A quick bit of Icelandic history (or why I’m rooting against my ancestors)

My favorite bio is at Popdose: “Beau Dure learned everything he needs to know about life while stuffed into the overhead compartment of a bus while writing Enduring Spirit, a book about the Washington Spirit’s first season. … He’s best known for his decade at USA TODAY, where he wrote about Icelandic handball.”

Yes, covering Icelandic handball is one of my fondest memories of USA TODAY. I went out on my own accord to see them once, telling my editors they had the potential to be an interesting story.

Far more interesting than I thought …

What we thought before this game is just to do what our forefathers did. They at most endured, like, two or three days at home in peace, and then they had to destroy something. They had to go and fight war somewhere. They went with their boats and stuff like that, and we were just on our boats, destroying something. That’s how we went to the game, just to enjoy those 60 minutes like our (unintelligible) in life. That’s what you do. That’s what you live for.

I have no idea what I asked to get a quote like that from captain Olafur Stefansson. But the rest of the team was fun as well.

It doesn’t matter what time it is, the game starts at 6 in the morning in Iceland, and I think 80-90% of the nation was watching. That’s just typical when we are doing well, everybody follows us.

So said Robert Gunnarsson, a big bull of a central player about the Olympic quarterfinal victory I covered.

Others in the U.S. media, especially Washington Post writer Dan Steinberg, took notice. He and I were among the other American journalists present when Iceland won the biggest game in its history (until today), beating Spain 36-30 in the semifinals. We went to the mixed zone to meet the well-connected first lady of Iceland, Dorrit Moussaieff, who immediately ushered us past security onto the floor, claiming Dan was her husband. (I have no idea who I was supposed to be. Chief of staff? Special Icelandic security detail?)

Gunnarsson compared the game to 300, a movie in which he very easily could’ve been an extra. Gudjon Sigurdsson told me he’d happily play in a U.S. pro handball league if we ever formed one. (Why have we not done this?!)

Moussaieff was clearly the outgoing one between herself and her husband, president Olafur Grimsson, interjecting several times in his interview with us. She was perhaps the most convincing spokesperson for Icelandic tourism imaginable.

Grimsson took office in 1996 and was widowed in 1998. So you can imagine Moussaieff as Annette Bening in The American President, sans the controversy.

Even the best stories have some dark times, though, and Grimsson and Moussaieff are leaving office under a bit of a cloud. The Panama Papers had some sort of link to Icelandic politicians and to the Moussaieff family fortune, and though no one’s being prosecuted for any misdoing, Grimsson abandoned plans to stand for re-election. The next first lady of Iceland, oddly enough, is Canadian.

That election was held in the midst of the Next Great Icelandic Sporting Achievement. The country’s much heralded soccer program has made a nice run through Euro 2016 and toppled not-so-mighty England today to reach the quarterfinals against France.

Which brings us back to 2008 …

Yes, “Dure” is a French name. But I’m rooting for revenge.

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Link Dump, 6-25-16: Toss a sacred cow on the grill

Happy summer to everyone …

SACRED COWS

Worst president ever: Harding? Pierce? Fillmore? Carter? Bush 43?

How about Ronald Reagan? That’s the nominee from Cracked’s Adam Tod Brown, who cites corruption, the inequality of Reaganomics, the union-crushing that hurt the middle class, ignoring the AIDS epidemic, botching the Middle East, and mental health/homelessness.

But maybe Bill Clinton messed up? Slate takes Hillary’s husband to task over welfare reform, painting it as a catastrophic “states’ rights” failure.

Here’s one you might not expect: Bleeding Heart Libertarians tackled the issue of biblical literalism. (As you might expect, the “against” view dominates here. It’s just a strange issue for them to take on.)

And in case some of you have not yet been offended (or given something to think about), consider these piece on our reaction to the Stanford swimmer sexual abuse case. Is unanimous condemnation ever a good thing?

DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY

Cracked has been promoting some good pieces lately, even those from the archives such as this first-person account of being a Viet Cong soldier.

Another older piece, and I’m not sure how I found it recently — Psychology Today on new trends in the old American problem of anti-intellectualism.

EVERYTHING IS MUSICAL

Rush may never play live again or record another album, and yet they keep getting bigger. Here’s NPR talking with Alex Lifeson about the impact of 2112. Yes, they address the Ayn Rand themes.

And what’s that chord at the beginning of A Hard Day’s Night? Well …

 

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Consent: Unconscious people don’t want tea, OK?

Being an optimistic person, I’m hoping the fallout from the Brock Turner rape case (you know the one — the Stanford swimmer sentenced to only six months in jail, with all the letters from family and friends saying he’s a good guy and shouldn’t lose his love of ribeye steaks just because he was sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a Dumpster) will force more people to talk about consent and entitlement.

In some cases, sure — it’s complicated. A few people out there still think “something happened” at the Duke lacrosse party that ended in blatantly false rape allegations. That’s pathetic. And yes, there’s a difference between regretting something the next morning and having someone to accuse.

But in this discussion, we need to start with what’s clear-cut and proceed from there. If you’re the father of a son (and I am), the lesson you teach is really simple.

