Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Apparently I'm not the only one who is now tired of the flag debate.

"I am here to say there is something at stake far more important than this symbol," says "Southern Avenger" Jack Hunter.

"Heritage might not be hate. But battling hate is far more important than anyone’s heritage, politics, or just about anything else. We should have different priorities."

Monday, June 22, 2015

About that Flag ...

Ya' know, maybe we need to think about this. The whole flag thing is getting old.

I found the whole debate tiresome to begin with: few who objected to the Confederate Battle Flag seemed to have even the simplest grasp of what it was, let alone what it meant, and those defending it often seemed unable to hear themselves and the antiquated, absurd rhetoric they were using. But now, it's become embarrassing.

"Let me be clear: I don’t think that everyone who reveres the flag is racist," J. Richard Cohen, the President of the Southern Poverty Law Center writes in Time. "Surely all of the people who apply for state-issued license plates bearing the flag do not believe in the hatred with which some people display it. For many South Carolinians, the flag at this point may well represent heritage without the taint of past racism.

"But they should ask themselves, Whose heritage are they celebrating?"

Indeed, after the shootings in Charleston, SC, the use of this particular flag has truly passed its time, hasn't it? I mean, the CSA and its military used at least four flag patterns (depending on how one treats the "Bonnie Blue" flag); can't we just use one of those when honoring people who served as soldiers believing that they were merely defending their homeland?

The Bonnie Blue Flag
from Wikipedia

Not that I think this will solve anything or end the debate, but maybe I should note that - like Mr. Cohen - I don't think all the people who display the battle flag are bigots. Far from it: I'm usually the guy defending both it and them. I've spent a lot of time explaining historical and regional details to people in this. But the SC shooter has pushed me past the limit.

So I'm done. If I want to talk about the admirable aspects of Robert E. Lee (and note the less-than-admirable ones), just to pick an example, I'll do it using one of the other flags, one that dimwitted lunatics haven't expropriated.

Robert E. Lee's personal headquarters flag

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sooner or Later, You'll Need A Source

So there's been a bit of a micro-sensation as Apple first announced a music streaming service and then, more to the point here, started putting together a news service, called "News." CNN Money worries - or rather, passes on the worries of others, because as a "legit" news operation, it can't have opinions of its own - that Apple "job listings provoked some of the anxiety that is palpable in the news industry at a moment of intense tech-fueled disruption. Journalists on Twitter cracked dark jokes about being put out of work by Apple when the job listings circulated widely on Monday."

But here's the thing about all of this - and a thing that has frustrated me as technology has disrupted journalism - sooner or later, the stories have to come from somewhere. In other words: Apple's News, and Yahoo, and even the now ancient Drudge Report, though they do some original reporting, all still are pretty much news aggregators. This is a cheap way to move information around without having to pay for the content creation; you just take other people's work and point at it.

And that's where I get frustrated: the internet isn't the only technology that's revolutionized how we get news. Cameras are cheaper, smaller and more efficient, video editing is a totally different, easier, and cheaper process than when I started some 30 years ago, still photographs are virtually cost free thanks to digital (which eliminated the costs of film and processing), sending stories is now a breeze via worldwide internet connections accessed by commonly available, free wifi connections. So now, rather than having to build an expensive bureau somewhere, staffed by a number of workers in specialized fields using expensive equipment to create content that then has to be sent to a central distribution point via expensive, unique transmission lines, a news organization can send out a kid with a camera and a laptop ... virtually anywhere.

But news organizations are cutting down on bureaus, counting on free consumer-provided content (don't get me started again on the "everyone's a photographer with the iPhone" thing) or locally produced (usually by state-owned and -run operations) material revoiced by some network reporter at a hub half a continent away (or not changed at all, when linked via an aggregator). In my earlier blog on iPhones, etc., I quoted Boston photographer John Tlumacki: "I’m so sick of citizen journalism, which kind of dilutes the real professionals’ work. I am promoting real journalism, because I think that what we do is kind of unappreciated and slips into the background."

So what happens when every outlet becomes an aggregator? It's much, much cheaper - you need only employ a limited number of "editors" to move material around, and they don't really need to be journalists, just web mavens. Maybe you collate a few pictures or factoids and put them under a clickbait headline ("7 Ways You May Be Killed By Your Puppy!"), but nor real reporting or news gathering.

