What I’m Reading: Post-Labor Day Edition

How did this summer pass us by? I think it might be all the doom and gloom. I’ve tried to not think about it too hard, to avoid a malaise spiral in which I end up playing Radiohead’s ‘No Surprises’ over and over.

Anyway, now that I’m more or less recovered from Ferguson, I’m back to reading too many periodicals and posts. Some of them are:

The Worst Governments in America are Local Governments

Contrary to what we hear all the time about local governments being more responsive and accountable, this Jonathan Chait piece shows how state legislatures merely get elected because of the national mood, and local governments can be worse — downright oppressive. Ferguson’s problem is not police militarization, he argues, but the Orwellian attitudes that come with it.

With Big Data Comes Big Responsibility

Friend Om, who inspired me to put together these What I’m Reading lists in the first place, wrote this piece a couple months ago and it comes packed with a lot of big ideas. One of them I’ve been wrestling with is that so much of our privacy and subsequent feelings of security online are due to the benevolence of the Googles and Amazons of the world. How long will they be benevolent?

The WTF Did I Miss? recaps of Masters of Sex

If you’ve spoken to me anytime within the month of August, you’ve heard me wax rhapsodic about the wonder that is Showtime’s Masters of Sex, starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. Their acting is heartbreaking and the show plumbs the depths of so many topics that fascinate me; love, work, identity, intimacy. But reading these spot on and belly-achingly funny reviews took my Masters of Sex experience to another level. You must read them if you’re a fan of the show.

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After Ferguson: Helpful Links For Journalists Covering Protests

NASHVILLE — This morning I’m joining Bob Priddy, Gregg Leslie and Robert Brooks on a panel about media rights following the treatment of some journalists in Ferguson, Mo. during the unrest that broke out mid-August.

By the second week of protests in Ferguson, Amnesty International observers were on the ground.

By the second week of protests in Ferguson, Amnesty International observers were on the ground.

Except for accidentally getting guns drawn on me, I was treated fairly and within my expectations, just as the longtime journalists on the ground there explained to Poynter’s Al Tompkins. But in the weeks media swarmed on the ground in the suburban St. Louis town, police detained, threatened and harassed reporters who were trying to gather the news.

Do we have a First Amendment right to news-gather? How should we prepare to cover a protest? Here are some helpful links:

CJR: Journalists: Know Your Rights

This is a great primer for journalists if you’re headed into a situation where you might have to verbally scrap with police.

The Washington Post: Yes, You Can Record the Police

Know before you go. “Courts have held that, as a general rule, individuals have a right to record law enforcement officers carrying out their duties in public spaces.” Here’s a 2012 letter from the Dept. of Justice backing that up. 

Medium: Dressed for Excess (Tips for covering civil unrest)

Journalist Quinn Norton has been to more of these protests-turned-riots than a lot of us, and she offers really practical tips if you’re headed into a similar situation.

Vox: If police treat journalists like that, imagine how they treat residents

Ultimately, this story is not about us, the press. As calm set in on the streets of Ferguson and the National Guard withdrew from the area, international press was still parachuting in, making the situation feel more and more like a spectacle. Al Jazeera America Ryan Schuessler detailed those weird days.

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Processing My Weird Week In #Ferguson

Moments before SWAT officers swarmed our car, fixing their rifles on us.

Moments before SWAT officers swarmed our car, fixing their rifles on us.

I was as far as once can be from a conflict zone — Aspen — the nights Ferguson, Mo., first erupted over the fatal police shooting of a young black man, Michael Brown. Busy meeting about the future of the internet, the details of why the QuikTrip in a St. Louis inner suburb burned were hazy to me.

When I got home on Wednesday night, August 13, a fast-moving flood of tweets indicated police were moving in on protesters — and journalists — in a siege that seemed like something out of a wartorn nation.

I was born in St. Louis and lived there until age 13. I even moved back to Missouri for college. Ferguson is not the community I called home, but greater St. Louis certainly is, so I sent an email saying I’d be happy to help in any way. The next day my editor called. “You ready to go to Ferguson?,” he said. And, he said, buy a one-way ticket.

I got there on early Saturday morning to looted businesses. After a night of calm on Thursday, the chaos returned Friday. On my first day on the ground I found myself sitting uncomfortably on the floor of a church, surrounded by already work-weary journalists, listening to Gov. Jay Nixon announce he was imposing a curfew on the town at midnight. The curfew would be indefinite.

The curfew didn’t work. Both nights it was in place (it only lasted two nights), a curfew seemed to only increase the tensions that many young black men said had been simmering all their lives. Before I left, my next door neighbor Miss Essie, asked if I could just stay home, instead. Miss Essie, who is black, has a 24 year old son. She said she saw what happened to Brown as something that could easily happen to her own 24-year-old son, Nate.

