Happy birthday to you.

Happy birthday, John Christopher Burns, half a century old today. We’ve been friends since college. We met in 1977, at an organizational meeting for the following year’s student-newspaper staff. The editor passed around a sheet for everyone to write down their summer mailing address. Mine was 1832 Barrington Rd., Columbus, Ohio. His was 1860 Barrington Rd., Columbus, Ohio.


Turned out John didn’t really live there; it was one of the apartments his mother occupied in her post-divorce perambulations, and the closest thing to a permanent address he had. But it was an opening. We’ve been friends ever since.

Lots of years ending in 7 in this story, I just realized. I guess that means we met when we were both 20, and we’ve known each other 30 years. The older I get, the more I value long-term friendships, people who saw you through the disco years, three unfortunate perms, five bad boyfriends, one good husband, two horses, a dog and I-don’t-know-what-all, and still like you anyway. One is silver and the other’s gold, etc.

Here’s some of what John taught me: Computers, typefaces, design. I was never much of a design student, but I know more about typefaces than the average person because of him. I appreciate good design because of him. I use a Mac because of him. Here’s some of what he did for me: Designed three or four resumés, my wedding invitations, this website in all iterations (which he has hosted for 6 years now, at a cost to me of $0.00). He even designed the name on Alan’s boat.

But mostly, he’s been my great, good and true friend for 30 years now, and I hope for at least that many more. Happy birthday, John.

P.S. In one of those twists that I just love, he shares his birthday with Helvetica. Typically, he has an opinion about Helvetica: “ubiquitous, beautiful, and intolerable in its ubiquity.”

P.P.S. Don’t ask him about Optima.

Kate and I are headed out of town for a couple of days. (I wish for: Florida. I settle for: Columbus.) But we have some bloggage for y’all to chew on in our absence:

I don’t know what to say about Don Imus that won’t add to the general cacophony surrounding a story that isn’t really that important in the grand scheme. (Number of Imus-related stories in yesterday’s Free Press? Four. Number of stations that carry Imus’ show in Detroit? Zero.) I used to listen to the show and I liked it, but I also winced a lot. I always thought of Imus as a palate-cleanser after an hour or so of NPR, the guy you listened to on the way to work who prepped you for a day of office politics. So I don’t really have anything to say, but that’s OK, because two of the best things I’ve read are Doghouse Riley’s and Lance Mannion’s.

This is for newspaper people only, so be forewarned: When Neal Shine died last week, at first I couldn’t understand why I felt so sad — considering I didn’t know him or work for him. And then it dawned on me, as it did on Jack Lessenberry. It’s about the death of newspapers, not one man. And this passage, about the role Shine played in the tragic strike of 1995, made me wince:

He had worked for (Knight Ridder) his entire life, and they had promoted him from copy boy to publisher. Threatening to fire people he had known for decades must have given him enormous pain, but it was something he felt bound to do.

Where his tragic mistake lay was in thinking that the modern corporate newspaper company appreciated and valued loyalty. Indeed, Knight Ridder mostly undervalued Shine. They never gave him the top newsroom position (executive editor), probably because he was from Detroit and never had worked elsewhere. Indeed, he had to help a succession of out-of-town bosses find Woodward and try not to unduly embarrass themselves.

And now, I must hop to and drive south. Escaping — strangled sob — a winter storm warning en route.

Posted at 10:53 am in Friends and family, Media |

32 responses to “Happy birthday to you.”

  1. brian stouder said on April 11, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I think Lance Mannion missed the mark. The problem isn’t that Imus is a rich white guy asking for a pass since he’s done lots of good works; the problem is Imus made a hurtful racist remark on the radio – to millions of people.

    If it slides on by, then it becomes another bit of comfort and acceptance for racists, and another accepted offense against a general group of individuals.

    Imus deserves all the sanctions (including losing his gig, if it comes to it) he gets, without regard to his skin color or his bank account – but because he has a big megaphone, and therefore a big public responsibility

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  2. Kirk said on April 11, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Jerk radio entertainer says something typically outrageous that’s good for business.
    Jerk radio entertainer gets loads of free publicity.
    Wronged party plays into his hands by holding press conference and private meeting with him.
    Lazy media turn it into a Matter of National Concern.
    After well-publicized suspension, radio entertainer’s audience is jacked up by people who have nothing better to do than wait to hear what he says next.

    Imus, Glenn Beck, Howard Stern, take your pick. None of them has anything to add to the dialogue; they are entertainers who say whatever it takes to get listeners, too many of whom take their drivel as gospel. The best thing we can do is ignore them.

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  3. LA mary said on April 11, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    “My guess is that a couple of shriveled-dick overpaid white guys say “nappy-headed ho” on the radio because they think they’re being hip.”


