How it’s done.

Here’s one reason I don’t listen to media conspiracy theories. Our case in point:

Here’s a locally bylined story in my morning newspaper. Both of them, actually. Headline: Group seeks ban on new Detroit fast-food eateries; City’s high rate of heart disease triggers request

The lead:

If nutritionists have it their way, Detroit fast-food restaurants would do more than hold the pickles and the lettuce.

Most people will read no further. As my fingers peck out these words, someone, somewhere in this place of two million souls is saying, “Jesus Christ, like this shithole doesn’t have enough problems” — we talk salty here — “now they want to ban fast food.”

The mysterious “they” always plays a big role in these conversations. “They” always want to “ban” something. Most people have only a dim idea of how the world works, and their understanding hasn’t advanced much since middle school. And most of us only listen to the news with half our attention. Who has time?

Back to our story:

The Washington, D.C.-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine on Tuesday called for Mayor Dave Bing to impose a moratorium on new fast food restaurants. The group said Detroit needs a diet because it has the fourth-highest heart disease rate in the nation, killing 3,400 city residents each year.

“We decided to take on fast food in general because the quality of most menu items is rather poor,” said Susan Levin, the group’s director of nutrition. “The whole country is suffering from these kinds of statistics.”

Oh, OK. Those guys. The noble-sounding Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, aka the Vegan Doctors Group, likes to advocate all sorts of crazy stuff, including ending the use of all animals in medical research, which you don’t have to be a vegan to realize puts them in some pretty fringe-y territory, vis-a-vis the medical community. We had a vegetarian news editor in Fort Wayne who liked to put their “news” in our pages, including one memorable Thanksgiving, when the fattest paper of the year landed on 60,000 front steps with a banner story above the flag detailing just how toxic today’s holiday meal would be.

But the PCRM knows how to play the game in a crowded media marketplace. First, assume a sober, serious-sounding name. Second, focus your press releases narrowly; notice the group isn’t advocating a moratorium on fast-food restaurants everywhere (at least not in this case), but in one city. (Local media outlets are easier to penetrate than the New York Times.) Third, call for a ridiculously empty gesture that has no chance of passing, but can be easily summarized by a pretty reporter doing a stand-up outside a McDonald’s: A doctors’ group is asking the city of Detroit to adopt a moratorium on new fast-food restaurants. I’ll have more at 6.

And then wait for the magic to happen.

You have to wait until the fifth paragraph to get to the point:

Some cities have taken on burger joints, but that doesn’t appear to be on Bing’s menu. Mayoral spokeswoman Karen Dumas said the Health Department is educating residents “so they can make informed decisions.”

In other words, the mayor is not only ignoring the request, he won’t even waste a quote on them. But it doesn’t matter; for a group that counts a total membership of 120,000, fewer than 10 percent of them actual doctors, this story is WIN all around. They’re in both papers. They’re on the local Fox affiliate. In fact, Fox even found a city councilman who agrees; anyone want to guess which one? (If you said, “Charles Pugh, the dumbest man in journalism and city government,” you win.) The system was gamed, the newsroom hacked. As they say around here, their name rang out. And that’s how you do it, folks. Easy-peasey.

Fun facts to know and tell: Guess who the PCRM’s director of public affairs is? One-time FLILF Elizabeth Kucinich. Detroit already has 73 fast-food restaurants, no citation given. That seems shockingly low for a city of 800,000. Grosse Pointe has one (a Wendy’s). The last time I was jonesin’ for a Taco Bell bean burrito, I had to go to Harper Avenue in Detroit, appropriately so, as that’s where the former Mrs. Eminem went to buy her drugs, once upon a time. The drive-through window was a marvel of bulletproof technology; I don’t think people who check weapons in a prison have seen such a contraption.

I don’t eat much fast food. But when I do, I find a crispy-chicken snack wrap at McDonald’s, plus one of their fruit smoothies, fits the bill nicely.

A little bloggage on yet another clear, cold morning? Why not:

In a nightmare blizzard scenario you probably didn’t hear much about outside of Michigan and western Ontario, hundreds of motorists were stranded on a 60-mile stretch of Canadian highway between Sarnia and London, blinded by whiteout conditions caused by 50 mph winds blowing over southern Lake Huron, creating — anyone? — yes, massive lake-effect snow. Maybe because it’s Canada, with their very own accent and Mountie-like diction, but I love police quotes like this:

“We have rescued everyone that was stranded; 237 souls brought to safety,” said Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. David Rektor.

Two hundred thirty-seven souls. We always get our man, down to the last one.

How Gawker, et al was hacked, and how they handled it. (Badly.)

I heard some political gossip a while back that said outgoing Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was looking to leave the state come New Year’s Day. I also heard California. No, probably Washington.

A good day to all.

Posted at 10:01 am in Current events, Media |

77 responses to “How it’s done.”

  1. Mark P. said on December 15, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Any old right winger can complain about the liberal media, but it takes a little more thought to complain about real problems. I can’t remember whether I ever did anything like that when I was a young, naive and ignorant reporter at a medium-sized newspaper. I would like to think I didn’t; a poor memory does wonders for the self image.

