Friday, May 9, 2008

A Final WORD (for now)

Back to St. Mumbles

This marks the end of yet another season (the 12th? 13th?) of TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM. It’s been another good run, mostly: As Papa Hemingway would have said (did, in fact): “I have tried simply to write the best I can; sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.”

That’s not been so hard in my case, since the WORDmeister’s job is simply to crib and collect the words of others—all better than I. One of those better writers—I forget who just at the moment—said an essential element of good writing is knowing when to quit. So I’m taking that advice.

Longtime WORD subscribers know what happens next: Every May, more or less at this time, classes end at Utah State, the students and faculty flee, and those nice but firm young men from St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose come and take the WORD away to the sanitarium for the summer. No one minds, really. It gets a bit quieter in cyberspace, and the WORD himself needs the time and space for a little reflective conjugation and electroshock.

For myself, this epitaph (or epithet), which I’ve used before. But I am pooped and I need the rest, if only until August . . . when the WORD will escape St. Mumbles and I will rise again.

Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Edward Pease.
He is not here, there's only the pod:
Pease shelled out and went to God.
—From an 1880s gravestone on Nantucket Island, Mass. (lightly edited)

Have a wonderful, restful summer.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Today's Word—Big Bleeding Heart

Liberal Patriot:

“Molly Ivins was an unabashed patriot, and it drove right-wingers nuts. Conservatives somehow got it fixed in their brains that patriotism meant being in lockstep with their ideology, that dissent was treason. Molly made a career of reminding them otherwise, always careful to point out how cute they were when they acted like fools.”
—Gary Cartwright, senior editor, Texas Monthly, 2007.

Molly Ivins (1944-2007), a sharp-witted and clear-eyed columnist who died of cancer last year, was an unapologetic liberal. She once observed, “There’s nothing you can do about being born liberal—fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed.” (See 2007 tribute.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Today's Word—Cuban Journalists

Captive Voices:

“Freedom of expression is an irreplaceable support for freedom of conscience, on which is founded modern political democracy as well as any other regime that hopes for international respect. The jailing of dissident journalists holds hostage not only their liberties but also the liberty of the entire Cuban people, who deserve to know the political alternatives to the dictatorial regime under which they suffer today.”
Fernando Savater, Spanish philosopher, writer and activist, 2005
(Click here for story.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Today's Word—Not Too Many Facts

Twain on Truth: A little bit goes a long way...

“I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts. I don’t know anything that mars good literature so completely as too much truth. Facts contain a deal of poetry, but you can’t use too many of them without damaging your literature.”
—Mark Twain (1835-1910), writer, in a 1907 speech, “The Savage Club Dinner”

Monday, May 5, 2008

Today's Word—On Photojournalism

A theory of photojournalism

“You have to be a pineapple. You have to have a hundred eyes.”
—Dith Pran
(1942-2008), Cambodian photojournalist and inspiration for “The Killing Fields”(1984).

Friday, May 2, 2008

Today's Word—Sex

Why op-ed pages thrive

“People like to argue more than have sex. If you don't think that’s true, count how many arguments you’ve had in the past month.”
—Lee Judge, editorial cartoonist, at national editorial writers convention, 2007 (Thanks to alert WORDster Dick Hughes)

On This Day . . .
. . . In 1945, Russian troops took Berlin and Nazis surrendered in Italy and Austria.
. . . In 1519, Leonardo da Vinci died.
. . . In 1670, the Hudson Bay Co. received English King Charles’s charter.
. . . In 1932, Jack Benny’s first radio show debuted on NBC’s Blue Network.
. . . In 1939, ailing Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive-game streak ended when he pulled himself from the Yankees’ lineup.
. . . In 1972, J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director for 48 years, died at 77.

72 . . . Englebert Humperdinck, singer
63 . . . Bianca Jagger, actress
62 . . . Lesley Gore, singer
33 . . . David Beckham, soccer player
23 . . . Sarah Hughes, figure skater
Benjamin Spock (1903-1998), baby doc
Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725), Italian composer
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), Hungarian journalist; first president of the World Zionist Organization
Manfred Richthofen (1892-1918), Germany’s WWI “Red Baron”

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Today's Word—Trafficking in Semi-colons

Punctuating New York

“In terms of punctuation, semicolons signal something New Yorkers rarely do. Frank McCourt, the writer and former English teacher at Stuyvesant High School, describes the semicolon as the yellow traffic light of a ‘New York sentence.’ In response, most New Yorkers accelerate; they don’t pause to contemplate.”
—Sam Roberts, reporter, The New York Times, in a story about semicolons in the subway
(Click here to see story.) (Thanks to alert and literate WORDster Tom Hodges)

On This Day . . .
. . . In 2003, Mission Accomplished! President George W. Bush landed a Navy fighter on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and declared major combat in Iraq over.
. . . In 1960, the Soviet Union shot down a U.S. spy plane and captured pilot Gary S. Powers.
. . . In 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain was created by merging England and Scotland.
. . . In 1941, Orson Welles’s new film “Citizen Kane” premiered in New York.
. . . In 1967, Elvis Presley married Priscilla Beaulieu in Las Vegas.

83 . . . Chuck Bednarik, football player
69 . . . Judy Collins, singer
57 . . . Dann Florek, actor (“Law and Order: SUV”)
Kate Smith (1907-1986), singer
Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), English general; defeated Napoleon at Waterloo (1815)
Jose Alencar (1829-1877), Brazilian journalist, novelist and playwright
Mary Harris Jones (1830-1930), American labor organizer known as “Mother Jones”