A look back.

Joel Achenbach, the WashPost blogger, is on vacation this week, and his substitute has gone spelunking in his career, via Lexis-Nexis. She posted a story of Achenbach’s from 1985, which was Twitter-flagged by the editor who handled it, none other than the legendary Gene Weingarten of the Miami Herald; from its tone and length, it can only be from Tropic, that paper’s Sunday magazine.

Got all that? Anyway, it’s from 1985, 26 long years ago, another era in the newspaper biz. The internet was confined to college campuses (and only the faculty offices of the computer-science department, at that), the Herald and its parent company, Knight-Ridder, were absorbing workers jettisoned from Viewtron, a failed experiment to deliver the news via computer, still a rare appliance in American homes. There would be a few more glory years in the newspaper biz yet, where a smart editor could find a local story (the opening of South Florida’s first sperm bank), assign a smart young writer (Achenbach), and come up with this long, meandering story about how it works and who the people are behind it, told through Achenbach’s visit to the facility, and his attempt to make a deposit.

I know a guy who had performance anxiety at a sperm bank — he tells it as a very funny dinner-party story — so every word of the long opening anecdote rings true:

Do sperm scream? wonders Mr. Posterity as he sits in the sperm bank. He is alone in a room so bright he cannot find a shadow. In his hand is a large cup. The doctor has asked him to produce within 15 minutes. He has already wasted five.

…The doctor at the sperm bank has been thoughtful enough to leave a girlie magazine in the room (it’s the only thing in sight with any trace of color). But when Mr. Posterity flips the pages he can barely focus, the Girls of Texas are bending over backwards to help him in this wretched moment, but all he sees is paper.

…Voices come from outside the door. It is the doctor and another person, laughing at something, probably something not very funny. Mr. Posterity makes a mental note that the door does not lock. He is trying to be cool about this whole thing, but he wonders if perhaps a lock would have been a good idea, a lock and chain and a hefty deadbolt, and maybe the room could have been down a long hallway or in the basement — jeez, he could have just mailed it in, no hassle.

Eventually cold logic takes over, and Mr. Posterity steels himself, realizing that there would be no greater humiliation than to exit the room with nothing to show for his time. He had vowed to be productive. He had vowed to be manly.

And so . . .

When he leaves the room he is wearing his dark shades. He is not proud. More than ever, the cup seems needlessly vast, a virtual bucket, mocking him. This is a tense moment and he wants to look slick, but the cup is proving awkward, he isn’t sure how to hold it. He decides to grip it close to the stomach, the way he holds a Bud at a party.

This is why I got into the newspaper business, to be able to write like this and get paid for it. This is what newspapers used to do — some of them, anyway. We would publish pieces like this on a Sunday, and no one would ask, as they would in later years, “But what’s the utility here? Can we include a sidebar on the sperm bank’s hours and rates? This seems awfully long. Are we being self-indulgent here? I mean, really, who cares?”

No one asked those questions because this was a Sunday-magazine piece, and that’s what Sunday magazines did. They gave people lounging in their living rooms, drinking coffee, surrounded by sections of the fat newspaper, something to read they wouldn’t get Monday through Saturday. Maybe people were busy then; I’m sure they were, in fact. But we figured, hey, Sunday — if it’s going to run any day of the week, this is when it should run. These were, to some extent, the experimental John Cage pieces. They required commitment from readers, a more sophisticated reader’s eye. They assumed at least a few Monday-morning phone calls, from some pissed-off old lady or evangelical, who simply cannot believe that in her newspaper, which she pays for, the thing she invites into her home, there’s a story about a reporter with a several-hundred word lede drolly detailing how he jerked off into a cup. And so on.

The day was dawning, however. If the Herald editors had looked to the east, they would have seen a pinkening sky as the new era approached. Or, to switch metaphors abruptly, Pandora had already opened the box, and the harpies were pouring out. Competition. Declining literacy rates. Something that was called, in meetings, “time starvation.” Falling ad lineage. The last ones out of the box would be the bean-counters, the number-crunchers, the people who could put an essay like this through an analysis and say, yes, while personally they had enjoyed this immersive visit to the sperm bank, really, research shows that the average reader only spends 17 minutes with the paper, maybe less, and was this really where the paper wanted to put its resources? When there was real news to cover?

