Archive for July, 2007

Shades Of Gray
July 31, 2007

Shades of gray. That’s the misty chill of Monterey, our base for the first week of vacation on the California coast, far from the thick stormy humidity of home. It’s quite stunning here; the milky veiled sky melds seamlessly with the churning foamy sea. The winding rocky coast teems with sealife, seabirds and seasounds.

We walked the old fishing village-turned-tourist-attraction called Cannery Row – unofficially renamed by John Steinbeck with his novel based on the characters and scenes from Monterey’s historic working-class fish-canning industry: “a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream…. tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honkytonks, restaurants and whore houses”…

Mission No. 1 for me in any new place is to delve into its history, understand its roots, how it developed and by whom. That’s the only way, I think, to become intimate with a place.. (with a person, too, for that matter). Steinbeck is just one of the many writers and artists who have come to the Monterey peninsula and found a muse.

And then there is the outlet mall.

They put it in one of the old restored canneries, built in 1927. I wonder if they opened an outlet mall thinking people would find it an appealing reason to visit.

During our stay, we hiked the cool breezy canyons and redwood cathedrals of Big Sur, strolled the charming streets of Carmel, photographed the fishermen on the wharf in old Monterey.

That big bold untamed wildness has lured a century’s worth of kings, rogues, writers and artists. It can certainly lure visitors without an outlet mall. Can’t it??

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Richard Reid Didn’t Use Hairspray
July 22, 2007


Ok, help me with this one….

Lighters are now allowed on airline flights. You know, the lighters that were banned from flight after Richard Reid tried to light explosives in his shoe?
The Transportation Security Administration now finds it perfectly acceptable to allow the fire-starting tools aboard aircraft. But not my hairspray.

I heard about the cigarette lighter decision this week as I got off my fourth flight in nine days (with two more scheduled in the next few weeks). I’m out two cans of hairspray (a tool of the trade, by the way), each deemed dangerous at Miami and Washington D.C. airports, where vigilant TSA agents confiscated my aerosol hair management from my purse.

So let me get this straight. The people who protect us from terror in the air now say butane fire starters don’t pose enough of a danger for the amount of time and effort TSA agents take to look for and dispose of them. But some agents last spent a good seven minutes holding my half-full perfume bottle up to the light, discussing with supervisors whether the two ounces of liquid in the 3.4 oz. bottle was to be rejected as contraband and summarily thrown in the garbage.

Remember to stock those little sandwich baggies with all your shampoos, creams and gels. Dump the Starbuck’s and Evian. But feel free to bring right on through a small item with combustible materials that can create fire in a pressurized cabin at 36,000 feet. Gee, I feel so safe.

Garden Variety – Pushing Up Daisies
July 17, 2007

You’ve no doubt seen or read a news story (or two) lately about a murder(s). Any of them stand out in your mind? Sadden you? Anger you? Make you sick to your stomach? I ask because of a little gut-check I had this week while I was chatting with an acquaintance, an assistant state attorney, just checking in with him on some cases I’m covering.

He mentioned a murder case he was about to begin — “just a ‘garden variety’ murder,” he said, as in too common to warrant more than a mention.

Before I go on, for the record, I know this man to be a sensitive person, certainly passionate about what he does daily as a prosecutor, which is, he fights to bring justice for victims of violent crimes. And, for the record, we in the newsroom have applied that very same Martha Stewart-esque label to all sorts of seemingly random and fairly common crimes. And so I cast no personal aspersions. But the conversation begs this sad and not very original question: Have we become so immune to the horror of murder that we can brush it off as “garden variety”?

I don’t regularly cover crime anymore. But that used to be my nightly news diet, back when viewer research showed our then-audience listed “crime” as one of their high-interests concerns. That was a little more than a decade ago, back when street drug wars began to seep into the public consciousness, during a spate of tourist murders, and the Miami Vice television series gave it all a compelling Hollywood-style edge.

Thankfully, viewer concerns and interests have moved to other subjects (at least, according to viewer research). We still do, of course, cover murders on a fairly regular basis, deciding case-by-case if what may make one worthy of a dedicated minute or two of our new broadcast. The central question that helps us decide is, “will you care”?

As a journalist, I’m quite sure I can make you care about the murder of anyone. That’s because for every life taken, there is context, history, a life’s purpose; everyone is someone’s hero, has a mother, has a reason he or she woke up every day. My mission, when so assigned, is to find and give voice to those basic human connections. Then the murder will matter to you. There’s more.. For every life taken, someone is out there valuing a human life far less than something else: money, revenge, anger, jealousy, drugs, fill-in-the-motive-blank. Be afraid of those people. They matter, too.

I told my prosecutor friend to make sure his jury doesn’t consider his case a garden variety murder. I know he won’t let that happen.

Let’s Call It A "Weblumn"
July 13, 2007

I think I’ll really like this blogging thing. Actually, I’ll prefer to think of it as a “column” more than a weblog. Or maybe “weblumn”.

The reports we file for our evening newscasts are usually not more than a minute and a half long (yes, that’s 75 to 90 seconds!). That’s how we fit the news of the day into a half hour broadcast. But that often leaves little room for the color and detail that often makes a story richer, more touching, transcendent. So you’ll understand why the opportunity, the venue and the space to talk about the little interesting elements of the newsday that may not fit into that 1:30 – is so appealing. Thanks for the opportunity to indulge with you.

They promise me here – I’ll be unedited (though I firmly believe we all need a good editing every now and then). And I promise to behave. Which I generally do, in public.