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  4. cce said on April 11, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    A beautiful tribute to your friend on his birthday, Nancy.
    Also, just thought I’d share that my local forecast calls for snow and rain tomorrow and “several hours” of sun on Friday. This Spring has been so undeniably crappy that we are now measuring our sunshine in hours.

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  5. Connie said on April 11, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    I swear I drove to work (5 miles, 12 minutes) in blizzard conditions this morning. And still coming down. At work we had already put away the branch’s snow blowers and turned the Main building heat over to fresh air. It was turned back on last week sometime. I have wilted lilac bushes, tall chives collapsed to ground level, and haven’t even had the nerve to check those day lilies that were about 8 inches tall. I’m driving to far northwest Chicago Friday evening and back again Sunday. (Big quilt show Dorothy) Driving through and around Chicago is bad enough without bad weather.

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  6. czucky Dimes said on April 11, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Kirk(previous comment) seems to be smelling the same thing I am: Namely, that this Imus thing is some kind of a put-up job. Come on now, really, how can you take any of this seriously when Imus apologizes to the Jew-baiting con man and race hustler Al (sorry, The Reverend Al) Sharpton? Mr. Sharpton’s track record of the past twenty or so years should be enough by itself to cause anyone with half a brain to dismiss this whole episode as total bullshit, but nooo…. Here come “Doghouse Riley” and Lance Mannion to straighten us out as to the real problem: “shrivel-dicked overpaid White guys”. WTF? Please. That sort of navel-gazing drivel belongs on the shithouse wall.

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  7. Dorothy said on April 11, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Ahh Connie – you’re breakin’ my heart mentioning the quilt show! I wish I had the chance to see it. I miss really big shows. One of these days I’ll just have to bite the bullet and fly to a big city to see a big show.

    Did I mention the other day that the peach tree crop around here is ruined for the year?

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  8. LA mary said on April 11, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Al Sharpton isn’t alone in finding Imus’s trash talk offensive, and it’s more than trash talk. It’s either seeing how far he can go making racist statements, or it’s simply two stupid old farts trying to be funny and not realizing how offensive they were. Either way, it’s more than another Anna Nicole/astronaut in a diaper distraction, but less than the war, Katrina, and the health care situation.
    Imus gets powerful people on his show, and that lends him some credibility and weight. He’s not Colbert, ridiculing a type. He’s himself, and he and those who yuk it up and use his show for publicity, need to know what message they are putting out there.

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  9. MichaelG said on April 11, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    I think Dimes’ point was not that Sharpton was offended by Imus’ remarks but that Sharpton is just as big a piece of human effluent as Imus. I would tend to agree. I don’t know which of the two is worse.

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  10. LA mary said on April 11, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    My point is Al Sharpton’s opinion is irrelevant. What was said was offensive.

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  11. MichaelG said on April 11, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Oh, for sure, Mary. Nobody would dispute that. As far as I am concerned Imus should be fired. I just don’t like the way this kind of thing seems to lend legitimacy to Sharpton.

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  12. LA mary said on April 11, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Does it? I think most people take Sharpton for what he is. He gets the attention, though. I think Imus should be taken off the air if people stop listening to him. He’s allowed to say anything he wants to say, really, but I can be as vocal as I want to be about why I don’t listen to him, and I can hope advertisers hear me.

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  13. Joe Kobiela said on April 11, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Just a quick question Nancy,
    I was wondering your or anyone elses take on the Duke Lacross case. I see where all the charges have been dropped. I seem to remember those kids getting slammed pretty bad on this board. I keep waiting for an apology from the media and or the naacp, and all the other groups that were quick to judge these kids. So far nothing. How do you get these kids life back?

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  14. nancy said on April 11, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    Well, just searching “lacrosse” and “duke” on my own site, I came up with precisely one post, which consisted of two links, and the only specific comment was by you, Joe. So I don’t know if “slammed pretty bad” really fits.


    It’s a terrible thing, and I don’t know how the players get their lives back, although you could argue they weren’t lost. The doubts about the case were raised pretty early, and it’s been slowly delaminating since. Lots of people are accused of crimes they didn’t commit, and most don’t get the state attorney general going on national TV to exonerate them. I heard plenty of coverage on my drive today.

    But it’s a very bad thing, that’s for sure. No defense of truthiness here.

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  15. czucky Dimes said on April 11, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    Apologies for the excesses in the Duke lacrosse team affair need to start with DA Mike Nifong, along with the various “Concerned Black Students” type groups which organized rallies in support of allegations that were obviously false and transparent from the start. My bet is that the silence from them will be overwhelming.

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  16. Joe Kobiela said on April 11, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    I apologise Nancy,
    With all the coverage this got when it happened, it all must have run toghether. I Just seem to remember a lot of people in the media talking about rich privlaged white boys and the like.
    The media was ready to hang these kids, with no proof and all, and any time anykind of defense was brought up, the media all screamed rich white boys.
    Am I wrong?

