Today’s the shortest day of the year. In observance, maybe I should try writing some short sentences. Not fragments. These should be real sentences. Let’s see how long I can keep it up.
Still, though, it is the winter solstice, and through a coincidence of sun time, I distinctly remember that I started back to work at my newspaper right around the time of the summer solstice. My last full-time day is Thursday, which means I did a six-month hitch as a copy editor, and all things considered, I can’t say it was a bad time. It’s not my calling, but it was a useful interlude. At times it was like being shovel man on a coal sluice. At times I think I actually turned a sow’s ear into, if not a silk purse, perhaps a pigskin purse. I saved a few writers from themselves, couldn’t save others, wrote some good headlines, learned a bit about sports. (Yes, I was the primary sports copy editor. Talk about the blind leading the…never mind.)
My fave headline was on a story about plans for Notre Dame’s basketball teams to play more games in Fort Wayne, because they get such good crowds here: Irish I may, Irish I might see the Irish here tonight
So it’s not HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR. But I liked it.
My friend Adrianne did a summer internship on the Boston Herald copy desk. She received high praise for getting “sex phones” into a head on I-forget-the-story. Probably something about sex phones.
Headlines aren’t hard to write, but they’re hard to write well. You learn a new set of rules, and you find yourself developing strong opinions for entirely crackbrain reasons. If I weren’t already inclined to prefer the term “gay” to “same-sex” as it applies to civil unions, I would simply because it fits into a tight headline space. You learn to hate educators, because they prefer the multisyllabic and hyphenated over the simple. You develop pet peeves about certain words — “mull” and “probe” and “feds.”
But you really hate page designers who favor one-column heads. The Barry Bonds grand-jury testimony story had a one-column head order. He didn’t say he used steroids, he said he used substances, and he didn’t know what might have been in them. “Substances” didn’t fit in one column; “steroids” wouldn’t have been accurate. So I ended up writing:
Sounds like he got a rubdown in the Tenderloin. I’ve had better days.
OK, enough copy editing. Soon I’ll be an unemployed writer again, and won’t that be fun.
Because it’s the solstice, and because we can always use a new holiday, go read the NYT story on Festivus, the “Seinfeld” holiday that makes as much sense as anything. Turns out there really is a Festivus:
The actual inventor of Festivus is Dan O’Keefe, 76, whose son Daniel, a writer on “Seinfeld,” appropriated a family tradition for the episode. The elder Mr. O’Keefe was stunned to hear that the holiday, which he minted in 1966, is catching on. “Have we accidentally invented a cult?” he wondered.
…The original Festivus was constantly in flux.
“It was entirely more peculiar than on the show,” the younger Mr. O’Keefe said from the set of the sitcom “Listen Up,” where he is now a writer. There was never a pole, but there were airings of grievances into a tape recorder and wrestling matches between Daniel and his two brothers, among other rites.
“There was a clock in a bag,” said Mr. O’Keefe, 36, adding that he does not know what it symbolized.
“Most of the Festivi had a theme,” he said. “One was, `Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?’ Another was, `Too easily made glad?’ “
And I thought my family was strange.
Oh, and thanks to David Edelstein, film critic for “Fresh Air” and Slate, who gave us a little shout-out today. He’d asked for the world’s worst lines from biopics, and in reporting the original results (scroll down), neglected my personal favorite. If you want to know what it is, you’ll have to hit the first link.
But it was in an Oliver Stone movie. That should tell you something.