Dull and duller.

For a place where ideas are supposed to be exchanged in a lively manner, most newspaper editorial pages are, well, not.

The one in Columbus, when I was there, was the last stop before retirement, the place for loyal but lame geldings to put their whitening muzzles to the lush grass for the last couple of years, and be asked to do no work more difficult than carrying the children around the pasture, and have I mixed enough metaphors? (I’m told it has since improved. Considerably.) One of the young newsroom guns used to publish an equal parts scathing-and-fun internal critique of the paper, and did a hilarious takedown of Dispatch editorials. At least twice a month the page could be reliably counted on to take note of an approaching holiday, welcome it, and hope it heralded good things. I remember one such headline: Bean Can Day Awaited. Readers, do you know that “bean can day,” in quotes, does not turn up a single result in all of Googledom? Could that aging scribe have been having his own joke, turning in an editorial for a holiday entirely born of his imagination, waiting to see if it would run? I think so. He was like the National Lampoon’s Penthouse parody, where the copy around the centerfold, month after month, was the text of the writer’s resignation letter, never accepted because it was never read.

My friend Leo does his best with what he has to work with in Fort Wayne, and that’s not bloody much, but even in the high-cotton days, I wondered about the paper’s peculiar attachment to certain writers, both local and syndicated. I think we had to have been among the last papers still running the vile Joseph Sobran, years after William F. Buckley himself had cashiered the anti-semitic bastard from the National Review. (Here’s a recent effort, “Sodomy, Abortion and the Forces of Hate,” in which he refers to our “mulatto president” — still swingin’!) And then there was the uniquely awful Thomas Sowell.

I don’t think this takedown of his latest book can be improved upon, so I’ll just link, quote a passage or two, and encourage the rest of you wallow in it the way I did:

Even jeremiads should have their joys; there is something so wonderful about being a writer and a critic that delivering even bad news can be a source of unbearable pleasure. But Sowell takes no joy in anything he has to say: his tone is as dour and depressing as his conclusions. I understand that the man is a conservative, but can’t he crack a smile? Sowell is such a plodder that even sarcasm, conservatism’s reliable and sometimes amusing old ally, is beyond his reach.

This business of dreary writing escapes me. True, writing can be a torment. But then there is the payoff: the unexpected insight, the sly pun, the implication left dangling for the reader to run with. Did Sowell’s research assistants, one of whom has worked for him for two decades, ever hear him shout with joy? Did he ever run into a colleague’s office bursting with enthusiasm about a brilliant sentence that made a whole chapter hang together? I cannot believe it. There is no grandeur in Sowell’s words, no sign of human creativity, no dream or fantasy of immortality. Sowell writes as if called to grim duty.

It’s that good all the way through. I love a piece like this that singles out something you hadn’t thought of but, once it’s pointed out to you, hits you like a sledgehammer. In focusing on Sowell’s unique joylessness, he puts his finger on what’s wrong with so many newspaper editorial pages. Leo frequently pointed out that the death of oxygenated editorial pages tracked with the rise of the one-newspaper town, that the monopoly on print advertising led to the current model of point-counterpoint, on one hand/on the other hand, and what does the future hold? Only time will tell. Whatever. That doesn’t explain how Sowell found such a comfortable home on his page, but Sowell certainly towed toed the ideological line, if also being as boring as dry toast.

Joyless — that’s exactly the word for it. Elsewhere in that story I learned with amazement that Sowell has published 46 books. Forty-six! As Wolfe notes:

I confess to not having read them all. But I have read enough of them to know that Sowell is not one for changing his mind. Although he claims to have been a Marxist in his youth, his published writings never vary: the same themes—the market works, affirmative action does not work, Marxism is wrong, and, yes, intellectuals are never to be trusted—dominate from start to finish.

I’ll say. Ironic that Sowell writes like a mirror image of a good Marxist apparatchik in Stalin’s Soviet Union, ain’a?

While we’re on the subject of writers, two recommendations before I leave:

This NYT piece on the discovery of a major influence on William Faulker — a diary kept by a plantation owner who was an ancestor of a childhood friend — is full of great details, not the least of which is its description of the diary itself:

The climactic moment in William Faulkner’s 1942 novel “Go Down, Moses” comes when Isaac McCaslin finally decides to open his grandfather’s leather farm ledgers with their “scarred and cracked backs” and “yellowed pages scrawled in fading ink” — proof of his family’s slave-owning past. Now, what appears to be the document on which Faulkner modeled that ledger as well as the source for myriad names, incidents and details that populate his fictionalized Yoknapatawpha County has been discovered.

The original manuscript, a diary from the mid-1800s, was written by Francis Terry Leak, a wealthy plantation owner in Mississippi whose great-grandson Edgar Wiggin Francisco Jr. was a friend of Faulkner’s since childhood. Mr. Francisco’s son, Edgar Wiggin Francisco III, now 79, recalls the writer’s frequent visits to the family homestead in Holly Springs, Miss., throughout the 1930s, saying Faulkner was fascinated with the diary’s several volumes. Mr. Francisco said he saw them in Faulker’s hands and remembers that he “was always taking copious notes.”

And, finally, another NYT story on another celebrated author, this one 17 years old and German, who is battling plagiarism accusations after her hot book of the moment was found to have lots of cutting and pasting from other sources. This strikes me as a rather ballsy defense, however:

Although Ms. Hegemann has apologized for not being more open about her sources, she has also defended herself as the representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” said Ms. Hegemann in a statement released by her publisher after the scandal broke.

In other words, the sampler’s excuse, i.e., I took that previous thing, yes, but I made it my own. Feh. People who say there’s no such thing as originality are, what’s the word? Unoriginal.

Finally, a good ChiTrib piece on the death of a lesbian bar. A little melancholy, but not — the story points out that as the gay community is welcomed into the mainstream, it has less use for bars as community centers. Anything that gets people out of the smoky air and into the light can’t be all bad.

OK, I’ve prattled on too long and I have much work to do. Enjoy the weekend.

Posted at 9:13 am in Media, Popculch |

68 responses to “Dull and duller.”

  1. susan said on February 12, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Hmmm, Sowell dragged that ideological line with him to absolute dreariness? Or did he mark that line with his toe, boredom on one side, Conservative joylessness on the other? I guess that could work either way.

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  2. coozledad said on February 12, 2010 at 10:09 am

    The youthful Marxist ideologue may as well wear a t-shirt that says “You are now suffering through the infantile babble of a political theory neophyte. You happen also to be looking at a future middle management follower who will spout doctrinaire Republican horseshit when he’s sober, and everything from holocaust denial to the need for poll taxes when he’s got a pint of Scotch in him. He will never occupy any middle ground between the two extremes. Please punch him repeatedly now.”

    I think I’ll work a few of these shirts up. Any suggestions for the typeface?

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  3. Deggjr said on February 12, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Sobran & Sodomy: Ezekial 16:49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

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  4. Jeff Borden said on February 12, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I’m not sure I would trade the grim, gloomy Thomas “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” Sowell for the calculated combination of know-nothing conservatism and pop culture produced by Jonah “Of Course, I’m Cool Because I like ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Star Trek'” Goldberg, who plops onto the Tribune’s op-ed page once per week. I find his writing as flimsy as his thinking, which is going some, and chafe at his lack of any real reportorial work before he became a pundit.

    Whatever you may have thought of the old lions, most of them worked as reporters at one time or another. Goldberg parachuted into his job at the “National Review” because of his mom, Lucianne Goldberg, and the role she played in the Monica Lewinsky story. I wouldn’t trust Goldberg to report on a two-car fatal, but he pontificates from the pages of some of our largest papers.

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  5. del said on February 12, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Great post Nancy. There’s an editorial page in Detroit that drives me to distraction but I usually bite my tongue about it. Very frustrating. Another thing, why must we deal with these backwards editorialists on all of our local TV and radio shows too? They’ve got nothing to say.
    Send me one of you T’s cooz.

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  6. Jason T. said on February 12, 2010 at 11:24 am

    When I worked for Richard Mellon Scaife’s Tribune-Review, it was running both Thomas Sowell and Joseph Sobran.

    Sobran was finally bounced, but I think Sowell still runs.

    Sobran’s column always reminded me of Molly Ivins’ joke about Pat Buchanan’s speech at the Republican National Convention: “It sounded better in the original German.”

    Come to think of it, the Trib also uses Buchanan, Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. Their op-ed page is kind of like Dick Tracy’s Rogues Gallery.

    I can’t think of any syndicated columns on the left that are quite as vile as those of Sobran, Sowell, Coulter, et al.

    It amuses me how the really vile left-wing stuff is confined to things like the People’s Weekly World, while the really vile right-wing stuff is acceptable in mainstream daily papers.

    Damned liberal media!

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  7. Supergay Detroit said on February 12, 2010 at 11:44 am

    The article about the closing of the lesbian bar in Chicago is a sign o’ the times, but I found it very interesting that the piece didn’t mention the role of the internet in the decline in bar attendance. It certainly has had a major impact on the vibrancy of the GLBT community in the Detroit area.