Monday, the National Guard moved in. I never did get used to the weird juxtaposition of heavily armed military staging in a suburban shopping center full of big box stores. And Monday is when I got caught between a line of protesters and police, flames flying across the windshield of a local girl’s car I’d ducked into for safety. A series of pops — fireworks — were followed by the launching of smoke grenades. Then I saw a flame flying at the police line, which they later said was a Molotov cocktail. Then the loudest blasts I’d ever heard at close range went off. Tear gas and gunshots, fired almost simultaneously.

I was still ducking there, stunned, when suddenly an armored vehicle blasted its lights at the car where I hid. The rest of the press had gotten pushed back before the tear gassing began. But because I’d sought cover in the car wash, and then a stranger’s backseat, I got separated from my media brethren and was stuck in a dangerous zone. In a matter of seconds, the masked tactical unit — at least a dozen men — raised their rifles and pointed them at the car. The girls in the front seat had their hands up as soon as the lights blasted us. I dropped my phone and rolled down the window. “I’m press! I’m press!” I screamed. One of the armed men gestured to let us drive out of the melee, while the rest kept their guns trained on us.

But rolling down the window meant getting the worst of the gas wafting. It burns your eyes. It burns your nose. It burns your throat. It wasn’t until we were out of the most dangerous zone that other strangers could help us, handing us water and warning us not to rub or touch our eyes, or it would make it worse.

“My life just flashed before my eyes,” said Orrie, the driver who so generously gave me cover and navigated numerous police barricades to get me back to the command center, aka Target parking lot, safely.

I composed myself to file a report for our overnight newscast. Then I drove home to wash my eyes out some more and start reporting again on Tuesday. And again on Wednesday. And Thursday. Today, after a relative calm held for a few nights in a row, I got to come home. Being safely home has never felt so good.

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What to Eat And Drink in San Antonio: Your Recommendations

God, it’s so hard to be away from Texas. I miss it so much. The only state my 1.5 year old daughter can identify on a map is Texas, a testament to how obsessively we harp on and on about a state where Eva’s never lived.

I certainly don’t make it back enough to get a regular dose of the drinking and eating that made my experience in Texas so delicious. Things are getting desperate. As HeyElise readers know, it wasn’t that long ago I went home to Austin for a few hours and consumed 4,000 calories in 30 minutes.

Austin, Dallas and Houston were my homes. I even lived in Waco for gloomy nine months. But San Antonio, for all its charms, I’ve only visited. One time I ran the city’s marathon. It was miserable.

So I called upon you all to help come up with recommendations for the great eating/drinking available in one of Texas’ most underrated cities. I love the Tex Mex at Rosario’s, and drinking fancy cocktails at Hotel Havana, Liz Lambert’s relatively-new joint. Here’s what you had to suggest for my editor Uri, who is headed there tomorrow:

Breakfast (which mainly consists of breakfast tacos)
Taco Haven
Get the Torres Special – beans/cheese/bacon/guac or the Dos-A-Rita
Las Palapas

Tacos:
Tito’s Tacos
Taco Taco Cafe

Cocktails/Drinks:
Friendly Spot
Feast
The Esquire

TexMex:
La Gloria
Mi Tierra
Los Barrios
Guajilo’s
Acenar

Pizza:
Dough

Burgers:
Madrid’s
Chesters

Bakery:
Guenther House for enormous, delicious sticky buns al fresco.

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Heartbreak Tally

Awarding of arbitrary points for things that happened today:

My emergency #NED jersey didn't help, I guess.

My emergency #NED jersey didn’t help, I guess.

+ 15 Got into Uber and the driver asks me if I’m headed to watch the game. I say yes. He offers to sell me his last remaining Team Netherlands jersey from his trunk. It’s Van Persie and it’s $40. The kismet drove me to make the purchase.

- 100 After 120 minutes of soccer without a score, the match ends in a penalty kick shootout, in which the Dutch lose after our first kicker gets his shot blocked. Gonna take a while to recover. Still no world championship trophy for the Dutch team, a longtime European football stalwart.

+ 10 Having my old friend and Denver Post sports columnist Ben Hochman to watch the game with me.

- 75 Ryan Gosling is apparently having a baby with Eva Mendes, which links them together for life. Crest. Fallen.

+ 90 All Things Considered aired my five-minute+ rumination on whether a burrito is a sandwich, an idea inspired by Noah Veltman’s five minute lightning talk on a side-passion of his, at the Knight/MIT Civic Media conference last month.

TOTAL: -70

Had I not lost Ryan Gosling, the chance to go through sandwich taxonomy on national air and get myself a Netherlands jersey in the nick of time would have ended this day on the positive side of the ledger.

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Left DC, Went All The Way To Denver And Obama Showed Up

DENVER — It’s weird living in the nation’s capital, with Marine One constantly buzzing over your house as POTUS or VPOTUS head to Andrews Air Force Base. And “powerful people” wearing special lapel pins to indicate they are lawmakers or People Who Are Professional Pundits On Cable TV hanging around at the same restaurants and parties you do. It’s nice to get away and go to the real Amerricuh, where you can remove yourself from the proximity to power and its pitfalls.

