Archive for October, 2010

The Saddle Cats

My friend Richard Chon’s band, The Saddle Cats, was named Best Western Swing Group and their CD, “Herdin’ Cats,” was honoured as the Best Western Swing Album of the year at the Academy of Western Artists Will Rogers Awards. Wonderful! Listen.

The Monday and Friday Test

At my son’s graduation from SUNY Geneseo a couple of years ago, Senator Chuck Schumer came by to give a short speech. It was a great speech, one I repeat to all my students, who are at the start of new careers.

He told the students that, for the rest of their lives, they would still have to take two tests every week: The Monday Test, and the Friday Test. (The grads groaned, but with smiles on their faces.)

How do you feel on Monday, as you get ready to start your work week? Do you have acid stomach, a headache, anxiety? If you do, you have failed the Monday test, and then you need to consider making changes to your work life.

How do you feel on Friday, as you get ready to go home and see your family, neighbors, cat? If you are thinking about other places to go to before you go home, then have failed the Friday test, and you might need to consider making changes at home.

Jay Rosen: “A True Story”

NYU Journalism professor, Social Media guru, and founder and leader of the “citizen journalist” movement, Jay Rosen finally explains to the world why his career in journalism ended more than thirty years ago. Jay’s spectacular screw-up at the Buffalo Courier-Express has become a legendary cautionary tale; indeed, I tell it in many of my classes. I’m glad we finally have Jay’s version of what happened. It was certainly worth the wait.

This detail I hadn’t known: “Not only had I stupidly applied to the newspaper that had already offered me a job, but it was my job they were advertising in Editor and Publisher! Yes. [Buffalo Courier-Express Editor] Turner had to post the opening to fulfill legal requirements; in reality he had reserved that slot for me. When he got my application he obviously considered it an act of disloyalty, and that’s why he ceased all communication. So I lost my job by applying for my job. And that was the (slightly) kafkaesque turn that ended my newsroom career.”

The whole post gave me goosebumps, actually. To my knowledge this is the first time Jay has ever written about his days in Buffalo, let alone written about that debacle. It was gratifying, for example, to read how The Spectrum, the University of Buffalo student newspaper for which we were both editors and columnists, saved our friend from a life of inconsequence (even if it didn’t deliver him all the way to the New York Times).

Jay was my first mentor. We had a stormy relationship for awhile, because he saw something in me and demanded that I deliver it, every deadline, and just once did he tell me that I did a decent job on a story. We became friends only after he had left the newspaper, and left Buffalo.

Being There

In the Social Media module I presented to Kwantlen’s Marketing faculty this summer, I made the argument that professors needed their own websites not so much to promote themselves or their work but so that they could be FOUND when people came looking for them online, and found “looking good,” as it were. At the very least, get on LinkedIn, I said. Happily, I seem to have been convincing. Most are there now, good-looking in cyberspace.

Except to note on Twitter and Facebook that I’ve updated basil.CA, I have never actively promoted my website, because I am not interested in raising my profile, winning fans, or having influence. I just want to be here when people come looking for me. (And many do … though, for the most part, I don’t know who.)

Empathy is a wonderful thing …

… but one can’t blame people for not having it, because you either have it or don’t. Respect and tolerance are a different story, because you don’t have to feel these things to practice them; you respect and tolerate people who are different from you because you know this is right, and you can will yourself to do the right thing, no matter what you feel. [Apropos: bullying in schools.– Ed.]

Happy to Help

Twice in the last week I have helped to prevent a calamity from befalling a colleague. One colleague was irritated and the other was infuriated to receive my editorial help, though they each requested it. Both will come out “smelling like a rose” (to use an expression my Dad has always loved and that I now love, too).

In my last couple of years in book publishing back in the early 1990s, I spent more than half of my time, it seemed, addressing legal matters: Making sure that my authors weren’t going to get the company I worked for, Prometheus Books Inc., sued for defamation, libel, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, and the like. Although I did not become an editor so that I could act as an ersatz lawyer, I did enjoy the role, especially because I got to talk to a REAL lawyer, and a great one, Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, a lot. Stefan provided his services for free, because he liked the books we published. He was a wonderful and brilliant and eclectic man, who reached the highest levels of accomplishment as a musical conductor and mathematician and teacher before starting his career in Law. I didn’t know he’d been a conductor until I called him one afternoon regarding a lawsuit. Leonard Bernstein had died the day before, and for some reason I brought that up with Stefan. “I was his assistant conductor for a year,” he said. “This sounds more impressive than it was. My main job was to have a cigarette lit and ready for Lenny when he came offstage.”

Back to my point: Because of Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, many of my authors *didn’t* besmirch their reputations and *didn’t* get their butts sued. To a person, they were unhappy receiving the help they received, because they believed they didn’t need it. They all asked: What could go wrong?

A calamity is smaller than a comma when it’s born, and I am indifferent to gratitude.

Background Music

To me there is no such thing. If I can hear it, it is foreground music. I have to pay attention to it.

I can’t write, edit, or grade if I’m hearing music, because I lose the requisite concentration. I can’t even cook, or clean dishes, and I have the burns and cuts to prove it.