    Chicago’s LGBT scene is completely different from Detroit’s of course. But the lesbian scene everywhere is always kind of mysterious and amorphous and non-bar focused. I think the sadder story is the change in the Andersonville neighborhood. Still lovely, but those Chicago people, they looove to gentrify.

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  8. nancy said on February 12, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    My Chicago source says the last time Andersonville was in the news was when the NYT wrote that story about a bakery that told people their kids had to behave or else leave, which led to the usual national uproar. I guess some lesbians are into raising little tyrants, but that would be the tipoff for me that the neighborhood’s been given over to the breeders.

    There’s been a great deal written about gay male cruising via bars, but surprisingly little about the hard-core lesbian bar scene, particularly back in the day. I did a story after the last census, which was the first to measure same-sex domestic-partner households, and got off on a fascinating tangent with a middle-aged dyke about the bad old days, when the police would raid their bars to see whether patrons were dancing with one another or wearing men’s clothing. That was one of those roust-able offenses once upon a time, and turned on details like which way your shirt buttoned and whether your breast binding counted as a bra.

    This, I must remind everyone, is the state of affairs some in the conservative movement would like to return to. No, they don’t want to lock up gays, just shoo them back into the shadows where they belong.

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  9. Jenine said on February 12, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    In my small Kansas city the editorial column is the place for the paper’s owner (third generation) and local heavyweight to tell us what he thinks the city and the university should be doing. There are longstanding feuds with university officials and some good old fingershaking. I never can tell exactly what’s going on, there seems to be plenty of history and subtext. Maybe if I’d grown up here.

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  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 12, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Cooze — I’d say Comic Sans.

    Nice catch, Degg, on the Ezekiel ref’n. I’ve had some fun with Biblical inerrantists on that basis.

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  11. beb said on February 12, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I wonder if the dourness of Sowell’s columns have anything to do with the lack of funny from most conservative comedians.

    I have to wonder how Ms Hegemann got published in the first place. Where the plagurisms small and scattered throughout the book? Or was simply no one reading the manuscript?

    Wearing man’s clothing once was a roustable offence? I’m curious how far back in time we’re talking about. I just never got the whole thing about gay and lesbian bars being a threat to society. Shirley, the police have better things to do?

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  12. nancy said on February 12, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Gay bars were considered a threat to public morality, if not safety, Beb. Keep in mind how many cops are Catholic, although other churches played their part, as well. Cross-dressing was, as I said, one of those selectively enforced offenses used to clear the decks when the cops were feeling ornery. A wife could go to the grocery with her husband’s shirt knotted at the waist with impunity. Is this a great country, or what?

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  13. paddyo' said on February 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I agree with del — a most superior blogpost today, Nancy . . . I’m sharing with other J-friends, present and former. They oughta rename the edit pages of most newspapers the Dead Letter(s) Office . . .

    Cooze — the list of fonts in my version of Microsoft overflows with possibilities: There’s Elephant, of course. But how ’bout Old English, Wide Latin, or just Goudy Old Style? VERY old style . . . Papyrus or Parchment, perhaps?
    I see there’s also an ALL CAPS “Circus”-type font online appropriately named Pointedly Mad. That’ll do. . .

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  14. Kim said on February 12, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    I cannot read the words “lesbian bar” without thinking of this or the time my friend Sues and I (heterosexuals) ended up in a lesbian bar for a beer. I realized it before Sues, who left to use the bathroom and then came back quickly and whispered, “Am I a pointer or a setter?”

    If you ever get a chance to see Jonathan Richman (the singer in the video), do it. Yes, he was the “chorus” guy in “There’s Something About Mary.”

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  15. Sue said on February 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Nancy mentioned that she liked that “Man’s Last Stand” superbowl commercial. I kind of prefer this one, a nice little comeback to those poor, poor men:

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  16. coozledad said on February 12, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I was just rereading ‘We have Always Lived In The Castle’ for about the sixth or seventh time and finally noticed the dedication, to Pascal Covici. It was interesting to find out he was the only publisher who would take “The Well of Loneliness’,and apparently caught a lot of grief for it. I wish the Right would clarify which golden past they would like us to return to.

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  17. MarkH said on February 12, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Brian, Jeff Borden, others —

    I don’t always agree with Eugene Robinson, but at least he agrees with me, re: SWMNBN.


    Even slow train wrecks are fascinating, as we’ll all see.

