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2008 in review: Blogland and beyond

January 9, 2009 | 2008,2009,Audience participation,Blogging,Blogland games,Citizen of the Month,Dad2twins,Devra Renner,Friends,Goon Squad Sarah,Great Interview Experiment,Guest blogger,Gunfighter,Magpie Musing,New Year,Traveling

Hey. Still grateful here.

Just a little more than a year ago, we decided at the last minute to go to Norway for the holidays. My husband’s grandmother was gravely ill, and we hoped to see her one more time. (She died just a few days before we got there.)

I put out a desperate call to a bunch of blogfriends, asking if they would be willing to guest post in my absence. I was humbled with the response. I had guest posts for almost every day I was away.

So I’m still grateful.

For …

For …

Linda Jones for letting me blog at You’ve Got Your Hands Full.

Linda also gave me free rein to redesign the blog, which I did over my crazy summer. I had some hits and misses. A photographer promised the use of an image then wouldn’t return e-mails or telephone calls. So I scrambled for a suitable replacement, and I got something even better. I called on someone I knew, Kristine Freed.

With the help of Kristine and Sherilyn Brinker of Brinker-Freed Photographyand new mother-of-twins Kerrin Laari and her 5-week-old babies, Elise and Ian, I had a fabulous image to use on the blog.

None of it would have happened, though, without Jo-Lynne at DCR Design. She made the header and buttons, arranged and rearranged everything and even called me to give me a crash course in making my own changes. (Though I’m still fairly hopeless in that department.) I would have made a big announcement on the blog by now, but I’m having technical difficulties with Typepad, and I haven’t been able to sign on. As soon as I get it figured out, though, I’ll get something posted.

For …

For …

Citizen of the Month for a great experience, The Interview Experiment, and meeting two new blogfriends at A Juicy Life (now Notre Vie Juteuse since she moved to France) and The Would-Be Writers Guild.

For …

For …

Bob for his review of Final Salute.

For …

For …

  • Everyone who stopped by to read and/or comment.

Happy New Year.

Posted by Becky @ 3:46 pm | 5 Comments  

I’m a guest blogger

August 30, 2008 | Blogging,Guest blogger,Gunfighter

Hey, I’m over at Gunfighter’s place today. I’m filling in while he’s on vacation. Go on over and say, hey!

Posted by Becky @ 3:46 pm | 1 Comment  

The checks (or some such) are in the mail

February 8, 2008 | Blogging,Guest blogger

Here’s what I hope is a proper thank you to all my fantabulous guest bloggers. I delivered little Scandihoovia-land treats to the post office this week, and some of them have already arrived. (Go, USPS!) I swear they have nothing to do with St. Pukealot. Nothing doing with lutefisk either. I promise. Maybe a wee bit about jul, but that’s no big surprise coming from the Land of Christmas. (I’ll write more about that later … with pictures!)

To my guest-blogging pals … thank you!


AdventureDad lives in Sweden with his Mexican wife and two children. He also blogs for The Blogfathers (Dads You Can’t Refuse). He wrote about Paternity Leave Heaven.


Bad American worked in newspapers and radio and now owns a bookstore in Ohio called Granfalloon Books. He has strong political opinions, and he’s not afraid to express them. He wrote Iowa: Smelling the Fear and the Hope.


The Bullshit Observer is married with two sons. He knows bullshit when he smells it, and I like that in a person. Besides, he makes me laugh. He wrote Gentlemanly Conduct and The Presidency … Let’s Outsource.


Matthew at Childs Play x2 is married with twins and lives in California. He makes me cry. Oh, he makes me laugh too, but the way he writes about being a father gets me right there, dammit. He wrote Today I declare my candidacy. While I warned my guests that I had not endorsed — nor did I plan to endorse — any political candidates, Matthew made me take it all back. He gets my vote.


Wendy Hoke of Creative Ink is a writer and editor in Ohio. She makes me think. She wrote Accepting the Quiet. The book she mentioned, The Gay Talese Reader: Portraits & Encounters, is now in my to-read pile. Thanks, Wendy.