Don’t rape anyone.

For daughters, rape prevention is a more difficult conversation. Should you avoid drinking in places you might be vulnerable? How much responsibility can you take for your own surroundings?

Even then, there’s no guarantee of safety. You may have seen the recent story of the woman who went out to dinner with a work friend, only to be grateful for the intervention of three strangers who saw the guy slip something in her drink.

So those of us who drew the “male” end of the cosmic coin toss have it far simpler.

Don’t rape anyone.

One of the best pieces I’ve seen on the Turner case was from one father to another:

The idea that your son has never violated another woman next to a dumpster before isn’t a credit to his character. We don’t get kudos for only raping one person in our lifetime. I don’t believe your son is a monster but he acted like one and that needs to be accounted for. To be sure, this decision is not the sum total of Brock’s life, but it is an important part of the equation and it matters deeply.

Exactly.

Look, Brock Turner is the lucky one. He’s lucky two Swedish guys on bicycles stopped by when they did and stopped him from doing any more than he did. He has an opportunity to get through his time in prison and then start a real conversation — not about “promiscuity and alcohol,” which was never the issue here, but about consent.

And he can start by emerging from prison with a simple statement:

Don’t rape anyone.

Another bit of viral content going around today is utterly charming, and it’s a good-humored way of wrapping up this serious topic. A random blogger made an analogy of consent and tea. It had another simple statement: Unconscious people don’t want tea.

It has since been animated, with several versions floating around, one used by Thames Valley Police with a narrator who specializes in British understatement.

Simple, right?

We can talk about all sorts of ways to prevent rape. Sure, we should have conversations about alcohol — sometimes, people aren’t unconscious but are still in a state in which they can’t really consent.

But for men, it all hinges on one thing:

Don’t rape anyone.

That’s not a sure-fire defense against rape allegations. The Duke lacrosse guys went through a horrible experience they did not deserve. So did the fraternity at UVA that was impugned by fabrications repeated to Rolling Stone.

But it’s a sure-fire defense against rape.

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Corporate social media — an oxymoron?

When your company is savaged on John Oliver’s show, wouldn’t you want to respond?

Companies have so many tools to do so these days. The days of tossing press releases to overloaded newsroom fax machines are long gone. We have Web sites (sorry, AP, but “World Wide Web” is a proper name, hence the capitalization) and social media. If a comedy/news program like Oliver’s does a segment on you, you can even play along so that you don’t look defensive while presenting another side to your business.

So here we are, 36 hours after Oliver’s segment on debt, which didn’t paint a flattering picture of DBA International. And what’s on DBA’s site, their Twitter account and Facebook account?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Why even have social media accounts if you’re not going to try to turn a crisis into an opportunity?

Here’s the segment:

 

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Link Dump, 5-31-16: The Libertarian moment

I neglected to promote last week’s Link Dump, which had a fun video linking Keith Emerson to Nigel Tufnel, along with a few pieces on the death of facts.

Not as much to share today, but I have a couple that are related …

LIBERTARIANS SEIZE THE DAY!

A Trump-Clinton race, with unfavorable ratings that tie Nate Silver into a statistical Gordian knot, should be the shining moment for the Libertarian Party. And the party tells Slate’s Seth Stevenson they issued 20 times the previous record of media credentials for their convention.

How’d it go?

Some delegates seemed to resent the brighter spotlight, wishing things could go back to how they’d been before—a desire that, when voiced by men wearing T-shirts adorned with stipple-dot portraits of Friedrich Hayek, sounded a lot like a high school kid whining that his favorite indie band had signed with a major label. Meanwhile, others I talked to saw this moment not as an opportunity for Libertarians to meet nonwoke America halfway, but rather as a chance to let their freak flag flap before an exponentially wider audience.

Emphasis mine, because that analogy is so perfect.

Here’s where it gets a little more frightening:

Polling fourth, one slot behind McAfee, was a fellow named Darryl W. Perry, who accepts campaign donations only in the form of precious metals and cryptocurrency and who opted to have his nominating speech delivered by an “erotic services provider” who goes by the moniker “Starchild.” Perry’s most animated moment in the debate came when he slammed his fist against his lectern, forehead veins a-popping, as he insisted that 5-year-old children should have the legal right to inject heroin without adult supervision.

The party managed to nominate the relatively reasonable Gary Johnson, though not without some heckling:

The first boos came when Johnson admitted that, given the chance, he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Boooooooo! A second hail of raspberries came when Johnson, alone among the candidates, said he thought a driver’s license was a reasonable thing to require before allowing someone to drive. “I’d like to see some demonstration of basic competency,” Johnson acknowledged, rather meekly. Boooooooo!

