To illustrate how much we have to impart during our allotted half hour tonight, here is a glimpse of just the non-first-block items vying for time in the broadcast: An update on the condition of Senator Johnson, new climate figures and findings, the Malibu fires, Mark McGwire (and Cal Ripken), a possible New Orleans curfew, the death of a prominent animator, the bottom falling out of the oil market, and Steve Jobs' latest invention that is supposed to combine and condense all our electronic needs (and presumably all of our food, water and breathable oxygen) into a very expensive Altoids box.
At the top of the broadcast tonight (as of the end of our editorial meeting a few minutes ago), will be some combination of the following: Timeline predictions on an influx of U.S. soldiers and Marines, along with a preview of other points in the President's speech, the violence today on an awful stretch of Haifa Street in Baghdad (where every day is a bad day), and the ongoing Special Forces air strikes in Somalia. The last item has more impact when put differently: Over the last 24 hours, the United States' war on terrorism has opened up an "African front." The operation used one of the most deadly and impressive aircraft in our arsenal... one I've flown on... the AC-130 "Spectre" gunship. It is old and slow by modern aviation standards (it is propeller-driven) but then again, speed and appearances aren't important. It is the aviation equivalent of a battlefield full of weapons -- and in some cases, before those in the target zone hear the prop noise, a number of fierce and lethal weapons have already hit them. It has the fighting force of several platoons arrayed at various "stations" along the fuselage and under the wings. You don't want to find yourself on the business end of one of these. For all its size and power, it is also capable of landing on a relatively short landing strip. Considering this mission didn't officially exist 20 hours ago, information (after-action and continuing action) has been hard to come by, but we'll report what we know.
On the subject of the President's Wednesday night speech, I've talked to several White House folks over the last 12 hours or so, and some guidance (other than what's already been published in the Journal, Times, Post and elsewhere) is starting to emerge. One official said today that without this proposed course of action, "the mass killings would be unimaginable" in Iraq.
All of the items above are in some flux -- we've already done some format-shifting since we broke from the meeting -- so story order may go down to the wire tonight, and I'll try as best I can to set the table concerning all the ground we have to cover (and I'll try to mix a few more metaphors) at the very top of the broadcast.
IT'S ABOUT YOU
New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, whose retirement announcement earlier this season, it has been argued, made for a huge media and team distraction, is walking away from the sport after a spectacular season, and has retired from football at the age of 31, part of an elaborate plan he has laid out for his life going forward. In a departure from modesty, he told a reporter for WNBC-TV in New York: "I'll be missed." Barber has announced his intention to "become a news anchor." Later this afternoon, I will announce my intention to "join the New York Giants backfield."
A great cartoon in last week's New Yorker: Man at computer keyboard, woman stands in doorway. He says to her, "I just feel fortunate to live in a world with so much disinformation at my fingertips."
THE BIG BOX
Among loyal readers of the Sunday New York Times Style section (which is by all indications still figuring out just who they want their reading audience to be), the featured wedding each week is called the "Big Box." This is mostly an apt graphic-based description, as it's big and in a box. It generally seems to run about 800-1,200 words and is accompanied by artsy photography of the happy couple. At least one blog, "Veiled Conceit," regularly takes apart the style the page is written in, say nothing of the happy couples enjoying their nuptials (and who among us hasn't enjoyed a nuptial?). This past week featured the wedding of another lovely couple, and writing that some thought could have been sent over to the Times by the editorial staff of the Onion. In my experience, brides in the Big Box have some common traits:
They are invariably "more at home in a pair of combat boots than they are in high heels." They are ALWAYS described as "spontaneous."
While all of their friends constantly urge them to "have more fun," none is "looking for a relationship"... instead, a relationship "finds them."
The brides-to-be are a "constant blur of activity" and are apt to "kayak down the Hudson at Midnight on New Year's Eve."
Many of the men are in passionless relationships until they are hit squarely on the forehead by the club of love, in the form of the aforementioned combat-boot wearing free-spirited woman.
Weddings are always on a bluff, a dune or a "sweeping lawn," and are usually officiated either by an Enormously Powerful Federal Judge who's a friend of the family or a member of the online ministry community with names like "The New Life Church of the Free Spirit." Participants seldom wear shoes.
I digress. Back to this week's Big Box. The first few paragraphs are worth repeating here:
It's as difficult to categorize Colleen Saidman, an owner of Yoga Shanti, a papaya-color studio in Sag Harbor, N.Y., as it is to hold a headstand for the duration of the Beatles song "Let It Be," a challenge often presented in the classes she teaches.
To begin, Ms. Saidman, who is also a model, is fearless, especially when it comes to wearing orange, diving into the cold ocean, laughing loudly, going barefoot or making radical changes in her life.
In her packed classes she tiptoes between the mats, making adjustments and dabbing rose oil on the foreheads of students. She has been known to startle them with poems about death."
It gets better a few paragraphs later when she meets Rodney Yee, something of a celebrity in the Yoga world, who we're told "is meticulous about anatomy and alignment." They find themselves in a crowded hot tub after a day of posing at a Yoga conference in Nashville. Rodney recounts their "coming together":
She put her thumb on my forehead, right on the third eye, and literally I felt something I'd never felt before.
It goes on.
Still, they didn't want to break up their marriages, which they said were not unhappy.
Oh well. The author of the Big Box wedding for many years has been Lois Smith Brady, a wonderful woman whom I once met when she needed a quote while covering the wedding of a former NBC co-worker. Ms. Brady earned her salary this week -- the weddings that result in disintegrated marriages and wreckage left behind are a journalistic challenge: Trying to write a romantic, positive and compelling story while knowing both principals leave something of a wake behind them. Week after week, Ms. Brady turns in some of the most entertaining (and challenging) writing in the paper, and did so again this past Sunday. And that, Dear Reader, is life in the Big Box. Full disclosure: My wife can't understand why I spend valuable time reading this stuff. I should point out in my own defense that I read Style only after the A Section, Metro, Week in Review, Business, Book Review, Magazine and Automobiles. It's dessert on paper, really.
Back to reality, and the news. We'll put all of this in some logical order; our folks will do some more reporting, and as always we will hope you can join us for tonight's broadcast.
Read more from Brian Williams 2007
Bush's big speech
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