Monthly Archives: September 2009

-{Continuing thoughts from St. Matthew’s Popsicle Stand
The Badged Highwaymen series}-

Counterpoint, from Slate’s Tom Vanderbilt:

The consequences of not issuing tickets were shown in a recent study of traffic violations in New York City. From 2001 to 2006, the number of fatalities in which speeding was implicated rose 11 percent. During the same period, the number of speeding summons issued by the NYPD dropped 11 percent. Similarly, summonses for red-light-running violations dropped 13 percent between 2006 and 2008, even as the number of crashes increased. As an alternative approach, consider France, where the dangerous driver is as storied a cliché as a beret on the head and a baguette under the arm. As the ITE Journal notes, since 2000, France has reduced its road fatality rate by an incredible 43 percent. Instrumental in that reduction has been a roll-out of automated speed cameras and a toughening of penalties. For example, negligent driving resulting in a death, which often results in little punishment in the United States, carries a penalty of five years in prison and a 75,000-euro fine.

The “folk crime” belief helps thwart increased traffic enforcement: Why should the NYPD, whose resources and manpower are already stretched, bust people for dangerous driving when they could be going after murderers? Well, apart from the fact that more people are killed in traffic fatalities in New York City every year than they are in “stranger homicides,” there is the idea, related to the link between on-and-off-road criminality, that targeting traffic violators might be an effective way to combat other crimes. Which brings us to the third benefit of traffic tickets: increased public safety. Hence the new Department of Justice initiative called DDACTS, or Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety, which has found that there is often a geographic link between traffic crashes and crime. By putting “high-visibility enforcement” in hot spots of both crime and traffic crashes, cities like Baltimore have seen reductions in both.

Jericho, Arkansas. Even putting aside the violence (and let’s also put aside the demographics of the town, please), you still have a town doing what hundreds of little towns do across the country. Even to the extent that traffic stops do help save lives, there are clearly cases where that is not the primary reason for doing so. Further, the problem with the “Random Use Tax” idea posited above is that (a) the fact that most people won’t get a ticket any given year makes opposition to the tax relatively minimal and (b) it’s a tax primarily levied on outsiders. Further, as Web has pointed out in the past, when cops do start profiteering, invites mistrust between officers and the population they’re theoretically serving. People doing no harm should have nothing to fear from the cops. People doing no harm still feel that moment of terror when they see flashing blue lights come on behind them, even if they’re not breaking the law and the lights are meant for someone else.

Further, the notion of pulling people over for speeding leading to arrests in other crimes… well that’s certainly a benefit. Of course, you could also get the same results with random pull-overs, strict racial profiling, and a lot of other ways. Checkpoints have their uses, too. Of course, there are Constitutional questions if the person hasn’t done anything to warrant a pull-over. The solution to that, I would say, is to make so many rules that it becomes virtuously impossible to follow all the rules. My brother was pulled over once for “changing lanes too quickly”. An acquaintance was pulled over for “driving too close to the curb.” There are cases where you literally cannot change lanes without doing so within 100 feet of an Intersection. And so on, and so on. I’m not saying that these rules don’t have their function, but to the extent that they’re used to check people out for other crimes… I’m just not entirely comfortable with that.

-{Badged Highwaymen, Again, by Trumwill}-
-{Badged Highwaymen, Again, by WebGuy}-

Category: Courthouse, Road

I’m not quite the cook that my wife is, but one thing I do like to make is Breakfast Burritos. In an effort not to gain (more) weight while unemployed, I’ve reduced the portion size to what I affectionately call my TTBB (Teeny Tiny Breakfast Burrito). I decided this evening to compare the health content of my product with that of the McDonald’s Sausage Burrito which seems to be about the same size.

TTBB Ingredients:
1 High-fiber burrito
1 slice reduced fat cheddar cheese
2/3-3/4 helping of Lite Spam
2 “Large” eggs

You can imagine my shock when I calculated up the calories and fat grams and discovered that my TTBB’s are worse than McDonald’s. Holy cow, I wondered, if I’m using lower-badstuffs and higher-goodstuffs ingredients and I am worse than McDonald’s, what in the world are they using?! Where do they get their low-calorie, low-fat sausage and eggs?! Do they have some sort of Superfarm? They should totally advertise that!

