Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blood money

Good Wednesday. I hope all who celebrated had a meaningful Yom Kippur and an easy fast. It's a 25-hour fast, really more than that because you have to say the evening service, then wait for the food to be prepared.

It's physically and spiritually cleansing, however.

At the same time, my wife and I have been to funerals on succeeding Tuesdays. It's something we hope doesn't continue.

And now on to the subject of the day, corporations, media corporations, which make money by slaughtering (financially, that is) people who have given heart and soul to the place.

No, I'm not talking about the Journal-Register, which seems to have kept the word of its interim chairman not to lay off any more people in New Haven, at least.

This time, it's my former employer, the Gannett Corp.

An item on the WSJ wire:

"Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today, said it expects to report third-quarter profit that far exceeds forecasts on Wall Street, adding to hopes that the worst of the downturn may be over for traditional media outlets such as publishers and broadcasters.

"Gannett also announced plans to sell $400 million in five- and eight-year notes as it joins the raft of companies raising fresh capital to pay off other debt.

Following the announcement, shares of Gannett rose about 17% to $11.69 in Tuesday morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, extending a strong summer rally in the stock."

Well, whoopdy doo. It doesn't say how Gannett is going to accomplish this. It's selling bonds to pay off previous bondholders so it doesn't have to declare bankruptcy in 2011, as rumored.

Gannett is the nation's largest newspaper chain and publisher of The Journal News, a shadow of its former self, in Westchester.

A friend inside the paper, who is still employed, says that the latest bloodletting in August carried away some of the most talented people, especially photographers and photo editors. I won't mention the name of this friend because I want the friend to continue to be employed.

I couldn't believe who was let go. Three photographers who had won just about every photo award short of the Pulitzer Prize were let go. One had passed on the early retirement package that I took because that person needed the medical benefit and the income to take care of a sick relative. There is no mercy in Gannettland.

Two talented photographers who had been there for at least 20 years and two photo editors, including one who had been there for at least a dozen years.

The business editor and the financial editor, both gone. A great New York Giants beat writer, gone. A copy editor who had moved up from the South to learn Yankee ways, gone. The Yankees beat writer hit the road to Boston.

The place is a mess. But there are still managing editors, deputy managing editors, all kinds of middle managers. Glad to see the back of it. I wish those who are left much patience.

It slices; it dices

Are you as sick of stacked ads on television as I am? Sue and I counted 11 stacked ads between program segments on either USA or TNT or both.

One that gets my goat is the "free credit report." What a rip. Yes, if you sign up for the credit watch program, you can get a credit report. But you need to sign up for the service before you get the credit report, so how is it free?

In addition, on some of those that you get as a "service" through your credit card, you may get a report, but with some of them, if you want your credit score, you need to fork over $12.

And to top it all off, there are three credit-rating agencies from which you should get reports. You want the other two? Fork over another $30 or so.

So, you pirate guy, shut up.

And speaking of shut up, how about the WCBS sportscaster who is always talking about refinancing his house through this mortgage banker and not dealing with "my bank."

Well, Gary Stanley, if your bank is so horrible, why is it still your bank? Change banks and shut up. Please.

Bye, bye Bambi

In the lede of this posting, I talked about attending funerals on two succeeding Tuesdays.

This last one was for Bambi Bixon. Bambi's given name was Beatrice, but nobody called her that.

Bambi was one of the stalwart group that meets once a week to study the Hebrew Bible, hoping to get to all 24 books of it . Bambi was one of that group.

She was born in Brooklyn, married, had one son.

Bambi was a woman of sublime intellect, razor-sharp inquisitiveness, wonderful sense of humor and asked and gave no quarter. She had a difficult life, but found sublime satisfaction with her relationship with friends in Iceland. She went there every summer.

She loved things Norse, and I hope when she gets to heaven, as she surely will, it appears to her as the Hall of the Valkyrie.

She was a tough lady, a feminist to the end, and we will all miss her. She would rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, and if there is any justice, she will get to laugh with the saints, because she certainly belongs there.

