Sorry I’m late today. Tuesdays are nearly as crazed as Mondays, but today wasn’t so bad, as I got to edit an intern’s story about the school board meeting last night, one of the last he’ll do for GrossePointeToday.com, and damn if he didn’t show noticeable improvement over the course of the summer. I can’t work with my interns in a traditional newsroom, where they could watch me work on their stories, observe staff interactions and generally learn the ways of the tribe. I have to handle them via email, phone calls and text messages, only occasionally face-to-face, and that’s a hard way to teach. But check it, the kid hit this one out of the park:
The bad blood continued to boil Monday night (July 25) as the Grosse Pointe school board’s schism widened in the wake of the superintendent search, this time over staffing cuts and the controversial Head Start program for Poupard Elementary.
No chairs were kicked this time, but there was name-calling and accusations. Board member Fred Minturn called president John Steininger a “bully,” while Steininger called out Minturn on missing more votes than any other board member. Steininger turned red in the face while talking about Head Start, as did Minturn. A meeting with a routine agenda ran past 11 p.m., with a full house watching every thrust and parry.
OK, I added “thrust and parry.” He said they watched with “shock and awe.” The fencing term is twee, but meh, it’s better than the other, if only marginally.
Who knows what a parry is? I took a few fencing classes, so I do: It’s the deflection of a blow, particularly in sword fighting. (I always scored the first point in my matches, because I came out after en garde with a quick poke to the chest. My parrying skills lagged, however.) Here’s another term I looked up recently: flotsam and jetsam. I know what it means — trash, basically — but why do they always go together like that? It has to do with maritime law. Flotsam is floating debris of a shipwreck, and is distinguished from jetsam, which describes that which was intentionally thrown overboard, or jettisoned, frequently in times of distress. I guess the distinction comes in when a court is sorting out claims on wreckage of value. But when it’s all afloat around the site of a sunken ship, it’s pretty hard to tell apart, so the words go together.
And that has been your dose of Arcane English Usage with Nance, for this Tuesday. I should have a show on public radio.
OK, Oslo. Let’s talk Oslo. Or rather, let’s talk after-Oslo. I’m going to refrain from piling on Jennifer Rubin, as richly as she deserves it. If you write a column, or a blog, sooner or later this will happen to you, unless you are an extraordinarily careful person, and if you are, you likely don’t have a column or blog (at least not one supported by someone else, that you get paid to write). It’s happened to me, and it’ll probably happen again. The internet wants immediate reaction and analysis, and if you provide it, sooner or later reality will bollix up your hastily jumped-to conclusions. Besides, Stephen Colbert took care of her last night, and that’s a place — at the end of Colbert’s sword — I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So I’ll give her a pass out of sisterhood, and instead make a few random observations:
Some are calling this guy a Norwegian Tim McVeigh, and that sounds about right. Also, he seems to be quite the autodidact, and named several American writers and websites that he found to be really on the beam, including Pamela Geller’s batty belfry, Atlas Shrugged, among others. It reminds me of the time, many years ago, when the talk-radio station I dabbled at (can’t really call it “work”) used to run an overnight show by some lunatic who raved about the Bilderbergers, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Rothschilds, the Federal Reserve — you know the type. I didn’t hear this call I’m about to describe, but my partner Mark did: One night a guy called and, with chilling certainty, told the host he was on his way to Washington to get things done on that front. He said he was carrying the right tools for the job, if you catch his drift, etc. The host, suddenly confronted with apparent evidence that someone out there was taking his carnival act seriously, started buh-buh-buhing, stammering and trying to keep two far-apart plates spinning — the one that contended every word out of his mouth, about stopping these bastards before they take the country down, was God’s honest truth; and the one that said this isn’t the way to do it, which ran counter to his fiery rhetoric about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants, etc. Mark, who keeps a sardonic twinkle in his eye most of the time, thought this was quite the entertainment. I don’t know how the call ended, but no one was assassinated in Washington that week, so I guess the caller changed his mind.
Anyway, when that happens — when a crazy person has taken your rhetoric and run with it — it seems that responding is a delicate matter. How not to do it: Sarah Palin’s poor-me act after Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting in April, Geller’s shrieking. How to do it: Bruce Bawer in the Wall Street Journal, who writes:
It is chilling to think that blog entries that I composed in my home in west Oslo over the past couple of years were being read and copied out by this future mass-murderer in his home in west Oslo. …In Norway, to speak negatively about any aspect of the Muslim faith has always been a touchy matter, inviting charges of “Islamophobia” and racism. It will, I fear, be a great deal more difficult to broach these issues now that this murderous madman has become the poster boy for the criticism of Islam.
Good to know.
I said yesterday I was hoarding links. Many have already been posted in comments, but lots of you don’t read those, so apologies if some of them are old to you. In no particular order:
Via Moe and Cooz, Charles Pierce in Esquire on the bomb that didn’t go off. A great, worrisome read.
Another great read, from Michael Kruse at the St. Petersburg Times, one of the last papers that does this sort of thing: How a woman can disappear in plain sight. Not news for anyone with mental illness in their family, but worth your time.
Neil Steinberg posted this on his Facebook yesterday, an oldie from 1997, but still fresh, as a case study in corporate cluelessness, the tale of how Quaker Oats wrecked Snapple. (Remember the Snapple lady, who read customer letters in commercials? She was fired by Quaker. Their “beverage consultant” told the company, “Not everyone in the country starts the morning with a bagel.” Gee, I wonder what that meant.)
One of the best Tom & Lorenzo posts ever, on Cathy Cambridge’s wedding gown.
Finally, worth a complete click-through: The insides of refrigerators, a photo essay. Includes one from Fort Wayne, but no clue who it might be.
And that is it, and that is all, and this is me, getting back to real work.