Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last chance for cuteness in 2008

This site is listed as an example of what you can do with a blogging system I'm looking into, but it distracted me from whatever work I had planned to do with said system. After playing on it for awhile, I passed it on to my boys to share with my grandchildren, and their response was enthusiastic enough that I thought I'd share it with the rest of youse. Their mission is simple: "ZooBorns brings you the newest and cutest exotic animal babies from zoos and aquariums around the world."

Pics. Videos. Abundant cuteness to make up for this crappy year and point you in the right direction for the next. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A good comic is always relevant

Note that this "Frazz" is from 2002, but it's certainly timely this weekend and has been much on my mind the past couple of weeks. (As always, click on the image for a larger, more readable version.)

Frazz is one of the smartest strips around, but it's so consistently good that I find myself rarely commenting on it. I do have the signed original of the strip below, also from 2002, which I found masterful in the tangle of cultural references -- you really have to be plugged in to a lot of different things to follow this cascade of cultural references, which is the fun of Frazz.

Jef Mallett works on the assumption that an educated person is one who doesn't simply know one set of things, and who has no problem reading well-written books (Frazz's school is named as an homage to Bill Bryson, and Mallett is also a Richard Russo fan), knowing something about classical literature and popular music and also following the NFL, and he riffs across a broader spectrum than any other cartoonist I can think of.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Shaped by my Christmases past

My interest in cartoons didn't just happen. My father was a good artist with a particular talent for cartooning that he never really developed but which gave him and those close to him a great deal of pleasure over the years. It also provided some pleasure for those not close, since they'd get the annual Christmas card each year to show them what the Peterson clan was up to now.

This was the card in 1953, when my brother Tony was the news -- that's him in the manger at six months, with me the surprised magi and my older siblings, Rick and Frances, playing Mary and Joseph. And that's dear old dad in the background, playing the puzzled patriarch as he generally did when he appeared in the cards.

For years, I thought his being a child of the Depression and of parents who were nose-to-the-grindstone types had stifled an artistic career, and perhaps it did, but he and I spoke about it as we each grew older and he truly didn't seem to regret MIT and his years as an engineer. I think the artwork was a pleasant hobby that he could put some effort into but that he didn't really want to try to turn into the main focus of his life, which was his family. It did mean that we had some interesting cartoon collections around the house, however, as well as a willing reader to us of the Sunday funnies.

In any case, he was a very, very serious man, as the photo below demonstrates. Much too solemn for cartooning.

I went over and spent the evening with Johanna and Tobias and their parents tonight, and tomorrow I will drive up to Plattsburgh to see the rest of my grandchildren and their parents.

Christmas is a good time to be a grandfather, particularly if you had some good training in that whole how-to-be-a-dad thing. And I did.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

By Request

After I posted my first blog entry from New Hampshire, it was suggested that I post the same 360-degree view after winter had set in. I must say, I hadn't expected to be able to fulfill that request quite so soon.

So here's how the place looked on Hannukah, with a white Christmas very much in the wings despite rumors of rain. Note that, in February, it will likely look much like this except that the snow will be deeper. Considerably deeper. You certainly won't see the edge of the porch as you can here.

I should point out that, the last time I did this, there was a half-unloaded UHaul in the background, silently chiding me for shooting video when I had other things I should be doing. For continuity's sake, in this version, I have positioned two big piles of snow in the yard, which are actually piles of firewood that should have been stacked on the porch three weeks ago.

Well, at least they won't mold.

There is some lack-of-continuity in this: The dogs were wandering around the yard in the first video. In this one, they are not. Instead, they were here:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tobias Isaac Meerts
born December 14, 2008
8 pounds, 9 ounces
to the delight of his sister, Johanna
(and their grandfather, not shown here)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

In our last exciting episode ...

I realize I haven't said much about my life since I landed here in New Hampshire. Since we've made the news with our weather, I guess this is as good a time as any to catch things up.

To begin with, my view has gone from the above to the below. You'll see that the lake isn't entirely frozen over, but it has been. But about the time a skim of ice forms, a front comes through and there is a night of wind that breaks it up again.

The lake is about four miles long by a little over half a mile wide, so when a north-south wind strikes up, it gets rolling pretty well. And my house is right at the receiving end, so I've taken down the wind chimes which I'm sure are charming during the summer but, as the first good winter storm rolled in, were kind of a constant annoyance all night long, as if they were in a dryer. Incidentally, those X's are a marker where there is about a 15 foot drop off to the lake. I suspect I'll have a pretty good buildup of ice jam and snow down there by the time winter is truly over.

So, about that storm: It pretty much passed us by in the immediate sense. I didn't know how bad it was until I got to the office and people started calling in to say they'd be working from home. I never lost power and, while the roads weren't good, they weren't surprisingly bad. However, I was in a fairly narrow window of safety -- there were significant outages to the north and to the south of us.

I took this picture at the local airport, where even the birches weren't getting off the ground. (Our photographer began snickering at that line and accused me of spending more time thinking up cutlines than shooting photos. And she's right.) But the planes -- little Cessnas -- were back in the air by mid-morning.

When I went back up that afternoon to confirm that they were getting planes off the ground, I spotted this chain link fence. The sun had begun to melt the ice and I caught it at the time when the ice had melted back off the fence itself but hadn't broken up.

