A Range of Things

Call it an inability to fix on anything in particular.

There's Stephen Colbert in Iraq, with a great comparison of Colbert and Bob Hope's trips to Vietman:

When Hope went on the road, and his trips to military bases spanned World War II and Operation Desert Storm, his audiences were young, overwhelmingly male and cut off from home. Even in Vietnam servicemen relied on letters and the occasional scratchy phone call. Hope’s lighthearted cracks about the military, war and women were tailored to amuse and comfort the men on the ground.

Mr. Colbert’s skits and stunts — a mock stint in basic training, a haircut administered by Gen. Ray Odierno (ordered, jokingly, by President Obama via a pretaped message) — were designed to hold the attention of easily distracted audiences back home.

Today’s troops are hardly starved for entertainment; they have laptops, video cameras, satellite phones and every iteration of the Internet, including Skype, Facebook and Gchats. They stay tuned to television, even Comedy Central. Mr. Colbert’s show is broadcast at 6:30 and 11:30 p.m. Central European time on the American Forces Network. He worked in references to “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and even the bickering stars of “Jon & Kate Plus 8.”

The article continues:
There’s another difference. When NBC broadcast Hope’s Vietnam Christmas specials in the early 1970s (he performed on Christmas Day, but the fully produced shows were not televised until January), they drew 60 percent of the viewing audience. No conflict has ever been as instantly and closely covered as the Iraq War, but access spurs complacency. In the fractured universe of cable and the Internet, the entertaining of troops doesn’t get a lot of attention. World Wrestling Entertainment produces the annual tribute to the troops; Kellie Pickler, a former “American Idol” contestant who went to Iraq on last year’s U.S.O. holiday tour, made a video diary of her tour that was shown on GAC, the Great American Country cable network.
Not starved for entertainment in any way, there's Eric Neel's excellent piece on Lakers coach Phil Jackson (via FB&G):

[Phil's] not getting around quite as quickly as he used to. At 64, he battles chronic plantar fasciitis. He has had both hips replaced in the past few years and sits on the sideline in a special, padded orthopedic chair. He occasionally ambles gingerly from one spot on the practice floor to another.

He conducts one postgame news conference during the Denver series while standing up behind a microphone stand because someone has forgotten the staircase leading to the dais. When he hesitates beforehand, thinking of making the big step up onto the platform and then thinking better of it, the slight awkwardness, the little hesitation in the moment, resonates.

He says the momentum of a season, once it has begun, carries him along, but for how many more seasons will that be the case? What toll is the workload taking on his body now? Will he have the energy to mount another charge?

What else does he have to prove? He won his first title with the Bulls in 1991, and he's one victory away from his 10th now 18 years later.

Are we looking at the last stages of a remarkable run? Will winning or losing a title this season make him more or less likely to hang it up?

Will he have a chance to reflect on his record, on his legacy, at the close of this season? And what will it mean to him, if anything?

The questions seem to hang in the air.

"You sense those things," says longtime assistant Jim Cleamons, reflecting on his run with Jackson since the Chicago days. "Legacy, fatigue, pride, disappointment, you're aware of those things when you're alone in a quiet place, but they're just shadows. It's almost like you see them in passing, out of the corner of your eye. You don't look them straight on. You stay in the work."

And as a last brief note on craft, an interview with Malcolm Gladwell (via Arts & Letters)

Modesty may not be Gladwell's natural mode, but nor is he arrogant in any unpleasant way. But, yes, sir, he did do the necessary apprenticeship to become excellent at what he does. "There is this moment of mastery that descends," he offers. It happened for him as a reporter one afternoon in 1993 when a gunman had opened fire on a Long Island commuter train. Gladwell was the New York bureau chief for The Washington Post at the time. With the first deadline almost upon him, he made it out to the scene and dictated the entire front-page story over the phone without writing down a single word.

"In my first years I wouldn't have conceived of doing it," he says. "I just got on the phone and called it in and didn't think twice about it." He has since done a "back-of-the-envelope" calculation of the hours spent writing for the paper up until that day. Ten thousand hours, of course. "It's a marvellous moment. There is a reason why cognitively complicated jobs require long apprenticeships."

He puts journalism into this category deliberately. His other employer, aside from his publisher, is The New Yorker magazine, and his next submission will be an essay on the craft of news reporting and why it must be coddled and sheltered in an age of struggling newspapers. What makes him "mad" he says, is the notion that a newspaper is merely "a monopoly protected by printing press and that the thing being called a journalist is the chance to write the news, as if there isn't this separate set of skills that are difficult to acquire and worthy of preservation. You can't start blogging at 23 and call yourself a journalist."

Nor does one call oneself a writer when writing consists of Ctrl-V and Ctrl-C. Maybe more will tap its way along once I finish the stacks of grading in front of me. And jury duty. Can't forget about the jury duty.

[The irony of this post is that I started out intending to note something about Iran. And then I forgot (cue "modern age" music, inability to pay attention a function of too many tabs open in Firefox. Sigh.). So, in a well-rehearsed move, I direct your attention to the New York Times' (here) and The Guardian's (here) blogs on Iran. ]


Popular Posts