Wondering…and hoping

spain5 014Spent New Year’s Eve at a lovely gathering (thanks Amy and Karl!), and chatting with somebody who has really made me think.

She had a philosophical point to dissect: is the world getting crazier, or are we being driven crazy because we know about something the instant it happens?

Yes, we are informed when there is a hostage crisis in Australia, a plane crash in Indonesia, or a horrible drive-by shooting that killed a teen near where I live, in near real-time.

But does knowing this information, taking in the terror and evil and random horror around us…is it good for us?

Being virtual flies on the wall comes at a price.

The common refrain from everybody is how busy they are, how stressed they feel, how they never seem to be able to turn off.

We went in a circle, talking about how as media people, we thrive for live events. But is the thriving good for us, or the world?

We need to know what is going on, yes, and being informed is important. But the need to be first, the CNN-esque “we don’t know anything but we are going to keep talking until we do” approach to live news is not good. And the need to be first, even if wrong, by throwing all kinds of crap against the wall (aka the Don Lemon effect), is also bad.

So are we, the media clinicians, doing more harm than good?

Do we care? Should we care?

All deep questions that I do not have the immediate, simple and clean answers for. But I am going to think about them during this year, especially when something happens. How do I approach it as a journalist? How do I approach it as a news consumer?

The truth always is set free

Been doing a lot of thinking about the Bill Cosby situation, because, like a lot of Gen Xers, I grew up watching his shows. Cliff Huxtable was everywhere in the 80s, and the thought of Bill Cosby – a veritable institution – allegedly being a serial sexual predator…makes me really sick.

The Washington Post expose, which had 13 reporters working on it, lays out the sick narrative in extraordinary fashion. The pattern is durable over decades: young, aspiring women who wanted to be actresses or singers, Cosby with a stash of pills, and then the women would be groggy or knocked out during the assault.

In talking with a friend, who is also horrified by this, the question comes up – why now? Why is this all happening now?

Simply put: I see that, we as a society, are now in a place to listen – and believe – these women and their horrifying stories. The same way we are now in a place to listen – and believe – what Jerry Sandusky did. The same way we are now in a place to listen – and believe – what happened in the Catholic Church. The same way we are now in the place to listen – and believe – what happened to elite swimmers at the hands of their star club coaches.

We are now in a place to hear these women leveling their accusations against Cosby. Sadly, because of the passage of time/statute of limitations, we may not be able to bring Cosby to legal justice. But maybe he will suffer the same fate as O.J. Simpson, in that the fall from fame, wealth, and public trust will be a more sinister application of justice than being a jailhouse celebrity.

I hate when our illusions of things we really want to believe are good get destroyed. But it is for the best, so we ultimately know what is real – and what is evil.

So what’s new?

Other than a new job, a new car, half a book done, and Roger Federer wearing Air Jordans?

• I am happy to finally tell the world that I have joined the amazing faculty at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, as their “Sports Journalist in Residence”. It’s a lovely opportunity for me to teach and mentor their sports journalism students, help create new opportunities to expand their offerings, and at the same time, continue my work as a sports journalist and book author. I can bring what I do for places such as the New York Times and teamusa.org into the classroom. I think it is a great fit for MSU and myself, and I am excited to grow and learn from the students and faculty in the School of Journalism.

• The book is coming along nicely, and I will be able to share more about it when it is…finished! Nov. 1…I promise.

• I am involved in helping organize a panel for South by Southwest 2015, and I would humbly ask if you could please vote for it.

I am part of a group, along with sports neurologist Dr. Jeff Kutcher andformer NFL player Ben Utecht, that has submitted a panel discussion proposal about sports and concussions for the 2015 SXSW festival.

The name of our panel is: “Does playing sports = brain damage?”

We want raise awareness about the topic, spur intelligent and medically/scientifically-based discussion, and foster greater understanding about a critically important subject.

How can you help? Please vote for us! The more votes/comments we get, the better chance we have at making the very competitive program.

Voting is easy:
1) Go to http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/32127 to see our proposal.
2) To vote, head to the sign in link in the upper right hand corner of the page.
3) Do the quick sign-up to gain voting access, or if you have voted in SXSW panel pickers before, you can use your previous login/password.
4) Look for the search/vote tab, click on it, and please enter “Does playing sports = brain damage” in the search field. (Or you can search by our last names, or panel number 32127 to find us.)
5) You’re now on our voting page!
6) Register your thumbs up vote, and PLEASE leave a comment why you think this is great topic/we’re great, etc. The comments + a vote show interest.