Lance at Dad2twins has been a guest here before, reviewing a Los Lonely Boys CD. He married a German, and they have twins. His family comes from the Land of Lutefisk and Reindeer. He calls his daughters the Farty Pants Twins, and what’s not funny about that? He wrote Where should I begin …


Elana at Funny Business writes about business trends. She wrote I may not be Norwegian, but I’ve tasted lutefisk. She lives in Minnesota, so she knows from Norway. I recently read an article about Norwegian-Americans all up in arms about Norway closing its consulate in Minneapolis. “What’s more Norwegian than Minnesota, anyway?” one of them asked. Indeed.


Kemp at Kemp’s Blog is married with twins. He also blogs at The Blogfathers, The “Bush”-Whacked Administration, Draft Day Suit and the Supercoolest Book Club Ever. He wrote Hmmm? What to write?


Thea at The Little Bird is a musician and an artist. She’s expecting a baby in May. Oh, and she reviews books. She wrote Attack of the long-winded book review!


Mamma Loves is smart, witty and hilarious. I got to meet her IRL on a recent visit to her neck of the woods. She also blogs at DC Metro Moms. She wrote Believe it or not, I wasn’t late to my own wedding.

I told Margaret she needs to start a blog. She’s smart, savvy and has lots of interesting things to say. (C’mon. How about a little Blogland pressure? Go, Margaret!) She wrote Are your friends Republicans?


Mom’s Minivan writes about everything you ever wanted to know about traveling with children. She survived Hurricane Katrina with her sense of humor intact. She wrote Get Your Costumes Ready, which has generated a ton of search hits for crawfish costumes and other Mardi Gras-related, umm, things.


Adam at One Man and his Blog is a business journalist across the ocean. He’s got lots of great information about journalism and blogging, and he’s all over the Internet. He makes me laugh, and not just because he talks about quid, hacks and Hogmanay. He wrote Have A Very Bloggy 2008.


Aviva and Devra at Parentopia are the authors of Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids. I met Devra IRL after convincing her to book my town on her speaking tour. If you don’t know Devra yet, trust me … you will. Devra also blogs at DC Metro Moms. They wrote Oy To The World, the Chinese Is Come, Let Jews Receive Their Food!


Sarah at Sarah and the Goon Squad never fails to crack me up. She has twins two weeks younger than mine. We met when neither one of us could sit properly at a table because of our huge twin bellies. She also writes for DC Metro Moms, BlogHer, Draft Day Suit and the Supercoolest Book Club Ever, among others. She wrote I’m #1 (or first if you prefer that).


Toddled Dredge has a husband, three children and kickass sense of humor. She wrote Green for Danger.


Bill at The View from Here just got a new place in Blogland. Same Bill. He’s just spiffin’ up the place. I came this close to meeting him IRL during a recent visit to his neck of the woods, but he had Brownies that night. I think it had something to do with firearms. Oh, wait. That’s his regular job. He wrote A Little Talk About Guns.


Rebecca Laffar-Smith is a writer, editor, poet and novelist. She has two children and lives in Australia. She also runs the Writer’s Round-About. She wrote Writing From The Heart.

Posted by Becky @ 10:06 pm | 6 Comments  

Iowa: Smelling the Fear and the Hope

January 5, 2008 | 2008 campaign,Guest blogger,Journalism,Politics

Hello everyone, this is Keith, otherwise known as The Bad American, guest blogging here at Deep Muck Big Rake for today.

I have to say looking at all the guest bloggers that have blogged before me, I feel honored and not the least intimidated to join this august group. Thanks again Becky for the opportunity.

I was at a loss as to what to write about today. I saw this wonderful piece by John Hockenberry, which I will link to here because I feel anyone with a passing familiarity or experience with the major media can both appreciate Hockenberry’s lament and commiserate with it.

Rather than write a 1,000 word pontification on the article, let me, for once, be succinct: no one who works for big media should expect to cover, produce, write or otherwise disseminate, any news that does not reflect the biases, prejudices, politics and financial interests of Corporate America.

The truth is out there, Scully. And it’s probably on a blog.

But let’s get to what everyone seems to be wondering in the wake of the news from Thursday: how long will they hold Britney Spears?

Kidding, kidding.

No, something serious: a 92 percent Caucasian state sends Barack Obama to New Hampshire (another lily white state) as the front-runner and suddenly Queen Hillary doesn’t seem so inevitable.

Should we allow ourselves a bit of irrational exuberance?

Well, perhaps. Let’s be honest about the situation: Obama played Iowa beautifully. Having lived in the state for three years before moving back to Ohio, the state rewards straight shooters and plain speakers. They do not cotton to those who double speak, look too well oiled or rehearsed, and show up to hay bailing in immaculately pressed overalls. Iowans know bullshit when then see it. What they saw in Obama was nothing but someone they think might make a very decent President.