TTBB: 330 calories, 21g of fat
McD’s: 300 calories, 16g of fat

The good news is that TTBB did comparatively well on saturated fats (TTBB=5, McD=7). The saving grace, I guess, is in total grams my TTBB is apparently larger than McD’s sausage burritos, and not by an insignificant margin (TTBB=199g, McD=111g). Which is weird, though, because despite the small size of the Sausage Burrito, my TTBB really does not seem that much larger. But I guess it has to be. And I do have to say TTBB is more filling than the Sausage Burrito, one of which does not constitute even a small meal (2 is borderline). I guess theirs is smaller than it looks and mine is larger.

So I guess I come out ahead.

Category: Kitchen

I meant to write this a couple months ago, but never got around to it. I wanted to make sure it got posted before the new season began. Since it begins tonight with the new episode of The Office airing, it goes up now. I may do follow-up on shows that I can’t give a fair hearing to here.

24 (Fox) – 24 definitely wins the “most improved” award after the dreadful Season 6. I wish that they had brought back Tony Almeida in a role that would allow him to be more prominant in the future, but who knows? Half the fun of the series was trying to figure out whose side he was on, so at least they used him to potential. Though I realize that Jack Bauer is the star of the series, I wish they would quit killing or dispensing with all of the supporting cast (except Chloe). It’s lost its shock value and much of its emotional resonance and it’s sort of reached the point where you don’t want to become attached to any character cause they’re probably gonna get killed off. Complaints aside, it was 24 hours of action-packed excitement.

Battlestar Galactica (SyFy) – I’ve gone back and forth on the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica, ultimately deciding that they did about as good as could have been done with where they had put themselves. I especially liked Tyrol’s role in the implosion of peace negotiations. Aaron Douglas, who plays Tyrol, has a fantastic everyman quality about him. I hope some network takes notice.

The Big Bang Theory (CBS) – TBBT has probably become my favorite comedy on television now, edging out The Office. Even Howard and Rajesh, two subjects of complaints last time I commented on the series, are doing a better job of earning their keep. That being said, I liked the comic book guy more and would have prefered he get a role than either of those two. The Lawrence-Penny storyline weaves in and out as one might expect in the early seasons of a show with the potential to last for a while. I look forward to the next twist or turn.

Boston Legal (ABC) – It’s over, and not a moment too soon. Boston Legal was easily the most exasperating show I have ever watched. Moments of brilliance interrupted by smug moralizing that I found off-putting whether I agreed with what was being said or not. Most frustrating is that this could have been a truly great series, but it just couldn’t get over itself. But despite all that, it remained a good show and one that, even when I tried, I couldn’t stop watching.

Chuck (NBC) – The Subway gambit worked! I’m not sure I care as much, though, having seen the season finale. I believe that, knowing that the series was probably going to come to an end, they needed to give us a good stopping point. There’s really nothing worse than a “To Be Continued” on a TV show’s last episode. And given how much certainty there was in many circles that the show was going to be cancelled, and given that they chose to end on a cliffhanger (and went out of their way to do so, I am left with no choice but to conclude that they will never end the series. A television show has a sort of contract with its viewers. We’ll invest our time and interest and they will give us a pay-off. I understand that sometimes shows are canceled without warning and there isn’t much that can be done, but that was not the case with Chuck.

Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) – Like Chuck, DSM was expected to be cancelled and ended on a cliffhanger, but unlike Chuck it actually was. I’m more inclined to give DSM a pass, though, because it was cancelled before midseason. This one was always on the borderline of whether I wanted to watch it or not, but it sadly picked up the most steam in the final four episodes, which they didn’t air until this past summer. I really, really wish I knew what happened next and the story of Nick George’s father.

Fringe (Fox) – I quit watching after 14 episodes. Rather, I quit watching after five episodes, then decided to watch the remaining 8 of the half-season, then quit again. It’s not a bad show and in fact got a lot better in episodes 7-14. But they reached a good stopping point and Mark Valley, one of the best things about the show, left. I found that I didn’t care enough about the general storyline to keep watching. Particularly when I am suspicious about whether or not these shows will be given a proper ending.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS) – This show just keeps getting better and better. At the same time, I wonder if it’s not going to start a down-hill descent soon. But if it stays this entertaining as we wait for The Moment (when Ted meets his future wife), I’ll definitely stay tuned.

Life (NBC) – This is how it should be done. Life was on life support (no pun intended) during its first season and ended the half-season with a sort of conclusion. Then, at the end of the second season, it was almost certain to be cancelled. Rather than pulling a Chuck-like gambit, they simply gave us a conclusion that we can be satisfied with. You can see where they could have kept going, but alas it never picked up the viewership. It’s a shame and probably worth a post all its own.

Lost (ABC) – Somehow, they got me to feel a little sorry for Ben. Right as he was killing somebody, too! And they finally got me really liking Juliet and of course they kill her. And… almost all my comments here are on the little stuff cause I don’t even know what the big stuff is. Overall, I thought the season was good. It actually did a pretty good job of doing some of that explaining of stuff that others said would never happen. And by using time-travel, it did it in a way that wasn’t tedious. Not sure what to make of throwing the Jacob/Esau at the end there. Is another layer really what they need right now? They seem to think so and I don’t have the energy to doubt them. Whatever they’re doing, it’s been a heck of a ride.

My Name Is Earl (NBC) – My Name Is Earl pulled a Chuck. Boo. Worse, like Chuck, if they’d just ended the episode a couple minutes earlier, the cancellation would have been more okay. But they went out of their way to try to manipulate us into begging for another season. What’s sad is that the show had actually gotten a lot better from some of its iffy earlier seasons and was more worth-watching than ever. And now it’s gone. Grumble.

The Office (NBC) – Probably the weakest season in the history of the show, it got a lot better in the second half. Michael Scott quitting and the introduction of Charles Miner hit the spot and brought the show closer to its Officey roots and away from the soap opera of the Dwight-Angela-Andy love triangle.

The Shield (FX) – Fantastic ending. It gave a sense of completeness that few shows do. The show created a fantastic reality wherein the characters you find yourself rooting for are (mostly) dealt their just desserts and you have to keep reminding yourself “This is what they deserve”.

Southland (NBC) – Southland is sort of a grittier version of Boomtown and I liked Boomtown and so Southland was alright as well. The bleeping oddly works. We’ll see how they do when they have more than six episodes to work with.

Two and a Half Men (CBS) – For the last couple seasons this has been the show that’s always barely worth watching and this season was not much different. It’s there, it provides a few laughs, and I find myself watching it out of pure momentum. Charlie’s girlfriend honestly doesn’t do much for me, which I think is dampening my enthusiasm a little bit. Always frustrating to see the layabout Charlie get these responsible, with-it women that ought to have little or no use for the Charlies of the world. Blar.

Worst Week (CBS) – Cancelled after 14 episodes and, though I enjoyed the show muchly, I can’t really complain. It had a formula that was bound to get old sooner or later. It’s interesting watching the British version how much better than American version is and how important it was in this show to have a really likeable protagonist. And the girlfriend/wife has to be one of the best girlfriends/wives ever on television ever, ever, ever.

Category: Theater

Many years ago, I started chatting online to a young woman whose father happened to have worked for Wildcat Engineering & Design, where I was working at the time. We made a little game of it that I would find out who her father was, her phone number, and give her a call. She bet me that I couldn’t because he hadn’t worked there in a couple years. I eventually narrowed it down to two names, both of which turned out to be wrong because she thought her father was a Machinist rather than a Welder. Once that was cleared up, I got it right. It’s one of those things that would have made a “good story for the grandchildren” if we’d had any. Which, of course, we didn’t. What did happen was that I found the mall where she worked, clandestinely stopped by, bought an ice cream cone from her, and we never really talked again. She was… substantially overweight.

