It's late; I’ve no time to edit, so forgive the drivel.
The fountain is bubbling and the water flows down the Oak Island Water Feature. It ran for at least an hour without draining: there is hope. I spent an hour this afternoon hauling out the fetid leaves – why, why don’t leaves just decompose? Fall apart and go away? Eh? No: they compact into a stinky mass that makes your nosehairs burn off.
Other than that, anything new?
Well, I ended something today, something that’s occupied me for a very long time. The Fargo site is done. By “long time” I mean it: I wanted to revise that site almost as soon as I put it up, and regarded the old version with embarrassment. I’ve a few things to add here and there, and when I find new stuff it’ll go up, but it’s done, and I don’t think I’ll have to do it again.
I also quit a job.
Backing up, slowly:
You know, I think the newspaper editorial is a dead medium. I know I don’t read them in the paper, except for Keillor, and only then to find out how many words it will take him to tie the wandering, indistinct subject matter to the dreaded Current Occupant, who occupies his thoughts with inordinate power. I read editorials on the web, but they’re so often less interesting than posts from the top-notch bloggers. Why? Institutional caution, the Constraints of Space, and the fact that most of these sinecures are awarded to people who’ve been in the bubble for a very long time, and whose work has the room-tone of their class and environs. The most deadly problem, however, is timeliness. A column has to last a few days. It goes out Tuesday afternoon, gets pasted up Wednesday for Thursday’s paper – if everyone’s working lickety-split. If your column’s run on a particular day – say, Friday – then your Monday afternoon ruminations are a stale Danish by the end of the week. So you can either go for the big thumbsucking take on the Way Things Are Going, or aim for the moment and hope the target’s still in the same place four days later.
That’s not why I quit my Newhouse column, but it’s one the reasons I don’t feel bad about the decision.
It’s been a nice long run – the longest gig I’ve ever had, to my surprise. I still remember my first day at the bureau, walking down the hall of 2000 Penn, looking at the long name of papers in the chain on the wall outside the door. Gosh! I – had – arrived. But to my regret I never took to DC. I never felt safe in my neighborhood, tony and uptrending as it supposedly was, and I never quite clicked with DC culture. A Lego in a Tinkertoy world, maybe. I had an editor who did not seem to take great pleasure in anything, my work included, and from the very start the entire enterprise seemed a regrettable arrangement, stuttering and sputtering. But: I loved the people. It was a grand crew, with the most interesting assortment of personalities and talents I’d ever been lucky to work with. I mention this only because it struck me last night as I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking “tomorrow I quit” – that was the last time I’ve ever belonged to anything.
There was a patch of belongingness at the Strib, but they broke up our happy pod and scattered everyone around the office. Even so, it wasn’t the same – in DC we worked until quitting time, then hit the bar downstairs for tales and gripes and cheers and ablution-assisted orations. But that wasn’t enough to keep me there. I wanted to go home. I did. I wrote the column for another decade-and-change, but I’m done with that. It was my decision to leave, and that’s all I’ll say about the matter.
Now I have a hole in my finances, so I’m looking at other opportunities, as they say.
I’m at the kitchen table; Nightline is on, and the host, Person Nonkoppel, is talking about the Virginia Tech Shooter’s video message, which he notes “is now going around the world.” Passively, without assist, it seems. From his lips to YouTube’s ears. They’ve cut to John Donvan, standing in a post office in Blacksburg, through which the package presumably moved; it’s a live shot. Perhaps he’ll interview a worker who may have handled the package or spoken to someone who saw it come through. We may even get a shot of the loading dock across which the package traveled on its fateful journey into the media bloodstream.
There is nothing to learn from listening to the killer. From looking at him or reading his writings or poking through his background or sticking mikes in the face of anyone who saw him across a cafeteria. Maybe it’s just me, but when I first heard of the case I thought: sociopath. A modern word for the man without a soul, the man who either had it stolen by deed or smothered in the womb. I think you can make a sociopath, if you hurt them early enough in a way they can never get their hands around. Others are simply bad seeds from the womb on up, I suspect. No matter what you do, you get a vacant Narcissus with an infinite supply of masks, a clever manniken who cannot apprehend the humanity of others. He could only feel empathy for the object in the mirror, and it’s hardly surprising this example spent his last hours posing for the camera. It was the only thing that understood him, and accepted him for the glorious, tragic creature he knew he was.
I may well be wrong, but I don’t think there’s anything more to it than that. Except perhaps the exacerbating effects of some mood-altering medications, which do wonders for many people but drive a few completely off the cliff.
Well! Let’s end the day with a musical interlude, and inaugurate the Weekly Bleat Music Feature. I found this sheet music in a storage bin the other day:
Some of you are snickering already, no? The composer, Victor Mizzy, went on to write a few tunes you know very well: he wrote the “Addams Family” and “Green Acres” themes, for example. He also did the score for “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” and it’s an amusing piece with all the basics of 60s-monster-kitsch music: xylophone bones, creeeepy harpsichord, and the like. It’s also fun. Here you are: the title credits music for Don Knotts’ famous comic-horror movie (which, incidentally, freaked me out greatly as a child; I had to leave the theater. The garden shears in the neck of the bleeding painting! AAAAAHHHH!!)