Archive

Archive for the ‘Newspapers’ Category

New Day for Metropolitan Diary

March 26, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been a long-time fan of the NYT’s weekly Metropolitan Diary feature. Fellow readers will know that each Diary consists of four to six short tales sent in by readers, each showing the human side of life in New York: conversations overheard on the bus; unexpected encounters on the street; clever remarks by storekeepers or taxi drivers; an appreciative note from a tourist. In recent years, the Diary has been a Monday staple. In the national edition, one would find it by turning a page or two forward from the editorial page.

As I began to move more of my NYT reading from the printed paper to the internet, I found that I would sometimes forget to read the Diary. Having already scanned the website Sunday night for most of the items of interest, I would take a quick look at the paper Monday morning and miss the Diary. Thanks to OmniFocus, I solved that problem — I added a weekly reminder that appears each Sunday telling me to read the Diary. Come evening, I do a search at the NYT website for Met Diary, find it, and read it. I no longer worry that the Diary will go unread.

Last night, though, something strange happened. I searched and searched without finding the Diary. Finally, I discovered that starting two days ago, the Metropolitan Diary has been converted from a weekly feature to a daily one. Online anyway. The weekly format will continue in the print edition, but each day a single Diary entry will appear online. Here is the explanation of the new system (along with perhaps a better description of the Diary than the one I attempted above):

For nearly 36 years, Metropolitan Diary has been a place for New Yorkers, past and present, to share odd fleeting moments at Bloomingdale’s, at the deli around the corner, in the elevator or at the movies. Since its debut, overheard conversations have shifted from the backseat of Checker cabs to Crown Vics, from pay-phone booths to cellphones and from the IRT to the JMZ. Still, punch lines delivered by surly waiters, witty train conductors, lively bus drivers, erudite window washers and adult children facing off with an overbearing parent continue to surprise us.

Glenn Collins, the third editor of the column, one of nearly a dozen diary editors, called it an “elegant cocktail of the city.”

While it’s hard to imagine a 20-pound mailbag as “interactive,” back in 1976, when Metropolitan Diary first appeared in The New York Times, a letterbox was the only inbox that existed. Predating the Internet and fax machines, the diary was an early example of a user-generated feature at the newspaper and served as a constant dialogue between readers and editors that captured the zeitgeist.

Taking this concept into the age of the Internet, we aim to make Metropolitan Diary even more interactive on City Room. For our dedicated newspaper readers, not to worry. You’ll still be able to read items in print on Mondays; but online, you can now share and comment on your favorite entries.

[snip]

Published contributors were once rewarded with a Champagne delivery, but today’s reward is a bylined entry into New York’s story canon, an ingredient of this “elegant cocktail of the city.”

Sometimes it takes readers years to gather the courage to submit, while others offer these New York moments unabashedly. Whatever your speed, whatever your medium, we hope you’ll share your tale with us.

You can read the initial four entries here. Plus, you can subscribe to the RSS feed. I did last night. No need anymore for my elaborate Sunday reminder and search system. I can instead await the new one each day in my newsreader.

I do have one beef with the Diary: the tradition too many entrants follow of concluding their tales with “Only in New York.” Geez. Really? If you’re standing on 34th Street, you look up, and you see a gorilla atop the Empire State Building, fine, submit a piece to Metropolitan Diary and say “Only in New York.” I get that. But otherwise, spare me. It just ruins the story.

Advertisements
Categories: Humor, Newspapers

Wine and WSJ

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment

[F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal]

I don’t know much about wine. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy reading the Saturday wine columns in the Wall Street Journal. I considered it a major calamity when the wife-and-husband team of Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher were dropped without explanation at the end of 2009, but I’ve since grown accustomed to their alternating replacements, Lettie Teague and Jay McInerney.

Soon I will be taking my leave of them. They’re not going anywhere; I am. I have decided to stop taking the WSJ once my current one-year commitment comes to an end.

