It Hurts to Think
But Leanne Potts does it anyway
It Hurts to Think

Transocean Ltd., paragons of safety

Transocean Ltd., the company that owned  the offshore oil rig that blew up in the Gulf of Mexico last year, paid its executives millions of dollars in bonuses to reward them for "the best year in safety performance in our company’s history,” it said in its annual report released yesterday and reported in the WSJ.

Yes, Transocean is talking about 2010, when the company killed 11 rig workers and despoiled the ecosystem inhabited by uncountable millions of creatures.

Transocean President and Chief Executive Officer Steven L. Newman received about $4.3 million in cash bonuses and stock and option awards. With other compensation—such as pension increases and cost of living, housing, and automobile allowances—Newman earned $6.6 million in 2010, almost $1 million more than in 2009.

“Notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico, we achieved an exemplary statistical safety record as measured by our total recordable incident rate and total potential severity rate,” Transocean states in a regulatory filing on its web site

Kill people, destroy eco-systems and economies, get rewarded with millions of dollars.

But it's teachers and firefighters who are overpaid, remember?

Yes, I'm alive

And speechless at the state of the world. Tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns, Middle Eastern revolution, Mad Men's new season delayed.

Elvis Presley Blues

I meant to post this on Elvis' 75th birthday last week. It's Gillian Welch singing her haunting"Elvis Presley Blues." Watch it, and listen to the lyrics, and you will understand all there is to understand about Elvis, and about following your heart with no regard for the consequences.

Every time I listen to this I get chills.

12 Days of Christmas Albums That Suck

Another holiday season, another round of Christmas albums from pop artists who should know better. Money must be the motive for these abominations. Artistry sure isn't. Bob Dylan's Christmas album, anyone?

Charity is often cited as the reason for these unspeakably horrible Christmas releases. Proceeds from Dylan's "Christmas in the Heart" will go to Feeding America, a charity that provides food for the needy. My guess is a lot of needy people will stay hungry because this one will not be flying off the shelves or onto the iPods.

Here's my list of Christmas albums that should never have been made, in order of the degree to which they make me envy the deaf. Given a choice between a lump of coal in my stocking and one of these albums, I'll take the coal.

10. REO Speedwagon, "Not So Silent Night" (2009)
Wow, Kevin Cronin and the boys appear to be spending more on highlights these days than Bon Jovi. In a trifecta of bad taste, the band played this album rink-side on an NBC special "Scotch Brand Holiday Celebration on Ice" that featured figure skaters in Little Rock, Ark.

9. Michael Bolton, "This is the Time" (1996)
It's even worse than you imagine.

8. Lynyrd Skynyrd,  "Christmas Time Again" (2006)
Make. VanZants. Stop.

7. Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special, "Christmas" (2002)
And you thought a Skynyrd Christmas album was a bad idea.

6. Mariah Carey's "Merry Christmas" (1994)
Yes, Mariah Carey has been making your ears bleed and your head hurt for more than 15 friggin' years.

5. Twisted Sister's "A Twisted Christmas" (2006)
Watch the video for "Come All Ye Faithful," which has the same intro as TS's 1981 hit "We're Not Going to Take It," and ponder how badly hair metal bands age.

4. Jethro Tull, "The Jethro Tull Christmas Album" (2003)
Some original songs by Tull, but they should have stuck with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

3. Rosie O'Donnell and various artists, "A Rosie Christmas" (1999)
Rosie duets with Cher, Billy Joel and Elmo, among others. And you can buy this used on for one cent. 'Nuff said.

2. Rosie O'Donnell and various artists, "Another Rosie Christmas" (2000)
Holy shit, they made two of these. This time Rosie duets with the likes of Sugar Ray and Ricky Martin.

1. Jimmy Buffett, "Christmas Island" (1996)
Look out, there are original songs on this one from a singer-songwriter who has outlived his songwriting ability by 30 years.

What gets your vote for Worst Christmas Album Ever?

Best Bars to Ease the Pain of Thinking

So Esquire has posted a list of America's Best Bars. It's a fun read, organized state by state with blurbs putting the bars in their local and historical context, and sidebar telling you what you're going to be eating or drinking there: Rum Rickey at Burt's Tiki in Albuquerque, tequila shots with beer chasers at Los Ojos in Jemez Springs, N.M.

I scanned the list and was startled to see how many of these bars I had been to. I spent my 20s and 30s living the life of a journalism gypsy, working at one paper after another, so I sat in bars pulling info out of sources in many area codes. Other nights I spent evenings at these same bars in drunken, witty banter with my colleagues about the current events we were covering --  a time-honored fourth-estate social hour reimagined in the NPR show "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me."

So here the bars from the Esquire where I've tossed back a few:

The BlueGill
A supper club in the true Gulf Coast tradition. It stands in Mobile Bay on pilings, and gets knocked down about every six years by a hurricane.

Callaghan's Irish Social Club (below)
In the Oakleigh Historic District and housed in a converted 19th century meat store. Perfect place for Sunday afternoons and nights after the Mardi Gras parade.

The Cruise Room
Original art deco bar where the curving, vaguely nautical lines of the bar and walls and stools suggest Fred and Ginger and Capt. Stubbing and Julie, all at the same time.