Her funeral was a traditional Jewish affair that she helped plan as her final illness progressed as she knew it would. But in my heart of hearts, I would have loved to see her on a Viking ship, sailing slowly into the sunset as the flaming arrows set it afire.

Fare well, Bambi.

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Tuesday and here we go again

Hello. Thanks for looking in.

As I said last week, it's been a long time, about a month, since there was something written in this space. A lot has happened, and some of that has to do with why it's been a long time since something had been written in this space.

So, let's get right to it.

First of all, thanks to all of you who have checked back from time to time, even though the same old, same old was here.

In fact, since this blog began in December, 2006, there have been more than 10,000 hits on it. Now, some places get that many hits in a minute or less, but this is one guy's blog with nothing to sell or no ax to grind. So, not bad.

Thank you all.

Speaking of that, I just got an e-mail asking me if, for money, I wanted to review others' blogs and products. No, thanks. It's not that I'm too precious, it's just that I want to be able to say what I want to say, when I want to say it.

The only criteria to which I want to adhere is that it's really my opinion, it's hadn't been bought and paid for, and (hopefully) the logic makes some kind of sense. That's the goal.

So, let's start out with the second 10,000. By the way, the counter doesn't count me. I have a way of making that happen. Isn't software wonderful...when it works?

So where ya been?

Many of you know I free-lance for the New Haven Independent, a Web-only news site that covers New Haven. I had a few stories to cover. More about that later. My daughter also had a boy. I talked about Aaron and his b'ris in a previous posting.

Well, when that was written, it looked as if he was headed to a full recovery. No so, at least not
then. He was taken back to the hospital, and, of course, we had to be there to help. He seems to be on the right path now, thank God.

Add a bit of personal illness, some other concerns, a bit of plain laziness and that's where the time went.

The Annie Le caper

As I said, I work for the New Haven Independent on a part-time basis. Those guys did a great, wonderful, marvelous job of covering the Annie Le tragedy, breaking lots of stories and angles but not giving out the name of the suspect until he was arrested.

Some news organizations could only say they were the first to give out the suspect's name when he was little more than a twinkle in the cops' eyes. Others messed up the coverage altogether. And then there are the cable channels, the headline channels, with their "experts," shrinks who knew little about the case but said the motive for the slaying of the Yale graduate student, must be unrequited love, class jealousy and a dozen other things on the part of the young man who has been charged in her slaying.

By the way, the crime has been called murder. It's not until a jury says it is. It's a homicide. The prosecution says it was murder, but haven't said which kind, whether murder, capital felony, or felony murder. It couldn't be arson murder.

If the defense can convince the jury that there was extreme emotional disturbance, then the verdict could be manslaughter. Unlike Law & Order, in Connecticut, extreme indifference to human life is manslaughter in the first degree, not Jack McKoy's ubiquitous murder in the second degree. So, for now, it's a homicide. You want to know more? Look it up.

By the way, I had little to do with the coverage. It wasn't planned that just worked out that way. My old boss at the Journal-Courier of New Haven, Bob Granger, used to say that even the biggest story is still only one story out of many. I covered some of the rest. Some were pretty exciting, others routine.

Therefore, I feel I can comment about the coverage without patting myself on the back. Just so you know.

Marcia Chambers, who runs the Branford Eagle, which is part of the Independent family, broke the story about the suspect's former girlfriend telling the cops he made her have sex.

The story was well-documented and sourced. But the next day, it became "Yale hell-raiser's sex shocker" in the New York Post, complete with photo of the suspect dressed as the devil taking up Page One of the tabloid.

The latest is that paper's story saying that the victim's bones were crushed to get her into the utility space where her body was found. No basis in fact, the cops said.

The definition of a newspaper story I've always used is: The best possible version of the truth.

Getting it on the street first is good; getting it right first is better, getting it first and right is best.

