Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hey, person in Hong Kong -- why are you reading my blog?

Google analytics has been updated to show in real time the geographic origins or your readers.

Right now, somebody in Hong Kong is reading my blog.

Please! I'm dying of curiosity! My one Hong Kong reader, please go to the comments and just say who you are. If you are a cyber warrior, sniffing for a backdoor into NSA's mainframes, use the code, "I love Jack Bauer." I will write back, "Cloey, I don't have time to explain. You'll just have to trust me."

We will meet at the Kowloon station on March 1, 2012. I will be wearing a Redhawk warm up jacket, holding a copy of Lonely Planet.

Disguised as a conspicuous middle-aged white man, in Seattle University t-shirt, America's undercover agent prepares to  steal recipes for Dim Sum.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Can fishing be an act of cruelty to a human? Watch Eisenhower and Nixon

I felt more than a twinge of sadness to see Gen. Eisenhower humiliated his 1952 running mate by inviting the media to watch Dick Nixon learn fly fishing. Poor Nixon looked awful, and you have to wonder if the General was just training his subordinate on the relationship they would have. And to think years later an Eisenhower married a Nixon after both saw more of this.

By the way, later as President Eisenhower had extra trout dumped into a river before the news cameras arrived.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sally Tonkin honored as photography educator

Sally Tonkin tonight at ceremony in Spokane named 2011 Honored Educator by Society for Photographic Education.

She gave a very moving speech that honored two great callings, photography and education. I'm proud to say she's excelled at both.

One year, a third of Shorewood High School's students signed up to take her class. She's been shown at the Frye, published in books and showcased by the Seattle Times and many others.

Much deserved recognition.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs: "Insanely Great" applied to him. RIP

Steve Jobs has passed away.

He will endure as one of the great visionaries of the beginning of the digital era. He transformed personal computing and several other industries. He changed our culture. All this began from a point of reflection that led him to drop out of college.

He told the story in a speech he gave at Stanford University.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Non believers? The 8th Proof of God's Existence

From the New York Times:

Prevention: Evidence of Heart Benefits From Chocolate

The seven studies looked at the consumption of a variety of chocolate — candies and candy bars, chocolate drinks, cookies, desserts and nutritional supplements. By many measures, consumption of chocolate was linked to lower rates of stroke, coronary heart diseaseblood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions.
But there was no beneficial effect on the risk for heart failure or diabetes.
Over all, the report, published Monday in the British medical journal BMJ, showed that those in the group that consumed the most chocolate had decreases of 37 percent in the risk of any cardiovascular disorder and 29 percent in the risk for stroke.
Still, the lead author, Dr. Oscar H. Franco, a lecturer in public health at the University of Cambridge, warned that this finding was not a license to indulge and noted that none of the studies reviewed involved randomized controlled trials.
“Chocolate may be beneficial, but it should be eaten in a moderate way, not in large quantities and not in binges,” he said. “If it is consumed in large quantities, any beneficial effect is going to disappear.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Seattle's tunnel viaduct debate -- cue the videos

A decade after an earthquake revealed a highway that had to go in downtown Seattle, voices arise via video to make the case over a Seattle ballot measure.

Should Seattle replace an elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct highway with a deep-bore tunnel, a "surface option," or just keep talking?

Who decides the fate of one of the world's most fabulous waterfronts, while also resolving conflicting priorities over freight mobility, sustainability, transit and the car in the city of my birth? Dare we vote in a manner that further degrades our standing as the coolest city in the Northwest?

I so miss Emmet Watson.

It's a a huge civic debate, submitted to voters in mid August, when most of us are thinking of swimming and hiking in a region where the clouds have lifted after an 11 month wait.

Roll the tapes.

David Brewster, long one of Seattle's finest journalists, analyzes the long civic toothache. With his usual combination of wit and stylish mastery of detail, he sees a debate about the soul of our city.

An earlier post, containing Matt Smith's hilarious satire on the argument to keep the Viaduct is here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

To take down the other guy, is funny video the kindest cut?

Wit is a strategic asset in marketing communications.

You can use it to disarm an issue, minimize a blunder and change the subject. But when to use it? And how can you do it well and effectively?