Maybe she had a thyroid problem. Maybe she had a crappy metabolism. Maybe she was actually healthier than some of the slimmer girls that I had either dated or wanted to date who smoked. In the end, though, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that I didn’t find her attractive and the weight was the primary reason for that. She was a nice enough girl, though her personality wasn’t really enough to overcome that. There are cases where I did indeed date someone quite heavy, but notably in those cases I was the one that was doggedly pursued and I was the one that “stopped calling” once I determined that, for whatever reason, it didn’t seem like it was going to work. I don’t think I ever directly attributed it to weight, but I do suspect that in both cases if they had been less overweight I would have less hesitant.

I would like to think that if I met (or got to know) a perfectly wonderful person that was overweight, I would be able to get past it. I think that I could in some cases, particularly if they gained weight after I fell in love with them, but my track record doesn’t bear it out. Not just because of the three girls mentioned above, but because of a fourth. Someone who was a really, really great friend at a time that I needed one. Someone who listened to me whine and get petulantly angry but who nonetheless always listened and was there for me. One day, I decided to consider investigating things further. Her DMV profile said that she was 5’2″ and 270lbs. I never followed up on that.

None of these had anything at all to do with health. None of these were about her “failure to take care of herself” or because she “didn’t respect her body”. I may have told myself these things at one point in time so that I could look myself in the mirror, but the reality of the situation is 20/20 clear in hindsight. I didn’t want to date a substantially overweight person. I had no problem dating someone that was as overweight as I was or even a little more. In some cases I actively pursued people that were more overweight than I was. But not much more, and none that fell into the “morbidly obese” columns on the BMI chart. If I myself had been morbidly obese, I suspect that my expectations would have adjusted. But one of the benefits to being somewhat rather than gargantuanly overweight was that I did not have to adjust my expectations downward.

That I am superficial enough to care about weight is not something that I am particularly proud of. I wish I wasn’t. But it is the way that I was built. Further, all of the social conditioning I have received about not judging a book by its cover is not sufficient to counter the social conditioning component of (middle-class white) America’s (and much of the world’s) aversion to dating fat people.

My old flame Tracey Roberts made a comment several years back that stuck with me. In the years after she and I parted ways, she entered into depression and self-esteem desolation (for which I may have been a factor but was not a primary one). She gained considerable weight. On her LiveJournal account, she said that she is told over and over again that any man that cares about her weight is not worth her time. To which she commented, “I don’t think it can be true that 90% of men are not my time.”

Now, we could turn this around and say that the reason she had trouble finding a man was not the weight but rather the depression that played a role in it. Also, we could say that the men were off-put by the health implications of her weight or because she didn’t take care of herself. The problem with all of this is that, well, it’s bunk. The depression that put the weight on subsided, but the weight was still there. The self-esteem problems the weight caused were caused by the weight and the reaction of people (men, primarily) to it, so it’s equally hard to say that the self-esteem caused by the fat-averse is grounds for the fat-averse to be fat-averse. As for taking care of herself, she put a lot more effort into that than a lot of naturally thin people. Maybe she was eating late-night cakes and outsized portions at meals (I wouldn’t know), but she also hit the gym quite regularly (that I do know). I’m not saying that she was incapable of losing the weight, but it wasn’t the case that she wasn’t trying even if she was failing.

But to put a finer point on it, even if she had a thyroid problem and the medical documentation to prove it and if she was otherwise healthy (normal blood-sugar, blood pressure, etc) and the medical documentation to prove it, how many of the men that would cite health concerns as a reason not to date her would seriously reconsider? I would wager quite few. Actually, I would wager a number barely statistically significant from 0%.