For a while around this time, everyone wanted suburban readers, those wealthy boomers spending like drunken sailors on everything from home improvements to cars to dinners out, and so came the birth of Neighbors, zoned editions pegged to the compass points of individual metro areas. No one at Neighbors would scorn your suburban town board meetings, no sir, and we covered the crap out of them, but that didn’t pay off, either. Sunday magazines went first — rotogravure printing, long deadlines, scarce advertising, and those nice people at Parade and USA Weekend were offering their product practically free. Neighbors came later. Cut, cut, cut, trim, trim, trim. Retiring employees weren’t replaced, others were bought out, some laid off. Cut, shrink, deny, sell, consolidate, reduce. A new publisher arrived in Fort Wayne. When Alan, the features editor, met her, she asked how many staff he had in his department. Eight, he replied, and she made a face, like, are you kidding me? There are three now.

You’ve heard all this before. I’m oversimplifying. I’m telling the story from only one perspective. It’s boring. It’s ancient history. It’s water over the dam and under the bridge. Both Weingarten and Achenbach still have jobs, still write long-form pieces rich with style and detail, only they do them at the Washington Post, one of the tiny handful of papers that still swings for the fences from time to time. There’s still lots of good writing out there, and a lot of it — I’m always struck, on a day like today, how much I can be distracted by great pieces, on the web, in books, in Kindle Singles. I have too much to read, really; it’s hard to get work done sometimes.

But this one took me back. I should look forward. So that’s that.

Let’s get to the bloggage, which is scarce today:

According to one blogger who found this yesterday, it is “comedy gold.” I’ll say: Marcia Clark opining on the Casey Anthony trial, calling it “worse than O.J.!” Considering the O.J. case was booted in large part because of Clark’s prosecutorial missteps, that’s a pretty big contention. (If you haven’t read “The Run of His Life,” Jeffrey Toobin’s account of the O.J. case, I highly recommend it. Marcia might gain some valuable insight.)

The stolen babies of Spain. Taken, it seems, as political retribution, later just for cash, with the help of doctors, nurses and nuns. Unbelievable.

Outta here. Have a great Thursday.

Posted at 9:14 am in Current events, Media |

64 responses to “A look back.”

  1. prospero said on July 7, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Did any of y’all see the story about the lady in China that caught a two year old kid falling from the tenth floor of an apartment building. Broke her arm and the kid has internal injuries, but no head injury. Now that is a fine piece of center fielding. How in the world did she judge this from 100 ft. away? Simply awe-inspiring. I’ve pulled people out of riptides on my beach before, but this is inspiring and heroic. The detail about kicking of her high heels really makes the story for me to. She’d have undoubtedly broken both ankles had she still had them on.

    Shouldn’t this be enough to precipitate lifting Rupert Murdoch’s US broadcast licenses?

    And what about this POS?

    Here’s another vintage Joel Achenbach piece about performance art. His blog in Wa Po is a daily stop for me. He’s got a dedicated following much like this one.Guy is a terrific writer with keen insights about science and environmental issues. I’m waiting for him to cut loose on fracking, which sounds to me like more af an insanely dangerous and unproductive boondoggle than even ethanol subsidies. One way or another, this guy writes beautifully about just about anything.

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  2. Sue said on July 7, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Just catching up on yesterday’s comments and wanted to say something about Moe’s link to Racine County’s probable replacement of union labor with prison workers. You folks all know I am disgusted by what’s going on in Governor Walker’s Wisconsin, but I’m guessing there are some nuances here, and automatic outrage over this just puts the two sides further apart.
    It might be a more effective argument to ask, now that prison workers will be doing more maintenance around the County in place of unionized workers, how that effects the law enforcement budget. One photo showed a uniformed officer supervising the work crew. More crews might mean more officers either needing to be hired or pulled from other duties. How does that affect the overall bottom line and/or public safety? Do you like the idea that deputies are going to be supervising prison work crews instead of being out in the community?
    And what is a ‘unionized seasonal worker’? Are there any benefits? Who gets these unionized jobs and do the jobs contribute to the community in some way? Is a unionized seasonal worker a kid working for the summer, for instance? Summer employment for students has been hit hard all over the country as jobs dry up or are taken by older workers. Is this just one more way to screw over our young people? Who gets these unionized jobs and what does the community lose by cutting the jobs?
    A little more information in the article would have been helpful. As it is, it’s not going to change anyone’s mind. We’re at the point in this battle where one side can’t see anything past the word ‘union’ and the other side doesn’t understand why people can’t see what’s coming down the worst-case-scenario pike, and they’re each yelling at the other side’s brick wall.
    If you think it’s a race to the bottom, prove it with information that doesn’t make it look like the only thing you’re interested in is protecting the status quo. There’s a dollars and cents argument against every hit workers take if you think about it.
    If you think replacing employed fellow-citizens with prison workers is a good thing for your community, prove it with financial information that doesn’t just attack union workers for being part of a union.
    Message should be everything right now in Wisconsin but is not being used very effectively.