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  17. Marcia said on April 11, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Attention nnc.com commenters: I am once again being off-topic. Can y’all please come to my defense at the Tribune?



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  18. Bill said on April 11, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Good job with respect to J. C. Burns. Anne and I hope to see John and Sam soon OR ANYTIME ITS POSSIBLE. The have been in Michigan (we are in your old neighborhood in Ann Arbor) but it has been hard to get together.

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  19. Danny said on April 11, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    JC Burns. Happy Birthday and thanks for hosting Nancy’s website! I mean where else could we vent our spleens on all these varied topics in such a comfortable community.

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  20. Danny said on April 11, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    Well, just searching “lacrosse” and “duke” on my own site, I came up with precisely one post…

    Nance, you should have searched “nappy-headed ho.” I think that was how the discussion would have gone on this board.

    All be here all week, tip your waitresses 🙂

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  21. jcburns said on April 12, 2007 at 1:32 am

    Thanks to Nancy for such kind words, and to youall for being loyal to her place here on the internet(s).

    I had a great birthday, right down to the Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and the Sam’s Killer Brownies™.

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  22. Danny said on April 12, 2007 at 1:50 am

    Sounds excellent JC. I am usually not one for mint, but somehow reading your description made my mouth water.

    I’m usually in bed by now, but we are packing for a Carribean cruise. We leave Friday and decided to make this the crazy packing night. Actually, that was the plan. I finished, but Robin was too tired. Poor girl.

    Not to be a downer, but I lament the passing of Vonnegut greatly. I bet Nancy has a tale or two to share about him and knowing Mary, she probably used to shoot the breeze with him and give helpful writing hints when she’d run into him at her local grocery store.

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  23. Danny said on April 12, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Crap, man! Someone already update wikipedia with the following.

    Vonnegut died, at the age of 84, on April 11, 2007, after suffering brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks before. [1] And so it goes.

    Soon there must be a term for the action of immediately updating wikipedia. Mark my words, it will be part of our lexicon just as “googling” is today.

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  24. John said on April 12, 2007 at 7:48 am

    Is anyone else here bothered more by the “nappy haired” portion of the insult than the “ho” part? I grew up in the South (Marcia, I capitalized South just for you!) during the Sixties and heard that expression (said in anger/hatred) many times and often followed by an extremely offensive word (if you get my drift). Before anyone’s panties get twisted, I think that calling any woman a “ho” (or any of its variations) is insulting, demeaning and offensive. But somewhat the first part is worse (probably based on my life’s experience). The entire Imus debacle is disturbing on many levels. What he said was wrong, hurtful and disrespectful. Though, to pretend that if only we can rid society of one potty-mouthed imbecile, then sunshine would come streaming down and the flowers would spring forward is clearly delusional.

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  25. LA mary said on April 12, 2007 at 11:39 am

    I never listened to Imus so I didn’t know what sort of junk he was saying. He got a lot of respect and had a lot of big time politicians and media types as guests. Was everyone just yukking it up at his comments or was there the unspoken agreement? Was there the wink and elbow in the ribs that we all knew it was politically incorrect but we actually would have love to say the same things?
    The comments about Gwen Ifill, or the Williams sisters, Jeez. What a putz.

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  26. LA mary said on April 12, 2007 at 11:44 am

    I won’t let you down, Danny. I did not ever speak to Kurt Vonnegut, but I saw him on a beach in Shelter Island, NY, in 1972, with his daughter and then son-in-law Geraldo Rivera, attempting to get an outboard motor to work. Does this count?

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  27. Danny said on April 12, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Brilliant! You come through once again.

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  28. LA mary said on April 12, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    See? I’m reliable. I bet Kurt died happy that his daughter had divorced Geraldo before he became too Geraldoish.

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  29. Marcia said on April 13, 2007 at 7:20 am

    Thank you, John.

    Danny, I really hate you now. Caribbean cruise, he says.

    LA mary, you are so cool. Even if you wouldn’t hire me.

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  30. alex said on April 13, 2007 at 9:07 am

    If Imus had just called them lesbians instead of hos, public sentiment would likely have been as indifferent as it always is when people like Rush Limbaugh or Trent Lott or Dr. Laura go on gay-bashing rampages.

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  31. brian stouder said on April 13, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Alex – I might have agreed with you a day or two ago; but a lot of commentary has focussed on the “nappy headed” descriptive, and more or less ignored the “ho”; and many also reacted to the fact that the target – a high-achieving group of athletic women – had done nothing to invite such hurtful remarks, other than playing well in a national tournament.

    Dunno – but I suspect “nappy headed dykes” would have landed Imus right where he is just the same

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  32. LA mary said on April 16, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Marcia, I would hire you in a heartbeat. I need experienced NICU nurses, and you know how scarce you guys are.

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