Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A Post I Put on Someone Else's Facebook Wall (I Think It Stands Well on Its Own)

I've been ruminating on this lately, in contrast to a lot of things that now are perceived as rights -- "reproductive rights," health care, marriage (whether "equality marriage" or not), etc. -- and I've concluded that I'm still a natural-law kind of guy. Implicit in a "right" is that it is a gift of God, not something decreed by those who are in power. The former is absolute. The latter can be taken away. Furthermore, true rights are universal, meaning they exist even where it is not possible to exercise them. I do not have freedom of speech or religion, etc., because I'm American, but because I am human; Iranians have the same freedom. Rights are not something that are added to. They always have existed. So we can't just make them up when we think they'd be nice. And we can't just do away with them when we don't like them. No right can be absolute if we  cannot conceive of the creator (just one place where Ayn Rand and I disagree) who granted them in the first place.  When they emanate from the whims of people, they can be just as capriciously taken away. Finally, rights have to do with much more than behavior; they go to our core, they guard who we are as beings. This is why the freedom of religion currently is under threat by "freedom of worship." The former implies the latter, but not vice versa, and this is how the Obamacrats are trying to broker into religious organizations their fascistic health care policies. Thanks for letting me exercise my freedom of speech. Do it while you still can.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Peeves . . .

"[Thoughts and] Prayers" "Let us keep the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers during this time of great difficulty." The 'thoughts and ..." is a sop for the non-theists (aka atheists), the karmists and the telekinetics in the audience, but it sure does take the power out of "prayers." I know, this is a diverse and multicultural society we live in, but aside from Uri Geller, how many non-religious folk are going to find much power in "thoughts"?

'I know it seems cliche, but ..." Not only does it seem cliche, but it also really seems cliche. Like, I mean, y'know? At what point did "cliche" become a freestanding modifier?

'Well' as a midsentence interjection, set off by commas or other "delaying question" to make the reader believe that the writer dimply stating the obvious. "The horse got hotter and hotter as the afternoon on the dusty tral grew longer because it was, well, hot."

"Back in the day"

'Gaffe' It's time to resurrect "mistake."

'Double Down'

'Old school'

'Vintage' (when not referring to a grape crop)

'Iconic' Iconic has a specific meaning that goes way beyond "well-known" or "locally famous" or even plain "famous." It has a metaphysical meaning. This sentence does not need "iconic": "There's a simple reason why she and her husband co-owner Tom Swadley decided to bring new life to the downtown site -- once the home of Bristol’s iconic Woolworth’s Co. store and luncheon counter."

Em dashes where commas to set off clauses work just fine. This sentence does  not need an em dash: "There's a simple reason why she and her husband co-owner Tom Swadley decided to bring new life to the downtown site -- once the home of Bristol’s iconic Woolworth’s Co. store and luncheon counter."

Brackets -- these things: [ ]   [ ]    [ ]   [ ] This sentence does not need brackets: "[The lights will be] a great visual and a great statement." Make it like this: The lights will be "a great visual and a great statement," or somesuch.

Who May Be a Journalist?

Anyone. At any time. Anywhere (in America). Because I'm as much a 1st Amendment Fundamentalist as I can be while agreeing that no one may yell fire in a crowded theater, I know that as a journalist I am no more special than any other American as far as my ability and right to know are concerned. I just have a few skills that help me better to work the angles and keep informed those who don't.

I was reminded of this very sternly by a grizzled, temperamental, fire-breathing, atherosclerotic and not infrequently soused managing editor of a daily newspaper for which I still harbor a fondness even if she is but a shadow of what she once was.

"If you think you're so damn special, you aren't. If you think you're important because you get to waltz into police stations and show up at bloody car crashes and get to carry press card, then get over it or else don't work here."

This was the standard dressing down he gave to all new, young, self-important reporters who forgot that they were getting far less for their work than were most janitors, burger-flippers and convenience store managers. We never connected the fundamental law of supply (young, stupid reporters were a dime a dozen) and demand (there wasn't a whole lot of call for reporters) to our inflated sense of self-esteem. In other words, if we'd thought about the fact that we got to be journalists and still get paid only $90 or $100 a week (in 1976 dollars), we'd have had a whole lot less self-esteem. But, fortunately for newly minted journalists, we never took an econ course in college (nor did we ever take a math course, a foreign language or even the simplest of biology, chemistry or physics classes -- but we could surely by-doggies act like we had -- and we surely could write the hell out of a good tale on a topic about which 15 minutes ago we knew nothing). But I digress.

