What is this?
The word “blog” is now such an overused and abused term that describes a product produced both by serious journalists and eight-year-olds. (I am somewhere in between.) So why don’t we call this an online journal. Or a notebook. Anything but a blog.
Who are you, anyway?
My name is Jim Oliphant and, at present, I am a national correspondent and the legal affairs writer for the Chicago Tribune, still a midwestern titan even with the newsroom cuts. I work in Washington, D.C. I used to be the editor of a publication in Washington called Legal Times. And I was once a lawyer, although if you I accuse me of it, I’ll deny it.
What do you cover?
The Supreme Court, for starters. And the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. And the administration’s legal policy, especially where the War on Terror is concerned. (See: Bay. Guantanamo.) Once in a while, if my bureau chief lets me, I’ll do politics, too.
Tell us something about yourself.
I have never met Barack Obama. I’m pretty sure he is avoiding me.
I have a cat named after a Supreme Court justice. And I like baseball. Specifically the Cleveland Indians. And I have never lived in Chicago, although my brother does. I like movies a lot. I don’t read like I should and I don’t eat enough vegetables. I still have a lot of my hair.
Strike that. I lived in Chicago for a year or so. I was born there, in Evanston.
Evanston really isn’t Chicago proper. . .
Can we move on?
What’s going to be in this space?
Observations. Asides. Things of note. Miscellany. Things that don’t make it into my stories in the Trib. Other stuff. Jokes. Songs. I like a big room. And Gilbert Gottfried will be joining us later.
Should I bookmark you?
That’s between you and your browser.
Can I leave comments accusing you of being a tool of the left/right?
Of course. I might even give them big play if they are interesting.
What’s the Supreme Court like?
A lot like church. You have to be very quiet, and it’s easy to lose track if you aren’t paying attention. And you even bang your knees on the benches sometimes.
Why should we care whether newspapers are in trouble?
You want to hear the whole speech?
Uh, well, now that you mention it, I’m not sure how much time I’ve got left on the meter.
I’ll give you the short version: Because we’re part of the fabric of American society. Like the weather, they are easy to take for granted. But newspapers tell you about your world and community in a way that television cannot. And we try to do it without resorting to three-second sound bites or stories about how employees at the car wash are stealing your change. And we’re not obsessed with men who might have killed their wives. (Or not.)
You need us. We need you. Can’t we figure out a way to make this work?
You like talking about the weather, don’t you?
I do, actually. Inordinately. I wish I could be one of those guys CNN sends down to cover hurricanes. You know, when you have to stand there on a dock or a beach and have the wind whip at you. I watch the Weather Channel more than most people. If I had it in HD, I would probably watch it all the time.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, test-market to the world. We had everything before you did, I reckon. It was practically a futuristic utopia.
I attended The Ohio State University. And you can keep the Bowl jokes to yourself, bucko.
Godfather I or II?
Three! Just kidding. One.
Star Wars or Empire?
Empire. But I’d rather watch Blade Runner.
Bull Durham or Tin Cup?
You know, Bull Durham is a better movie. But I sort of can’t turn off Tin Cup when its on. Maybe because of nobody plays an arrogant ass like Don Johnson. Or maybe because I prefer Rene Russo to Susan Sarandon.
Breathless or Masculin/Feminin?
You can really appreciate Godard’s growth as a story-teller by watching the latter; its intimacy, its grasp of human relationships, its refusal to indulge in archetypes. Breathless is more pyrotechnic, Godard is showing off there.
Okay, I’ll come clean. I have no idea what I’m talking about. Those are the only two Godard films I have ever seen.
Farewell to Arms or The Sun Also Rises?
The latter. I used to read it yearly until the impotence references got depressing.
The Beatles or the Stones?
The Stones! I really don’t care for the Beatles. I was once thrown out of a bar for saying this. And I don’t like Pink Floyd either. Or Maroon 5 for that matter. Nowhere near as good as Maroon 4.
The Drive or the Fumble?
The Fumble was much worse than the Drive. Trust me. True story: I remember watching the first half of the Denver-Cleveland game with a bunch of guys. Once the Browns were being blown out, I left the house and walked the streets for a long time. I came back to see the end of the game and Byner’s fumble. So it’s pretty much my fault.
That was worse than the 1997 World Series?
We had it! All we needed was three outs! And Mike Jackson was unhittable! Then Hargrove brought Mesa in and. . .
Also, that series happened the year I moved from Cleveland to Miami. So that was pretty much my fault, too.
Maybe we should change the subject?
I’d appreciate it.
Why don’t you call your mother more often?