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  3. Connie said on July 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

    The Troy Public Library will make one more attempt to pass a tax millage to fund the library on August 2. A very active group is opposing them and is scheduling a book burning party for after the election. It’s creepy. Here is their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BookBurningParty?sk=info

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  4. Sue said on July 7, 2011 at 10:37 am

    And if I could just say, lisa’s description yesterday of Nancy Grace as “old rabies face” was the best description I’ve seen of Grace’s screwed up crossed eyes and snarling little mouth. Just perfect.

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  5. Deborah said on July 7, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I love it when you talk about the newspaper biz. In some ways it reminds me of the world of design for the built environment. When I started at a large corporate architecture firm 30 years ago there were 20 people in my department, when I left there were 3. I’m currently working for my third large corporate design firm and we are up to 8, when during the worst of the recession I was the only one left (I thought I would have been the first to go because I was the most senior and had the highest hourly rate). The bean counters, not surprisingly never lost any staff. Deadlines get tighter and tighter, design quality is spotty and mostly mediocre because of it. There’s no time to think it through, or be original. Cranking it out is the norm.

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  6. Sue said on July 7, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Connie! Big-time typo!

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  7. coozledad said on July 7, 2011 at 10:43 am

    There’s no way in hell I could jack off in a clinical setting. I can barely manage to take a piss in the presence of others, in a stall, with strategically placed dividers.
    That’s how I know there’s been a fundamental change in male psychology (for the better) post WWII. The best example is those livestock feeder style latrines that used to be common. You’d just pull up to one of those with the rest of the herd, whip it out and let them remark upon your member while you shared a plug of chaw or harmonized a couple of bars of Amazing Grace.
    I know a guy who walked into the pissoir at the Durham Athletic Park, and had just started to relieve himself of the overflow from several 16 oz beers, when the guy beside him started stroking himself and muttering “I love my dick. Just love it.”
    “Were you able to piss?” I asked him.
    “Sure. Just tried to force it out quicker”
    I told him that every sphincter I’ve got would have just snapped shut at that point. Audibly.
    I also suggested that with that capacity for compartmentalization, he could easily snag a job with the CIA.

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  8. Jeff Borden said on July 7, 2011 at 10:52 am

    The only time I was allowed to write long pieces was at Crain’s in Chicago, where we catered to a very distinct demographic. Our readers were well-educated, well-compensated and interested in more deeply analytical and well-written stories, which we could do because we were a weekly. Thus, when writing about the insanity of the local NBC affiliate under a news director who loved blood ‘n’ guts, I could describe the guy as “the avatar of the abattoir” and not have some sniffy editor tell me our readers wouldn’t understand what that meant. I was also blessed to work with some of the best editors in the business.

    It all crashed and burned when an outsider was brought in. Though he came from a long-form newspaper, he worked diligently to turn Crain’s into a clone of USA Today. He banned jumps, insisted on charts for everything. . .and often bragged that his favorite story was one that was only a collection of photographs. By then, I was an AME overseeing small business. Once the twit arrived, we had to put boxes summing up the non-jumping story, as if the entrepreneurs we were targeting were too effing stupid to discern the points of the story for themselves. The outsider lasted only 15 months, but drove off 40% of the staff including yours truly. I’m sure no one will be surprised to learn that the vast majority of those pushed toward the door were over 50.

    Still, those years when we were at the top of our game and had excellent journalists who knew how to write were the highlight of my career. I wish all my friends in the business could be so lucky as to work at such a place sometime in their careers. It was really something special and, sadly, all too rare.

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  9. Connie said on July 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Thanks Sue, fixed. My face is red.

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  10. ROGirl said on July 7, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Connie, I wish I lived in Troy so I could vote in the library election. I’m really hoping that this time the people who actually use the library there will come out in support of the millage. I have to believe there are more of them than there are bookburners, but the numbers matter. They have to go out and vote.

    Your link is astonishing. What a bunch of fuckwads. They seem proud to be associating themselves with Hitler.