Cool, huh?

They opened up the gym at the high school in Gabe's school district as a shelter (he teaches at the middle school), and had I think five families the first night. The next day, they picked up that many families again from a fire which burned them out of their building -- which isn't the same as losing power but is very likely traceable to the storm, though the Red Cross is going to have to find them some place else to stay while they come up with a more permanent plan, because I think everyone else will be going home soon.

For the most part, I think power is back on to most of the homes in our area. The aforementioned photographer and I spent most of Friday driving around looking for dramatic shots and didn't find much -- I think most of the outages were from branches over individual powerlines. We didn't find any downed powerpoles or anything that visually astonishing. Gabe had lost power at some point in the night but it came back, and I never lost it at all. We lost it overnight at the office but, when I got in, it was back up, though our office manager, copy editor and general jack-of-all-trades was trying to restore a critical computer program (which she did).

The job is good, the people are good. I'd seen the paper and recognized a lot of need for improvement, and I was really afraid I'd come into a situation where nobody else felt that way, but the staff was eager for some direction. This is largely a first-job shop and I'm doing a fair amount of mentoring, but when people want to learn, that's fun. I've also got the support not only of the boss/owner/publisher but of the rest of the management team, which makes a tremendous difference. And people are seeing a difference since I got here, though it's a gradual process. We're not where we need to be, but we're doing a lot better and it's recognized.

The town is a city compared to Farmington -- about four times the population -- but I'm able to go home at night and have a lot of quiet, so it's more than acceptable, and it's fun to have Gabe, Sarah and Johanna in town -- and they will be adding a grandson in the next week or two. That's more fun close up than at a distance.

And there is a rail trail for me and the dogs to take our constitutional. Life is good.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mother England to the rescue!

In which Prime Minister Gordon Brown shows how much more fun it is to govern in a land where the opposition is allowed to laugh at a slip of the tongue. Well, fun for the onlookers, anyway ...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Um ... I've got nothing to add here ...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Having just praised some pretty terrific artists, here's a cartoon I love that, well, doesn't exactly rely on draftsmanship. And it's not always Safe For Work or Fun For The Whole Family. And it's often too geeky for me to understand.

And that's okay. I don't have to understand them all. This one captures absolutely one of my biggest, lifelong, ongoing, incurable perceptual problems, without a lot of elaborate artwork:

"xkcd:A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." Geez, how can you go wrong?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

An editor speaks of illustrators

Rod McKie has touched off a discussion of publishers who republish classic texts with illustrations that don't seem connected to the stories they have been commissioned to illustrate.

"It’s not that I’m against book illustrators per say, or for that matter the people publishers now tell us are “graphic novelists”, but I am against the needless illustration of texts, especially when those illustrations run counter to the author’s intentions or even instructions, and serve only to place limits and boundaries on the reader’s imagination. Far from helping to illuminate the text, which was once free-floating and open to an infinite amount of interpretations, the possible meaning of the text is now fenced in by, not the author’s vision, which we have been encouraged to ignore, but the illustrator’s vision. And often, by the illustrator’s lack of knowledge about not just the text, but the witting and unwitting testimony of the text, what the text does not say because of the rules and institutions at the time of production, and of the illustrator’s lack of knowledge of the signs and symbols at work.

There's much more there and I would encourage you to read it, but what it sparked in me was a respect for a certain core of children's illustrators who appear to have worked with the authors whose stories they illustrated. Garth Williams, for instance, wanted to work for the New Yorker, and, for that reason, I have to believe that he talked to E.B. White about Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web. I have less specific reason to believe that he also consulted with Laura Ingalls Wilder as he illustrated the Little House books, except that they were so well done that I suspect he did work with her, rather than simply working from a synopsis, with an editor.

My response to Rod, on one of the boards where he had initiated discussion, was that I don't know why modern publishers feel they need to find new illustrators (who will then ignore the intentions of the author) when there are wonderful illustrations that were published with the original material, and which I suspect were the result of collaboration between author and illustrator. As someone who has published both original and classic children's literature in the newspapers, I've been delighted to use the original illustrations -- and not simply for the ease and cost of dealing with artists whose work is the public domain. (I happen to work rather well with the living artists I've used, too.) But these classic artists did, indeed, try to connect with the stories they were illustrating.

One example is the work of folklorist Andrew Lang, who produced a series of classic fairy tale collections from around the world, each illustrated by HJ Ford. The picture at the top is a favorite of mine, part of Hans Christian Andersen's "Blockhead Hans" in which Andersen vented some spleen at the press. Which makes me laugh the harder at the story, and Ford's delightful pics.

But Ford was wonderfully adaptable, and produced this picture for a Japanese Cinderella story, in which a young woman disguises herself and works in the fields until, of course, her virtue is rewarded by the local young nobleman.

Lang was not all that specific about the provence of "The Green Monkey," but Ford comes up with a completely different style, yet one which is clearly his and which gives young readers a wonderful image with which to imagine the rest of the story as they read.

And this is a favorite, one of several he did for a Romanian story about a girl carried off as an infant as eagles, but then raised in their nest. I used this as the logo for my own stories for many years.

