The Incredible Shrinking Blue Book

incredible shrinking blue book

The venerated Wisconsin Blue Book is the latest victim of downsizing print products, be they newspapers, magazines or reference books.

Iconic Wisconsin Blue Book sheds 300 pages, blue cover

“Compared with its predecessors, the tome is much slimmer – 677 pages compared with 973 pages in the 2015-16 version – has noticeably larger type and poorly cropped photos of legislators.”

So, significantly less content – partially disguised with larger type so that the reduction seems to be a mere 300 pages when the word count cut is much deeper – and less attention to detail. Where have we seen that before? Continue reading The Incredible Shrinking Blue Book

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Burying the sports lede/lead/whatever: a pet peeve

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One of the seven major sins that reporters were once told to avoid is burying the lede.

(Tangent: It is a mystery to me when journalists started spelling it “lede” to differentiate a news lede from, say, the lead paragraph of a news story or the leader of the free world. But there it is.)

To bury the lede means to tell the most important part of a story deep inside the story. For example: The Megacorporation has announced a major advance in its manufacturing process that will take the company to the next level of wonderfulness. The process allows the corporation to fulfill its mission of making the world a better place while pleasing its shareholders and investors bigtime. “This is a fantabulous moment in human history as Megacorporation moves into the brightest future imaginable,” said Todd Bogguss, president and CEO. The company is laying off 30 percent of its workforce as part of the major restructuring.

What’s the lede? What’s the most important fact? What should have gone first? Continue reading Burying the sports lede/lead/whatever: a pet peeve

Still Circlin’ Back with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

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Two years now, and the memory of that night still makes me smile.

I’ve had a handful of concert experiences that still leave me breathless remembering them – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band back in 1984, the Brian Wilson band doing “Smile” – but the most exhilarating night of them all was Sept. 14, 2015, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Friends at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The venue, the band, the performances, the crowd, all came together in the magical way that music can.

And how blessed we are to have a permanent video record – PBS turned it into an hourlong pledge drive feature with an extended DVD. Even though it’s not complete, the TV show captures the celebratory spirit of that night, when the band marked its 50th anniversary with some of the singers and songwriters they met on their journey. Continue reading Still Circlin’ Back with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Story: The Wings

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He looked out over the horizon and saw vast possibilities. He looked down and saw a vast drop.

“Go ahead,” said the man in the tousled white hair. “Jump, and build your wings on the way down.”

“Can’t,” he whispered.

“Come on, buddy,” said the man, pulling off his horn-rimmed glasses and wiping them carefully. “What did the little elf say – ‘Do or do not. There is no try’? You haven’t even been trying lately, have you?” Continue reading Story: The Wings

Story: The Room

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“Don’t think,” said the man with the white mane. “Just open the spigot and be surprised by what comes out.”

And then he walked away.

I wanted to cry out, “Don’t think? But I can’t stop thinking,” but I had no voice.

So I stopped thinking.

Suddenly a spot appeared on the wall, which grew and grew until there was a hole large enough to step through. I could see that the room beyond was not the same room I would have found had I cut through the wall, and so, curious, I stepped through the hole. Continue reading Story: The Room

The miracle of this instant

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One hundred years from now – perhaps even five years or (heaven forbid) one year from now, this beautiful furry beast will be gone.

But she is alive and well now, and beautiful now, and so I stroke her fur and hug her and know that this unique and special life is passing through, now, in this instant.

And she can only be fully known and appreciated now.

Right. Now.

So I stop everything and hug her.

If … what then?

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If …

Every story, every book, begins with that word. Or at least every idea for a story, a book.

If a little girl lived in a town where black people didn’t get a fair shake, and her father was a principled attorney and a black man was falsely accused …

If an alien civilization placed beacons on our world millennia ago that could only be found and activated after we reached for the stars …

If a boy and a girl met and fell in love but not only their parents but their entire families hated each other …

If books went out of style and became so despised that fire departments no longer extinguished fires but actually burned illegal libraries …

If a little girl on a small Kansas farm dreamed of having adventures far, far away …

If adventures happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …

If … what then?

That is how a story is found. That is how a story is told.

It’s so simple, in the end, this once upon a time.