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  18. MichaelG said on February 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    One day back in the ’70s when we lived in San Francisco, I, along with my then wife and a girl friend of hers, took the N Judah line to a garage to pick up our car. There was a bar across the street and the women decided to go have a beer while waiting for me to ransom the car. When finished, I parked the car on the street and went into the bar to join them. The female bartender’s orientation was obvious in her husky build, DA, man’s tee shirt with sleeves rolled, levis and attitude. The girls sat at the bar grinning at me. The bartender pointed at the door and 86’d me. No men allowed in the bar. I had to stand out on the street waiting for the smirking sisters to finish their beers. They were still grinning when they came out and they hadn’t hurried either. While none of us had known the place was a lesbian bar, my wife and her (straight) friend sure derived a lot of amusement rubbing my face in it.

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  19. Deborah said on February 12, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    MarkH – I agree with Eugene Robertson a lot and that article is no exception. Thanks for linking to it. It made my day.

    I had never heard of Sobran or Sowell before today. I looked them up on Wikipedia. Shows what a bubble I live in. I just don’t read that stuff. I’m not even subjected to it in the normal course of my life. It’s not that I avoid it I don’t even know it’s there. Now I do. I will have to start avoiding it.

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  20. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Coozledad, that’d be the Adam & Eve pre-apple golden past. It’s in the Book!

    Paddyo’, is there a font type called “Wide Stance”?

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  21. MarkH said on February 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Brian Stouder! Your wait is over!


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  22. ROgirl said on February 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    If SHWMNBN does run, will it be as a Republican or the leader of the Tea Party movement? Doesn’t seem like the establishment Republicans (what’s left of them) would take kindly to her presence in the election either way.

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  23. brian stouder said on February 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Mark, thanks for the Robinson link; he’s always a treat to read – and a fine public speaker, too (he came here last year before the election).

    As for O’Reilly, he may well burnish his cred as the ‘voice of reason at Fox’ (as one of the Comedy Central guys joked) – if he makes a serious effort in his portrait of President Lincoln.

    But beware! – the right wing fever swamps (think Joe Sobran/Worldnet Daily/Human Events, et al) think Lincoln was a horrible tyrant, and that the antebellum South was right! (She Who Must Not be Ignored was tossing around the term “secession” to cheers in Texas, where a candidate for governor openly advocates for “Nullification” and “Interposition”)

    edit: I just followed the O’Reilly link and found that he is writing about the assassination of Lincoln! Hah! – So he WILL finesse the right wing fever swamp crowd, that pays his check. It’s a double-bonus: first, the book will presuemably BEGIN with the death of the “tyrant”; and second, he can tout the very swift and efficient operations of MILITARY TRIBUNALS, ending with a MASS HANGING!! Woo Hoo!! (and never mind about Mary Suratt)

    It is somewhat odd that the Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity Hisownself would pick Lincoln’s birthday to announce his book about the murder of our greatest president, but whatever.

    (If you want to read a good book about the subject, American Brutus is hard to beat)

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  24. Jeff Borden said on February 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Mark H.,

    Thanks. This column is of a piece with my theory she will never seek office again. And, as noted a few days ago, I do not find She Who a scary figure. It’s the people who think she ought to be president that freak the shit out of me.

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  25. Kirk said on February 12, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Editorials outlived their usefulness generations ago. When a newspaper runs an editorial endorsing McCain, many Obama fans assume that the news coverage will be slanted accordingly, which just makes the job of honest journalists that much more of a pain. I don’t read out editoprials becvause I dopn’t want to know what they say. I say get rid of ’em altogether.

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  26. nancy said on February 12, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    A well-crafted editorial can be useful, but the endorsement is definitely a relic — the spats and monocles of journalism.

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  27. Julie Robinson. said on February 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    I look for Palin to become like Ross Perot or Ron Paul–a right wing crank who is trotted out every now and then for the true believers, but with no realistic chance of winning any elections.

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  28. Jeff Borden said on February 12, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I agree on principle, Nancy, but the Tribune threw down the gauntlet to voters in the weeks and months leading up to Feb. 4 primary, begging them to toss out the frauds and crooks and demand better representation.

    A whopping 27% of registered voters turned out. The usual suspects were chosen. Very few ripples of any kind.

    And those voters selected a man –who has since dropped out of the race– to be the Dem lieutenant governor candidate, who had been charged with holding a knife to the neck of his prostitute mistress, shot up anabolic steroids and had a self-admitted rage problem.

    I wonder if anyone even reads them any more?