Why? Rupert Murdoch. Need I say more? I can’t stomach contributing to his enterprise. Yes, I know. That means I should also stop watching any and all shows on FOX television. And avoid all other Murdoch-based intrusions on my life. Maybe I will. One step at a time. And the first step is, no more WSJ.

It’s not like I read all that much in the WSJ anyway. I try to remember to look at the daily book reviews. Once a week, this is a problem, since the book review occupies the same page as some of the op-ed contributions, and that one day a week I need to avoid letting my eyes fall on the column by, well, I dare not say his name. That man of evil who is an anagram of Vorr Lake. Not that there is a Vorr Lake, but that’s the best anagram I could come up with. Maybe you can do better.

I look at the sports coverage, the arts and culture coverage. On Fridays, there’s the Friday Journal, a culture section. On Saturdays, another weekly culture section was recently expanded and split in two, resulting in what’s now called Review and Off Duty. I have to say, I will miss them. I think they are extremely well done. I always make it a point to read the contributions of Dan Neil, the automotive columnist and a fine writer. Terry Teachout always has informative pieces on regional theater throughout the US. And then there are Lettie and Jay.

Which brings me to Lettie’s piece yesterday. Off Duty was a special issue devoted to Italy. Accordingly, Lettie wrote about Italian wines:

The wine world is rife with clichés (wines are “made in the vineyard” or “express a terroir”), but the most persistent cliché is that Italian wines go well with food—perhaps better than any other wines in the world. Is it possible that this is one cliché that might actually be true?

There are several reasons why I think it could. First of all, the Italians put the two together quite often, perhaps more often than anyone else. Wine is an important, even inevitable, part of an Italian meal.

Second of all are the wines themselves. An Italian wine has a lot of acidity. Italians love acidity the way Americans love sugar or the way the French love a wine that only they can pronounce properly. Acidity is a critical component in a wine paired with food. It can cut through the fat of a Florentine steak or the richness of a plate of pasta Bolognese. A wine with low acidity becomes tiresome to drink, while a wine with a brisk acidity keeps the palate stimulated. Or as Tuscan producer Giovanni Folonari put it, “Acidity makes you want to eat and drink more.” (Who knew acidity was also an Italian sales tool?)

That’s the start of the article. In the end, after a tasting of 40 or so wines, she recommends five. Regarding the tasting, she explains, “I chose wines from all over the boot—from the Valle d’Aoste, in Italy’s extreme north, to Sicily—and concentrated on examples that had the characteristics that would make them good companions to food. They weren’t necessarily the showiest wines—Barolos and Barbarescos or Super Tuscans (though such wines from the right producers can go well with food, too). Instead, they were the earthier, less exalted (and less expensive) wines—the kind the Italians themselves most commonly drink with meals.”

Follow the link to see what she suggests. There’s a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for just $11 that I’m thinking we should add to our cellar, since we’re always happy to drink Montepulciano.

Wines aside, you might enjoy the accompanying slide show from around Italy.

Ciao, Lettie. Ciao, WSJ. I wish things could have been different.

Categories: Newspapers, Wine

Grace Slick Interview

April 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Just a guess, but I’m thinking some of you might have missed the Wall Street Journal’s Grace Slick interview in yesterday’s paper. As a service to the Ron’s View readership, here is the link.

The interview is short, so I don’t want to quote much from it. Here’s one excerpt:

What happened at the White House in the early ’70s?

Tricia Nixon went to the same New York girls’ finishing school [Finch College, now defunct] that I did, but 10 years later. When I attended, my maiden name was Wing. Tricia invited all the graduates, including me, to a White House tea party. Her people didn’t know that Grace Wing was Grace Slick [her first husband was Jerry Slick]. So I called Abbie Hoffman and said, “Guess where we’re going.” I had planned to spike Richard Nixon’s tea with acid. But when Abbie and I were on line, a security guard wouldn’t let me in. He said, “We checked and you’re a security risk.”