No, the main reason that we are averse to dating fat people is that we do not find it aesthetically pleasing. I am coming out and admitting it. A lot of people won’t. They will try to turn it into a health issue or a discipline issue or a moral issue and everything they can to avoid admitting to being that superficial. And though I don’t think the health aspect of it is entirely a ruse (many such people won’t date smokers, either), I think that if it’s true that they would not date someone with a thyroid problem that they can’t seriously attribute it to health, discipline, or morality. Rather, we attribute it to those things so that we can feel better about ourselves. I don’t think that everybody is necessarily lying, unless we count self-deception.

I am a believer that there are “noble myths”, meaning that there are certain truths that we are better off ignoring or glossing over. A part of me wonders if that may be the case with dating fat people. Because the more we openly admit that it’s an aesthetic preference, the more validity we assign to it. We grant cover to human-nature-can’t-be-denied types and reinforce the validity of assumptions and behaviors that, while we can’t eliminate, we can try to minimize. While I don’t think that anybody should be socially pressured into dating people that they are not attracted to, I think that allowing it to be more freely declared leads to a greater social stigma on dating a fat person to the point that someone that would otherwise keep an open-mind would discriminate on that basis not based on their own preferences but because of concern regarding society’s reaction to their decision. I also worry that lending cover to people that believe that discrimination on weight and appearance is perfectly acceptable would allow some men whose wives had gained weight (and vice-versa) to rationalize infidelity the same way that certain commenters on Half Sigma wanted to give Mark Sanford a pass because men are hard-wired to be attracted to younger, fertiler women.

On the other hand, the use of health, discipline, and morality already allow for some of what I fear would happen in a society where discrimination against weight were considered even more okay than it is now. It provides a respectable face to a generally unfortunate (if not entirely avoidable) aspect of human nature. Strip that respectable face from it and more people might approach it the same way they do, say, an undesirable height or facial feature. It may not change their behavior, but it would add a little more compassion for those left behind in the dating arena. Further, to the extent to which we add a stigma to announcing that we don’t want to date fat people because they’re ugly, we’re making it so that only the more callous and indifferent people will admit to what’s really going on. That allows overweight people to take the moral high ground rather than see their dating handicap for what it really is. And, the myth of the health/discipline/morality rationale leads quite frankly to questions like Tracey asks.

The answer to Tracey’s question is actually yes. Men that won’t date a fat woman are not worth a fat woman’s time. The same goes for nerds who are frustrated with women’s unwillingness to date nerds. But the answer is also no. That men or women won’t date you does not make them immoral, bad people. It makes them, well, people. It does no good to judge people on the basis of a test that the vast majority of everybody will fail.

Category: Coffeehouse

I commented on a Status by Fustle (my friend, ex-roommate for a short time, and Web’s current housemate), which drew the attention of my old friend Kelvin. Kelvin was at the top of the list of guys that met all the criteria of what women should reasonably want (tall, thin, unbelievably nice) and yet only rarely had a girlfriend (a state-of-affairs that I played a role in, unfortunately). Anyhow, he’s apparently got himself an attractive little girlfriend (I say little, she’s probably normal height, but he’s freakishly tall as defined by being taller than I am) that he’s serious about. So I can take him off that list. So on the male side, my list of guys that in a more just world would have a serious girlfriend or wife is at two (neither of which am I positive about). Meanwhile, the woman at the top of the female list – Kelvin’s counterpart in the complete inexplicability of their single status – has seen no movement as far as I’m aware. There are others, on both the male and female side, that are questionable members of this group.

Interestingly, I was just thinking about Kelvin and aforementioned woman a couple weeks ago and pondering a post about when one reaches the point where one looks at his or her friends and wonders why they are in the situation that they are in.

Category: Server Room

Michael Duff ponders the negative affect that Facebook can have on marriages. Over a dozen users chime in about how Facebook has ruined or is ruining their marriages.

It’s tempting to dismiss this sort of thing under the banner of “If Facebook is ruining your marriage, it must have been weak to begin with.” It’s not unlike comments I’ve seen in the past that prostitution does not pose a threat to a good marriage. There is certainly an element of truth to that, but I think the natural rejoinder is that (a) some strong marriages have weak points and (b) weak marriages are often worth preserving.

