Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Simple joys

Just like the "Burger! Burger!" commercials of Mcdo, but funnier.

Halberstam

I am almost finished with David Halberstam's "Powers That Be," which details how some of the most powerful and influential media companies in the US came to be.

Of course, the media landscape has rapidly changed since its publication 30 years ago so it's a bit dated, but still is a fascinating read.

I'd like to give a deeper insight about the book, but I don't have the time. Feel free to contact me, if I have piqued your curiosity. I am wiling to lend the book. Just make sure you don't add to the wear and tear it has already endured.

Anyway, I am hoping to find another Halberstam masterpiece,"Breaks of the Game." I've been looking for one since reading about it a few years back, but I haven't had luck yet. So if anyone can point me to a place that sells a copy or a person who is willing to part with his, I'd greatly appreciate it.

To give an idea of how good this supposedly is, here is an excerpt of a tribute to the book and the author written by one of my favorite writers, Bill Simmons of ESPN.

More importantly, I didn't understand how to write. I had written short stories as a little kid, read every book in sight, even finished every Hardy Boys book before I turned ten. But I didn't know how to write. "Breaks of the Game" was the first big-boy book I ever loved. Within a few pages, I came to believe that he wrote the book just for me. I plowed through it in one weekend. A few months later, I read it again. Eventually, I read the book so many times that the spine of the book crumbled, so I bought the paperback version to replace it.

Through college and grad school, as I was slowly deciding on a career, I read it every year to remind myself how to write -- how to save words, how to construct a sentence, how to tell someone's life story without relying on quotes, how to make anecdotes come alive. It was my own personal writing seminar. When the paperback suffered a tragic beach accident from an unexpected wave, I bought a third copy at the used books store on Newbury Street for $5.95. Best deal of my life. Every two years, I read that book again to make sure that my writing hasn't slipped too much. Like a golfer visiting his old instructor to check on his swing.

The last time I read "Breaks" was two summers ago. We were due for another reunion this summer, a date that already feels bittersweet because the author suddenly passed away on Monday. He was 73 years-old, a Pulitzer winner, the first respected journalist to question the war in Vietnam. I'm not sure what made him decide to tackle the NBA, but there hasn't been a better basketball book before or since. He nailed everything. He picked the perfect season for the perfect league -- Magic and Bird's rookie year -- and took a 362-page snapshot of a professional sport right as it was shifting from a downtrodden era to a lucrative one. Maybe the timing was incredible, but so was the work itself. And it changed my life for the better.

Just know that I have tons and tons of sports books: Three overflowing bookcases in my house, more in my garage, even more at my father's house and my mother's house. The one that matters most? "Breaks of the Game," the perfect book about the perfect team. If Dr. Jack, Kermit, Mo, Walton and Billy Ray were my friends, then David Halberstam was definitely my friend. I will miss him.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shame

I really am a glutton for punishment, especially the cruel and unusual kind.
As if the shame of getting almost daily reminders that I still have a lot to learn about journalism were not enough, I just got myself talked into dancing.
As in the shake-your-booty-throw-your-hands-in-air-like wave-it-like-you-just-don't-care variety. In front of people. Lots of people.
This is a huge problem for me because:
A) My dancing skills are probably just one notch higher than William Hung's in singing. Name any cliche about bad dancers and all of them would probably fit me and then some.
Heck! I am so bad at dancing that I can't get it right even when just writing about it! (I think "throw you hands in the air" is more apt for getting people pumped up during a concert.)
My moves are limited to what Hitch considers permissible: Step from side to side, while bobbing you head and clapping your hands occasionally with a few finger snaps in between for variety.
The other ones I have, I prefer to keep between myself and a mirror.
Next, I am a terrible in front of a crowd. If the thought of having to deliver a speech is enough to make my knees buckle, imagine what would happen if I have to dance. I'm leaning towards throwing-up, hopefully before or after the performance.
But no use complaining. I did commit to it already. I just have to grit my teeth and hope it gets over quickly.
In any case, at least I can cross this out from my "Do Not Do" list. It's right at top, between "go streaking" and "taunt a large angry dog."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ouch

The press is also getting some blame for the ongoing US financial crisis. Some thoughts from an angry commentator. Got this from CJR by the way.