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  29. Kirk said on February 12, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    That’s part of it. People don’t read ’em. Use that space for more comics or more letters to the editor.

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  30. Sue said on February 12, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Look, folks, Sarah won’t run. She won’t speak unless someone pays her and she would have to be giving speeches all the time, for free, if she campaigns. There is a good possibility that she left the Gov’s office because of mounting legal bills over those “frivolous ethics violations”, and she has probably found out by now that the White House does not actually have a ‘Department of Law’ to ‘automatically throw them [ethics violations] out’, so she might realize that a stay in the White House on her terms will leave her with more legal bills than her time as governor. It takes money to run a campaign: the big money will stay with electable candidates and it’s yet to be determined if Tea Partiers support the Obama model and are willing to put a president in the office one $15 donation at a time.
    It would be fun to watch, though. She’d lose her luster fast.

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  31. MarkH said on February 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Jeff B. @24, Julie @27 and Sue @30 —


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  32. Jeff Borden said on February 12, 2010 at 6:05 pm


    The Tribune just followed the lead of so many other papers and sliced the width of the daily paper substantially this week. This meant axing several comic strips including two of my favorites, so yes, I would happily trade the tripe usually found on the editorial and op-ed pages if only those dirty, rotten &#%&#*& bring back “Get Fuzzy” and “Lio.” Instead, they retained strips that have not generated a laugh since Nixon was in office. Perhaps someone can explain to me the inner comedic musings of “Cathy?” Or “Broomhilda?” or “Hagar the Horrible?” Or the musty reruns of “For Better or Worse” and “Classic Peanuts?” Kee-rist. If you wanna go for golden oldies, can they rerun Gary Larson????

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  33. Kirk said on February 12, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    They canned “Get Fuzzy”? That is a crime. As for “Cathy,” I think I even saw Homer Simpson recently remarking on how unfunny it is.

    Agreed that Larson would be a fine recycle. And then there’s the greatest strip of all time, Pogo.

    And that reminds me that this blog gets major credit for introducing me to one of the Web sites that remains near the top of my bookmarks: the Comics Curmudgeon.

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  34. del said on February 12, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Back to lesbian bars. About 20 yrs ago, while dancing in a crowded bar I was stunned when a 20-something woman slugged my shoulder (she apparently considered me to be leering at her girlfriend, or, she just wanted to show off to her date). Didn’t say a word. Just slugged me. And I’m 6’2.” I then realized that there were mostly women dancing that night.
    A more disturbing dance incident occurred that same night with a hetero couple that shared a peculiar and immutable physical characteristic which I dare not mention but which, because of my disgraceful peurile prejudices, makes their actions more memorable. A Bon Jovi song came on and they immediately changed to a choreographed dance. The woman bent straight over and grabbed her ankles while slowly moving her behind. Her male dance partner moved behind her, stood upright and put his hands behind his head and smiled while slowly moving his hips proximately to the woman’s posterior. My girlfriend (now wife) and I stopped dancing and looked at each other with mouths agape. The lyrics to that disturbing scene still haunt us to this day . . . “Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame, you give love a BAD NAME.” Indeed.

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  35. coozledad said on February 12, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Jeff Borden: Maybe they could strike a middle ground:

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  36. Deborah said on February 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    I’m home sipping a martini (in my tiny glass) contemplating the three day weekend ahead. Ahhhhhh….

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  37. alex said on February 12, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Gary Larson’s single-pane comics made for some of the best greeting cards ever, I must say. And they’re retro enough to be cool again. Hope you’re listening, Mister Larson. I absolutely hate the generic Hallmark shit in the card aisles of the big boxes here in boonieland. The closest thing to a decent card store around here is the adult novelty store, where it’s possible to find something clever but not so easy to find something you’d give, say, Grandma or your boss.

    I actually dropped the Trib when it endorsed Dubya over Gore. Or maybe it was Dole over Clinton. Too many brain cells ago in any case. But as Jeff points out, even when the Trib makes the right calls nobody gives a flying fuck anyway.

    On the other hand, the Sun-Times was running Uncle Tom Sowell, maybe even still does. His joyless prose really stood out next to that of the more lively Bob Novak, who was every bit as much of a horse’s ass as Sowell, but obviously loved his job. That’s your liberal media for ya in the big bad liberal city of Chicago. They also featured a nasty witch named Betsey Hart who was an Ann Coulter wannabe but, like Sowell, more dour.

