A Freedom to Frag

This entry comes from June 2011, when a Supreme Court decision announced the day before allowed me a chance to exercise that political science degree and civil liberties muscle with this (too long) essay.

TOWER GROVE — The government can fine a store for selling a minor Camels, can punish a shopkeeper for passing a Playboy across the counter to an adolescent, and can revoke an exemption for a bar that lets a toddler stop by for fried chicken. But when it comes to violent video games, the Supreme Court assured this week that the government can do nothing but grin and frag it.

The message is clear when it comes to slaughtering zombies, knifing drug dealers and celebrating the virtual brutality of Duke Nukem.

Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em, kids. Continue reading

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The Promised Pujols Cartoon

JUPITER, Fla. — It was so long ago that I’ve forgotten exactly how it came up, but it happened not to far from here — down Interstate 95 and just south of West Palm Beach, Fla. I grabbed a fistful of white paper from the Xerox machine nearest by desk at The Palm Bach Post. I raided an art supply store for some sketching pencils, a trusty pica pole, an industrial-strength eraser, a Uni-Ball pen, and fine-point detailing pens. I set up a rather low-frills drawing studio at a glass coffee table. And I started drawing.

It might have been the small self portrait I included on my resume, or the line about drawing a twice-weekly cartoon at The Maneater. Regardless, the sports editors at the PB-Post had a challenge and an offer for their eager intern.

There was a spot in the Sunday paper for a cartoon, if I wanted to draw them.

(Scroll down if you’re tired of reading and just want to look at the pretty drawing.) Continue reading

An Experiment in Experience Journalism

JUPITER, Fla. — During my senior year at Mizzou, I finally got to take a class I’d been eying since entering the School of Journalism. I don’t recall the number — it was somewhere in the 300s — but I do remember the unofficial title we had for it: our immersion project.

An exercise in long-form journalism, the semester’s assignment was to plant yourself inside a story, wallow in it for more than a month, and then emerge with a deep, penetrating and, in some cases, personal story about the experience. In short, the idea was to immerse yourself in the story. Today, we might call this embedding. Students would work at shelters. They would ride along with a high school team for a season. They’d go through a round of cancer treatments with the family of a patient. I spent my semester entrenched in the Kenny Hulshof campaign for Congress, and by the end I was able to chronicle from behind closed doors how a Republican won Missouri’s ninth district for the first time in more than Continue reading

‘Twas the Night Before Spring Training

JUPITER, Fla. — This afternoon, on the eve of report day for St. Louis Cardinals pitchers and catchers, the clubbies continued setting up the clubhouse by hanging jerseys at each locker … with, um, care.

I snapped a picture of the corner awaiting position players when they arrive:

Jerseys hanging at lockers in the Cardinals' clubhouse in the spring training complex at Jupiter, Fla., on Feb. 17, 2012, two days before the team's first official workout.

The unopened bags, the anticipation of spring training’s opening, the jerseys hung ever so carefully — why that phrase kept clinking around in my skull all afternoon and the obvious result was — what else? — a poem, starring the local nine and even some of the journalists who cover the club. Here goes.

‘Twas the Night Before Spring Training

‘Twas the night before spring training, when all through the clubhouse

Not a reliever was warming, not even a Motte

The jerseys were hung by their lockers with care,

in hopes that the Cardinals soon would be there.

 

The baseballs are nestled, all rubbed up with mud,

eager for that whack that smears the signature from Bud.

And Hummel at his keyboard, and I on the blog,

had just sent our stories to beat a deadline slog.

 

When out on Field 1, there arose such a clatter Continue reading

That Tender Spot Behind the Knee

JUPITER, Fla. — We are all familiar with that stereotypical picture of a lifeguard, what with the rakish spin of his whistle and that universally accepted symbol of smart, outdoor health — the white stripe of sunscreen on his nose. It’s not a fashion statement. It’s there because it’s needed. Through many years as a lifeguard I’ve peeled off more noses than I care to admit, and I’ve got the freckles seven layers deep to prove that I should have been more vigilant with my white stripe. I imagine that every profession or pursuit that puts in the line of (sun) fire has that same soft spot that the rays find and punish. When I coached swimming, we were constantly reminded to put a swipe of sunscreen on top of our ears where our sunglasses rest. That’s where coaches are vulnerable, we were told, and skin cancer can nest. Snorkeling can leave your back exposed to the sun’s raw brutality as I learned last month in Curacao. Construction workers have to be wary of their necks. Golfers have to be mindful of their foreheads. Skiers have to remember the sun can ricochet off the glistening snow to double-blast their cheeks and even when you can’t see the sun its rays can still seer you. Drivers have to take special care of that left elbow, poking out into the sun as it does while they’re cheerfully rocking out to AC/DC on a road trip. (I’m thinking Emilio Estevez in Maximum Overdrive.) And baseball writers must always remember the Continue reading

The Nine Stages of Spring Training Day 1

JUPITER, Fla. — The first act of spring actually occurs back where it’s winter. It involves rolling up T-shirts, identifying books that are worthy of the trip south, stacking yellow legal pads, making sure there’s a raincoat handy, and otherwise packing for the longest road trip of any baseball season. The goal is to fit all that stuff, snugly, into as few pieces of luggage as possible, while also making sure all of the essentials fit into one of two carry-ons. Can’t have that Skype-ready webcam lost in transit.

The days before arriving at spring training involve feats of geometry.

The first day on the ground at spring training is an experiment in trigonometry.

It’s all about the tangents. Continue reading

Walking Around the World Without Moving

DOWNTOWN — Four of the most recognizable walkers in St. Louis have apparently been on quite the journey since they came town, and they’ve covered so much ground without moving an inch from their original location.

In yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Doug Moore had one of those stories that stands out for its inventiveness and its unexpectedness.

Moore revisits Citygarden, a walking area in downtown St. Louis that is a wonderful jumble of artwork. Two of the more captivating — and, for some, unnerving — pieces at Citygarden are the digital walkers.  “This is Kiera and Julian Walking” and “This is Bruce and Sara Walking” are digital boards that show four figures, two in each frame, striding ever smoothly toward nowhere. The figures are faceless, they’re clothes are yin-yang opposites, and yet their gait is so eerily real and relentlessly rhythmic that the artist, Julian Opie, has made the casual stroll into a work of art.

Here’s where Moore’s creativity comes in. Continue reading