But I've also used this as a logo, an illustration for "Beauty and the Beast," one of the stories retold by Katharine Lee Bates in a 1923 book that was one of my mother's favorites as a child. The illustrator is Margaret Evans Price, who later was the artistic director for Fisher-Price Toys. I ran some of these stories in the paper, along with Price's illustrations, and heard from a reader who, like my mother, had marveled over the stories as a child and was delighted to see them being brought to a brand-new generation of young readers.

This is Price's illustration for a story in which a proud young woman is taught a lesson in humility when her exasperated father marries her off to a beggar who, of course, turns out to be a handsome prince and in on the lesson. It's a more charming variation of the story than "The Taming of the Shrew" but what I find particularly interesting in this illustration is the detail on the princess's dress.

But this is a favorite -- another Evans illustration for "Beauty and the Beast," and the texture here is wonderful, especially in the context of the 1920s when the furniture and fabrics and fashions in the Beast's palace were quite current!

Another classic illustrator was Charles Robinson, whose breakthrough book was Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses." I don't know if they collaborated, but I see little reason to reproduce the one without the other. He also did a classic collection of nursery rhymes, and I'm pretty sure he didn't confer with Mother Goose, but he seems to have captured the themes rather well.

PS -- In the comments, I spoke of how Dylan Meconis had done an illustration for the story of Actaeon and Diana that was part of a collection of myths I put together. Here's that illustration. It's not grotesque or "scary" but I think she did a nice job of catching a moment of transformation and apprehension, and it sticks in the mind, which is the point, after all. In the myth, Actaeon doesn't quite understand what the goddess has done to him until it's too late and he is about to be torn to pieces by his prized hunting dogs. It has touched off debates for a couple of thousand years about proportionality, and Dylan's picture suggests a young man who has really, really messed up and is only on the verge of realizing it. There are also some small touches like the shape of his head and placement of his eyes that lift this above the usual. She's quite a talent and I was lucky to come across her when I could still afford her!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's not just the newspaper industry

This morning, NPR had a good feature on this song. Here's the song itself, for all the real Joe the Plumbers who may find themselves asking the same questions before too long.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I leave you guys alone for two years ...

I swear, I can't turn my back on these people for a minute. When I left Lee Enterprises back in January of 2007, their stock was worth $30 a share. Now, according to this story in Editor & Publisher, it's down to $1.58 and they're in danger of being de-listed by NYSE.

Somehow, my departure was not listed as a cause. Dunno how they missed that.

It would be easier to laugh if the idiotic decisions being made in the boardrooms of major newspaper chains didn't trickle down to those of us who are actually trying to do things right -- in the form of things like lower advertiser confidence in the medium and higher paper costs.

But it's easy enough to laugh, when you've escaped from people who keep issuing chirpy reports about how well the company is doing while they are cutting your resources, laying off people, freezing pensions and benefits, degrading the quality of the product and generally trying to sneak into the lifeboats before the passengers and crew notice.

And it's especially easy to laugh when you cashed out all your stock before you left, at the aforementioned $30 a share. I know people who are likely still holding a large wad of the stuff, purchased at a discount that now seems laughable ... as long as you're out of the path of the landslide.

We're all in for tough times in the next couple of years, and I don't know many companies where there isn't a careful watch being kept on expenses right now. That pressure intensifies when others in your sector are failing.

Still, when stupidity and greed are prime ingredients in the mix, the schadenfreude of watching a former, unloved employer sink is sweet indeed.





(We now return to a more civilized take on the world.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

You never quite get over your first glove

Sherwood Harrington unleashes some memories, including the fellow whose name was on my first baseball glove.

Unlike Sherwood's family, mine took annual trips that often included a major league game, in Connie Mack Stadium, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium or Shea Stadium. But, also unlike Sherwood's family, we didn't take many pictures once there, even before or after games, though I've got a few other souvenirs.

Once we happened to be in town at a time when my Tigers were visiting either the Yankees or the Red Sox. I honestly don't remember which, but we could "only" get outfield seats. I emphasize "only" because it meant I spent half the game with Al Kaline right there in front of me. I probably didn't see much else that day, like whether there was a big green wall or not.

But, while we didn't take a lot of pictures, my little brother Tony was a fan who could pull stats out of his hat on the spot and knew everyone in the game. When we went to a game, he would not only keep the scorecard but would then keep the program. He didn't leave much of a physical estate, but he left a real legacy in memories.

I certainly remember this game, not for the game itself but for how excited Tony was about getting to see a brand-new major league team in the historic setting of the Polo Grounds. I liked baseball well enough, but about three-quarters of the pleasure of going to these games was being with him.

Below, the scorecard. Longtime fans will want to click on the image so they can read some familiar names. Tony would have been nine at the time. I can see my father's handwriting on the first couple of Mets names, but I think the rest is Tony's work. He knew his stuff and, boy, was he serious about The Game.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The quiet realization of prolonged expectation
from "Two Years Before the Mast," Richard Henry Dana (1840)

The captain went up to town in the boat with Mr. H-----, and left us to pass another night on board ship, and to come up with the morning's tide under command of the pilot.

