Saturday, April 12, 2008

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Serious Journalist? Take This Test and See!

Latest Newspaper Column:

Hey there, reader! Tired of your go-nowhere, do-nothing job? Want to be a part of an exciting industry where you get to go to interesting places, meet powerful people, and be one of the hip, happening, in-the-know crowd?

Well, this is your lucky day! You too can join the thrill-a-minute world of Serious Professional Journalism when you get a degree from my newest venture, the Dusty Rhoades Serious Professional Journalists School! Study at home by mail, and before you know it, you can be pontificating on television and in print on subjects like Iraq, the economy, and world affairs! You can even tell people who the next president ought to be!

"But, Dusty," you say, "I don't know anything about journalism! Or the world! In fact, I'm a complete ignoramus!"

Ha ha! Of course you are! But it doesn't matter, as you'll see when you take this simple test and see if you -- yes, you! -- might have what it takes to be a Serious Professional Journalist!

QUESTION ONE: Presidential Candidate Sen. John McCain states in a press conference that the group al-Qaeda in Iraq is sending its fighters to Iran to train, then returning them to Iraq. He immediately has to backpedal after being corrected by alleged Democrat Joe Lieberman. "Sorry," McCain says, "Iran is training extremists, but not al-Qaeda." What do you do?

(A) Question whether McCain really is ready to lead as he claims, since he doesn't realize that Iran, a Shi'ite country, is unlikely to be training a Sunni group like al-Qaeda;
(B) report the story and let the reader decide if it's important or not; or
(C) claim it's no big deal because McCain has "credibility in the bank" on foreign policy.

QUESTION TWO: Sen. Barack Obama visits Philadelphia and doesn't order a cheese steak sandwich. What do you do?

(A) Ignore it because who the heck cares what a candidate eats on the road;
(B) report it, but put that detail far down in the story as an amusing but trivial anecdote; or
(C) make a big deal for days about how this "raises questions" about whether Obama's failure to order a particular sandwich means he's "out of touch with the common people" and is a "Harvard elitist."

QUESTION THREE: You have an exclusive on-air interview with Hillary Clinton. What do you ask her about?
(A) Her current "opposition" to the Iraq war after originally voting for it;
(B) her failure to oppose immunity for telecommunication companies that broke the law in giving out information to the government; or
(C) how she stays in shape on the road.

QUESTION FOUR: John McCain says he doesn't mind if we stay in Iraq "a hundred years" or more. Later he says that what he really means is that he's OK with presence like we have in South Korea or Germany. What do you do? '
(A) Question whether this still means that McCain really doesn't have a clue what's going on if he doesn't realize how different these situations are;
(B) Point out that McCain apparently doesn't realize that we're not in danger of getting in the middle of a religious civil war in Germany and South Korea, countries which, unlike Iraq, have stable governments; or
(C) chide the Democrats for "misquoting" McCain.

QUESTION FIVE: Louisiana Sen. David Vitter's name turns up on the client list of a New Orleans escort service. Vitter admits a "terrible sin" in his past, but does not offer to resign. How long should this remain an important story?
(A) six days;
(B) two weeks;
(C) David who?

QUESTION SIX: New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's name turns up on the client list of an escort service. Spitzer admits his involvement and resigns in a few days. How long should this remain an important story?
(A) six days;
(B) two weeks;
(C) forever and ever.

If you answered all of the above questions "C," then you may have what it takes to be a Serious Professional Journalist. Serious Professional Journalists get invited to all the best Washington parties and even to barbecues with Sen. John McCain! They get all the inside information, so long as they promise never ever to reveal it because it's "off the record" (unless of course, one of your powerful friends wants to destroy the career of someone whose husband annoyed him).

And here's the best part: You never need to do anything difficult like questioning "what everybody knows"! You never have to challenge the people your colleagues have all decided to like! Leave that sort of thing to those dirty hippies and their silly "blogs."

Act now! Pick up the phone and dial the Dusty Rhoades Serious Professional Journalists School today! The number is 1-800-555-HACK.

Operators are standing by.

Kill A Dozen People, But For God's Sake Don't Hurt the Dog

From Balloon Juice:
Here’s how it went:

1. Artist ties a dog to a tether on one corner of a room in a museum
2. Artist places bowl of food just out of reach in other corner
3. Over a period of days, dog dies of starvation.

Except, as it turns out, the whole thing was a hoax. The dog was regularly fed and watered, and released at the end of the exhibit.

It has now emerged, however, that artist Guillermo Habacuc Vargas intended the work to be a stunt to show how a starving dog suddenly becomes the centre of attention when it is in a gallery, but not when it is on the street. The work was intended to expose people for what they really are - "hypocritical sheep". He said that in order for the work to be valid, he and the gallery had to give the impression that the dog was genuinely starving to death and that it died.

This runs up against an issue we see all the time as crime writers: you can describe rape, dismemberment and skinning alive, but if you really want to get some hate mail, have somebody kill a dog, or even worse, a cat. I actually had written a scene in SAFE AND SOUND where the bad guy uses a yowling cat locked in the trunk of a car to suck his victims in so that the bomb in the car would kill more people. A dozen people died in the scene but the cat got away unscathed. I dropped the cat part because it just didn't fit the tone, but I may still use something similar someday.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Okay, NOW Do You Take Global Warming Seriously?

Global Warming = Expensive Beer

The price of beer is likely to rise in coming decades because climate
change will hamper the production of a key grain needed for the brew - especially in Australia, a scientist warned Tuesday.

Jim Salinger, a climate scientist at New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said climate change likely will cause a decline in the production of malting barley in parts of New Zealand and Australia. Malting barley is a key ingedient of beer.

"It will mean either there will be pubs without beer or the cost of beer will go up," Salinger told the Institute of Brewing and Distilling convention.

Similar effects could be expected worldwide, but Salinger spoke only of the effects on Australia and New Zealand. He said climate change could cause a drop in beer production within 30 years, especially in parts of Australia, as dry areas become drier and water shortages worsen.

Barley growing parts of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales would likely be harder hit than growing areas in New Zealand's South Island.

"It will provide a lot of challenges for the brewing industry," even forcing breweries to look at new varieties of malt barley as a direct result of climate change, Salinger said.

New Zealand and Australian brewer Lion Nathan's corporate affairs director Liz Read said climate change already was forcing up the price of malted barley, sugar, aluminium and sugar.

Read said that in addition to climate change, barley growers are grappling with competition from other forms or land use, such as the dairy industry.

This is very disturbing news. Thank God I'm drunk, or I'd be a lot more upset. Whatever you do, don't tell Gischler. I'm not sure his heart can take it.