tnr on russia

Russia doesn’t get much attention in the American press any more, unless a couple hundred kids get murdered in a school. But if you worry about global stability, this TNR piece is worth your time. I honestly had no idea how screwy Putin was getting.

evil nyt snobbery

There is much to love about The New York Times, but I am constantly surprised by its journalists’ capacity to be elitist, self-important assholes. This brief interview with America’s new poet laureate — who has apparently committed the capital offense of living in Nebraska — drips with snobbery and condescension. “But you must know of Czeslaw Milosz, the much-beloved Polish poet who recently died.” (“And surely I must find a way to work his name into the Times, so I can show all my fellow Cornell grads that I still read The Paris Review.”) So much posing for peers, so little humanity.

crabwalk turns three

Today marks’s third birthday.
(At least in its current form. It had a few abortive previous lives before the ol’ orange-and-yellow look arrived on Sept. 15, 2001.)
For the stat hounds in the house, I’ve posted 1,595 entries in the last three years. You (and your kind) have posted 2,597 comments. (Minus the hundreds of spam comments I’ve deleted.) That works out to 1.45 posts and 2.37 comments per day.
The top 20 search terms people have used most often to find this site: myskina, polier, nude, alexandra, anastasia, naked, topless, the, photos, sharapova, and, elisabeth, mix, kieselstein-cord, photo, alex, ohno, maria, pictures, lyrics.
You’ll notice a lot of hot naked women’s tennis players, mix CDs, Apolo Anton Ohno (the short-track speedskater), Elisabeth Kieselstein-Cord (the lovely young Manhattan heiress), and Alex Polier (the young woman who allegedly had a fling with John Kerry).
Other common search terms over the years: A.J. Hammer, Michael Pitts, Jamie Sale, fainting goats, Suzy Kolber, Tupac’s autopsy photos, Freelance Hellraiser, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Eran Karmon, Sofia Lidskog, and turducken.
In all, someone’s followed a link here or typed into a browser more than 300,000 times. Thanks for reading.

sloan coming to dallas

In June 1996, I was a wayward college student working at my first newspaper internship. I was in Toledo, and my searches for good music on Toledo radio were fruitless — until one day when, on the left of the dial, I discovered CIMX 89X, a Canadian station beaming all the finest sounds from Windsor, Ontario.
(89X has long since chosen to suck, so my musical taste shouldn’t be impugned by its current, Incubus-heavy lineup.)
The Canadian government requires all its television and radio stations to meet what it calls CanCon requirements. CanCon (“Canadian Content”) means stations must fill 35 percent of their airtime with native Canuck artists. For some stations, that means an overdose of Celine and Alanis; for others, more Gordon Lightfoot than you can shake the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald at. But in the mid-1990s, for an alt-rock station, it meant playing a ton of Halifax bands.
Halifax was the center of a burgeoning indie scene — a sort of reaction to the Seattle-y grunge sound. Lots of Beatles influences, the traditional Canadian embrace of slight quirkiness, and a strong belief in band democracy. That idea was exemplified by Sloan, the kings of the scene — the band’s four members each wrote and sang one quarter of their songs. With Sloan as benevolent dictators, other great bands started bubbling up: Thrush Hermit, Jale, Eric’s Trip, and the tremendous Super Friendz.
(I recommend the book Have Not Been the Same — the definitive history of modern Canadian indie rock — for those interested in further Halifax exposition.)
Anyway, on that summer day, driving on Monroe Street in Toledo, I heard Sloan’s The Good In Everyone. It was like eating raw sugar cane: pleasantly earthy, but sweet and addictive. I became a huge Sloan fan.
They’ve had a few missteps over the years (their last album was middling), but they’re always great live: bouncy, fun, funny, and invigorating.
Which brings me to my point, for the Dallasites in the hizzouse: Sloan is playing at Trees Thursday night. Tickets are $12.
Sloan hasn’t headlined a show in Dallas in years. Maybe ever — certainly not since ’99 or so. (In America, they’re only big in Canadian border cities — Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Minneapolis, etc.) A few years ago, I traded email with the band’s manager, pleading with them to roam southward. As bait, I even pointed out the existence of Sloaner, a Dallas band that plays only Sloan covers. But after years of delays, they’ve finally arrived. You should go to the show. I promise you’ll have a blast — they kick at least nine kinds of ass — and I want to make sure there’s a strong Dallas showing so the boys from Halifax come back soon.


