Fact Checking (This Time – NPR and Scott Simon’s Weekend Edition)

I am a big believer in fact-checking, particularly in public forums, like Web sites, radio shows, TV shows, newspapers…Heck, even in blogs.

This morning I heard bits and pieces of NPR’s Weekend Edition while I was running errands, and heard a surprising number of errors. So here’s the letter I’ve written to Scott Simon to complain:


Dear Scott,

I’m a big fan of your show, but I was dismayed by the number of errors you made in passing on this morning’s show (7/13/02).

First John F. Kennedy was born in May of 1917, meaning he was 43 when he was nominated for president in July of 1960. Second, he had one child when he was nominated, though Jacqueline Kennedy was pregnant at the time of his nomination and
gave birth to their second child, John Jr., after his election in November 1960. An
almanac or encyclopedia would have helped you out here, or a Web site such as
Encyclopedia Americana:

http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/bios/35pkenn.html

There were similar types of errors during your lead-in to the talk on summer blockbusters. From 1965 to 1975, I’m pretty sure the top moneymaker was The Sound of Music, not Gone with the Wind. (However, I don’t have an almanac from the early ’70s so I can’t confirm this.)

However, where absolutely missed the mark was both you and your guest calling Close Encounters of the Third Kind a summer blockbuster. It was released in November 1977
and was not a summer blockbuster at all (though it mailed a pile of money. Check the Internet Movie Database at http://us.imdb.com).

You and your guest also missed the opportunity to discuss how movie promotion changed in the mid-’70s. There were an enormous number of television commercials for Jaws before Jaws came out – it was the first time I remember ad saturation in advance of a movie. Same thing for both Star Wars and Close Encounters.

I enjoy you and your show, but fact-checking is being increasingly ignored in the media. If you can’t get simple facts right, how can we rely on you for getting the facts right about more complicated stories?

Sincerely,

Laurie D. T. Mann
http://www.dpsinfo.com

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Staggering Back to Blogdom

Gee, has it been six weeks already? Time sure flies… ;->

Anyway, between having a rough time with sinuses, moving to a mostly
full-time job, and working on conventions and Web sites, I haven’t had
much time for blogging. I’m still reading other people’s and enjoying,
but I haven’t had the time to be motivated about my own.

I am excited to be working on Noreascon 4 as
the Exhibits/Fixed Functions Division Director. I’ll probably post some of my ideas here as things progress. If you have exhibit ideas for the 2004 Worldcon, feel free to send me E-mail, or talk to me in person at Con Jose.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

On Living in a “Safe” Suburb

We live on a busy street in a nice suburb of Pittsburgh. We moved here in 1993 because we were looking for an area with an excellent school system, close to town, with a house we could afford. We really weren’t all that concerned with “safety” issues per se. We lock doors out of habit no matter where we’ve lived, and aside from petty theft from a pair of break-ins, have been lucky to not been victims of real crime.

Over the last few years, major crime has seeped into our suburb. In April 2000, a guy in a nearby neighborhood went on a shooting spree. His first victim was his neighbor, a Jewish woman. He drove to the next town and started shooting Indian people at a grocery. He shot-out the windows of two synagogues. He murdered a man in a Chinese restaurant, and finally shot a black karate instructor. When he was done, five people had been murdered, one man was left paralyzed from the neck down.

I wasn’t very surprised, in some ways, because folks in Pennsylvania love their guns and there’s a fairly ugly current of racism among some people. In fairness to my home, some folks in the town have started to deal with diversity issues and are at least talking about them.

More recently, though, the pace of murders has quickened. Two young men whom my daughter went to high school with, “allegedly” killed another man in what, “allegedly,” was a drug deal gone wrong. While this murder did not happen in our town, it “allegedly” involved people who do.

A few weeks ago, a young man murdered his girlfriend. We don’t need the “allegedlys” in this case – he killed himself before the police could arrest him.

