That’s one way of looking at it.

I wandered into a discussion about journalism today — which is sort of the cue for anyone with half a brain to turn the page — but it occurs to me that what it’s really about is something else. First, a piece by Susan Shapiro, writing teacher, over an assignment she gives her “feature journalism students,” i.e. “the humiliation essay,” which she calls her signature assignment. Students are required to:

…shed vanity and pretension and relive an embarrassing moment that makes them look silly, fearful, fragile or naked.

You can’t remain removed and dignified and ace it. I do promise my students, though, that through the art of writing, they can transform their worst experience into the most beautiful. I found that those who cried while reading their piece aloud often later saw it in print. I believe that’s because they were coming from the right place — not the hip, but the heart.

She goes on at some length about this assignment, and how to make it worth reading. It’s a good one. I’ve always felt the first job of any writer, whether one works in fiction or nonfiction, is to tell the truth. Telling the truth about yourself is frequently the hardest thing you’ll do as a writer, so learning how to do so early in your career is probably a useful exercise.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker disagreed, making the very good point that a journalist’s last job should be to write about themselves. He points out that Shapiro, who seems to be only about 50 or so, has already published three memoirs, and maybe that’s not the craft’s highest calling. He’s onto something there, and notes:

…let us more generously interpret Shapiro’s attitude as not a cause, but a symptom—her own honest reading of the state of the professional writing market today. In a way, she is not wrong, although she is also part of the problem.

Shapiro is, in essence, telling her students that they only way they will get published and sell stories and books and have careers as professional writers is to exploit every last tawdry twist and turn of their own lives for profit. Why, she could be the editor of any number of popular websites! Her takeaway from editors’ and agents’ demands for interesting stories is, “Sharing internal traumas on page one makes you immediately knowable, lovable and engrossing.” She is teaching a gimmick: the confessional as attention-grabber. Her students could just as well include naked photos in their essays, for the same effect.

They’re both right, and they’re both wrong. Journalism students should be learning, first and foremost, how to write about other people, not themselves. But. Making yourself your toughest assignment is hardly a waste of time; besides what I mentioned before, confronting your own awful story may well help you when you’re trying to write someone else’s. So I’ll defend the assignment.

But Nolan’s position is more than defensible, and from how she described them in her piece, I doubt I’d find Shapiro’s memoirs very interesting. In fact, the one she talks most about — “Five Men Who Broke My Heart” — sounds ghastly. I have five heartbreakers of my own; why would I give a fat rat’s ass about yours, Susan Shapiro? He’s right that a typical memoir of today traffics in just this sort of overheated crap, which is why I don’t read many of them. But to reject the personal essay/memoir out of hand as “not journalism” is simply ignorant — “Out of Africa,” “Ten Days That Shook the World,” etc. etc. and more etc.

The difference, of course, is that these great storytellers were writing about something outside themselves, through their own eyes. They have the sense to know what’s interesting and what’s just self-indulgent twaddle.

I really don’t know much about Shapiro’s students; maybe “feature journalism” is what she calls memoir or personal history.

Ultimately, one of my favorite writing lessons is the one Norman MacLean’s father delivers in “A River Runs Through It” — an assigned essay of a certain length, which he requires his sons to cut in half, cut in half again and maybe a third time, after which he delivers the final verdict: “Now throw it away.”

Most writing can be thrown away, when you come right down to it. Newspaper work teaches you that, as you’re virtually assured that your precious words will end up wrapping fish, lining birdcages, training puppies, abandoned atop the toilet tank or shredded into insulation. The best you can hope for is to be pinned to someone’s refrigerator for a while.

A book note before I go, while we’re on the subject:

I didn’t say enough good things about “Capital” last week. The author is British, and I’d forgotten how much fun their slang is. “Naff” took me a while to figure out, and I’m still not sure I’ve quite got it. (I think it means tacky, but that’s not exactly right.) Speed bumps are “sleeping policemen.” And then I was sidetracked by the in/on thing.

New Yorkers stand on lines, everybody else stands in them. But there’s a difference between English and American English on the subject of addresses. Brits are more likely to describe life in a road than on it. Why is that? I always figured that the older the road, the more likely it is to be cut into the countryside by years of passing conveyances, and maybe there’s more in than on to them by then.

