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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in scoopstories' LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
5:49 pm
Misc writings
How's this for diversity of recent interviews, from lawyer/professor/writer Lawrence Lessig


to Articles of Faith (a good punk band I'm going to see live next week)


Meanwhile I continue reviewing/recapping House


satirizing politics via pumpkinsyou know, the usual stuff


and doing ever more popular writing exercises like this one


You can find those at


newscomers are always welcome.
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
6:12 pm
The Value of Satire, Odd News and Why Scoop Is MIA
My mantra in recent months has been more satire, more weird news stories (often via the Obscure Store) and less politics and division.

Part of this is I think we (I am using the royal we here) need to lighten up and laugh, be it at the woman who shoplifted and then returned to get stuff she left behind or the guy who had sex with his gas station car wash. (And who hasn't been there?)

I have certainly written my share of satires lately, some more funny and well executed than others (I still think my Palin and McCain stories were funny but I apologize for that whole pumpkin porn meme)

If you think and I others are exaggerating about how elections weren't always this divisive, that people didn't lose friends over voting times, let me tell you where my parents first date was at: a 1960 election results viewing party.

Can you imagine these days a party to watch election results? Well, I'm going to an party later but it's a party notably only open to Obama supporters otherwise fist fights might break out.

For the record, my dad cried into his beer as his guy, Nixon, lost while mom celebrated JFK's win. And then they each voted differently for 40 years cancelling out each others vote, perfectly, at times, symbolizing the frissions and divisions in this nation. But I digress..

Some may wonder why they have not seen 20 new seeds and 3 new stories by me in the last 48 hours and wondered, "did Mr. News Junkie go off the wagon or on another cruise?"

If you told me three days ago I'd only be posting three seeds on election day and that my one election day article would be an interview with a political punk band I would have said you were crazy. I expected to blog all day and nite and write (as I publicly promised here (in a well-intentioned, and so far successful, push to get us focusing on the positive) a Newsviner's Picks article to point the spotlight away from me to other more deserving viners.

Then I somehow fried my laptop (it's on Best Buy being fixed) and am instead online for just two hours today (via a college computer lab - shhh don't tell them I don't even attend this college) before going to an Omnivores for Obama party.

So it is what it is. I mention this to explain I wont' be around as much for a few days and that, well, I am just full of surprises.

I'll close this - and go write up the interview with Report Suspicious Activity before heading off to vote and then go to said party - with my favorite excerpt from the two pieces I just seeded about satire:

"But satire, at its best, requires a willingness to scorch the earth. Just as we need a leader who is steady, we need political satirists who are willing to find his sweet spot and never stop attacking. Laughter could prove to be the best medicine, so long as we don't lose our healthy skepticism.
Tuesday, September 9th, 2008
11:42 pm
Juno - Review oh and memoirs and jamaica mon
I wrote my most thorough account of my student teaching days


and i'm chronicling how I became a writer in the first place
and i'm going on a cruise to jamaica and am going to give up newsvine and my computer for a week

meanwhile i'm doing my author interviews and movie review

45th movie reviewed this year:

45 - Juno - I was supposed to screen this movie at church for a discussion but nobody showed up. Frustrating. The teens didn't want to see it with a-dolts and adults didn't see the appeal. I read before hand the reviews by Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli and both pretty much nailed it. This from Ebert sums it up:

Jason Reitman's "Juno" is just about the best movie of the year. It is very smart, very funny and very touching; it begins with the pacing of a screwball comedy and ends as a portrait of characters we have come to love. Strange, how during Juno's hip dialogue and cocky bravado, we begin to understand the young woman inside, and we want to hug her. Has there been a better performance this year than Ellen Page's creation of Juno? I don't think so. If most actors agree that comedy is harder than drama, then harder still is comedy depending on a quick mind, utter self-confidence, and an ability to stop just short of going too far. Page's presence and timing are extraordinary. I have seen her in only two films, she is only 20, and I think she will be one of the great actors of her time. But don't let my praise get in the way of sharing how much fun this movie is. It is so very rare to sit with an audience that leans forward with delight and is in step with every turn and surprise of an uncommonly intelligent screenplay. It is so rare to hear laughter that is surprised, unexpected and delighted. So rare to hear it coming during moments of recognition, when characters reflect exactly what we'd be thinking, just a moment before we get around to thinking it. So rare to feel the audience joined into one warm, shared enjoyment. So rare to hear a movie applauded.

I also read the comments about it at Wikipedia and was encouraged by this comment: :

The film has also received criticism from members of both the pro-life and pro-choice communities regarding its confrontation of abortion.