And after all the bludgeoning by the Clinton machine, they grew tired of her act. It’s not that Iowans have something against the idea of another Clinton: Iowa Democrats are still wild about Bill. It’s just that Hillary Clinton, like relatives and fish, did not wear well.

It doesn’t mean New Hampshire won’t put her back in the lead — they just might. But it’s a cautionary tale when campaigning “out there”: Midwesterners have a lower threshold for production values than they do on the coasts. Learn it.

And if Obama hadn’t been so damned fresh and Kennedy-esque, the state might have rewarded John Edwards with a big win. Iowans generally like the South Carolinian but his populist message was driven home a little too late. When Barack Obama is the flavor of the year, me-tooism isn’t going to get your first place ticket punched.

And yet, the most fascinating aspect of the Iowa caucus was the amazing story of Mike Huckabee.

The real story here isn’t just Huckabee as the flavor of the week, nor is that Iowa’s evangelical Christians gave Huck the big push.

That’s all true. But what floors me as a former religion journalist in Cedar Rapids is that Huckabee’s brand of evangelical Christianity is closer to Jimmy Carter’s than Pat Robertson’s.

Mike Huckabee might have floating crosses traipsing across his ads but he has a social conscience that his giving the rest of the conservative Republicans the fits.

Link to this Paul Szep cartoon

The amazing thing that happened in that, at some point, maybe under undue prodding from folks like Rick Warren, a major faction of Christian Conservatives looked down at those WWJD bracelets and the thought hit them: maybe Jesus wouldn’t be for a capital gains tax cut after all. Maybe, just maybe, there was a little bit more to life than the mindless pursuit of material wealth.

But try telling it to the minders of the so-called “Reagan revolution.”

These guardians of wealth and privilege are rising from the muck to remind their yokel fellow travelers that all the God talk might be nice for the campaign trail but the real reason people are on the GOP train is greed.

Hugh Hewitt sees Huckabee as a stalking horse for pro-John McCain forces who used Huck’s Christian conservative base to decapitate Mitt Romney in Iowa and set up McCain for New Hampshire. But Hewitt sees something else even more dastardly afoot:

“Third, the conservative activists have to realize that there is an attempted coup under way. (The New York Times Columnist David) Brooks attacks by name Wall Street and K Street, Rush Limbaugh, The Club for Growth and President Bush, asserting that they constitute the “leadership class,” and that Huckabee’s war on them all was fueled by a knowledge of “how middle-class anxiety is really lived.” Brooks adds that Huck is forging:

A conservatism that loves capitalism but distrusts capitalists is not hard to imagine either. Adam Smith felt this way. A conservatism that pays attention to people making less than $50,000 a year is the only conservatism worth defending.

What utter nonsense. Did the tax cuts help families making less than $50 K a year? Did the prescription drug benefit? Does not getting attacked since 9/11 benefit only the middle and upper classes?

Will such neopopulism work? Nah. Even Brooks disowns it in the space of a couple of lines. Here is one of the most cynical graphs ever written on the day after an election:

Will Huckabee move on and lead this new conservatism? Highly doubtful. The past few weeks have exposed his serious flaws as a presidential candidate. His foreign policy knowledge is minimal. His lapses into amateurishness simply won’t fly in a national campaign.

Let me translate the NewYorkTimes-speak: “Thanks, you bozos in the sticks. We played you like a fiddle. Now it is time to bleed your guy to get our guy.”

Utter nonsense, Mr. Hewitt? The inability of Guardians of the Neo-Con Cabal in the GOP (for that is who they really are) to remove their bloated heads from their asses and smell the fear has already cost them Iowa and may possibly cost them their boy’s (Mitt’s) shot at the nomination.

All because a group of people are suddenly becoming the kind of Republicans Pat Buchanan had been envisioning for the last 15 years. Rampant job-killing free-trade agreements, hopelessly bloody foreign wars and a culture of turn a fast buck at all costs are suddenly far less popular in the Heartland.

And all it took was the near total destruction of the US dollar, US economy and US military to get the slumbering masses to realize they’d been suckered by the ghost of failed Reaganism — “trickle down” turned into a torrent of foreclosures, flag-draped caskets and unemployment lines. And now they want to set the ship straight.

