story behind the story

An idiosyncratic mixture of personal narrative and analyses of news accounts where the real narrative is found buried beneath the reported story. send to:
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Wednesday, October 24, 2001
Salon has a timely and fortunately sympathetic evaluation of Don Delillo here, enlightening in view of recent events.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001
It's good to know James Woods is unafraid to take potshots at the dreck in the small sliver of significant novel-talk available today.

Friday, October 12, 2001
Driving into work this morning and listening to the coverage of the Islamic protests, I longed for the possession of common sense in the matter of evenhandedness with news coverage. In order to show both sides, often we skew something into the 50-50 range that's really 95-5. Forget the stack of unread Journalism Reviews and academic analyses on the floor that my sister doesn't miss the opportunity to snigger about when she comes to the apartment. What we need is the ability to give proportion, not balance. And that involves the development of instinct. March on. Hunker down. Give sleep short shrift. Do it right.

Thursday, October 11, 2001
Welfare as slave reparation? Thoughts are here.
When it comes to hypertext, I think the idea of most enthusiasts is that it is a further way of reading, rather than a replacement for the book per se. Even if you're not a Birkerts-ite you probably don't see the particular values of book-reading disappearing with the (albeit limited) advent of screen-reading. So the worth of this article from JoDI is minimal but focused.

Monday, October 08, 2001
Where you really find the news is WalMart. After a round or two with some bees in the back yard, I returned to buy yet more spray, and found it all of a sudden gone. Completely. Whereas they'd had tons of it two days before. We had been hearing murmers in the paper and radio about "africanized" bees in the surrounding parishes and counties, but nothing official, nothing major. Want to find out the status of an issue? See what's selling at WalMart.

Monday, October 01, 2001
Got a chance to see Apocalypse Now Redux over the weekend, and found an old message eerie, given the recent terrorist attacks. "You must make a friend of horror, and moral terror." Kurtz loses his rational western mind once he realizes that a primitive society will hack off the arms of its children who have received vaccinations, feeling no remorse. The old question: how do you battle the beast who does not mind dying in order to kill you?

In other matters: the benefits the additions bring to this extended version seem to be cancelled out by their weaknesses. It's good to have the extra minutes with Col. Kilgore and Kurtz, but the addition of the playmates and the romance scene at the French plantation, with their attendant obligatory nudity, as well as the depiction of a more human, whimsical Willard, seem to weaken the narrative by trivializing and demystifying it. Still, this is one of the few major hollywood pictures that ever contained any sophisticated moral analysis of war and it is a treat to see it once again on the screen.

Friday, September 28, 2001
I didn't know my sister read blogs. I didn't know she went on the web. I didn't know she even knew what the internet was. Anyway, consider my jestful post from 9/25 duly and officially retracted.

Wednesday, September 26, 2001
John Leonard weighs in on Franzen's The Corrections here.
Here's an example of a blog at its best--full of great links.
Starting to read Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections now. It's been a long time since his first two, which I enjoyed a great deal--he's one of the serious ones (not to say he's not funny, just that the work has serious implications, ala DF Wallace & R Powers.) A lot of fanfare this time, which seems at first less ambitious and extremely well-written--the skill in characterization reminds one of Dickens. However entertaining the early going is--the first 100 pp or so--there's a nagging sense that writing about an English professor is like shooting fish in a very small barrel. There's enough lit-school product out there that it's surprising Franzen wants to ride this one. Anyway, this is the best thing going now. Updates soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2001
A woman I work with, a black woman, has told me, seriously, that there is no such thing as a half-brother if he's your mother's child. He is indeed a full brother. However, your father's children not born of your mother--those are half brothers and sisters. I've worked with her for years, and find myself surprised--however, is it some prejudice in me that keeps me from entertaining this notion? Or is it foolish to consider entertaining it? At any rate, I would be grateful to somehow find a way to classify my sister, a TV reporter, as totally unrelated.

Monday, September 24, 2001
Here's a text version of Bernstein's talk.

Saturday, September 22, 2001
The challenge in the old world, the nineties world of Bill Clinton, was to remember that, behind the prosperity and complacency, death was waiting . . .May we never forget it again. Words from Jonathan Franzen, found at

Friday, September 21, 2001
Why the stagnation in hypertexts as envisioned by Landow, Joyce, Moulthrop, et al? The theory is there, but the primary works are not--at least not in any appeciable numbers. Bernstein always thinks about this, and his latest, Card Shark and Thespis, should open some new perspectives. Particularly enlightening on the way most web hypertexts simply follow the "calligraphic" model, while the possibilities of hypertext offers worlds more beyond the simple link. Almost as if each hypertext should be its own mode of production, or set of self-determined rules--rather than the result of any specific program.

Thursday, September 20, 2001
I can't shake the image of the awkward guy in the convenience grocery--maybe because he started to talk to me and I pretended I didn't hear him and left the store. He's the guy who, a week after making a purchase, will return to the store and seek out the very clerk who sold it to him and tell how things are going, explaining the tortured progress with the cassette player, the can opener. He holds the door open for the family who could actually manage getting the children outside easier without his help. He will wave across the crowd at a monument unveiling to the police juror he voted for six years ago and expect to be remembered.

How many of us are like that? Who's right to be which way? Me or him?

Wednesday, September 19, 2001
Greg Hill, sanitary and program coordinator for the northeast region of the state Office of Public Health, has taken over mosquito trap management until the parish brings in outside help to fight mosquitoes. Three people dead, over 50 infected with the St. Louis or West Nile virus after two months, and the parish is still awaiting outside help? Courtesy The Monroe News Star.
As a newspaper reporter, I've found that livelihoods can depend on rules that are changing fast. Technology Review has an opinion that should be heard.

Tuesday, September 18, 2001
This next darkness. Not a Rick Moody fan here, but some interesting thoughts on the terrorism and writers at Salon.
Last night in a convenience store I saw a guy trying to make conversation with the clerk, who happened to be probably Pakistani. The clerk couldn't quite get that the guy, who was one of these unbearably awkward hey-howya-doing types that no one wants to have a conversation with, wasn't interested in his being Arabic or a possible terrorist. This guy was probably totally unware of the recent events in NYC & DC. The clerk kept averting eyes, impatient, poised for the embarassing query about where-ya-from that never came, and the other guy finally moved on, mystified at another incomplete human contact. . .


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