diamonds and the parking lot are in the city limits. Makes for strange confusion when police are called for fights, drunks, car thefts, etc. Picture city cops and county cops figuring it out in a huddle in the parking lot.

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  39. Dexter said on September 8, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    A record! Using my tactic of going at the last possible minute, I barged into the DMV at 4:51 PM , nine minutes ’til closing, and was welcomed immediately to step right up…bang bang bang…I immediately started to write the check and by the time it was done she was waiting impatiently for it…a few scratches on some papers with my pen and out the door by 4:55. Two cars. $89. Four minutes, I swear it’s true. No appointment.

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  40. MichaelG said on September 8, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I don’t know where you live, Dexter, but that wouldn’t fly in an urban office in CA. There are rural and small town offices where you could do that. Wish I could register two cars for eighty nine bucks.

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  41. Deborah said on September 8, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I got my replacement driver’s license in 12 minutes from the time I walked in the door. This was after my purse got stolen last year, and the location was in the Illinois State Building in the loop, during lunchtime, with no appointment. I was super impressed. On the other hand it took me 48 hours and 3 trips to Verizon to get my replacement phone.

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  42. beb said on September 8, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Dexter at 28: I’ve read a number of detective stories from th 1930s and when the hero makes a phone call they drop a nickel. In fact there is one Perry Mason story where Mason is hiding a suspect in a phone booth. I’m sure this would be confusing to modern readers who have either never seen a phone booth or has never seen the sort of all wood booth with door that, apparently, was the norm back them. When you think about all the changes to telephones in the last twenty years its mond- boggling.

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  43. Jason T. said on September 8, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Jeff B. @ 29:

    Instantly I thought of the scene in “Airplane!” when all of the reporters rushed to the bank of phone booths, and they tumbled over (at 3:31 in this clip):

    John C. @ 36:

    That was a real problem with the early cell phones … you could listen to them on a police scanner. As a teen-age geek, I can remember hearing some pretty steamy conversations over conducted over the old-style mobile phones using just a Radio Shack “shortwave” style radio.

    The other problem — at least in the decaying mill towns and river valleys where I worked — was that coverage wasn’t always great.

    At the college paper, we had one portable “car phone” — housed in a leather zipper bag — that was shared by the entire staff. On busy weekends, fights damned near broke out between the sports writers and the news reporters: “It’s our turn to use the ‘bag phone’!” “No fair, we have an away game!” Etc.

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  44. Scout said on September 8, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Just dropping in to say howdy and to make the comment that my favorite nugget today was this from Nancy:

    >Jeez, I sound like an old fart whit­tlin’ at the cracker bar­rel.<

    Great visual. Carry on.

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  45. Joe Kobiela said on September 8, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Supper in Cadillac at Hermans, had walleye with mushroom, must say it was dang good. Drove around a bit, nice area, but severly depressed economicly. We can throw around blame on who’s responible for this but the bottom line is we need to get somebody,anybody, to bring back some jobs,and friends, we need non-goverment supported jobs, we need to reward people that start bussiness, and employ people. I know some people will get wealthy and I say so what, let them make a ton, just get people employed.
    Pilot Joe

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  46. Harrison said on September 8, 2010 at 9:01 pm


    Thank you and congratulations for the reference to the briar patch! It was one of the funniest things I’ve read lately on the net, and it truly made me laugh out loud.

    Who knew that Osama Bin Laden knew his Uncle Remus?

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  47. Dexter said on September 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    I watch a few TCM movies and one Cagney gangster film had people in a bar making calls in closed booths inside the bar. I don’t know when the booths were only used outside. The tiny insulated housings for pay phones became the norm, a phone book hanging loosely.
    Then came the era of non-functioning phones. Frequently you would have to check 5 or 6 phones to find one that worked.
    I recall the giant phone bank at Chicago’s Union Station may be the biggest one I ever saw.

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  48. Tom M said on September 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Limn in a headline? Newspapers used to be written at an eighth grade level. Who knew they’d gone back to sixth?

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  49. Dexter said on September 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Just four blocks north of UD Mercy, near Curtis and Livernois, it looked like Dresden for a while yesterday. Mayor Bing more-less said it was an act of God; residents just said “…the fire department just was too slow.” , as suburban firefighters came in from places that hadn’t sent combat units into Detroit since the 1967 riots. The footage I saw was horrifying as the winds just blew fire right down the line.
    So what do ya suppose God was so damn pissed for this time?
    a driving video of detroit

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  50. Connie said on September 8, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    I’ve just finished, and will recomment “Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives” by Thomas French. It is the story of the triumphs and tribulations of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, and demonstrates on a kind of personal level that issues currently under discussion in the zoo, animal conservation, and animal rights worlds.

    I bring this up however, because as I browsed the bibliography there was The Looming Tower. Hmm, Al Quada and the Tampa Zoo. Then I realized he had told the story of the last two living animals in the Kabul Zoo. Connections.

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  51. joodyb said on September 9, 2010 at 12:22 am

    so sad. reminds me of this grim account.

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