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  11. Jeff Borden said on July 7, 2011 at 11:00 am


    I had the same impression. They’re not mournful or embarrassed about the closing of a public asset. They’re fucking gleeful! What possesses people to despise a library, for God’s sake? It’s like hating Santa Claus. Is this a libertarian/teabagging/right-wing thing in Troy? The organizers of the book burning must be complete idiots.

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  12. Bob (not Greene) said on July 7, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I’m not so sure the Book Burning Party website is actually FOR book burning. I think it’s actually the opposite, but may be trying to draw out the more fascistic in the neighborhood in order to put them in the spotlight. Something about it seems too obvious to me, and the verbiage on the info page doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a rabid pack of book burners, but rather library supporters who are intimating, “Hey, when the library is closed all you anti-library people can have a field day burning the books you hate so much.”

    Of course, if this is legit then all I can say is I’ll be there with the arm band concession, because I’m going to make a fortune.

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  13. Julie Robinson said on July 7, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Typos aside, a book burning? After I scraped my chin off the floor at the sheer hatefulness and stupidity, I must agree we are in a race to the bottom. Also, have they ever used their library? We save thousands every year for a minimal tax investment.

    My husband got an iPhone yesterday and I was coveting it before we even left the store. I can’t wait to start loading it with apps for him. (Okay, maybe a few for me too.) So, council–what’s your favorite?

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  14. Peter said on July 7, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Julie, I love the Tipulator – I used to be so good at calculating tips and everyone’s share, but since this came out I’m fully brain dead in that department.

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  15. Sue said on July 7, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I am reading in several places that Obama is putting social security and medicare on the table in today’s debt-ceiling negotiation meeting and will be pressuring his own party to accept big cuts to both.
    I know there was a… spirited… discussion a few days ago about not attacking Obama, but if this is true, why on earth would he take this issue from the Republicans and carry it himself? Why? This will be used so effectively against him that by the end it will be common belief that he wrote Paul Ryan’s budget.
    And if I’m reading this correctly, some of the social security ideas on the table will take effect immediately, and seniors won’t need to be reminded by Karl Rove’s or the Koch Brothers’ front organizations who did this, all they’ll need to do is look at their bank balance.
    I know, bargaining chip etc. Even if something modified comes out of this, Republicans will go out of their way to point out repeatedly who is responsible for the eventual cuts. The Republicans will get part or most of what they want in damaging medicare and social security and Obama will take all the heat.
    Paul Ryan must be ecstatic.
    Someone tell me I’m not understanding this correctly, please.

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  16. Connie said on July 7, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Bob(notgreene), the spirited discussion among the area Library Directors today includes your point of view, perhaps this is a bizarre campaign to support the millage vote.

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  17. LAMary said on July 7, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Julie, my son has downloaded Cat Piano, which is a silly app. It has I think two octaves of notes, all voiced in meows. The best use of this I’ve heard so far was providing the background music for the Real Housewives of some place. Having them mince around in their high heels to meow meow meow meeeeowwwww was excellent. Also, Don’t Stop Believing is good on Cat Piano. It’s perfect.

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  18. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 7, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Irony detector set on stun, Captain; shall we burn these books, or beam them up to the Enterprise?

    Bob (non-G) has nailed down the arm-band concession just in case, but my money is on a meta-attempt to illustrate what’s at stake which may be too meta- for its own good.

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  19. brian stouder said on July 7, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I’m with you, Sue, with regard to fretting over this whole debt ceiling extension. I truly do believe that the Republicans in congress are approaching a genuine Fort Sumter moment; that is, it will (very soon) become starkly apparent whether they place their own political agenda ahead of the interests of the United States government.

    I think that a default would be a catastrophe for the ages, and that President Obama placed his best offer on the table right now, in order to avert that catastrophe.

    If the Republicans take the deal (and there is no guarantee at all, that they will), then we can (and assuredly WILL) have the big political debate about “entitlements” that we need to have; and if this costs President Obama his job (and in the process, Social Security is again deemed to be an essential part of “the American way”), then generations will (again) pass before the next set of chuckleheads propose fooling with Social Security…which in my opinion would be a net-good thing.

    And if this does NOT cost President Obama his job, then he will work to protect and update the Social Security (et al) agreement, which is still a good thing.

    I just really, truly, cannot believe that we are rolling toward another financial cataclysm – one that is completely avoidable – because Republican party politics is being allowed to threaten renunciation of the “full faith and credit of the United States of America”. I think President Obama is very clearly trying to avoid that abyss, even at the expense of whatever short-term political advantage (including another term in office) that he could easily gain.

