Weekend Edition: 12-20

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

  • 8 Ways Facebook Is a Cult Like Scientology (“… social media company basically owns us, and has access to all our most personal information. Yet we are willing participants in this pillaging of our private lives.”)
  • The Endlessly Examined Life (“Universal financial security is probably the single best countermeasure to the depression epidemic.”)

Blog Headline of the Week

Most Disappointing Blog Headline of the Week

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage


I’m not much but I’m all I have.

Philip K. Dick, Martian Time-Slip

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A dubious honor

I learned through South DaCola that the City of Sioux Falls received a singular “honor.” It was acknowledged by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty for getting “right” the “Happy birthday, Jesus” and “Jesus Christ” messages painted on city snowplows. I don’t view it as much of an honor.

First, consider who’s giving the award. Although it has been involved in litigation on behalf of other faiths, the Becket Fund has been described as a “nerve center of the conservative ‘religious liberty’ campaign.” It brought the Hobby Lobby lawsuit, which I’ve already noted is problematic even if you ignore the concept of creating corporate religious rights. Becket also filed a brief in Town of Greece v. Galloway, where the Supreme Court essentially abandoned longstanding precedent to sanction local government opening meetings with religious prayers. It’s also argued for allowing ministers to use the pulpit to endorse or oppose political candidates and against challenges to the “under God’ phrase added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.

Likewise, I don’t know that the mayor’s position that the snowplows wouldn’t be painted over unless “I get some Supreme Court case (that) says that I have to,” is anything to be proud of. I think there’s plenty of case law that raises serious question about whether this crosses the legal line, although I’ll give City Attorney Dave Pfeifle credit for some creative lawyering. But that doesn’t change or solve the legal issue. Moreover, you have to wonder how strong an advocate the mayor would be if there were snowplows painted with “Allahu Akbar,” “There Is No God,” “Hare Krishna,” or a Darwin fish. Or does anyone think the City would be issuing press releases if it had been praised by the Freedom From Religion Foundation or Americans United for Separation of Church and State?

At bottom, this isn’t about free speech vs. freedom of religion, theism vs. atheism or even schoolchildren expressing what they’ve been taught. This is the City bragging that it’s a poster child for a diehard group of activists who like City property being used to promote one religious viewpoint.


Man is not the only creature who kills for bread, or love, or power, because animals in the jungle do that in various ways, but he is the only creature who kills because of faith.

Hassan Blasim, The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq

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Weekend Edition: 12-13

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

  • Crazy in Love (“The duty of a crazy person’s friends and family is far more practical: Our duty is to appear, as much as possible, not crazy, so that our loved one will be allowed to live.”)

Bookish Linkage

  • Evidently the Lord of the Rings trilogy is actually an espousal of a “profoundly conservative” political ideology
  • Seems buying a bestseller doesn’t mean you’re willing to read it
  • Interesting approach to call this year’s “best of” lists boring in your own “best of” list
  • Thirteen ways to make sure you get books for Xmas
  • What kind of reader are you?

Nonbookish Linkage


It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

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The death of newspaper reporters and editors

For a number of years, I was a newspaper reporter. I started as a sportswriter and moved through the “cops and courts” beat and eventually became a political reporter, covering the legislature, local government and elections. I enjoyed the job because every day was different and you got to experience and learn about a lot of things. But I see by the local daily that the newspaper reporter is dead.

Cory and others have looked more closely at the latest round of Gannett layoffs, non-renewals, “retirements” or whatever you want to call them, in the local daily’s newsroom. One of the more ironic things — and evidence that money is more important than quality — is Cory noting that although it just got rid of some very experienced and excellent reporters, the daily had ads out seeking new ones. Cub reporters, of course, can be paid a lot less than someone who knows what they’re doing.

But that isn’t the death I’m talking about. The local daily’s recent moves also demonstrate that social media and related schlock have made “reporters” and “editors,” i.e., journalists, irrelevant.

  • One senior editor at the paper is now a “content strategist” while another and the assistant news editor are something called a “content coach.” Not only does the latter senior editor “coach” content, she is also responsible for “storytelling.”
  • A photographer is the “consumer experience director.” (The newspaper ought to be ashamed just by how it changed its job titles from English to buzzwords.
  • A business reporter and editor is now also an “audience analyst.”
  • The new sports editor isn’t the sports editor; he’s the “lead sports producer.”
  • The position I used to call managing editor is now apparently “engagement editor.”

This may come off as simply grumpy old man/reporter stuff. After all, I still much prefer the dead tree version of a newspaper and think Facebook, Twitter, etc., aren’t places to get the news you can trust. But back in the day content wasn’t created or massaged by strategists, experience directors or audience anlysts. The difference is seen in the title. You were a reporter and that was your job — to report the news.

It may be a new world for newspapers but changes like this makes me wonder if actual news reporting also is a victim.


I don’t so much mind that newspapers are dying — it’s watching them commit suicide that pisses me off.

Molly Ivins, March 23, 2006

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Weekend Edition: 12-6

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

  • The Wanderers (“Once lost, people with dementia often begin to wander toward a past they think is present, returning in mind to a period in their lives more familiar than the foggy now. They are lost literally and lost in history[.]”)

Blog Headline of the Week

Innovative Murder Attempt of the Week

  • An Arizona woman this week was sentenced to a year in jail and four years probation for putting “fecal matter” in his hospital IV

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage


I woke up thinking a very pleasant thought. There is lots left in the world to read.

Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist

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What do you mean you lost Grandma???

Yesterday’s local daily carried what is undoubtedly the most intriguing classified ad of the year:

Classified

Granted, it doesn’t say whether the urn was empty but would you open it to find out? If it contains ashes, you gotta wonder how long it took someone to notice grandma, grandpa or whomever wasn’t in the car any more. Even the simple question of why you take an urn into a truck stop to begin with is thought-provoking.

Of course, maybe someone was simply complying with an over-the-road trucker’s wish to spend eternity at their favorite truck stop.


Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.

George Bernard Shaw, The Doctor’s Dilemma

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