I take that as a good sign. That said I did not see Waitress or Knocked Up (two other movies getting attention for being about teen pregnancy– neither held much interest or appeal for me. The movie is by Jason Reitman. I loved his adaptation of Thank You For Smoking (link to Buckley) I highly recommend this movie and am kicking myself for not seeing it earlier. The extras are cool - the deleted scenes add some context and the commentary is interesting. Besides any movie with Belle and Sebastian can't be all bad. I'll end this mini-review with this exchange:

Punk Receptionist: Would you like a free condom? They're boysenberry. Juno MacGuff: No, thanks. I'm off sex right now. Punk Receptionist: My boyfriend wears them every time we have intercourse, it makes his junk smell like pie.

and this one:

Juno MacGuff: Ow, ow, fuckity-ow! Bren, when do I get that spinal tap thing? Bren: It's called a spinal block. And you can't have it yet, honey. The doctor said you're not dilated enough. Juno MacGuff: You mean I have to wait for it to get worse? Why can't they just give it to me now? Bren: Well, honey, doctors are sadists who like to play God and watch lesser people scream... [Juno lets out painful scream, Brenda checks her watch] Bren: Shit. [to doctor] Bren: Hey, can we get my kid the damn spinal tap already?

Friday, August 29th, 2008
5:14 pm
Mccain satire by yours truly
McCain's VP pick today was a practical joke gone awry
Intrepid/crazy former journalist that I am I found out the truth:
http://sbutki. newsvine. com/_news/2008/08/29/1802973-weakly-world-news-exclusive-mccains-vp-pick-was-a-practical-joke-gone-awry
Friday, August 15th, 2008
1:13 pm
new weirdness and the olympics
This is probably the weirdest craziest thing I've written in years.
Hope it's as fun to read as it was to write:

Remember - who can forget - my history with ducks? Well, when I joined
Newsvine I left out that whole obsession with things most fowl...
until now.

The story is now out of the closet

The ducks have followed me


Eleven Ways Watching the Olympics Is Like Watching American Idol


a serious discussion of china issues

and one to just get catty about tv coverage:
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
9:52 am
Updates and interviews
I've been a busy guy, having just returned from a trip to Austin to see/meet Internet friends not to mention my relatives:
Tidbits and photos here:

I interviewed political consultant Robert Shrum:

A unitarain minister has written a book about Bruce Springsteen

He's sent me a book and is allowing me to do a two-part interview.

I posted details of the book and suggested questions here:


Feel free to add your own questions there or by email to me.

I also wrote recent pieces about Obama's trip to Iraq and the media coverage
and the Jesse Jackson mess:

I also wrote about how to intentionally lose games:
Tuesday, July 8th, 2008
4:16 pm
A few personal updates:

I finally got a new computer:

I listed all the movies I've seen so far this year:

I confessed my Tetris addiction:


I'm soliciting questions for interviews with Matt Taiibi

and Bob Shrum

and have been doing lots of articles and seedss regarding the olympics

and did interviews with the latest book by Robert Crais

and about the 1960 Olympics
Thursday, June 5th, 2008
11:50 am
Two new pieces
I wrote two pieces this week I'm proud of - a weird satire of the whole rachael ray satire mess


and a memoir about how my life was literally turned upside down - forever changed - by a car accident in Arkansas

Monday, April 28th, 2008
11:49 am
Monday, April 7th, 2008
12:11 pm
I haven't written a piece of media/political analysis in a while but decided to write one Saturday nite


As always, feedback is welcome

Meanwhile I'm averaging one music interview a week. Last week's was Justin Towne Earle, today's is Justin Roberts and next week's is a world music project called one. You can find them at http://wwww.newsvine.com/sbutki-interview

I did a fun American Idol piece suggesting better questions for callers to ask

I set up a place to share our grammar pet peeves

And I'm setting up our next movie discussions: Into the Wild for April,


April, Soldiers In the Army of God for May and Capturing the Friedmans for June.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to.

How have you been?
Sunday, March 30th, 2008
11:45 pm
Backgammon, Joseph Wambaugh , grammar pet peeves
This weekend I posted updates and commentary from the Pittsburgh Backgammon Tournament:

I alos posted last week an interview with the great crime writer Joseph Wambaugh:

And an article about grammar pet peeves

But the most discussion I sparked was whether this Vogue cover was racist of offensive
Friday, March 7th, 2008
11:12 am
Waco Brothers, American Idol and my dad
American Idol, Moment of Truth, Waco Brothers

I wrote three pieces I'm proud of and one that was more for fun (I'll let you figure out which was which)