Here’s Rush Limbaugh’s little brother David’s take:

“Far too many people believe we can continue to piggyback on our legacy of freedom, which is made possible by limited government no matter how big and intrusive government becomes. They believe we can undermine, with impunity, the constitutional pillars that guaranty our liberties, apparently assuming our glorious experiment in constitutional governance was an accident of geography or demographics rather than ideas. They believe we will always be the world’s lone superpower irrespective of whether we commit our spirit and resources to that effort. It’s just manifest destiny — or magic. Consider, for example, those who interpret our prevention of further major terrorist attacks on our soil since 9/11 as proof the threat has diminished, or perhaps was overblown from the beginning.

We expect liberals to believe: We can punish the producers in this nation without reducing overall output and hurting all economic groups; we can socialize health care without destroying its quality, quantity and affordability; we can assault our traditional values and cultural institutions without eroding the nation’s character; unbridled, illegal immigration without assimilation will lead to multicultural Nirvana; and we will be secure at home if we’ll just be nicer to foreign nations and more sensitive to the terrorists’ concerns.

But what about conservatives? Do we also need a reminder that free nations are the exception in world history and that our liberty was purchased with the greatest sacrifices and will ultimately disappear without a rededication to our founding principles?

Whoa, someone get Dave some smelling salts. You’d think the Red Army had already hit America’s shores and was working their way inland. All that bloviating from Huckabee winning Iowa — are they really this scared?

There are many other examples of this hyperventilating going on from the pro-war, pro-plutocracy neo-cons online. This link has a good number of examples. You won’t know whether to laugh, cheer or hurl.

What amazes me is that, as a liberal, I look at Huckabee, with his young Earth theories, Biblical literalism and anti-intellectualism as a smiling, yet dangerous threat to take America back to the dark ages a good deal faster than even the Bush gang.

But isn’t it fascinating that when the ChristCons start making noises that they might be ready to, at least in some ways, use their political clout to live out the Gospel as Jesus taught it — compassion for the less fortunate — that their “friends” rise up to drag them back to the right side of the plantation.

So have we really ripped the smiling face off the monster of the Reagan Revolution? Behind the grinning face of God-fearing, Middle Class white America, when you strip out all the bullshit niceties, it’s really, at core, all about the Military-Industrial complex raping and pillaging the planet.

I know: well, duh!But the cons have done such a good job selling the “rising tide lifts all boats” nonsense for so long that many religiously devout Americans have really believed that Jesus wanted savage wealth inequalities, social persecution and worldwide wars and that such things were good for America, GM, and the planet.

Now all that’s left is Rush Limbaugh screaming that it’s all about the guns and the money. And it always was.

So take heart, fellow progressives. Between the rise of Obama and the last protective masks being ripped from a ghoulish and soul killing political chicanery, there is at last, if perhaps for a fleeting moment, some reason for a little optimism.

But the neo-cons will not go quietly. And they are counting on the American public, dumbed down by years of being mis-taught their history, of falling for the same old scare tactics again and again. And in the end, they may be right.

But the American progressives have the opportunity now to really step forward and, if the future be Obama, keep him to his promises and especially to make sure that this rise of populism du jour isn’t just used as a fancy way of whipping up the disaffected but translates into actual policy that undoes years of damage to our body politic and social fabric.

And I’ve been reluctant to jump on Obama’s bandwagon. Then I read this post by Geoffrey R. Stone in Huffpo which contained this excerpt:

Shortly after Obama announced his candidacy for the Senate, I attended (and, indeed, co-hosted) a major fundraising event in Chicago for the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation. At one point, I spotted Obama moving gracefully through the crowd, chatting amiably with each individual, dutifully pressing the flesh. As I observed him, I thought to myself, “What a waste. This is demeaning. Barack should forget politics and become a full-time law professor. Then he could really make something of himself.”

A few minutes later, I found myself standing next to Obama at the shrimp bowl. Although it was really none of my business, I decided to impart some of my wisdom. “Barack,” I said, “I’ve been watching you out there, making nice to all these folks. Why are you doing this? Given the realities of politics, you know as well as I that there’s no chance you’ll get the nomination, let alone defeat (Senator Patrick) Fitzgerald. Why don’t you just pack all this in and accept a full-time position on the faculty?” Barack smiled and thoughtfully replied, “Geof, I know where you’re coming from, but, you know, I have to do this. I believe I can make a difference. I have a responsibility to try.” As he blended back into the crowd, I thought, “What a waste.”