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  2. brian stouder said on December 15, 2010 at 10:43 am


    Flighty Lady….? Furtive Loo-Loo…? Financially Liquid…? Finnicky and loquacious…?

    I get the -ILF part, but today marks my first exposure to the term FLILF; and I think others who don’t (yet) know what that means should avoid Googlin’ – and make their best guess. (I’m stumped)

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  3. nancy said on December 15, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Remember, Brian, her husband ran for president. “First lady.”

    Although she never got anywhere near the title, the Daily Show did a funny bit on all the hot wives waving next to their husbands in 2008. Mrs. K was the only one to grant them an interview, and probably was, objectively, the hottest of the bunch. If you like gingers, anyway.

    Jason Jones: Is America ready for a FLILF?

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  4. del said on December 15, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I thought this man was behind the proposed fast food moratorium; to corner the market.

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  5. brian stouder said on December 15, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Hah! Well, Mrs K is hot enough, but Mrs O definitely has a lot more goin’ on.

    As for FLILF’s through history, Mary Lincoln took lots and lots of flak for her usual decolletage (and the damned flak continues to this day, amongst some!); and Jacki O was a FLILF until Ari got ‘er done, and then some folks didn’t like her anymore.

    If SecState Clinton becomes president some day, Bill will be our first FGILF, and then a man will get the adoration/derision treatment. (that would be instructive, I think)

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  6. Rana said on December 15, 2010 at 11:34 am

    That Gawker thing is no joke, truly. I commented once on one of their affiliate sites (Jezebel, if I recall correctly) and had to spend part of yesterday going to any site I’d used the same email for, checking and changing the passwords. Indeed, they managed to hack into one of my Twitter accounts, and had attempted to hack the email account itself (which, thankfully, registered the attempt as suspicious and blocked it). My password management list has now become a lot more messy, alas.

    (My cousin, who works in computers and is mildly paranoid, claims that he has a separate email and password for every site he logs into. Given that I have nearly a hundred such sites in my list, I can’t imagine attempting such a thing.)

    Lifehacker has more:

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  7. coozledad said on December 15, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I’vwe always wondered why some folks who make a decision to eschew meat have to supplement it with evangelical fervor. I think if I were going to make the transition to veganism (and I’ve tried, though not in any meaningful way) it might help if I went full metal Peter Singer and wore recycled tire sandals and held my britches up with a piece of baler twine, while blocking access to the meat counter at the grocery store with some imaginative signage.
    My experience in college of a leggings wearing housemate drawing a direct line between my consumption of sardines and the genesis of world conflict, in addition to making me want to gut him with the lid of the can, reinforced my abject irreligiousity about food, as well as religion.
    Religions are always going on about what you can and can’t eat, but it’s only the most orthodox, humorless bastards who follow the dietary laws to the letter. I’ll bet the Pope has a special dinner service for shellfish.
    That said, I think vegetarianism has given me a focus on my diet that has kept my latent “even fatter man” from making his way out.
    But ovo-lacto vegetarianism isn’t going to make anyone as skinny as Mrs. Kucinich. Especially not if it’s generously complimented by French fries and booze.
    God help me, I just can’t drink coffee with soy-milk, or give up cheese. Though this made me consider it:

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  8. moe99 said on December 15, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Do you want to be a journalist?

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  9. alex said on December 15, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Instead of trying to ban McDonald’s and Taco Bell, the busybody doctors should be petitioning for legislation compelling insurance companies to pay for Crestor. It’s the only statin that makes hereditary high cholesterol numbers drop to within normal limits and it costs a king’s ransom. Just came from my doctor’s office with excellent news on my most recent labs and I’ll keep on paying for this shit out of pocket even if it kills me.

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  10. Rana said on December 15, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Cooz, I still remember with a certain fondness an encounter involving one of the Righteous Vegans in college. I was in the school cafeteria, getting whatever slop was available that day,* and this guy started haranguing another student who was getting something with meat in it. I don’t remember what he said, but it was pretty clearly aggressive and predicated on the idea that meat is murder, it’s a horrible thing, etc. The target of his attack merely looked his challenger up and down and said, simply, “Dude, you’re wearing leather shoes,” picked up his tray, and walked off to stunned, humiliated silence.

    *I have to laugh whenever I hear students today complaining about their cafeteria meals. I will grant them that they are repetitive and not that exciting. Ours, however, were genuinely bad. I’m talking Sweet-and-Sour Tofu Balls bad. I’m talking salt instead of sugar in the cookies bad. I’m talking fermented chocolate milk bad. (It smelled like chocolate tequila.)

    Kids these days, I tell ya. *shakes head*

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  11. Rana said on December 15, 2010 at 11:45 am

    alex, if you’re on Crestor, start taking a multivitamin. I had to do that when mineral and vitamin deficiencies (notably magnesium) that go along with it started giving me things like barfing migraines. It took a year on the stuff before these developed. Other than that, I will attest that it works quite well with my hereditary, doesn’t-respond-to-diet-or-exercise, high cholesterol levels.