Until next time, I will be the girl furiously typing away in the corner.


Sticking up for Guy Fieri…

I call Guy Fieri “Gui”, aka French-Canadian hockey player style, to be funny. It’s more my way of making him more exotic, elevating him from being a burned out Motley Crue/Warrant/Whitesnake/Damn Yankees roadie. For as much as his bleached tips and cliches drive me up a wall, I have come here to defend him.

A tiny defense, as you will.

I sense the world is taking an unfair turn, blaming him for the debacle the Food Network has become.

I don’t think that’s fair. It’s not Gui’s fault that the people who program the network would rather do a bunch of stupid reality-game shows than actual food.

Gui was recently trashed in Salon, being blamed for everything. I can’t blame the guy for hosting 6 shows, if they’re offering you the work, and you can do it, why not? Fame is fleeting, and cashing in now is smart. He has a new steakhouse open, and Philly.com liked it. (Cough, cough, sounds like he lent his name to the venture and didn’t have much to do with menu planning. Hence good?) And his website says it is guyfieri.KOM. Save us.

The Food Network remains a clueless bastion of stupidity-chasing. Unless I Gui has turned into the truly all-powerful unseen hand – he doesn’t do the marketing, programming, production or concepting of the once-smart network.

So leave Gui alone – no hanging him for the stuff he’s not responsible for.

So…..what up doe?

Busy, busy, busy. Working on a book, working on big stories, playing tennis, and trying to car shop at the same time!

Have to admit, I am not a fan of car shopping, because I never feel like things are on the level. I know the sales people are doing their jobs, and I respect that. But I always feel like something is being omitted, like a big smoking clue I need to ferret out to get to the truth.

I am one of those drive-the-car-into-the-ground types, with my lovely 2003 Rendezvous probably nearing pasture time. Still runs great, so this is not a car shopping emergency. The last time I went car shopping, I didn’t have a great experience. I had sales people ignore me to speak to my brother (who was along for moral support and his car smarts), thinking he was the dealmaker in the discussion. I had another guy act like he was totally bored.

This time around, happy to see that things have changed. Have been on three trips so far, and every sales person has been engaged, nice, and OK to talk to. So maybe some improvement over a decade.

Still, any way to turn back the odometer on the Rendezvous so I can keep it? Bueller….Bueller?

Breaking up with the Food Network…

Oh Food Network…I don’t know what to say, other than to speak from the heart. We’ve had a long relationship, going back to Molto Mario, the original Iron Chef, and Emeril before he went Live! era. It was the heady, early days of “Food TV”, where chefs weren’t celebrities yet, they didn’t have to have your vaunted “culinary point of view” like this stooge, and everything wasn’t some contrived game show with Guy Fieri. The chefs were still a little awkward, learning how to do this TV thing. But they knew how to cook, they were real, and no cults of personality had yet formed. Heck, Emeril had not yet even had his own sitcom, or Bobby Flay had not showed up on Law and Order yet.

I am old-school. I like watching “chop and dump” shows like the Barefoot Contessa and Giada at Home. I like learning new things and seeing how to cook differently. I care deeply that Ina makes something to Jeffrey’s liking.

But lately, I find watching the Food Network makes me feel stupid. And worse yet for you, I turn the channel a lot. I don’t care about a “Cupcake Wars”, (a title that is patently insulting, war is nothing to joke about. Really? A war? C’mon. Go visit a V.A. hospital and see what a war really means), some silly show starring a boy band-turned-reality show hack on recreating Twinkies, or best yet, a seemingly endless loop of Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-in and Dives”. The first 100 episodes were cute, Guy, but I can’t take any more. It all looks the same. (As an aside, how has Fieri’s hair not fallen out from the toxic cocktail of bleach he must be continuously dunking it in? My sympathy for his scalp. Oww.)

So Food Network, I am sorry to say, we’re breaking up. It’s not you, it’s me. (Uh, I think really it is you, but I want to be nice.) No reality shows, none of the other game show crap. Bob and Susie, your programming acumen is clearly not for people like me anymore.

