HighStakesBlog

March 31, 2009

I didn’t want my first post “back” to be a simple cut and paste, but …

Filed under: Politics — HighStakesBlog @ 7:05 pm

As the son of a journalist and the former editor of the award-winning and esteemed Wittenberg Torch (I could barely type that with a  straight face), I have rather strong views on the newspaper business as you saw in a previous post.  On top of personal experiences, I consider myself a Jeffersonian and the concept of a Fourth Estate is something I consider paramount (when properly executed).  Sadly, I am somewhat resigned to the fate of both the craft/art of journalism and the newspapers that used to be the bastion of journalistic excellence.  But from time-to-time an article, blog or Op-Ed still resonates and forces me to pay attention.  Below is just such a piece.  Tell me.  Are this guy and I the only ones who care?

White House press corps serves mostly as backdrop

Tuesday,  March 31, 2009 2:57 AM

Excuse me, but I am a potted plant. Well, at best an extra, who has been sent over by Central Casting to fill in the numbers.I am not alone. At least 350 other potted plants, also known as White House reporters, gathered in the East Room last week to watch what the White House itself called “the program.”

The thing was concocted, stage-managed and went off well enough, given that the White House press office had wrung anything like spontaneity out of it. It was indeed as they had billed it: a program in which President Barack Obama took his time to respond at length to some really bland and uninspired questions, posed by largely the same people –from the television networks plus the Associated Press — who are called upon daily in press secretary Robert Gibbs’ briefings.

At those briefings, the rest of us sit there in our potting soil. We wave our arms in the hope we might be recognized toward the end of a long, rambling session that seems more like the press secretary chatting with his pals who have seats assigned in the front.

Keep this up and reporters morph into courtiers, which serves neither the larger purposes of democracy nor the specific strategies of the administration. At some level, it is also very insulting to the large number of reporters who ply the journalism trade in Washington.

Clearly, the White House is defining reporters by where they work rather than what they do. This is an inversion, lacking in understanding of the realities of the media craft.

The truth is that newspapers trump television every time when it comes to original reporting. Their nature and tradition makes it that way. Television — and I have worked in it and contemporaneously with print for many years — is the friend of the instant and the enemy of the profound.

The written word, not the broadcast one, is the beacon of liberty. It is durable, more accountable and requires more coherence than its powerful but fleeting electronic cousin.

It is neither right nor possible for the White House to balance out the competing claims for the right to question the president or the press secretary. The solution lies in the past: The right to question should go to eager questioners, whose earnest cries rise above a forest of hands.

It is messy, but it works. Actually, 350 people shouting Mr. President is an affirmation of a free press rather than the pre-selection of an elite with a predictable roster of questions — usually right out of that day’s newspapers.

The old free-for-alls, where the president or the briefer selected from a clamoring throng, was disorderely, noisy and rather glorious in that the world could see how open the media is in the United States. As it is now, it appears scripted even though the questions are composed only by the reporters — I hope.

Sure, the open system looks and sounds like feeding time at the animal shelter. But most of us would rather be seen jumping for attention than sitting around like plotted plants, honored to be allowed in but with nothing to do except fill out the numbers. Heck, you can do that with computer animation.

This administration gives every indication that it is enthralled by new media: Web-only publishing and bloggers. If it is to include their interests, it has to stop its rigid press handling and free things up in the interface between the White House and those who report on it.

The alternative is the kind of quota system that was emerging last week, designed to mollify those who were upset after Obama’s first press conference: the military press, the Hispanic broadcasters and, in concession to new media, Politico, which tries to be both print and Web.

Personally, I do not like shouting questions in crowded “programs.” I am quite relaxed as a potted plant.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle on PBS.

lking@kingpublishing.com

March 10, 2009

Depression Sucks

Filed under: Crap I can't categorize — HighStakesBlog @ 9:09 pm

I hate its randomness.  I hate the fact that I think I am “handling” things and that I have an idea the specifics of the internal dialogue that send me spiraling into mental misery.  I hate the fact that it’s never permanent.  I hate the fact that when I begin feeling depression’s sufocating presence, all I want to do is reach out and yet that socialization is the first thing taken from me.  I can’t even answer the phone when it rings.