The Bahi Hut
A tiki bar where you can drink mai tais till you see iguanas on the ceiling -- or walk into the oncoming traffic out on the Tamiami Trail.

Linger Lodge
A 1930s era hunting camp turned RV lodge. Kick back with a Bud and be afraid of the walls of taxidermied endangered species.

Napoleon House
New Orleans
This ain't some French Quarter tourist trap. Locals go here. Try the Sazerac.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (above)
New Orleans
The most romantic bar in New Orleans. I was once sat in the cold gloom of the 300-year-old place with a boyfriend, both of us warming our hands on a candle on a table in a broken down corner of the broken down building. We were arty rebels against the world, too creative to go to a bar with central heat.


Doyle's Cafe
Jamaica Plain
Irish bar in an Irish neighborhood. There's Guinness on tap, fish and chips, and lots of politicians out trying to be seen in a bar where the politicians are supposed to be seen doing their deal making and fixing.


Tiny's Restaurant and Lounge
Santa Fe
Screw the faux adobe. Tiny's is in a mundane strip mall on Santa Fe's busiest suburban street.

The 49er Lounge
Housed in the uber-retro El Rancho Hotel where John Wayne and other stars stayed in the 1940s when they were filming westerns in the surrounding New Mexican desert.

Silva's Saloon
True New Mexico. It's no wonder Sam Shepherd set his play "True West" in Bernalillo. The locals are tough, and they come to Silva's to drink Tecate beneath the cowboy hats of their dead ancestors.


Burt's Tiki Lounge
Retro kitsch rules in this Route 66 tiki lounge. You gotta go.

Los Ojos
Jemez Springs
Roadhouse in the Jemez Mountains just north of 'Burque in a town where there's no stoplight but one rehab center for priests who, um, stray. And lots of bikers. I had a bowl of green chile stew here once with Ron Howard. He was in Jemez shooting his movie The Missing.

There are scads of bars I'd add to this list: The Florabama in Orange Beach, Ala.; the The Old Salty Dog on City Island, Fla.; The Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House in Pinos Altos, NM. (below) and Manci's in Daphne, Ala.

How about you? What bars would you put on the Best list and why?

When do we take newspapers off the ventilator?

How do people who run newspapers get out of bed anymore?

The latest stats show daily newspaper circulation is at the lowest number it has been since before World War II when the industry began making circulation records public. Only 12.9 percent of the public buys a daily newspaper now, down from 31.1 percent in 1940.

Average daily circulation at the nation's newspapers fell 10.6 percent since last year.

And before you point to the fact that newspaper web sites are getting more traffic than ever, remember, no one pays for those page views. The newspapers are giving away their content online and getting bupkus for it. They haven't figured out a business model that supports online content. They can't sell ads against it effectively.

Newspaper advertising revenue is plummeting and layoffs continue. The NY Times, the third highest circulation paper in the nation, announced this week it's laying off 100 newsroom employees.

The situation is so bad that some newspapers are considering charging people to read their material, again. But how do you get people to pay for a product they've grown accustomed to getting for free?

Like I said, I don't know how newspaper editors keep going.

For those of  who love newspapers, this has been painful to live through. What will the post-newspaper world look like?

Movies on The Weather Channel?

I'm not one to complain about opportunities to watch George Clooney. But The Weather Channel's plans to begin airing weather-themed movies is just stupid. The AP reports"The Perfect Storm" will air on TWC on Oct. 30, the 18th anniversary of the real-life storm depicted in the film starring Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Other movies slated for airing on TWC: "Misery," "March of the Penguins," and "Deep Blue Sea."

TWC hopes to attract a broader audience than its current base of weather nerds -- and get more advertisers, of course. From the piece:

For The Weather Channel, the risk lies in alienating its regular weather-obsessed viewers, who tune in for news of high pressure systems rather than high drama. The potential reward is that new fans will tune in, and they'll stay on the station for a longer period, pleasing advertisers.

This just in, TWC honchos: People watch The Weather Channel because they like weather forecasts. Really. I'm one of those people, a weather devotee who tracks hurricanes on a paper storm chart every summer and who has TWC on my TV with the sound muted all the time. I want an on-air meteorologist standing in front of a map of the United States on my TV 24/7. It comforts me. I like to know about the high pressure system in the Midwest and the cold front in New Mexico. I know tomorrow will happen if there is a weather forecast. I don't want anything messing with my endless loop of predictions about tomorrow's temperatures. Not even Clooney.

This is a Category 5 screw-up. What next, fire Jim Cantore?

When history calls, history calls

And it's calling me to get back on here and start writing about what's going on the world from high pop culture to low politics.

Every writer should have a patron like my buddy Dan Faber, who has encouraged, goaded, even nagged me into backing away from the Facebook, the middle-aged inertia and the corporate stress and get writing again.

So here I am.

Thanks Dan.

So what do you all want to talk about? Obama and that Nobel? Dave Letterman and those female staffers? Conde Nast's dire financial situation?

The Great Schlep (or how to keep the geezers you know from voting for McCain)

You have GOT to watch this:

Panic attack

OK, I know McCain has pulled out of Michigan, a key state, and Obama is ahead in the polls, but I'm having a panic attack that the GOP is going to win next month.

Obama's lead just isn't fat enough for me to sleep well. I fear the stupids are going to win, again.

Someone tell me something to reassure me.