Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, February 26, 2003 9:47 am

If you can’t be good, at least be entertaining

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:47 am

As a favor to a friend, I’ve recently spent a great deal of time judging a state high-school press association’s annual journalism contest. (This is part of the reason I haven’t blogged much lately.) Most of what I read was painfully sincere and dreary, but since it wasn’t written for me (I left high school in 1978), I didn’t hold that against the contestants, judging instead more or less strictly according to the enclosed criteria.

However, I did come across two papers at which at least some staffers appeared at least as intent on having fun as on padding their college applications.

One included the following note on its masthead (not the place on the front page where the paper’s name appears, as people often think, but the box on the editorial page that lists senior staffers, editorial policy, contact info and so on). It starts in deceptively standard fashion, but …

Notice: [Paper name] is the official student newspaper of [school]. Opinions expressed in the paper do not necessarily reflect those of the school, faculty, sponsor, or even the people who wrote them. The rules of free speech are ignored when invoked by student publications, but [paper name] has been known to “bend” these rules when the appropriate situation arises. Letters to the editor are encouraged. Letters to the editor can be any length, including 117 words, and may be written about any topic you choose. [Paper name] reserves the right to edit letters for grammar, length, slander, spelling, and just for the fun of it.

One thing I wonder about is the significance of a letter to the editor of precisely 117 words. An inside joke? A number that is a multiple of 13? A randomly selected number that sounds funny because it doesn’t end in a zero? Who knows? It just sounds funny.

The other thing that tickled me, and gave me hope for the future of the newspaper industry, was a photo package in a different newspaper that purported to show some of the more interesting or unusual cars belonging to students. At the bottom of the package was an empty, white rectangle bordered in a thin, black rule, accompanied by this cutline (caption): “This is where a photo of [student name]’s [vehicle description] would appear. However, it was unavailable to be photographed due to ownership complications.”

Man. I bet you could write a half-decent film script about the “ownership complications.”

Monday, February 24, 2003 9:45 pm

Now it’s official. But is this good news or bad news?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:45 pm

How evil are you?

Sunday, February 23, 2003 9:24 pm

Hi. Remember me?

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 9:24 pm

This has been The Week of Sick Alexanders, including but not limited to my emergency root canal Thursday morning. So blogging has been minimal and might stay that way another coupla days while I try to get caught up on various responsibilities. So bear with me. More fresh blogging goodness coming just as soon as I can make it happen.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003 7:19 pm

If he’d gone to prison we wouldn’t be having this problem

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 7:19 pm

It seems the publisher of the Montgomery (Md.) Journal is making a flaming horse’s ass of himself, which wouldn’t be so bad except that he has thrown a bunch of people out of work and ruined a once-fairly-decent local paper in the process. Folks, don’t let this happen to your community newspaper.

(Thanks to The Last Page for the link.)

Thursday, February 13, 2003 11:21 pm

From the mouths of airbags …

Filed under: Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 11:21 pm

I don’t generally look to radio talk-show hosts of any political description for wisdom, but Michael Graham, late of Charleston and now in the Washington market, gets one thing dead-bang right in this interview:

“To believe in free speech, you have to believe it is inherently valuable to hear things you don’t want to hear. No one believes that anymore.”


Tears of a clown

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 11:07 pm

Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette has been a favorite of mine ever since he joined The Charlotte Observer in 1973. Normally, he’s not subtle — an Easter cartoon he once drew, which the Observer declined to publish, depicted Christ carrying an electric chair on his back up the hill to Golgotha. But his 1986 cartoon on the space-shuttle Challenger explosion, drawn just hours after the disaster, was magnificent, and his recent cartoon on the Columbia disaster is almost as good.

The hell??

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 6:21 pm

Via Blaster’s Blog comes this note from within a Jeffrey Goldberg article in The New Yorker. I’ve received the issue in question but have not read it (and, accordingly, the article referred to), so I honestly don’t know what to make of this, except to say that I haven’t heard anything about it before and that it puts a whole new spin — what kind, I have no idea — on everything that has happened since 9/11.