Just last night, a policeman was shot during a domestic disbute. While the policeman was shot in the chest, he was wearing a bullet-proof vest and is expected to recover.

This level of violence in a “safe” suburb is depressing. I suppose it’s just a reminder that nowhere is safe. It doesn’t mean we should panic and crawl in our homes and never emerged – it just means we need to be vigilant everywhere.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Two Truths and a Lie

This was Kate Nepveu’s fault – she alerted rec.arts.sf.fandom to the Weblog harrump, still crazy, where people were instructed to list two truths and a lie about themselves.

Here are mine:

1. I was in a train wreck with my family because my mother was afraid to fly.
2. I was on a local TV special when I was 15 talking about space travel and the future.
3. Eddie Mekka failed to teach me how to dance during a summer theater workshop (or, more correctly, I have always had two left feet and failed to learn how to dance from anyone).

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Why American Slavery Reparations Are Such a Terrible Idea

I am politically liberal. I used to feel more middle-of the-road, but not so much lately. And that, in theory, should mean that I am in favor of the current suit for slavery reparations some African Americans have filed.

The more I have read about the suit, the more I am convinced it is a terrible idea, and I hope some judge throws it out soon.

The suit deals with wrongs that are over 140 years old. None of the people who made the decisions at that time are alive today. None of the people who were slaves are alive today. True, the ugly spectre of racism is still alive in some Americans today, but it has been fading over the last 40 years or so. The legal apparatus that reinforced racist behavior has mostly been dismantled.

I had mixed feelings about the moves to pay slave laborers from World War II, but at least a few of those laborers are still alive.

For Americans to take the American slavery suit seriously means we are becoming as obsessed about redressing generational past wrongs as people in the Balkans, Turkey, Armenia or the Middle East. We must be aware of our history, but we should never run our lives to make sure that wrongs against our father’s father’s father are refought in our own time. For that just means that we can’t get beyond past ills.

Focusing on past wrongs means people are less likely to pay attention to current wrongs. We should be much more worried about the remaining vestiges of racism (housing, education, jobs) and work to erradicate them, rather than fighting issues related to past slavery.

Does this suit mean I should be suing the government because my grandmothers (and those before them) were not permitted to vote? My great-great-great-great-great-great* grandparents were Quaker immigrants to America who were exiled to an island and who starved to death; should I sue the English government or the American government to complain? Almost everyone in America can find a reason to sue someone over generational past wrongs. Suing will do nothing to change the lives of the people who died long ago.

Slavery does exist in our time, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. We need to make people more aware of contemporary slavery, and we need to find ways to fight it. Suing over past slavery offenses can aid current slaveholders by keeping people distracted about the present.

We live in the present. At least, we ought to. I’ve always believed that we should learn from the past, live in the present and plan for the future. Suing over wrongs from hundreds of years ago keeps people too tied to the past.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Too Many Recent Deaths…

We all gotta go. I know that. I edit Dead People Server, partially to track “people’s status,” but also as a reminder – we all gotta go some day.

Still

Still…

The last few weeks, a number of people connected to the science fiction field have died. Weirdly, each death has gotten a little “closer.” First Lafferty and Knight, older men whom I knew slightly. Sad, but not all that unexpected. Then, George Alec Effinger, younger and more of a friend. Then, very suddenly last night, Bruce Pelz.

Non-fans reading this blog might have heard of R. A. Lafferty, Damon Knight or George Alec Effinger, but might be scratching their heads over Bruce Pelz. Bruce was “just” a fan, but what a fan. He was one of the first people to take collecting and recording fan history seriously. He was a librarian for many years, and had arranged to donate material he’d collected to UC Irvine. He and his wife Elayne had spent much of the last few years taking fabulous cruises. They’d been to Africa and Greece and Alaska in recent years; I know because he would bring his photo albums to cons and share them with us. He’d helped to run cons for many years, and was a founder of Smofcon (to help run cons) and FanHistoriCon (to celebrate fan history).

