Clicked on a link to a story about the jet going down in the Alps. Yahoo news. Well, it's wire story. Below: 100+ comments. (To sum it up: Airbuses are unsafe, Muslims, I played Flight Simulator in 1999 and my experience tells me it was probably a faulty printer driver) There was an interesting comment from someone who claimed the usual 20 years of experience, suggesting the pilot put in the wrong waypoint, and the plane started down ahead of schedule, but you'd think they'd notice. Once again, no communication. Odd.

Anyway, it made me think: comments on Yahoo? There has to be a taxonomy of comments, from the literate ones at the New York Times to the more varied scrum at the WaPo to the dullards mashing the letter-buttons on old 385 Dells to post at local TV websites, to the subhuman mutters on YouTube. Where does Yahoo fit in this? What is it for? Who goes to Yahoo to comment on plane crashes? Is it a Safe Space between the egghead sites and the bottom-feeding comment pits?

Did another video for the paper today. Met the new shooter; he asked what I did for the paper. I'm the funnyman! No. Augh, no. Horrible term.

I always wanted to be a writer. At some point I wanted to be something more specific: a humorist. This is a dangerous description. You can be a bad poet, but you’re still a poet. You can be a lousy novelist, but you’re still writing thick stories that are technically novels. But if you’re a bad humorist, you’re not a humorist. You cannot be an unfunny funny writer. Of course the evaluation is subjective, but there are still limits and standards; there are people who write in a humorous vein who produce no detectable mirth in 99.9% of the population. So describing yourself as a humorist is rather presumptive. It’s almost like saying “I’m good.” People cock an eyebrow and say I’ll be the judge of that.

The reason I wanted to be a humorist had to do with the people I read who’d earned that appellation after History had passed its judgment. (So I thought, anyway. It was usually because they were liked by the right people, the ones who made the judgments. It wasn't as if there were dispassionate gods on high making these verdicts.) The Classic Texts, from Benchley to Perelman to Bombeck to Woody Allen to Leibowitz. I wanted to be on the same shelf. So I wrote a series of humorous columns for the Minnesota Daily in college, at least a hundred, and got an audience. I worked my way into the free weekly, and expanded it. The goal was national exposure with regularly published collections.

Now: if you’d told me in, say, 1985, when I was doing humor in the free weekly and starting to do local TV, that I’d end up as the columnist for the Big Paper in town, doing whatever video I wanted, with books under my belt, a magazine gig, regular radio, and a national audience, I would have swooned with relief. That’s what happened. What I did not expect that the national audience would be this incorporeal thing called the Internet, and that national newspaper syndication was not in the cards.

Why? Two reasons: A) There was Dave Barry. Papers had Dave Barry, and they didn’t need anything else. B) Dave Barry was better than I was. Add those two together, and you see the situation. Dave’s a pal and a capital fellow and it’s not like I think he kept me from anything; remove Dave from the newspaper scene in the 80s and 90s, and I wouldn’t have filled the gap. He created the need for local papers to have a Dave, and that made my career possible. That, and a series of patrons who gave me jobs and let me romp. (Marty Keller, Deborah Howell, Tim McGuire, Rene Sanchez.) I’ve had a good long run in the “humorist” trade. There are a few Non-Daves who have greater national prominence in print, and I most of them read slack. They’re coasting. You sense they think: this is funny, because I wrote it, and I’m a funny guy. There’s one in particular who gives me the occasional gripe, because his best work’s waaay back there, and every column should start with the dial tone as he picks up the receiver to phone in another ah-to-heck-with-these-stupid-things-today column. You can knock the modern world all you like, but do it with some joy and gusto.

I view every column as an audition, not an awards acceptance speech. Whether they succeed is a different matter; I write 100 columns a year for the paper, and 50 a year for National Review. The quality varies. But I never assume the reader is leaning into the piece. I assume I have to convince them, or at least overcome their doubts.

In the end, I think the work will hold up, and I think I will be spared some of the problems that attend to voguish humorists. The more you reflect your times, the less likely you will connect with audiences in the future. You'll be sound like someone speaking a familiar language in a bygone accent laden with dated slang. There’s something instinctive and unforced in Dave’s style that will give it a long life, just as Stephen King’s 70s and 80s books provide an lasting glimpse into the American vernacular.

And that brings us to one of America’s most widely syndicated newspaper humorists. Utterly forgotten today. Let me tempt the gods here and say: perhaps for good reason.

