The Netherworld

Leonora LaPeter Anton: ST. PETERSBURG — Walk into Starbucks. Look around. The coffee grinder is grinding, the milk is frothing, and the barista is announcing a pair of half-caf lattes.

Here, in a place that has been replicated 12,000 times the world over, it is easy to believe that nothing is going on. At the tables, people sip, stir, chat. They peck at laptops, at phones, and at those devices in between. It all seems so ordinary, even boring.

But something else is happening here, in a place we can’t touch, see, or even understand, in the mystifying netherworld where passing thoughts and deep yearnings get digitized and transmitted through the ether.

So much of life has become invisible. It’s someplace between here:

Do you still have that pirate costume?

And there:


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Where Jobs Ride On Luxury

Dan Barry: COBURG, Ore. — The winding steps of granite lead to a dark hardwood floor as polished as the mirrored ceiling above. Together they reflect only luxury, from the dining area’s subtle elegance to the bedroom’s costly coziness. Granite kitchen counter. Granite shower stall. Fine upholstery that isn’t granite, but goes with granite.

And everywhere you look, high-definition televisions: descending from the ceiling, sliding out from behind the cabinetry, appearing just outside the front door in case you want to take in a nature documentary amid nature. They all respond to a remote-control device so sophisticated that you may need security clearance just to watch that documentary.


Lane DeGregory: JACKSONVILLE — On his way to the airport, pulling his suitcase across the dark parking lot, he gives himself the speech: Everything is fine. Nothing’s going to happen. Don’t worry. What is there to worry about?

It doesn’t work any more.

He wheels his bag into the terminal, past the ticket counter, through the long security line. In the door of the US Airways plane, he stops the flight attendant.

“Good morning. I want to introduce myself,” he says, thrusting out his right hand.

“I’m Casey Jones. And I was on Flight 1549 — the one that went into the Hudson River.”

Finkel To Lead

I missed this earlier, but here’s a memo:

David Finkel, one of The Post’s most creative writers and thinkers, is returning to the newsroom after a successful book leave to take on a new role as leader of a National reporting team. The group will operate under the broad header, “The Times We’re Living In,” allowing it room to explore in provocative, fresh ways the ongoing transformation of America.

Lafcadio Hearn

Buy this new compilation, reviewed by Jamie James (thanks, Bill): … Hearn had a rare gift for bringing a place to bustling, scented, gorgeously tinted life. Anyone who has spent time along the Gulf of Mexico in the summer, for example, will instantly feel the rightness of this passage, about a thunderstorm in New Orleans: “A packed herd of low-bellying clouds lumbered up from the Gulf; crowded blackly against the sun; flickered, thundered, and burst in torrential rain — tepid, perpendicular — and vanished utterly away. Then, more furiously than before, the sun flamed down; — roofs and pavements steamed; the streets seemed to smoke; the air grew suffocating with vapor; and the luminous city filled with a faint, sickly odor, — a stale smell, as of dead leaves suddenly disinterred from wet mould, — as of grasses decomposing after a flood.” It was a prose style that served Hearn well throughout his life-long travels.

Subway Hero

Michael Wilson: Subway heroes, as they are inevitably tagged even before the grease from the tracks is rubbed off, come along every now and then — indeed, as the story of Chad Lindsey suggests, perhaps more often than we know.

Minutes after rescuing a man who had fallen onto the subway tracks at the Penn Station stop on Monday, Mr. Lindsey managed to melt back into the anonymity of the city, escaping the notice of the police, paramedics and subway workers.

“I’m of many minds of being in the spotlight,” he said after a call from this reporter, whose short account of the accident on The New York Times’s City Room blog on Monday prompted one of Mr. Lindsey’s friends to disclose his identity on Tuesday. “But what the hey,” he said.