"Let me tell you the truth, boy," the old ME said as he took a nip from the little bourbon bottle he had stashed in his desk. Newspapers used to have a lot of old-fart characters like this. Where did they all go? "You are no better than the people you're writing for. You don't have any more rights than they do. Your freedom of  the press is their freedom of the press. You're just their representative. If they wanted to go sit in a courtroom all day and see a trial for themselves, they could. If they wanted to go down to the county courthouse and pull their next-door neighbor's property tax bill, they could. There's just two reasons why they don't. So you know why they don't, don't you?"

"I don't guess so, sir," I said, because I really didn't.

"I'll tell you why: First, because they don't know they can. Second, because if they did know they could and they didn't have to work earn a buck, no courtroom would be big enough to hold them all."

He stretched, lit another cigarette, sighed, and continued: "You see, boy, and don't ever forget: You're the people's representative. You report for them, you find out what they need to know know, and you tell them. You better always respect them and you better always remember that you're no better than any of them or I'll kick your cocky ass out of here real quick."

You can tell that I have never forgotten that lecture. And trust me when I tell you that the scene was a whole lot more colorful than I've painted it.

And my point is?

What he said was true, and there are too many journalists in high places who either never got the talk, or else they forgot it. Like that so-called journalist on TV the other night at the GOP convention who said on an open mike that Republicans don't mind partying "while black people drown" (which authorities feared might happen in Nola because of the current hurricane). He not only was a resentful shill for one group of people, he also hated the group of people he'd been assigned to cover. He, like a lot of other journalists, thought he was better that one group of people while being the sanctimonious protector and defender of another group of people whom he also thought were below him.

Heaven help me if I ever forget that talk. And the old editor? He outlasted me by a mile at that newspaper. I think it was his sixth heart attack that finally killed him.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Overrated Content of Daily Newspapers

Following was posted as a quick response on a Washington Post comment board attached to an article announcing the sale of Media General newspapers to Warren Buffett:

I sense a little naiveté about the [general good quality of the] current content of newspapers.

Newspapers [now] do just as good a job as [so-called] new media do in repurposing and multiplying the same content. The AP comes to mind as being one of the 1st to do this, but now it's worse, with local papers:

  • Using crap -- and I mean crap -- from local TV.
  • Local TV using local newspaper people as talking heads and as experts on various topics (as opposed to asking real experts, which are harder to track and are not the attention whores that media types can be).
  • The very same local copy being used by a TV station as a script, and a web site and a newspaper for stories.
  • So-called "citizen journalists" providing "content" for free.
  • More "opinion journalism" stemming from newspapers running blogs and then mining them for "content."
  • Commercial entities providing free content.

I used to have a much higher opinion of newspaper content and told myself, "There will always be a place for serious newsgatherers." Well guess what? Given a chance, struggling newspapers will suck from the same teat of mediocrity where other media outlets feed. (And by the way, real newsgatherers, people with professionalism and integrity, don't come free. Even at strip mines like [some newspapers I know] where even the best journalists are paid chicken feed they're the biggest business expense.)

Friday, March 09, 2012

"At Home in the Heart of Appalachia": A Review

At Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt Home in the Heart of Appalachia by John O'Brien
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disgruntled ex-pat returns to his home ground. Misunderstands locals and is misunderstood. Has the same noblesse-oblige toward the locals that he resents in others who've moved to the area and just want to "help." Hopeless liberal trapped in a very conservative backwater and having a hard time just chilling. Another axe-grinding Appalachia book? Yes, but it has made me curious about his region -- Green Bank, Franklin, such areas -- and he's a decent if muddled guy. He has a good wife, good kids, stability. The sad part: The author died a few years after writing this, and even more sadly he died at a hospice in Charleston (learned all this on WikiPedia), which is not the kind of place where he would have liked dying. This fellow really loved his native woods, and I appreciate that. Jack and I will plan a drive or two up there.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 01, 2012

How About 'Proper Use of the Subjunctive'?