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  20. JayZ(the original) said on July 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    My initial reaction to the proposed book burning posting is the same as Bob (not Greene)’s.

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  21. Peter said on July 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Tribune’s reporting that News of the World will stop publishing after Sunday due to recent hacking expose.

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  22. coozledad said on July 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Peter: The real question is whether that piece of trash Murdoch will cough up the last years of his worthless life in Brixton prison.

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  23. prospero said on July 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Bob (not Greene): So get ’em all in one place and use a drone? If it’s for real, they are terrorists no better than the Taliban. With any sense of history, Teabaggers would just have gone ahead and admitted they were reestablishing the Know-Nothing Party.

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  24. coozledad said on July 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Prospero:Teabaggers are just our Mosleyites, orchestrated by a steamroom cabal of guys who were regulars on the guest list at the Reagan-Kemp weekend getaways. The country used to shed most of them through attrition, but motorcycle helmet laws and the conquest of pellagra have permitted more of them to survive beyond their typical years of active reproduction (11 to 14) and even to voting age.

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  25. Dexter said on July 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I have my Sony Reader up and ready, finally , as I shed another five pounds of Luddite ways, but I miss the long features in the Sunday papers, which I no longer can buy around here.
    Off to the local newsstand to buy four Sundays, Trib, Plain Dealer, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press (before I had ever heard of JOA) .
    Of course nobody has time to read four Sunday papers, but I bought all these papers for the columnists and the Magazine feature writers. I just couldn’t take a chance on missing a great story. I had no idea that in just a couple decades I would no longer have access to newspapers, but would be relegated to searching for editorials and features on a screen.
    For me it is not the same; it’s like I can recall with clarity a play I may have witnessed in M Stadium or at Tiger Stadium years back, but World Series games I saw on TV…no recall, just electronic hum in my brain.
    Same for electronic newspapers: same content, but for some reason , my brain won’t recall the facts the same way I recall certain newspaper articles I read years ago.
    I know there is some scientific explanation for this phenomena, but I don’t recall what it is.
    I must have read it online.

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  26. Deborah said on July 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Dexter you bring up an interesting question. Do people truly digest and retain information they get on the screen as opposed to print? Digital signage more and more is becoming a source for information. Places like airports and hospitals are turning to this method to assist in wayfinding. I have my doubts that it’s as effective but I have no data to back up my opinion. It could just be that digital tends to be mucked up with a bunch of visual garbage and becomes distracting and confusing. When you’re at the airport trying to find your way to your gate quickly you just want the most pertinent information necessary at each decision point. The same with websites there is so much in your field of vision (often flashing) that it can be distracting and often hard to really concentrate.

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  27. Jakash said on July 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I think maybe I can recall things that I read online as well as what I read on paper. The problem is in remembering WHERE I read it.

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  28. Bitter Scribe said on July 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Was Marcia Clark really responsible for O.J. getting off? My recollection is that it happened because a weak judge let an unscrupulous lawyer shamelessly inflame the jury’s racial resentments.

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  29. moe99 said on July 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm


    The Republicans–helping us eat shit.

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  30. prospero said on July 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    The best way to get people where they need to go in hospitals is the follow the yellow brick road method, with color-coded lines like a subwaay map on the floor.

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  31. Dorothy said on July 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    *Nodding in agreement with Jakash here* Wish I had a dollar for everytime I started to tell my husband about something I read online, but I’ll be darned if I can remember where.

    I thought OJ got off because of the stupid mistake the prosecution made of asking him to try on one of those bloody gloves? (I’m being snarky but I thought that was always considered a really big blunder on their part.)

    Totally OT but I know there are other knitters/crocheters who comment here. And I’m not sure if I ever asked if any of you are on Ravelry? Here’s a really nice article about it at Slate. If you use the site, come find me and we’ll be “friends” there as well! I’m “KenyonNewbie”.


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  32. prospero said on July 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I’d say Mark Fuhrman’s malfeasance and perfectly obvious sleaziness and racial animus did more to get OJ off than anything else, except for the fact that evidence against him not clearly tainted by the cops was pretty much non-existent.

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  33. Deborah said on July 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Jakash, that is so true remembering WHERE you read it is the biggest problem. Again, when you pick up a newspaper, book or magazine you are also stimulating the sense of touch so this may help you remember the source and information better because it’s also a physical object. I know you touch your keyboard and your touchscreen but it’s the same sensation for all the different places you visit. Also I don’t flip around reading this and that print piece nearly as much as I flip around reading on-line so that’s obviously why it’s so hard to remember exactly where I read something.

