Friday, January 27, 2006

Addendum to previous post

(By Erik)

In my previous post I asked why the falsehoods in A Million Little Pieces were exposed by a Web site called The Smoking Gun and not by one of the “traditional” news outlets.

I was reading today and discovered that a reporter at the Minneapolis Star Tribune actually started asking questions about the book way back in 2003. This reporter exposed some discrepancies in the text and even talked to the publisher, who was on Oprah yesterday.

So why did The Smoking Gun get credit for debunking the book? I’m guessing because the Star Tribune’s story appeared before the book made Oprah’s Book Club.

Timing is everything in this business. At least my faith in newspapers is restored.

The Slate story is here.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A million little thoughts on today's Oprah

(By Erik)

I don’t usually watch Oprah, but as I was flipping around the dial tonight I caught a few minutes of the rerun of her show from earlier today.

The queen of talk had James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces making a return visit. Instead of praising his book like she did last time, Oprah lit into the guy, accusing him of fabricating parts of his so-called memoir.

Long story short, Frey wrote a book about his years as a drug addict, his arrests, court appearances and his recovery. A Web site called The Smoking Gun investigated and found that the book is mostly horse plop. Evidently the author got confused and described what likely was a three-hour stay in jail as an 87-day stay in jail. (But I know it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re in the Big House.)

Here are some thoughts on today’s Oprah and “Freygate.”

• I’m kinda’ surprised that people are so surprised about this. Embellishment seems to be a defining characteristic of people who used to be “bad” and now have recovered in some way.

I remember several chapel talks and devotionals at Lipscomb featuring people who talked about their devious pasts and God-fearing redemptions. They always made themselves sound a lot worse than I suspect they really were, and we all just accepted that.

• Why was Frey willing to go on Oprah? His book continues to sell well regardless of (or maybe because of) the controversy. He’s no dummy.

• Why was this story broken by some Web site called The Smoking Gun and not by the New York Times or even Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff? Have the traditional news outlets lost their investigative edge? I’ve done some police reporting, and what these Web guys found was easy to track down.

• There was a sort of “hole” in Frey’s hair where you could see clear through to his scalp. That bugged me.

• The article on The Smoking Gun’s site exposing the fabrications is HORRIBLE! It’s some of the worst journalistic writing I’ve ever seen. It’s about six pages long and constantly references itself. (Nobody cares how many phone calls you made or how many man-hours you logged while pursuing the story.) Investigative reporting demands good writing.

• The joke that the guy from the Poynter Institute made was stupid. Nobody laughed. I felt sorry for him.

• Looking at the book’s cover, all I can think of is, “Mmmmmm … sprinkles.”

• Oprah has long been seen as the focus of postmodern beliefs. The “church of Oprah” basically states that you should believe in whatever works for you — whether it’s Jesus, karma or prayers to the almighty Scratch N’ Win (well, maybe not that last one).

Increasingly, we live in a society that rejects the notion of absolute truth. I think that, on some level, this influenced Frey when he wrote his book. Maybe he even thought that writing a “memoir” allowed him to create his own version of reality. If objective truth is merely an illusion anyway, what’s the harm?

It’s interesting to me that Oprah herself — who tells viewers to believe what they want to believe in matters of faith — has come forward to say, “That’s enough. You’re lying. That’s wrong.” While confronting Frey, Oprah openly praised the value of truth on her show — a notion that postmodernity rejects. Could this be a turning point, where we realize that absolute truth actually exists and has value?

• There are WAY too many commercial breaks during Oprah’s show.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fazoli’s Law of Breadsticks

(By Erik)

When you don’t have any breadsticks, the breadstick guy will never visit your table because he’ll keep running out of breadsticks before he gets to you.

When you have breadsticks, the breadstick guy will be at your table every two minutes offering you more.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Yes, I do exist — I have the TOAD hours to prove it!

(By Jeanie)

Okay, Okay!

I would imagine some of you are wondering if this Jeanie person who appears in some of Erik’s posts really exists. Well here I am, I really exist. I was allowed to leave the realm of the University of Oklahoma Pediatrics Program to leave this blog entry.

However, to pay the penance for this one night of blogging bliss, I must give the tour tomorrow for the would-be interns, attend the noon conference on some sort of anemia, and then spend the next twelve hours taking care of the children of Oklahoma who would be in need of the services provided by Children’s Emergency Department. Hope you enjoy!

(Oh, and by the way, TOAD stands for “Time On Active Duty.”)

I guess I should use this initial post to tell you a little about me. For some of you who know all this stuff, I apologize for the boring post. I grew up in a little town called Altus, Okla. When I graduated from high school, I went to Oklahoma Christian University and received a bachelor’s degree in biology.

In between undergrad and medical school, I worked in two different research labs. My job in the first lab was to take umbilical cord blood and process it to collect stem cells. I then grew the cells to form platelets. I thought this was a cool job!

The second lab was devoted to polycystic kidney disease. For this job, I had to take rat organs (hearts, livers, kidneys, brains, etc.) freeze them, put them on slides and then stain them. This did not have quite the same appeal as the cord blood.

The next move in my life was to go to medical school. After one semester, I felt so isolated from the singles group at Memorial Road that, although I had only had four hours of sleep, I decided that I needed to go to the service project at 6 a.m. It was breakfast that morning that rewrote the story that I thought I had already published for my life although I did not know it at the time.

It was that morning that I met my future husband. We began dating in January 2002, were engaged in September, and married the following June. (For those contemplating a career in medicine, might I suggest not planning a wedding four days after your medical licensure exam.) Well, I graduated from medical school in May 2005 and now I am a pediatric resident for the University of Oklahoma.

Well, I have probably bored you enough with who I am and what I do. Before finishing this post I must say that I have been very blessed. I have a wonderful Christian husband who has been blessed with a job at The Christian Chronicle. My parents instilled their values in me and worked many long, hard hours to send me to private school.

I am a member of a wonderful caring church at Memorial Road, and our Connection Group offers unending emotional and spiritual support. I will tell more about these later.

(This blog post is dedicated to Ann, who reminded us that we hadn’t posted anything new in a while.)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

PHOTO: The sign says it all

Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik)

Greetings from Early, Texas, where I've been reporting on the sendoff of a mission team to Bolivia from the Austin Avenue church in nearby Brownwood.

On my way here I spotted this church sign in the small town of Dublin, Texas, and took a picture. West Texas, like Oklahoma, is extremely dry and under a severe fire risk warning. All the lakes and ponds I passed are turning into mud puddles.

And, as you can see, there's not a cloud in the sky.

Cllick on the photo to see a larger version

Monday, January 02, 2006


Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik)

Just got finished watching my Dawgs in the Nokia Sugar Bowl.

In retrospect, maybe spotting West Virginia those 28 points to make it fair wasn't such a good idea ...