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  12. nancy said on December 15, 2010 at 11:48 am

    There was a trust-fund wife who worked (part-time, of course) on our copy desk for a while, who had made animal rights her life’s work. She was hard enough to respect under normal circumstances, but the fact she drove a Mercedes-Benz with full leather upholstery pretty much sealed the deal for me.

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  13. alex said on December 15, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Thanks for the tip, Rana.

    And speaking of militant vegans, I swore off inviting them to dinner parties and catering to their tastes the last time one stood me up while the rest of us ate a less than satisfying meal.

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  14. Scout said on December 15, 2010 at 11:51 am

    While I choose vegan options whenever possible, being a vegetarian is difficult enough. I do not proselytize though, most people don’t even know I’m “one of them.” Count yourselves among the few.

    It’s definitely interesting what they’ll come up with to breathlessly report when news is apparently slow.

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  15. Sue said on December 15, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Cooz, I’ve never met a radical veggie, although a magazine I used to read called them “more vegetarian than thou”. In my experience the radical seems to come out when the veggie has a kid and then it’s not just meat – heaven forbid that the precious one comes within a mile of refined sugar or flour (not that I haven’t made more than my share of honey-sweetened whole wheat oatmeal cookies).
    The only real negative experience I had was with someone who verbally attacked me, asking me if I didn’t know that there was scientific evidence that carrots felt pain and what about this and what about that? It’s not my habit to lecture so it’s not like I had set myself up for this, I think I had just asked for a substitute or something and got this response from a stranger at the party I was at. He would have backed me into a corner (literally) if I hadn’t eased out of there.
    I can’t do without lacto/ovo either, but since my main concern is welfare I at least have better shopping options than used to be out there.
    I can still remember what a transformational experience reading Laurel’s Kitchen was; that cookbook set me firmly on a road I was just starting to travel. Now the author just sounds painfully earnest.
    edit: Carob! Honey sweetened whole wheat oatmeal carob cookies. Can’t forget the carob.

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  16. Rana said on December 15, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Laurel’s Kitchen was my starting point, too. One of the first cookbooks I ever owned, in fact. Now it’s Mark Bittman who rules our kitchen.

    I drift in and out of vegetarianism myself, mostly operating along the health-and-environment axes. I’ve never understood the preoccupation of people with other people’s food choices; it seems to me that, like sex, politics, and religion, these are things better left undiscussed unless among friends. Badgering strangers in the grocery store – or at parties – about their diet is rude.

    One of my high school friends had a mother like that, Sue. I still remember my poor friend confronting a carob-flavored birthday cake one year. It was about an inch high, dense as a brick, and tasted about as good as one would expect.

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  17. baldheadeddork said on December 15, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    A timely connection to Nance’s post on the PCRM: David Cay Johnson on the failure of beat reporting.

    “It’s not like there isn’t important and revealing news all around us. There is. It’s just that we seem swept up in a herd mentality with too narrow a focus and too much eagerness to rely on what sources tell us rather than asking these same people to address important facts that lie in plain sight in the public record.”

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  18. coozledad said on December 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Something about Laurel’s kitchen appeals to me, in that sort of wistful communitarian way. Like the death squeak of a lost opportunity. But part of it, especially the photographs of the consortium on the back cover of the original, with their hair pulled back tightly, Victorian style, reminds me of that old Clint Eastwood movie, The Beguiled.

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  19. Sue said on December 15, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I tried carob-cream cheese frosting once, Rana, I think it was from one of the Moosewood Collective cookbooks. It was awful.
    My Moosewood cookbooks have more notes in them than any of my other cookbooks. I don’t usually write in cookbooks but there are a few recipes in these books that I felt the need to remind myself never, ever to try again. Love the general hippie tone and have some favorites but results have always been mixed for these cookbooks in my opinion.
    The most awful veggie cookbook I ever owned was Ten Talents. That one was hard-core with a religious bent because I think it was written by a 7th Day Adventist. Didn’t use it past the first few attempts and gave it away quickly.
    Cooz, damn – you know that was how the hippies looked then, c’mon. I think there is a genetic link between hippies and some of the more religious homeschoolers, the uniform is almost exactly the same. I’d like to see some kind of genealogy tree on that.

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  20. Jeff Borden said on December 15, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    The silly stories will only grow in number as newsrooms slash budgets and staffs. It takes time, hard work and money to do real stories, particularly those that delve into budget or accounting issues, but the cheap standups Nancy references are sooooooo simple and easy. It’s a great time to be a crooked politician, cop or businessman. You can go a long way without ever being called out by the “watchdog media.”

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  21. moe99 said on December 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    My ex’s family is a long line of ministers, mostly German Reformed. My former brother in law is a fervent vegan who built his own house in Waldo, Maine and who does without electricity or hot water. And he only works (as a foreign car repairman) until he reaches the IRS minimum for tax purposes. I decided some time ago that he’s the modern day manifestation of the Puritan mentality.

    ps. who’s going to see Glenn Beck in Wilmington OH?