But tonight, my escape to Denver was thwarted by the President. Blocks away from the bar where my friends Tim and Danielle were awaiting my arrival, my cab got blocked by cops. There was clearly Something Important Happening. I ended up walking to where I needed to be, only to be stopped because at the same moment I was supposed to arrive at the Wyncoop Brewery (co-founded by now Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper), a guy named Barack Obama pulled up with at least a dozen other black SUVs in tow.

As I’m outside being blocked from entering, the press pool rushes by, scurried in through a back door. That’s when my colleague Scott Horsley and I ran (almost literally RAN) into one another on the sidewalk. No time to talk, Secret Service rushed him in. I should have just joined them and snuck into the restaurant in that confusion, but instead I obeyed the rules, got pushed to this gawking area behind a barricade, until I talked two cops and a secret service guy into escorting me into the bar while the President was upstairs playing pool with the governor.

See all those people behind the motorcade? That's where I was stuck for a few minutes until talking my way into a personal escort into the bar. Thanks Secret Service!

See all those people behind the motorcade? That’s where I was stuck for a few minutes until talking my way into a personal escort into the bar. Thanks Secret Service!

My gal pal Danielle wanted a photo with the President's personal physician.

My gal pal Danielle wanted a photo with the President’s personal physician.

Best part of this whole random Denver incident was running into my journalist pals in the traveling press corps. There's old friend Colleen Nelson waving at me after the pool had to leave but regular bar patrons could stay inside.

Best part of this whole random Denver incident was running into my journalist pals in the traveling press corps. There’s old friend Colleen Nelson waving at me after the pool had to leave but regular bar patrons could stay inside.

Hadn't been this close to him since the time I interviewed him in a bathroom.

Hadn’t been this close to him since the time I interviewed him in a bathroom.

After POTUS got in the car, Hickenlooper (right) hung back. I later asked him to join us for a beer, like that one time in Salt Lake City, but he had to go to two more events.

After POTUS got in the car, Hickenlooper (right) hung back. I later asked him to join us for a beer, like that one time in Salt Lake City, but he had to go to two more events.

Chicago, Cambridge: A June Travel Blur

The Tumblr-sponsored green room at MCON14. There's our pal Azita in the middle, and at left is record exec Todd Moscowitz. Pizzas just cause.

The Tumblr-sponsored green room at MCON14. Pizzas just cause.

Between my day job and teaching our master’s program journalism class at Georgetown, somehow I squeezed in a few trips. Was delighted to moderate the final on-stage chat at the Millennial Impact Conference in Chicago, in which Warby Parker and Harry’s co-founder Jeff Raider and I joked around about beards. We followed that up in Tumblr’s green room, in which we made a shitty gif.

Goofing off with Jeff Raider after closing out #MCON14.

Goofing off with Jeff Raider after closing out #MCON14.

When I tried to go home from Chicago, your standard incompetence at O’Hare (which they called “weather” — a huge affront to actual weather situations) led to the cancelation of my flight home. So I stayed an extra night in Chicago, in a lovely boutique hotel called the Ivy. My only beef with it was the mattresses there rest on these dark wood bed frames that jut out to stab your ankles when you’re not careful. I am pretty banged up from my bed.

Spent one night at home before flying to Cambridge for the Knight/MIT Center for Civic Media’s annual Civic Media Conference. That conference is always special because of the sheer brain power and wit that gets squeezed into an overly-air conditioned room. And it’s a reunion, of sorts, for a lot of the Knight family of friends and advisers.

This year I also got a story out of it, when Friend Noah laid out the complexities of a legal debate over whether a burrito qualifies as a sandwich. Seriously.

All of this was punctuated with you sending me Yo’s at random times. Thanks, yo.

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“The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” – Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

That Time We Consumed 4,000 Calories In Under 30 Minutes

Empanadas to celebrate Baby Dillon, coming July 2014.

Empanadas to celebrate Baby Dillon, coming July 2014.

Pretty amazing. I made a game time decision to get to Austin last Saturday to attend the baby shower for Friend Hannah (of Hannah and Jed). It’s her first baby and I co-hosted along with the Austin gal pals, so I thought I should definitely be there. But after being in New York for the week, it was going to be a tough turnaround, and indeed it was. Now I have a cold.

But damn I love a deadline. Knowing I only had about five hours in town, total, I made sure Justin picked me up and we went straight to P Terry’s (best fast burger in Austin) and dashed through the drive-thru for cheeseburgers. Scarfed ‘em down on the way to El Azteca ($6.95 enchilada plate with rice/beans plus tea and a sherbert) and killed that combo meal along with my beloved flour tortillas. Had a barbecue place been across the street, we would have made the trifecta of gluttony happen, but we overdid it on chips. Still pretty proud of ourselves nonetheless.

And this should probably go without saying but, the Hannah shower was lovely — Nurse Sara hosted it at she and Andy Brown’s home, in their backyard garden. The ladies put together an event worthy of a thousand Pinterest pins.

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