I’ll leave it to our resident Brit commenters. Because I’m mighty tired, and think I’m off to bed.

Posted at 12:35 am in Media |

59 responses to “That’s one way of looking at it.”

  1. Brandon said on January 3, 2013 at 2:41 am

    I first heard of naff in the New York Observer column of Simon Doonan. And he uses the word quite a bit in his book Gay Men Don’t Get Fat. It applies most specifically to fashion and style, and “is about stylistic shortcomings which are horrifyingly average and pathetically ordinary.”

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  2. Kevin said on January 3, 2013 at 2:51 am

    New Yorkers stand on lines, everybody else stands in them. But there’s a difference between English and American English on the subject of addresses. Brits are more likely to describe life in a road than on it. Why is that?

    Not sure. In south Louisiana we “stay by” someone’s house (“I’m staying by my grandma’s for Christmas Eve”) or “pass by” when we mean “stopping in.” We also “make” our birthdays (“he’s making 40 next year”) — but that’s all French, from what I know. We certainly stand in lines.

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  3. alex said on January 3, 2013 at 6:37 am

    I’m not sure who Kevin Leininger’s writing teachers were, but he sure has his own singular way of taking a subject—any subject—and making it into a right-wing screed about the welfare state. Here’s one about a tractor pull that’s really more about the ne’er-do-wells who suck at the teats of FEMA and the Red Cross. I guess when you’re not filling up your newspaper with ads anymore you’ve gotta try to fill it with something.

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  4. Deborah said on January 3, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Interesting post today Nancy, I love it when you write about journalism.

    The only odd saying I can remember from my youth is that we called milk gone bad “blinky”. My mother spoke German until she started school, I don’t know if that’s where it came from.

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  5. ROGirl said on January 3, 2013 at 6:43 am

    My family lived in England when I was a teenager. I’ve noticed that Britishisms I heard for the first time when I was there are used on this side of the Atlantic now, such as: saying “in hospital” instead of in the hospital, and using the word “randy” to describe someone as oversexed.

    I don’t know why the in/on divide exists, but you also have to add “the” before the street name, for example, “That shop is in the High Street,” or “That shop is up the High Street.

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  6. Deborah said on January 3, 2013 at 6:49 am

    Alex that piece you linked to in the FW paper was full of typos.

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  7. alex said on January 3, 2013 at 6:56 am

    That’s pretty typical for that guy, Deborah. At this point I’m not sure whether they can’t afford copy editors anymore of if he enjoys Mitch Albom privileges and no one is allowed to touch his shit.

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  8. beb said on January 3, 2013 at 8:07 am

    relive an embarrassing moment that makes them look silly, fearful, fragile or naked. If that’s Shapiro’s idea of how one learns to write… I’m glad I stuck to chemistry. My most embarrassing moments I’ll keep to myself.

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  9. Minnie said on January 3, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Deborah, I hadn’t thought of that descriptor in ages. When I was a kid in Mississippi, milk that was going off was “blinky”. Could the origin be that the taste and smell of the milk made the drinker blink in aversion?

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  10. Basset said on January 3, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Susan Shapiro doesn’t sound like she’d be any fun to be around in any context – even before she starts describing herself as a “brilliant,” “castrating” “ball-buster.” People like her are one of the main reasons I avoid New York.

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  11. Prospero said on January 3, 2013 at 8:39 am

    An interesting discussion of Tom Waits by kindred spirit Alex Harvey. More coherent than I would have expected from this character:

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  12. nancy said on January 3, 2013 at 8:43 am

    A friend of mine used to keep a streaming loop of Alex Harvey’s catalog going on a home server. Still might, for all I know.

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  13. Dorothy said on January 3, 2013 at 8:53 am

    I’d heard the term “silent policemen” before I had heard them called speed bumps. Must have been my driving instructor in high school who taught me that. We didn’t have a car until I was 13 so I guess that’s why I hadn’t learned the right name. I love listening for Britishisms when I watch movies or t.v. shows. I know we’ve discussed this before at nn.c and yet I always learn some new ones. My daughter spent her semester abroad in Manchester and I visited her for a week when her schooling was done. We still like to say “Lovely tha’!” to each other.

