Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Quick Hits Today

Not much time today, I'm afraid, but still I feel the need to pass along just a few quick thoughts. So here we go.

All the Reefer Madness Fit to Print. Just when you thought the New York Times had absorbed all the body blows it could handle, with conservative enemies using the Jayson Blair episode as a club with which to try to intimidate it into timidness (which failed miserably), there comes yet another thunderclap of abuse. Only this one, a complaint about the paper's refusal to cover the crucial cannabis-legalization debate fairly, from something called The Marijuana News, probably won't register too loudly in the newsroom while a few small issues such as presidential campaigns and war in Iraq still rages.

Your Warm & Fuzzy Friend, SBC. Since when is SBC, the faceless Texas-based holding company that swallowed up Ameritech and lots more, a righteous warrior on behalf of customer privacy? Thus far, SBC hasn't been able to establish much of any kind of corporate personality on the way to becoming the largest of what used to be called regional Baby Bells. But it's new decision, which leaves it alone among the major telecoms, to resist honoring subpoenas from the record industry as it pursues its short-sighted witch hunt against kids downloading bootlegged music is something of a master stroke of corporate p.r. strategy. The company will no doubt eventually be forced to comply, since the disastrous Clinton-era Digital Millenium Copyright Act is about as anti-consumer as any piece of legislation ever. In the meantime, the faceless corporation will for once get to take a few bows for being a good guy before being forced to turn in its customers...

Witnesses on the Scene. Do you find yourself growing a tad weary of the slow, drip-drip coverage of the quagmire in Iraq? Is the traditional coverage growing a bit bloodless and routine? Then I recommend you try occasionally checking out this blog, written by a woman in Iraq with a flair for powerful observation and quick bursts of narrative. Neither a completely anti-U.S. rant nor a whitewash of the Iraqis, I've found its reasonably balanced tone refreshing (if still harrowing at times). It bears witness to some harsh realities of war that our media seems congenitally unable to serve up for what it believes are our tender eyes and ears. It describes the harshness of getting along with no running water for days at a time, and bears witness to such scenes as makeshift graves lining the main roads of Baghdad. For some companion on-the-scene muckraking, try the Baghdad Bulletin. Perhaps the world's major news organizations, after they get past the macro issues and the simple battlefield angles, have dug into topics such as whether or not non-governmental aid groups have succeeded in getting help to Iraqi homeless kids, but I haven't seen it. Except, that is, in this smartly independent pub established out of the United Kingdom.

Finally, Read This. In my enthusiasm last week about Esquire's new embrace of the web, however temporary it might be as it celebrates its 70th anniversary, I neglected to point you to one of the most interesting pieces of magazine writing I've seen all year. The author, Tom Junod, ordinarily known more for his silly (if silky) faux-intimate cover profiles of Hollywood stars (which are in truth subject to appalling levels of control by the subject's handlers), shows why he's a former National Magazine Award winner. This amazing tale of 9/11's equivalent of the Unknown Soldier, who fell to his head-first death from a top floor while being immortalized by AP master photog Richard Drew, reads like a morality tale on our culture's childish self-censoring of disturbing images and their underlying truths. When history happened right around the corner, Drew knew what to do. He simply grabbed his camera and got to work, serving in the process as a stand-in witness for the world. I urge you to print it out today and set it aside for the next chance in which you get a half hour to quietly drink in this moving story.


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