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  22. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    New York mayor Bloomberg has declared a war on soup. Soup. He doesn’t like the idea of all that salt in soup. He already has driven smokers into Queens alleys to buy cigarettes from van drivers who sell bootleg smokes, because who can afford $14 a pack in Manhattan stores?
    Well, I don’t live there, and I can understand his humanitarian concerns, but soup? That seemed insane at first thought, and a month later it still sounds crazy. Ban soup?

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  23. Dorothy said on December 15, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    moe that “So You Want to be a Journalist” reminded me to tell you guys about some good news my daughter found out yesterday. They are getting paid for two furlough days they had to take this year (two of the 8 or 10 they had to take, in total I think), they are not going to have anything deducted from their last paychecks of 2010 to pay for insurance (company is covering the expense) and raises will be reinstated next year. I take that all around as pretty encouraging news.

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  24. Jeff Borden said on December 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Glenn Beck is just what Wilmington needs. . .and what a man of the people. Tickets are just $125 apiece. I wouldn’t spend a nanosecond listening to this charlatan, but I gather from other websites that he has been likening Wilmington to Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’m not sure why. Maybe everyone in Wilmington is trying to commit suicide? There’s a fresh crew of angels looking for their wings? Or maybe the local Mr. Potter decided bringing in a first-class dickhead like Glennda would take the minds of the proles off their suffering.

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  25. Mark P. said on December 15, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Dexter – well, I don’t know. I sometimes eat a can of soup at work for lunch. I was not happy but not surprised to see that a serving had over 900 mg of sodium. And then I noticed that there are two servings per can. Like someone ever eats a half a can of soup. So, you get about 80 percent of the recommended maximum sodium intake from one little can of soup.

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  26. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Mark P.—I don’t expect much criticism of Bloomberg from nance, either, since she knows, from a reliable source, a lot about canned soups.

    The portion size, that’s a good topic, too. I was watching an episode of “Family Guy” a while ago, and Stewie Griffin tells Brian to “go ahead, eat it all! Eat that entire pint of ice cream!”
    I guess there are people who think eating a pint of ice cream at once is disgusting piggery, but damn…I don’t know anybody who only eats part of a pint for a serving. One hot night, and only once in my life, I ate a half gallon of peppermint ice cream . It was so good I couldn’t stop myself. That was indeed being a pig.
    In your case, the “two servings per can” label was just a way to make themselves seem less the purveyor of death-in-a-can.

    and Coozledad? North Carolina sports trivia: what college / university did the great Sam Jones of Boston Celtics lore attend in the 1950s? I saw that school play U Michigan last night on the teevee.

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  27. Bitter Scribe said on December 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Quick quiz: What percentage of sodium in the average American diet comes from processed foods (as opposed to being added by consumers, during cooking or at the table)?

    A. 10%
    B. 25%
    C. 50%
    D. 75%+

    I can’t speak to the merits of what Bloomberg wants to do with soup, but I can say that anything that pressures the food processing industry to cut down on sodium is a good thing.

    (Answer to quiz: D)

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  28. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    on topic, McDonald’s sued for marketing Happy Meals

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  29. prospero said on December 15, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    You know those pictures in fifth grade geography books showing people floating on top of the water in the Great Salt Lake. That’s canned soup.

    People that didn’t make it far enough into the Docs vs. Hamburglar story to realize it deals with militant people that follow strange dietary rules from the planet Vega have probably forgotten what had them so upset over morning coffee. This problem is pandemic in Mediaworld. Even when attribution doesn’t really help because any charlatan can name an organization something that sounds august, responsible and authoritative. If you don’t know that the Hoover Institution is a hotbed of hardcore libertarianism, Brookings tends left, and the American Conservative Union is run by guys that want government drowned in a bathtub, naming a source is just obfuscatory.

    People that know about stuff like this, or have the common sense to find out, will know haw to assess the information. Everybody else will forget by the time they flip on Ellen or Oprah (or Jerry) when they get home from work.

    The most egregious example of this lately is the ongoing courageous efforts of the fighting Association of American Physicians and Surgeons to prove that health care for all Americans is neither desirable nor a right. When it comes to looney, these people are bull-goose. Their charter uses the words “evil” and “immoral” to describe physician participation in Medicare and Medicaid. Of course, all those Baggers with “Keep Government Hands Off My Medicare” signs will remain blissfully clueless in the believe that both God and Docs are on their side.

    There are about 900,000 practicing physicians in the US. 20-25% belong to the AMA, which supports health care reform as passed. AAPS claims 4000 members (including D.O.s), but Glenn Beck only got 1,000 to show in DC last September. Hilariously, many were wearing lab coats.

