Encourage the Heart

Sound of the Day: Cremating Stevie the Cat

I’m going to try to have most of these podcasts be the shorter stories, but some podcasts don’t clip their segments individually. This is the case of a story that takes the entire hour to tell it.

This story, coming from the Freakonomics podcasts, tells how intrepid sleuths investigated whether Stevie the cat’s remains were really his. It’s one of the more entertaining episodes of Freakonomics I’ve heard.

On the Campaign Trail

A month ago Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain came to Seattle prior to the Feb. 9 caucuses. I’m told Ron Paul was here, too, but no one tipped me off. I went to the Clinton, Obama and McCain events and wrote about them for the Kitsap Sun. For the McCain visit I was invited to be part of a rolling press conference between Boeing (Isn’t that appropriate.) Field and the Westin Hotel downtown. There about 10 reporters present. I shot video of part of it and at the campaign stop. Our Web Editor edited it.


Badly Wounded

The Los Angeles Times is fortunate to have a photographer who either writes very well, or writes well enough to be well edited.

In Iraq he took the photo of the man who has become known as the Marlboro Marine, aka James Blake Miller. When Miller made it home, however, his life was less than what we’d hope for a hero.

Luis Sinco, the photographer, took on an unusual role for a journalist, because in many ways he felt responsible for launching Miller into the world of being famous.

“I have to ask you something, Blake,” I said. “If I’d gone down in Fallouja, would you have carried me out?”

“Damn straight,” he said, without hesitation.

“OK then,” I said. “I think you’re wounded pretty badly. I want to help you.”

He looked at me for a moment. “All right,” he said.

Such a role is unusual, because most people whose stories we tell already have stong support, or at least some around them. A couple whose son died of a heroin overdose had each other. A boy whose injury left him mostly paralyzed had his family. A couple dealing with her cancer had each other, and when she died he had an entire community to buoy him.

Somehow in the case of Sinto and Walker, they bonded because the photographer survived the same nightmare as the soldier. For most of us, we can sympathize, but not empathize. In fact, we often avoid telling stories that are too close to our own.

In a war, that’s often impossible.

Banned Words

A word for a male part that rhymes with totem appears in the book The Higher Power of Lucky and its appearance has caused a controversy among librarians and schools. I can think of other words or phrases I don’t want my kids to ever see in a book or hear in class.

1. Lockbox
2. Hannity
3. Class, please welcome Mr. Marilyn Manson.
4. President Schwarzenegger
5. My babysitter Paris
6. At the end of the day
7. Incontinence
8. My friend Madonna
9. Florida Marlins
10. Canada

At Last, a Clarification

Shortly after the election I wrote GOP Hubricide, in which I left some thoughts about how the Republicans did this to themselves. Within the post is this comment:

Republicans as the majority were worse. If I am jubilant today, it’s because Republicans not only lost, they got their butts kicked. Every party has to have its hat handed to it from time to time just to recognize who is in charge — voters.

Those sentences have bothered me ever since, especially the last one. I’m just now addressing the matter.

First off, I can’t say Republicans were more drunk with power than Democrats were when they were in charge. Memory can be selective, 1994 was more than a decade ago and I haven’t done the research to back up my statement. There are far more opportunities to know exactly what’s happening in Congress today than there were a dozen years ago, so it may be infinitely unfair to compare GOP 2006 with Demo 1994.

On the second issue, it’s not necessarily that I’m happy the GOP lost, it’s knowing that they still can lose. I had seriously begun to doubt whether it was possible. The fears for me were that either America had slid so far to one side, or that the cheating mechanism was so sophisticated that it could virtually guarantee a win eternally. As much as I think ultimately the blame for Gore’s loss in 2000 rests more on his shoulders than anyone else’s, I think there is ample evidence that Bush’s win in Florida in 2000 was an injustice.

Going into election night there was some doubt whether the House or Senate would shift sides. When it did, it proved that it can. That, to me, was the best news of the night.

Tag Cloud

I’ve become fascinated by a toy new to me called tag clouds. It’s where you take a speech and get rid of the common words and highlight the other words that appear frequently. For example, here’s what the Gettysburg Address looks like in a tag cloud:

created at TagCrowd.com

Here’s the tag cloud from Eric D. Snider’s last 10 “Snide Remarks” columns:

created at TagCrowd.com

Here’s the Saturday Night Live spoof debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore from October 7, 2000:

created at TagCrowd.com