Add one part satire to two parts sincerity. Sprinkle on a couple of rants. Stir liberally.
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Daily Blah FAQ
Who are you?
I'm the newly-appointed Future editor at Business 2.0 and the former San Francisco correspondent for Time Magazine.
Wow, so does this mean everything you write reflects Time Inc's opinion? Or do you perhaps have some sort of standard disclaimer to the effect that it doesn't?
Naturally, the opinions contained in this blog are not those of my employers. In fact, some opinions may be the polar opposite of my employers. Some may be the same, for all I know. Hey, it's not like I ask my employers their opinions about everything in the news, okay? Let's just say that if this were a Venn diagram with one circle marked "my opinions" and the other one marked "my employers' opinions", there would doubtless be some overlap. But neither I nor my employers are able to pinpoint exactly where that overlap is.
What is this Daily Blah thing?
An experiment for a column I wrote about blogging back in December 2001. All these years later, I haven't been able to kick the habit.
If it's called Daily Blah, how come you don't always write every day?
I am trying harder. I promise. Please don't hurt me.
Mister, you talk funny. Are you one of them furrners?
Why yes I am, as it happens. I was born, raised and educated in Great Britain. I've been living in the U.S. since 1996 and identify as British.
I say, old chap, you forgot the "u" in "colour."
No I didn't. I may identify as British, but I am also an American journalist writing for an American audience about mostly American issues. These two different sides of me are a constant source of tension. Nevertheless, Daily Blah will adhere to American English grammar and spelling.
Praise for Daily Blah:
"It is fun to watch the author's navel-gazing joy." - Sunday Times (UK)
"It's really funny and informative." - Dave Eggers, author
"The Blah is becoming a daily destination for me." - Richard Marsh, Playwright
"I like it, and I don't." - Fiona Hogg, Teacher
"Better than Xanax." - Lessley Andersen, journalist
"Dude, lay off the crack pipe." - Souris Hong-Porretta, gamesmith
Friends, Bloggers, Countrymen ... lend your ears to these people. I come not to bury them, but praise them.
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Daily Blah for... Friday, June 11, 2004
Mixed Metaphor of the Day
"In the face of a government defeat of these proportions, such grabbing at straws must ring pretty hollow."
-- BBC News Online on Blair's disasterous showing in local British elections yesterday
Daily Blah for... Thursday, June 10, 2004
Hacks vs. Hacks
So you don't like how the media has been treating Bush? Think we've been giving him too much of a free ride? Well, join the freakin' line, mister. (After you, madam.) So do journalists. That's the result of this Pew Research Center survey of those noble, hard-working creatures we in the American media like to call the American media. Oh, and before I get a comment -- possibly from the "you suck idiots" guy -- saying that this is no surprise given the fact we're all liberal wussies, consider this: 54% of national journalists and 61% of local journalists describe themselves as "moderates." As Time's own Joe Klein says, speaking for the majority, "when I write my autobiography, the title will be 'Flaming Moderate.'" It is the Republican Party that has swung viscously (and dare I say torturously) to the right; the rest of us are standing exactly where we always have been.
Okay, I hear you say, so you think there's a problem with the coverage. Why don't you do something about it? Aren't you responsible? Well, that's a question I've been asking myself for some time, stuck here in San Francisco, wondering what the heck is going on with the daily press back east (I know I'm biased, but I think the weekly magazine coverage is much better; we've got more time to think about how to be critical but still fair). Part of the problem is the Emperor's New Clothes atmosphere that descended on September 12, 2001 and is only just beginning to disperse. Part of the problem has been the polls combined with the business pressures from above described in the report: we can't say anything bad, the people won't listen, they love Bush! That factor too is beginning to disappear. But you know what I think most of it is? We play too fair. We're incredibly critical of our own opinions. We give too much "equal time" to radicals and fools. I was always taught to argue against my beliefs in my own work; the result would be a stronger piece of writing. I still believe in that. It's a concept that has never infected the radical right, of course. Luckily, we live in a world where you -- yeah, you -- can redress the balance. Think we're not critical enough? Think there are things left unsaid? Then go and start a blog yourself, and say so. The media: we're all about reducing barriers to entry.
Daily Blah for... Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Kerry's Meditative Moment
This self-imposed five-day break from fundraising, ostensibly to show some r-e-s-p-e-c-t for r-e-a-g-a-n, is easily the best thing that could have happened to Kerry at this stage. What you seldom get in the midst of campaign craziness is a moment to pause and reflect, to reconnect with your reasons for suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous politics. Five days on his front porch should be just the ticket for this guy, who despite his lead in the polls is badly in need of a long-term makeover. And who better to have staring out at him from the front page of every paper than the man who sold sunny optimism at all costs -- even as the deficit soared and the streets filled with the mentally ill?
