Touchy subjects get people talking

This week’s podcast is short at nine minutes, but goes behind the scenes at how journalists get people in difficult circumstances to talk. It’s not comprehensive. It’s just one issue, the death of a loved one. And it’s limited by my own experiences. The reality is, though, most times people want to talk.

This podcast was inspired by something that happened this week. A coworker of mine was blistered on Facebook for approaching friends of someone who died. One was especially profane in his attacks. His Facebook friends mostly agreed.

BYU vs. USU live blog

Hey folks, all of this could be moot if work interrupts, but here’s the plan. I’m going to live blog during the BYU-USU game. I hope I can watch it. Even if I can’t, you can and post your comments here. Or, you can ignore the game itself and just watch what could be a fun live blogging event. The game starts at 6 p.m. Friday in Utah, which means 5 p.m. for those of us on the Coast. I’ve got a bet with an Aggie. If BYU loses I have to put up some USU icon for my avatar on Facebook.

Feel free to join me tomorrow. Even if I have moments where I can’t watch the game, I will most likely get the live blog started and let you guys log in and talk smack or express how little you care. There should be something to appeal to everyone’s self-righteousness, and what would a game involving two Utah teams be without that?

It should be fun!

Top 10 hot/not names on the Top 100 Boys’ Names list of 2021

Neither Bundy shown here will be responsible for the hottest name in 2021

Years from now anthropologists will study the fastest rising and falling names to determine what influenced America in 2021.

1. Bundy — The name will become hugely popular because of a movie set in the South and marking the comeback of Justin Bieber, who plays the title character in “Bundy’s Undies.” The term “undies” does not refer to his underwear in the movie, but that’s pretty much all he wears.

2. Dres — Dres Anderson is the most popular player in the NFL and anytime anyone named Anderson will be asked if he or she is related. Most Andersons will lie and say, “yes.”

3. Steven — Honoring the inventor of the wildly popular show, The Narrative Arts Podcast.

4. Barack — The name will surge because of the popularity of Barack Williams, a young singer whose parents changed his name from Clarence in 2008 upon the election of Barack Obama.

5. Todd — Most assume it is because of Todd Bridges, a former child TV actor now owner of the largest entertainment network and movie studio in the world.

6. Frank — This name makes a comeback after it is rumored among the religious that a child known as Frank will be the recipient of a huge amount of riches after accidentally saving the life of the mayor of New York City. The rumor will turn out to be false and revealed to be the invention of Glenn Beck.

7. Rush — In honor of Rush Limbaugh, who will announce his retirement scheduled for 2022.

8. Red — Primarily the result of a cult that arises with the late Red Skelton serving as the group’s idol.

9. Zuck — The nickname eventually attached to Mark Zuckerberg, who remains the only person capable of reuniting old acquaintances.

10. Felix — The greatest pitcher of the last decade.

Not hot list.

1. Mitt

The end.

Creative outtakes show the process from Springsteen

In doing the podcast and in writing stories over the years I have never thought of keeping the stuff I discarded on the way to the final product. And when movies are released on DVD I don’t get especially jazzed to see “the director’s cut.” All that means to me is that some of the stuff that went to the cutting room floor is back in the movie. A friend loaned me the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I was pretty bummed that they were even longer than the overnight versions that ran in the theaters.

Listening to Springsteen’s earlier version of “Thunder Road,” though, gives me more appreciation for getting an insight into the process. The song is probably my favorite song ever, and I’m not just talking my favorite Springsteen song. It’s my favorite song, period. I think it’s the most romantic song ever written.

In the end I’m glad he stuck with the version he did, but a YouTube channel offers outtakes from the “Born to Run” album.

I found another link to the “Thunder Road” lyrics that also provides earlier versions. I like the line, “Leave what you’ve lost, leave what’s grown old,” but again I’m glad he recorded it the way he did. I’d like to know why Mary beat out Chrissy, Christina and Angelina.

This week’s podcast: My date with Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster in the movie "Foxes"

This week’s podcast tells the story of my date with Jodie Foster, back when I was a senior in high school. As part of the promotion for the movie Foxes, the stars went to high schools to show the film and discuss the subject matter.

When they walked in Kevin and I were at the end of the greeting line and were able to whisper a few things to each other before our introduction. For one, Jodie Foster was much more attractive in person than we’d ever remembered her being on screen. The second thing was her co-star, Cherie, looked flat out gorgeous. We had already agreed I would go out with Foster if we were able to break the pair up, so Kevin felt like he was getting the better deal. I felt like I was getting the better deal, because Foster was more famous, and she was surprisingly attractive.

It is absolutely important that anyone listening to the Jodie Foster story also listen to the Stan story that follows it. Stan helps provide a lot of context for the Jodie Foster story.

Adding grit and character to my toolbox

Way back in the early 1990s I went with friends to a speech by Deepak Chopra. The guy was at his peak at the time, having written several books dealing with spirituality and achievement and riches. During his presentation he often referred to the hypnosis of social conditioning. His methods and advice didn’t gibe with the standard thought process of the time. He was kind of into stuff from “The Secret” before it was cool.

Two things lately draw upon the same of idea of bucking the hypnosis of cultural or social conditioning. One is Moneyball, which gained prominence already with the Michael Lewis book of the same name, but will now get more attention because Brad Pitt is starring in the movie. I’ll go see it not just because it’s about baseball and is a true story, but because the true story is compelling and is something I can relate to, not because I was such an outstanding baseball player myself.

