No more nudes for Playboy; Maxim goes upscale – What will the lads read now?

First issue of PlayboyIn the past, supposedly enlightened men claimed that they bought Playboy magazine for the articles.  And for a long time, it could be a truthish claim – Playboy did run good articles and paid top writers good money for them.  And sometimes that claim could even be true.  The only time I’ve ever purchased a copy of Playboy was because my wife (then fiancé) asked me to buy her the one with the Bette Davis cover story.

But everyone knew the real reason guys bought Playboy – photos of naked ladies.

But now Playboy is aiming to make an honest man out of all of us – as of March 2016, the magazine will no longer feature fully nude photos of women, following the lead of the publication’s web site from August a year ago.

This is not, apparently, because Playboy is newly respectful of women; rather, the magazine is trying to fit in better with the PG-13ish world of social media.

Idris Elba on Maxim
Meanwhile, back in “lad magazine” land
Maxim magazine has been undergoing its own remake by going to a larger format, higher quality paper stock, and trying to find a place in the market as a luxury magazine. Maxim, like the other so-called lad magazines,  has been targeted at young men and featured a diet of scantily clad ladies, beer, and gadgets.  If we were categorizing it today, you would say it was targeted at the “bros.”  The September issue of Maxim was the first to feature a male cover model – the endlessly cool British actor Idris Elba. (Who really should be the next James Bond.  Really!)


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Who Exactly Are The “Mainstream Media”?

Reporting on the Kevin McCarthy story.

From Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz’s Facbook Page, Oct. 12, 2015.

Overall, I’m with Fox News’ Howard Kurtz on this one.  I’m not sure how appropriate it was to report on the rumors of an affair by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.  On one hand, there were a lot of questions raised late last week as to why McCarthy had pulled out of a seemingly sure-thing race to be Speaker of the House.  On the other hand, other than rumors, there’s absolutely no concrete evidence that McCarthy has ever engaged in inappropriate extra-marital behavior. On the third hand, there’s lots of evidence that only a crazy person would want to be Speaker of the House right now.

But that’s not what’s grabbing my attention with Kurtz’s Facebook post.  In it, he asks the question:

“Why the mainstream media helped spread the Kevin McCarthy affair rumors — because they were ‘out there'”

I’m wondering what Kurtz means by “the mainstream media”? (Remembering of course that Secret 2 says “There’s no such thing as the mainstream media.”)

In his story, Kurtz notes that the story of McCarthy’s alleged affair first broke on the conservative political rumor site GotNews.  Then the rumors were passed on by Erick Erickson, who founded the popular conservative web site Red State.

The rumor then moved to a column by conservative columnist Matt Lewis at The Week and to his Daily Caller blog.

The story then jumped the ideological fire line over to the liberal-leaning Huffington Post web site.

And, finally, the story shows up in a Howard Kurtz story on Fox News.

Now, as someone who no longer believes that “the mainstream media” is nothing more than a boogie man to describe media you don’t like, I’m not the best person to analyze this, but let’s try anyway.

Generally, mainstream media means the big, legacy corporate media.   Reading through Kurtz’s story, Fox News is the only one of the media outlets mentioned that could be considered mainstream, with the possible exception of The Week magazine.  I’m not saying that legacy media haven’t covered this story, but I would argue that this has been much more of an online story.  And I would further argue that all of the origins of this story come from conservative media.

Overall, I’ve like Howard Kurtz’s work for a long time – especially back when he worked for the Washington Post.  But I have to say I’m not particularly impressed with this story.  There’s a real story here, but I don’t see much about the mainstream media in it.

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When is a meme inappropriate?

Long time readers here will know that I’m more than a little obsessed with the Star Wars movies. So the release of Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens directed by the ever brilliant J. J. Abrams on Dec. 18, 2015 has me really excited.  I’m planning to drive to Council Bluffs, about 180 miles away, to see it in 3-D IMAX.

But despite all that, I’ve been reluctant to post the following meme to my social media:

On Friday December 18th 2015 Movie Theaters All Over The World Will Look Like This

Given the recent Oregon school shooting and the sentencing of the Denver movie theater shooter, this image seems  troubling to people I care about.  And I have no difficulty understanding why. How does this image make you feel?  And why?

(Please keep it civil folks. It’s possible to disagree and still be nice to each other.)