UPDATE: I now have the correct link. Thanks to Alex for spotting the mistake.

Monday, February 10, 2003 10:44 pm

Adventures in reading

Filed under: Victoria — Lex @ 10:44 pm

OK, sweetie, who is this [valentine] for?

It’s for Mollie.

Very good! How could you tell?

Because it starts with “M.”

Well, how do you know it wasn’t Maggie’s?

Daddy, I already did Maggie’s!

OK, so how do you know it wasn’t Madison’s?

I just know.

But how? How do you tell them apart?

By their hair color, silly!

Saturday, February 8, 2003 12:13 pm

Oh, yeah …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 12:13 pm

Roughly 40 people have visited this blog since I asked you to name the 3 people you’d most like to play Spin the Bottle with, and not one of you had the guts to do it. Wimps. C’mon. You know you want to play with Ari Fleischer, Jerry Springer and Divine, so ‘fess up, you love monkeys.

postCount(‘88743393’); | postCountTB(‘88743393’);

Help me out!

Filed under: Fun,Housekeeping — Lex @ 12:11 pm

This blog needs a slogan. Like “Blog on the Run: Tastes great, less filling!” Or “Blog on the Run: For when you’re just not feeling fresh!” Or something. I’ve kicked around a number of ideas and am just coming up empty, which is not a good sign for a supposedly creative person. So, help me out. Send me a slogan for this blog. The winning entry will get … well, I don’t know, something of value in the $10 range, let’s say. Or maybe just my undying gratitude. Or anonymity, if you think your job might be at stake. I’ve handled transactions like that before.

Anyway. Deadline, just because all contests have deadlines, is the completely arbitrarily selected Friday, Feb. 28. My e-mail address is at the upper left of this blog, or you can leave your entry in the comments. Either way.

Signed, Lex: For when you’re so badly sleep deprived that you could sleep ’til the end of Cage’s “As Slow As Possible” and still not get caught up.

Friday, February 7, 2003 11:49 pm

Composer or con artist?

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 11:49 pm

So-called composer John Cage — the late avant-garde guy who “composed” a musical work consisting entirely of 4 minutes and 55 seconds of silence, titled “4’55” ” — has a new work out that is being performed this week.

And next week.

And long after you’re dead.

It’s called “As Slow As Possible.” The performance began 17 months ago, although the only thing that has happened up to now is the inflation of the bellows on the organ on which it’s being performed; the first note wasn’t struck until noon Eastern time Wednesday. The work is still being performed as you read this, and it’s intended to go on for 639 years.

Yeah, you read that right.

On the one hand, I think it’s pretty stupid. But on the other hand, I know some people whose work transcends the normal time limits of human activity — foresters, wine makers, even some authors — and common to all of them is a profound optimism that someone will be around to enjoy the fruits, so to speak, of their work, even if they themselves are not. And maybe that’s what Cage’s legatees are going for here. If so, then I wish them well and I hope that the completion of the work in the year 2642 is greeted with thunderous applause from a grateful, peaceful, healthy audience.

That said, I feel obliged to point out that another composer recently was ordered to pay Cage’s estate a significant judgment for having plagiarized “4’55” ” (man, I hope I got all the quotation marks/apostrophes in the right place). Just thinking about that boggles the mind. How do you plagiarize … nothing?

UPDATE: It’s “4’33”,” of course, not “4’55”.” Stupid memory.

Thursday, February 6, 2003 11:08 pm

I can’t drive 55 … at least, not with Blink 182 in the CD player …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 11:08 pm

So here’s some research that’s borderline no-sh*t-Sherlock quality:

An Israeli researcher says drivers who listen to fast music in their cars may have more than twice as many accidents as those listening to slower tracks.