So much did we feel ourselves to be already at home, in anticipation, that our plain supper of hard bread and salt beef was barely touched; and many on board, to whom this was the first voyage, could scarcely sleep. As for myself, by one of those anomalous changes of feeling of which we are all the subjects, I found that I was in a state of indifference, for which I could by no means account.

A year before, while carrying hides on the coast, the assurance that in a twelvemonth we should see Boston, made me half wild; but now that I was actually there, and in sight of home, the emotions which I had so long anticipated feeling, I did not find, and in their place was a state of very nearly entire apathy.

Something of the same experience was related to me by a sailor whose first voyage was one of five years upon the North-west Coast. He had left home, a lad, and after several years of very hard and trying experience, found himself homeward bound; and such was the excitement of his feelings that, during the whole passage, he could talk and think of nothing else but his arrival, and how and when he should jump from the vessel and take his way directly home.

Yet when the vessel was made fast to the wharf and the crew dismissed, he seemed suddenly to lose all feeling about the matter. He told me that he went below and changed his dress; took some water from the scuttle-butt and washed himself leisurely; overhauled his chest, and put his clothes all in order; took his pipe from its place, filled it, and sitting down upon his chest, smoked it slowly for the last time. Here he looked round upon the forecastle in which he had spent so many years, and being alone and his shipmates scattered, he began to feel actually unhappy.

Home became almost a dream; and it was not until his brother (who had heard of the ship's arrival) came down into the forecastle and told him of things at home, and who were waiting there to see him, that he could realize where he was, and feel interest enough to put him in motion toward that place for which he had longed, and of which he had dreamed, for years.

There is probably so much of excitement in prolonged expectation, that the quiet realizing of it produces a momentary stagnation of feeling as well as of effort. It was a good deal so with me. The activity of preparation, the rapid progress of the ship, the first making land, the coming up the harbor, and old scenes breaking upon the view, produced a mental as well as bodily activity, from which the change to a perfect stillness, when both expectation and the necessity of labor failed, left a calmness, almost of indifference, from which I must be roused by some new excitement.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Who cares what you thought, Gloria?
From the Boston Globe:

Gloria (Deagle) Doherty of Newton, a bank teller who survived Boston's Cocoanut Grove fire in 1942, never let anyone around her blame a teenage busboy named Stanley Tomaszewski for sparking the blaze.

"She always said, for as long as I can remember, it wasn't his fault. She remembered leaning against the wall that night and the wall was so hot," said her daughter Maura Simmons of Medfield.

Mrs. Doherty, 86, died Saturday at the Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Natick from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

On the night of the worst nightclub fire in US history, in which 492 people died, Mrs. Doherty was 20 years old. She and best friend Eula Place of Waltham were waiting in the crowded, stifling basement area called Melody Lounge for their dates at the crowded club on Piedmont Street. Mrs. Doherty, known as Glo to her friends, was heading up the stairs for fresh air when the flames erupted, she told her family.

"She got pushed up the stairs, trampled, and pushed under a table," said her son Thomas of North Reading. "She was adamant that this story about the busboy causing it was wrong."

Early accounts speculated Tomaszewski was to blame for lighting a match while he replaced a light bulb. He died in 1994 at age 68, insisting he did not cause the fire.

The exact source of the blaze was never determined. ...

But we're still blaming that little rat Stanley, so here's his name in the paper yet again!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

'Grover the Good'

This memoir is taken from "Random Reminiscences of an Old Political Reporter" (1911) by William C. Hudson of the Brooklyn Eagle. At the time, Cleveland was governor of New York and Daniel Lamont his secretary. Lamont would go on to be Secretary of War in Cleveland's administration. Hudson, a reporter for the Eagle in those days of the partisan press, was on a sort of detached service to work on Cleveland's campaign. Cleveland was running against James G. Blaine and the "Halpin scandal" alluded to is the famous scandal of the illegitimate child which Cleveland disarmed by simply admitting it (and having behaved honorably when it occurred.) It's offered here as the current election cycle winds down as an antidote of sorts.

The mail of Grover Cleveland, immediately after his nomination for President, at Chicago, on July 11, 1884, swelled into enormous proportions. It came pouring in literally by the bushel.

In order that he might look over this mail free from undue interruption, as the Private Secretary of the Governor, Colonel Lamont seized on a desk in the last room of the gubernatorial suite to which visitors, even if they were intimate friends of the Governor, rarely if ever, penetrated.

While engaged in the preparation of the "Open Record of an Honest Man" document, on the title page of which appeared the words "Public Office Is a Public Trust," as previously described, I was given a desk in the same room, adjoining that occupied by Colonel Lamont.

One morning in the third week of July, on entering to my work, I saw Lamont at his desk with a frown of perplexity on his face, evidently much disturbed. He was studying a letter and some accompanying documents and was so much absorbed that he was hardly conscious of my entrance.

But in a moment or two, looking up, he saw me. There was an eager tone in his voice as he said: "I'm glad you've come. I want to talk to you about a perplexing matter."

He went to the door and turned the key. Coming back, he stood for some time looking down on the papers that had absorbed his attention, and then said:

"I don't know what to do with these papers. If I show them to the Governor I fear he will put his foot on them. If I conceal them from him and turn them over to the managers of the campaign and he comes to know of it, he'll be angry. If I do show them to the Governor and he does put his foot on them and they are concealed from the managers, they will be angry, as they would have a right to be, since they are entitled to have all the weapons we can put in their hands for use in this campaign."