    Re: the death of a lesbian bar—

    I say there’s a silver lining. There’s a whole generation of gays and lesbians battling the addictions of drinking and smoking thanks to having no normal outlets for social networking. It’s a sign things are finally normalizing. It’s as heartening to me as it must have been forty-some years ago for southern blacks when the Voting Rights Act was passed. Something no one expected to see happen in their lifetimes if ever.

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  38. del said on February 12, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    alex, whenever I think of Gary Larson I think of B. Kliban. I just looked him up on wikipedia and there’s an entry that he invented a particular form of cartoon popularized by Gary Larson. If I can find something funny on the web I’ll post it.
    And Deborah, what a fine idea . . . cheers!

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  39. del said on February 12, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Here’s one that appealled to me as a young teen, alas, even today . . .


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  40. nancy said on February 12, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    After years of marriage to a woman who advocated for big families, “traditional” roles for wives (at least those lucky enough to be syndicated columnists) and, needless to say, trashed divorce, Mr. Betsy Hart walked out of his marriage. He lasted pretty long; I say the guy deserves a Purple Heart.

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  41. nancy said on February 12, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Oh, and these are the only greeting cards you need. A little steep for Christmas bulk sales, but so original.

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  42. alex said on February 12, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    del, that’s a running Kliban theme. I’ve got a coffee table book of his work someplace with a similar joke that was the subject of great mirth in this household, believe it or not, in the last few weeks. It depicts two flies dining at a table spreading margarine on their toast. The label on the margarine tub reads “I can’t believe it’s not shit.”

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  43. basset said on February 12, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Typeface, Cooz? Comic Sans. Gotta be Comic Sans:


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  44. MarkH said on February 12, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    basset – great video. Thanks.

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  45. Dexter said on February 12, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    It was a shock to me when, as a young man, I entered a bar on Lincoln Avenue that I had been in just a few weeks before when it was a young people’s singles bar, and it had been changed into a lesbian bar. There was no bouncer , no one there at the door, but by the head-turning ( “…is he a cop?”) stares I immediately realized it was time to about-face it and scram. I remember it was not far south of Wise Fools Pub, where I used to go on Saturdays for Blues and Jazz.
    I have been in all kinds of bars, fearless, rarely had many problems, but hell, I didn’t belong in there and was glad to leave.

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  46. Kirk said on February 12, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    A group of newspaper types were in St. Petersburg at the Poynter Institute about 9 years ago when about 12 of us decided to go drinking downtown. I don’t know who picked the place, but it had an outdoor balcony that hung over the sidewalk and we settled in. After a while, I noticed that the only men in the place were the ones in our party. But there were no stares, and everyone was cordial. And they had a refreshingly eclectic beer menu, so we stayed.

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  47. brian stouder said on February 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    Here on Lincoln’s birthday, one notes that is was announced that Michael Burlingame just won the 2010 Lincoln Prize for his 2000 page biography of our 16th president, a 30-year effort – which I can attest are marvelous and compelling books* –


    AND – he will be visiting the Allen County Public Library at the upcoming ides of March. Having yapped with him a little in Springfield last year, I can attest that he delivers a lively lecture, and passionately expounds (and defends) what he has learned (and what conclusions he has reached) over the years.

    It cost a few dollars to see him in Springfield; the ACPL thing will be free – so you simply cannot lose!

    *I disliked his exceedingly rough treatment of Mary Lincoln, and argued that very point with him. He spends more than 30 pages pounding the stuffing out of her, and making the rubble bounce; but following the footnotes, his sources push through the 1880’s and well into the 20th century. Old neighbors from the Springfield days, and others who seemed to be settling scores get cited again and again, commenting and reminiscing with this or that weekly or magazine (ie – tabloids!). But meeting the fellow, one could readily see that his style is simply relentless; and that could be mistaken for stridency.

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  48. cosmo panzini said on February 13, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Having had some first-hand experience observing the bar business, I’m a little skeptical as to the reasons for the closing of Star Gaze, as well as claims of harassment by the cops in the 60’s and 70’s. Bars serve the human need for socialization, but people don’t want to socialize in a shithouse; and judging by the picture accompanying the article, StarGaze was no bargain when it comes to atmosphere and pleasantness of the surroundings. Also, if non-lesbians were not treated cordially, which seemed to be the case, then the owners screwed themselves. As for the cops–every city in this country with its own police force has a police union. Said union regularly solicits donations from local businesses, with special attention paid to bars. If the owners of the bars balk at donating, for whatever reason, cops target them for extra-special treatment. Yes, I’m shocked too. On the other hand, if they play ball and donate, anything short of mass murder inside an establishment will generate a big yawn. As Uncle Walter used to say, “And that’s the way it is”.

