I read somewhere that domestic violence is abnormally high in Livingston, Montana. (And I fully realize this may be pure b.s., and something my brain thinks it read, but really just made up.) The reason? The wind. The wind comes pouring off the Yellowstone plateau pretty much all year, and grates on your nerves. Makes people hair-trigger, and they take it out on the people they share quarters with.
Monday was a windy day. I guess it was the remnants of the nor’easter that poleaxed the, um, nor’east. But it just blew and blew and blew. I had a meeting with an editor, and it sounded like the wind wanted to kill us — it was shaking the windows in fury.
I was driving home when I heard first word of events in Virginia. At that point the death toll was 22. But because no day can be so bad that there isn’t room for it to get a little worse, sometime this afternoon came the grim punctuation: A five-year-old girl in the suburbs here was killed on the playground of her elementary school, after being hit by a falling flagpole.
I don’t know what’s happening to me, but it seems like the bad news of any given day can always be made worse by the coverage of the bad news. I turned on CNN in search of a succinct here’s-what-we-know summation, and found Paula Zahn wondering “what sort of counseling students will need” to process their feelings. On the blogs, the usual yapping about guns — hey, let’s arm everyone! Then this will never happen again! (Advice: Move to Detroit, where that’s pretty much the case, and see how well it works. A woman shot at the tires of a truck she thought was tailgating her, and recently said she thought it was entirely justified.)
I’m confining my reading on this story to one or two excellent newspapers. I solemnly promise to avert my eyes from any chin-scratching columnists seeking to explain it all to me, to keep the TV turned off, to change to the hip-hop station if I hear Daniel Schorr rumbling to life on the subject on NPR. On this story as on no other, all I want are facts. I’ll handle my own analysis.
You want to know who finally said something last night that made me feel human again? Jon Stewart, genius. He launched his show by saying something about the day’s awful events, not frowning, just speaking honestly. And then he said something like, “But I’m not going to dwell on this tonight. I’m going to do what I always do. I’m going to repress it, try to forget about it, not think of it at all. And then, in 40 years, someone’s going to spill some juice, and I will explode.” How deft. Acknowledgment, rueful joke, sidestep, and not a patronizing note in the whole thing.
Maybe it’s just the wind getting on my nerves. If you need to vent, go ahead. But if Paula Zahn shows up, she is so banned.
Interesting how much TV reporters chap my ass at times like this. They come on for their live shots with their sad, furrowed brows and I want to throw a brick through the screen. Do they take an extra course in j-school on oleaginousness that we print types didn’t get? Even Brian Williams, a pleasant enough fellow, made me fume, throwing in all those random “tragics” and “shockings.” Like I can’t figure that stuff out.
And yet, study after study shows people feel a bond with their local TV newsies, that they believe them when they say “only on channel 5,” and “as we told you exclusively at 6.” When I was in newspapers, one year the editor rolled out a collection of graphic bugs that had to go in stories where they applied — “only in,” “follow-up,” “breaking,” etc. Nothing else changed, but research had shown readers — our readers, the ingrates — consistently believed TV gave them more exclusives, follow-ups and breaking news. As this was demonstrably false, the editor concluded it must be simply because they were always saying so. And so we had to say so, too.
Oh, don’t mind me. I’m in a terrible mood. It’s the wind.
Also, it’s the taxes. Do I owe? Why, yes. Do I owe a lot? Why, yes, if you consider a sum that would buy a halfway decent European vacation “a lot.” I’ll write a check today, and send it off by mail. Screw e-filing; let some clerk open the envelope and scan it in. Let them deposit my paper check and watch it plod through the banking system before it bears its fruit for continued warmaking on terror. And no, this isn’t making me consider becoming a Republican. The price we pay for a civilized society, etc. I console myself with the fact I made more money than I expected last year. Cold comfort, but.
Debuting on my blogroll with a bullet, I give you…Doghouse Riley on Tim Russert, etc. Yes, it’s Imus-related, but it’s also a more bracing dose of public comment than any honored by the Pulitzer board yesterday.
I was working the other night when the news of the New Jersey governor’s car crash first appeared on the NYT website. The story said he was injured, was being treated at a hospital, “expected to survive,” etc. Then it laid out the laundry list: broken femur, six broken ribs on both sides of his chest, broken sternum (!!!), etc. Well, this was obviously no run-of-the-mill accident. Or maybe it was, sans seat belts:
Do you know how we can tell the difference between people who were wearing their seatbelts and those who weren’t, at the scene of an automobile accident? The ones who were wearing their seatbelts are standing around saying “This really sucks,” and the ones who weren’t are kinda just lying there.
Jim Macdonald lays out the grim facts too many people still don’t want to face, preferring to be “thrown clear” instead.
Off to the post office. You know what I’ll be mailing.