The studies I’ve seen suggest that divorce does not make people happier than people that stay in unhappy marriages and that children of divorce tend to do better socially and perform better in school that do children of parents in unhappy marriages. Obviously, there are cases where this it is better for one party, the other, the children, or everybody involved. But I have yet to see a study suggesting that this is more true more often than it is false. So it’s far from clear that “she’s better off without him” (if he cheats due to Facebook) or “he’s better off without her” (if the same).

The Internet as a tool of divorce is certainly nothing new. My business law professor, who also handled divorces, talked about how the Internet was a marriage-killer because of a case he worked on where a woman left her husband for some guy on the Internet that she’d never even met (and who hadn’t met her and had not been informed that she had gained considerable weight since the time of the picture she provided). So is Facebook really all that different?

In a way, I think it might be. Not in the way that Duff suggests, though. I think the unique danger posed by Facebook is that it provides a socially acceptable way for people to contact and stay in contact with old flames and former lovers. And it provides a socially acceptable way for people to stay in contact with friends of the opposite sex, allowing things to inappropriately progress, that would otherwise raise flags or be harder to defend.

There’s nothing wrong with having friends of the opposite sex, of course. But ideally, when you do, there are some relatively firm parameters that if you feel the inclination to pass through that you should instead give pause. If there were a woman in my life that I would like to hang out with (platonically, I’d swear), but for some indescribable reason I would prefer Clancy not be present, that would be a signal to me that I should probably not be alone with this woman.

There is sort of a problem with this, which is that by coming out and saying that, we’re suggesting that we want to sleep with them or otherwise want to cheat on our spouse. If we don’t want to admit that there is a problem, we may set ourselves up for one just to prove that none exists. But even if there isn’t a problem, you don’t necessarily want her to be there if one should arise. I know far too many guys that have been burned with the belief that “Oh, I’m happy in my relationship” and “Oh, nothing is going to happen”. Of course, the vast majority of the time nothing does happen. But the consequences for the times when something does are devastating. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry. At the very least, you want to be asking yourself some tough questions about what she has to offer you that a same-gender friend does not.

The problem posed by Facebook is that it easily allows us to sidestep these questions. The mechanism for getting back in touch and staying in touch is already there. And it is gender neutral. “Hey, I’m looking up lots of people from high school. Why should my prom date be any different?” and then even if you get past that point you still have all the rationalizations to use from other scenarios mentioned in the previous paragraph.

For my part, I have a lot of female “friends” on Facebook, including one ex-girlfriend (Julie). I consider Julie to be safe because even in the Elseworlds event that I were unhappy with my marriage and did want to cheat, she is one of the last people that I would cheat with. If Clancy were to leave me or die, she is not among those I would consider dating. There are other cases where the circumstances are just a little more complicated than that. People that I will always view from a romantic standpoint and with whom every encounter I have ever had has involved things that would be inappropriate for a married man. I am relatively sure that I could, with enough effort, force a platonic friendship and excise all inappropriateness. But frankly, without the sexual or romantic carrot, there’s simply no reason to. They have nothing to offer me that I can’t get from a male friend. So from there I either make the decision not to friend them or if I do it’s only out of the curiosity of finding out what they’re up to and I make no effort to forge any sort of real friendship with them.

The older and more firmly married I get, the more I have come to appreciate boundaries. Some of the problems listed in Duff’s comment section are from people whose spouses refuse to cut off people when asked. That is definitely, in my view, indicative of a problem. My wife has absolutely nothing to fear from anybody on my friends list and really nothing to fear from the people that I intentionally left off. But if for any reason it makes her uncomfortable, that should be reason enough to take it out of the box of potential problems. Clancy is generally not the jealous sort. Julie was, though. And Julie was wrong and wrong over and over again about who did or did not constitute a threat to our relationship… until she was right.