As a service to the business-news trade, The Audit would like to offer a few observations about the current financial crisis that may prove helpful in coverage going forward. Our list of some inconvenient truths:

1. Your beat just blew up.

From a journalistic standpoint, what we are experiencing today is the equivalent of the city hall reporter arriving for work one day to find the mayor and city council being led out in handcuffs. If the business press were, say, a nuclear industry reporter, this is having most of the reactors on your beat melting down to China. What to tell the boss?

The business press purports to cover business and nothing so closely as it does Wall Street. This is the area business reporters claim to understand. This knowledge is what separates a business reporter from other kinds of reporters. It is why there is a business press. So the beat covered by many publications and thousands of reporters and editors has collapsed.

2. To say, “your beat just blew up” is not to assign blame. It isn’t the end of the discussion but only the beginning.

3. The crisis presents a moment for reflection. For the business press, there are only two options when considering what has happened here, neither particularly good. Either the business press institutionally provided appropriate arms-length scrutiny of the financial-services industry, including investigative work, opinion, analysis and rigorous beat reporting that provided decision-makers, including readers, with fair warnings of the coming collapse, and it was ignored, or it didn’t do the work in the first place. We know that the answer is some combination of the two. But, if we accept the foregoing logic, then best case for the business media is that what it writes doesn’t matter, in which case, why bother?

4. As journalists, we have to believe journalism matters. Therefore, there is a high probability here of journalistic failure.

5. The current generation of business reporters is probably the best-educated and most sophisticated ever. Everyone knows it entirely capable of providing the needed scrutiny and requisite skepticism, if properly directed. So it seems we have a leadership problem.

6. That said, it is undoubtedly true that the ranks of business journalism have been thinned of its most experienced hands due to the media’s financial troubles, and investigative reporting has become the domain of a surprisingly small elite. There has been a price paid for this. Again, this is an issue for business media leadership.

7. Business media outlets that claim to provide authoritative coverage of Wall Street during good times should be first in line for scrutiny now. These would include any publication with the words “wall” and “street” in its name, as well as anything named “deal,” “New York,” “business,” “investors,” and for that matter, “times” and “day.” Bloomberg also apparently boasts supremacy in coverage of the markets that just melted. Oh well. And Forbes and Fortune, you’re in this, too.

8. For any one near Wall Street, including journalists who cover it, the need for a bailout, whether it eventually passes or not, should be the source of some embarrassment. For U.S. taxpayers to be responsible for one nickel of any of this is a disgrace. I know this is known in the business media but it needs to really sink in, to be internalized. Taxpayers had nothing to do with any of this. My impressionistic take is that coverage and opinion reads more like “it’s a disgrace, but we have to save the economy” or even “it’s a disgrace, but taxpayers might not have to pay as much as it first appears.” No, there are no buts. This is a disgrace.

9. Criticism of the financial media is already harsh and is bound to get harsher. In many cases, though I hope not here, it will be unfair, driven by ignorance, opportunism, anti-business bias on the left, anti-journalism bias on the right, what have you. On the other hand, as the messy process of finger-pointing begins, it is worth remembering that the bailout is only part of the hardship ordinary people must bear for the financial-services industry’s excesses. The first part comes in the yet-to-be-measured equity loss, not to mention mental anguish, borne by most of the four million or so foreclosees. In essence, this is a wealth transfer from the bottom to the top. The third part is the extended recession we are likely to enter. The fourth part is by pension and mutual funds hurt by what was essentially Wall Street’s sale of billions of dollars worth of defective products. It will be hard for the business media, but much harder for their readers.

10. Journalism is something but it isn’t everything. The last eight to ten years has seen dramatic decrease in journalistic resources just as journalism’s responsibilities have increased. The retreat and disempowering of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Comptroller of the Currency, Fed bank examiners under Greenspan, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Justice Department, and other key federal agencies, piled more and more responsibilities on the press—responsibilities, I would argue, it did not recognize and was not culturally prepared to shoulder.

