Friday, January 25, 2008

The Clippings Box

Maybe I love to read newspapers because my love of writing began with journalism. Maybe it’s because I still think newspapers are the best source of information, or because papers like The New York Times are an excellent source of good writing. Perhaps the real reason is that a newspaper is rich with writing fertilizer. Tragedy, irony, absurdity, comedy – a newspaper has it all, every day.

I’ve got an old cardboard box in my office that holds my clippings collection. The papers multiply so rapidly that sorting through them yields forgotten treasures – everything from an article about the school crossing guard shortage in Las Vegas to a story about labyrinths. Here are some of the other things I found in my clippings box:

Drunken Lemurs
Score one for the First Amendment. Here’s the headline: “Judge sides with man fired over Dilbert comic.’” Seems that the Catfish Bend Casino in Iowa didn’t care for David Steward’s sense of humor. Steward posted a Dilbert comic in which the dialog states, in part: “Why does it seem as if most of the decisions in my workplace are made by drunken lemurs?” The judge characterized Steward’s action as an error in judgment as opposed to intentional. Drunken lemurs everywhere are outraged.

Mystical Book Experiences
Read Michelle Slatalla’s account of her attempts to find synchronicity in anonymous book exchanges (via in this NYT Article: “Love That Book? Then Set It Free.”

One More Reason To Persevere
Did you know that Elie Wiesel’s classic Night was rejected by 15 publishers? Read Rachel Donadio's NYT story: “The Story of ‘Night’

A Battle of Statistics
An NYT article by John Markoff said Steve Jobs (of Apple) feels Amazon’s new book reading device, Kindle, is DOA because 40% of Americans read one book (or fewer) every year. I took heart from an AP article by Anick Jesdaniun that says 62% of 18-30 year-old Americans use the library. Further proof that statistics couldn’t be more flexible if they practiced yoga.

Personal History

On November 23, 2007, USA Today (along with most papers) reported on the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assignation. In USA Today, the article was just a side-bar blurb. The brief story took me back to the 70s, to a car ride with my Uncle Newman and Aunt Thelma from the airport in Dallas-Fort Worth to their farm, just outside Ballinger, Texas. Uncle Newman pointed out the infamous book repository to me as we drove past it. I was maybe ten, and although I had heard of the assignation, at that time I had no idea what a powder keg of history it was. I was more interested in hearing about Bonnie Parker, of Bonnie and Clyde gangster fame, who was born in Rowena, a town in Runnels County not far from Ballinger. I suspect Uncle Newman knew that I’d appreciate his observation about the book repository later; he was a historian and writer. Now I understand that personal history intertwined with public events enriches both narratives.
Photo courtesy of Oláh Zoltán at Presumably, all these lemurs are completely sober.

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