A ride on the time machine

(from my blog, Nov. 22, 2011; I adjusted the number of years that have gone by)

We had a substitute teacher that day. She was much older than our regular fifth-grade teacher at Elementary School No. 1 in Little Falls, N.J.

A little after 1:30 the principal, Mr. Laux, unexpectedly poked his nose into the room and announced that President Kennedy had been fatally shot in Dallas.

Everything went kind of numb then. The substitute teacher was sad and upset, but she told the story of when she was a little girl walking past the train depot and someone shouted down that President McKinley had been shot, 62 years earlier in 1901.

They let us out of school early that day. I remember riding my bike home and how bright the sun was and how the shadows of the trees stood out against the library on Warren Street. There’s something about the death of someone important that makes you appreciate being alive, I learned that day.

That’s pretty much the entirety of my memory of Nov. 22, 1963.

Just on an impulse I Googled Mr. Laux and found his obituary – he died only last year, August 2010, in Portland, Maine, of all places. He retired in 1972 and lived to be 91. He was responsible for kindergarten through fifth grade, I believe, and most grades had at least two sections, so he had to make that little speech a dozen or more times. That must have been a tough day.

It’s hard to believe that was 58 years ago now – who in fifth grade thinks they’ll ever be able to remember things that happened a half-century ago? That was why it was so impressive for that teacher to tell a story about 62 years earlier.

And now here I am passing along to you the story of a little girl walking past a train depot 120 years ago and hearing that the president had been shot. I wonder if that memory will be preserved again in another 58 years.

The end of journalism as I knew it

All my life as a journalist, I have tried to write in a way that was fair to all sides of an issue and masked whatever my personal opinion was, because the idea was to present the facts of a story accurately.

This is the authentic beginning of a news story that cleared the Associated Press feed the other day.

WASHINGTON (AP) — First, some blamed the deadly Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol on left-wing antifa antagonists, a theory quickly debunked. Then came comparisons of the rioters to peaceful protesters or even tourists.
Now, allies of former President Donald Trump are calling those charged in the Capitol riot “political prisoners,” a stunning effort to revise the narrative of that deadly day.
The brazen rhetoric ahead of a rally planned for Saturday at the Capitol is the latest attempt to explain away the horrific assault and obscure what played out for all the world to see: rioters loyal to the then-president storming the building, battling police and trying to stop Congress from certifying the election of Democrat Joe Biden.

Neither the writer of this AP story, nor whatever editor(s) read and cleared it for release, would have a job in a newsroom where I was asked to be in charge.

I don’t think I need to point out the places where the writer’s opinion bleeds through, do I? Hints: “a theory quickly debunked.” Words like “stunning” and “brazen” and “horrific.” This is the opposite of objective reporting.

There’s a place for this kind of writing in journalism, of course — in articles clearly marked “opinion” and/or “analysis.” I saw neither label in plain sight.

This is an example of why the average human being has lost faith in what has come to be known as mainstream media. At least non-mainstream media is straightforward about its agenda. There seems to be no one left in the business interested in telling the story straight down the middle.

The only way to get something resembling an objective view is to read several versions of a story and try to discern the objective facts that every side seems to agree on. For example, on Jan. 6 it’s clear that hundreds if not thousands of people entered the Capitol building, one person was shot and killed by a police officer, a number of people were injured and property damage was done. Almost everything beyond that is open to interpretation.

It always has depended on your point of view. In the past, at least, or at least in news stories I wrote, each point of view was presented with neutral language. I guess I’m an old fossil from another time.

Glad … for serendipity

I’m so glad we … had a serendipitous miscommunication.

I’ve been enjoying an early Christmas present — Paul McCartney’s New album, that is to say, the album McCartney released in 2014 called New.

A couple of weeks ago, Red asked me what I want for Christmas, I was stumped for a moment, and then I said, “Well, Paul McCartney has a new album coming out.”

That ended that discussion, until the other day when I casually remarked, “Well, Paul McCartney’s new album came out today.”

She gave me a curious look and said, “Uh oh, I think I may have made a mistake,” reaching under the tree and giving me a brightly wrapped box to see if she had.

Yep. Not being as tuned to (or interested in) pop culture as I am, she didn’t know I was talking about McCartney III, which was to be released Dec. 18. She just did a search for “New Paul McCartney album,” and the rest is now history.

We had a good chuckle, and I’m now playing New through for the third time. It has some very tasty stuff in it.

And as Christmas presents go, it’s more fun to get a surprise gift I love than exactly what I asked for. That’s the joy of serendipity.

The dead don’t vote

My dear old Dad will be voting Democrat for the first time ever next week: He passed away in July.

Dark humor, I know (Well, I laughed anyway), but it’s my contribution to the real problem about so-called election interference.

A county clerk said last week that she participated in a briefing with high-level security officials and learned there are confirmed attempts to disrupt the election, but here’s her key point: The attacks are NOT on the actual election results, which have more safeguards against tampering than McDonald’s has burgers.

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Journal entry after exiling social media

Anyhow, here we are. 4:50 p.m. Calm water over there, evergreen woods behind me, picnic table in front. And, as often happens when I try to write, I’m tired (because usually I’m writing in this thing around 4:50 a.m.).

I neutered my iPhone the other day, in hopes of clearing enough space to enable a software update. I’d ignored “out of storage” messages for a week or more until I couldn’t take a photo or make an audio recording, both of which are handy for my work.

Continue reading “Journal entry after exiling social media”