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Archives for November 2014

Cloudy with more smiles, redux

This is slide show of Tucson clouds. The music is by Dave Grushin, “Mountain Dance.” The music plays on after the video ends. You can listen. Or not.

Click here to play it.

Looking for vitality

The New York Times reported today that parents in Florida are bitching and moaning over standardized tests. Kids are taking Xanax to cope. They can’t sleep. They can’t eat.

One parent told the Times that her son who is a high school junior is so test-weary, “I have had to take him to his doctor.” She added: “He can’t sleep, but he’s tired. He can’t eat, but he’s hungry.” The Times said in Florida “many schools this year will dedicate on average 60 to 80 days out of the 180-day school year to standardized testing. In a few districts, tests were scheduled to be given every day to at least some students.”

Wow. Welcome to the Republic of morons who created the politics of educational testing. When it was discovered 30 years ago that sometimes Johnny could not read, politicians rose from the ether. They passed laws requiring Johnny be tested. And so it came to pass. Mandatory tests were imposed. Standards were created. If students passed, then OK. If not, kick their asses from here to John Dewey. And the schools and teachers, too.

Doris Kerns Goodwin points out (in “The Bully Pulpit”) that publisher S.S. McClure said at the dawn of the 20th century that the “ ‘vitality of democracy’ depends on ‘popular knowledge of complex issues.’ ” If we have such popular knowledge, it is well hidden amid the avalanche of 30-second TV commercials and nonexistent or cursory debates that dominate every election. This democracy is in desperate need of some political Geritol.

Imagine, if you possibly can, the format of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 being applied to today’s politics: One candidate spoke for 60 minutes; the other spoke for 90 minutes. The first candidate was allowed a 30-minute rebuttal. There were seven such debates. THREE HOURS EACH! Thousands of Illinois voters showed up.

And just think of all the progress we’ve made since then.

Political grammar

Anybody notice that Ethan Orr’s campaign (for District 9 state House) signs were still littering the roads, violating the landscape and offending north side eyeballs days after the election? His two opponents had taken down their signs immediately in accordance with certain principles of political etiquette. Mr. Orr is either not acquainted with the politics of Emily Post or a rube who plants his political elbows on the dinner table.

In any event, he’s neither worthy nor deserving. Hope the good doctor (opponent physician Randall Friese) maintains his slim lead over Mr. Neither/nor. Clearly this wasn’t a case of either/or.

Orr spent a huge pile of money. Can’t tell you how many days my morning newspaper was plied with sticky post-it tags at the top covering up news and urging me to vote Orr. Which I did not do. The governor reportedly gave him mucho moolah. Bless her lame-duck heart.

Block that metaphor (stolen fair and square from The New Yorker)

From the Department of Regrettable Metaphors, FUBAR Sentences and Abused Prepositions:

“Football is sometimes an itch that cannot be scratched, a forever thing.”

            Arizona Daily Star, November 6, 2014, page 1, Section B


Such itches give you a rash. Until you die. Then you Rash in Peace. A thing of forever.

Not scratching an itch leads to other itches, more itches and so many more that they become sons of itches. It’s a generational forever thing.

This football thing stops here, but you know we just scratched the surface.

Editing is a scratch just itching for a number one lead pencil to cut the crap, a now-and-again thing.




Looking for attribution

“Nightcrawler” is a newly released movie written and directed by Dan Gilroy. At the moment, it is receiving mostly positive reviews from film critics such as Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal and A. O. Scott of The New York Times. The first three reviews quote a line the movie, which evolves around the tabloid TV. The line is spoken by a TV news producer played by Renee Russo. This is from Turan’s review:

“I want something people can’t turn away from,” she says. The key word is not bloody but “graphic,” the victims should be well-off and white. “Think of our newscast,” she concludes, “as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.”

Here is a passage from Ben Hecht’s autobiography, “A Child of the Century” published published 60 years ago (page 144, Simon & Schuster, 1954, first edition): Hecht writes of Sherman Duffy, a Chicago newspaperman whom he idolized. Hecht is writing about the time between 1910 and 1917.

“Great wits crossed swords with my champion (Duffy). There was Arthur James Pegler, the salty and verbally crackling father of Westbrook, the mighty columnist-to-be. Pegler, père, was the inventor of the blood-and-thunder rhetoric which became known as the Hearst newswriting style. He wrote once, in a magazine tale, a description of the thing he had helped create:

” ‘A Hearst newspaper is like a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.’ ”

Hecht was a Chicago reporter during the golden days newspapering. He famously co-wrote the play “The Front Page,” which was made into three movies,* all of which are well worth watching.*

He later became novelist, playwright and most of all a Hollywood script writer and dubbed the Shakespeare of Hollywood.

Gilroy, the writer of “Nightcrawler,” would have done well to attribute the slit throat quote to Pegler, if not by name then to at least indicate it did not originate with him via the Russo character.

* Adolphe Menjou and Pat O’Brien played in the first version(1931), Matheau and Lemmon in the remake (1974) and Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell gave it a twist (1940) and was titled, “His Girl Friday.”