There’s more, but that’s enough for now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

So long W

In a few weeks, Americans will replace the president that some have described as the worst ever. But for all the vitriol hurled against USA's 42nd president, I believe there is still a minority out there that will miss him. With quotes like these, how can you not?

Ladies and gentlemen, the 10 dumbest things George W. Bush has said as compiled by http://politicalhumor.about.com/

(Cue in Hail to the Chief )

10) "Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream." —LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000 (Listen to audio clip)

9) "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." —Greater Nashua, N.H., Jan. 27, 2000(Listen to audio clip)

8) "I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft." —second presidential debate, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8, 2004 (Listen to audio clip)

7) "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." —Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000 (Listen to audio clip)

6) "You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that." —to a divorced mother of three, Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005 (Listen to audio clip)

5) "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." —Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004 (Watch video clip; listen to audio clip)

4) "They misunderestimated me." —Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

3) "Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?" —Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

2) "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." —Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004 (Watch video clip; listen to audio clip) (With how the US is looking right now, I think he actually meant this one)

1) "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." —Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002 (Watch video clip; listen to audio clip)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Panibagong pang-karaoke

After hearing an uncle's rendition of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" a few nights ago, I have decided to add it to my list of "must songs" during Karaoke. That was the first time I heard the song and I think it's probably unfamiliar too to most of my readers (take a bow my five loyal followers.) But if this song does ring a bell it's probably because you are:

A) musically inclined
B) at least eight years old already during the late 80s
C) A Billy Joel fan

Then again I'm probably just bad at music. I assumed this is a head-scratcher since I have never heard it on radio or sung in karaoke or seen on MTV until that night. The song has a catchy tune (like I said I'm not much of a music buff, so pardon the cliche) but it was the lyrics that really hooked me. Think Sandwich's "Betamax" but instead of prominent Pinoy bands, "We Didn't Start the Fire" list's some of the most important people, places and events from 1949 to 1989, at least from an American's perspective. I even read the song was being used as a tool to teach history to high school students in the US.

I found a bunch of videos of it on Youtube, and so far the coolest is this version of American broadcasting company NBC, which they made to commemorate their 40th anniversary.



If you think the song is good too and would like to sing along, here are the lyrics.

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, "The King and I", and "The Catcher in the Rye"

Eisenhower, vaccine, England's got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

CHORUS
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
Though we did ignite it
But we tried to fight it

Josef Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu Falls, Rock Around the Clock

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, Peyton Place, Trouble in the Suez

(Repeat Chorus)

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, Bridge On The River Kwai

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California Baseball,
Starkwether, Homicide, Children of Thalidomide

Buddy Holly, Ben Hur, Space Monkey, Mafia
Hula Hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo

(Repeat chorus)

Hemingway, Eichmann, Stranger in a Strange Land,
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

Lawrence of Arabia, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician sex
J.F.K. blown away, what else do I have to say

(Repeat chorus)

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law
Rock and Roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning.
We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
It will still burn on, and on, and on, and on...

(Repeat Chorus X 2)

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire...

I guess you've suffered enough from my amateurish take on all this so just read this for a more competent review of the song. If you are diligent enough to scour Youtube, you can also watch Dwight of the popular US comedy series "The Office" singing this on the episode where Ryan the "Temp" almost burned their office in Scranton.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Welcome to the NBA playoffs

TNT has done it again. For the second straight year, the network has made an advertisement that captures best what the playoffs are like for the teams and fans. I think last year's version is cooler though. The brash narration of Jeremy Piven, who was in Ari Gold mode, on what the "central characters" should do to win the title was just too hard to top. The part about the Detroit Pistons was simply brilliant hyping at its best. The rest of the ad was not so shabby either.

Anyway, TNT went with a toned down and sophisticated approach this year with Academy Award nominee Terence Howard serving as narrator. They also focused more on the concept of team unlike last year's ad which was more about individuals. But the effect is still the same: goosebumps all over for NBA geeks like me. Anyway enough talk from me. Just watch the vids.