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  14. coozledad said on January 3, 2013 at 9:14 am

    We were drinking with some of our friends back in the eighties, one of whom was a shrink. The idea of describing our most embarrassing moment came up. Embarrassing moments are easy. Moments of greatest moral weakness/depravity/abject stupidity would have been more appropriate for the clinical setting (we were drinking in her office in the basement of her house) but it was already, as the shrink’s partner noted, too close to a busman’s holiday.

    My embarrassing moment paled in comparison to the shrink’s, which filled me with guilt. If she hadn’t threatened to start her psycho-meter, I would have had to add a story of turpitude.

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  15. DellaDash said on January 3, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Was just telling a friend a few days ago about how they call speed bumps ‘sleeping policemen’ in Jamaica. But of course…they got it from their erstwhile slaveholder-colonizers. It now occurs to me that the term can inject a frisson of satisfaction when a detractor of ‘Babylon system’ is forced to slowly roll over a prone enemy.

    Patois is such an intoxicating mash-up of Britishisms and African syntax…unrecognizable as English when delivered in the soft singsong of jamdown. (Although the school pickney can slam down the crisp, haughty diction of ‘My Fair Lady’ better than you or I.) This harks back to the days when slaves were whipped for speaking their native dialects, and thus devised a way of talking in their masters’ tongue, in front of them, without being understood by them…only by each other.

    I’ve always liked how, because island life is spent more outdoors (‘out-a-door’) than in, you refer to your home as your yard…as in ‘come a me yahrd’.

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  16. BigHank53 said on January 3, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Well, Shapiro and Nolan are both right. Being brave enough to drag up your own shame and hang it on a couple of pages is a good start for being brave enough to write at all, and a valuable reminder that what goes on the paper may very well be that painful for your subject. Compassion is a requirement for a successful writer, too, I’d argue.

    Shapiro seems to have mistaken her own success with a tool as the be-all and end-all of the quest, though, and I’d lay this straight at the feet of our society’s new class stratification. I’ll wager all of students come from nice upper-middle-class suburbs, or maybe just plain middle-class suburbs. And they’ll have had ordinary suburban middle-class lives with the leavening of ordinary middle-class pain: divorce, cancer, layoffs and quiet alcoholism. The same pool of people who went out and bought a gazillion copies of James Frey on Oprah’s recommendo.

    When I moved here to Shitpoke, VA, I was underprepared. I saw more amputees in the first three months I was here than I had encountered in the previous decade. Hillbilly teeth are a joke most places. Not here: it’s a fact of life that dentures are out of reach for a lot of people. Nothing has made me want to punch an NPR talking head so much as the oleaginous praise heaped upon “Winter’s Bone” a few years back; meth-cooking losers are everywhere here, and so is their wreckage. C’mon down here and let me know how real that shit is.

    When you meet a nine-year-old that hasn’t owned a toothbrush, or a high school junior who’s had both knees reconstructed due to football injuries (y’all weren’t planning on getting out via the military, were you? ‘Cause they don’t really want your fucked-up knees, son…) or someone who’s missing their left hand, it kind of puts your whiny, self-indulgent, upper-middle-class problems into perspective. Shapiro appears to be tailor-made for the audience of the Times.

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  17. Prospero said on January 3, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Remember those miners in Ohio that were told the mine would be closed for a personal appearance by Mitt RMoney in Ohio. Their attendance at the fundraiser was mandatory, and it’s difficult to imagine how this can possibly be legal.

    The journalism of personal embarrassment idea reminded me of this New Republic article I read last week regarding Lena Dunham and the whiny twentysomethings. And, yeah, I have sat through all the episodes to date of Girls and find the characters almost universally repellent.

    Alex Harvey seems to be out-Gabrieling Peter in that version of the Jacques Brel tango in the style of Brecht and Weill. He would certainly scare the bejeebies out of little kids.

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  18. Bitter Scribe said on January 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Tobias Wolff, whom I consider America’s greatest living memoirist, had a rule for memoirs: “Take no thought of your own dignity.” That sounds like what this Shapiro is doing.