I feel very fortunate that I am in a marriage where Facebook does not even remotely apply as any sort of threat. That’s not just a verdict on our marriage, but also on her unshakable integrity and my absolute determination not to enter the brotherhood of unfaithful husbands. Not everyone is as fortunate.

The Econoholic came out of hiding to write a post about George Sodini. My favorite clip:

Can we really not add 1 and 1 and find that we get 11? Yet, versions of this very same spiel exist on the blogs of self-proclaimed betas all over the internet. Guys who know how to expertly solder while they eat their cornflakes in their underwear can’t figure out why women can’t look past the complete hatred they have for them and just {fornicate with} them for free. After all, they aren’t too ugly or two weird.

Category: Coffeehouse

I’d never heard this song before and never heard of the Cannells. I ran across this video when it played after another video I was watching. It’s pretty cool. My senior picture is really weird. It’s not awful, but it’s not nearly as illustrative of what I looked like as other pictures at the time.

Category: Theater

When I was young, one of the questions that young people had was what the next Disney movie was going to be. For a stretch (and maybe still so), Disney produced one major theatrical release a year, usually drawing on some fairy tale or myth. And it was always a big deal. Even when I got too old to enjoy these movies, I was still always interested in what they were going to attack next. Then at some point it really stopped mattering.

Some of that is attributable to my age and my diminishing interest in musical cartoons, but not all of it. Other studios started coming out with competing products. But mostly, though, cable television and other avenues of entertainment made what Disney was up to matter less. At least outside the realm of kids.

So when the truly excellent Emperor’s New Groove came out, it took me a few years before I got around to seeing it. And when I saw it, I was only vaguely aware that it was Disney’s movie that year.

On another note, Charles Gibson is stepping down as the anchor of ABC Evening News. When Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather stepped down, or at least announced their decision to do so, it was a huge deal. The question of who was going to replace them was significant news and news that I actually cared about. Similarly when Peter Jennings died. It was kind of a huge thing that suddenly all three of the national faces of news stepped down and suddenly there were new people reading from the teleprompter.

Gibson is stepping down after only four years or so and a single national election. Gibson is younger than were any of the previous triumvirate, but not much younger. On one hand, it seems really bizarre that someone would step down at the top of the heap and after such a short time. Jennings, Rather, and Brokaw were each anchors for over twenty years. Some of that is attributable to Gibson’s age (his NBC and CBS counterparts are 15 years younger than he), but I can’t help but believe that in a different time and place he would have held on a lot longer.

But like the Disney movies of yesteryear, nightly news programs have lost a great deal of their relevance. People that are really interested in that sort of thing have shifted to cable news and the Internet. The opinion-makers are as likely to be watching Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly. And both the casual viewer and opinion-maker are more likely to be watching The Daily Show, which hit its relevance about the time that the big boys were stepping down (or dying).

A part of me feels the need to get nostalgic over the way it used to be, but the Trusted Names in Journalism are so often just faces and not journalists in the same way that writers for the New York Times are journalists. And another reason for the fall of journalism is how much more apparent that is. When Peter Arnett was caught reporting something that wasn’t true, he quickly pointed out that he contributed “not one comma” to the report. He was just the reader. When Katie Couric was caught plagiarizing a WSJ article, it came out that she doesn’t even write those columns (though she still claims that she did). And of course Dan Rather seemed pretty out-of-the-loop during the whole Rathergate affair. But even to the extent that their “managing editor” position holds any relevance, nobody holds any illusions about whether or not they spend their time doing the leg work.

Even so, I’ll miss Charlie Gibson. He was the only one of the three that I could even remotely take seriously. Probably for all the wrong reasons.

Category: Newsroom, Theater

Clancy fixed my office chair! Ever since I got it, the back has sagged to the point that it’s great for leaning back and relaxing but not for sitting upright. Since I have my laptop for when I lounge/compute and mostly use the desktop for more upright tasks, it wasn’t particularly useful in that condition. But I put up with it.

Clancy is forced to use my chair for less than a week and actually, you know, fixes it.

Category: Server Room