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Of moguls and mongols

EJ Montini writing in his March 19 column in the Arizona Republic referred to Guv Doogie Ducey as “a former ice-cream mogul.”

Seems odd, que no? Moguls are powerful guys. They spit nails, say words like “youse” and “dumbass,” and even worse words that rhyme with duck, luck and muck. Moguls also are tough guys. They run movie studios with iron fists and loud and long farts. Moguls indulge language more colorfully because they have limited vocabularies and find this no handicap (Sam Goldwyn: “Include me out”).

Moguls are closely related — word wise and genetically — to mongols. Mongols are serious, bad-ass coves of another era. My favorite mongol was Ghengis Khan. He and his is army traveled light. When they got hungry, they sucked blood from their horses. The horses didn’t mind. They were just as mean bloodless.

It is too strange to apply the word “mogul” to a man like Guv Doogie who really ought to driving a truck with a lot of tinkle music, wearing white pants, a white shirt and a white hat and dispensing chocolate vanilla bars to third and fourth graders. He is filled with good humors fed by a screw-all policy.

It may be that Montini and others simply are trying to apply respectful and like to use flattering nouns and adjectives to describe a new governor who spent his life successfully hustling ice cream in a land of 110-degree summer days. Not exactly a challenge along the lines of a clash involving a mogul horde, clashing swords, slitting throats, lopping off heads and then pausing for a bit of refreshment in the form of Jamoca almond fudge cones washed down with horse blood.

So far Guv. Doogie D. traveling around the state, sort of a 21st Century with a good humor guys, making life tough for students, but better for rich people.

The premise here is to reject the notion the ice cream governor should be described as a mogul. Doogie is no mogul. He is the Good Humor Man (tinkle, tinkle) selling fibs, folly and falderal coated with chocolate and nuts on a stick. That will be $99 million, please.

 

 

I notice that this piece is 459 words. There were times when one had to adhere to particular lengths in a newspaper piece, particularly editorials. The lengths once in a while were dictated by editors who had developed serious shorts in their feedback loops.

To wit: Not long before I bailed from the Star, I was required to write editorials of an exact length. These editorials had to be 585 words. It mattered not a whit if the subject did not require such length. The editor was persuaded that the look of the page created reader appeal. There were times when I could get away with 587 words and others when 583 would fit. Any more or fewer words would break the line, which dictated the space and therefore the design of the page.

 

One editorial I remember in particular because it I had to dig deep to feed the monster and arrive at 585 words. The subject was the economic balloon and how Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan was noting the excessive exuberance of investors. I wrote in support of Greenspan, an obvious point as share prices were climbing relentlessly fired by the glowing optimism of investors. It was an affirmative editorial and did not call for much argument as we were happily aligned with the stars. But this part took but less than 300 words to present. I was light 50 percent more copy to fill the idiotically allocated space. I dug a long way back in history to make up for the shortfall. I described the tulip bubble, 1634-1637. At its high, one tulip was worth an estate. I tramped this ground for a while, picking up shards and other detritus of history until I reached the magic number 585.

It was arbitrary, stupid, wholly indefensible and nonsensical, Did I mention it was stupid?

My other job was to reduce columns written by George F. Will and Molly Ivins to 505 words. This sounds somewhat reasonable until you understand that Will consistently wrote 750 words. This amounted to eliminating a third of his column and still trying to preserve the point of his argument. Ivins wrote 750 words twice a week, but a third column normally ran about 900 words. Cutting this woman’s work was heartbreaking, beyond stupid. It was a travesty, a mortal sin, an inexcusable transgression.

This all was done in the name of design, the look of the newspaper. It was thought to be THE selling point and would gather readers at the waters where they would become devoted readers. But readers are not stupid, contrary to the view from corporate headquarters.

The subscriptions began to dwindle. And in 2007 they troubles came and the revenue slipped away to places like Google.

I left the paper in 2005 because I could. I happened to among the first to get out voluntarily. Many more followed as reductions in force and with much less generous terms.

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