This Page Intentionally Left Blank

Do you remember taking standardized tests or reading some arcane documentation and coming to an empty page with those words on it?  The world has left me feeling the need to take a little white space myself.  But before I do, I’m going to comment on the “rule of three” I observed this week.

The week opened with the ignominious suspension of Brian Williams for embellishing a story featuring himself and a military helicopter.  Concurrent to this event my candy-boy of satire, Jon Stewart, announced that he’ll be retiring from The Daily Show by the end of 2015.  And then, tragically, by week’s end Bob Simon of CBS News was killed in a car accident.

I like my journalism “neat.”  I hold journalists to a higher ethical standard.  Even my faux journalists, like Mr. Stewart, should exhibit full disclosure and transparency. I had a soft spot for Mr. Williams is the early days of his career because he seemed like a guy from Jersey who worked hard and recognized that he was the beneficiary of a few lucky breaks along the way. And he’s only human — who doesn’t like to get a few laughs palling around with the late night guys or making a cameo on a hot sit-com?  Then, maybe, he began believing his own legend a little bit too much, didn’t listen to his friends, and took a dangerous, Icarus-inspired flight too close to the sun.   America loves redemptive second acts so I wish him the best, but I think the business side of the media is going to consider him more of a “personality” and less of a journalist.  Maybe he’ll go back to college and get his degree?  That could be both a humble and inspiring act: we are never too old to learn and should never stop trying.

I am sad to see Mr. Stewart go, but I also know that The Daily Show is in good hands.  Remember that nice man Jon Oliver?  He did such a good job while Jon was on sabbatical making Rosewater that HBO lured him away with his own show.  I watch it — it’s pretty good.  And maybe we’ll finally get a female late-night host.  That would be nice…. and about time.

Bob Simon graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in history (not journalism), and started his career as a foreign service officer.  He joined CBS News in 1969 as a foreign correspondent and was actively working at 60 Minutes until his death.  He won three Peabody Awards and twenty-seven Emmy Awards.  Unlike Mr. Williams, I don’t know anything about Mr. Simon personally, but I trust his body of work will remain standing as testament to the practice of his craft.

Note:  Can I Take A Nap? is not going “blank,”  but I am working on something new for the A-to-Z Challenge in April that may take most of my juice for the next month and half.  Stay tuned.






In Praise of the Second Banana

I am an unabashed fan of “The Daily Show,” hosted by Jersey boy and satirist par excellence, Jon Stewart.  Jon took a summer sabbatical to work on a film, but left the keys to the anchor chair in the very capable hands, tush and comedic mind vise of John Oliver.  On September 3, Poppa Jon returns to his post, so it just feels fitting to take a small moment to congratulate Mr. Oliver (and the Emmy-award winning staff of “The Daily Show”) for keeping the place running, nay, shining, while the host was on hiatus.

If you missed any of the summer of Oliver episodes you can toggle over to The Daily Show here.

But let us also take a moment to celebrate the contributions of other famous “second bananas.” Can you imagine Johnny Carson without Ed McMahon?    Would you still love Lucy Ricardo without Ethel Mertz?  Think about your own family?  How many of us have parents or siblings who frequently play “straight man” to the antics of spouse or sibs?  Wouldn’t life be boring without them?

Welcome back,  Jon.  And John, thank you for giving me a compelling reason to stay up past my bedtime all summer.  Oh wait, Colbert was still on after you….


Snark Attack

The WSJ had an interesting little piece on the “strange science of sarcasm” this week.   The thrust of the article was how does one convey snarkiness in a tweet or other social media venue.  The deeper thrust of the article was how best to analyze these messages to ascertain the best way to monetize them.  It seemingly would be a waste of money to pitch products (or political candidates) to folks who are mocking them, but algorithms can’t read intention the way we advanced humans can.   So a couple of inventive tweeters have created symbols to denote their intention:  (*S) which I guess is like a tongue in cheek?  and another that I can’t reproduce here, but it looks like an “eye” surrounded by a curlicue.  (You might be able to see it in the link.)

Maybe I’m a showing an intellectual bias here, but if your audience can’t tell you’re being snarky, you are just not doing it right.  To wit:  Jon Stewart and Jonathan Swift.

“The Daily Show” is usually the highlight at the end of my day, and I realize that there are a whole bunch of people who actually consider this program to be the equivalent of the local 11 o’clock news.  In a number of ways, Jon and his crack team of writers have stolen the news from the newscasters.  I hesitate to call these news-readers journalists, because television media has been so watered down and converted to “infotainment”  that I cannot recognize it anymore.  But you cannot deny the tongue-in-cheek nature of “The Daily Show”  as a perfect lead-in to “The Colbert Report.”  And if you can’t recognize that program as the purest of satire, then you need to put on the class dunce cap, go stand in the corner and think about that for a while.

Which brings me to my other satirical candy boy:  Jonathan Swift.  Mr. Swift introduced me (and all of Mrs. Sofield’s English class) to satire when we had to read “A Modest Proposal.”  For those of you who may have not been in class that day, the proposal is that it would be in the best interest of the Commonwealth if all the scruffy and unkempt Irish peasant kids were given up by their clearly unfit parents and fattened up to feed the Irish aristocracy.    I was astounded that some dude back in 1729 could write that, and a light bulb went off for me.  Could it be coincidence that adolescence is the beginning of the ability to detect and deliver sarcasm? :::eye-roll:::  There is no reason for our sarcasm sense to deteriorate with age.   And we should not enable people to get lazy by using emoticons to “read” it into our messages.  Forget the concept of making money from snark ~ like I said, if it isn’t obvious to the reader, it is the writer who needs to take another crack at the message.

Image courtesy of rashmanly.com
Image courtesy of funscape.com

Friday Night. Let the Great Tub Spin! Let the Words Tumble Out!

This says a lot about your life-stage when you are REALLY excited to get down on a Friday night by putting up a couple a’ loads of laundry and pounding out a couple thousand words at the keyboard.  Seriously, is this a country for old women or what?

But before I do this I must warm up on Can I Take a Nap First?, because I have been a “post delinquent” this week.   The hard truth is that I’ve just been lazy.  Not so lazy that I’d miss fun dinners with good and dear friends, but way too lazy to get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later (or give up watching The Daily ShowSHAMELESS PLUG: The Daily Show is THE best written news show ever…. really, they say it’s comedy, but it is The Fool who speaks the truth).

And I started A Visit From The Goon Squad @ a week ago and I find myself saying, “Just one more chapter.”  I also find myself saying, “DAMMIT!  Why can’t I write like that?”   Then I remember that to compose good prose you have to actually write some words and then go back and edit them ruthlessly.  Which just brings me back to the original guilt for NOT working on my NaNoWriMo WIP.  But in the words of my home-improving, uber-optimistic Guitar Man, “I think we might have turned the corner.” With that inspiration, I’m fired up to get back on track and get my remaining 43,716 words out.

So thank you, my dozen corneas of followers,  for being my writing exercise warm-up this evening, and have a great weekend.