Thursday, February 27, 2014

Links to Your Stories

I had forgot that Word will calculate the "readability" of your writing. I ran the leads of the articles below through Word and came up with the numbers you see below in parentheses. I was surprised.

Rita's (9.9)

Ethan's (9.0)

Stephanie's (12)

John's (12)

Andrew's (10.1)

Emily's (11.8)

Amanda's (8.4)

Shianne's (12.0)

Kimberly's (12.0) 

  • The Misuse of Readability Formulas as Writing Guides
    "One source of opposition to readability formulas is that they are sometimes misused as writing guides. Because formulas tend to have just two major inputs--word length or difficulty, and sentence length--some authors or editors have taken just these two factors and modified writing. They sometimes end up with a bunch of short choppy sentences and moronic vocabulary and say that they did it because of a readability formula. Formula writing, they sometimes call it. This is a misuse of any readability formula. A readability formula is intended to be used after the passage is written to find out for whom it is suitable. It is not intended as a writer's guide."
    (Edward Fry, "Understanding the Readability of Content Area Texts." Content Area Reading and Learning: Instructional Strategies, 2nd ed., edited by Diane Lapp, James Flood, and Nancy Farnan. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004)

    "Don't bother with the readability statistics. . . . The averages of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word have little relevance. The Passive Sentences, Flesch Reading Ease, and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level are computed statistics that don't accurately assess how easy or hard the document is to read. If you want to know whether a document is hard to understand, ask a colleague to read it."
    (Ty Anderson and Guy Hart-Davis, Beginning Microsoft Word 2010. Springer, 2010)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Beginnings and Endings: Frank Sinatra Has a Cold

Frank Sinatra Has a Cold
By Gay Talese
FRANK SINATRA, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something. But he said nothing; he had been silent during much of the evening, except now in this private club in Beverly Hills he seemed even more distant, staring out through the smoke and semidarkness into a large room beyond the bar where dozens of young couples sat huddled around small tables or twisted in the center of the floor to the clamorous clang of folk-rock music blaring from the stereo. The two blondes knew, as did Sinatra's four male friends who stood nearby, that it was a bad idea to force conversation upon him when he was in this mood of sullen silence, a mood that had hardly been uncommon during this first week of November, a month before his fiftieth birthday.

Sinatra had been working in a film that he now disliked, could not wait to finish; he was tired of all the publicity attached to his dating the twenty-year-old Mia Farrow, who was not in sight tonight; he was angry that a CBS television documentary of his life, to be shown in two weeks, was reportedly prying into his privacy, even speculating on his possible friendship with Mafia leaders; he was worried about his starring role in an hour-long NBC show entitled Sinatra -- A Man and His Music, which would require that he sing eighteen songs with a voice that at this particular moment, just a few nights before the taping was to begin, was weak and sore and uncertain. Sinatra was ill. He was the victim of an ailment so common that most people would consider it trivial. But when it gets to Sinatra it can plunge him into a state of anguish, deep depression, panic, even rage. Frank Sinatra had a cold.

Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel -- only worse. For the common cold robs Sinatra of that uninsurable jewel, his voice, cutting into the core of his confidence, and it affects not only his own psyche but also seems to cause a kind of psychosomatic nasal drip within dozens of people who work for him, drink with him, love him, depend on him for their own welfare and stability. A Sinatra with a cold can, in a small way, send vibrations through the entertainment industry and beyond as surely as a President of the United States, suddenly sick, can shake the national economy.