There are some very simple truths about presidential politics that have held throughout the television age: The taller guy always wins. The more alpha male-like guy always wins. The guy who smiles more always wins. Project an air of confidence in a better future, and people lap it up like cat's milk.
P just played a song on the iPod called Things Can Only Get Better. For those of you that don't know, this was the theme tune for Tony Blair's first landslide victory in 1997. It could serve just as easily for Kerry. Just that single phrase is about all most voters care to hear or believe. Right now, they're not hearing it.
So here's my wishlist for what Kerry emerges with: first, an unshakeable certainty that John Edwards, Mr. Smile himself, is the man he wants to be standing next to, raised fist in raised fist, at every campaign stop from now through November. Secondly, a theme song: something heart-pumpingly upbeat. Cher's Believe would serve with just a slight lyrical alteration: Do you believe in life after Bush? And thirdly, a determination that he's not going to hold back: he's going to speak every truth on Iraq or the economy, but he's going to do so with the widest possible grin and confident body language that says: don't worry, this will all be over soon. The combination, as Reagan proved, is absolutely unimpeachable.
Daily Blah for... Tuesday, June 08, 2004
My Criminal Moments
The Stones fan came through for me, and I got my passport back the same day. The only thing that would have stood in the way, it turned out, was the criminal background check -- and he did that while I was standing there. "There are six criminals in the UK with your name," he said. "Luckily, none of them have your birthday. That could have held you up for a month." What a terrifying thought -- held virtual prisoner in Toronto, passport-less, because some evildoer with my name had the temerity to be born on the same day as me. We are all hostages to fate.
There was one more criminal check moment, and that was when I entered the country. Once again I stuck both index fingers in the biometric fingerprint scanner and posed for the digital eyeball camera. That was horrifyingly invasive enough, but I was too jet-lagged at that stage to care (as is the case, I imagine, with most travelers -- that's part of the reason why they get away with it). Then the passport-checker, who sounded as if she'd just learned English that morning, asked ominously if I'd ever been in trouble with the UK police. No, I said. Then she asked me to name all the places I had lived in the UK; luckily it's a short list, and I did so. She screwed up her face and looked at the computer. "You've never lived in ... Heart ... land?" she said. Where? I wanted to say. Do you perhaps mean Hertford? But I had no intention of spending one second longer with her than I needed to, so I just shook my head.
Then she became distracted by her computer, which was threatening to crash (not surprising, since Homeland Security's principle software contractor is Microsoft). The criminal moment had passed, for now. Time is currently applying for a green card on my behalf, and apparently one of the things the INS requires is a letter from a UK police department certifying I've never been in trouble with the law. Would the immigration service just get over itself? When will they stop treating all foreigners like potential lawbreakers? What do they want me to do, tattoo the words I AM NOT A CRIMINAL on my forehead?
The Martha Defense
Here's what that day of boredom in Redwood City yielded:
N O T E B O O K / T H E T R I A L S O F . . .
Peterson's Martha Defense
By CHRIS TAYLOR
Monday, Jun. 14, 2004
Martha Stewart was back in the legal spotlight last week — at another high-profile trial that has obsessed the media. As Scott Peterson went on trial for the murder of his pregnant wife Laci, the defense scored a surreal but key point by playing a videotape of the TV homemaker. Peterson had said that on the morning the prosecution says he killed Laci, she was watching Stewart talk about meringue. The Modesto, Calif., police department claimed no meringue was mentioned on Stewart's show that morning. But Peterson attorney Mark Geragos, in his opening statement, played the tape and showed otherwise.
That was just the first of many early embarrassments for the authorities. Geragos has displayed a talent for getting prosecution witnesses to point out inaccuracies in police reports. While prosecutors were trying to show that Laci was too tired to walk the family dog, as Peterson claims she was going to do the last time he saw her, they also inexplicably pointed out that she was able to go to a salon and a spa and buy about $100 worth of groceries that day. "It's a bit confusing what the prosecution is doing at this point," says former San Francisco district attorney Jim Hammer.
The trial, which is expected to last six months, has attracted plenty of press attention but surprisingly little O.J.-style circus atmosphere. Not only has Judge Alfred Delucchi placed a strict gag order on all participants, but the trial is taking place in Redwood City, Calif.--a town of Silicon Valley commuters with little interest in a murder case from almost 100 miles away. One edition of the local paper last week gave the Peterson trial less play than a story about a stray cat that had tied up traffic on Route 101.
The defense still has challenges ahead, such as explaining why Peterson was caught driving to Mexico with a change of hair color. (He says he was fleeing the media.) But if his legal team continues its hot start, Martha Stewart will be jealous.