The Airplane was my favorite group through my late high school and early college years. When in high school, I saw them perform at nearby Westbury Music Fair. And I spent my first fall in Cambridge making fruitless daily walks to The Coop to see if their soon-to-be-released album Volunteers had arrived. Fifteen years later, just before Gail and I married, she and Jessica had a roommate whose brother played in Jefferson Starship. Which is as close as I got to Grace.

Categories: Music, Newspapers

Gathering For Gardner

April 9, 2010 Leave a comment

I wrote two days ago about buying an iPad, mentioning in passing that one of the apps I had downloaded for it was the WSJ app. Yesterday I explored how it works. It’s really good. What it does is download and keep on the iPad the last seven days of the paper. The next day — if you bring up the app the next day — it deletes the oldest of the seven days and downloads the current day. You select the day you want, choose the section of the paper you want, and then start reading. In one mode, all the articles of that section are listed in a column on the right. When you tap on one of the articles, it comes up, with the column still there on the right so that you can go straight to any other article you wish. To continue reading a multi-page article, or to go back a page, you do the standard horizontal swipe.

Of course, this isn’t free. I don’t know what it costs to subscribe anew. As a print/online subscriber, I get iPad access, for now, at no additional cost. Apparently the WSJ will soon charge print subscribers.

Anyway, since we were back in New York a week ago, we didn’t get last Friday’s paper. As I explored the iPad edition of the WSJ yesterday, I realized I could look at Friday’s missed paper with just a tap. So I did, heading straight to the Weekend Journal, where I happily discovered an article on Martin Gardner that I would otherwise have missed. It’s a rare day when any major newspaper has an article with mathematical content. I’m glad I found this one.

Though not himself a mathematician, Gardner is one of history’s great popularizers of mathematics, through his long-running “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American. He is as well one of the great debunkers of pseudo-science. The WSJ article describes the 9th annual conference in honor of Gardner, held two weeks ago in Atlanta. From the article:

. . . a four-day conference in honor of Martin Gardner, 95, a public intellectual whose most famous pulpit was “Mathematical Games,” written for Scientific American between 1956 and 1981. Mr. Gardner’s column illuminated the beauty of math and logic in discussions of fractals, origami, optical illusions, puzzles and pseudoscience. It challenged readers to discover how finely math and logic are interwoven through the world.

. . .

Puzzles are instructive, Mr. Gardner found, for they teach us to appreciate hidden structures of the world that are not owned by any particular discipline and are potentially useful to all. He saw the world as resembling not a magazine, where the subject of each section bears little relation to that of the next, but a well-written novel, where ideas introduced in one chapter are apt to reappear—transformed, modulated and extended—in others. He taught his readers to see the world in the same way, inculcating in them an openness and alertness to the often surprising possibilities of the world, and the desire to seek them out.

Categories: Math, Newspapers, Technology

In Control Here

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

[D. Gorton/The New York Times]

When I read on Saturday that Al Haig had died, I immediately thought of his famous line, uttered in the aftermath of the assassination attempt in 1981 on Ronald Reagan, that he was in control. The fact that as secretary of state he was fourth in line to succeed Reagan as president didn’t seem to get in the way of his assertion of power. I can’t think of Haig without thinking of that moment.

It turns out I’m not alone. Every obituary or remembrance that I saw led with this low point in his career. I especially enjoyed Tim Weiner’s clever lead-in to the incident in his NYT obituary. In case you missed it, here are the opening three paragraphs:

Alexander M. Haig Jr., the four-star general who served as a confrontational secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan and a commanding White House chief of staff as the Nixon administration crumbled, died Saturday at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, according to a hospital spokesman. He was 85.

