Are journalists using the Russian propaganda narrative to deflect blame from their own failings?

Maybe not intentionally, but yeah, kind of …

While we’re on media narratives — could someone maybe ask about climate change at the next debate? Maybe?

The state of paid media, 2019

Here are the things that can be supported by advertising …

Traditional TV networks, which continue to produce high-budget shows even as ratings are a small fraction of what they were.

Cable/other TV channels, which produce high-budget shows even as ratings were never that great in the first place.

PlutoTV, which must be watched by at least 10s of people. (Seriously — it’s utterly impossible to get schedules, so who watches unless they’ve simply exhausted every other possibility?)

Some YouTube channels

Terrestrial radio

Here are the things that can be supported by a mix of advertising and subscriptions …

Satellite radio


The Wall Street Journal

The Washington Post

The New York Times

Here are the things that can be supported by subscriptions only …

Consumer Reports (phew!)

Netflix and its gazillions of original shows

Hulu’s original shows


Here are the things that no one has figured out how to support …



Would you recognize satire or fake news if it bit you in the backside?

There’s a great moment in Aziz Ansari’s Netflix special in which he asks people about a story in which the pepperoni on a pizza may have looked like swastika. What did you think of the story? Was it a swastika?

A few people answer with applause for the options he throws out. Did you read it in the Post or the Times? Someone answers.

Can you guess the punchline?

I thought of that when reading an obvious but necessary bit of research showing people a mix of real, fake and satirical news and asking what they believed. The numbers who got it wrong were a little alarming. I’m sure you guessed that, too.

Rebuilding Springfield

I’ve been playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out for a while. It throws a lot of buildings and characters at its players, and I’ve grown tired of trying to cram them in.

I went through and “stored” many of the buildings in town. I left in place a couple of areas that I liked:

  • The park complex: Krustyland, Itchy & Scratchy Land and a nearby zoo
  • The sportsplex
  • The Vegas strip
  • Religion Island: Churches, a Buddhist temple, etc.
  • Prison Island, not including the minimum-security jail by the beach
  • The boardwalk

Everything else is being remade, and I’ve started with transportation. My roads and monorail lines took a lot of awkward turns, and I’m straightening things out a bit.

I’ve staked out a couple of new areas — the rural area and the North Pole/Canada, which has some but nowhere near all of the Christmas properties.

Here’s what I had …

And here’s where the rebuild stands …

Sept. 24 update:

  • Springfield Heights is full of houses and a couple of essential conveniences (Kwik-E-Mart, etc.)
  • Springfield Park faces an exclusive neighborhood, a bit like Central Park or some parks in Chicago. The country club is just southwest of it, and then a few vineyards are nicely placed between that and the shore. The amphitheater is tucked away next to the mountains and the shore.
  • The Governmental Plaza (northeast of Springfield Park) exists but needs some work.
  • The Vegas Strip remains intact with some minor tweaks.
  • The Technology Park and North Pole/Canada (following northeast) are more or less complete.
  • Religion Island and Prison Island remain in place southeast of the Governmental Plaza. Follow the river to the sea, and you get a strip of restaurants and eventually the old mill, with another historic building next to it.
  • The Sportsplex (concrete area southeast of Prison Island) hasn’t changed.
  • The Shopplex is adjacent to the Sportsplex, anchored by Springfield Mall. This area needs work.
  • Between the Sportsplex/Shopplex and the shore, I have a couple of strips of businesses and restaurants. The last strip before the boardwalk is a dumping ground for now — I’m placing things I want to see before I move them to a permanent home.
  • The theme parks — Itchy & Scratchy Land, Krustyland, Efcot’s World Showcase and the zoo — take up most of the southeast-northeast diagonal. Northeast of that is Shelbyville.
  • Next to Shelbyville and the zoo, I have a hodgepodge of entertainment (drive-in, demolition derby) and schools for people who’ve messed up (Rommelwood). This needs work.
  • Capital City is northeast of the DURE block.
  • The dirt area is farmland, which will eventually have many more wheat and corn fields, with Kamp Krusty all the way north. The airport is south of that. The schools are sitting awkwardly next to the airport and Efcot — I’ll move that to the strips between Krustyland and the country club.
  • Finally, Medieval Land is still a happy anachronism between the Technology Park and farmland.

Help me decide which books to read

I read many, many words every day. In addition to things I read for work, I subscribe to newsletters from The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Conversation and several more.

But at some point, I need to tackle this stack of books. I have 12 books on my “not yet read” shelf in the basement, six on my nightstand and roughly 13 (depending on how you count various samples, reference books and books of essays that from which I pick and choose).

I’ve decided to prioritize, but I’ll also crowd-source it. Suggestions?

In order of likelihood of reading/finishing it …

Vienna Stories (1950-2000) (Marie Kisner) – Great history of my town, and it relates to a Facebook group I moderate. I’m one-third of the way through it.

Generation Ecch (Jason Cohen and Michael Krugman) – A comical look at my generation, and I’ve been pitching stories along these lines.

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress (Steven Pinker) – I have to read this. It’s the underpinning of some writing I hope to do.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Eric Idle) – Geez, why haven’t I started this yet?

At the Existentialist Cafe (Sarah Bakewell) – Maybe I’ve already read it but can’t prove it.

50 Philosophy Ideas (You Really Need to Know) (Ben Dupre) – I’ve already read parts of it, and it’s good. Can be browsed as needed.

The Boys in the Boat (Daniel James Brown) – It’s an Olympic story, so I should probably read it.

And Be Right ALL the Time: Solving the Riddle of Right and Wrong (Iain King) – I also have a sample of a book called Verbal Judo, both about persuasion.

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty (Dan Ariely) – Also kind of related

A Little History of Philosophy (Nigel Warburton) – Did I read this already?

Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away (Rebecca Goldstein) – I was jealous because I had the same idea.

The Rest Is Noise: Listening in the Twentieth Century (Alex Ross) – I may still write a book on creativity these days, and I’d want to pull this in.

Bill Bryson’s African Diary (Bill Bryson) – It’s short, and it’s one of my favorite writers.

Our Endangered Values (Jimmy Carter) – I love Carter’s morality, and this seems to be the best synopsis of his thinking.

The Unfinished Presidency (Douglas Brinkley) – This one is *about* Jimmy Carter

Behind the Hedges: Big Money and Power Politics (Rich Whitt) – An investigative work on University of Georgia sports. Probably a bit dated.

10% Happier (Dan Harris) – Self-help-ish. Might depend on when I need the help.

It’s Football, Not Soccer (and Vice Versa) (Stefan Szymanski and Silke-Maria Weineck) – It’s funny how Szymanski writes such flawed stuff on blog posts and Twitter (and quit discussing it with me because he thought I was rude), but his books are essential.

How the Bible Changed Our Lives (Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor) – Yes, the Reduced Shakespeare Company guys. Started it, and it wasn’t bad.

Shredders! (Greg Prato) – Rock guitarists talking about how awesome other guitarists are. Might pick and choose a few.

Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck (Amy Alkon) – I remember being a little bleeping disappointed.

The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More (Barry Schwartz) – Interesting issue.

The Elizabethan Renaissance (A.L. Rowse) – How much academia can I read?

Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline (Richard Posner) – Good topic, but I have a negative impression of it.

The Prince (Nicolo Machiavelli) – I’m going to write a Machiavellian guide for something soon, so I figured I should read the original. I read enough to get the gist of it.

Journeyman: One Man’s Odyssey Through the Lower Leagues of English Football (Ben Smith) – Got partway into it. Surely a great idea that someone else can do better.

A Lawyer’s Journey: The Story of Morris Dees (Morris Dees) – I got it from the SPLC.

The Crusades: A Short History (Jonathan Riley-Smith) – It’s not short. It’s not interesting. I got it after Terry Jones’ mini-series (yes, the Monty Python guy) revved up my interest. This book did not build upon that.

Didn’t You Kill My Mother-in-Law? (Roger Wilmut, Peter Rosengard) – A history of British alternative comedy — think “The Young Ones.” It’s terrible.

Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer (Bill Bruford) – The retired drummer (Yes, King Crimson, etc.) got a Ph.D. after retiring and now writes in fluent academicese, which is not good.

Imagine: How Creativity Works (Jonah Lehrer) – It was recalled by the publisher over plagiarism issues, so … maybe not.

Things I used to be good at: Timpani

I have no idea why my percussion teacher had such faith in a relative beginner at Duke, but I wound up playing Elliott Carter’s March at my senior recital after only two years of instruction.

I did not, however, play it as fast as this guy, who’s impressive but omits the fun switches from the heads to the butt end.

This guy uses each end of the stick, and he gives some commentary to explain how he goes about it.

He must have an unlimited budget, because he talks about experimenting with his sound in a concert hall. At Duke, we had three timpani in the rehearsal hall and three in the concert hall, and we had to take the big one back and forth on a grassy slope.

He made his own timpani mutes. So did I, in a sense. I used socks.

Also, when I turned up on recital day, I found all my stuff had been moved from the stage because the jazz guys had set up for a concert at night. Glad I got there early enough to switch it.

The piece uses rhythmic modulation, a complicated concept that would make Rush, Yes and the math-rockers that followed King Crimson break out a calculator. The idea is this — play for a while in a particular tempo, then play something that hints at a change, and then change the tempo so that, for example, a dotted quarter note in one measure is as long as a quarter note in the next.

This video takes you through the score so you have a visual. The piece starts at 105 beats per minute (unless you’re playing at light speed like the guy in the first video) and modulates at the 30-second mark (dotted quarter becomes quarter) to 140 bpm. At the 55-second mark, it gets freaky — the eighth notes in a 10/8 measure become quintuplets in a 2/2 measure. Then you have some measures in 14/16 before the dotted dotted quarter has the same value as a half note.

Of course, the performer can take liberties with all this. My teacher encouraged me to pause for a bit on the quarter note after the monster section (2:05 mark) to emphasize the change in mood.

Generally, such experiments lead to some unlistenable music. Even in March, the listener isn’t aware of all these tricks. I nailed this piece when I performed it, and the audience didn’t know the difference. One person who came out to listen said, “You played, and then when you put your sticks together, we clapped.”

But rock musicians sometimes sense a challenge to make things as complicated as this is. And that’s why you have Dream Theater, a band that’s more fun to analyze than it is to hear.

Count ’em — 108 time signatures (well, some time signatures are repeated, so it might be more accurate to say 107 time changes):