Knowing Lamont as well as I did, I neither asked him the nature of the papers that troubled him nor made remark. Lamont did not give his confidences easily. Any attempt to draw him out excited his suspicions and usually resulted in an extreme case of reticence. If he intended to give me his confidence in this matter I knew that it would be given without the asking. So I waited. It was at a time when what subsequently became known to history as the Halpin affair was having its first swing and I supposed the papers in Lamont's hands related to that.

Such, however, was not the case, as was plain so soon as Lamont began to talk of the matter vexing him. It appeared that a correspondent residing in Kentucky, I think, whose name I have now forgotten, had written to Governor Cleveland relating what he alleged to be certain incidents in the private life of James G. Blaine, the opposing candidate.

These he offered as more than an offset to the Halpin affair. He asserted his ability to furnish conclusive documentary proof of his allegations and had forwarded copies of certain documents as indicating the nature of the proof.

Although the matter in great part found its way to publication, I shall not attempt to indicate here the nature of the allegations because, first, I never read the proof or what purported to be the proof of them; second, because I have every reason to believe that there is not to-day in existence any proof or the possibility of it, and, third, that all the parties to the story are under the sod, unable to make a defense, while those left in the guardianship of their fame can meet the allegation made at this late day only by a denial.

In this third week in July, 1884, the allegations as they appeared in the mail of Governor Cleveland seemed to be very real and the writer offered, if his communication was deemed to be of value, to travel to Albany and personally submit his proof and himself to examination.

Having informed me of the contents of the communication and his own thought on the matter, Lamont asked me what I would do were I placed in a similar position.

"Turn them over to the Governor, Dan," I said, "and let him deal with them."

"You know the Governor," said Lamont, "and what he is capable of doing—tossing them into the waste basket."

"Possibly," I replied; "but in view of the relations of the Governor and yourself I cannot see that you can do anything else."

"That is my inclination—indeed, was my first impulse, but afterward I thought of the use that might be made of it to fight this other devilish thing," replied Lamont. After a moment he added: "It is a question of how I can best serve him." After another moment of thought he continued: "Well, I'll lay the matter before the Governor now, before anyone else can hear of it. I'll ask him to come into this room to read these papers."

He went out and almost immediately returned with Cleveland, directing the latter's attention to the papers without comment.

Cleveland sat down in Lamont's chair and read the papers very deliberately, giving no sign of the impression they made on him. Finishing his reading of them he leaned his elbow on the desk and looked out of the window to the park in front of the Capitol for a long time, the while we waited, ostensibly busy with our work, but covertly watching the presidential candidate.

Finally he turned to the desk and, gathering up the papers, folded them neatly, after his habit, and, rising, said: "I'll take these. Say nothing about them to anyone. I say this to both of you. Dan, send for this man to bring his proof as soon as he can. Promise to pay his expenses."

He went out, leaving Lamont and myself to stare at each other. Apparently he was about to do what each of us thought he would not do. An instant later he was back again in the door.

"Dan," he said, "when that man does come bring him directly to me. I will deal with him."

He went away, leaving us to look at each other again.

"I'll be hanged!" I exclaimed. "He's going to use them after all."

"I don't know," replied Lamont, doubtfully. "Though he hasn't taken it as I thought he would."

Days passed and nothing was heard from Cleveland on the subject. Lamont had carried out his instruction and had sent for the correspondent. On entering the apartment early one morning five days after the scene described I found Lamont awaiting my coming.

"That man is here with the proofs," he said. "I have been waiting for you to come so that you could be present and be a witness that on receiving the package from him I did not open it."

He called the man to him and, receiving the package, said: "I will take this to the Governor at once. Come with me."

At the same time he gestured to me to follow. The three of us went into the executive chamber, where Cleveland sat alone at his big desk. Lamont went to him, saying in a voice loud enough to be heard by all: "The man is here with those proofs. Here they are."

He handed the package to Cleveland as he had received it. The Governor took it in his hand, asking at the same time: "Is the man here?"

"Yes," replied Lamont, "in this room."

"Bring him to me," said Cleveland, calmly, as he tore the wrapping from the package.

Lamont brought the man to the Governor, who asked him to be seated. Then, holding the documents in his hand, the Governor asked: "Are your proofs all here?"

"Yes, sir, all of them," replied the man.

"Do you substantiate by these papers or proofs all of the promises of your letter?"

"I am sure that you will say so if you will look the papers over," returned the man. "They are mostly certified copies of public records which, taken in their place, with one affidavit and three private letters, complete the whole story."

"Everything is here, then, and you are holding nothing in reserve?" persisted Cleveland.

"Nothing," replied the man, "and you will see that by running over the indorsements of the papers."

Cleveland did so and then he turned to Lamont and said: "Arrange with this man a proper sum for his expenses, the time he has lost and his good will in the matter, and pay him."

Apparently it was not a difficult negotiation, for the man soon departed with Lamont's check, apparently more than well satisfied. In the meantime, Cleveland again ran over the indorsements of the papers but without opening any of them.

When the man was gone from the room Cleveland laid the papers on the desk before him and, taking from the private drawer of his desk some others, handed them to Lamont, saying: "These are the ones you gave me the other day, are they not?"

Lamont said they were, giving them back to Cleveland, who held out his hand for them. Then, drawing a waste paper basket to him the Governor began to tear them into small bits, to the unbounded astonishment of Lamont and myself. When he had finished that lot he took up the proofs brought that morning and destroyed them in the same manner.

No words were spoken by any one until the Governor called a porter and directed him to burn in the fireplace the scraps of paper, standing over him to watch the process. When all were consumed he came back to where Lamont and I were standing, and said to Lamont: "The other side can have a monopoly of all the dirt in this campaign."

Then he talked about something else and so far as I am informed never referred to the matter again. Years after the event Colonel Lamont told me that Cleveland had never afterward alluded to the matter.

Some weeks after the man in question, preceiving that no use had been made of the matter which he had taken to Albany, through a mutual acquaintance, reached Senator A. P. Gorman, who was the chairman of the executive committee of the National Democratic Committee — that is to say, the campaign manager — to tell him of the communication to Mr. Cleveland. Senator Gorman knew nothing of it. He asked me if I had heard anything of the story.

Under the seal of confidence everything relating to the matter was told the Maryland Senator. He listened with intense interest to the conclusion of the tale. When it was finished he rose from his desk and, going to the mantelpiece, leaned on it in thought for a few moments.

Then he said: "The destruction of that proof was very noble and high minded in Mr. Cleveland. I don't know whether, in a similar position, attacked with slander as he has been, I could have reached the same elevated plane. Oh, but what a missed opportunity it was! In my hands, without publication or public exploitation of them, I could have used those papers diplomatically, to have made the other side eager to suppress the Halpin scandal, which has vexed us so and which will vex us to the end of the campaign."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Two must-visits
One serious, one hardly so

The most vocal of my visitors, I suspect, visit both of these blogs regularly as well, but even then there's no harm in a heads-up, and if you haven't to them recently, now's the time.

The serious topic is over at Between Friends, in which Sandra Bell Lundy has been exploring the topic of domestic abuse with a touch I find more compelling because it is so well integrated within her strip rather than a Very Special Between Friends segment. You'll want to scroll down and go through her postings on the story arc. However, the current posting also has a pretty funny discussion of her trip to Toronto for an interview on Canada AM, a national program, about the series. You'll get a good laugh at her attempts to find the studio, but be sure to check out the video. It's a good interview on a topic that could have been dreary or horribly self-important in the wrong hands.

And now for something completely different ...

Sherwood Harrington posts a video that shows why the Irish have a reputation for literate humor, a pub song from the West Coast (San Francisco, that is, not Donegal) with the chorus:

O'Leary, O'Riley, O'Hare and O'Hara

There's no-one as Irish as Barack Obama!

The entire thing depends largely on accent for any semblance of rhyme, my favorite example of which depends on the fact that there's no "th" dipthong in Irish speech:

He looks after his own; a true son of St. Patrick,
He chose as his 'mate Joe Biden, a Cat'olic
Proddies, Jews, Muslims, even the Dalai Lama,
No, there's no-one as Irish as Barack Obama!

I don't think this is going to sway any voters, but it's going to make you laugh, even if you have to play it twice to cut through the brogue. And whether there's no-one more Irish, Obama's as Irish as Ronald Reagan, who played up his Celtic roots well beyond their genealogical merit.

Besides, as an editor, I was receiving letters to the editor about O'Bama well into the primaries, from people who hadn't quite figured out the naming convention in play.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm Mike Peterson, and I approved this video

It's getting hard to defend "the mainstream media" against the Mensa types who feel so much smarter than anyone else, when "the mainstream media" insists on putting unqualified, self-promoting blowhards on the air who have much the same undocumented, unsubstantiated, ridiculously over-inflated self-image. Yes, you're right -- you could have offered just as cogent an analysis. Which doesn't justify having either of you on the air.

Jon Stewart offers a genius take on the issue.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A quiet spot on the south shore

Here's a look at the new digs -- a quick 360 degree pan on the day I began to move in. This is just under 10 miles from the office, so I won't pay for this view with a massive commute. Most of the other cottages you'll see here are not winterized and are already empty or soon will be. I've got the place until June, when the owners move back, which will give me a chance to find something more long-term that probably won't include shoreline but will provide the quiet and the short trip to work.

However, as I pan by the UHaul truck, you may notice a little more work to be done, so I'll provide details another time, except for this: If you have to have the front door open on a brisk autumn day, one way to keep the house warm without running up your oil bill is to build a good fire in the fireplace. Also, as you'll see below, I probably wouldn't see a lot of sunrises even if I weren't facing north, at least until the lake freezes over so it doesn't steam in the morning.

I will somehow manage to deal with that issue.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

So long to the Pine Tree State

This morning I am no longer editor of the Franklin Journal and am a little less bound to play my cards close to my vest, though there is little point in providing a lot of unnecessary details. What happened was that I began the job in January of 2007 and, in June, the publisher who had hired me decided to head back to his native Oklahoma.