Patrick Nielsen Hayden keeps saying that we should stop dying. He knows there are some things out of our control. I’m sure Bruce didn’t choose last night to die; he was 66 and still had things in his date book beyond doctor visits. But, if you have a choice about it, go fast without the weeks or months of wasting away and loosing your love of life. While I regret I won’t be running into him at the next few Midwestcons and Worldcons, I’m happy to have known him, and to know that he had a great impact on fandom and will be well-remembered.

My sympathies to Elayne, his wife and Cecy his daughter. And to the rest of us who knew him.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Today, I’m Ashamed to Be an American…

I find the unilateral actions of our government, particularly under the Bush administration, to be an embarassment. But today’s decision to renounce obligations to the World court goes beyond the embarassment I’ve felt over the last 18 months. I’m genuinely ashamed.

How can we encourage renegade nations to listen to world sanctions when we won’t? This could lead to isolationism during a time in world history when isolationism is particularly dangerous.

I wish President Bush and his team would come to their collective senses, but I do not see it happening any time soon.

Oh, and I’ve just found out that this president does not have a public E-mail address. E-mail to bush@whitehouse.gov bounces, and when you visit the Web site, the contact page does not include an E-mail address. This is particularly interesting when you consider that, over the fall, many people were praising what a vital link to the public E-mail was when everyone was afraid of traditional snail in the wake of the anthrax panic.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Yesterday Was a Generally Depressing, Weird Day

I was very saddened to hear about George Alec Effinger’s death. While I hadn’t been in touch in a while, we’d hung out some at conventions over the years. George had a hard life, was often ill, and I wasn’t all that shocked to hear he’d died relatively young (at 55). Still…you couldn’t help but hope it was just one of those bizarre net-rumors, like the people who post, almost daily, that Reagan or Hope had died.

We also had very strange weather. It was sunny, humid and in the ’70s in the morning and early afternoon. It turned very windy and we spent the afternoon having tornado watches. Despite that, in our part of Pittsburgh, there was little lightning or rain, and the wind probably only gusted to about 50 mph.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

We Spent an Enjoyable Three Days Up in Boston

Jim and I help to run science fiction conventions. Last year, we managed the Program division for the Millennium Philcon. So now that we’re starting to emerge from the burn-out from last year’s Worldcon, we’re starting to work on the 2004 Worldcon. We really don’t know what we’ll be doing for the next Noreascon. Jim has been somewhat more definite than I’ve been; I have some ideas of what I’d like to do, but I’m mostly trying to be very flexible and open-minded.

While we lived in Massachusetts from 1982-1993, we only spend about a week a year up there now as we’re settled in Pittsburgh. Boston is really bustling, despite the high tech bust. I saw at least eight different limos in the Back Bay last Saturday night. We visited friends and family and had some terrific meals. We highly recommend Tapeo, a suburb Spanish Tapas restaurant about three blocks away from the Sheraton (home of next year’s Boskone and N4 in 2004).

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

My First “Official” Weblog

I went to a political event tonight, “in honor” of tax day. It was supposed to be something of an environmentalist’s nightmare on how our taxes, especially our state taxes, are being spent.

That was fine, but some of the “entertainment” was on the clueless side. One group decided that doing a three minute rant on Palestinians as victims was an appropriate way to educate us about environmental affairs. At least two people walked out. Instead of applauding or booing at the end, I said, “That was really poor judgment on your parts.”

There’s plenty of blame to go around in the Middle East. I’m not a Sharon fan, and I think he and Israel have behaved badly, particularly of late. But to portray the Palestinians as the only victims means you can ignore the hundreds of people murdered in terrorist attacks recently.

Ironically, I heard a brief ray of hope for Israeli-Palestinian relations just this morning. There’s a hospital in Israel (in Jerusalem, I think – it may be called Hadassah) that treats all people injured by acts of terrorism or war. Jewish, Moslem and Christian employees work side by side. At least there’s one place where people seem to be able to talk and work together.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog