Well, I’m not that sick, so I don’t have any excuse for taking the night off. Last night I felt that peculiar heaviness in the throat, as though the inside of my neck resembled the outside of George Lucas’, and this morning I felt like the winning entry in a marathon tin-hammering competition. But I went to work, and felt better. What are the odds of that? Got better, but since I spent most of the day in a dial-tone mood nothing seems to have happened, and there’s little to report.

I could comment the Australians on their wines, which continue to impress; granted, I’m new to the grape, but this puts me at a distinct advantage: I don’t know whether the wine I’m drinking is jammy or not, and I don’t care. I suppose I could come up with some descriptions – it has the ruddy bottom of a Tory Lord after a session with his mistress – but that way lies pretension, and Thurber nailed that one shut decades ago. I’m finishing off a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz, a variety of wine that always strikes me as some sort of magic oath. The second cousin to Shazam, perhaps. I bought it because it’s Strine, because it’s reasonably priced, and because it doesn’t seem to have any inherently emetic properties. And of course because the label is nice. I want to reward Anglosphere vinters with good graphic design; for heaven’s sake, who wouldn’t?
Which reminds me: for a while I’ve been meaning to write something on the horrible quality of barbeque sauce labels.

I mean, please.

The entire genre is debauched. Most either have a label designed in the 60s, the great era of sugary BBQ sauce, or they shoot for some modern backwoods-shack look that makes you suspect the entire product is the creation of SauceCo, LTD, with offices in 30 countries. Famous Dave’s, for example: it’s a local chain, and features the usual quisling pig encouraging you to drape the ichor over the roasted flesh of his kin; there are many variants, but they all look half-arsed by now. (The restaurants have that explosion-in-an-antique-store look pioneered by TGIF, and I like the old commercial detritus as much as I like the food.) Ken Davis is a local classic as well, and Mr. Davis has that jazzman-cool look, but the bottle is old. Just as well – for some reason, unaltered labels that look 30 years old bestow legitimacy on BBQ sauce. The best of the genre, by my sights, is Stubb’s. I like the product, but I like the look of the bottles above all others.

Alas, his blog seems to be abandoned.

A few people wrote today to ask how I could possibly work at the Star Tribune after they wrote that editorial. Well. First of all, I am not going to throw away my livelihood because someone on the other side of the building writes something with which I disagree. Second, they don’t speak for me, and there is no suggestion at the paper that they do, or should. I know, I know – the editorials express the will and thoughts of the paper, its publisher and editor, etc. That’s the standard line. But I have my doubts. I cannot speak for my superiors, obviously, but if the editorials spoke for the entire paper it would be impossible for anyone to do their job. If an editorial came out for raising taxes on the rich by squeezing their scrota until dimes shot out their nostrils, it would be impossible for any reporter to cover a legislative debate on the matter. Well, they could cover it, but the assumption would be that the reporter favored higher taxes – did not the editorial establish the official paper position? - and the piece would have to be read in that context. It just doesn’t work like that. The paper is made up of individuals who believe a wide variety of things, believe it or not. Trust me. There is not a bust of Lenin in the lobby with a shiny spot on his head we rub for luck when we enter the building. I’m not saying that the journalism profession isn’t predominately liberal, because it is; I’m not saying biases don’t color pieces in ways reporters may not realize, because it happens. But the idea that the editorial page speaks for the entire paper would, I think, strike most of the paper’s journalists as presumptuous: hey, I speak for me. We don’t get into bar fights defending editorials out of team pride.

Unsigned institutional editorials on Deep Global Matters are an anachronism, a vestige of the top-down, shut-up-and-listen era when newspapers monopolized the municipal ear. Those days are done. The entire idea of an editorial board, with its overtones of egghead think-tanks staffed with MacNamara clones, may have worked for the Univac era. But those were the days of The Authorities. You know: whenever there was a problem in a sci-fi movie, someone Alerted the Authorities. That meant the big omniscient grey seamless apparatus with a million meshing parts. The Army, the Government, the FBI, the TV stations, the newspapers, the guy who got on the loudspeaker and told everyone to stay in their homes or flee for the hills, depending on whether the threat was Martians or irradiated giant ants. Authority is now a distributed network, to use an old buzzphrase, and no more so than opinion journalism. (To use another cliché: Some readers interpret a StarTribune editorial as damage, and route around it.) Opinion is now in such abundant supply that there’s no reason to value a newspaper editorial above a Powerline reposte.

If I were king of the forest, and could remake the Daily Paper according to my whims, I’d make two changes. I’d confine the editorials to local matters, because no one cares what the Peoria Gleaner thinks about Sudan. Whereas an intensely local editorial section has a unique power; it’s distributed and read by the people who can actually do something about the issues raised. Second, I’d flip the A and B sections. Newspapers can do the local issues like no other medium. Someone gets shot on the north side, and a southside blogger doesn’t know it – unless he reads it in the paper.

But I’m repeating myself. Back to work; more tomorrow, including some Screedblog updates. I would have written something today but I thought I was sick. Hah! What do I know?

Nota bad motto to keep in the back of your mind, I think.


perm link, if you want to.

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