23 January 2008
Three Dot Journalism Lives
Consider yourself lucky if you were around to read columnist Herb Caen's daily spread in the San Francisco Chronicle. He wrote America's longest running newspaper column and was a man who earned his fame before television or blogs. For sixty years he banged out six columns a week on an old manual Royal typewriter that he had probably used much of his career.
Many readers skipped the front page and passed by Sports to go directly to Caen's column, which stretched the full length of the newspaper's second section. Like many San Franciscans of his day, I read him religiously. Even more read his column once it was syndicated around the world. People did practically anything to get their names in the column. (I made it twice, and almost three times.) What made his work so great to read was that he somehow packed what seemed a hundred stories into a single column, all separated by dots, something he called "three dot journalism."
Although San Francisco's high society lived under Caen's microscope, his column never resembled what we have come to call tabloid journalism. Caen always took the high road and always remembered he was writing for the city he was in love with all his life, which he had dubbed "Baghdad-by-the-Bay." I don't know why, but I think of him often and find my own writing filling up with more dots than ever before...Maybe it is my age or the recent "festive season," but I have been greatly missing things and people who are no longer here.
In November my staff and I attended the funeral of the second employee to die while I have been a part of this company. The first was my all-time favorite guide Gator, who was murdered by his boyfriend, stuffed into a large trash bag, then into a big earthenware receptacle that people in the countryside use to collect drinking water during the rainy season. Many of our customers loved Gator as much as we did and I still get email from people who bring up his name fondly from time to time. One couple in Colorado even created Gator's own bedroom in their home in the hopes he might be able to visit some day. . .
Joe, who was once a long-time guide but eventually became an essential member of our office staff, left us in November. Besides sometimes-unbearable physical pain he suffered a great loss of dignity in the last few months of his life. Fortunately, his family rallied around him and their own lives have been changed as a result. His funeral and cremation ceremony were especially devastating to all of us. And no mother should have to attend a son's funeral.
Lucky us. We have a new government in Thailand. Unlucky us, they are the same scoundrels who were thrown out in the coup more than a year and a half ago. They have managed to form a new coalition government, even though Thailand's Supreme Court could very well force the party to disband and the new Speaker of the Parliament is being investigated for poll fraud charges. The New Old Party ran on the platform of "one bag of rice, one vote" and a promise to bring back the exiled former PM. His wife is already on trial for corruption. The new Prime Minister was sentenced some time ago to two years in the slammer for corruption, but he is free while his case is being appealed. They are all shining examples of moral leadership. And we wonder why taxi drivers cheat us.
Meanwhile, the free world is doomed. At least I am sure of it after watching the candidates for US president debate each other. America's Bush economy is going down the toilet and taking the rest of the world with it. The value of the dollar is slowly and steadily shrinking. Millions of Americans have no health care. Washington is putting the next generation or two in the poor house by funding a war that nobody wants and can not possibly be "won." Tens of millions of Americans are trying to get through high school without being able to read above a second or third grade level. Yet the debates have become embarrassingly petty.
Recently on international prime-time television, Clinton belittled Obama because he might have said something nice about Ronald Reagan at some point in his life. Obama went on the attack about whether or not she ever favored giving illegal aliens drivers licenses and the guy with the $400 haircut just stood and grinned . . . The other party seems to be embracing a geriatric war monger who is an admitted arch conservative cut of the same cloth as Barry Goldwater. He's probably a nice guy, but he is in his seventies, which will cause many to worry about whether or not he can survive a single term as president. (Wouldn't Dick Chaney love to be his running mate?) . . . Americans have decided that George W. Bush has been the worst president in the nation's history. Yet, it is big stretch of the imagination to believe that any of today's candidates will actually able to turn American around.
The good news is, Jerry Falwell is still dead and that bastard John Howard is out of a job.
A Reuters story this week claims that two out of three Australians are either already members of the Mile High Club or are waiting eagerly to join. Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines has posted 'no sex please, we're Singaporean' signs in the private cabins of the new Airbus A380 planes that are equipped with beds. Their only A380 currently in commercial service flies between Singapore and Australia, home of Mile High Fever. A study from a couple of years ago (it's here on my desk somewhere) claimed that Singaporeans had sex less often than people in any other country in the world. I can't wait for some of the more virile of the world's developed countries get their A380s. Free condoms on Qantas? Leather toys on Lufthansa? Let's hope so.
Thai Airways flight attendants and their union are up in arms about a new soap opera featuring stewardess characters who are less than angelic. The ladies engage in fisticuffs over a handsome pilot. Pilots engage in brawls over the ladies. It is hilarious, of course, but the real air hostesses do not like it a bit. All of the publicity being created by the real flight attendants will surely guarantee the show will be a smashing success.
Meanwhile, the Japanese are hunting whales again. They honestly believe that the world falls for their explanation about killing their quota for scientific research. That makes about as much sense as dispatching an annual quota of Japanese tourists for scientific reasons, something I have long pondered. Or what about setting a personal quota of Japanese-made products you refuse to buy this year?
I have used my own quota of dots already. Herb, I wish you were still around to help us find a way to make more sense out of what is happening in the world. Thanks for all the dots.