Billy Beane, the main subject of the book, was a five-tool player when he was drafted. He could run, hit for average, hit for power, throw and was good with the glove. His results, though, didn’t match his skills. He didn’t create anything. Scouting traditionally favored skills over results. A player who created a lot of runs didn’t get much attention if he didn’t run well or hit for power.

Beane became general manager of the Oakland Athletics. He didn’t have much of a payroll, but put up winners by using a system that valued results more than potential. Part of it was because he was able to recognize his own failings as a player, despite his own potential.

The A’s won for quite a few years, though it’s tougher for them now. Other teams, ones with real money, started employing some of the same techniques and have fared well.

The point is Beane went against the hypnosis of social conditioning and succeeded for a while. The A’s are not what they were, but this year they’re ahead of the Seattle Mariners in their division. Because of the payroll situation Oakland has a tough time holding on to its best players.

The other news item dealing with cultural or social conditioning comes from a long story in the New York Times in which one school system is trying to help kids biild skills that are a truer measure of long-term success than high test scores.

Dominic Randolph, headmaster at Riverdale Country School, a private school in New York City, is trying to create a system that bases its results on more than IQ. He calls it “character.”

“Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”

This gets to the point I can relate to. I always tested well. I have a decent IQ. What has tested me, to be brutally forthcoming, is to succeed when things get challenging. Having some smarts gives me an edge when I am willing to do the work, and to persevere. But too often, I believe, I gave up when I met resistance. I lacked grit. I’m working on overcoming that, but since it doesn’t come natural to me I am required to constantly remind myself to stay a few minutes longer, to make just one more call, to make one more editing pass, to ask one more question or to seek one more source.

So I can relate to Billy Beane in the sense exemplified at Riverdale. Randolph calls it character. I am building more of it.

Netflix: Is that all there is?

This isn’t the first time I’ve adopted a fad long after it’s worn out its popularity. We just recently dumped cable (Well, not basic) in favor of streaming Netflix over the Wii.

This was after the DVD/streaming split. That didn’t bother me until I realized how limited the streaming options were. I searched for Schindler’s List, the West Wing, Wired. All unavailable.

I got used to that, in large part because what was available was enough to keep me watching. But I’m still disappointed. I thought by joining I’d have access to virtually every movie ever made. Come next year my kids won’t be able to watch Disney flicks.

I’m just struck by another example of something that revolutionized an industry, only to be threatened with extinction shortly after. Netflix killed video stores. Now it’s likely on its way out.

How many Andersons can there be?

Andersons, Andersons. I know I have heard that name somewhere before.

During Saturday’s Utah-BYU game from Provo one of the announcers, it doesn’t matter who, made reference to Dres Anderson, one of Utah’s many talented players. He’s a receiver.

The announcer, though, revealed something else.

“If that name rings a bell,” he said, he’s the son of Flipper Anderson, who used to play for the Rams.

“Oh,” I thought to myself, “That’s where I’ve heard that name before.” I mean there just are not that many Andersons, are there? I heard his name and thought of calling Bill Anderson, the one Anderson I know. He goes to my church.

Wait, then there’s Adam, another Anderson I know who goes to my church.

Then I thought of Brian Anderson, a friend of ours who ran a half-marathon in Tacoma with Diana. Oh, and he goes to my church.

I know another Brian Anderson. (It might be Bryan.) He sings opera in Portland, I think.

I once worked for Julia Anderson.

Then there was Mort Anderson, who kicked in the NFL. A John Anderson ran for president. A different Jon Anderson sings for Yes, or used to sing for Yes until he got replaced by some lead singer from a Canadian Yes tribute band.

But that’s it. That’s all.

Unless you count Pamela Anderson, Anderson Cooper, Loni Anderson, Arthur Anderson, Brady Anderson, Gillian Anderson, Richard Dean Anderson, Kenny Anderson, Harry Anderson, Louie Anderson, Ian Anderson, and “Famous” Dave Anderson.

Growing up I knew Anna Anderson and her husband, whose first name I forget, but whose last name was also Anderson. They went to my church.

Other than that, though, there just are not that many, so I should have known right away Dres was related to Flipper.

I scratch in sensitive places. Now you know

TMI, dude.

A few days ago Diana listed a toy car on Craigslist Seattle and got a buyer interested in the $10 price. She also got several earfuls, which is why Diana prefers to do most of her logistical work on Craigslist by e-mail.

The woman, who did end up buying the car, told Diana about her abusive ex-husband, about the two times she drove off a cliff, one of her court appearances about those drives and her lingering depression. All this in a conversation about directions to our house. At one point Diana needed to call her back, but made sure she had all of her other important jobs done first.

The woman was sharing too much. This was a kind of business deal, but Diana did not want to be all in her business. Sharing too much is also known as “oversharing.” There’s a whole website,, dedicated to the times people overshare online. Each moment of oversharing is accompanied by an editorial comment. This one was one of my faves:

MSNBC did a story in 2007 about oversharers and talked to some academics and psychologists about it. One said the oversharing we see is a reflection of this age’s narcissism. Another said it’s healthy, a sign of self-confidence and that our foibles don’t really make us weak.

What really struck me, though, were the examples the story cited that I didn’t think were all that bad. A guy said he doesn’t like to wear white because he sweats too much and another woman said she is old enough to get hot flashes. Those don’t seem that sensitive to me, which means I am probably an oversharer. Huh. The narcissism I knew about.