    The AAPS freaks may be onto something interesting though: Obama hypnotized voters

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  30. Deborah said on December 15, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Bitter Scribe, that quiz would not take into account people like me. Saltaholics. I salt my food at the table, a lot. If I can’t taste the salt, it’s not good to me. I’ve tried to break myself of this bad habit. I will probably have to be told by a Dr that it’s killing me before I stop. Although I have super good blood pressure levels, so far. And cholesterol is not a problem for me either. So bring on the eggs and cheese.

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  31. nancy said on December 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I make a *lot* of homemade soup this time of year, and I hardly ever add much more than a couple teaspoons, maybe a tablespoon, for a whole pot. Granted I used canned stock, and that likely skews the sodium up higher, but I buy low-sodium frequently, and I don’t really notice the difference. I’ve heard restaurant cooks say that salt is the magic ingredient that makes restaurant food taste better than what you make at home.

    For me the flava comes from the ingredients, not the salt box.

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  32. 4dbirds said on December 15, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I only drink soy in my lattes. 🙂

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  33. Mark P. said on December 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Prepared foods use salt and sugar to hide the fact that a lot of it doesn’t taste very good. We’re born suckers for it. Humans have evolved (as most animals have) to seek high-calorie food, and sugar fits that bill very well. So sugar tastes good to us. And we don’t store sodium very well (we sweat or otherwise excrete it), so we need a constant supply of sodium. So salt tastes good to us. These days most of us here get plenty of calories and sodium, but our bodies just keep on wanting more.

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  34. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    I have been SO FIRED UP all day , since hearing that my muse these past 37 years, Tom Waits, is going into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
    Darlene Love, too, and it’s about damn time. I bet Bruce Springsteen has sent his congrats to Darlene, since he was pushing for this for a while now.
    What a great singer she is.
    Oh, and Alice Cooper, more great news. He’s 62 , no longer “Eighteen”, and it’s great to see him entering also.
    And of course, the great, the fantastic, Dr. John, yet another of my absolute favorites. This is such a great day for celebration, at least for me…how often does news from the world make one jump for joy? Today is one of those days.
    Neil Diamond, too. I’ll let someone else sing his praises…I mean, his pop seems bland to my ears.

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  35. coozledad said on December 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Dexter: I don’t know much about basketball. I was a Duke fan around the time Grant Hill played there, but I worked over in Chapel Hill and used to see Dean Smith around town a lot. Truly nice guy, and oddly short for a former basketball player.
    I eat a lot of salt. I don’t know whether it’s exclusively a Southern Thing, or a class thing. I’ve just managed to get away from salting apples after I slice them, or putting salt on watermelon. I’ve never had high blood pressure during a checkup, but I always thought they should do something to piss you off before they checked it, to get a more accurate mean.

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  36. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    coozledad..that’s OK…but I thought you might know because the school is in Durham, your old stompin’ ground…
    North Carolina Central University

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  37. ROgirl said on December 15, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    When I eat food that has too much salt in it my eyelids and fingers get all puffy. I’ve pretty much stopped eating canned soup unless I can dump out the liquid and replace it with water. When I make my own soup I add salt, but it always strikes me how sweet things taste without half the salt shaker dumped in.

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  38. Dorothy said on December 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Dexter my daughter is a huge Tom Waits fan! And Darlene Love will be the musical guest on Letterman next Thursday, Dec. 23rd, to sing “Christmas Baby, Please Come Home” as she does every year.

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  39. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Dorothy, your daughter is OK with me then, and I had just gone back and edited the Darlene Christmas song into my text , just before you let us know she is coming back with Dave once again. I just played that YouTube and once again, it drove me to tears of jubilation…I love it.

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  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 15, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Dexter, congrats on Tom’s apotheosis.

    For the Detroiters who feel over scrutinized, Chicago tries to get in on the game:

    Anyone’s who’s seen “Waiting for Guffman” has an idea aborning in their heads for a mockumentary on Glenn Beck coming to Wilmington.

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  41. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    JmmO: Apotheosis. Perfect…thanks.

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  42. paddyo' said on December 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Dexter, love all those new Hall of Famers, especially Dr. John (lonnnnng-time fave) and even Neil Diamond — not for his glittery-Elvis-blouses-and-jumpsuits era (which is to say, the past 20 or 30-some years) but for his early stuff, esp. “Solitary Man.” Diamond will still be forever enshrined, however, in the pantheon of worst-songs-ever for “I Am, I Said” . . .
    Not … even-the-chair would tolerate that one.

    Salt? My companion salts everything with her shaker, but doesn’t overdo it in her delicious homemade soups, leaving me room for my own taste.
    Me, when I shake it (or grind it), I’m a pepper: Corn on the cob, pasta, veggies, damn near everything but my breakfast cereal. (Which of course, already contains salt, depending on the variety . . . )

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  43. Judybusy said on December 15, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Dexter, great news about Tom Waits. I saw him in concert in 1999. My soon-to-be ex-husband and I saw him shortly after we separated. The appreciation of Waits outweighed any awkwardness. Holly Cole, a Canadian songstress, did an entire album of Waits covers that I highly recommend. Now I gotta check out Darlene Love.