Here's a recent video reportedly done by Microsoft to advance its email program over Gmail, Google's free product that comes with ads served when monitoring search gizmos detect key words. I give this a 7. It doesn't reach a 10 because using the child to express moral indignation is overused, but mainly because I'm touchy about picking an actor with hair loss. (Hair-ism is the final scourge in our culture, yes?) I assume not a fragment of this ad is accidental.

I did a piece on Gmail and Google's privacy policies in 2007 for Crosscut.

Now, reaching back a few years into Seattle politics, I still love this video that sought to use humor to break the log jam around our city's debate over replacement of the aging, crumbling, unsafe Alaskan Way Viaduct on the central waterfront. Casting Seattle's Matt Smith in the lead role to stop the destruction of "big ugly things" was inspired. I think the guy scratching himself in the background (at 32 seconds) perhaps was an unscripted homage to Charlie Chaplin. The video failed in its intention. Seattle is year 10 in discussion on this issue. Ugly prevails.

P.P.S. Now, a digression. Half of YouTube is funny pet videos. This one is okay....

.....but this one just kills me. Counting its various postings, I think it's been seen by half the planet.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In Seattle, a blinding orb appears. We're asking, Is this the Second Coming?

The sky turns blue. Are we doomed?
    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
--Lifted in total from W. B. Yeats' 1919 masterpiece. Some think it's about World War I. In Seattle, more than 6 hours of sunshine gets us thinking of the Apocalypse.

Bill Cosby: "In Seattle, they think the sun is evil."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fly fishing in the heart of London? Watch out!

What's more funny here, the guy's outfit or the comments by Londoners as this guy flicks a fly? Courtesy of YouTube.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Diane Simmons new book: "Little America"

Journalists are shaped by what they read, but even more by those they watch.

In my career as a journalist, I observed outstanding talents: Emmett Watson, Barry Farrell, Dick Larsen, Bill Prochnau, Tim Egan, David Horsey and many others. In my first permanent job at a now-shuttered daily in suburban Bellevue, Washington, I spent a summer across from a young writer named Diane Simmons. I watched her cover schools with a speed, skill and smarts that deepened my understanding of what journalism should do.

As a smarty pants just out of college with vain notions of producing Joycean prose for an awaiting world, I thought my job was to write well and get famous. My goal was to move on to a bigger paper. The community was the topic and I would see people for what they were.

Diane brought a maturity to her work. She wrote stylishly and prolifically, as that newspaper's brash talents strived to do. But she also brought diligence to the seemingly small stuff. She knew that, while not every reader would follow her expose of a school district snafu or a witty feature on some personality, parents would certainly pay attention to what the cafeteria was feeding their kids that week. Diane understood that a newspaper existed to serve its readers. She didn't think a school menu was beneath her definition of news. She cared about her audience and minded details.

In 1980, Diane Simmons's first novel came out. "Let the Bastards Freeze in the Dark" told the story of terrorists shutting down a power station in Fairbanks, Alaska. Afterwards, Diane  left Seattle and moved to New York for a career as a college professor and fiction writer. She's done well.

Her latest book is "Little America," a prize-winning collection of short stories.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Barack O'Obama, cousin

I'm loving the images posted by the New York Times of President Obama's visit to Moneygall, Ireland, ancestral home on his mother's side. Located in central Ireland, Moneygall is a slightly bigger version of my own mother's ancestral home in Annascaul near Dingle in County Kerry.

Here's a shot of POTUS and FLOTUS having a sip.

Is it fun to see that Obama has Irish roots?


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Alan Berner -- a great photojournalist

Alan Berner received last night yet another honor for distinguished work in photojournalism. Whenever I worked with Alan, I admired how much he brought to gathering the story, raising my own game as a reporter and writer, and delivering great images. Check out a collection of work he's done for The Seattle Times.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why is Standard & Poor’s still in business?

Standard & Poor's jolted the world markets today by warning that the United States was taking on too much debt.

Duh. U.S. debt stands at $14.3 trillion.

Standard & Poor's changed its outlook on the United States from “stable” to “negative” and said the federal government could lose its AAA rating if officials fail to bring spending in line with revenue.

Great point, but where was such caution when S&P was giving glowing ratings to junk mortgage securities that caused the collapse of banks and threw our nation into a recession?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Message to IRS: Please lock me up

When are tax returns due? Monday. (I wrote that for SEO purposes)

My copy of the New York Times today has two essays on David Foster Wallace, who taught creative writing at Pomona College before his death. Wallace had become intrigued with the culture around the IRS and tax accountants.