The place where I work, Media General's Consolidated Editing Center in Lynchburg, Va., has an intranet home page with a blog that we're to check daily for notices, reminders, updates, scoldings, admonitions, exhortations, etc. One of the features is 'Question of the Week," to which CEC folks are encouraged to post answers. This week's Question of the Week is . . . drum roll . . . "If the CEC was creating its own library, and everyone were to contribute at least one book, what would yours be?"

Monday, February 13, 2012

It Was Irresistible. I Had to Say It.

The late afternoon temp was barely in the 30s and the wind was brutal; it was a good day for a free cup of coffee to take to work with me.

I stopped in at the Starbucks on Timberlake in Lynchburg with my empty coffee-bean bag. For that I get a free "tall" cup of coffee and I thought I'd go for Starbucks' new blonde roast. (It's mild but still robust and it doesn't taste burned; try it!) In fact, I thought I'd have two cups to go, paying for one. $1.78 for what's essentially a 24 oz. coffee is still a value.

That's the setup. Now the conversation.

Me: Can I get a free cup with this empty?
Barista: Sure, a free tall. What can I get you?
Me: I'd like a blonde with room for cream, and I'd like a second one that I'll pay.
Barista: Two tall blondes, coming right up.
Me: Two tall blondes ... I never thought I'd be asking for two tall blondes, much less getting what I ask for.
Barista: I you think about it, you're getting two tall blondes for the price of one!
Me: Yeah, two tall, hot blondes. I like it!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ms. Littleton's 23 Things: Thing #7

I'm totally flattered that someone finds my Flickr site awesome. Great for my self-esteem!

Ms. Littleton's 23 Things: Thing #7: I thought flickr was a really good website. I had already browsed it for thing 5 or thing 6, I believe, I can't remember which one. I think ...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Three Thoughts on Holy Baptism . . .

These are excerpts of three Facebook posts I wrote that say a lot about my theology of Holy Baptism, which I hope is well within orthodoxy:

What I tell my adulto-baptist friends: There ain't no water baptism, there ain't no paedo-baptism, there ain't no believer's baptism. There's only one baptism and the Scriptures call it -- guess what? -- baptism. Whether it's done to babies, kids or adults, it's all the same baptism. Oh, and to the prissy, fussy types I say there ain't no "christening," only baptism, in which we kill whoever's being baptized and raise him or her in Christ to new life. It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's also glorious. . . .

Walt, what you described as christening I've heard called "dedication." I think it's interesting how adulto-baptist parents are eager to dedicate their child to God, but seem unwilling or unable to give, in faith, their child entirely to God in Holy Baptism. In my world, "christening" seems to be used pretty exclusively by higher-caste folk -- Episcopalians, Presbyterians, UCCers, some few RCs -- who, in my opinion, think the word and concept of baptism are too coarse for their darling little (screaming, squalling, self-centered) little baby and look instead on "christening" as a naming ceremony that coincidentally involves getting a wee bit wet and having to endure a few sin words: "What did you think of little Chauncey's christening, my dear? Wasn't it horrid that thing about sin parson threw in there? The bloodies were good and spicy, though."

From the stooppidd "dedication" link Pr. Snyder offered. Awful! Totally awful! Witness: "God honors their purity and until they understand the meaning of salvation and personal sin, water is not administered. Few argue the purity of a newborn child." I will argue it! "Purity," my you-know-what. A noted Anglican archbishop once said, "Show me two babies in a crib with one ball, and I'll show you original sin." A knowledgeable Anglican he.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Peeves . . .

"Libations" when you mean "drinks," especially when you think "libations" makes alcohol at your event a little more acceptable to the teetotalers. As in "Immediately following the ETSU/North Florida men's basketball game on February 11, the Buccaneer Athletic Scholarship Association (BASA) will be hosting the Buccaneer Bash starting at 6 p.m. inside the Millennium Centre ballroom. Join BASA members and ETSU fans for a night of live and silent auctions, food, libations and fun.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Peeves . . .