That's what the Independent folks did. First and right. I'm as proud to be associated with these folks as any I've dealt with in my long practice of the craft of journalism.

That's saying something.

Apologies to New Jersey, New York and Maryland

Often in the past, l have excoriated drivers from New Jersey, New York and Maryland for being selfish, unskilled, witless -- you get the idea. I feel I have to apologize.

They have nothing on New Haven drivers. I'm not sure if they always have been this way and I hadn't noticed, or if some spore from the planet Stupidity has come to Earth and infected drivers around New Haven.

The light turns red. Traffic stops, but only after four cars have flown through the intersection. The light turns green. You had better count to five slowly before proceeding. Cell phones...sorry, Dick Roy, but yours is the least obeyed law in the state, including that against adultery. Dick Roy, by the way, is a Milford state legislator and former newspaperman who campaigned for years to get the cell phone ban enacted.

Stand at any corner. If the number of drivers not talking on cell phones exceeds the number gabbing while driving, you are witnessing a rare event. Phone in one hand, sandwich in the other. Wheel being grasped by two fingers, or perhaps one. Or that one is reserved for other drivers.

State law says pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks. Ha!

Just stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. You're lucky if all you get is a klaxon blast from the car in back of you. And, of course, the dolt trying to cross the street takes his or her sweet time talking -- you guessed it -- on a cell phone.

Drive along Whalley Avenue east of Westville Village. Crossing of the street is done everywhere EXCEPT at the crosswalk. Walk a few feet along the sidewalk to the corner, dear pedestrian, and YOU have the right of way. Cross in the middle of the block, and you don't. Laziness or stupidity. Or both.

Speaking of stupid

We have been entertained in the past few weeks by a flock of wild turkeys in our yard.

Five turkeys live nearby and spend a couple mornings a week in our garden.

Today was especially entertaining. Two of the turkeys -- I think they are all hens -- got into our garden and couldn't figure a way to get out. They strutted down one length of fence, maybe 10 feet, and when they hit the corner, they reversed course, oblivious to the opening in the fence perhaps five steps away.

I thought I'd have some fun, so I got my wife's duck call (used in office pranks, not hunting) and sounded off. Now they really got nervous and they bumped into each other, walked along the fence opposite to the opening. My wife finally want out onto the deck and pointed to the opening.

No sale. But two others came along and must have said something like, "Hey, did you forget you could fly?" One flew over the chicken wire fence, which is all of three feet high. The other paced for another minute, then flew off.

The flock was last seen heading for another yard.

I guess they come to our yard because the word is out we don't cook or eat meat at home (or anywhere else if we have a choice) and they know we're not eyeing them for Thanksgiving.

Or maybe they just don't want to take a chance cross the street. After all, this is New Haven.

Until next time, soon...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guest blog; I'll be back soon

This guest column is by Susan R.A. Honeyman

I'm saddened by the death of Mary Travers. We saw her group earlier this year in Waterbury -- one of her last performances was a benefit for public radio. She was hooked up to an oxygen tank and so weak the she would often gesture for the audience to sing her part while she rested. Her singing no longer mattered, though. Instead her voice was the honesty and conviction in how she lived her life. The audience was so appreciative of the courage of this valiant woman. Instead of concert, we were just 2,000 friends singing together for a better world.
When the gracious depart, the world is diminished.

This is the Lens back again.

It's been a month since this blog appeared, and yet some of you have come back from time to time to see if that guy has anything worthwhile to say.

Thank you. Keep it up.

There were a number of things that demanded my time. I'm not to kind who can dash off a column in 15 minutes and have it make sense. So, if you can't say anything well, don't say anything.

One hopes that some of these demands on my time will end soon. Then again, i hope that other demands on my time never end.

I'll explain further when I come back -- soon. I promise.

In the meantime, to those in the Tribe, a wonderful new year, 5770. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good, happy, healthy and satisfying year.

And by the way, if you have been following the Annie Le case in any other place except the New Haven Independent, you are missing out. Find it here.

Until next time...