This will only take a minute.
Turns out, literary critic Edmund Wilson did not do a return for nine consecutive years. I'm sure Wilson had much more money than me to report, but it hits me year after year how much time all of us spend doing tax returns -- keep receipts, digging up receipts for license tabs (why are they deductible), mortgage statements showing deductible interest (unfair to renters as a social policy). Too many of us just go to accountants because its all so confusing, but if you do it yourself you can be staggered by the needless complexity, the deductibles the exist only for the rich or the beneficiaries of lobbyists (cosmetic surgery, digging for oil, etc.) At state and federal levels, there is talk of closing tax loopholes -- when pigs fly -- while also talking about raising the retirement age for Medicare (far more likely).

Personally, I would gladly pay more taxes, much more taxes, if I could be freed to spend my capitalist productive entrepreneurial time creating jobs, or to be honest,  watching "American Idol," or reading a book. Oddly, one guy -- and he was odd, Steve Forbes -- ran for president years ago on a flat tax. (Not completely flat, he allowed some deductions.) He was trashed for pushing an idea that would have negative consequences to this or that group. No doubt true because deductions for charities and the arts would go away, but so too would loopholes that allowed GE to pay less in taxes than me.

For starters, I would gladly pay what I would otherwise pay for TuboTax straight to a national debt reduction account or improvements for college financial aid.

Among the outrages of our present system are the millions of  20-somethngs who make modest salaries, with taxes taken out of their checks. The vast majority of these young people never file a return to get back at least a portion of what the government has pocketed.

Our tax code is so complex at 14,000 pages, counting the code and regulations, that 60 percent of Americans hire somebody to do it. Not even the Commissioner of the IRS, Douglas Shulman, does his own taxes. And this is a guy who's gotta be better at math than me.
Commissioner Shulman holds a B.A. from Williams College, an M.P.A. from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center... and still needs somebody else to do his taxes.

President Obama has promised to simplify the tax code,  a promise nearly every president has made since the IRS was created. Obama called the press code "monstrous." That's one promise I don't expect to be kept, but think of America's collective waste of time and energy doing all this. So Mr. President, put me down as willing to pay more but make it easier. Till then, how about adding one more regulation to the tax code. By law, the IRS Commissioner must do his own tax return live on CSPAN.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The lure and learning of dangerous places--a comment on Paul Theroux in the New York Times

Another day of life in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1971.  Photographed by Don McCullin

I have mixed relationship with the Travel section of the Sunday New York Times.

I love how I can sit in my bathrobe on a lazy morning and go to fascinating, interesting or even seductive destinations, how it adds places to my bucket list and gives me perspectives on what I saw or missed on my own journeys to places in Asia, the Middle East and north Africa.

Then I come to what the editors of the New York Times must regard as an afterthought. That eco-tourist resort in Indonesia? $550 a night. Yank that one from the bucket. Though the Times does run some articles on "affordable" trips, even those are pricey, not to mention that the mere publication of an unknown spot has now been ruined by disclosure to one million households. I've seen the effect firsthand. Years ago, one of my favorite bars, the Two Bells tavern, became crowded with hipsters soon after a favorable column ran in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. After that, it was hard to get a table for lunch. The P-I died and the Two Bells thrives; do your own reflection on that.

Today came a reminder of what's best about the NYT on Sunday: an essay by one of the world's best travel writers, Paul Theroux, on reasons why it's often good or even for some essential to go where it's chaotic or even dangerous because of tensions, civil unrest or outright war.

Click on the link I've provided to read the entire piece, but here's the nut graph:
“Don’t go there,” the know-it-all, stay-at-home finger wagger says of many a distant place. I have heard it my whole traveling life, and in almost every case it was bad advice. In my experience these maligned countries are often the most fulfilling.

Theroux describes many places where he took risks and felt stirred and enriched by what he had experienced and learned. One example he cites I know well: Northern Ireland, the place of The Troubles. He went there in 1982. I went there in 1975 and saw a rural landscape marred by fortified encampments of British soldiers, roads marked by check points run by armed men (British soldiers at some, IRA Provos at a few) and cities, especially Belfast, full of British soldiers on patrol in combat gear, barbed wire lining sidewalks and searching stations in the shopping districts, signs warning to report any unclaimed bags, and armored vehicles rolling at speed to some disturbance, gun barrels poking from slits.