A reflection on my guilt on watching the Moment of Truth


An interview with the Waco Brothers. It was picked up by MSNBC


A memoir piece about my dad and grades


A proposed drinking game for American Idol

Thursday, February 14th, 2008
4:12 pm
Sunday, February 10th, 2008
2:20 pm
what are you reading?
What have you been reading lately? I’m in the middle of three books, as well as in the middle of interviews for all three.
This week/month I need to turn off the tv more and read more.
The three I’m reading are
Planet Germany by Cartoon Cat

The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang

And Gotcha Capitalism: How Hidden Fees Rip You Off Every Day And What You Can Do About It by Bob Sullivan.
Sunday, February 3rd, 2008
2:49 pm
New Reviews
New Reviews are Up

I've started reviewing House.
My first review is here:

I also wrote a review of the first season of Lost:


An article I seeded about doctors wanting to not care for the old or unhealthy got LOTS of responses. That was here:
Friday, January 25th, 2008
11:04 am
Monday, January 21st, 2008
12:10 pm
Tuesday, January 8th, 2008
12:50 pm
Analyzing, Evaluating the Return of the Late Night Talk Show Hosts
I wrote this for Newsvine and it was highlighted, briefly, by MSNBC, which bought MSNBC a few months ago.


"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

"Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?"

We have all heard those age-old questions but here’s one we encountered this week: if comedy/entertainment talk shows return, minus their writers due to a strike, will the shows still be funny and entertaining?

Having watched NBC for last two hours I am prepared to answer that question and those hoping for an affirmative answer need to look elsewhere. Specifically, those looking for some humor – or at least planned humor as opposed to “oh, god, I can’t believe he thought THAT was funny” – will probably want to click their remotes over to CBS until the strike is over.

MSNBC was reporting that Leno had higher ratings for Wednesday night's shows than Letterman but I think that will change as viewers go to CBS to check out the funnier fare. Devotion to a host, Leno, will dissipate as they realize he's even less funny without his writers.

I watched CBS Wednesday night and NBC Thursday night. My hope is that other Newsvine writers will also watch these talk shows and publish their own reviews. This is all admittedly subjective and I’m sure some will say I have this all completely backward.

I don’t normally watch these shows but with all the media coverage – including some of my own – of the writers strike I wanted to see for myself how much difference these writers make. The answer, put simply, is "quite a big difference."

CBS is at a competitive advantage over NBC because David Letterman’s company, Worldwide Pants, owns and produces “Late Night”(Letterman’s show) and the “Late Late Show” (hosted by cheeky monkey Craig Ferguson). The NBC shows, in contrast, are owned by the network

Letterman’s company reached an agreement with the Writers Guild of America which allowed the two CBS shows’ writers to return. In contrast Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, the guild says, were forced to return on air by their employers, the network, without their writers.

As with the NBC shows Thursday, the main topic on CBS Wednesday night was the strike.You just knew that every ten minutes you were going to get hit by another reminder that the strike matters and that producers were greedy corporate whores.

For David Letterman’s top 10 list Wednesday he included, in a classy move, writers from other networks, including Comedy Central (whose shows return next week). The full top 10 list for Demands of the Striking Writers is here but the top three were:

3. I'm no accountant, but instead of us getting 4 cents for a $20 DVD, how about we get $20 for a 4-cent DVD?

2. I don't have a joke -- I just want to remind everyone that we're on strike, so none of us are responsible for this lame list.

1. Producers must immediately remove their heads from their [heinies].

Letterman also got off two decent llnes about the strike: 1) “I hear you at home thinking to yourself, ‘This crap is written?”’ 2) He said some awards show may be cancelled due to the strike so “something good has come of this.” Yes, admittedly, even those jokes weren’t particularly amusing.

That said after his fifth or tenth joke about how bad his new beard made him look I began to remember why I’d stopped watching him regularly, namely much of his humor is pretty predictable, albeit still not as predictable as Jay Leno’s.

Normally, I much prefer The Daily Show and the Colbert Report where the jokes are sharper and the material more creative.

Craig Ferguson was his usual fun, goofy self. Each time I watch him I think, “Man, I need to start watching this show regularly. Maybe this time I will.” When he told the audience that he had no guests for the show the crowd groaned and his response was classic. An enjoyable hour flew by, which is no mean feat.

Ferguson got off the best line about how the shows, though more NBC than CBS now, are having trouble finding guests willing to come on the shows.

“I just want to send a message to the D-list celebrities of Hollywood. You’re still welcome here," Ferguson said.

On Thursday Leno made one comment which made me smile until I concluded he was probably lying. He said the good part about having trouble getting actors booked on the show is that now he can avoid promoting "crappy" movies. But Leno's also been a bit of a smarky kiss-ass that post-strike I think he'll go right back to promoting movies via interviews regardless of how crappy they are.