I hate that it takes me away from this blog.  It strips me of my desire to write and my confidence to write.  I hate that it keeps me from commenting on other blogs that I read and want to weigh in on.

I hate that it takes the joy out of spending time with my children.  Watching them becomes something to get through and not something to cherish.  I hate that they’re beginning to be old enough to tell.

I hate that it robs me of the anticipation that usually gives me such enjoyment.  I hate that life becomes something to dread.  I hate that my trip to Vegas seems so far away, even though it’s next week.  I hate that I am worried that it’s too soon because I don’t want to be feeling this way as I step on that plane.

I hate that it makes time seem like an interminable and indistinguishable mess.  I hate that I cannot enjoy this Blue Jackets-Bruins game and that I cannot tell you what has happened because it has all looked the same.  I hate that I no longer want to flip to the Butler-Cleveland State game.  I hate that I cannot even THINK about the tremendous basketball that is yet to be played this coming weekend.

I hate that all I can think about and all that I can write about is the depression itself. I hate that I’m not strong enough to overcome this.  I hate that you had to read this.

I hate that it won’t be the last time.

March 8, 2009

March is the most wonderful time of the year

Filed under: Crap I can't categorize — HighStakesBlog @ 4:41 pm

I am not a poet or a lyricist (duh) … but watching Northern Iowa beat Illinois State in OT and now Duke-UNC, I felt inspired.  Here’s my quickly drafted ode to the TRUE ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  No offense, Jesus.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

With the kids screaming and yelling

And everyone telling you, “go get me a beer”

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s March champ-championship basketball

With brackets to fill and bratwurst to grill

And bookies to call . . .

It’s March champ-championship basketball.

There’ll be Pitino loudly boasting

Jim Boeheim imploding

And Krzyzewski’s ego

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

There’ll be Cinderella stories

And tales of tourney glories

Of Bruins long, long ago

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

There’ll be much barfly groping

And spouses poorly coping

With the hot bartender’s rear

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

There’ll be Cinderella stories

And tales of tourney glories

Of Bruins long, long ago

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the most wonderful time
It’s the most wonderful time
It’s the most wonderful time
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

March 7, 2009

Quick Hitter: My little brother is all growed up

Filed under: Quick-Hitters — HighStakesBlog @ 7:28 am

I am going to write somehing later.  I swear.  Consider that a promise or a threat depending on your point of view.

But quickly I wanted to plug my little brother’s little blog.  He’s just getting started, but the little bastard is far better at writing than I am at chemistry and that puts him even further ahead in the talent department.  At least I have more hair.  Wait, um.  Well, at least I am more in shape.  Doh.  I mean … at least I never mistook a foreign-national janitor for a stripper.  Yeah, that’s it.

Go check him out: chemdork.wordpress.com.

March 4, 2009

Let me tell you why I suck as a salesman, err, poker player

Filed under: Poker — HighStakesBlog @ 11:42 pm

God love Tommy Boy and God how I miss Senor Farley.

Enough reminiscing.  Time for self-loathing.

As a one-time and part-time poker blogger, I have played in past iterations of what is called the Big Blogger Tournament.  Basically it’s an excuse to donate rake to the destitute boys over at Full Tilt Poker.  In theory, it’s a series of weekly events where poker bloggers donk it up and, well, donate rake to Full Tilt.  It’s a good time and it’s quite the fraternity.  If fraternities were made up of people who don’t know each other from cities all across the world and exist solely to bitch about bad beats.  Screw Phi Psi.  That’s MY kind of fraternity.

But I digress.  This is BBT4 with ultimately some fine prizes up for grabs.  I have played in three tournaments.  I have three points.  Kids, in case you’re following at home, that’s bad.  That means I have played three times and basically could have had Mr. Ed or Mr. Bill or any other TV character that nobody under 45 except for myself has ever heard of (toonces anyone?).  Lord, I suck.