At the time, I was visiting relatives in Belfast who lived a half block from a fortified police station. One night, returning with a cousin from a pub, we rounded the corner of the police station and I heard a click. I looked right and saw just eight feet away the opened back end of a British Saracean armored personnel carrier. Inside were British commandos with their weapons pointed at us. That click was the safety switch being turned off on a machine gun pointed at my chest. A sudden move on my part would have justified my death. We moved on.

To my cousin, it was routine, which was part of the powerful lesson I took home. Photographer Don McCullin's 1971 image, shown here, gives you a sense of how one woman reacted with horror as combat played out in the street where her children would otherwise play. Most Americans had no idea what was happening in Northern Ireland. They might get a snippet on the evening news. Much of the New York Times coverage then often was datelined London, which meant the writer stayed at the office and most likely had a perspective colored by the British, who probably overlooked the irony that their personnel carriers were named after a term used by ancient Romans for people in the provinces of Arabia.

Much as I had done some reading and interviews to deepen my understanding of the roots of the violence in Northern Ireland and understand the British policy of sending soldiers to establish security for all, I left Northern Ireland convinced that the British policy was wrong and their presence protected a regime that suppressed a minority. It was only a coincidence that on the ferry ride back to the U.K., I would up having a long chat with a British soldier returning from duty. He spoke freely of his contempt for Catholics. After our two-hour talk, we shook hand and exchanged names; his face reddened as he realized that my last name suggested links that might have given me a different perspective.

Only much later did the British withdraw its forces during a lengthy process that ended practices that oppressed Catholics and reformed a police establishment that was corrupt and systematically anti-Catholic. (None of this should be read as sympathetic towards IRA or Protestant Ulster Defense Forces violence.) Though violence still flares up now and then, Northern Ireland today is much more at peace, with the IRA and UDF having sworn off violence and moved into democratic elections. My trip then, however, convinced me how little Americans know about the world and the basis of people's greivances and how U.S. policies support or ignore those issues.

I had a similar experience in the early 1980s when I traveled to Israel as a journalist hosted (that is, expenses paid) by AIPAC, the American lobbying organization that works to generate support for Israel's policies. On the bus with other journalists, we were taken to places and met people who made a convincing case of genuine risks faced by Israel and the need for a robust defense forces and firm security practices. But I made a point some days of getting off the organized tour to interview Palestinians, journeying into less secure places for visitors. In those unescorted visits, I learned things about the harshness of life for Palestinians, especially for those on the West Bank who often faced what they regarded as daily humiliations through security practices and whose access to jobs and, in some cases, basics such as water and sewer systems were limited. I came home from that trip with a love for Israel, especially Jerusalem, but also a sense that Israel's long-term posture towards Palestinans could not be sustained. As in Northern Ireland, you had to visit Israel and the West Bank to truly feel the daily tensions that for some give rise to militancy and violence.

To be an American is to be a citizen of the most powerful nation in the world. To be an American, for just about all of us, is to know virtually nothing about how people around the world view us or how deeply embedded we are in policies that affect the lives of people we do not know. The Egyptians, for example, knew well we were writing checks to assist the Hosni Mubarek regime. We had our reasons. They saw a dictator.

Going to troubled places certainly does not make us experts. My trips to Israel and Northern Ireland gave me foremost a sense of why conflicts can be so difficult to end and U.S. policy calculations may well be difficult but are certainly often at odds with the values we profess to embrace.

Theroux makes the point that the world is going through a period of dramatic upheavals, especially in the Middle East. It pays to go places, even the risky ones. He writes: "Travel, especially of the old laborious kind, has never seemed to me of greater importance, more essential, more enlightening."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Settling the debate over Arianna Huffington. Just click it.

A hot issue for freelance writers who wish to market their talent. Arianna Huffington, who founded Huffington Post and now directs AOL's editorial programs, defends her no-pay policy at HuffPo as providing a platform for exposure for writers, and she certainly is proof that exposure establishes a valuable brand. The Newspaper Guild has called for a boycott by its 26,000 members. My solution: Ariana owns the ad revenue for eyeballs and writers get $1 for each clicked "like" button. Okay, 50 cents. Deal?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hearst, Please Save the Seattle P-I Globe

I worked at the Seattle P-I, first as a reviewer who dashed from the theater and raced to the P-I building, then on Wall Street, as the first edition presses were rumbling. Anyone entering the building passed under the spinning P-I Globe, an Earth ball topped by a giant eagle aglow with neon and the spinning words, "It's in the P-I." Entering that place on deadline, I felt like Jimmy Olson about to see a guy in a cape fly skyward. The globe wasn't fine art but it was a visual treat, especially then when it faced the giant pink creature of the Elephant Car Wash.