I may allow myself to cheat at the gym with Chopped (yay Ted Allen), but only if there are not celebrities on it. Alton Brown will be a case-by-case basis, but only if he is cooking and being smart – not trying to be creepy mean (which I know he is probably not in real life.)

Giada and the Contessa are always a go, but I suspect they may not be in your line-up much longer as chefs, since everything has to be about being a “personality” who doesn’t cook.

We shall see. But Food Network, all the best. We were great while we lasted. But I’m moving on and letting you go be who you need to be.

Allez Cuisine.

Is Bossy a bad word?

Been ruminating on Sheryl Sandberg et al’s efforts to ban the word “Bossy” from the lexicon in describing women. I understand trying to take away the stigma that women cannot, and should not, be leaders because it somehow makes them less likable or feminine.

But I think this endeavor is really too simplistic. Let’s say they are successful, and bossy is banished. What about the other words that get tossed and stuck on female leaders: bitches, ball-busters, domineering, and even worse stuff. To me, bossy is way less offensive than the other words women such as Sandberg, Condoleezza Rice and other leaders have been stuck with. Look at all the nasty words that get hung on Hillary Clinton.

The idea is more of a sociological change of how we need to approach girls and women. We can be smart. We can be leaders. We can be pretty. We can be athletes. We can be math nerds. We can be stay-at-home moms. We run the gamut.

Kids, hanging the “bossy” label on girls at at young age, learn this from home. You are only popular as a girl if you act “like a lady”, aka defer to the boys. The whole pink princess thing, which seems to be more popular than ever, predicates that you be the damsel diva in distress waiting for Prince Charming on his white horse. It’s more important to be liked for being pretty than smart or a leader. That’s the ideology that needs to be changed. And that starts at home, with the adults in the boys’ and girls’ lives. They need to break through the way they may have been raised, and go beyond the old school of gender norms. Do better. Be better. Promote your child’s full potential, no matter the gender.

We ultimately put ourselves in boxes. Kids have no boxes to put others in, until we, as adults, give the labels to them. Let’s banish the bossy idea, so that the words really don’t matter anymore. They’ll be useless.

The Olympics: real-fake or fake-real?

Ni Hao from the Beijing Olympics. And no, I still don't know what that mascot is.
Ni Hao from the Beijing Olympics. And no, I still don’t know what that mascot is.
And that’s my deep-think question right now.

What exactly are the Olympics? A noble sporting event that unites the world in athletic competition and sportsmanship for a few weeks, hopefully bringing out the best in all? Or is a a shameless, corrupt, corporate/cartel-driven faux sporting event that is as real as the fake “artisinal” bricks in Cinderella’s castle in Disney World?

Depends on where you stand. And yes, both answers can be correct.

I’ve been fortunate enough to cover two Olympics, and see the truth firsthand. For the athletes, it is the highest event in their sport (short of winning the soccer World Cup or hockey Stanley Cup). All the cliches about training hard, sacrifice, families putting everything into making their kid’s dreams come true are real. I’ve gotten to know many Olympic athletes, and even if they finish 17th, they still have the accomplishment of being an Olympian on their resume. They’re proud, happy, it’s their moment to shine for a bit. All good.

Then on the other side, is the corporate domination, the political drama, the IOC’s mafia-like ways, the added wrinkles of governments/countries doing things that other people don’t like, and the gigantic amounts of money flying around. Billions, as in a big B. Being at the Olympics is like being assaulted with everything corporate all the time. McDonald’s here, big Coke display there, VISA kiosk there – you get the picture.

Sochi is a swirl of manic construction right now, with unfinished hotels and general lack of being finished. But Vladimir Putin says they are ready, so yippee for that sage update. (Putin World is NOT open yet. Bummer.)

A bigger question to ponder: are the Olympics becoming an entity that’s too big to fail….like General Motors …or are they failing and cracking under their own weight before our eyes? Sochi is flawed, Rio in 2016 probably will be the same…maybe it is a time for discussion on what we (in the global) sense are doing here. It’s the world’s biggest reality show, with some blood, sequins and sweat thrown in.

But what’s the real price in the end?

Not sure. But will be thinking about it over the next few weeks.