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Julia Kozerski looks back at how losing 160 pounds made her feel miserable

Julia Kozerski - Before and AfterTwo years ago I wrote a post about how photographer Julia Kozerski documented through photos her process of losing 160 pounds.  Many of the photos were taken of her trying on clothes for her sliming body while others were unclothed, showing her stretch marks and sagging skin.

I thought her story in words and photos was incredibly compelling and largely at odds with the stories of weight loss success we are told through magazines and TV.

This week she published a followup to her earlier work with an article for the Washington Post’s PostEverything blog.  In the article, she documents how losing weight didn’t make her happier; in fact, she says that it only made her feel worse about how she looked.  She writes:

“But even after I lost weight, I could see that I’d never be Gisele or Heidi Klum.  When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see my slimmer legs or flatter tummy.  Instead, there was sagging skin, drooping breasts and stretch marks in shades of purple and red…. Fat or thin, I was a mess.  I didn’t love myself and didn’t understand how anyone else could.”

Kozerski goes on to write that what saved her as taking the photos and analyzing them as the photographer, not as the subject of her photos:

“I saw sagging breasts and a scarred bodice but also a person willing to share those scars with others, rather than digitally edit them out of the photograph.”

A must read article on media and body image, along with her online photo exhibits.

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Looking back at the Unabomber and the Washington Post

What has been the lasting lesson of the Washington Post publishing the Unabomber’s manifesto?

FBI photo of the original typescript of the Unabomber manifesto.

FBI photo of the original typescript of the Unabomber manifesto.

Twenty years ago the Washington Post published a long and rambling manifesto written by a terrorist known as the Unabomber.  The Unabomber said he would send another package full of explosives out through the mail if the paper did not publish his 35,000-word statement.  This was a threat to be feared – The Unabomber had already killed three people and injured 23 over the previous 17 years.

The decision to publish the manifesto was not an easy one.  The paper did not want to be giving in to blackmail.  On the other hand, perhaps publishing the piece could stop the bombings.  Just as importantly, publishing the manifesto might help someone recognize the author and lead to the bomber’s capture.

In the end, the publication of the manifesto did lead to the capture of Ted Kaczynski when his brother recognized the style of writing.

The Unabomber case shows how difficulty journalistic ethics can be.  Remember that the tough ethical decisions are not between right and wrong but rather what do you do when nothing seems right.

Much has changed since the Washington Post published the manifesto on Sept. 19, 2015.  The Post now could publish Kaczynski’s ramblings online instead of in an eight-page special section; Kaczynski could publish his manifesto himself online without needing the help of a major newspaper….

But the basic question remains – How do you make a decision about publishing something when you don’t like any of your choices?

Thanks to Paul Farhi, the Washington Post‘s media reporter for this great look back at an important part of recent journalistic history.

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Me and the Bishop


Those of you who have been reading my blog over the summer have seen a great deal about my motorcycle travels and my following the Trail of the Whispering Giants. A big part of that story has been my travels with my friend Matt Riegel, who for years has been the campus Lutheran chaplain at West Virginia University.  The month before we left on our annual summer motorcycle trip, Matt was elected as the ELCA bishop of the West Virginia – western Maryland synod.  This last weekend, in a beautiful church service, he was installed to his office.  I was fortunate enough to be able to fly out for the weekend from central Nebraska to join my friend (and many other friends) for this special day.

This is not a blog for discussion of my own religious beliefs and practices, so let me just send warm wishes to my friend and give “the rest of the story” for those of you following along at home.

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Telling Data-Driven Stories

This morning our Comm students at University of Nebraska at Kearney were fortunate enough to have a virtual class visit from Dr. Jan Boyles from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University.  She talked with us about some great data-driven stories and some exciting tools to use in telling these stories.

Here some data-driven stories:

And here are few tools you can use for your own stories.

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Return of the Trail of the Whispering Giants

Me and the Worland, Wyo. Whispering GiantI moved back to the cusp of the West a little more than 7 years ago, and up until now I’ve viewed my motorcycling home as being back in the Southeast.  Yes, I took a ride down into Kansas, Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, New Mexico and Colorado a couple of years ago as part of my Iron Butt Association National Parks Tour, but I’ve always thought of West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee as my natural habitat to go riding. The Blue Ridge Parkway, The Cherohala  Skyway, US 250 across West Virginia, those were the destinations I always dreamed of.

And in one sense, none of that has changed.  I still dream of riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but after my recent trip to chase down Whispering Giants in Colorado and central Wyoming I can’t wait to get back into the Rocky Mountains and points west.