    OTOH, Wolff is a fiction writer, and it seems to me that this kind of in-depth introspection would be more appropriate for an aspiring fiction writer than a journalist.

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  19. coozledad said on January 3, 2013 at 10:21 am

    BigHank53: I can’t believe how easy it is for these kid’s parents to deliver them up to some sadistic coach for what amounts to a thorough Roman fucking*. And they’re happy to devote a huge share of resources from the tiny amount allotted for education.
    It helps me to understand how a bunch of malnourished plebs fought the civil war for the Scots-Irish mccmansion trash of their day.

    My father coached football and had a kid die on the field. Accidents happen, but if it hadn’t been the south, and it hadn’t been the early seventies,and the kid hadn’t been black, my father would have been tried for manslaughter. He got away without so much as a stain on his conscience, judging by the way he sucked up all the Reagan shit when the crackers down here started to roll and play in it.

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  20. nancy said on January 3, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Good lord, Alex, as bad as that Leininger column you linked to is — and it wasn’t terrible until the final grafs, which firmly established it in the Leininger Canon of the Deranged — today’s is even worse. He’s like a low-rent, right-wing Mitch Albom of lunacy.

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  21. Basset said on January 3, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Tell us more on that… On the field? What happened?

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  22. velvet goldmine said on January 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

    My British friend always referred to traffic circles as “suicide roundabouts.” I often think of that in Cape Cod, when I’m not fearing for my life.

    And I like how in the U.K. circular spaces at street corners are circuses, police cars are pandas and crosswalks are zebras.

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  23. coozledad said on January 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Basset:My father always said it was a scrimmage, and the kid took a bad hit and it ruptured his liver. They took him to a hick hospital and he was dead before they could get him to exploratory surgery.
    Or it could be they were doing “stick” drills where you stood up and took a helmet to the guts. There wasn’t a serious investigation. No out of court settlement that I know of.
    The school retired his jersey for football. Later on the kid’s younger brother played basketball at the same school, and noticed his brother’s number on the basketball jerseys.
    When my father found out about it, his response was along the lines of “These blacks just don’t understand.”
    I don’t think it even kept him awake at night.

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  24. Jeff Borden said on January 3, 2013 at 11:13 am

    I kind of admire those who write well in the first-person. It was never anything I mastered in 30-plus years, though I rarely attempted it. The most successful effort may have been a story I wrote for Crain’s about taking the three-day taxi class taught to all Chicago cabbies. (This was in winter 1990. The new course takes at least a week.) I’d only been in Chicago for a few months, but after this short course, managed to get 38 of 40 questions correct, illustrating how easy the class was to pass and how little drivers really learned.

    My mantra has largely been to get out of the way and let the other person’s story be told. I truly fail to see the value in having students write about their humiliations or fears. Yeah, reporters should be sensitive to various situations and perhaps facing your own goof-ups may help, but overall, this seems kind of narcissistic to me. And god knows the last thing American journalism needs these days is more narcissism.

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  25. brian stouder said on January 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Speaking of American journalism – this sentence from Alex’s linked article (above) bothered me most.

    But the virtue of a principle does not rise or fall according to the factual details involved.

    The use of the word “virtue” – and the summary dismissal of “factual details” is troubling. It doesn’t take much imagination at all, to see the pit that THAT has always landed humanity in.

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  26. Jeff Borden said on January 3, 2013 at 12:41 pm


    It seems to me American journalism is at low ebb. Maybe something really great will happen in the next few years –some explosion of high-quality reportage and insightful analysis– but that may be a false hope. Newsrooms around the nation are gutted and the number of media companies is shrinking. Just wait until Tribune Co. hangs a “For Sale” sign on its print properties. . .you may well see the loathesome Rupert Murdoch owning the L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune simply because he’s the only media mogul still interested in print. . .and won’t that be lovely for us????

    The online fact-checkers of the 2012 election cycle were something of a breath of fresh air, but how much influence did they really wield? And how will the oceans of money out there overwhelm them the next time we do this dance?

    I genuinely loved my life in the news business, but damn, I’m so very, very glad to be out of it.

