May 23, 2004

Trip Report

Wish you were here.


But you’re not.

And since you couldn’t come to Aruba this week, as a pitiful replacement I’ve decided to help Aruba come to you. So … go to the kitchen and make a rum drink. Then, visit the photoblog, where I’ve posted a non-artsy-fartsy shot of the beach to help you visualize the ocean. Take a sip. Good. Now, open this link, and hear what I heard when taking that photo.

Again, it’s a poor replacment, but here’s hoping it’s better than nothing.

Posted by Avocare at 11:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 22, 2004

Pretty, But Stupid

I’m in Aruba for several days on business. (I know, I know … it’s not a vacation, but as business trips go, it beats the hell out of Detroit.) Aruba is large enough—over 100,000 residents—to have several daily news publications, so this morning when I sat down to breakfast after an early swim in the Caribbean, I spent some time browsing Aruba Daily (not online) and Aruba Today. Both have a helping of local news, heavily fortified with stories from the international wire services.

(As an aside, Aruba Today’s comics page is of particular interest. The page offers Foxtrot, Cathy, Garfield, The Boondocks, For Better or Worse, and Doonesbury, all of which are clearly JPG images downloaded from the web. What’s fun is that each strip is from the first week of February … indeed, in today’s Aruba Today Doonesbury Alex is considering “back up” candidates should Dean falter. Hope she had one. Perhaps there’s a very brief copyright on comics, after which you can steal them from the syndicates? Just wondering …)

Regardless, as I’m reading Aruba Daily I come across an AFP profile of Laura Bush, posted online here at Channel NewsAsia. The article begins typically, noting her recent appearance on Leno, and offering some standard backstory on when she married George, etc. Then the author writes:

Small, full-figured, with sparkling eyes and an engaging smile Laura Bush lacks the solid and reassuring substance of her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, herself an American First Lady from 1989 to 1993.

Nor does she possess the intellectual reknown wife of former president Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, who went on to be elected US senator from New York.

Born and raised in the south Texas middle class, wife of the former governor of Texas who became president of the United States, Laura Bush is a study in contrast with the wife of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, Bush’s Democratic opponent for the White House.

Teresa Kerry, born to a Portuguese family in Mozambique, is a billionaire heiress who speaks at least five languages.

Ladies and gentlemen, Laura Bush: Mother, wife, teacher of children, keeper of books, First Lady of the United States, and in the eyes of the AFP, pretty, but stupid.

Posted by Avocare at 10:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

How To Write The Lead

In journalism schools across the globe, professors, early in the development of pre-emergent journalists, labor to teach their studious pupae how to write a “lead”—the first paragraph of a story … the paragraph meant to introduce the story, present its thesis, summarize what’s to come, and provide a compelling hook drawing the reader off the sidelines and into the rest of the piece.

Average leads are easy to write; great leads are difficult to write. And even with all the highfalutin education journalist students have these days, it seems the art of the lead is increasingly receding into the textual mist. Just look at two above the fold leads from today’s papers:

  • NY Times: Fierce fighting erupted today between American forces and insurgents loyal to a young rebel cleric near two shrines in this holy city, killing at least 21 insurgents, American military officials said.

  • Washington Post: Previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq describe in raw detail abuse that goes well beyond what has been made public, adding allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets.

Someone wake me. Yawnsville, both.

A great lead has punch. It is clear, it is concise, it says “here’s the story, and why you need to read the rest.” And in this month’s New Yorker, it has the voice of Seymour Hersh:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

Two sentences, one helluva lead. Politics aside, that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done, and the sands of Washington are shifting as a result.

Posted by Avocare at 09:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack