You know, yesterday did have a fresh bleat; I just screwed up the date graphic. So flay me.
Today: Below: substandard bloviation. Tomorrows Bleat will be pretty good, I think. Stuff about 11 Spring Street and odd Internet banner ads. Today Im just rambling on about summer and spitting tacks at Hugh Hewitt again. So lets gird up and wade through it.
Gnat loves her swing. Its a big one like the swings at the park I stood behind and pushed her while she sang a litany of a three-year olds joys:
Hooray, she said. Its summer! Hello, sun. (Push) Hello clouds. (Push.) Hello, grass. (Push.) Hello, trees. (Push) Hello, clouds.
Hello endless brown rain of a billion seeds from the tree above, which flutter down to the stony earth and collect in the chairs, the steps, the coffee cups left outside. Ah well. I dont care. Its been a lovely week, the sort of spring weve not had in a while. The lilacs are still in bloom, the temps are above average, and the lawn is ruined and lumpy. Usually it doesnt look this bad until July. I am the Destroyer of Lawns; Ive turned several lush verdant squares into blasted heaths, because I am opposed to chemical treatments. And by opposed I mean I buy the weed killer, take a good look at all the warnings, and decide Ill spray the stuff later when Im in the mood to have my chromosomes rearranged. So every year the charlie takes over one quadrant, the quackgrass claims another, and a thick greasy hairnet of spurge spreads beneath and chokes off the good lawn. Its horrible. But it looks good right after you mow!
Unfortunately the mowing service comes but twice a month. Yes, I have a mowing service. Jasperwood sits on a hill steep enough to tip over any riding mower, and big enough to make mowing with a standard-sized Lawn Boy a half-day chore. When we moved here I stood at the bottom of the hill and got all spiritual about it: I shall mow no more forever. I miss it, in a way; I love the intermingled smell of mown grass and gasoline, and I liked the satisfaction of shaving the world to my exact specifications. But I didnt like the constant battles with the mower - it lacked an automatic starter, and you had to jerk the cord in a counterintuitive motion. Your body is built to whip things, and pulling the starter cord is the exact opposite of a whipping motion. Growing up we had a green Lawn-Boy with a self-starter, and a self-propelled mechanism - you simply trotted behind it like an attaché to an important man, gently steering it towards its next obligation. And I still balked at the chore.
Anyway. The flowers and bushes are in bloom; flox cossets the rocks on the neighbors front lawn; at night you can hear the burble of a waterfall across the street. Out my window now I see nothing but green with an American flag fluttering in the gap between some branches. Later Ill go out on the cliff to finish the cigar, and there will be a knot of teens walking in the glen below, chatting and giggling, plotting and dishing, and it will remind me of what it was like to be their age. And how bloody glad Im not that age now.
Teen summers suck. For most. Well, for many. The fictions of TV and movies make you feel compelled to have the Best Summer Ever, complete with star-blessd romance and great adventures. I had a few of those, including the obligatory weekend at a friends cabin. (Why, of course there will be adults present, Mater and Pater; we will be chaperoned at all time, and we will play croquet while wearing straw boaters. Translation: lots of throwing up at the end of the dock, desperate groping, the mortification of being spurned, cold cereal for breakfast and burned wieners for supper.) If youre one of the beautiful elite, summer is a fizzy whirl of suitors and intrigues and liaisons. For everyone else, though, its an interminable stretch of frustration and envy and boredom - with a few nights here and there that change everything for an hour or two. Those are the nights you remember; those are the nights that nail down a summer in one succinct set of events. June may have been empty and lonely; August may have been miserable; July may have been Four Bogus Weeks Working at King Leos Drive-Thru, but if you had some mad happy spasm at the end of the month with the top town doxy in Trollwood Park, 1975 was the SUMMER OF LOVE.
I will never forget how I got dumped by a cheerleader who seemed a little . . . annoyed that I didnt know the rules. (Whatever they were.) We met at a Sambos. I got there first. Ordered coffee. She showed up. The waitress asked if she wanted anything. No, she said. this wont take long.