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  27. Deborah said on January 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    This is changing the subject a bit, so sorry about that, but I’ve been reading about Andrew Sullivan’s going on his own and charging his readers to join him. The cost is only $19.95 per year which seems reasonable, when I think about some of the things I’m willing to pay twenty bucks for. A few years back Roger Ebert offered a membership in a site for $5, which I happily joined. So Nancy have you ever considered something like that? I for one would happily pay for this privilege.

    But for some reason I’m not willing to pay for the NYT online. I’d rather keep shelling out the $6 for the Sunday Times each week and reading the print edition over coffee and a pastry. I realize that a year of doing that costs more than the online charge for the daily paper.

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  28. Prospero said on January 3, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Brian@25: The fabled liberal bias of the truth. I too was struck by the asinine celebration of making shit up to catapult the propaganda.

    Jeff@26. American political journalism remains in thrall to the inane, brainless big lie of “centrism”, i.e. the tyranny of false equivalencies drawn between the veracity and Americanism of the two major political parties. There is nothing remotely similar between the deeds and published policies of the two parties, and perpetuating the canard that there is is a grotesque failure of the American press as a force in self-governance as intended by folks like T. Jefferson. With this sort of lethargicc approach, the 2004 election coverage treated Swiftboating Kerry and publishing facts about W. AWOL Shrub as equivalent tactics. How fucked is that?

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  29. Prospero said on January 3, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Here’s what I meant by that last comment:

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  30. Mindy said on January 3, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Downton Abbey meets Breaking Bad:

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  31. LAMary said on January 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    The in house Brit uses naff all the time and he never discusses fashion.

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  32. Mark P. said on January 3, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I guess feature writers do it differently. But my advice for any journalist would be to read, read, read. Read anything and everything. Read newspapers. Read magazines. Read science blogs. Read language blogs. Read cereal boxes. Develop an interest in everything. Back during the Y2K frenzy (which I call the biggest technical hoax in history), a reporter charged with covering that subject for the Atlanta newspapers admitted that she actually knew nothing about it, and never learned anything in J-school except how to look at public records and ask people questions. So she thought that to learn about what might happen at midnight on December 31, 1999, she could just ask the people who made money “fixing” the horrors of Y2K, or the CEO’s of big companies who had no first-hand knowledge but who were listening to those same people. And she thought that was perfectly reasonable. After all, why would they lie?

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  33. Sherri said on January 3, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I wouldn’t call Y2K a hoax, but the potential consequences were overly hyped. It was true that there was a lot of code still in use that had been written without any thought to calendar time past the 1900’s, and that code had to be checked to see if it would continue to work in all cases past 1999. That didn’t mean the end of civilization.

    Time and calendar code is surprisingly tricky to get right. Apple currently has a bug in iOS 6 that broke Do Not Disturb mode on Jan 1; it will fix itself on Jan 7.

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  34. paddyo' said on January 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Jeff @ 24 and 26: Preach it, brother — loved my 33 years in newspapering, but no way I’d go back now since taking a buyout five years ago.

    The business remains a-whirl with change, much of it bad. But I still hold out hope for ventures like Nancy’s outfit, and ProPublica, and many variations in between, as the future of the field — beyond when the last paper-papers crumple and blow away like tumbleweeds. Local, regional, national and whatever the “platform,” actual reporting, not musing and noodling, is still at heart of journalism. Not much else is journalism with a capital J, though I realize it’s a big tent, and even a growing one, the decline of printed paper products notwithstanding.

    I do think that “memoir” is NOT “features journalism,” though I’ll allow Shapiro her terminology of choice.

    At any rate, I figure the field will stay “at a low ebb,” if not just plain broken, for a while yet before it comes out the other side.

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  35. Jakash said on January 3, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I believe that if you SUBSCRIBED to that actual paper version of the Sunday N. Y. Times, you’d get unlimited web access free. Or at least that’s the way it used to be.

    I’ve read what Andrew Sullivan had to say on his blog about the subscriptions, and I gotta say, he makes a pretty compelling case. Not quite compelling enough to get ME to subscribe, but I’m a cheapskate. In a little over a day, he’s racked up a third of a million dollars. He’s in a pretty rarified atmosphere, as far as websites go, though. Support that’s both broad and deep. Broad enough for a million hits, deep enough that many will find $20 very reasonable and plenty are sending him $100.

    I like that he’s keeping much of the site free and says there will be no paywall when you get there through a link on another blog. Also, whereas the newspapers with a paywall seem like they’re charging you, this feels more to me like he’s asking for donations, ala NPR or PBS, for some reason. Plus, he will have no advertising, counting on his readers to pay for the whole enterprise.

    Anyway, this is a really long post, but anybody interested in the long-term viability of web journalism, or whatever it is that he does, might find it interesting.

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  36. paddyo' said on January 3, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Yes, Jakash, re: a Sunday NYT subscription — it does include full web access . . . though a Sunday-only home delivery subscription will set you back $7.50 a week (and they just notified us the price is going to go up again, a little).

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  37. Danny said on January 3, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    …publishing facts about W. AWOL Shrub…

    You misspelled “forging documents.”

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  38. coozledad said on January 3, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Which documents you talkin’ about? the bill for the chandelier he trashed in Alabam while he was AWOL and blackout drunk, or the bill for his girlfriend’s abortion and the attendant hush money?

    That’s a lot of forgerin’ just to besmirch a single coke addled failure who turned everything he touched to shit.

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  39. Danny said on January 3, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Mapes was fired and Rather shown the door. But nice try (not really).

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  40. brian stouder said on January 3, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    CBS also shwed Walter Cronkite the door, for the singular offense of turning 65.

    I’d say that makes any serious list of the top-5 dumbest decisions that any major network has ever made

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  41. Mark P. said on January 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Sherri, I know all about the date problem with computer codes, but the possible effects of Y2K were so grossly overhyped that I think hoax is the only appropriate word. People said elevators would stop working. The police in my hometown northwest of Atlanta stationed police at heavily-traveled intersections with traffic signals. The Atlanta newspaper talked about airliners falling out of the sky. Yes, seriously. And I think there was one or two reports of something like an ATM malfunctioning in the entire world, including places where they had not spent $300 billion to prepare. I mention it with respect to journalism because so many journalists reported all the hype and virtually none questioned any of it. Maybe there was a critical piece somewhere on the jackass computer consultant who first startled the sheep, but I didn’t see it.

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  42. Prospero said on January 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    The allegedly “forged document about Shrubs failure to guard the Officer’s Club when it was his duty are a small part of the story. The mountain of military bureaucratic paper that would have established W’s service was missing, including several mandatory flight readiness physicals he simply never showed up for. Them pesky pee in a cup tests. The single document that was supposedly forged was never proven beyond major league doubt to have been so by documents experts hired by Friends of W. The woman who would have typed the document said in fact that she had done just that. On the other hand, not one of the Swiftbout calumnists ever served anywhere remotely near Kerry, and they clearly just repeated a bunch of mendacious shit that was made up by the Nixon dirty tricks gang back in the days of Winter Soldier. So, Danny, making these two situations out to be even remotely similar is just an outright crock of shit that requires painful stupidity or outrageous gullibility to believe.

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  43. coozledad said on January 3, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Corporate governance was rotten to the core from swigging at Bush’s knob. Rather’s sacking and Mapes’ firing weren’t attended by the usual Stalinist tropes of confession and self criticism, but given a few more years of unabashed ass licking and craven self abasement from the likes of Bob Schieffer and Dancin’ Dave and old W would have gotten his show trials:

    They’ll never get over W. They’ll never quit trying to rehabilitate him. He’s a fucking martyred saint to them, like Nixon and that rancid piece of cutting room floor totty Reagan.

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  44. Prospero said on January 3, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    GOPers hated Kerry with a passion because he exposed the Raygun misAdministration’s attacks on the Constitution and US law in pursuing their shameful Iran-Contra program, which in the enormity of it’s undermining of the US Constitution made Milhous look like a patriot in comparison.

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  45. Mark P. said on January 3, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Here’s a nice little piece written in February 2000.

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  46. Danny said on January 3, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Whatever guys. Nice to see you can still rise to the occasion of beating a dead horse at the slightest disagreement. Have fun with that.

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  47. coozledad said on January 3, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    He didn’t have the intelligence of a dead horse. His voters had even less.

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  48. Prospero said on January 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Interesting comments about two favorite books of mine by two authors I also like:


    I wouldn’t say that horse is deceased. There is no statute of limitations for treasonous acts like W’s desertion during wartime. Of course, the treasonous acts committed to manipulate the USA into invading then occupying Iraq were much more recent.

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  49. Danny said on January 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    cooze, you do realize that Brian voted for him twice, right?

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  50. coozledad said on January 3, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Amazing grace
    how sweet the news
    that saved a wretch like me
    (Right brother Brian?!)
    I once was lost
    but now I choose
    not to watch Fox TV.

    Reagan is still beastly dead.

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  51. Danny said on January 3, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    That is so sweet that you parodied a song for him… one step above a facebook “like” in effort.

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  52. alex said on January 3, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Looks like Nice Danny forgot to take his bipolar meds. Naughty, naughty.

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  53. coozledad said on January 3, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    From Songs of Ignorance, 1794.

    Bagger! bagger! burning tight
    Itchy anus of the right,
    What immoral rasp or sloyd
    hath shaped thy fearsome hemmorhoid?

    In what distant Macau cess
    was hatched the Right’s rectal distress?
    On what grounds dare they pull the switch?
    And what the salve shall calm that itch?
    With their snake flags and misspellings
    set the arse sinews a’ swelling?
    Who dare stroke that angry meat,
    What stank hand? Howe’er discreet?
    What the meaning? what the fuck?
    Dick Armey’s 8 mil pickup truck?
    What agenda but to burst
    the bomb bay doors of Country First!
    When Huckabee put down the mo’s,
    Ate sammiches of chicky toes,
    Did they smile their work to see?
    Did he who made Jim Jones make thee?
    Bagger! bagger! burning tight
    itchy anus of the right,
    What immoral rasp or sloyd
    hath shaped thy fearsome hemorrhoid?

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  54. alex said on January 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Gawdayum Chick Fill-It don’t stay open payest tayen.

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  55. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Spent today with 75 women in a residential program here in central Ohio who have come out of abusive relationships, some significant percentage of which came out of prostitution and sex trafficking. To hear them, during the Q&A of my workshops, allude to their earlier lives, or converse during breaks about where they’ve been, and where they plan to go, would abash anyone trying to be clear and blunt and honest about their lives. Offhanded comments about the unimaginable were plentiful.

    Most of them went to see “Les Mis” over the weekend. It wasn’t to everyone’s taste (including the observation that there weren’t any people of color, and they were all awfully British, to which someone said “Stupid, they were French, couldn’t you tell?” and my heart went out to the woman who reasonably had said they all sounded English to her), but I can tell you this: Anne Hathaway is now a goddess to these women, fans of the movie as a whole or not. “I Dreamed a Dream” as she performed it was documentary narrative in song to them, and I suspect many of them are certain she had to have lived “in the life” to have delivered that song as she did. Knowing what little I do of Hollywood, why would they be wrong about that? But her performance of that song was not at all over the top to this particular crowd.

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  56. brian stouder said on January 3, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    I voted for RWR 4 times, if you count the primaries.*

    And I know a guy who voted for Mitt Romney, and who was staring at the yawning abyss of real trouble – had the extended unemployment benefits that were on the chopping block actually gotten axed.

    It’s all just shuck and jive, right up ’til ice-cold circumstances corner ones own self

    *Rush Limbaugh has expropriated the term “low information voter” as his all-purpose reference for people who don’t vote for his chosen set of oligarchs and polutocrats. Back in my RWR days, I wasn’t “low information”; I was more like a stopped-up toilet; loaded with half-true (or less) shit

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  57. wade said on January 3, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Nancy @ #12, as to the aforementioned Alex Harvey tunes: The Sensational Alex Harvey Bandwidth has been providing Harvey tunes on the Information Super Highway since 2000.

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  58. Crazycatlady said on January 3, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Coozledad–that was hilarious! Kudos, sir!

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  59. Brandon said on January 4, 2013 at 12:10 am

    I guess feature writers do it differently. But my advice for any journalist would be to read, read, read. Read anything and everything. Read newspapers. Read magazines. Read science blogs. Read language blogs. Read cereal boxes. Develop an interest in everything.


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