That said, this whole situation is not the fault of Jay Leno, who I never found particularly funny even WITH writers, nor Conan O’Brien, who I’ve always liked. Not only were Leno and O’Brien returning without their writers, but both – since they are members of the guild themselves – had been told they could not write material of their own. Jay Leno got some criticism for his first show since he did a monologue which included material he had pre-written. While he defended the movie, some guild members thought he'd broken the rules.

After watching these shows Thursday I felt kind of bad for Jay and Conan because they were clearly unsure what to do without their writers. Having them do their shows without writers or any pre-written material is a bit like asking musicians to perform without using any previously planned or recorded arrangements.

A comedy show without writers is like a restaurant without food – the waiter can only do so much before the customers began to realize that the service seems to be realllly slow.

In short, they are expected to improvise for an hour.. or bring on guests and have extra-long interviews….. it’s just overall not a pretty picture.

Leno had a monologue Thursday night but it was weak. Whether that was because he tried to do it without pre-writing the jokes or he flubbed what was weak, dated material (one joke related to a stalker of Conan, which was news way back in November ) was unclear. Call me a wimp but I'm not a fan of stalker jokes in the first place.

"This is the loosest the show has been," Leno said at one point. By which I think he meant the filler had become the best part of the show.

My opinion may have been skewed by the fact that I consider Howie Mandel (Jay's main guest Thursday night) to be the anti-christ. You know things are bad when you wish he'd go BACK to the filler (bad holiday gifts). And is it any surprise that Howie crossed the picket lines? One more reason to dislike Howie, as far as I'm concerned.

Conan's show was more fun for a variety of reasons including simply that Conan has a more entertaining, charming presence than Jay.

Conan had several laugh-out-loud moments including when he spied on a page giving a tour of his tv studio and then acted mad, upset and confused over inaccurate and misleading information stated by the page. He confronted the page about it and hilarity ensued.

The first 20 minutes were pretty damn funny but then P. Diddy's personal assistant came on, giving Conan fashion tips and I was thinking that if I wasn't doing this story I would have turned off the show. Conan's musical guest was Kid Rock, who was pretty unimpresive.

The NBC hosts have said they had to return on air or else the other workers on the show, the non-writers, would have been fired. That makes sense except do the other workers really want to put on an inferior show night after night? For how long? I mean Conan is the best ad-libber out there, with the possible exception of Letterman, but my god, man, how long are they going to make him work this circus without writers?

As I finish up this review/analysis/summary at 2 a.m. I have just thought of another possible explanation. Hmm.... maybe…. maybe… stay with me here.. maybe the NBC hosts are intentionally making the show as lame as possible, hoping that their suckiness will spark the producers and the corporations that own the shows to get their fat assses out of the boardrooms and do some serious labor negotiating.

I am going to end this with the hope that this is their secret strategy – code named Operation Let’s Suck – and that I, for one, think it’s time someone told them “Mission Accomplished!”
12:44 pm
Media Analysis: The News Media, Especially TV News, Is Focusing Too Strongly on Hillary Clinton's "E
I wrote and published this this morning at Newsvine:

Media Analysis: The News Media, Especially TV News, Is Focusing Too Strongly on Hillary Clinton's "Emotional" Moment
News Type: Other — Tue Jan 8, 2008 9:11 AM EST

I feel a bit bad this morning for Hillary Clinton. Exhausted, frustrated, tired, she got a bit emotional Monday while answering a question.

As soon as I saw it I knew she had a public relations disaster on her hands. Within hours I expect it will be referred to as a "breakdown," which I consider a huge exaggeration.

The news media jumped on the video footage, like a shark reacting to blood in the water. The reaction was so fast, so strong, that it made me wonder if the news media had been wanting, hoping, waiting for a moment they can use as if to demonstrate the Hillary-is-a-woman, therefore-she-gets emotional theory. Sadly, I know not just men but women too who have told me they would not vote for Hillary for precisely this fear, that as a woman Hillary might let her emotion affect her judgment.

Personally, I’m not sure it would be so terrible to have a more emotional president, given that George Bush has never struck me as a person with a big heart and look how well he's done.

Everywhere I turned on news networks Monday night and Tuesday morning the clip of Hillary was shown, with NBC on Today, for example, referring to it as a “a rare lack of composure.” At least NBC was providing that context, something I wish others were doing too, to demonstrate that this is a break from her usual steely resolve.

But I don’t know if words would have helped, what with pictures being worth a thousand words. One thing candidates and the news media learned from President Reagan was that if you provide the right pictures and videos the public won’t even bother listening to the words being spoken.