    I too, have very low BP and cholesterol, so don’t worry about what I eat. My sweetie and I compromised on food: she’d eat meat with every meal, but it just gets wearisome after a bit for me, so we agreed we’d have about two vegetarian meals a week. (She also needs to ensure she gets healthy amounts of protein.) Much of the time,the meat is just flavoring, such as a bit in a stir-fry or part of a savory pie. Thankfully, we both love tofu.

    Those Moosewood cookbooks by Katzen taught me how to cook. Deborah Madison’s books got me grow and using fresh herbs. We still use many recipes from both sources. One of my favorite weekly rituals is grocery shopping, especially picking out all the fruits and vegetables!

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  44. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 15, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    That’s what my son does — picks out all the fruits and vegetables.

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  45. Julie Robinson said on December 15, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    A big pot of homemade soup and a loaf of bread right out of the breadmaker is my idea of a perfect winter meal. Since high blood pressure runs in the family*, I don’t cook anything with salt and we add a little at the table. It does make restaurant meals seem salty and we are always thirsty afterwards. The best part of soup is that you can eat it all week for lunch.

    Dexter, isn’t it required that before Dave brings Darlene Love out, Paul Shaffer first has to do his impression of Cher singing O Holy Night?

    *Sometimes I wonder what genetic curse doesn’t run in the family. Our kids really got the jackpot!

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  46. brian stouder said on December 15, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    This evening I’m off to see my friends at Red Cross, so that they may jam me with needles, and take platelets. I mention this because when they take my bp, it has always been on the high end of acceptable; and more recently, it was beyond their limit, and got me turned away several times.

    So, Diet Coke (which is loaded with sodium) and I have been saying a long goodbye; I simply don’t open cans of the stuff anymore (although an occasional belly-washer from the gas station is still acceptable). And – in addition to the withdrawal headaches from the caffeine, my bp is back in the acceptable range at Red Cross

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  47. Bitter Scribe said on December 15, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Tom Waits is not only a great singer-songwriter, he also made the most hilarious appearance on a talk show in television history:

    (It’s a fake talk show, of course, but still, it’s utter hilarity)

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  48. Mark P. said on December 15, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Years ago my BP was marginally high. I went onto a very strict low-sodium diet and at that time was running 8 miles a day. No difference in BP for a long time. I am apparently not one whose BP is affected by sodium intake. My BP eventually went into the acceptable range. I credit my discovery of Mexican food, and especially New Mexican food.

    Brian – Diet Coke has somewhere around 40 to 50 mg of sodium per can. The label is not consistent. One place says less than 35 mg per 8 oz, but another place says 40 mg per can. If it’s 35 mg per 8 oz, then it’s 52.5 per 12 oz. But that is still pretty low.

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  49. DellaDash said on December 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Because I consider my daily preoccupation with trying not to be obsessed about what I am or am not eating to be excruciatingly tedious, I avoid most conversations about food.

    However, I have fond memories of my roots Rastafarian husband with all his kosher-like dietary restrictions (they’re not called ‘Lions of Judah’ for nothing): no red meat except she-goat on festive occasions; no fowl or sea scavengers (lobster, shrimp, etc); only certain fish with scales, none out of a river; nothing out of a tin; no dairy. (Bobo Dreads go even further: they partake of nothing that comes off of a vine, always go barefoot, and claim to never set foot on ‘Babylon’ roads. ) My lion wouldn’t ‘nyam’ off of anyone but his brethren or the women in his family, partly for reasons that would have infuriated me if I wasn’t so spoiled by having a mate who did all the cooking and was an excellent chef in the bargain. Other reasons were that very few islanders came up to his fastidious standards of cleanliness. Fire-blackened pots were scoured to a shine after every meal. Utensils washed in cold water carried up from a stand-pipe, then rinsed in diluted lime juice, had to squeak when rubbed in order to be pronounced sanitary.

    I had no problem embracing a healthy Rasta diet, as long as it wasn’t being imposed on me. But during the month of May, when the crabs are running in Jamaica, there was no resisting something coconutty being concocted by the women ‘a me yahrd’, or hiding any indulgence when every bite I took or move I made was clocked and reported by the pickney to my heavy-lidded, all-seeing spouse. After a while, I noticed that when I ate something he didn’t, I wasn’t getting kissed.

    “What’s the lowdown?” I started to tease. “How many days of no kisses if I eat an egg? A bowl of coconut curry crab?”

    “Grrrrr…,” he’d grumble. I never found out.

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  50. brian stouder said on December 15, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    And Della wins the thread! (for some reason, I could just see “the month of May” in Jamaica, and the running crabs )

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  51. prospero said on December 15, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Bitter Scribe: I knew that had to be Fernwood before I clicked it. Remember that very well. Fred Willard and Tom Waits, two twisted geniuses.

    I’ve got most of Tom Waits’ albums, but I play Frank’s Wild Years and Swordfishtrombones back to back probably once a month when I have the place to myself. A fully plotted movie in my head. Innocent When You Dream and, particularly, Cold, Cold Ground are two of the most exquisite songs I can think of. And 16 Shells is scary as hell.

