Saturday, December 10, 2005

Good word

"Do you really think that if Jesus returns to Earth tomorrow, his priority is going to be organizing a boycott of Target stores?"

-- Nicholas D. Kristof
Blast from past

I've long kept a diary, off and on, and here's the first line of an entry dated April 6, 1995:

"It's unimaginable, I suppose, to suddenly learn you have a brother or sister you've never heard of, as Robert Wagner did in a recent 'Hart to Hart' reunion special."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Bloggers in the night

Look, I make a guest appearance today on another local blog, Madison's New Favorite Son.
Good word

"People are still turning to established news sites. In other words, they're looking at, not"

-- University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism professor James Baughman

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Speaking of comics

Is this funny? Just curious.
Lotsa larfs

Hey Madison readers: in case you hadn't noticed, Isthmus newspaper, my employer, has replaced Matt Groening's "Life In Hell" comic with "Lulu Eightball," by Emily Flake. I'm delighted with the cartoon. I hope Isthmus readers are, too.
Something to ponder

Here's an item from the TV listings in today's newspaper:

Highlights: 7 p.m. Al Roker Investigates (Court TV, Cable Ch. 56)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Far from Dairyland

I'm on the record as one who loves Southern food, but my trip to Birmingham, Ala. last weekend reminded me that the South doesn't get everything right, culinarily speaking.

I was eating breakfast at a restaurant called Chappy's Deli, and I wanted butter for my toast. To my dismay, the caddy on the table held not butter but, instead, small packets labeled "whipped spread." Now, I have only lived in the Dairy State for six years, but I do know butter from whipped spread.

So I asked the server for some butter. She pointed at the whipped spread. "The butter's right there," she said.

"Um," I began.

"Oh, you want real butter," she said. She disappeared, then returned with a small bowl full of butter.

Whipped spread and the like are standard at many Southern diners. At a Waffle House I visited in Kentucky last year, the server seemed genuinely surprised when I asked for real butter, and in that case was not able to produce any. (I didn't bother inquiring about real maple syrup.)

Am I a Wisconsin snob? Do Southerners really not care whether the butter is real?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


It pleases me that Elizabeth Vargas has gotten the nod, along with Bob Woodruff, to replace Peter Jennings as anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight." I've been a Vargas fan ever since she was reading the headlines on "Good Morning America" back in the early 1990s -- I once was a member of an Elizabeth Vargas fan club on the Internet. I'm glad to see a woman get the top spot, though these co-anchor arrangements can be tumultuous.

I'm glad, too, that ABC News is getting its house in order. "World News Tonight" is one of about three network television broadcasts I watch regularly, and I was genuinely devastated when Peter Jennings died last summer.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Hello again

Apologies for blog silence, but we were in Birmingham, Ala. for the wedding of my brother and the lovely Kathryn. I could talk for hours about Birmingham culture, about Southern culture, but just one observation for now:

Ashton Kutcher and others may have re-popularized the bulky men's haircut known as the shag, but in dear old Dixie it never went away. Shaggy locks were favored by a certain kind of affluent, Ralph Lauren-wearing boy when I was a lad in the South 20 years ago, and I have noticed on subsequent trips back, including this one, that the look remains popular with young Southern men.

But I veer headlong toward my very early mid-30s, so naturally I also pay attention to the choices of men my age. And yesterday morning -- Sunday morning -- I had a key insight about Southern men's hair. It came at a Starbucks in the tony Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook. As I was getting coffee, I noticed what was, apparently, a post-church coffee date. A woman in a dress and a man in a tan suit, both about my age, were sitting and talking amiably. Even on this side of 30 the man retained his Southern preppy boy shag, but as I looked it dawned on me: that is not a shag. That is helmet hair. (Helmet hair looks like this, in case you didn't know.)

And a realization came to me in a flash: unchecked, the young Southern man's shag becomes the older Southern man's helmet hair. This man was the proof. I nudged Ereck and, gesturing to the man with my eyes, reported my discovery. "You've found the missing link," observed my swain.