Cut Off At The Salad Bar: Dave Copeland’s Blog

I’ve been blogging since May 2002 — not one of the first, but well before all the cool kids tried it, made it a craze, then gave up on it. The best way to describe this portion of my writing life is part personal notebook where I test ideas and pieces of drafts I’m working on, part self-promotion, and part random ranting.


Frequently addressed topics include journalism, teaching and higher educations, writing, cooking, drinking (or, more specifically, not drinking, running, reading and life in general. Comments are appreciated but monitored before they appear on this site. All views expressed on “Cut Off At The Salad Bar” are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of any of his past, present or future employers.

Share this useful blog about the sharing economy with your friends

Posted July 15th, 2014 in Driven Apart

My blog covering the sharing economy, and, specifically, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, is in soft-launch mode with several updates per day. I’ll be traveling during the first two weeks of August when I will be taking a break from the pace of 5-10 daily posts, but my plan is to ramp it up to a formal launch this fall when I return.

This is related to my PhD research, as well as one of two mainstream, nonfiction book proposals I have been working on this summer. More details on those projects to follow, both here and on the new blog.

Something Men Do Better Than Women: Magazines

Posted July 13th, 2014 in Publishing

Esquire’s August 2014 cover

My wife will try to snag the copies of GQ and Esquire that get delivered to the house each month before I do (good thing I also subscribe to both on my iPad). When I first pointed out an article in GQ to her about a year ago, she was shocked as she flipped through the rest of the book.

“This is actually really good,” she said with only a little bit of hesitation.

It seems odd to praise magazines and catalog their merits in a day when print is dying, but there are scores of magazines that are pumping out decent content each and every month, as they have, in some cases, for decades. Esquire and GQ, in particular, didn’t succumb to the pressure Maxim unleashed on the genre 15 years ago, when even Playboy adopted the “dumber, shorter” editorial policy. As a result, along with nifty iPad apps that make use of all the multimedia offerings of the platform, those magazines remain relevant.

My wife compared GQ to the heavyweight of women’s magazines, Cosmopolitan. Yes, as a rule, magazines geared to one gender or another are supposed to play to stereotypes and, while they’re at it, our vanity. GQ, for example, still uses disgustingly good-looking and tragically thin male models to push styles I will never wear. Esquire, meanwhile, explains in this month’s issue that it opted to put Cameron Diaz on its cover over a picture teasing an incredible article on pit bulls or, it’s third choice, a photo highlighting its profile of Lance Armstrong in life after disgrace. Escquire also suggests I spend $1,095 on a overnight bag from Ghurka. Sorry Esquire, it’s wasn’t too long ago when the car I would take on overnight trips cost less than the bag you are saying is a must have.

But hidden in those pages is lots of substance. This year Esquire has  been focusing on the state of the American boy. In the process it has become a leading critical voice against the over-reliance on ADD and DHD drugs like Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse. Esquire has raised some questions that need answers, including whether or not we are mislabeling “boyhood” as some psychological disorder like ADHD. Last month the series turned to took a data- and expert-driven look at the importance of fatherhood.

Perhaps this is a backlash to feminism and a world where every kid that signs up gets a trophy and the angst in alternative music has been replaced with heavy doses of emo. But women’s magazines, which are the most formulaic of the bunch, arguably do more to set back feminism. Whereas men’s magazines try to portray men as they should be, or as they should strive to be, women’s magazines seem to still be stuck on portraying women as stereotypes. Put another way, if I had teenaged children, I’d have far less concerns with a son who wanted an Esquire subscription than I would witha  daughter who wanted to subscribe to Cosmo.

Lost Dog In Fairfax, Va.

Posted July 3rd, 2014 in Friends

I’m not optimistic that any of my 15 or so regular readers are in Fairfax. But I’m a sucker for dogs and would hate to think how I’d feel if I had lost Cosmo.

More information.

Take A Ride On Me

Posted July 2nd, 2014 in PhD

As part of my PhD research, I’m looking at the sharing economy and, specifically, ridesharing. As part of this, I have obtained discount codes for new passengers on both Uber and Lyft. If you’ve been thinking of trying either (or driving for either) now is the time.

Use these referral codes when signing up:

New Uber passengers: use code 9h39r (let me know if you want to drive and I’ll get you the referral info).

New Lyft passengers/drivers: 26F6A87JGK

Also, if you use either of these services or drive for either, or if you regularly use taxi and/or livery services, leave a comment. I may want to talk to you at some point as part of my research.