He had functioned not only as publisher (ie, CEO) but as editor of a biweekly paper and he also did much of the work on the frequent advertising supplements plus generally pitching in whenever things got busy. I was named interim publisher and gained those additional editing tasks, plus editing of a weekly paper when the editor there was fired by our publisher on his way out the door. It took about four months to replace that editor.

In the meantime, the owner decided to sell out and the company that purchased the paper did not replace the publisher position, using a group publisher instead. Nor did they hire an additional editor to handle the biweekly and the special publications. This left me with all those new tasks and no backup -- now the only other person in the organization who knew how to edit was the new editor of the weekly, who was 20 miles south of us and had her hands full with that task. Hence the 60-hour, six-day weeks that expanded to seven days often enough.

And so I am going to Lebanon, NH, to edit the Connecticut Valley Spectator, a weekly community paper. I will have more backup and less work and hope to return to a five-day, 40 hour week. My charge there will be to mentor a young staff, tighten up the editing and add more substantial news coverage, but not to wreck something that is essentially working. My new boss also owns a pair of Rhodesian ridgebacks, which was not the deciding factor but doesn't hurt. I had applied for the job back in June but they had already filled it. A few weeks ago, I got an email from the owner/publisher saying that hire had not worked out and asking if I were still interested. That was more or less my job interview: I threw a figure at him, he agreed to it and then I drove down there, we had lunch and I met the staff and we talked a little more and the deal was made. And, as a bonus, one of my favorite little people in the world lives there.

The past year and a half has involved an awful lot of work, but it has not been without joy, as I hope has been clear. Before signing out, I went through the picture files and pulled out a few favorites.

Senator Susan Collins is running for re-election and was in town two weeks ago. I caught up with her at a grade school where she took questions from the kids before going to the teachers' lounge for a more intense grilling from a high school class. This was the third time we'd met -- fourth if you count being at an event I wasn't covering at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan -- and we'd built up a good relationship. I think she knows we don't see eye-to-eye politically, but that she'll get accurate coverage, and we laugh a lot, too. She was quite dismayed to learn I was leaving and that was a very nice compliment.

Her Senate colleague, Olympia Snowe, only came to town once during my time here, though I also met her briefly at Skowhegan. I wish we had run into each other more often because, while I'm not easily intimidated, I was blown away by the intensity of her intellect and wit during a three-hour visit to downtown Farmington last month. Here she's looking over a map the downtown merchants had put together, with a state senator who is also a tree farmer and Maine Guide, and the head of the industrial development commission, who is laughing over something Walter has just said. Snowe strolled the shops, talking to whoever she ran into about whatever was on their minds and pulling facts and insights out of nowhere with an ease that was stunning. And in between that, she was cracking dry little jokes and laughing over other people's comments, which is the real mark of intellect -- she's smart enough that she has no issue with acknowledging someone else's wit and I don't think it would even occur to her to do so. Classy and magnetic.

Meanwhile, on the local level, this is a picture I got at the annual Blueberry Festival Parade in Wilton. The driver is Tom Saviello, a state rep with a deserved reputation for being everywhere. He gets his face in the paper often enough that it is a running joke, but it's because he will go cook at a charity barbecue or help out at a town meeting or show up for a tribute to some local hero and his involvement is genuine. In this case, he was using this golf cart to run people back to their cars or wherever they needed to be after the parade, and I happened to catch him with another state rep who is, in fact, a political rival, hence the hilarity. And you bet I ran it!

I'm going to go have a beer with Tom on Monday, and Walter, the state senator with Olympia Snowe, dropped by the office yesterday just to say goodbye. It's good to have made a mark.

But it's not all fun and games. The fellow in the red cap at the center of this picture, and the woman next to him in the white sweater, have just seen their tool shed burn to the ground. Now, "tool shed" is a relative term. It was the size of a good sized garage or a small house, and, for a dairy farmer, a tool shed doesn't just contain tools. It's full of odds and ends, in this case about three generations worth, of washers and bits of wire and odd-sized screws and nails and other things that you can't put a name on, but when you need to fix something are just what you need. You can replace the tools, but what they lost was the equivalent of a third-generation college professor's library, including clippings and magazine articles and odd letters. But he's got a smile because, well, what are you going to do? And besides, the barn was only about 25 feet away, and aside from some melted and scorched siding was undamaged. The nearest firefighters had just come back from a training and were cleaning up when the alarm went, which brought them to the farm in time to set up a defense for the barn. Meanwhile, all the other people in this picture are farmers who scrambled when they heard the scanner, got out there and got the cows out of the barn and pitched in to minimize what could have been a horrific disaster. It is a fraternity of colleagues not to be despised and that was what I covered, rather than a routine story about some guy's tool shed burning down.

Speaking of fires, here's a scary picture for those of you with small children. The night before this was taken, two things happened: The father of a four-year-old set his new sneakers, the ones with the cool blinking lights, on the kitchen table, as part of gathering the kid up for bed. The grandfather came home with some Dunkin' Donuts coffee, which he planned to microwave in the morning, and set that on the kitchen table. That was lucky, because when the shoes burst into fire, they melted the plastic coffeecups and put themselves out -- you can see some coffee around the edge of their soles. Neither the people at Wal-Mart headquarters nor the state fire marshall had ever heard of this happening, but, if the shoes had been halfway under the couch or in a closet, or if the entire kitchen had gone up in flames, who would have thought to trace the fire to them? (As it was, the house was full of some pretty nasty smoke and one family member was hospitalized briefly with respiratory problems.)