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  34. Julie Robinson said on July 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Somehow I missed this news: Harold Camping, who incorrectly predicted the apocalypse to be May 21, suffered a stroke on June 9 and is now in a nursing home. Who won’t confess to a bit of schadenfreude about this?

    Dorothy, I crochet a bit and signed up for Ravelry awhile back, but never really used the site. After reading that I may need to investigate it more. Our church just started a prayer shawl ministry so I’m looking for patterns.

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  35. Deborah said on July 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Prospero, While the yellow brick road approach can be an effective means for wayfinding, hospitals have gotten so complex the floors would be a maze of multicolored lines. We are working on a huge hospital wayfinding project in my department at work, actually 12 hospitals in a giant healthcare system. I wish it were that easy.

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  36. prospero said on July 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Moe99: Jack Kingston is a useless tool, who used to be a lawyer in Savannah whom my brother knew pretty well. My brother and I got a flat tire on the way home to Savannah from a UGA football game in Athens. The sun was broiling and we had trouble with the lugs despite standing on the tire iron. Along came Jack Kingston and his family, going very slow over the grade crossing that had caused my flat. He recognized us and waved with a big smile on his face and drove right on by. I can’t imagine not stopping and offering to help if I saw somebody I knew in our situation. He was involved in his first House election at the time. What a jerk, Mr. Sheep.

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  37. nancy said on July 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    True, there were many mistakes that allowed O.J. to walk, and not all of them were Clark’s. But I have a vivid recollection of Clark waving off all the advice offered by her excellent jury consultant, who warned her about seating too many black women on the panel, because they would be more likely to resent a beautiful blonde victim who’d married a wealthy black man. Marcia, however, went with her gut, which told her “black women love you, because you prosecute wife batterers.”

    Black people love us! came after, but it always makes me think of Marcia Marcia Marcia.

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  38. beb said on July 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I’ve been reading too many political blogs of late. They’ve got me seriously depressed, to where my feeling about the debt ceiling issue is: Bring it on, burn it down. No good will come of any of the concession Obama makes. Let the Republicans reap the whirlwind that they have sown.

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  39. Linda said on July 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Coozledad, you sweet, idealistic, starry eyed man. Murdoch will not rot a day in prison, that (and taxes) are for little people. Like the flunkies that will take the fall for the phone hacking.

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  40. Kim said on July 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Dang, I thought the money shot (I know, but it is irresistible) with Achenbach’s Dr. Load narrative was going to be the possibility there may be 20-something Achenbach spawn roaming the world, maybe even the journalism world, finding new ways to slip the glorious Sunday reader in front of an unappreciative public. Those Mondays after those Sundays – when the calls from irate, “longtime Christian readers” came pouring in – really were the days.

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  41. coozledad said on July 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Linda: Since his rag has hosed both MI5 and Metropolitan Police investigations, maybe we can hope for a little extrajudicial action. Hell, the police down here have been known to shoot people they’ve been working with for years.

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  42. Dexter said on July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    My brother is an avid cyclist, and he and his cycling friends, as well as our mutual boyhood friend who by chance ended up being neighbors with my brother, all have bicycle computers.
    I guess they need them, but damn, does a recreational and go-to-the-store cyclist need a damn computer on his bicycle?
    Back to my Luddite ways, I know, but I embrace computers and cell phones and now e-readers, and that is quite enough.
    I take a relaxing ride of five or eight miles to get away from the computer for a while.

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  43. mark said on July 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Yes, crazy world indeed. The President tells us we face financial armegeddon unless we extend the debt limit and his party’s answer is “bring it on” unless Republicans vote to increase taxes. The Democratic party had two years control of both houses and the White House and didn’t even hold a vote on raising taxes (or a budget), other than taxes on the little guy (cigarettes, tanning beds), and in the last lame duck session actually voted to extend the very Bush tax cuts that Obama promised to eliminate.

    They want to raise taxes but not at the expense of creating a campaign issue. Instead they threaten financial chaos unless there is bipartisan support for tax increases. And if the Republicans don’t agree, then the Democrats are content with pushing the self-destruct button.

    Actually, there will be a deal, composed of fairly significant budget cuts and fairly insignificant revenue enhancement. David Broder’s thoughts notwithstanding, the people leading these negotiations know what they are doing; they are simply getting every last drop of perceived political advantage before signing on the dotted line.