But last night, I had hope.  My biggest downfall is that I have the poker equivelent of a glass jaw.  I can punch with the best of them, but I CANNOT take a hit.  So last night, I made an ill-timed move and got knocked down to WELL under half of what we started with.  Ordinarily, I would have made some idiotic move and been out in a matter of moments.  But last night, I battled.  I played my position.  I pushed when need-be.  Took down some orphan pots.  And got back up to over starting stack.  Of course, I went out somewhere around 40 out of 80-some…but it was a proverbial moral victory.

Alas.  My reinvention lasted less than 24 hours.  Tonight, I was making moves, getting hands and generally falling right into the groove.  I had never dipped much below starting and about 20 minutes in, I was about 33% above where we started.  I looked down at Ah5h and was grateful to get a minimal raise and saw the flop with several others.  The flop was J-x-9 with two hearts.  The guy to my right bet about 200.  I briefly considered raising to see if I could just take the pot, but that would have been foolish.  So I called to keep the pot small, maybe keep some dead money in the hand and hope for my flush.

The next card was an ace.  Obviously I now had top pair, but crappy kicker.  I didn’t think the kicker would come into play because I doubted my nemesis had an ace.  I was thinking more K-J or possibly even a straight draw.  I didn’t think that when he led out with a 600 or so bet.  That story didn’t make sense.  I now figured he had trips or two pair.  Somehow I talked myself into him having that K-J even though it made NO sense.  So what did I do? Call to see the river?  Nope.  I re-raised.  Why?  I have no idea.  He pushed.  I then knew I was staring at least at two pair.  It would put me all-in to call.  With one lousy card to come.  Of course I called.  River was a brick.  He had J-9.  And a promising start was now directly in a trough-style urinal.

I could have just called to see the river.  I could have folded to his re-raise and still had about half a starting stack.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t want half a starting stack.  I took a punch and dove for the canvas.  As usual.  Not unlike the aforementioned Farley.  Except nobody is laughing.  Well, except the guy who is stacking my chips saying, “donkey.”

Lessons learned:

1) I suck.

2) I can’t play flush-draws worth a damn

3) I am still petrified of trying to play with a short-stack

4) I am going to find the Chris Farley Chippendales video on youtube to make me feel better.

The Old Gray Mares…they ain’t what they used to be

Filed under: Crap I can't categorize — HighStakesBlog @ 9:52 pm

I think I speak for everyone in America when I say that there are two institutions, two images that define this country.  The New York Times and the creepy old dude in the Simpsons who shuffles along singing “The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be…”

Okay, maybe not so much the second one…but I know I can’t get it out of my head.  And it went nicely with the “Old Gray Lady” nickname of the Times so work with me people.

Thomas Jefferson’s concept of the fourth estate…the Hearst family…Horace Greeley…Joseph Pulitzer…Yellow Journalism…Muckrakers…Woodward and Bernstein…

It is almost impossible to extricate the history of this country from the history of its journalists and its journalistic institutions.  I am admittedly “old school” when it comes to many things, but I don’t think I stand alone in my reverence for the integrity and the nostalgia of the newspaper.

That said, I am not blind to the faults of the broadsheet gray newsprint.  Agenda-setting, politically motivated coverage, the blurring of the lines between the business and the editorial sides of the newspaper, “ambulance-chasing” reporting and an arrogance and erroneous sense of immortality have tarnished the image of the nation’s dailies.

But there is an important distinction between the administrators of the papers and the journalists who fill the pages with events and news critical to our daily lives.  The journalists are not the ones who have had their heads in the sand as to the evolution of news.  The journalists are not the ones who have stubbornly refused to share assets and arrogantly ignored the explosion of internet media and the influence available to columnists on PED’s (bloggers).

The journalists are the ones who ignore the financial realities of life in the 21st century and work for salaries commensurate with streetsweepers.  The journalists are the ones who are forced off of their “beats” to mundane desk jobs for the “good of the paper” … or the good of the bosom buddies of the powers that be.  The journalists are the ones forced to bend and manipulate their own sense of ethics to provide the stories requested demanded by their editors.