For Frank Sinatra was now involved with many things involving many people -- his own film company, his record company, his private airline, his missile-parts firm, his real-estate holdings across the nation, his personal staff of seventy-five -- which are only a portion of the power he is and has come to represent. He seemed now to be also the embodiment of the fully emancipated male, perhaps the only one in America, the man who can do anything he wants, anything, can do it because he has money, the energy, and no apparent guilt. In an age when the very young seem to be taking over, protesting and picketing and demanding change, Frank Sinatra survives as a national phenomenon, one of the few prewar products to withstand the test of time. He is the champ who made the big comeback, the man who had everything, lost it, then got it back, letting nothing stand in his way, doing what few men can do: he uprooted his life, left his family, broke with everything that was familiar, learning in the process that one way to hold a woman is not to hold her. Now he has the affection of Nancy and Ava and Mia, the fine female produce of three generations, and still has the adoration of his children, the freedom of a bachelor, he does not feel old, he makes old men feel young, makes them think that if Frank Sinatra can do it, it can be done; not that they could do it, but it is still nice for other men to know, at fifty, that it can be done.


After he is finished, the record is played back on tape, and Nancy Sinatra, who has just walked in, joins her father near the front of the orchestra to hear the playback. They listen silently, all eyes on them, the king, the princess; and when the music ends there is applause from the control booth, Nancy smiles, and her father snaps his fingers and says, kicking a foot, "Ooba-deeba-boobe-do!"

Then Sinatra calls to one of his men. "Hey, Sarge, think I can have a half-a-cup of coffee?"

Sarge Weiss, who had been listening to the music, slowly gets up.

"Didn't mean to wake ya, Sarge," Sinatra says, smiling.

Then Weiss brings the coffee, and Sinatra looks at it, smells it, then announces, "I thought he'd be nice to me, but it's really coffee...."

There are more smiles, and then the orchestra prepares for the next number. And one hour later, it is over.
The musicians put their instruments into their cases, grab their coats, and begin to file out, saying good-night to Sinatra. He knows them all by name, knows much about them personally, from their bachelor days, through their divorces, through their ups and downs, as they know him. When a French-horn player, a short Italian named Vincent DeRosa, who has played with Sinatra since The Lucky Strike "Hit Parade" days on radio, strolled by, Sinatra reached out to hold him for a second.

"Vicenzo," Sinatra said, "how's your little girl?"

"She's fine, Frank."

"Oh, she's not a little girl anymore," Sinatra corrected himself, "she's a big girl now."

"Yes, she goes to college now. U.S.C."

"That's great."

"She's also got a little talent, I think, Frank, as a singer."

Sinatra was silent for a moment, then said, "Yes, but it's very good for her to get her education first, Vicenzo."

Vincent DeRosa nodded.

"Yes, Frank," he said, and then he said, "Well, good-night, Frank."

"Good-night, Vicenzo."

After the musicians had all gone, Sinatra left the recording room and joined his friends in the corridor. He was going to go out and do some drinking with Drysdale, Wininger, and a few other friends, but first he walked to the other end of the corridor to say good-night to Nancy, who was getting her coat and was planning to drive home in her own car.
After Sinatra had kissed her on the cheek, he hurried to join his friends at the door. But before Nancy could leave the studio, one of Sinatra's men, Al Silvani, a former prizefight manager, joined her.

"Are you ready to leave yet, Nancy?"

"Oh, thanks, Al," she said, "but I'll be all right."

"Pope's orders," Silvani said, holding his hands up, palms out

Only after Nancy had pointed to two of her friends who would escort her home, and only after Silvani recognized them as friends, would he leave.

THE REST OF THE MONTH was bright and balmy. The record session had gone magnificently, the film was finished, the television shows were out of the way, and now Sinatra was in his Ghia driving out to his office to begin coordinating his latest projects. He had an engagement at The Sands, a new spy film called The Naked Runner to be shot in England, and a couple more albums to do in the immediate months ahead. And within a week he would be fifty years old....

Life is a beautiful thing
As long as I hold the string
I'd be a silly so-and-so
If I should ever let go...

Frank Sinatra stopped his car. The light was red. Pedestrians passed quickly across his windshield but, as usual, one did not. It was a girl in her twenties. She remained at the curb staring at him. Through the corner of his left eye he could see her, and he knew, because it happens almost every day, that she was thinking, It looks like him, but is it?
Just before the light turned green, Sinatra turned toward her, looked directly into her eyes waiting for the reaction he knew would come. It came and he smiled. She smiled and he was gone.