The second time I saw the footage I immediately thought of Howard Dean. Remember when he was riding high and then he went overboard, screaming and shrieking during a speech? Soon that clip was shown everywhere and soon his campaign was spirally downward. I thought it was unfair for voters to change their minds based on that brief glimpse into his psyche and I thought the media was being negligent in turning an entire campaign into a You Tube moment.

Hillary’s moment was front page news on New York tabloids and is the focus of a popular Associated Press seed at Newsvine: Emotional Clinton Says This Is Personal. The Associated Press story begins:

Hillary Rodham Clinton's eyes welled up and her voice broke repeatedly Monday as she talked with voters in a restaurant about her campaign for the presidency.
Hillary has long had many negatives – so many that I’ve long predicted she was unelectable – but now she is, through her emotional moments Monday, facing a bigger problem: Her emotion. The underlying, unexpressed thought is “Do we want someone in the White House who might get emotional?”

There are many reasons to vote for or against Hillary Clinton but I really don’t think her demeanor and emotions is a valid one. She is normally steely and, if anything, the usual complaint is she comes off a bit cold. But for much of a fickle public, video doesn’t lie.

You can expect conservative bloggers like Michelle Malkin as well as professional blowhards like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh to jump at the chance to use this clip to show Hillary as weak I’d rather have a candidate with a heart than one acting heartless on issues like illegal immigration, which can have the effect of uprooting, if not splitting up, families.

This all made me wonder how the media has covered emotional moments in the past. What they are doing to Hillary today is similar to what they did to Howard Dean and if Hillary Clinton does worse than expected today – as I think she will – the news media will be partly responsible.

I am also reminded of a low point in presidential race media history when Edmund Muskie, appared teary-eyed in public. While he long maintained it was just snow in his eye, the news media said he cried and soon he was, well, history?

For a long time this race has been about, among many other things, whether the public will elect its first woman or its first black man, which raises one final thought. The heir apparent now looks to be Obama. I should be thrilled because I’ve long considered him both my favorite candidate and the one with the best chance of going all the way. Normally, I have to choose which candidate I think will win and which candidate I would like to win; It is rare for those two candidates to be the same person.

But I don’t want Obama to win this way, I don’t want him to benefit from the media overscrutinizing a process that leaves everyone exhausted and sometimes not looking and acting their best. Everyone? Yes, I did say everyone. Compare the media coverage today of Hillary with that of Obama last week. Did you hear about how Obama was so emotionally and physically exhausted last week that he literally fell asleep mid-speech?

I’m guessing you did not hear about that as it received scant media coverage... It jumped out as me as I read Dana Milbank’s column in the Washington Post, from which I quote:

The fatigued synapses are already showing. At a rally in an airport hangar in Portsmouth, Obama apologized to the crowd because "my throat's a little sore." Then the famously silver-tongued candidate read his way through a new stump speech and nearly stumbled into what, coming from the current president's mouth, would be called a Bushism. America needs "a president who," Obama says, "will be [pause] willing to [pause] be disagree -- [pause]." He tried again: "Will -- will be willing to disagree with you without being disagreeable."


Granted, there’s a difference between falling asleep due to physical and emotional exhaustion and letting your emotion show during a question-and-answer session but they are still comparable and what are we, the viewers, the voters, to make of one becoming a new story and the other not? Is the media – run mostly by men – showing its gender bias here? Or is this about giving the voters what they want, a reason NOT to vote for someone.

It reminds me of Al Gore’s campaign in 2004 and how the media kept after him with questions about statements he made, or more accurately didn’t make. An excellent recent Vanity Fair piece showed how flawed the media coverage of Al Gore turned out to be, what with many of the stories about him claiming to have invented the Internet or whatever, turning out to have been wildly inaccurate. Part of the problem was reporters had decided how to cover him, as an exaggerator, so they wrote stories that fit that role, that stereotype, and didn’t let facts get in the way of the story.

What we are seeing is the media reporting on Hillary as a woman, as opposed to just Hillary as a candidate.

Sometimes voters need to step away from the media coverage and go with their gut, with their heart.

So whether you’re going to the ballots today, or just going to follow the coverage on tv or the Internet, keep in mind that what you saw yesterday from Hillary Clinton was, yes, her getting a bit emotional. But don’t let her brief emotional display trigger your own emotional reaction as to how you feel about her.

Instead, do what the news media should be doing – focusing on the big important national and international issues – the war, plans for the future – and not on personal quirks or moments of weakness.
Saturday, December 29th, 2007
12:20 pm
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