Mr. Haig was a rare American breed: a political general. His bids for the presidency quickly came undone. But his ambition to be president was thinly veiled, and that was his undoing. He knew, Reagan’s aide Lyn Nofziger once said, that “the third paragraph of his obit” would detail his conduct in the hours after President Reagan was shot, on March 30, 1981.

That day, Secretary of State Haig wrongly declared himself the acting president. “The helm is right here,” he told members of the Reagan cabinet in the White House Situation Room, “and that means right in this chair for now, constitutionally, until the vice president gets here.” His words were taped by Richard V. Allen, then the national security adviser.

As you see, Wiener had the good sense to fulfill Nofziger’s prophecy. The obituary continues:

His colleagues knew better. “There were three others ahead of Mr. Haig in the constitutional succession,” Mr. Allen wrote in 2001. “But Mr. Haig’s demeanor signaled that he might be ready for a quarrel, and there was no point in provoking one.”

Mr. Haig then asked, “How do you get to the press room?” He raced upstairs and went directly to the lectern before a television audience of millions. His knuckles whitening, his arms shaking, Mr. Haig declared to the world, “I am in control here, in the White House.” He did not give that appearance.

Categories: History, Newspapers, Obituary

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Did you see the lead front page article in yesterday’s (Sunday’s) NYT on the Obama administration’s process for developing an Afghanistan war plan? If so, you might not have read far enough to catch a passage worthy of note, given how long the article was and how late the passage appears. I should add immediately that it’s worthy for what it says about language usage and the NYT, not the administration’s planning. And I thank Mark Liberman at Language Log for bringing it to my attention.

The leak of Ambassador Eikenberry’s Nov. 6 cable stirred another storm within the administration because the cable had been requested by the White House. The National Security Council had told the ambassador to put his views in writing. But someone else then passed word of the cable to reporters in what some in the process took to be a calculated attempt to head off a big troop buildup.

The cable stunned some in the military. The reaction at the Pentagon, said one official, was “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” — military slang for an expression of shock. Among the officers caught off guard were General McChrystal and his staff, for whom the cable was “a complete surprise,” said another official, even though the commander and the ambassador meet three times a week.

Military slang? And Bravo Tango Whiskey is military slang also? Or Bravo Yankee Oscar Bravo? WTF?

Categories: Language, Newspapers

DeRose: Oenology+Seismology

November 29, 2009 2 comments

The Wall Street Journal’s front-page daily feature yesterday was about DeRose Vineyards, notable for both its wine and its location on the San Andreas fault. If you have access, I recommend the article as well as the accompanying slide show and video. As explained in the article,

DeRose Vineyards has become a must-see for geologists, seismologists and science buffs. They come for the San Andreas Fault, which cuts a clear path through the winery’s main building. One side of the structure sits on the Pacific plate, the other on the North American. The fault is moving slowly, and tearing apart the building at the rate of about half an inch a year.

A jagged crack splits the office floor and runs through the warehouse between the fermentation tanks and the aging barrels. An outer wall is warped. A doorway is barely usable. A long concrete ditch is distorted. …

But what scientists consider a geological marvel is an expensive nuisance to the winery’s owners.

“We just keep patching,” says Pat DeRose, who bought the winery in 1988 with another family. In the past 40 years, one side of the building has moved around a foot and a half northwest, while the other side has stayed put. That has required regular fixes to the roof and walls.

The video is narrated by Tamara Audi, the author of the article. She notes at the end that “if you work on the San Andreas, it helps to have a sense of humor and plenty of wine.” One of the staff then notes, “Eventually LA will be here. We’ll have beach front property.”

As for the vineyard itself, the history page at its website suggests that it may be the oldest winery in California. Forty of its 100 acres were planted before 1900 and are “dry-farmed in deep sandy-loam soils on terraced hillsides.”

I’d sure like to visit. Maybe we will, when we take our long-deferred first trip to Monterey. Meanwhile, I’m going to order a couple of their wines. Don’t tell Gail. It will be a surprise.

Categories: Newspapers, Science, Wine