YAWHS: “Wilmer-Hutchins board meeting turns rowdy.” Apparently I was on all the TV stations last night, watching intently as people were stopped from punching one another. (I was the devilishly handsome guy in the shirt and pants.)

silly overtime rules

I take no position on the Bush administration’s new rules on overtime. (For those who haven’t kept up, in essence, they make it easier for some workers to be classified as “creative professionals” or “learned professionals” and thus not eligible for mandatory overtime pay. If a worker is defined as a “professional” under the new regulations, his company can decide not to pay him overtime and require work weeks substantially longer than 40 hours.)
But I do object to unclear rules that make no sense.
Check out this 16-page PDF. It’s the summary, career field by career field, of the new rules that allow your company to determine whether or not you’re a “professional.” (It covers everything from insurance claims adjusters to dental hygienists to chefs to embalmers.) On page 8 (page 22666 of the Federal Register), we find the section on journalists:
Journalists may satisfy the duties requirements for the creative professional exemption if their primary duty is work requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent, as opposed to work which depends primarily on intelligence, diligence and accuracy.
Okay, so if your job as a journalist involves being talented, original, or imaginative, you’re a creative professional and not eligible for overtime. But if it requires you to be smart and accurate, you’re not. Apparently, these two sets of skills are opposed to one another, thus allowing a clear division of labor.
Everybody clear on that? The regulations continue:
Employees of newspapers, magazines, television and other media are not exempt creative professionals if they only collect, organize and record information that is routine or already public, or if they do not contribute a unique interpretation or analysis to a news product. Thus, for example, newspaper reporters who merely rewrite press releases or who write standard recounts of public information by gathering facts on routine community events are not exempt creative professionals.
Okay, so if I “write standard recounts” on “routine community events,” I can get overtime. But if I add something “unique,” I can’t. So if I attend a superintendent’s press conference and write a story about it, I get paid overtime, but if I ask him a question, I don’t? Or if my “recounts” of the “community events” aren’t quite “standard” enough? Perhaps if I write it all it capital letters, or avoid using commas? Or maybe if the event I’m covering is only questionably “routine”?
There’s more:
Reporters also do not qualify as exempt creative professionals if their work product is subject to substantial control by the employer.
Every reporter for every news organization in the world has an editor. That editor can decide not to publish your story. Or to cut out the last three paragraphs if space is tight in tomorrow’s paper. Or change your verb tense or kill an adjective or add a pronoun. That’s “substantial control by the employer,” isn’t it?
However, journalists may qualify as exempt creative professionals if their primary duty is performing on the air in radio, television or other electronic media; conducting investigative interviews; analyzing or interpreting public events; writing editorials, opinion columns or other commentary; or acting as a narrator or commentator.
Okay, so if my interviews are “investigative,” I’m a creative professional. But isn’t every reporter investigative? I mean, the whole point of being a reporter is to find out what happened somewhere and write about it. The lowliest reporter is at least as investigative as most private investigators. And “analyzing or interpreting public events”? What reporter doesn’t do that? Every action a reporter takes in working a story involves “analyzing” — from figuring out who to call or interview to determining what documents you need to request or what angle to take on a story.
So, to sum up, I’m not eligible for overtime because I have talent, use my imagination, analyze public events, and ask people questions seeking answers.
But I am eligible for overtime because I’m smart and diligent, try to be accurate, sometimes report public information or attend press conferences, and have an editor.
Phew, I’m glad we cleared that up.

whisd, zambia photos

Today’s Wilmer-Hutchins front-pager: “FBI agents and Texas Rangers seized documents and served subpoenas at Wilmer-Hutchins school administration buildings Thursday, and a federal grand jury investigation is under way. Investigators from both agencies interviewed top district officials at Wilmer-Hutchins headquarters. It’s the latest expansion of a broad corruption inquiry that also includes the Texas Education Agency, the U.S. attorney’s office, the county district attorney’s office and the district’s own police department.”
Also, a sneak peak for readers: a gallery of photos to accompany my upcoming Zambia story, which is set to run Sunday. (Several of these photos will be in the paper, but I’ve thrown up some extras, too.) The story is about the impact of HIV/AIDS on Zambia’s education system.
And with that, I fly louisvilleward. Adieu, adieu.