I confess: I spent too much time on Sunday picking a Mitch Albom column apart like some insane vulture, then decided (after a workout) that I really need to stop doing stuff like that. Direct your energies in productive directions! NO ONE CARES! That said, the column drove me insane. Because it was lazy and dumb and full of stupid usage errors. It’s about a 90-year-old federal judge, a local legend who stood up to both the Nixon and Bush 43 administrations, intersecting with every significant political and civil-rights career of the 20th century in the process. Only he doesn’t really tell you that, because he’s too busy painting word pictures like this:
“Hey, how you been?” Damon Keith will exclaim, his voice high and reedy and sounding like an excited kid permanently on the edge of discovery. It is not an authoritarian voice, not a James Earl Jones boom — not, perhaps, what you expect from a judge. Which is perfect. Because his whole life, Damon Keith has been defying stereotypes.
“Articulate” is inevitably applied to African Americans who don’t employ the usage and syntax of rappers. Corollary rule: The actual tone and timbre of their voices must be compared to either James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman.
Also, “authoritarian” is a very different word from “authoritative.” You could look it up.
But I will stop with that. Because this isn’t healthy, for any of us.
As I guess some of you have figured by now, we took a couple of days off and the Nall-Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere took off for Chicago. The visit to the University-of was mainly an excuse; I said I wanted to blow town for somewhere, anywhere, and wherever we went, we’d visit an institution of higher learning, to get the kid thinking on the subject, and that it did. UChicago, as it’s branded, would likely be on her reach list, but it’s worth the reach, in my opinion. She fears it would be four years of grind, but she did like the place. The curriculum of core subjects complemented with electives and major courses pretty much matches exactly what I think college should be, but then, I’m not the one who would be attending.
If nothing else, it was a good way to spend a snowy morning. Best moment of the trip: One of the kids in our sub-section was wearing a high-school letter jacket from a school in Arizona, festooned with patches that suggest he is a decorated football player. We entered the athletic facility and gathered in the trophy area for the guide’s spiel, a moment at which I was closer to an actual Heisman Trophy than ever before. The kid’s father asked, “Do the football players have their own gym?” Answer: No. He looked astounded, which astounds me. If the kid’s smart enough to get into UChicago and they traveled all that way, you’d think his father would know it’s not a football factory. Maybe their next stop will be Notre Dame, but unless the kid’s a place kicker, I don’t think he has the size for them.
Apologies if I didn’t call you when I was in town, and I’m looking at you, Borden. And John. And others. The only people outside my family I got together with were Eric Zorn and Neil Steinberg, columnists for the Tribune and Sun-Times, respectively, because Eric once said I should do that the next time I’m in town. We didn’t have time for lunch but we did have a beverage on Navy Pier after the two did their Friday radio gig. I reflected, once again, that the newspaper business might have been cruel from time to time, but I don’t regret many days I spent working in it, because when it was good, it was like sitting there on Navy Pier, talking about this and that with a couple of smart guys. Fun.
Which seems as good a time as any to segue to this item, which Jim Romenesko calls, with understatement, the most incredible newspaper apology ever:
The Cherokee Scout in Murphy N.C. apologized Friday for asking the local sheriff for the names of gun-permit holders and permit applicants. The paper calls its records request “a tremendous error in judgment” and apologizes to the sheriff for submitting it.
“We never meant to offend the wonderful people of this fine community,” says publisher David Brown.
Ugh. Times have changed.
Finally, the T-Lo red carpet also-rans. “Nothing says ‘Academy Award nominee’ like a dress that looks like a dirty dust ruffle.” Snerk.
And so the week is underway. I think I’ll watch a piece of my Valentine’s Day present — the entire, compleat, every-possible-minute collection of “Homicide: Life on the Street.” I can’t remember if Aunt Calpurnia ever gets hers.