Summer Reading: The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death [BOOK REVIEW]

Posted June 17th, 2014 in Books

downloadFor about a year now I’ve been fascinated with Texas Hold ‘Em poker. I’ve spent plenty of hours playing online poker for free, a game where the stakes are nonexistent, allowing people to bet like idiots without consequence. I’ve played in a handful of tournaments at casinos, spending $50 on entry fee and even placing in the money once, coming in fourth after bowing out with a pair of queens that ended up falling to a set of Jacks on the river. Like most everyone who gets fascinated by the game, I’ve massaged the daydream of playing in the World Series of Poker, the main event of which starts next month in Las Vegas. If you can raise the $10,000 entry fee you can sit elbow to elbow at a table with the quads I celebrities the make up the professional poker circuit and dream of winning the $10 million first prize.

And maybe someday I’ll find a way to live out that dream. I have no illusions on winning – I have a better shot of winning the Powerball, given my average-at-best poker skills. But the one thing I won’t do if I follow that dream is write about it. That seems to have been done to death already.

In The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death, Colson Whitehead becomes the latest memoirist to tackle what is becoming familiar territory: a book about the World Series of Poker. In this particular subset of the genre, Whitehead does what other writers before and I’ve done: he finds a magazine willing to stake his entry fee and writes about his experience. Like most of the others that have done it before him, he is an amateur poker player getting in over his head.

Whitehead’s book is short and, at points, entertaining, making it a decent summer read. But he makes the book more about him and less about the event and the tragic appeal of poker. He does not add anything new to the cannon, opting instead to spend most of his time trying to cram one-liners and inside jokes on each and every one of the 237 pages. He beats the phrase “wave of mutilation” to death, perhaps too obtuse to realize that many of his readers will understand that he’s ripping off the title of the Pixies song, and a popular one at that.

download (1)Whitehead only gives a cursory nod to James McManus, the writer who defined the genre with Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs and Binion’s World Series of Poker, which predated the current poker boom and is partially credited for the spike in poker popularity over the past 15 years. While Whitehead is doing everything he can to rip off MacManus, he does nothing more than steal the idea and then takes it in his own, often disjointed direction. McManus’s book is fascinating not only because he somehow manages to make it to the final table, but because he pays particular attention to the ebb and flow of the game it’s appeal and it’s heartbreak. In other words McManus makes poker the story whereas Whitehead is hell-bent on making himself the story.

Maybe it’s because McManus was writing for Harper’s, and Whitehead was writing for Grantland, a respected online sports publication that still cuts corners on literary quality. It’s also owned by ESPN, which is one of the events biggest sponsors and one of the reasons poker is a so popular now. Maybe because nearly a decade has passed since I read Fifth Street. But Whitehead just comes up short, in my limited opinion.

It’s not that I regret reading The Noble Hustle. It’s just that if you only have time to read one poker book, why waste your time with anything less than a classic? For the first person account of what it’s like to play in the World Series of poker and get a feel for being at the tables without spending 10 grand there’s no better book than McManus’s.

Never Good, Never Bad, But Also Never Neutral

Posted May 5th, 2014 in Technology

The problem with thinking about technology is that people expect you to watch this video now making the rounds on Facebook and either take the utopian view (disagree with everything this video stands for), or the dystopian view (share it relentlessly as proof positive of everything you’ve been saying all along).

Most of my research into how we use technology is driven by Melvin Kranzberg’s first law of technology, which states “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.” The problem with most tech journalists (one of which I used to be) is they only see technology as always good. And the problem with Luddites as they only see technology as always bad. Continue Reading »

When Students Teach Teachers

Posted April 15th, 2014 in Life

Teaching first: a favorite former student died in a car crash yesterday. Stephanie Picher was the type of student who makes teaching at Bridgewater State University so worthwhile: she had failed out in her first go around as a traditional student and then came back when she actually had her life figured out and knew what she wanted to do. There’s a type of student I see here more than most other places I have been that values being given a second chances and comes away from here with the valuable life skill of knowing it’s okay to fuck up once, twice or several times, as long as you learn how to fix it and move on.

She was “nontraditional” in the sense she was a 28-year-old in a classroom full of people as much as a decade younger, but also nontraditional in that she challenged me and other students to think harder, work harder and do better. She also proudly referred to herself a dyke on a campus where such admissions can still elicit awkward, sophomoric chuckles and had a passion for Lady Gaga (which I never did quite get).

One of my proudest moments in that intro to journalism class — and in seven years of teaching, for that matter — was after teaching students to be fearless of strangers in reporting stories, she tracked down and interviewed my then girlfriend and now wife  for a final assignment that required students to write a profile about me. She did this when she could have easily resorted to a Google search or half-assed interviews of other students who had taken my class and still gotten a decent grade.

By the time I met her four years ago she was sober and determined and a talented writer. She entered my life at a point where I had recently stopped drinking but still wasn’t 100% sure why. While we didn’t really talk about sobriety, we talked around life after drinking and it was reassuring you could still be your own person (and even be more of your own person) without drinking.

As I have frequently said, the best part about this job is that you routinely learn way more from your students than you could ever possibly hope to teach them.

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