This . . . this is a man a-coasting. I do not wish to demean the man himself, and I applaud his long tenure. Pound it out on the Underwood and cash the checks, and you’re doing better than most of the mugs in the scribble trade. But it’s a lesson in the dangers of the Humorist Profession. We still love the music of the 40s and 50s, the movies, the TV shows, and people still study the art of the times to glean clues of the sub-currents roiling beneath the great green lawn of the Eisenhower era. Pogo makes sense to us today. Bob and Ray skits from the early 50s are still funny.

But this . . . well.


Who was he? This:

Arthur "Bugs" Baer (January 9, 1886 – May 17, 1969) was an American journalist and humorist. Baer was prominent in the New York City journalism and entertainment scene for many years and worked as a sports journalist and cartoonist. Called by the New York Times "one of the country's best known humorists", he wrote the humor column "One Word Led to Another" for the King Features Syndicate (the Hearst papers).[1]

Known as a source of quips that were often repeated by others (and the reported inventor of the nickname "Sultan of Swat" for Babe Ruth), Milton Berle is known as one of the people to have "tapped his wit... admitting that when he needed fresh humor, he would invite Mr. Baer to spend an hour or two with him at Toots Shor's.


More. It gets odder.




The last week in the old building. Everything's priced to move! Big sale on parking signs.

Rising across the street is the south tower of Downtown East; the bleak grey expanse is actually the backside of the apartments that will be built later, presumably with wood framing instead of steel. It will be nice. It's damned ugly now.





No grand aspirations here:

As I have noted over the last 12 entries, the Brick Bradford series has been an immense disappointment. The film quality is bad. It's all over the road. The evildoers are uninteresting. But let's imagine that you'd missed the previous 14 episodes, and were interested in seeing this because A) it was the end, so it had to be exciting, and B) it had Brick Bradford, which meant ray guns and time travel and stuf!

When last we met Brick he had been shot by a booby-trapped gun and dropped into the pond. Sandy wakes, looks down into the pit, sees bubbles, naturally concludes that Brick went over; he dives in, saves Brick, and discovers he’s losing dreadful quantities from blood from the gunshot, and aspirated a great deal of water.

Or, this:

Sharp thinking from someone who hasn’t eaten and slept in the last week and went to the Moon and experienced Fiery Death and fell into a volcano and then went back in time and narrowly escaped an explosion and then went back to the present day and fell two stories through a roof and . . .oh, why do I bother.

So now they have to go find everyone who needs finding and end the serial for good. They ask Dr. Tyvok or Tyvek or whatever if the bad guys took all his neat inventions, and he says yes, even the Lunarium. Brick presses him: are you sure? Tyvok: well, there’s one or two things left. Brick: you stupid egghead; what the hell do you think i meant? But it comes out “like what, doctor?” Tyvok: “Well, the activator ray.” Which, as we learn, activities the ray. Then the subject is dropped., so we don’t learn if there’s another thing.

Everyone’s pretty glum, and they should be; Brick has failed completely.

Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to go to the moon when your job is to keep the brilliant scientist safe from spies.

Well, the spies show up at the Science Shack because it’s the last serial, and this time the good guys get the drop on them. But the other bad guys bust them out and the bad guys escape, and thus three minutes are consumed.

So they stay put in the hopes the criminals will come to them, because apparently they need the activator ray. Guns are handed out. A gun battle ensues. Little do the criminals know that Brick has a secret weapon:

Poorly timed landmines. After that, more gunfights. Because if there’s anything that provides a slam-bang conclusion to a sci-fi series that began with invisible weapons and a brilliant scientist whose grasp of physics and warfare seems boundless, it’s not a trap involving electric-eye beams and sonic vibrators and other such cool tools. No, they use guns that shoot bullets incapable of piercing a wooden crate:


Then a car chase, because it never occurred to anyone to use the Time Top to go back to the days before the crooks showed up,and shooting them all in a hail of lead. Ends with a fistfight.

Yes, walk away, Brick, because as we learned at the start of the episode, there’s no way a guy can survive a drop into a lake.

Well, it’s back to the Science Shack, where Dr. Tyvak says he has all the super-good ray stuff back, and will give it to the UN for the betterment of mankind. Brick decides to use the Invisibility machine - which, when you think about it, might have come in handy during the 17 gun battles and fist-fights this episode has - and gets his best gal so he can break the fourth wall and then they will go off and have sex outside! Because no one can see them.

That ragged cut-up soundtrack really sums it up. Pity; I liked Brick as a character and an actor, and it’s a shame this thing fell apart after five episodes.


I’ve no idea.

That'll do it - not sure about the Work Blog, but Tumblr's a go. See you around!


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