And as a result, when the house of cards comes tumbling down and the lack of revenue becomes insurmountable, it is the journalists who pay the ultimate price with their jobs.  This happened in my hometown this week with our local paper laying off 25% of its editorial staff.  And by editorial staff, I don’t mean managing editors.  Or even section editors.  I mean reporters.  The people who actually provide the information we need.  In many cases, it was the people who provide the only information I still read the local paper for.  The local news.

The high school sports staff.  The local business and business development staff.  The local arts staff.  Sure.  Let’s send them packing.  And explain the lay-offs as a move toward more local coverage.  Wait, what?  Let me think this through.  Nope.  Still doesn’t make sense.

I am not going to wax philosophical on the direction newspapers SHOULD be going.  I’ll save that for another rant.  But I can easily tell you what they SHOULDN’T be doing and that’s exactly what they did this week.  It is a disgrace.   It is a disservice to a newspaper’s readership.  And it is a bastardization of the history and tradition that SHOULD have been the wards and the responsibility of the newspaper leadership.

Contrary to the words of wisdom of one of the people who DIDN’T lost their job this week, this is not a “phase.”  Newspapers are not dying.  They’re dead.  And while I mourn the loss of an industry and an institution, it is those the industry let down for whom I truly grieve.

They deserved so much better.  And so do we.

March 2, 2009

At the risk of poor taste…my first poker post

Filed under: Poker — HighStakesBlog @ 12:09 pm

At the risk of taking this blog in a questionable direction, I am following up a post on whiskey-flavored condoms with my first real poker post.

I have no idea why anyone would actually waste their time reading these ridiculous rants and self-indulgent soliloquies, but for those who do, you’re going to quickly understand that I really don’t care! And I mean that in the nicest way possible.  I write this for me.  It is clicheingly cathartic, it helps me focus my thoughts and my life and affords me the opportunity to make-up words like clicheingly.  It’s all about me, really.

What I’m driving at is that there are going to be a plethora of poker posts in this silly little endeavor.  So read them and learn … or skip and just look at pictures of liquor-flavored condoms.  Up to you.

I can sum up why I love poker in two quotes that anyone who has read anything of mine is sick of my typing:

“”Poker reveals to the frank observer something else of import—it will teach him about his own nature. Many bad players do not improve because the cannot bear self-knowledge.” — David Mamet (yes, that David Mamet…google him)

“Whether he likes it or not, a man’s character is stripped bare at the poker table; if the other players read him better than he does, then he has only himself to blame.  Unless he is both able and prepared to see himself as others do, flaws and all, he’ll be a loser in cards as in life.” — Anthony Holden

That’s why I love poker.  To me, it’s the same as writing this blog.  And my competence is in question on both, admittedly.  But their respective impacts on my life are not.  I need to challenge myself, to better myself, to both snuggle up to my miserable faults and to acknowledge and embrace my relative talents.  As a suburban father, one client away from a kept man, without a passport and any international travel to speak of (this one time..in Windsor…), how else can I accomplish these feats I hold in such high esteem?

There is a poker truism that it is not about winning a hand or winning a session or even about results at all, but it’s about making the best decisions based on the information you are able to discern from the situation in which you find yourself.  And really isn’t that the same as in life?  Your goal is to make the best decisions you can, with the most information you are able to compile.  To strip bare my personality at the poker table and to review the naked truth is to better myself in life.

And that is why I play.

And just as with writing, that is why I stop and start.  When I can no longer stand to stare into my soul and answer the questions that emerge, I simply stop looking.  I stop writing.  I stop playing.  I start hiding.  I start ignoring.  I start rationalizing.  I stop living.

Damnit, I want to live.  I’m tired of hiding and I’m tired of rationalizing.

And so I play.  And I write.

Care to join me?

February 27, 2009

Thirsty Thursday II (on Friday)

Filed under: Thirsty Thursday — HighStakesBlog @ 9:36 am

This isn’t the last time this will happen, I can assure you.  I had the best intentions to blog last night, but in a desperate attempt to get my two-year-old to sleep…of course I fell asleep.