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  49. Dexter said on February 13, 2010 at 2:12 am

    Didja ever kinda wonder what really happened at Stonewall, NYC, 1969?

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  50. alex said on February 13, 2010 at 8:31 am


    If you doubt the history, read this article I wrote in 1995. You have to wade through it a bit to get to the part about the mafia and the cops, but yes this is really what gay bars put up with back in the day:


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  51. coozledad said on February 13, 2010 at 9:10 am

    ‘Vell, I hate ze party, but I sure love ze boots.'”
    Great article, Alex.

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  52. MaryRC said on February 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    After years of mar­riage to a woman who advo­cated for big fam­i­lies, “tra­di­tional” roles for wives (at least those lucky enough to be syn­di­cated colum­nists) and, need­less to say, trashed divorce, Mr. Betsy Hart walked out of his mar­riage

    I’d never heard of Betsy Hart so I looked her up. Apparently her ex’s perfidy and her own blameless saintliness is a running theme in her columns. In one of her recent columns she describes how she tells her children that the divorce was all their father’s fault — none of that mealymouthed “no-one was to blame” for her. She may find out that trashing the absent parent to your kids can backfire.

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  53. deb said on February 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    eh, so nobody wants to talk about the younger generation and its laissez-faire attitude toward plagiarism? maybe no one cares, but we had an intern at our place last summer who found a plagiarized section (the second and third grafs!) in a freelance piece we gave her to edit. i was much more impressed with her than the freelancer, who breezily dismissed my concerns by saying, well, i just used what the source gave me. she submitted these grafs exactly as they appeared on the source’s website, so she either lifted them knowingly or never bothered to look at the guy’s website as part of her research. either way, she loses; we’ll never use her again. the intern, however, stole my heart and gave me hope for Kids These Days.

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  54. Kirk said on February 13, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Glad to hear that at least one plagiarist (a k a thief) will suffer some consequences.

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  55. alex said on February 13, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Oh, and cosmo—

    There are very sound business reasons for a lesbian bar to be exclusionary. Lesbians won’t go there if they think there’s any chance they’ll get pawed on by drunk men telling them they just need a good boning.

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  56. Dexter said on February 14, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I just could not watch the finals of the moguls after watching the first rounds and then the A and B finals in speedskating, but I see U.S.A. entry Kearney took a gold in the moguls. Ohno (U.S.A.) got a silver in the A final of the speedskating when two Koreans tripped up less than a second from the finish…that was something to see.
    When I saw that TMC was showing “The Last Picture Show” …it was over. I hadn’t watched it in ten years, and it is still as good as it was 39 years ago. I love that movie.

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  57. Dexter said on February 14, 2010 at 1:58 am

    happy v-day

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  58. cosmo panzini said on February 14, 2010 at 3:49 am

    Interesting and informative article, Alex, but unless I’ve missed something, it reinforces my point that if the cops get the payoff, they leave you alone. Sounds like Chicago is just like my city. As for exclusionary policies, no one in business for him/herself who possesses anything resembling a brain will base such a policy merely on gender.

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  59. alex said on February 14, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Unless you’ve missed something…

    Boy, cosmo, have you ever. No disputing that extortion is rampant, that it’s simply part of the cost of doing business if you’re going to own a tavern. My point is that gay businesses have historically born the biggest brunt of it, and even so were still raided when they couldn’t afford the escalating overhead. Furthermore, without exclusionary policies, they wouldn’t have been gay businesses. The whole point of having a gay bar was to provide a place where gays could meet safely without being “outed” in their communities or harassed by those who are hostile to gays. You seem to think that a bar is a bar is a bar and that it’s up to the clientele to duke it out over turf rights. In a perfect world, maybe.

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  60. Rana said on February 14, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Plus – to continue alex’s point – the penalty for a raid on a gay bar was much higher both for the bartender and the clientele, since merely being openly gay in public was grounds for being arrested for “immorality” – and that’s the sort of thing that, before most gay people were out of the closet, could end marriages, friendships, and careers. So such bars could be leaned on much harder than other ones, because there was no risk that they’d make a public stink about it, and if they’d didn’t give in to extortion demands, the threat against them – and their customers – was a lot more than merely losing a license.

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  61. MichaelG said on February 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    See my earlier post up at 18. Alex, Cosmo, Rana, the incident related there took place in the early afternoon. There were only a couple of other customers in the bar. Business models or whatever aside, I can tell you that I was tossed from the place within seconds of entering simply because I was male. Did I put up a fuss? No. I knew about gay and lesbian bars, had even drunk in gay bars and I understood what they were about. I’d also been in places that were male bastions. I could respect the owner’s desire and when asked to leave, I did so quietly.

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  62. Deborah said on February 14, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    My husband and I have been watching a collection of Almadovar movies, last night we watched “All about My Mother”, which so far has been my favorite. I had seen it years ago when it first came out at the theaters but seeing it again last night gave me a whole new perspective that I hadn’t picked up on initially, the telling of the story of his mother through the myriad characters that represented her different aspects, characters both male and female. The thing I like about Almadovar movies is that they show the amazing continuum of human sexuality and how normal that is.

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  63. beb said on February 14, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    deb at 53. Apparently unless the plagiarism involved a story about a gay bar it’s running below people’s radar this weekend. I wonder, though, to what extent that it’s a German story that causes the lack of interest.

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  64. Rana said on February 14, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Michael, I can understand your disgruntlement… because that is the sort of experience women experience an awful lot of the time when entering such establishments. Only it’s not being evicted by a bartender for being male, it’s being harassed by customers on account of being female and daring to enter a place with alcohol and men present. Bars aren’t just about making money from people buying alcohol; otherwise they’d just hand you your booze at a window and let you go somewhere else to drink. They’re also about providing a congenial atmosphere for their customers to hang out and socialize… and there are very few where lesbians can do that without being stared at by men and harassed by homophobic people (or for that matter, where women can do that, if they are alone and want a beer and don’t want to go to a restaurant).

    Although you are presumably a polite fellow, and not likely to cause such problems, the bartender was correct to play it safe and abide by a strict “no men” rule. Your female companions’ behavior, on the other hand… that was pretty rude.

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  65. MichaelG said on February 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Oh, Rana. I wasn’t disgruntled or put out in the least at being thrown out of the lesbian bar. I thought I made that clear above. I said that I understood and respected their position. I guess the point, if there was one, was the way my wife and her friend were so entertained by what happened to me and how they took their time finishing their beers and the big grins they sported as they watched. As soon as they sat at the bar they knew what was going to happen when I showed up. After all, they were women too, even if they were not lesbians, and they had been subjected to the type of treatment to which you allude. And my wife’s reaction didn’t bother me. I found the whole thing kind of amusing too. We all went home happy.

    By the way, I know a thing or two about bars. I’ve been going to them for over forty years. I can’t tell you how much we treasured a nice, quiet place where we could have a drink and talk.

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  66. Jolene said on February 14, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    People, I’m just stopping in to remind you of the wisdom of that great philosopher, Warren Zevon, who said, “Enjoy every sandwich.”

    My brother’s brother-in-law, a 56-year-old man, has just died of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. He and his wife were returning from a trip to Costa Rica, and their flight back to the Midwest was delayed due to weather. So, they’d gotten a hotel room and were going to spend the night in Atlanta. He told his wife he wasn’t feeling well, sat down on the bed, and immediately became unresponsive. He never woke up again. Tomorrow, his organs will be harvested for transplantation.

    Last week, anyone who took a look at his life would have called him a lucky guy. Successful career as a lawyer, a still-pretty wife, two grown sons, and two small grandchildren that he adored. Enough money to do pretty much whatever he wanted–vacation in Costa Rica, enjoy gourmet food and wine, buy art, be a volunteer fireman, whatever.

    Now he’s gone. He didn’t get to have a lot of life that he’d have enjoyed and used well, and a lot of people will miss him for a long time. Sometimes, things happen that just really suck.

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  67. brian stouder said on February 14, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    Jolene – sorry to hear that; death has been asserting itself in your family and extended family altogether too much, lately.

    Pam and I were just talking about the real value within her scrap-booking hobby. Life flies right past, whether or not we realize (let alone accept) that truth or not.

    This past weekend, I happened upon a random picture (one amongst hundreds, or even thousands) that we have, wherein four toddler-age kids are standing near some blooming flowers at gramma’s house. All the little ones are now grown and graduated and employed (thankfully), and two are married.

    The picture will only become more and more distant, even as it encapsulates (at least) two undeniable truths. That moment (unremarkable at the time) was real, and that moment (remarkable now!) was fleeting.

    Enjoy every sandwich, indeed

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  68. Crabby said on February 14, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Dick Francis, Jockey and Writer, Dies at 89

    “Dick Francis, whose notable but blighted career as a champion steeplechase jockey for the British royal family was eclipsed by a second, more brilliant career as a popular thriller writer, died on Sunday in the Cayman Islands, where he had a home. He was 89.”

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