Daily Archives: September 19, 2008

Extended Forecast — No “Perfect Storm”

I wish “perfect storm” would blow, or dissipate or move harmlessly out to sea.

There it was again this morning, tucked into the investigation of the University of Iowa’s handling of a sexual assault report last fall. An investigator cited a “perfect storm” of miscommunication.

Now, I’m not passing judgment on my journalistic pals. I’ve used it in my stories and columns, too. I just think it’s a cliche whose time has passed. Overuse has watered down its meaning and impact. We need to have a retirement party for “perfect storm.” I’ll bring the cake.

It’s been 11 years since Sebastian Junger’s truly good “The Perfect Storm” book hit the shelves and eight years since the movie by the same name. And what started out as a punchy, fitting term describing the extremely rare confluence of bad circumstances into a massive, memorable and tragic event is now used to describe things far less rare. Such as an inept, bumbling university bureaucracy.

I know my fight is uphill. Plug “pefect storm” into Google news and you’ll get 7,562 references. Sarah Palin is out talking about a “perfect storm” of economic problems. The term is being used to describe oil prices and homebuilding and an Australian rugby team and employment woes in New Zealand and airline troubles in the UK. Yeah, and sometimes it’s still used to describe weather.

I’m issuing a no perfect storm warning. Join me.


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Friday Time-Eater: Campaign Ads 1952-2008

The Museum of the Moving Image has a very cool site where you can view dozens of presidential campaign television advertisements from the last 56 years.

One thing you notice right away from even the earliest spots is that  attack ads have been around since the very advent of television. One difference is that candidates used to have the guts to deliver the attacks themselves, like Ike in this 1952 ad: (Sorry, WordPress won’t let me embed flash video from the site)


I also think some of the Lyndon Johnson ads unleashed against Goldwater make today’s spots look tame. If you’re a political junkie, like I am, you can easily lose a couple hours at this site, especially on a slow September Friday.  It’s also sort of comforting to remember that the nation has survived other knock-down, drag-out election fights.

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