With annotations

Read more: Frank Sinatra Has a Cold - Gay Talese - Best Profile of Sinatra - Esquire 
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List of Pulitzer Prize Winners for Feature Writing, That List On Loan from Wikipedia

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Slice of Life Story


 Reporter: Michael Robertson

Section: PEOPLE Page: 16 Last Printed: 2/5/1985 Last On Web:

 It is late afternoon in Rainbow Village, the Bay Area's newest unplanned community, with a fine view of San Francisco Bay and an even finer view of the old Berkeley city dump on whose property it sits.

These are real starter homes, in the literal sense, assuming there is air in the tires and gas in the tank. Facing east, in spaces neatly marked off with white paint, is the row of campers and buses and trailers in which the encampment's more prosperous members reside. At one end of Gentry Row live David and Chenoa Wheeler, whose redwood-paneled bus is as snug and sweet as the cabin of a schooner in the spice trade. Next to them is holographic artist Jeffrey Murray, whose long silver bus, with its curtained bed and collection of antique lunch boxes, sets the community standard for gracious living.

Not every bus or trailer is as nice as these two, but most are comfortable and decent. Thirty feet away, the standard of living drops. In the row opposite are parked the battered cars and trucks inhabited by the encampment's winos. The social stratification cuts through Rainbow Village like a knife.

The five "spokespeople" who have emerged to represent the community before the media and before Berkeley city officials are from its "old families, " from the line of trailers and buses. Now, while the subject of their discussion kicks the dirt in embarrassment, two of these spokespeople are arguing hotly about the fate of Joel, his wife and kids, who have just driven up to the gate of this might-be proletarian paradise.

Joel is new in town, and he is broke. He heard about Rainbow Village on the news. He heard how last week the city of Berkeley, in a fit of efficient liberal compassion, descended upon its little community of people living in their vehicles on the city streets. It swept them up and, towing those vehicles that wouldn't run, put them into a little enclave all their own with toilets (in place), water (promised), a telephone (promised), nominal rent (promised) and police protection (driving through like clockwork).

Now Joel has shown up with his family, to see if there is room for them at the inn.

Spokesperson Victor Metcalf insists the wanderers can stay. Humanity demands it. Spokesperson Bobby Hamilton says they cannot. Practicality forbids it. The city has said this many vehicles for right now, and no more. The community has got to take care of itself.

The community has got to play ball.

There is plenty of paranoia loose in Rainbow Village. It is located in a storage yard surrounded by a metal fence, an instant ghetto. Maybe the city will just lock them in and then cover them up, that's what some of the winos are saying. The more practical fear is that, with Rainbow Village attracting national media attention, bus people will come swarming in from all over the country, giving the "conservative" element in Berkeley politics the opportunity to shut down the village.

So here is Joel, an in-the-flesh moral dilemma with bad teeth and two golden-haired babies. Suddenly it's not like the streets anymore. It's Them vs. Us, and it's breaking Victor Metcalf's heart.

"They've got kids, " he says.

Spokesperson David Wheeler tries to mediate. Wheeler is a musician and mathematician, a slight, graceful man with long hair braided at the temples. He has a dream for the village. It's not just 23 vehicles and 35 or 40 people. It is a "revolutionary step, " setting a national precedent for helping everyone who lives in a vehicle. It is the public recognition that he and his friends are not a pitiful collection of winos and mental defectives (though some of each are in evidence) but a cross-section of America, including people ready to work, if only the jobs were offered.