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  44. coozledad said on July 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    When the Lord has given you wacky mirror contacts for corneas, is it a good idea to accentuate this by shaving off your eyebrows and penciling them back in with a Conté stick? Even Tammy Faye drew the line at a teaspoon of mascara per eye.
    If you ask me, she’s a facebiter.

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  45. Halloween Jack said on July 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Toobin’s book is pretty great. I also remember Christopher Darden’s book having a mea culpa about his realizing, just a few seconds too late, how bad of an idea it was to propose the glove test to an actor, even a not-so-hot one.

    That Achenbach article was pretty funny, although I tend to doubt that I would have had that much trouble giving a sample at age 23; then again, I’ve become pretty blase about producing various bodily fluids for this test or that on demand through gradual degrees over the years. The worst experience I’ve had, actually, was indirect; I was, at one point, working for an addiction counseling agency that, among other things, collected urine samples from recovering addicts on behalf of probation/parole officials to ensure that they were staying clean as part of their probation/parole agreements, which meant that a staff member of the same gender had to watch them urinate (and, not to be too explicit or anything, actually see the urine exit their genitals so as to be sure that they weren’t using someone else’s urine with a hidden pouch; if you’ve seen the movie Withnail and I, you know what I mean). This poor guy had a shy bladder, something I used to have a problem with, and I almost literally felt his pain as he strained to produce with the threat of jail hanging over his head. Luckily, I finally broke down and checked with another staffer who told me that he had a fairly long window in which to produce a sample, but still, I would have gladly given up my job at that moment to kick the whole stupid drug war to the curb.

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  46. Sue said on July 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    ‘here are my five kids, and then my other 10 billion foster kids, and here is a timelapse pretty Midwestern bridge, now can I be president?’
    Hey cooz, has anyone asked Ms. Bachmann yet if she raised her several dozen foster children without any government aid? Because if she didn’t pay for everything herself, isn’t that freeloading off the taxpayers? Which she wouldn’t do except for farm subsidies. Oh, and taking Medicaid money for her husband’s clinic.
    It’s very nice that she helped raise several foster children. It’s also very nice that money was available for their health care needs and very basic necessities. Rep. Bachmann probably had to dig into her own pocket on more than one occasion if she is anything like the standard foster parent. But it might be interesting if a reporter thought to ask her, as she continues to make this a feel-good campaign point, how her public stands would have affected her private life if she were still a foster mom.

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  47. Jeff Borden said on July 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I know Conrad Black is a minnow compared to the awesome whale that is Rupert Murdoch, but the rich sumbitch –who bought himself a seat in the House of Lords– has not only done serious time for pillaging his media companies, but he’s being sent back to prison to complete his term. He has never expressed a word of remorse and blames corporate governance zealots for his woes.

    Naturally, he is a conservative. His board of directors –puppets all, of course– even included the noxious war criminal Henry Kissinger.

    We can only hope that when Father Time finally catches up with Rupert, his various sons and daughters will feud over the empire of sleaze and shit he has built and it will crumble into the sea.

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  48. Deborah said on July 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Mark, Wait! “…the Democrats are content with pushing the self destruct button”??? What in the world have the Republicans been willing to do all this time?

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  49. alex said on July 7, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    The Chicago Reader used to be my go-to for long-form literary journalism, and I even contributed some of my own. Chicago Magazine used to do pieces every bit as good as you’d find in Vanity Fair or the New Yorker but seems to have cheaped out lately, with fluffy features on plastic surgeons and haute cuisine con artists who buy advertising.

    Jacking off in a cup in an office? Good lord. I can hardly get off in the privacy of my own bedroom if it’s under a time constraint.

    Marcia Clark isn’t entirely to blame for the O.J. fiasco, but to drive home what Nance said above, these were jurors from Watts, fer Chrissake. You really think they were about to go home and face the music had they rendered a conviction? Marcia Clark thinks of herself as colorblind when her real problem is that she’s tone-deaf.

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  50. brian stouder said on July 7, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Marcia Clark thinks of herself as colorblind when her real problem is that she’s tone-deaf.

    Now, to me….THAT’S the thread winner, baby!!

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  51. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Hello, Indiana — time for some thumbsuckers on the end of cursive instruction in the Hoosier State. If it ain’t on the test, it ain’t gonna be taught, and when you fill in little ovals with #2 pencils, why waste time on cursive?

