Monthly Archives: December 2009

A Blue Christmas, Sort Of

So it started out as a sad holiday season, with my grandma now gone and a lot of the familiar traditions missing this time around.

Everyone who knew Eda Mae Sagar knew that she loved the celebrate the holidays. Not so much in the deeply religious kind of way, but with examples of kindness, class, hospitality and plenty of food.

When she died in early November, I knew Christmas would not be the same. And it hasn’t been. I’ve missed her deeply at every turn. But we’ve still enjoyed ourselves, and remembered her often along the way.

My grandma made may fine dishes at Christmas, including her famous cheese ball, ham and persimmon cookies. My favorite, though, is the most simple: Lit’l Smokies sausages heated up on the stove in Kraft barbecue sauce. And yes, it has to be Kraft. I can remember as a little kid, about the age that A. is now, chowing down on on Christmas Eve on these little bits of comfort. So we made sure we had them on the stove this year, and boy were they good.

As Christmas approached, I wasn’t really in much of a mood to celebrate. Yet with kids, you just sort of trudge forward sometimes.

I got in the holiday spirit along with way through little things we did, like when A. and I stopped a week ago at Peet’s at J and 20th for some hot cocoa, only to follow up with an unplanned skating session at the cool outdoor ice rink right outside. He was so enthusiastic about skating that it was hard not to smile.

And seeing little C. play with her new dollhouse really made my Christmas morning. She couldn’t wait for me to get it out of the box and set it up. She could have stopped opening presents right then. She was so happy.

Later in the day when we sat down for Christmas dinner, we set a place at the table for my grandma. She would have loved the pot roast, which L. cooked in red wine and garlic for hours. The warm scent filled the house. And as we all gathered around to eat and talk, and I thought of how much my grandma would have enjoyed it.

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‘Malice’ Gets It Right

One of the fun things about teaching a class in journalism is making time to watch a good movie about the craft.

In “His Girl Friday,” the joy is in the quick dialogue. With “The Paper,” I smile when they yell “Stop the presses!” And no reporter can resist “All the President’s Men” and the idea of meeting a source in a dark parking garage for key info for one of the biggest stories of our time. These are all pretty good entertainment.

But one of my favorites — and I love all films about reporters, no matter how cheesy — is “Absence of Malice,” the 1981 flick starring Sally Field and Paul Newman.

When you’ve worked as a reporter, you notice common mistakes in journalism movies. Often times, the reporter is a hero who never seems to take notes, and only files stories every once in awhile. Sometimes they live in big fancy houses and drive expensive cars, but no reporter I know does this.

The beauty of “Malice” is that Fields, the reporter, actually writes stories. She worries about each line. She’s a little nervous and uncertain, despite her to-the-point interview style. She questions herself constantly. She lives in a nice but modest apartment, which is more in line with the lives of many reporters.

And she makes mistakes. Big ones. She gets too close to Newman, one of her sources, and makes other several questionable calls along the way.

The good thing — and most reporters want to do things right — is that she admits her mistakes and tries to make things better.

The story, to me, is one of the most nuanced looks at the challenges a reporter faces.

Decades later, it’s still worth a watch for anyone looking to write news for a living.

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