When the P-I gave up its Sunday edition, then its building, and move to rented waterfront offices as part of a doomed marriage with the Seattle Times, the globe move too, placed atop the rental offices.

Today, the Times reports Hearst's lease at its offices is about to expire and the fate of the globe is uncertain. Three former city council members are moving to grant landmark status to the fixture so it remains on public view. I prefer the present location, though it could go to South Lake Union and the Museum of History and Industry, run by the capable Leonard Garfield.

In the pantheon of Seattle icons, the globe is not the Space Needle. It occupies a second rank. But it is a magnificent work of neon and always fun to see. It deserves an elevated location where it can be seen from afar, which is why the waterfront is my preferred spot, perfect at night as your ride a ferry into downtown Seattle.

You don't need to know its history or even read a newspaper to appreciate a fixture that gives a jolt of fun to a city's landscape.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

AT&T swallows T-Mobile. Again, getting big trumps all else in telecom

Eye-popping deal announced today in the telecom industry: AT&T says it's buying T-Mobile for $39 billion, as reported in Brier Dudley's Seattle Times blog.

Dudley correctly remarks this is a union of two companies who trace their roots to Seattle's own Craig McCaw, whose must-read (please!) biography, sadly, did not lead to a lucrative movie deal. (Memo to Harvey Wienstein: call me.)

So much of our media and public attention is captured by the dramatic stories in communications: the comeback of Steve Jobs and Apple, the stunning zero-to-goliath growth of Facebook, the emergence of Twitter and, lately, Groupon -- that we miss a continuing force in what deeply affects pricing, innovation and choice for consumers. For many of the players, the choice is to get bigger and swamp rivals who may have a better idea.

Underlying the AT&T-T-Mobile marriage of goliaths will be a host of details FCC approval, getting different technologies to work for customers, the nasty business of announcing that layoffs will be minimal before they become maximal. Now that Comcast has swallowed NBC Universal, we can reflect on the difficulties of getting real choice in the marketplace and the need for big players like Apple and others to serve shareholders by inducing customers to buy multiple products by limiting features in their individual product lines(iPhone tethering, iPad usb port to hard drive etc) so we have to buy more than we otherwise should. We can also ask successive presidents why our telecom choices are so limited and you can easily get much faster wireless systems in Asia and Europe when, never forget, the airwaves belong to the public and providers operate by license to use our air waves.

The final point is the sad apparent failure of Clearwire, yet another Craig McCaw brainchild, to succeed as a high speed wireless alternative for data and voice. Other remain who are pushing for wireless alternatives. Google has its plan for a giant test in some lucky city. But much as I admire Google's products and innovative culture, it's now another Goliath. My own preference would be for the FCC to put its thumb on the scale a bit so choice is favored and the U.S., inventor of cellular, moves to the edge of innovation. Yes, I want too much: lower prices and better service.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Casey Corr: Egypt's Mubarak proves that dictators tend to want things their way

Pharaoh falls. Now what? Glad Rumsfeld not around to tell us democracy is messy.

UPDATE: If Mubarak had told people he in fact was leaving, he changed the script. Now what? Rumsfeld could say even dictatorships are messy.

Let's all raise a shoe for democracy and hope in Egypt.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Casey Corr: Arianna Huffington: genius or artful shapeshifter? The debate goes on

There's a palpable sense of envy around coverage of Ariana Huffington staggering payoff in AOL's purchase of Huffington Post. You detect it here in this Slate piece. 

So she doesn't pay her writers and now is rich. So she's been accused of writing best sellers lifted from other people's work. So she was a conservative before she became a liberal. So Huffpo was a literate platform for big thinking celebrities before it became a search-optimized Google gooser that boosted search hits that drew advertising cash? Let me try: Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin. Twitter, you can have this blog for $100 million.

She figured it out.

And to think AOL once was so powerful that it bought the world's greatest communications empire, Time Warner. Now the super blogger assumes command of AOL's future.