    If I were to go there, I’d note the likelihood that writing in cursive will become similar to good dental work and lack of overt tattoos as a visual class & status marker. And at some point, someone will make a buck or two offering handwriting classes to aspirational parents for their upwardly flung children.

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  52. Suzanne said on July 7, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Sue (#46)I think as a foster mother, Michelle Bachmann would by definition be taking government money. Foster parents get some remuneration and I believe it comes from the state. But as I learned when I worked for a Christian organization several years ago, government aid for good God-fearin’ folk ain’t really aid but something deserved, not like those welfare deadbeats who are bringing the country down.

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  53. Suzanne said on July 7, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Sue (#46)I think as a foster mother, Michelle Bachmann would by definition be taking government money. Foster parents get some remuneration and I believe it comes from the state. But as I learned when I worked for a Christian organization several years ago, government aid for good God-fearin’ folk ain’t really aid but something deserved, not like those welfare deadbeats who are bringing the country down.

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  54. Connie said on July 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    My daughter has never been able to read my cursive, she is 23. And can barely write it as well. She learned what was then called keyboarding in 4th grade though so we thought it was a fair exchange. They teach math differently these days as well, we were surprised when she needed a scientific calculator for high school math. The world changes. I try not to be an old fuddy duddy about this stuff, but it’s hard.

    Speaking of old fuddy duddy’s you should hear my dad whenever he sees her pierced lip. Actually just below the lower lip. I finally had to tell him to quit making his grownup granddaughter cry at family get togethers.

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  55. Connie said on July 7, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Kids that age don’t tell time the way us old folks do either. We say quarter after five. They say five seventeen.

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  56. Dave said on July 7, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Coozledad at 24, there are no helmet laws in Indiana. I’m just saying it might be something else.

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  57. alex said on July 8, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Coozledad at 24, there are no helmet laws in Indiana. I’m just saying it might be something else.

    Dammit, man, you’re blowing my theory that it’s heavy metals and shit cooties in the water.

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  58. Linda said on July 8, 2011 at 5:53 am

    Mark, when did David Broder give his opinion on this? Hasn’t he been dead for the last four months? Maybe with the Washington press corps, it’s hard to tell.

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  59. Dexter said on July 8, 2011 at 7:01 am

    I miss David Broder’s dispatches from Beaver Island in L.Michigan.
    He’d be there now, picking berries and he’d surely have an opinion on the wireless service the island now has. Maybe he wrote about it before he passed…I will try to find some archives….
    One reason he loved that island is because going there was a real trip back to simple times; there are few amenities on Beaver Island. I was only there once and I enjoyed the simplicity.

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  60. basset said on July 8, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Been there myself, shot a couple stories on the island back in the days of film. One was about a Nobel Peace Prize winner who’d done something or other to promote peace in Ireland; lots of Irish on Beaver Island. The prize is a thick golden medallion a little smaller than a CD; I know this because she had it wrapped in a handkerchief in her jeans pocket and would haul it out for display at every opportunity.

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  61. mark said on July 8, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Linda- You are correct. I “miswrote” and intended to make reference to David Brooks and his recent NYT piece on the debt ceiling impasse.

    My apologies.

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  62. prospero said on July 9, 2011 at 2:26 am

    How is there animpaww3? Qr3th3w3 qnuw3w wo right they eon’t hqve to qemit the cornhle ane the gas and oil don;thave to give vadk, Tjese wubsidies have never createe a wingl4 job ane they domtribute to bqd behavior, HOWW DO THESE ABSURD T;xura hwlp NYBOET VYR aaholwa rhR GEOQ COEB RGr agiyow rwLLY VWIBG DWWWUBG ARevinf pwoplw rgR EWPUBLICANDS WANRT TO FUCK OVER. CORN IS NOT WORTHE DICK IN THE GRAND SCHENE OF ENERGY, S0 5H3W3 MORONS CONVERT IT TO AOMW LWAA RHn 1PI , EW PWOPLW THt dMN DUMN> IR;A AWEIOALY UAWLWAA DOR WNWRGY nw rhwy RW ARrving pwoplw. Rhia ia EwpuvlicN AHIR, THWY SON;R Crw BOYR ARevinfg pwoplw ia rhwy rhink rhwy vwt VOTE. HOW DO YOU OOOK T THINGA THr qy?

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  63. prospero said on July 9, 2011 at 2:30 am

    These shitheels don’t care about kids or their parents. They aill be left behind ahwn Rwpblicnz rub thingz.

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  64. prospero said on July 9, 2011 at 2:43 am


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