RotopaxAs I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve spent my motorcycle time this summer on the Trail of the Whispering Giants as part of a fantastic Team Strange Grand Tour. Over Labor Day weekend I rode out west to track down two more of Peter Wolf Toth’s sculptures.

Before heading out on this ride, I made one new addition to my bike, a 1-gallon Rotopax gas can on a luggage rack that takes the place of my back seat.  Just in case…

Giant #11 – Loveland, Colorado, Sept. 5

Loveland rally flagFriday afternoon I rode out from Kearney, Neb. to Greeley, Colorado to meet up with retired Methodist minister and active long distance rider Phil Tarman, who a couple of years ago took an multi-month “Epic Ride” to celebrate his retirement. Had a bit of rain coming into Greeley, which was welcome just because it cooled things off a bit.

Bright and early Saturday morning, I headed on west up Highway 34 out of Greeley and past Loveland. Were it not Labor Day Weekend, I could have happily headed up toward Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, but the holiday weekend crowds held little appeal.

I found Loveland’s Whispering Giant in a pasture just a few miles out of town.

Loveland, Colorado giant

There was no plaque here, no identification, just the Whispering Giant with a small fence to keep the cows at bay.  This giant has definitely seen better days and is being held together with bolts and a heavy wooden support.

04_loveland back

From there it was heading north up into central Wyoming – one of the more remote areas I’ve ever gone riding in.  I stopped in Laramie for gas and something cold to drink, and while at the gas station I ran into Jim and Linda on their Harley from Broken Bow, Nebraska.  It turns out that Linda is a night checker at the HyVee in Kearney that my wife and I often shop at.

Jim and Linda with their Harley

Split Rock signAfter a run west on Interstate 80, it was time to head north on US 287 leading up to a truly remote State Highway 135 aka Sand Draw Road.  To give you an idea of what Sand Draw Road is like, my Butler Motorcycle Map has it labeled as a specific category of road – a Lost Highway. (“The faded paint of a centerline, or crumbling shoulder are all that remain to remind us of a more purposeful past. They are highways that seem lost in time.”)  Pretty much.  Also along this route was the barely marked, impossible to find on any map Split Rock National Historic Site.  A landmark on the Oregon Trail, this was a particularly interesting little unit of our National Parks System. Had I more time, I could have happily headed out on a hike her to explore this spot a little more.

Split Rock National Historic Site

Giant #12 – Worland, Wyoming, Sept. 5

Worland signFrom there it was up through Wind River Canyon, an absolutely spectacular segment of US Highway 20 that no motorcyclist should miss.  Again, no time to stop in the hot springs in Thermopolis. I have to keep moving on to Worland, home of my next Whispering Giant. This one was an easy find on the corner of Wasaki County Courthouse lawn.

Worland's Whispering Giant

Worland Rally Flag

From Worland it was time to head back east on US 16 aka the Cloud Peak Skyway that twists and turns its way up from around 4,000 feet, all the way up to nearly 10,000 feet, and then back down to near 4,000 feet – all with very little traffic.  Once coming back to civilization in Buffalo, Wyoming, it was time to hop back onto Interstate 25 and hightail it down to Casper, Wyoming.

The next morning was breakfast with my high school friend Sue Cunningham Burk and her husband, Richard. I then closed out the ride with a run down Nebraska State Highway 2 through the Nebraska Sand Hills. It’s a ride I’ve long wanted to take, but this was my first chance to see the truly beautiful part of my state.  If you’ve only seen the Platte River Valley that I-80 follows across Nebraska, you really haven’t seen what the state has to offer.

I arrived home about dusk Sunday evening having really connected to my Western motorcycling soul. I still need to get back to the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I’ve got these maps of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho that keep calling my name.  And there’s still that Whispering Giant in Bismarck, North Dakota (Mandan, actually, but close enough) that I really would have liked to have visited before the Grand Tour ends Oct. 31st….

My Labor Day Ride

Map of my Labor Day Weekend Ride

This story starts here.

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Body Image in the Media

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The World Trade Center in the Movies

Reposted from Sept. 11, 2011.

Before 9/11, the silhouette of the twin towers of the World Trade Center were one of the quickest ways movie makers had of establishing that we were looking at the NYC skyline.  Here’s a beautiful collection of WTC skylines edited by Dan Meth from more than 30 years of the movies that I found on Mediaite.

Twin Tower Cameos from Dan Meth on Vimeo.


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