Tip Jar

I’m sure this isn’t new, but let me float something here: Why not add something like a tip jar to every story that runs on a newspaper website? Something like this (upper right). We’ve all written stories that people appreciate. Think of the best email you’ve recieved from someone who stumbled onto your story online, then took the time to let you know how much they appreciated you profiling a midwife, or you busting some political balls, or whatever. Now ask yourself this: Would that person — who was reading the information free of charge — contribute something to the newspaper?

Would the people who appreciate investigative reporting be inclined to cough up money to support it?

Would readers take advantage of the implied power this would afford them to try to steer coverage?

My feeling: 95 percent of the non-subscribers who read online only wouldn’t pay a dime. Five percent would.

The same sort of thing seems to be working for NPR, right?

Have I got this totally wrong? What’s the harm?

Monday Reading

Dan Barry: FERNDALE, Calif. — In the verdant Eel River Valley of Northern California, where everyone is tied by blood or business, a dairy farmer named John Vevoda does his part. Though the roars of tractors have deafened an ear, and decades of nudging cows while milking have ruined a shoulder, he accepts his role and fulfills it.

He and his family keep a herd of 600. He employs Alan, Alberto, Dave, Edgar, Jesus, Jose and Umberto. He pays his bills. He recycles. And every two days, he forwards thousands of gallons of raw milk to the Humboldt Creamery, which rises five miles away beside the twisting, rushing Eel River.

Manny Fernandez: FAIRFIELD, Conn. — The bus pulled up at a quiet intersection on Saturday, just another chilly afternoon here in one of the wealthiest counties in America, where the median household income is $78,353 and where, a short walk up the street, an A.I.G executive lives.

A pastor whose sister-in-law is facing foreclosure, a recently laid off worker at a steel mill and a few of their colleagues walked up the residential street. A national and international press corps numbering about 50 hovered around them.

Wes Allison: WASHINGTON — It is safe to say that until last week, Bill Posey was one of Florida’s least-known members of Congress, a freshman Republican who bears a passing resemblance to the mild-mannered Mister Rogers.

During 16 years representing the Melbourne area in the state Legislature, Posey was best known for being reasonable and low key, a staunch conservative who had a reputation for working with Democrats on tough issues.

That changed last week, after Posey quietly introduced a bill in the House that would require presidential candidates to submit their birth certificates to prove they are really U.S. citizens.

And a special treat.

Let There Be Light

Sorry about the blog, but it’s back, so shut up and read this: HARRIMAN, Tenn. — After watching and reading about the legend of Ken Mink again and again, and after getting inside of it myself for months, it should make sense to me. I should know who he is. Only it doesn’t and I don’t.

I do, however, know the story of its creation by heart: Five decades after being kicked out of school and off his team for a prank he did not commit, a 73-year-old former junior college basketball player decides to rewrite his own history. After a few days of nailing shots on his neighbor’s driveway goal, he e-mails a bunch of Knoxville-area coaches. One of them, Randy Nesbit of Roane State, loves dreamers and offers the old man a second chance. In the home opener, the victory secure, Nesbit puts Ken into the game. That’s when it happens, the Big Bang moment. In the months that follow, Nesbit and Ken and everyone else will tell this story over and over, first to local reporters, then to Conan and Regis, CNN and CBS, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times, polishing it until Ken Mink the Phenomenon comes to have little in common with Ken Mink the Man.

It’s the third time Ken touches the ball. The defender, a young man one-fourth Ken’s age, rushes at him wildly. Everyone can see the fear in the kid’s eyes: He does not want the old man to score. Arms flailing, he flies toward Ken, who calmly pump fakes, gets the defender in the air, then goes back up with the ball. A ref’s whistle brings the action to a halt. On the bench, they can’t believe it — Ken pump-faking a kid! With everyone watching, including his wife Emelia wearing a 1950s cheerleader outfit, Ken calmly steps to the line and sinks both free throws.

The Knoxville News Sentinel posts video on its Web site. The site crashes. The video goes up on YouTube. A half million people watch it. Within days, Ken Mink’s phone begins to ring.

He is a star.