    Getting Ready for Christmas Day by Paul Simon. Didn’t know this album was released yet, There’s a GD ad, but the song is worth the wait. Propulsive and infectious, wonderful lyrics. And it seems that he’s actually back to playing guitar, acoustic slide.

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  52. DellaDash said on December 15, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I actually met Tom Waits a long time ago, before I knew who he was. It was at Jimmy Webb’s 30th birthday party in Bel Air. Totally star-studded. My friend, Roger Bobo, who played tuba for the LA Philharmonic at the time (still think he’s the best in the world), took me on a whim. After running all over the place looking at Art Garfunkle, Ringo Star and sundry other familiar faces doing lines in the upstairs bathroom or singing acapella in a jam session…and after enduring a flighty bimbette just sitting on my lap to have a nervous breakdown…I had withdrawn to a living room to watch myself dance in a huge mirror (being young and full of myself) when a gruff voice made some scathing remark about my obvious narcissim that made me laugh. I immediately sat down beside this most interesting person among the rather bland glitterati, and proceeded to engage in highly entertaining repartee. Been a BIG fan ever since.

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  53. Rana said on December 15, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Deborah, I’m also a salt-o-holic. When I was a kid, I’d pour some in the palm of my hand and lick it, I liked it that much. I’ve mostly reined it in, but one of the local restaurants has a little three-part tray of exotic salts on each table (one that’s white, one that’s pink, one that’s black). I had to sample each, and discovered that I liked the black one best, and now whenever we go there I have to stop myself from eating the salt like an appetizer.

    (How’s that for a sign of a highly civilized society – not only are there three salts on the table, but people can tell the difference.)

    The thing is, my blood pressure is on the low end. As in take a blood sample, feel faint, low. As in forget to drink enough water during the day, get light-headed, low. I hate to think what it would be like if it weren’t for the salt!

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  54. Julie Robinson said on December 15, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    It’s not just the sodium, it’s the caffeine, Brian. And those withdrawal headaches are a bitch.

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  55. Little Bird said on December 15, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    If someone told me that I couldn’t have salt anymore, I think I might die. I have the same affliction as Deborah. But we use sea salt, which is supposedly better for you. I don’t really know if that’s true, but it tastes better.

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  56. Joe Kobiela said on December 15, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    A bit off topic but I will be in Houghton Mich around lunch tommorow,anyone have a lunch suggestion for there or Hancock Mich, way up the u.p. ya you betcha.
    Pilot Joe

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  57. alex said on December 15, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Rana, your salt fancy reminds me of the Twin Anchors in Chicago, a rib place where you get a small creamer-size pitcher of their incomparable barbecue sauce in addition to what’s already slathered on your dinner. I’ve never been able to let even a drop of that stuff go to waste and at the end of the meal I guzzle it down like a drink.

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  58. Little Bird said on December 15, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Rana, you can get Hawaiian black salt from Penzey’s relatively inexpensively. It does taste good, and different from the others. And Penzey’s is online.

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  59. moe99 said on December 15, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Richard Cohen pens a Mitch Albomesque obit of Richard Holbrooke (whose 3d wife was Katie Marton):

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  60. nancy said on December 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm


    Report back on whether they have the elevated sidewalks in place yet. With last week’s weather, my guess is yes.

    We were there en route to Isle Royale years ago, and my recollection is, it’s a pretty nice little waterfront town. Likely plenty of good places to eat.

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  61. Rana said on December 15, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Good to know about Penzey’s – we’re already fans. There is one that’s next door to one of the few Thai restaurants within driving distance (ie, an hour away); will have to go early enough to check it out in person.

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  62. Dorothy said on December 15, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    we shop at Penzey’s in Pittsburgh’s wholesale district when we’re in town on a Saturday morning. Most of my spice cabinet is populated with Penzey containers.

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  63. Little Bird said on December 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    For what it’s worth, I also recommend the white truffle salt from Penzey’s. But use it sparingly, a little goes a long way.

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  64. Jolene said on December 15, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I’m a salt-lover, too. I can (most of the time) ignore sweets, but the salty, crunchy snacks do me in. Like all my bad habits, I blame this on how I was raised–the daughter of a potato farmer whose crop was sold to make potato chips.

    Admirers of Rachel Maddow might be interested to know that she will be appearing on David Letterman’s show tonight.

    In other news, I listened in on a conference call re DADT today (I’m on a mailing list and thought, what the hell.) with Patrick Murphy (D-PA), who has been shepherding the bill to repeal DADT in the House. As you may have heard, the House passed a bill dealing today w/ DADT as a separate issue, rather than as part of the DoD appropriations bill. Murphy was fervently urging people to call their senators to ensure that the Senate will bring up the bill and pass it before the end of this session. I know that some NN.C folks doubt the efficacy of such calls, but, heck, it’s worth a shot. Only takes a minute.

    Wavering Republicans, of course, should be at the top of your list–Brown and Murkowski, in particular.