And all this is a pity, because the American political spectrum could use a few more rational-yet-still-diverse ideas. Socialism emerged from academia this year, with Bernie Sanders proving — before he lost his message and his campaign became little more than an anti-Clinton, anti-establishment rant — that Euro-style programs can find an audience in the general populace. Libertarians can also provide some useful prodding, as the normally abstruse Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog proved over Memorial Day weekend with a post titled “If You Love Freedom, Thank an Anarchist“:

In what war in living memory was the freedom of Americans at stake? Without u.s. military action, were Japanese or German troops – let alone Italian, Vietnamese, Korean, Panamanian, Afghani, or Iraqi ones – really going to be marching though Times Square? If anything, given the notorious ratchet effect whereby wars tend to produce permanent increases in government power, it seems more probable that u.s. military action has contributed to a diminution of our freedom.

That’s politically incorrect in a big, big way. But it’s a point worth considering. Can we respect the job our military does without twisting the rationale for what they’re doing?

And it’s probably safe to say most Libertarians (or “libertarians,” for those who claim the ideology but not the party) don’t plan to spend our or anyone else’s tax money to build a wall along the Mexican border.

ELSEWHERE

A Patheos blogger takes up the argument that the world is getting better, not worse:

Forty years ago a waitress at Denny’s could refuse to serve a customer with scarring simply because the waitress found the customer too ugly. And today we have the luxury of debating transgender washrooms in Target.

And your musical moment — a six-minute mashup of 57 great classical tunes by 33 composers, with John Williams getting his due just before a breathtaking final minute …

 

 

 

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Link Dump, 5-22-16: Emerson/Tufnel, the death of facts

If I shared everything I read, I would have such a high volume of social media output that no one would follow me any more.

So, on occasion, I’m going to do what I’m calling “Link Dump.” It’s a potpourri of … stuff I found online and enjoyed. Or found interesting. Or stupid.

Here goes:

FACTS, SCHMACTS

Fact-checking in a “post-fact world”The question of what is propaganda and what is truth has plagued politics since politics began. But the nature of information in the social media age means it keeps getting easier for politicians, partisans, computerized “bots” and foreign governments to manipulate news, and it keeps getting harder to correct this.

Why Are the Highly Educated So Liberal?Raises a better question — why are academics so terrible at explaining facts?

How Philosophers at Stanford Have Mastered the Online EncyclopediaWikipedia with a little less vandalism.

Why Wikipedia cannot claim the earth is not flat: A Wikipedia guide to editing fringe beliefs on Wikipedia.

BUT WE MEAN WELL …

The end of empathy: I’m not convinced empathy is dead. I just think people feel more entitled to be as mean as they wanna be.

Can the Christian Left Be a Real Political Force?: I kind of doubt it, but it’s interesting.

CLIMATE CHANGE WILL BE REAL WHEN WE CAN MAKE A BUCK ON IT

Atlantic City Gambles on Rising SeasThe casinos will be fine. But if you live there …

Miami businesses say it’s a moneymaker to adapt for warmingBy a fellow News & Record alum

YE NAIRN LABBE … WAIT, THOSE ARE SOCCER PLAYERS

17 Utterly Charming Articles on Scots Wikipedia: I still have no idea whether this is real.

AND A MUSIC BREAK …

A Brief History of the Devil’s TritoneC to F-sharp? Heresy!

Are Algorithms Ruining How We Discover Music?Not really, but I’d still argue Launch was better at algorithms than Spotify and Pandora are.

When I met Clint EastwoodSort of. The Chronicle has more archives online now. Check page 3.

Independent Label CEO Still Very Dependent on Mom Making DinnerDateline — Athens, Ga.! (Not real.)

Echobelly – now it feels right!At least, that’s what the translation from Russian says. Includes clips of this charming Britpop band, now making a comeback of sorts.

Run-DMC/Aerosmith oral historyThough it’s pretty clear that some of the people involved did a few things to alter their memories.

Meet the Moog: Video of Keith Emerson demonstrating his complex gear while channeling Spinal Tap …

 

 

 

 

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The long slow death of the copy desk

My first journalism job was on a copy desk. I still think it’s great training for anything else you could do in journalism and other careers. Some megablogs (Bleacher Report) have actually recognized the value of having experienced editors around. Some have not.

Sure, I would’ve reorganized things a bit. It was a shock for me to go from my student paper, where the first copy editor went over the story with the reporter, to an isolated desk where we had little interaction with the people who wrote what we were editing. (And this was in the days before cell phones, so we couldn’t always reach reporters with questions.)

But we were the last line of defense against serious errors. That was a big responsibility.

My fellow News & Record alum Lex Alexander always appreciated the desk folks, and reacts to news of the Bay Area News Group’s massive swipe of the ax with typical righteous indignation.

I would, though, point to one factor — a copy desk spends a lot of its effort making things fit on the printed page. Copy desks usually overlap with page design, which is why an artistically lacking guy like me wound up doing “design” work. We fight to make stories fit to the precise line, and we struggle to make headlines fit. (Damn you, page designers and your one-column, 40-point headlines.)

Trimming the paper and doing more online should free up more resources to edit. Not just trim stories to fit and struggle with headlines.

If that means the line between “assignment editor” and “copy editor” gets blurred, that’s OK. I liked direct interaction with reporters, and I got a little bored arguing arcane points of AP style and comma usage.

But readers are noticing that their newspapers are a lot sloppier than they used to be. And it’s not a good thing.

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