Part of the job involves recognizing an opportunity for a story in the mundane. Much has been made here, by me and in comments, of the problems I have had each winter with snow sliding off my roof. So during last winter, which was particularly snowy, when we got a routine press release from the power company asking people to shovel out their meters, it occurred to me that, yeah, that could be a hassle. So I went around with a meter reader and got this shot of her scaling a small mountain to read the meter, which is enough under the eaves that, once she got up there, she could read it. But she was awfully grateful when the people at the next house had used the snowblower to carve her a path.

And I would be remiss if I didn't include the occasional news tip, such as the fellow who emailed to tell me he had seen evidence of wiretapping on a road leading into town.

I would also draw your attention to the work of Jason Togyer, who commented in the last entry here and is a friend from r.a.c.s. Before I became too overwhelmed to be able to think of such things, I would send Jason an idea for a political cartoon and he would draw it up and send it back. These were extremely popular and had reach well after the coffee grounds and fish bones had been encased in the rest of the day's paper.

This one in particular struck a responsive chord. Our governor hatched a plan to save money by consolidating school districts, but he hatched it fully-formed and sprung it on the state with the help of a willing legislature which his party controlled. It has been a complete disaster and, in our area, turned two districts who had already been cooperating, including sharing music teachers, technical staff and a business manager, into bitter rivals who are barely speaking. I expect that the resulting plan will be voted down in November -- both school boards voted (as required by law) to submit the plan, but then voted in straw polls to oppose it by a combined margin of, IIRC, 19 to three.

Fairly early in the process, Jason did this cartoon, working from photos and physical descriptions I sent him of the school superintendants in our area. Somebody in a statewide group of some sort took it upon herself not only to copy the cartoon but to color it, frame it and send copies to the fellows depicted. I have seen it on the walls of the superintendents of the two districts mentioned above; this is the desktop of a third of the crew. I would bet money it's on display in the other offices as well, but I haven't been there to see. I would also bet money that it is not hanging in Governor Baldacci's office.

And I hope I have this much fun at the next place, from which I will report faithfully once settled.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

So long, Butch

I was on the cusp of 20 when “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” came out, and I immediately watched it twice more in the theater and then two more times when it hit the drive-in.

I was in school at the time; my roommate was night manager of a Standard station back when gas stations employed mechanics and tried to hide the more unpresentable ones on the night shift.

Thereafter, he would respond to my bursts of college-boy enthusiasm with a shake of his head and say, “You just keep thinkin’, Butch. That’s what you’re good at.”

It reflected his wish to be the deadly Sundance Kid, but I’d always wanted to be the sidekick anyway, from the time back in first grade, when I watched Davy Crockett but identified with Georgie Russell.

Butch Cassidy was the best sidekick ever, because, even though he had never actually shot anyone, and even though he didn’t know how much dynamite to use to blow a safe (sorry, Woodcock), he was still the leader of the gang and just as apt as Sundance to end up with the girl.

Paul Newman played a lot of those roles, the guy who manages to keep a twinkle in his eye no matter how badly he’s losing, the guy you’re willing to believe in, even when it’s plain he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Best of all, in real life, he kept that twinkle and that willingness to go after what he wanted -- a great marriage, a LeMans trophy, a business that gives back, a charity for kids -- and somehow, against the odds, he got it all.

Maybe in real life he was like Fast Eddie, not content to play it safe and not afraid to lose. Maybe he really believed what Fast Eddie said: “I'm the best you ever seen, Fats. I'm the best there is. And even if you beat me, I'm still the best.”

However he did it, he managed to make second place the winner’s circle.

(This piece first ran as an editor's note in the Franklin Journal, September 30)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Great! Just what I needed ...

One more bookmark to click on every morning! (Click on the image for a readable size)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Moment of Compassion

NYTimes Columnist Judith Warner ponders the unenviable position of Sarah Palin in a column so well-reasoned and well-crafted that I won't excerpt it here. Basically, she goes beyond the hype and the tribalism of the election campaign and considers the person herself.

Granted, it's probably a hopelessly liberal position to identify with your opponent on this level, but I think there are a few belief systems that demand it. As one reader comment put it:

There she was, a moderately successful governor of a modestly populated state, a big fish in a small pond. While I don’t agree with her conservative views, to her credit she did some good things ... And then along came McCain ... To select *any* small-town mayor or rookie governor without proper vetting, or even a modicum of serious pre-acceptance coaching and discussion about what life in the national limelight is like, seems unusually cruel. I am saddened for her personally since I fear she will be permanently caricatured in the national memory, much like Dan Quayle. How miserably unfortunate, especially for a woman so young, with so many years left to live it down ... I’m coming to realize Sen. McCain’s choice says far more unflattering things about *him* than it does about the Governor. Thanks, Judith, for expressing for her the compassion that any human being deserves when they’ve gotten themselves into a mess they don’t recognize until it’s too late.

And that's only a reader. Warner herself says it better.