Friday, July 14th, 2017


The Helicopter Parent of Modern News

You can't turn it off. Especially these days. And you're not alone. We're all increasingly obsessed with being among the first people to hear about (and often use social media to chime in on) the latest twist in the most addictive news stories. But it wasn't always this way. Even media professionals used to slow down once in a while, back in the days when you didn't expect to hear about today's biggest stories until tomorrow's newspaper landed on your driveway. Of course TV changed things. And the Internet changed everything. But in between, a helicopter pilot named Jerry Foster had as much to do as anyone with the way news has changed (I know, that's a lot of blame to put on one guy). Jack Hitt, in the always excellent Epic Magazine, tells the story of the daredevil, his helicopter, and the risk of flying too high. (As an added bonus, reading this story will require you to take a few minutes off from actively monitoring today's news.) "The thrill of always being first on the scene, with a camera, became an obsession for Foster, almost a kind of addiction. He kept a phone and a two-way radio on him at all times. If a call about a juicy story came in from the highway patrol during dinner, Foster was out the door, leaving his (now two) daughters, wife, and half-eaten meal behind ... Somewhere along the line Foster had made a pledge to never be more than 20 minutes from his chopper, and to keep that promise he parked his helicopter in the backyard. When he went to a restaurant or a movie or a grocery store, he always chose places that had parking lots big enough for a helicopter to land. He selected his doctor and dentist because each had offices beside an open field." (After reading this piece, I realized I'm basically the Jerry Foster of open browser tabs.)


I Moved on Her Like an Itch

If you live in Fresno, you can expect some visitors this summer. About 20 million of them. A company owned by Google parent Alphabet, is set to release male mosquitoes "infected with a bacteria that, while harmless to humans, creates nonhatching dead eggs when they mate with wild females -- hopefully cutting the mosquito population and the transmission of the diseases they carry." If it works, it will be a big deal.


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: "At an Ohio eatery, patrons get Nashville-style hot chicken and the formerly-incarcerated get a fair shot at employment." And you get to be inspired by a documentary that's only a few minutes long.

+ What to Stream: Broadchurch (on Netflix and elsewhere) is a series about a small British town rocked by internal and external forces after the body of young boy is found on a local beach.

+ What to Read: "Everything you've heard about this graphic novel, first published as a 12-issue series in 1986 and 1987, is true. It broke the ground; it changed the game. There is a reason people still press it into the hands of those who've never read a comic before." That's how NPR describes The Watchmen which is about to be my first foray into the world of graphic novels. If you're less of a newbie, NPR has another 99 graphic novels and comics to choose from.


Offspring is Coming

After a week of nonstop coverage, I'm a little tired of news about Donald Trump Jr. So let's momentarily switch our focus to Ivanka. At the populist center of Trump's presidency is the argument that we should buy American and hire American. WaPo did a full review of Ivanka Trump's fashion line and found that not a stitch of it is made in America. This is both an interesting look at the modern realities of the global marketplace and a reminder of the gulf between political rhetoric and what we can see with our own eyes.

+ OK, Don Jr break over. Meet the other guy (who happens to be a former Soviet counterintelligence officer) who was at the now infamous meeting at Trump Tower. (Before this is over, we'll find out that Yakov Smirnoff was there too...)

+ Here's a Chicago Tribune story that I hope turns out to be less suspicious than it sounds. Peter W. Smith, GOP operative who sought Clinton's emails from Russian hackers, committed suicide.

+ President Trump talked with reporters on Air Force One. Here are the excerpts, including his take on why the border wall has to be transparent: "As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don't see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It's over." (That's like having $5 million bucks fall out of the sky -- which isn't much different from how Trump got his start.)


The Sen-ate My Homework

This doesn't feel like the first time we've hit a critical juncture in the Senate's health care saga. But the next few days will be make or break. NPR with a nice overview of who's in, and who's left out with the latest Senate health care bill.

+ The Atlantic: What's Actually Wrong With the U.S. Health System?


Getting an A in Jim Class

Here'a the full (and interesting) transcript of Defense Secretary James Mattis' interview with The Mercer Island High School Islander. Wait, how did a high school newspaper score an interview with the Sec of Defense? Well, it all started when a photo accompanying a WaPo story included Mattis' private cell number...


Lula’s Lemon

From The New Yorker: The Most Important Criminal Conviction in Brazil's History. "One thing that every Brazilian knows is that while Lula is the country's first President to be convicted of corruption, he is almost certainly not the first to have committed it. The difference is that, in the past, Brazilian politicians could quash any investigation that threatened them. The irony of Lula's downfall is that, while his Administration was siphoning billions of dollars from public coffers, it was also allowing an independent judiciary to flourish." (There's a lesson in there somewhere, and I'm pretty sure it's not a good one.)


Are You Bot or Not?

Garry Kasparov: "In certain kinds of positions, the computer sees so deeply that it plays like God." From FiveThirtyEight: The Bots Beat Us. Now What?


I Fee Dead People

"It takes a lot of work to keep even a good brand going, and it's that much more difficult when the celebrity is no longer in the public eye." It takes even more work when the celebrity is dead. You can either read this article as an interesting look at how marketers keep personal brands alive, or as a depressing look at the fact that dead people are out-earning you, by a lot. This $5 Billion Business Sells Elvis and Michael Jackson


Bottom of the News

"It is absurd to say a monkey can sue for copyright infringement. Naruto can't benefit financially from his work. He is a monkey."

+ During the Bastille Day parade, a marching band played Daft Punk.

+ It depresses me when major news organizations waste time covering silly details like how a couple of world leaders shook hands. But I'm an indie news organization, so it's cool when I do it. And this one is the longest (and maybe weirdest) yet.