Read again the quote I highlighted. Suck it in just a little. I have to assume the quote is true and the sentiments behind it are honest and heartfelt.

And I am stunned, that in a age of selfishness, crassness and a general feeling that all politicians are ego-serving power-trippers here comes someone who honestly believes that with the intellectual gifts he has been given and developed, comes great responsibility and a calling to, as hokey as it sounds, leave the world a better place.

So for Obama and his legion of starry-eyed children, this will take a lot of work and will not be for weak hearts. After all, Alan Nairn on Democracy Now alleges warmonger Zbigniew Brzezinski is advising Obama on foreign policy (as he did Jimmy Carter) and the specter of super delegatesmake the possibility of a very un-democratic outcome. But this moment in time may represent our last best chance to turn back the march to total corporatism/fascism that threatens to place our nation and our planet on an irretrievable course to destruction.

And we all need to seize this moment now.

Posted by Keith @ 5:08 pm | Comments  

Get Your Costumes Ready

Blogging,Friends,Guest blogger,Guest post,Stuff,Weird things

Crawfish costumes on Bourbon StreetGet your costumes ready. It’s nearly Carnival Time — also known as Mardi Gras. Hi folks, I’m guest blogger Laurel — also known as Road Trip Mom — and the editor/owner of MomsMinivan.com. Formerly I also wrote a Katrina Returnee blog, but those days are long behind me now. I prefer to focus on the fun times that still continue at my former home in New Orleans. Like Mardi Gras – my favorite holiday.

That’s right, a real holiday — as in banks are closed, no school, no mail delivery, everyone gets the day off to eat, drink, and be merry. It’s actually more than just a holiday – it’s a whole season. New Orleans really only has two seasons: Summer and Mardi Gras. Just one more day until the debauchery begins. January 6th is Twelfth Night which marks the start of Mardi Gras season which then comes to it’s grand conclusion on Fat Tuesday.

One of my favorite Mardi Gras Day memories was the first Fat Tuesday following Hurricane Katrina. I spent it with my friend Devra. Being that it was the first Mardi Gras after Katrina we weren’t really sure what to expect, but we were not going to miss it, and we were going in full costume, of course. Mardi Gras is infinitely more fun if you are in costume.

Crawfish Et ToupeeWe decided to put a spin on one of our favorite local dishes, Crawfish Etoufée, and wear it as our costume. We found some crazy crawfish hats and added little brown wigs, and covered ourselves from head to toe with rubber crawfish. We wore little signs that said, “Chef Special: Crawfish Et Toupee”.

We started out with a quick breakfast in the outdoor patio at Cafe Dumonde by the river (a popular tourist spot). Beignets and cafe au lait hit the spot and tourists immediately began to swarm us like papparizi wanting our picture. We obliged and then proceeded into the French Quarter for some bizzare people watching and more photo ops. Costumers were basically in two catagories that year: those in traditional “anything goes” costumes, and those in Katrina themed costumes.

We were in the anything goes group, as was this cute couple dressed as Got MILF? and these guys dressed as a fur burger and bearded clam. We also saw a guy dressed as the Yellow Brick Road. He had a whole group of people dressed as Wizard of Oz characters who were ….. following him. The French Quarter swelled with party goers and costumers galore. The overall turnout was huge, which says a lot for the spirit of the people of New Orleans.

Some of our favorite Katrina costumers were these folks wearing rubber inner tubes so they’d be ready for the next flood. We also saw people dressed as duct taped Rotten Refridgerators, Blue Tarped Roofs, and even Mardi Gras Maggots. We laughed out loud at the Ho Depot Ladies, Looters with Hooters, and my all time favorite Blind Levee Inspectors. (I posted all our photos at Mardi Gras Costume Pics.com)

We hit a few parades, listened to some live music, and enjoyed the sights. We eventually stopped in a restaurant for a little lunch — you would think it would be hard to find food on a day so crowded, but it never is. Parking is never a problem either if you know where to go.

After lunch, it was time to wave hello to the Internet Bourbo cam, and then go in for a little karaoke at the Cat’s Meow. I am not exaggerating when I say that we brought down the house with our rendition of “Respect” dressed as crawfish ladies. Gawd, I love singing karaoke. Especially when I’m wearing a mask….. and a score of rubber crustaceans.

As the afternoon went on, the streets became more and more crowded. It was a good time to try to find a balcony for a better view. I happen to know that there are several bars that will let people wearing cool costumes use their balconies for free. From our high perch, we danced to the music and taunted tourists below with our supply of beads while they waved and clamoured for us to throw them down. It was like being a rock star for a day.

At one point during our adventure, I took a photo of Devra using a trash can to actually throw away some trash. We wanted to set a good example for others. Maybe start a trend.

Eventually we headed home with our photos and memories of a wonderful day. Everyone should experience Mardi Gras at least once in their life. And you simply MUST wear a costume. You can be anything you want. And if you just can’t come up with a costume, you can always just wear your suitcase. That works too.

Posted by Laurel @ 3:07 am | Comments  

Today, I declare my candidacy

January 3, 2008 | 2008 campaign,Guest blogger,Guest post

My fellow Americans…

Today is the dawn of a new day. A day that offers hope for a troubled nation. A day that, in years to come, will be seen as the turning point in renaissance of the United States of America. Today, dear friends, I declare my candidacy for the office of President of The United States of America.

While I may be slow entering the race, that’s only because I have many of the same problems as you. For instance, my car started making a funny noise last week and I only found time to get it to the mechanic today. The milk in the refrigerator is three days past it’s due date and, because I had no time to stop off at the store, I convinced my kids that the milk tastes funny because it’s Magic Milk that will allow them to become big and strong.

You see, my fellow Americans, I am just like you.

And we need an every day American in the White House! And while I may have missed out on Iowa, New Hampshire voters are sure to take notice as I roll out my platform.

For instance, as the father of twins I pledge to make baby changing tables mandatory in every public restroom from L.A. to New York City. I pledge to make grocery carts seat two kids so a parent no longer has to choose between grocery shopping and chasing after kids.

I pledge to bring back cough syrup – and make it work this time! Every <del>parent</del> child deserves to sleep through the night without coughing up a lung. This is the most technologically advanced society on earth. We made Post-its but we can’t make a safe cough syrup? I know we can do better!

I will be tough on immigration! Dora The Explorer has infiltrated our homes and poses a threat to every man, woman and child in this country. She sets a bad example for our children, cavorting with monkeys and straying far and wide from her parents. We will finally send big-headed kids back where they came from!

I will force all toy companies to face the real issues confronting parents today. Forget lead poisoning, we need to force toy companies to make toys that all operate under one size battery. No more D’s, C’s, AA, AAA, or 9-volt batteries. We demand uniformity and I will make sure we get it!

Health care in this country needs an overhaul. If elected president, I will make sure that all Band-Aids come with smiley faces and rainbows. Every doctor will actually have to listen to a parent’s concern or risk losing their license. No more condescending nods and insincere smiles from our pediatricians!

Finally, I promise to get tough on terror. If elected President I promise to protect every man, woman and child from the evil forces that exist in our country. I will do everything in my power to beat back the infiltration of two of the most terrifying forces our country confronts today. Yes, I promise that we will rid our society from Barney the Purple Dinosaur and Elmo, the red-haired freak with a tickling fetish.

There you are, my fellow Americans. As you can see I represent you, the every day American. I am in touch with what American needs to make this an even better society. Vote for me this year and I promise to make your life better.  You can find more of my values and ideas by visiting my website at www.childsplayx2.com.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:42 pm | 5 Comments  

Gentlemanly Conduct

January 2, 2008 | Daddy bloggers,Ethics,Family,Guest blogger,Guest post,Opinion,Parenting,Politics,Quotes

(Guest Post by Todd, The Bullshit Observer. How I know Becky: I’m just another blog-mirer.) New Years day, My 5 year old and I took a break from watching college football to play wiffle baseball in the back yard. At one point he had a little tantrum and threw his bat. As is my fatherly duty, I scolded him. “OK, not cool. You don’t throw your bat when you’re upset, Nick,” He picked up the bat and hit a few. Then he threw his bat again and I immediately barked, “Nick, that is unsportsman-like conduct,” somehow expecting him to know what that means.  “What does that mean?” he asked.  “It means that it’s….not cool….and….not how you are supposed to behave when you play baseball,” I said, somewhat feebly. “It’s not respectful of the game or your fellow players,” I added.  Then I thought, “Well, what the hell does that mean?”  Then I started thinking. Where has the idea of sportsmanlike conduct gone anyway? I just watched at least a half-dozen college football players get busted for late hits, pushing opponents, and celebrating in their opponent’s face. That kind of behavior seemed normal. Even routine. Then it occurred to me that the ideal of gentlemanly conduct (which “Sportmenship” is based upon and which can be defined as acting with an acute sense of respect and propriety), is one that is in dire need of a revival.When I pledged a fraternity in college, the active members made us “poopies” (pledges) memorize a poem by John Walter Waylen entitled, “The True Gentelman.” It goes like this: 

The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.     

The idea of this passage was clearly too good for the fellows that made me memorize it in the back of a station-wagon at 80 miles per hour with a hood over my head and then recite it while a match burned down to the tips of my fingers. Oh precious irony. Oh precious Neosporin.  As we hop back into our lives this January 2nd, let us take a moment to absorb this ideal. Ladies too, for this is surely a gender generic idea with a gender specific name. Unlikely though it may seem, especially during an election cycle, it is possible for this true gentleman/gentlewoman ideal to make a comeback. Let us resolve ourselves to expect nothing less that this. Because if we start expecting dirty, underhanded behavior from those around us, above us or in the spotlight, then we will have accepted it and we will have succumbed to it and then the new ideal will more closely resemble Machiavelli’s The Prince. In a sense, that’s really what this blog, Deep Muck Big Rake, is all about. Isn’t it?

Posted by Todd @ 2:43 pm | 3 Comments  

Have A Very Bloggy 2008

December 31, 2007 | Blogging,Guest blogger,Guest post,Journalism

Adam TinworthHello and a Happy Hogmanay to all readers of Deep Muck Big Rake. I’m Adam Tinworth of One Man & His Blog, and I’m another one of those blogging journalists that’s doing the rounds right now. And you’re stuck with me for your final post here of 2007. And I’m stuck with writing a post that no-one will read, because they’re too busy getting drunk, or recovering from a hangover, to be bothered with the interwebs. Ah, well. Never mind. Writing stuff nobody reads is what journalists are used to, goddamit! It’s a tradition!

So, let’s be traditional about this. Let’s do a “look back at the year” post. It’s what most publications do at this time of the year, after all. Why? Well, they’re easy, and you can knock them off in a morning before heading off to a boozy pre-Christmas lunch and an extended Christmas holiday while the sub-editors try and turn it into something readable during your holidays.

And what a year 2007’s been. I’ve been blogging since 2001, and blogging seriously since 2003. In those early days, a blogging journalist was a pretty rare creature. In the year just gone, they’re everywhere. And I mean everywhere. You can barely go to a magazine or newspaper website these days without being invited to read some hack or other’s latest musings on the day’s events.

Now, let’s be honest. Not all of these blogs are created equal. Some of them are pretty clearly done under duress. (“Write a blog post this morning, or we’ll take your whisky away from you.” “Noooooo! Anything but that!”) And some of them are just plain crap. No two ways about it, some hacks just can’t write without subs to pick up their backs. But it’s a start. And the more the journos blog, the more they get the hang of a conversation, rather than just talking at people. Hey, the sheer fact that there are various of us here writing guest posts on Becky’s blog shows that some of us have learned to do the conversation thing.

And it’s not before time.


Posted by Adam @ 2:23 pm | 7 Comments  

Believe it or not, I wasn’t late to my own wedding

December 30, 2007 | Blogging,Guest blogger

Hi.  I’m Amie from Mamma Loves.  I was so flattered when Becky invited me to guest post in her absence.  And then what do I do?  (And trust me this will come as no surprise to my husband, mother or friends.)  I show up late! 

How rude.

I hate being late.  It’s one of my worst bad habits.  In my defense in this circumstance, the holidays have me all screwed up and I thought today was the 28th.  But isn’t that the way with folks like us who are always late?  We always have an excuse.  And really, there isn’t ever a good one.  I recognize that others feel tardiness is rude.  I don’t particularly.  I don’t get frustrated when others are a little late.  I know life gets in the way.  That’s what happens to me.  I think I can get way more done in an allotted period of time.  Or I just really want a few more minutes of sleep in the morning.  The thing is, it’s a bad habit.  One I’d like to change.