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  65. Jolene said on December 15, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Here are two non-Albomesque remembrances of Holbrooke that touched me–one by Judy Woodruff and one by Strobe Talbott.

    And count me among those pleased by the R&R HoF choices. Great choices. Love those Darlene Love performances on Letterman.

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  66. Dexter said on December 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Dr. John.

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  67. Jolene said on December 15, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    One more thing: With due respect to Della, but I think Nance won the thread before it started when she chose to include “237 souls brought to safety.” Such a lovely phrase. Of course, since she is The Proprietress, she should, perhaps, be in a category all her own, leaving the thread-winning competition open to the rest of us mere mortals.

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  68. Mark P. said on December 15, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I lost respect for Judy Woodruff, and TV news in general, after seeing her in action at a trial I covered when she was the Southeast reporter for whichever network she worked for before she rode Jimmy Carter’s coattail to Washington (gives you an idea how long ago I was a reporter). It was a two-week trial in federal court that was of some national interest because some poor, black women in Aiken, SC, had been forced by an ObGyn to undergo sterilization in order for him to deliver their babies. The next closest ObGyn was about 20 miles away, so they had essentially no choice. Woodruff blew in on the last day of the trial, saw about an hour of it, then left to report from the Columbia, SC, affiliate. She asked a print reporter to phone her with the verdict, and then she reported on the trial as if she had a clue what had gone on.

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  69. Jolene said on December 15, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Maybe she had been reading about the trial and “blew in” to shoot the needed scenes for TV. I know that getting the background and the details right is not exactly a strength of TV news, but I have seen Woodruff do many well-organized and thorough interviews, and she did a series of detailed reports on the views, values, and experiences of young Americans (I think it was called “Generation Next”) that involved lots of travel and interviewing, as well as detailed survey work w/ the Pew Foundation a while back. In any case, her remembrance of Holbrooke is just her point of view, not an exercise in reporting, which I heartily agree that we have too little of.

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  70. Mark P. said on December 15, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Judy Woodruff has been very presentable since becoming the White House reporter for NBC back in the late ’70s. If you had seen her give the report on the trial I mentioned, you would have thought she was knowledgeable and authoritative when, in fact, anyone who had read the newspaper articles could have given an equally authoritative report (if perhaps not so presentably). I and the other print journalists had actually sat through the entire trial, from jury selection to verdict. But she cheated. She wasn’t there and had no first-hand knowledge of the events. Journalists are expected to have some kind of knowledge of the events they report, either first-hand or from witnesses or authorities. They are not expected to repeat someone else’s stories unless they give credit to them. In the print world, that’s considered plagiarism.

    I don’t have a good opinion of her professionally, and I think she earned it. Others, including lots of journalists or academics, disagree. Maybe they know more than I do. Maybe not.

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  71. Dexter said on December 16, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Thanks for this education, Mark P. and Jolene. I watched a long, live report late last week from London, near Big Ben, where students were rioting and police horses were charging protesters as signage sticks were thrown at the police, looking like medieval arrows shooting across a moat at a castle, as the reporter dodged horses and gave verbals to his cameraman. Now that was fast news! No phoning it in that day. Damn.
    I guess that happens when students , in 2012, will be paying three times what 2010’s class is currently paying. This affects the big-name universities like Oxford, too. England is a mess these days. Politicians were saying there’s just nothing to be done.

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  72. Denice said on December 16, 2010 at 1:53 am

    I recently read about a woman Vegan who found her diet was killing her and making her very sick. The reactions of her friends and vegan buddies to her diet change to omnivore status caused her great pain. It was an amazing tale. She was shocked to find her vegan friends dumping on her and rejecting her. So sad.

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  73. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 16, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Fundamentalism, or Puritanism of the left or the right is equally unhumane. IMHO.

    (Is unhumane a word?)

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  74. coozledad said on December 16, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I don’t know that it’s proper to draw an equivalence between Puritans of the food sort and the ones agitating for the public sphere to submit to their version of god. For one, the food Puritans themselves are enforcing class barriers whether they can wrap their heads around it or not. The poor have to eat that salty soup, or go without, and Bloomberg don’t want no poors in his Disneyland no mo.
    This country hasn’t experienced a “puritanism” of the left that resembles anything on the scale of the ethnic cleansing in the late nineteenth century South, the rise of the Klan in the 1920’s that helped Coolidge and Hoover into office, or the McCarthy/HUAC period, and now we’re blessed with the people running around hissing Merry Christmas like it’s some fucking litmus test for the right to breathe.

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  75. Connie said on December 16, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Salt person here. I can tell if you didn’t put enough salt in your potato boiling water. My best friend is a pepper person. I find it hard to eat her soup.

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  76. Jolene said on December 16, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Inhumane, Jeff, not un.

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  77. Jenine said on December 16, 2010 at 10:02 am

    To go along with the RR Hall of Fame contemplation, this excellent discussion of imaginary bands that should be inducted into the Imaginary RR HF. First up: Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, of course.

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