So no, I dont miss my teens, or my 20s. Maybe you do, but Im glad I dont. My best summers were the ones when I was truly on my own - in the apartment in Uptown writing the novel while the trains clattered across the boulevard, or spending nights in rooftop cafes and bars in Adams-Morgan in DC, or back here in the 90s, spending the day walking around the lake with Jasper Dog. So far the summers of the Oughts have been weak beer; I was either exhausted from new parenthood (00), adjusting to the new place (01), or grimly waiting for war and pestilence (02). This year is off to a good start. Ive no evidence for that, but it feels like itll have it all.
I did, after all, marry a cheerleader. A different one. This one ordered coffee and stayed for dessert.
Mr. Hewitt would like America to think I play Dungeons and Dragons, implying I am some largish slug-moist thing with Cheetos fingers who spends all day arranging his Franklin Mint Lord of the Rings chess set figurines just so. Ive let this slander pass, because I think the audience realizes hes just yanking my chain, and because he was also kind enough to invite me to guest host the show. I cannot, for a variety of boring reasons. Today, however, he discussed my demurral on the air in such a way that indicated he had not read my letter. No, his producer had read the letter. Otherwise Hugh would have said something about my hearty agreement to co-host at the State Fair in August. He has become like the Tsar - isolated from his people! Mislead by advisors! What Rasputin whispers news of plots and cabals into his ear, I wonder?
He did throw down a gauntlet to the Northern Alliance of bloggers, those being the estimable scribes of Fraterslibertas, Powerline, SCSU, and Shot in the Dark. (Someone hire that guy! Now!) We have been charged to comment about this, a leaked memo from an LA Times editor who has a pants full of twitching beetles over the tone of a recent story.
Its late and Im beat and this is all off the top of my head and Id rather be watching the Simpsons, which I will, soon. So, sloppily:
I agree its an illustrative memo, but I guess Im just not surprised. No correction will be forthcoming on the piece, because it doesnt seem as if there are any factual errors. Theres a difference between being unfair and being wrong. Copy editors every day face the issue of fighting a reporter over these matters, and in most cases they simply give in, because you cant spend all day arguing over the emanations of the shadows of the penumbras cast off by a loaded assertion or an insinuating conjuction. A writer can say that Swedish health care is free and copy desk might think, well, nothings free, its paid for by a top marginal rate of nine jillion percent, but in the sense that no one pays any lucre at the counter when they check out, yes, its free. And so the line stands.
Any daily newspaper is a compendium of unexamined biases. Im repeating myself here, but: its been my experience in 20+ years that no one slants the news to achieve a particular political objective. They present what they think is the truth. Nearly everyone in the newspaper business believes they are objective. Theyre not shadow agents using the cloak of objectivity to cloud mens minds. But: since most people in the newspaper business have always been somewhere on the lefty side of the ledger, they dont have the same internalized set of definitions as, say, a National Review editor. (And vice versa? Sometimes - although I think you find more ex-lefties on the right than you find ex-righties on the side of the left, David Brock notwithstanding.) Terms that make a conservatives hackles prong up and quiver dont bother a reporter whos been a lib all his life. They dont see what they dont see.
Media bias is not a plot. It is not a grand scheme. It is simply what you get when the news is packaged by people who do not understand the opposition's mindset on a molecular level.
If I were king of the forest, I wouldnt return to the era of partisan papers - Id just make sure that every paper had a lapsed liberal and a lapsed conservative in the higher echelons of the newsroom. Someone who may disagree with the ideals of their Flaming Youth, but remembers what they were and why they held them.
Theres another reason why this story wont get much play: it involves the LA Times. No offense meant to those who labor there; Im sure there are fine talents at the paper, as there are at any paper. But no one cares about the LA Times. The NYT, the WaPo and the WSJ set the the agenda and shape the discussion. The very phrase The Los Angeles Times reports . . . has the same impact as Cheryl Crow remarked.
Not to say the market is lightweight; the market cries out for a journal as sharp as the inhabitants of that fabled state. So, hey, LAYNE AND WELCH: wheres the first great new newspaper of the 21st century, eh? The nation turns it lonely eyes to you.
(oo oo oo.)
(And I'm not referring to the Sports By Brooks ads. Although I could.)