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Pat Piper has made a career learning something new. As a journalist in the news business, “something new” occurs every hour so he’s becoming an expert at understanding stuff he never thought about. Learning became a common word in “Future Talk: Conversations About Tomorrow” (Warner Books), the popular book he ghostwrote with Larry King as […]

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Archive for May, 2014

Talking to Maya

By on May 29, 2014 in See It Here

When I wrote Future Talk with Larry King we were about to start writing checks beginning with the numbers “20” instead of “19.” Yeah, I know, nobody writes checks anymore.

One of the people interviewed was Maya Angelou who read  “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Clinton’s 1993 Inauguration. Because this book was about what to expect in the 21st century, that was my first question:

I would hope our fascination with technology does not separate us from our souls. I would hope that CD-Roms and web pages don’t separate us from our respect for each other. My office is replete with computers but I still write on long yellow pads. I have three in front of me right now.

I asked what scares her about the coming century.

Isolation. We are a people, we are a school, we are a group. And we are weakened when we are separated. But there’s a uniqueness in each of us. However, all together is when we are at our best and our strongest, and you can see that when we have a crisis. Something pushes us to each other when there’s hurricane or a fire. I hate the crisis but I love to turn on the television and hear that firefighters have gone from North Carolina to California to help.

Ms. Angelou said she hoped poems would be read aloud and to others. We run together. We jog together. We walk together. High school students will be amazed to hear their voices read those words written by someone else, maybe two or three hundred years earlier.  When you read to someone else you are doing the reading but you are also doing the listening.

And as we were moving toward the conclusion of our talk (she had a class to teach), I asked about a news story where a school board was facing budget troubles and decided to do away with arts classes as a way to save money. Maya Angelou had read the same story.

That’s the last thing to cut back. We are forever talking about protecting the life of the environment but we never talk about protecting the life of the soul.

That line has stayed with me. And now 14 years into this new century, I think all of us can see the state of our collective soul. And I wonder, from time to time, what our world would be like had Maya Angelou never made an entrance. I think we all know that answer. We have a hell of a lot of work to do but the optimist in me says someone gave us a solid start.

Why?

By on May 19, 2014 in See It Here

There are lots of ideas out there about why we’re here. Some look to God, others to a different name, some look inside in search of some kind of internal truth residing in all of us just waiting to be put to work on the outside. Emerson says we’re here to make some kind of difference than had we not been here. Dostoyevsky suggests there’s more to just staying alive; it’s to have a purpose. Dr. Hunter Thompson says any person giving advice to another about “why” and “what to do” is getting dangerously close to egomania. I’ve always leaned toward Emerson (much to the disappointment of Hunter Thompson).

When Dan died last week, this question was answered with clarity.

I got the news, turned to some co-workers and said “he’s gone.” There was a minute of disbelief about our world no longer containing Dan. “Oh no,” and “Oh my God,” were followed by silence as each of us slowly allowed this fact become a very real thing.

And then smiles appeared.

“Do you remember that joke he told…” one said. “Do you remember the time when Dan…” and soon the three of us had tears as we laughed.

I think that’s our purpose: to improve a moment even if, suddenly, you’re not there to see it.

(Geez, Hunter Thompson is yelling at me again…)

Introducing The Stupid Channel (sponsored by ConspiracyTheory.com)

By on May 6, 2014 in See It Here

May 6, 2014

In one of those brief moments between newscasts a few days ago, I was looking at the some of the stories available: one was Cliven Bundy telling someone that he was misquoted in the media though he still thinks “negroes” are better off as slaves while some group called the Oath Keepers were saying Attorney General Eric Holder had approved a drone strike near the Bundy ranch to rid the area of Bundy’s self-appointed militia supporters.

And then there’s NBA owner Donald Sterling who is right up there with Cliven. And then Dennis Rodman says his “best friend” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle really wasn’t executed and fed to the dogs because he had just seen him during a recent diplomatic visit.

The news business requires us to tell the world what’s going on. But, in this time of social media,  anyone with a Twitter account can offer everyone else their feelings about a topic in 140 words along with Facebook posts and iPhone pics. News has started telling us what’s “trending” which means here’s what’s being read online. I understand we use the Internet to get the news but I don’t care that more people are reading about Chicago’s mayor being upset about schools than are reading about a cruise ship running aground in the Hudson River. But we do it because, well, because we can.

As you’ve probably noticed, television (and radio and magazines and even newspapers) operate in a world of   “need-it-now-don’t waste-my-time” and “you-won’t see-this-anywhere-else” along with “exclusive” hype. The result is non-news can now sit on the same stage with real news. And every time it gets the chance, it does so with a loud voice.

I find myself coming back to the words of Bill Clinton: “we’re better than this.”

Indeed, many newscasts will use a cute story at the end (it’s called a “kicker”) just to leave the viewer or listener with a nice feeling after telling us that 46 people are dead in tornadoes or 327 are missing in a ferry sinking or that Harry Reid is angry with the failed vote on the minimum wage  bill. I understand that and there’s a place for this. But covering stupid things is showing up on the stage more and more.

In the past month, all the television talk shows were filled with hosts and guests “outraged” at Donald Sterling. It went on for days. Before that, the same shows, spent more time being “outraged” at Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s stupid words than on the issue of whether his cattle really are illegally grazing on Bureau of Land Management property. And every time Dennis Rodman has another intellectual gem about his best friend, it’s another wasted thirty seconds on nonsense instead of using that time for something worthwhile. Stupid is taking more and more of our time.

Would it make sense to just throw all of this on TSC:  The Stupid Channel –“Give us 22 minutes and we’ll show you every clown we can.” That way, there would be room for news on newscasts. And maybe we would learn something other than there are a lot of morons near a microphone.

No, I didn’t use any of those stories in the next newscast.

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