Think I have any hope if I set it as my New Year’s resolution?  Cripes, I have so many already.  I’m not really a New Year’s resolution kind of gal.  It seems so contrived.  Either I’m going to try to do something or I’m not.  It’s sort of like starting a diet on a Monday.  Isn’t there some study out there that suggests that’s the worst day of the week to start? 

The reason I’m even tempted this year is that I have eaten so poorly for the last few weeks and I could really use the excuse of the holidays being over to start anew. 

Man I sound like I have a lot of issues.  I probably do.  I’m a blogger right?  I mean I write about my life and put it out there for the rest of the world to read.  I wonder what Freud would have had to say about blogging.  Whatever.  I say screw Freud.  Sometimes words are just words…and sometimes they aren’t.

Well as you can tell my blogging skills are a bit rusty.  I haven’t posted at all over at my place since the before the holidays.  I really to appreciate the opportunity to exercise my muscles over here–can you say atrophy?  I’m going to owe Becky some major links or something after this.  Or she can just refer back to this post (or this one)every once in a while to feel better about herself.  I mean really.  It’s the least I could do.

Posted by Mamma Loves @ 12:37 am | Comments  

Accepting the quiet, by Wendy Hoke

December 29, 2007 | Books,Guest blogger,Guest post,Journalism

What an honor and a thrill to be asked to guest blog here at Deep Muck Big Rake. I’m a freelance journalist who also writes at Creative Ink and I’m happy to count Becky among my regular readers. I’ve not written there lately because I’m attempting a vacation.

Problem is, I’m a needy writer and so when things get quiet, I get nervous. Makes no sense, you see, because I’m working on several ongoing projects and have another story due next Friday and got an e-mail this morning about doing some editing on another book project. So I should really just learn to accept and enjoy the quiet.

This may not be true for every writer, but I need to unplug from time to time to recharge the creative batteries. For inspiration, I’ve turned this week to “The Gay Talese Reader: Portraits & Encounters.” Last March, I had the privilege of meeting him at a storytelling workshop in Anniston, Ala.

With the exception of “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” I hadn’t really read any of his work. I mean, I was familiar with all the titles, “The Kingdom and the Power,” “Honor Thy Father,” and his notable profiles of boxers and baseball players. But I hadn’t really read his work.

I still believe that the Frank Sinatra/Esquire piece has tremendous resonance and stands as a model for reporting. Not all of his pieces in this book struck me the same way. However, the piece about Floyd Patterson (“The Loser”) was heartrending in its simplicity.

As a nonfiction writer, I find his reporting astounding, asking myself what questions he asked to get certain information, or wondering where he was standing in a room when he observed certain things, or what he’s looking for when he scans a room or a place and what particular details of a person fill his notebooks.

He reveals some of his trade secrets in a piece called, “Origins of a Nonfiction Writer,” and some of the details written here about being a boy in his mother’s dress shop in New Jersey, he shared with journalists in Anniston last March.

“The shop was a kind of talk show that flowed around the engaging manner and well-timed questions of my mother; and as a boy not much taller than the counters behind which I used to pause and eavesdrop. I learned much that would be useful to me years later when I began interviewing people for articles and books.

“I learned to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments (as the listening skills of my patient mother taught me) people often are very revealing—what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them. Their pauses, their evasions, their sudden shifts in subject matter are likely indicators of what embarrasses them, or irritates them, or what they regard as too private or imprudent to be disclosed to another person at that particular time. However, I also overheard many people discussing candidly with my mother what they had earlier avoided—a reaction that I think had less to do with her inquiring nature or sensitively posed questions than with their gradual acceptance of her as a trustworthy individual in whom they could confide. My mother’s best customers were women less in need of new dresses than the need to communicate.”

Too often, Talese is credited with founding, “The New Journalism,” so labeled by Tom Wolfe. But Talese steadfastly rejects such labels, maintaining now—and then–that what he was doing didn’t involved any new style. It was simply storytelling as we all know it (using scenes, dialogue, description, etc.) in a nonfiction format.

What interests me most about Talese, and frankly when I find his work most moving, is not those celebrated profiles of notable personalities, but his portraits of the ordinary people. His “unnoticed things” of New York City, his decision to talk about the Selma riots with white members of a local country club, his decision to write about losers more often than winners.

I turned to Talese for quiet inspiration this week and did not fail to deliver.

Posted by Wendy @ 12:37 pm | 2 Comments  

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