Why are all website makeovers "much needed"? Why are all heavy readers "voracious"? And why are all fishermen (or anglers) "avid"?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thanks for 50K Views

2012.01.14 50K Views by nosduhmj
2012.01.14 50K Views, a photo by nosduhmj on Flickr.

A belated thank-you for 50,000 views on Jan. 14, 2012. Aerial of downtown Jacksonville, Fla., and the St. Johns River in July 2003. Jack and I engaged a pilot and a plane for a one-hour ride around North Florida way back when. Some day I'll afford to do it again.

Brian Lowry's Kind Reply to My Response

Thank you for the thoughtful
response. And as I think I
stated, much of entertainment
is inherently conservative
-- nuclear families, cute kids,
etc. But you fleshed out the
point much better than I did.

I guess I should thank
Cal for classing
up my readership.

Click here for link to 
original article 
in Variety magazine

Brian Lowry
media columnist/
chief TV critic

Please note new email:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My response to "Passion play isn't easy: Religion takes the field""

Dear Mr. Brian Lowry, critic for Variety magazine,

I didn't see any spot available for comments on your Jan. 21 Variety column – "Passion play isn't easy: Religion takes the field" Click here for the link to the Variety magazine article – so I'm sending you an email. I read your column, and appreciated it, because of a reefer from Cal Thomas' Facebook post. I hope you'll indulge me.

Hollywood has been producing "Christian" movies for years without knowing it, though they've been tougher to come by in the past 20 years. I'm not talking about the DeMille extravaganzas, but quiet, excellent movies with "Christian" themes: movies like "Places in the Heart," "Tender Mercies," "To Kill a Mockingbird."

None of these was billed as a Christian movie, but all have sensibilities that draw Christian audiences – and all without the apparent Hollywood self-consciousness and embarrassment about making something that's treacly, mentions Jesus, extols virginity or chastity, or leans too heavily, or at least too plainly, on the other Cardinal Virtues. (Note that a couple of these screenplays were written or adapted by Horton Foote, and all have roots in the South. Let me also, just because it always has affected me, take some space to mention the Lord's Supper scene in "Places in the Heart" – a tableau that evokes the Communion of Saints as well as any I've seen and stirs me with all sorts of growing-up memories.)

Or consider perhaps the Coen movie "O Brother Where Art Thou?" – a movie by Jews, based on a book by some old, blind Greek guy who lived 1,000 years before Jesus and on the other side of the Mediterranean. The T-Bone Burnett music was inspiring, the plot had biblical themes, and someone's view of baptismal regeneration (whether accidental of on purpose) was very, very pleasing to this Lutheran viewer.

And of course there are those movies, like "The Apostle," that had the money and clout of a very powerful, very respected, very rich and Christian-inspired actor, producer of director like Robert Duvall (who was in some of these Foote movies over the years).

Finally, while being not-Hollywood, there is the occasional excellent foreign film, like "Babette's Feast" (probably my favorite movie ever) that touches Christian hearts. Hollywood has been known to adapt these, sometimes well.

None of these movies beats viewers over their heads with warnings of hell and demands for conversion; not featured are people disappearing and empty cars careening on the freeways. What they do have is themes – sin (or "mistake-making"), judgment (or moments of truth and conviction) and redemption. They have experiences of grace, self-sacrifice. Some, like "O Brother," ooze metaphor. And they are complex and sometimes ambiguous in their conclusions (hey, guess what? – some Christians have brains).

And not all of them are G-rated. But not one of them smirks in the least at Christians, when they are portrayed, or ridicules their religion, their faith.

At bottom, Christians are just like moviegoers: They want to be entertained and they generally don't want to be ridiculed or thought of as stupid (and many of the cloddish "Christian" films – some Kirk Cameron vehicles – are as stupid as many Hollywood films, so it's not just institutional Hollywood). We're not looking necessarily, or even at all, for overt portrayals of Christians. We aren't always looking for heavy messages, or climactic separations of sheep and goats. No, we just want our ticket's-worth; we want to be satisfyingly entertained.

Thanks for your time,

John Hudson
Troutville, Va.