Wheeler recognizes that with opportunity comes responsibility. For instance, what if a resident tosses garbage out the back door of a bus and lets it lie? Should someone else pick it up? Should a delegation of neighbors approach the offender? Should they take steps to get the city to expel him? Wheeler sees the possibility of a fine, orderly future for Rainbow Village - by-laws, one principle spokesman elected by his fellows, a sergeant-at-arms, a treasurer, a secretary, a liaison between the Village and Berkeley.

Joel and his family do not exactly fit into this vision.

Wheeler offers to talk with them in private. Hamilton strides away in a fury. Metcalf goes into his trailer, back to his "Cokes and his cats, " certain that the issue is settled, and the family will stay. But somehow it is not settled.

A quarter of an hour passes. Where are Joel and his wife and kids?

They left in tears a minute ago, somebody says. Wheeler insists he didn't tell them to leave, only explained the situation. He simply made it clear that there wasn't room in the long term, not unless Berkeley opens up more land. He told them about other places to stay.

According to Bill Castellanos, assistant to the Berkeley city manager, Wheeler did the right thing, the "legal" thing, but not everybody approves. "Who appointed him God?" someone asks.

You can smell it, and it's not the dump. It's the yeast of political ferment down at the grassroots, if there were any grass. Scarcely has Joel made his supposedly tearful exit, when Eldridge Cleaver shows up, wearing a black derby and a down vest. With Cleaver is Clare Morrison, in Cleaver's phrase, "Berkeley's most famous homeless person."

Morrison owns a house in Berkeley she wants to reclaim from the people renting it, but she can't because of Berkeley rent control law. She is frequently in the news as a victim of Berkeley liberalism.

According to Cleaver, Morrison is thinking of buying a red, white and blue bus and moving into Rainbow Village, even though her arthritis is so severe it is obvious she moves around with great difficulty. Cleaver takes a picture of Morrison with the buses in the background. "This will go all around the world, " he tells her.

Meanwhile, Victor Metcalf, who has done drugs and who has gone to jail and who has emerged from both experiences with a great and gentle serenity, hopes only for the best. (No one had yet told him that Joel and his wife and kids aren't going to stay.)

"Because of what they are doing for us, God will be good to Berkeley" he says - "as, of course, he already has."

Postscript from Daily Cal, 2007

Matters at Rainbow Village took a turn for the worse when two Grateful Dead fans staying at the site in August 1985 were murdered. Ralph International Thomas, who was also staying at the village, was sentenced to death for the crime.
“It seemed rather wonderful until the killing,” said attorney Don Jelinek, who served as a City Council member at the time. “After the killing, it became virtually impossible to continue supporting it.”
In light of the violence, city officials decided not to defend the encampment in the face of complaints from the state that it was an inappropriate use of coastal land.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Here's a British Journalist Boasting That Brit Reporters are Tougher than Ours

Here's the link, and here's a quote.

Coming from a British tabloid I was barred from virtually every interview by Hollywood publicists.

After the fifth rejection (it was with an actor so wooden he probably now plays a bench in an LA park) I pinned a PR man against a wall and ­demanded to know what was going on.
“You Brits always go for the jugular and these actors don’t need your awkward questions. It upsets them.”
In other words, other ­nationalities will ask actors how they “managed to capture their ­character’s essence so profoundly” while us Brits want to know how they managed to avoid being sent down for their recent shoplifting/drug-taking/wife-beating/gun-using/Jew-baiting episode.
(The writer links to the Tarantino interview included below and to  Piers Morgan interviewing a gun rights advocate.)
 If you haven’t seen either grilling, both are on this page. Not only will they make you laugh and squirm, they should also make you proud of British journalism.
Even though Morgan and ­Guru-Murthy were only staying true to the interview technique most British reporters have ­hammered into them: “If a reader (or viewer) was in my place what questions would they want ­answered?”
We may not realise it, but we are lucky to have ­journalists who refuse to give the rich and powerful an easy ride.

Aggressive Reporting. Obnoxious? No. It's the Job.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thousands of Magazine Media Kits.Things Get Simpler Every Year

Here's the link.


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