But then, where do the stories come from? Sooner or later, you have to have a source.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Lessons I Have Learned from Having a Cooking Segment on TV

The best thing about having chefs on our morning show most every day is, of course, the food.

The next best thing is the tricks and techniques you learn, things that you not only didn't know but probably never gave any thought to when trying to cook yourself.

1. Use Nonstick Spray. No, all the time, not just when you're worried your cake will stick to the pan. Always. I know you've got Teflon pans, and they're nonstick miracles of science. Spray on the stuff anyhow, what'll it hurt?

2. Just Let the Food Cook. So you lay your bacon in the pan and it starts to sizzle. You're tempted to reach in there with the spatula and move it around, maybe flip it a few times to make sure it doesn't stick. (See above.) Stop. Don't. Just let it sit there and cook. How is it supposed to cook properly if you keep messing with it and taking it away from the heat? Flip it when that side is done, not because you're nervous.

3. Cook Real Food, with Real Ingredients. Honestly, it's not that much harder or more time consuming to make stuff from "scratch." (And when I say "scratch," I don't mean you have to make your own tomato sauce or salad dressing; let's be reasonable.) Cutting up real vegetables, chopping fresh herbs, stirring it into just basic things like tomato sauce - not completely pre-made jars of spaghetti sauce - really does make things taste better. And they taste just the way you want them to.

4. Prep. This is the secret to not making yourself crazy doing Instruction 3. Spend a few minutes before you start pulling together your ingredients, chopping, dicing, shredding or whatever you need to do to them, and having them all set out in little bowls and ramekins. You know, like they do in the cooking shows? Then you're not rushing around the kitchen trying to find this thing or that, all in a panic, while your food is burning.

Actually, I have begun to find this step in the process not dull or frustrating, but rather very soothing ... almost a zen-like, calming moment. It lets me know that I have all my ingredients and that I have everything under control. And the regular, controlled chopping and prepping process itself is almost like a meditation before going to work.

5. Use Salt and Pepper. In the 80s, there was this thing against salt, and everyone stopped cooking with it. But it's a flavor enhancer and - when not done to extreme - it really helps, as does pepper. Go ahead: throw some around as you cook, then taste it and see if you need more. You'll be surprised how much this helps as you go along.

6. Having a Go-To Technique Is Not Lazy. It's a go-to technique. It ensures that, when confronted with something you're unsure about, you still have a pretty good chance you'll make a decent meal out of it. For me, it's garlic and butter (and maybe sauteed onions, depending on what's being faced). I figure you could hand me a bowl of crickets and, with a hot pan and enough garlic, onions, and butter (and salt and pepper; see above), I could make something I would be willing to eat.

7. Don't Be Afraid. You know, often if something isn't what you wanted, it can still be good. Frequently, you can save yourself by falling back on a trusted technique (See 6. above). Or you can just chuck it, if it's hopeless, and move on. This happens to the best of us, like in the Julia Child video. (At 2:50, she completely jacks up flipping her potato pancake. "But you can always pick it up, if you're alone in the kitchen," she infamously says. "Who is going to see?") I can't tell you how many of our segments turned out to be about, not just slightly, but completely different dishes than planned.

8. And Finally - And Most Importantly - You Are Not a Chef! Even after all this, and even though all your friends and family tell you what a fabulous cook you are, even though you have a bunch of very expensive knives and really nice pots and pans, you are not a Chef. Or rather (with, not irony, but spoken-seriously-with-intent quotes) a "Chef."

Chefs are professionals. They have careers, they went to school just for this. The work really, really hard. Actually, the word in French means "chief." He isn't a cook, he runs the entire kitchen. Don't cook a few good meals and think you are a "Chef." Show these people some respect.


These aren't all the rules of cooking, nor are they the only ones or even the best ones, but they are what I have learned from watching while the experts work.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

One More Time ...

A dialog between a colleague and her young son, posted on Facebook:

"Mama, I wonder how time works. Like, we walked in here, but - I don't know how to explain it."
"Like, how come everything doesn't happen at the exact same moment?"
"Yeah! Except I think everything *does* happen in the exact same moment, just in different dimensions. It's, like, the complete opposite of infinity."
How is it he can theorize on time and space like this, but he can't remember to turn off a light when he leaves a room?