So I will skip the Bourbon-primer I had planned and leave you with this brilliant little nugget.

whiskey-flavoured-condoms-1

February 25, 2009

Oh yeah? Well you’re a stupid-head, Mr. Republican

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — HighStakesBlog @ 6:03 pm

Okay, that title might be a tad juvenile, but also appropriate I think.

I posted a facebook status comment today that as expected, generated some attention and I wanted to take a little more time and a few more characters to explain my thoughts.

I want you to close your eyes.

Wait, no, don’t do that.  That’s like a casino Pit Boss telling you to put away your wallet.  None of us are getting anywhere if you follow either of those instructions.  But you get the point.  Prepare yourself for the image I am about to woefully unsuccessfully paint for you.

A confident, dapper former US Senator from Illinois stands in front of hundreds of people and has everyone murmuring in reverent tones about his political and oratorical prowess.  This former US Senator presents poetic prose and speaks of the need for an investment in new forms of energy…he passionately promotes the need for an over-hauled education system…he eloquently and effusively makes a case for more and better health care for Americans.

Okay, now open your eyes snap out of your happy place and tell me whether that speech was delivered in September in Podunk, Pennsylvania or last night in the hallowed halls of Washington, DC.  Without a calendar and google, you can’t do it, can you?  That was my problem with last night’s speech.  My comment to my facebook cronies was as follows: “I am wondering if Obama knows he isn’t campaigning anymore and actually has to RUN the country now. That speech was presidential candidate and not Presidential.”

And I mean it.  There is no doubt that the man is exceedingly intelligent, charasmatic beyond comprehension and most likely a better choice for this country than John McCain.  I concede all of that.  But my comments on President Obama when he was running still hold true.  I had concerns that he had not been in an elected executive position.  I think this lack of experience is showing through.  Our country is crumbling around us.  Financially we appear to be in a free-fall.  We are still battling two overt wars and countless covert “wars” with countries like Russia and Iran and groups like Al Qaeda and Hamas.  Our reputation as a nation, after experiencing a brief bump after the November election is still somewhere down around that of stall-hound, George Michael.

We do not need oratory.  We need leadership.  We don’t need scolded.  We need leadership.  We don’t need threatened.  We need leadership.  And that leadership is where I feel Mr. Obama is falling short.  By most accounts, the executive branch has been VERY hands-off throughout this “stimulus” process.  There have been thinly veiled threats, public stonings, statements of need and defensive posturing.  But the details and the “heavy lifting” were done by Congress.  That’s what Obama was elected to oversee. And sadly, that’s not what Congress appears capable of doing.

I had high hopes for the speech last night.  I really did.  I have high hopes for our country and for this administration.  I really do.  But I fear that the tone of several comments in response to my facebook status personify the problem in Washington right now.  I am not the bad guy.  Republicans are not the bad guys (and for the record, don’t make me write another ‘I swear I am an independent’ blog).  It’s not a matter of either or.  We’re beyond that.

I readily concede that the pundits and commenters are right.  Bobby Jindal certainly wasn’t any better.  But Jindal is the Governor of a state that barely exists at this point.  He’s not the President. The nation didn’t elect Bobby Jindal.  Baton Rouge did.  The nation elected a man who it felt had ideas and who it felt would make them forget about yesterday and promised to lead them to a better today and a better tomorrow.

At this point, I desperately want to be able to recognize the difference.

February 24, 2009

A couple quick-hitters

Filed under: Quick-Hitters — Tags: , — HighStakesBlog @ 2:28 pm
  1. How do you like the new format?  When you have trouble reading your own crap because of the color contrasts, it might be time to make a change.
  2. I posted this on facebook, but I had to share here too…I just saw a beer drive-thru posting specials on ping-pong balls…there’s a chance Darwin was wrong.
  3. This is incredible for me, but I am doing more writing than reading these days.  I have a lot of specialty blogs I read, but I am looking for some that are just flat-out well-written.  Any recommendations on your daily “must-read’s” would be much appreciated.
  4. There’s an off-chance this pundit poser is going to be the proud owner of a mini-van in the coming weeks.  Any advice on avoiding suicide, names for the beast that don’t make me feel emasculated or actual mini-van experiences?

Carry on.

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