My only question is why no one has gotten around to documenting this before now, because everyone who has ever driven a car with great rock ‘n’ roll on the stereo, particularly if the top’s down or the sunroof is open, has found himself putting the hammer down a little harder in spite of himself. As I told TBogg, whose site first brought this study to my attention:

Sometimes the music just puddles in the rear speakers; sometimes it sits in the back seat and whines about your driving; and sometimes it just climbs into the driver’s seat, takes the wheel from your hands and punches the accelerator.

In return, he said that sometimes it kicks him out of the car and goes driving off without him to cruise for babes. Said he hates when that happens.

If you give a sick puppy a cookie …

Filed under: Fun,Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 10:49 pm

If you’re a parent and you’ve sometimes thought you were going to drown in the saccharine that passes for toddlers’ literature, you’ll definitely want to check this site out. Put the kids to bed first, however; this is definitely rated NC-17.

“How hard do we have to cry before something hears?”

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 10:42 pm

I thought about all of them falling together, and I thought that, just maybe, all of them felt less afraid in the moment before their deaths. I thought that, just maybe, all of them thought, “It feels like flying,” and I thought that maybe it did feel like flying at that moment, that it could have, that all of them felt weightless and light at the end instead of scared, that maybe I could have children of my own one day and teach them that running towards things with their arms out and believing in those things is the only way to live.

Another meditation on the Columbia disaster, this from the always reliable Sars, who knows a thing or two about disasters.

Victoria and I have had a conversation or two about Columbia, but I’m still processing them and may or may not post one.

Setting standards

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:37 pm

One of the young queens of blogging, Sarah B., asks this interesting question: “If you could hand-pick three other people to play Spin the Bottle with, who would you choose?”

I’d probably pick my wife — not only because I might be killed otherwise but also because we never have time to kiss anymore what with kids and all — and, hmm, let’s see. Well, of the other two great kissers I have known, one is dead and the other probably really doesn’t want her privacy invaded. So I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that Tara Fitzgerald and Mena Suvari look like they’d be good kissers, too. First alternate: Reese Witherspoon, I guess.

So. How ’bout you? Whom would you pick?


All that, a bag of chips and a moral vision

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:25 pm

Apparently, my man SpongeBob SquarePants is the Mark Twain of 21st-century children’s television. Who knew? I mean, besides my daughter?

Columbia was doing Warp 18?

Filed under: Fun,Sad — Lex @ 10:12 pm

Even Picard’s Enterprise will only do, what, Warp 9.5?

Bless whoever captured this — it provided a laugh when I badly needed one:

(UPDATE, 2/18/07: The missing image was a screen capture from one of the cable-news networks and depicted old video of the Columbia traveling at what the text in the screen capture said was Warp 9.5, or 9.5 times the speed of light, a measurement often [and, perhaps, first] used in the “Star Trek” series. Of course what the cable-news channel meant was Mach 9.5, 9.5 times the speed of sound. But everyone I know who ever saw an episode of “Star Trek” thought “Star Trek” immediately when they saw “warp” in the graphic.)

Tuesday, February 4, 2003 11:49 pm

Oh, and there’s this late-breaking bulletin, too …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 11:49 pm

Guess where my soul originated?

Your soul came from the Bowls of HELL! You’re a
demon preying on the mortals of Earth. BACK TO

Where Did Your Soul Originate?
brought to you by Quizilla
I was dubbed “The Prince of F****** Darkness” and “The Man With the S***-Colored Glasses” by my college fraternity brothers, so this should come as a surprise only to someone who hasn’t been paying attention.

Stop the presses!

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 11:46 pm

What type of sense of humor do I have?

What’s your sense of humor type?
brought to you by Quizilla
Gee. What were the odds?

Nothing but the truth

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 10:12 pm

A lot of bloggers, particularly those who blog under pseudonyms, post things that sometimes aren’t literally true. That’s not as weird as you might think. Many bloggers are aspiring writers of fiction who use their blogs to test how well or poorly they might be able to take inspiration from something in real life to write something that, although not literally true, gets at some kind of larger truth.

The (possibly pseudonymous) author of one blog I read regularly recently addressed this issue. He often posts things that aren’t literally true, and I’ll let him explain why:

One of the best rules [another blogger] practices is: “I do not give away secrets or punish with prose.” I think this is an important point. Nothing goes away online, and the impulse to publish things immediately can get in the way of judgment. This is the main reason that I fictionalize a lot of what I write here. Names are changed, chronology is screwed with. There are parts that are true and parts that aren’t, but if I write something true here, it’s likely that the only person who will know it is the person involved (sometimes I’m writing specifically for that one person who will know that it is true). But if you read something here and you are wondering whether it is true or not, assume that it isn’t. If it were true you would know it. …

Ken Kesey wrote, “it’s the truth, even if it didn’t happen,” which is a nice description of why fiction is important, and why people bother writing it in the first place. I really do believe that fiction is more real than fact, and that its effect, when you get it right, is truthful. This site isn’t exactly fiction, but you’re dealing with a very unreliable narrator here. The kind of narrator who locks himself out of the house, who drinks too much and holds grudges and is late to appointments and who has said “I love you” dishonestly and kept quiet when he should have said “I love you.” And you do the same thing every day. So let’s be false and untrue and trust one another, even though we know better.

That’s as wonderful an explanation for writing fiction as I’ve ever read, not least because it requires the reader to assume a certain level of responsibility for the relationship that will exist between writer and reader. More writers ought to do that, I think.
But the passage does raise the potentially discomfiting question of whether everything on this blog is true. Literally true.

And the answer is this: Either it is true, or I believe it to be true.

Now, that’s not to say you’re always going to get the whole truth. Sometimes I can’t give you the whole truth, or what I believe it to be, because doing so would create an appearance problem, if not an actual conflict of interest, for me and/or my employer. Sometimes, I withhold part of the truth to maintain at least a semblance of privacy for myself, my wife, my kids and other family members, many of whom read this blog regularly. (You didn’t think my visitor numbers were all driven by total strangers fascinated by my scintillating prose, did you?) And sometimes I do it because I think it wouldn’t be interesting … or because it’s none of your damn business.

And to me that’s OK, because the point in this operation is not so much whether everything is both literally true and the whole truth. The point is whether it illustrates or highlights or opens your eyes to some other, preferably larger, truth. Bruce Springsteen puts it a little differently: Trust the song, not the singer. I won’t lie to you, but I may not tell you the whole truth, either. Regardless, if anything I’ve written sings to you, trust that — and know that for me, then, it has been a good day’s work.


Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 9:33 pm

I’m not going to waste a lot of time, particularly this long after the fact, talking about this disaster. I could tell you about what I was doing when Challenger exploded in 1986 — I remember the day quite vividly for reasons that have nothing to do with that disaster — but it wouldn’t really shed any light.What I will do, however, is pass on the best of what I’ve come across elsewhere, and the first such examples stresses — appropriately, in my view — education. The author is “Lance,” a guy who e-mailed Nancy Nall. On Sunday, “Lance” wrote:

I hope that tomorrow morning all over America schoolteachers are pointing out to their students how many Ph.D’s and master’s degrees were on board Columbia. Willie McCool had three of them. He graduated second in his class at Annapolis [the U.S. Naval Academy].Whenever we lose one of these things we lose some amazing people. That’s because every time we launch one we send up into space amazing people.

Laurel Clark was the least accomplished of the crew: she was a mere MD.

I love it that Ramon took that drawing up with him. I love it that David Brown (another mere MD) was once in a circus. Just as I loved it that Judith Resnick was a classical musician.

Spock was a musician. Kirk was a history buff. Sulu read Dumas. [Even Picard studied viticulture and archaeology — two subjects whose vastness in time parallels the vastness of space — Lex.] Roddenberry knew who’d be going because that’s who’s always gone. Cook and Darwin and the captain of the Beagle and Merriwether Lewis.

“Come find me.”

More and more I think that’s God’s First Commandment.

And only the best and brightest obey it.

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