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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

High standard to live up to, but that’s how good it was at this home.

Diana Canavati Jacaman
Nov. 19, 1935 - Dec. 19, 2014
(November 19, 1935 - December 19, 2014)
Diana “Senior” and I are a story in and of itself, but that is secondary to the story of Diana and the world. The family she and her husband, Curly brought to the world, and those like me who were welcomed to sit like family at the table of their home: sons and daughters in law, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and friends of friends, all made to feel welcome at the Jacaman home. 

It didn't matter whoever you were, whoever your parents were, or wherever you came from. Do you want a cup of coffee? Are you hungry? Did you hear this joke that I’m going to tell you. Wait, sit down. How do you like your coffee? How are things going, what’s new?

At my house the sound level was low. There was the sound of some TV, pots and pans, the occasional “ven a comer, ya esta lista la cena!” The phone rang once or twice a day, the door bell rang two or three times a week.

At the Jacaman’s this was multiplied by at least ten and the volume was double the decibel, and this was day after day.

The sounds of cooking, music, phone ringing, joke telling, laughing and teasing was amplified at Diana Senior's home, such that life was amplified, love was amplified. If you were looking for a friend, you found that, and more. You found a cup of coffee and a cigarette. You would crack up over a joke that you would repeat to everyone for the next three days. When you finally left Diana and Curly's, you would take with you a delicious embrace of friendship and acceptance that would be carried and remembered for three decades and another, and if my experience is any measure, for a lifetime. It’s what you carried into new relationships as a measure of what is good and possible. Sure it's a high standard to live up to, but that’s how good it was. 

Diana Senior, I remember your bowling championships, your piano lessons from the (we thought ancient then) mother and daughter teachers who were so scarred by their history in Eastern Europe that they hid bread rolls from your table in their coats. I remember your choir classes at the college, and all the charities you gave money to, including my own graduate studies. I watched in admiration as you took up oil painting and creative and beautiful collage. You shared with me your love of music, introducing me to Anna Moffo's arias, which are probably the most played on my ITunes playlist to this very day.  

I sat at your table and enjoyed the best dishes from your native Palestine. Your daughters friends and you sat and talked, trying to make sense of this world in countless conversations. Sometimes we just laughed, and sometimes we just gave up and sighed in frustration over some topic that stumped us. The world outside your doors might have been filled with the 1960's and 70's news of wars and corrupt politicians, but inside there was the security of your graciousness, generosity and a cheerful dose of "let's not take anything too seriously" philosophy.  I'll never forget how you stood by your kitchen counter and, invoking your inner Shirley Bassey, you sang at the top of your lungs"This is my house and I don't give a damn!" But, of course, you did give a damn. About the important things: Thank you for the laughter and joy that was your religion as much as your Catholocism. Thank you for translating Christ's love into your daily interactions, for modeling what it is to be a woman, and for accepting and “getting us” Diana Senior, all of the friends of your children that came over to your house. Thank you, and of course, for 'getting me'. For this I’ll be forever grateful. 

I will also always attempt to carry with me that high standard of love and generosity I encountered always at your home, and hopefully reaching it in my own home when I offer the cup of coffee and welcome to a stranger in the same way that you generously offered these to me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fact-Checking and Vetting Missing in Fringe Journalism

The Newsroom's creator and writer, Aaron Sorkin, is an amazing talent. His HBO series, "The Newsroom" is a must-see for anyone interested in trends in the news business. One trend, made possible with today's social media and cell phone culture, is citizen journalism. 

One view is positive and here is a TED Talk that I share with students each semester:Paul Lewis and Crowdsourcing the news.

Sorkin's view is equally compelling, although very different:

The Newsroom segment on Citizen Journalism's flaws

P.S. One of the reasons Sorkin's work fascinates me is that he uses fiction to portray real events. Here is a link to video of Jimmy Kimmel interviewing a website editor about fact-checking and vetting that are non-existent in gossip-type websites about celebrities:

Kimmel hosting CNN Larry King on Citizen Journalism