A Shooting in Virginia

Vulnerable. Reporters are vulnerable. The camera lens and a notepad do not stop bullets. It was the first lesson I learned, inadvertently of course, when I started to work as a newspaper reporter, two decades ago.

By now, the entire country knows what happened today in southern Virginia. In an on-air moment that reads like the script treatment for a prime-time television crime show, a disgruntled former on-air personality barged into live coverage of a minor news story (an anniversary somewhere, a chamber of commerce-type story) that was being broadcast on the local station’s morning news show and shot and killed the on-air reporter and her cameraman and injured the woman being interviewed. From his position on the ground, the fallen cameraman turned his camera to face the shooter, and the image he broadcast made the shooter’s face known; it may be that the mortally injured cameraman’s last living act was one more report from the scene. Morning show viewers saw it live.

In the studio, the broadcast news staff of WDBJ7, a CBS affiliate, watched powerlessly and yet picked up the story, which now had three victims. In shock, they carried on. I watched for about an hour at noon and everyone there was doing amazing work. There will be a news conference at 2:00 p.m.

The reporter was named Alison Parker; she was 24 years old and had recently gotten engaged to be married to another young WDBJ reporter. The cameraman, Adam Ward, was 27. He was engaged to be married as well and today was to be his last day at WDBJ; his fiancee was in the production studio doing her job when she watched her boyfriend get shot.

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They, Those, Them

[He] sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millennialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse. … As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, [he] is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish.—Richard Hofstadter, Harper’s Magazine

The above passage was not written recently. It does not describe anyone in the news right now. It was written in 1964 and published the month of the Presidential election that year. Its title is “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Hofstadter was an historian who found himself concerned with the angry political rhetoric that was emerging that year and re-discovered that there was little new to it, that in fact a “style” of rhetoric could be identified that regularly emerged and re-emerged in our history.

The “paranoid style” is back this year in America.
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Fake Fate

Was it always to be thus, or might I have chosen otherwise?

At one point in “The Quest,” his modernist version of a quest romance told in 20 brief sections, the poet W.H. Auden derides occult fascinations as “an architecture for the odd.” Astrology, tarot, et cetera. Earlier, he writes of the future, “We pile our all against it when afraid/And beat upon its panels when we die.”

The particular sonnet, which in some editions is titled “The Tower,” but in Auden’s official Collected Poems is simply called number “IX,” concludes with a warning from magicians caught in their own tower:

Yet many come to wish their tower a well;
For those who dread to drown, of thirst may die,
Those who see all become invisible:

Here great magicians, caught in their own spell,
Long for a natural climate as they sigh
“Beware of Magic” to the passer-by.

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Jorge Luis Borges, August 24, 1899

Mark Aldrich:

The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges was born on this date in 1899. Here is a poster I made for the occasion.–Mark

Originally posted on The Gad About Town:

Translation 2008 by Manolis Antoniou, ( Photo montage 2014 by Mark Aldrich, The Gad About Town Translation 2008 by Manolis Antoniou, ( Photo montage 2014 by Mark Aldrich, The Gad About Town

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A Long Road

Every alcoholic in recovery has a collection of anecdotes that can be simultaneously heartbreaking, outrageous, and hilarious. Perhaps they are hilarious only to fellow alcoholics; perhaps they can not even be listened to by outsiders. For an outsider, most alcoholic anecdotes may as well conclude with the same dark punchline, an interchangeable rubber-stamped ending: “And then I got away with it again.” Or, “I didn’t die that time, either.” And then comes the next hair-raising—or eyebrow-raising—tale.

Every alcoholic in recovery is living a story with a weird ending, if they remain in recovery. It is that two-word pair there, “in recovery,” that provides the surprise, the weirdness, a period of life as surprising to behold as some of the antics, the many bizarre actions and activities and inactions and inactivities that were surprising for outsiders to watch unfold in the previous life.
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A Meal Fit for a …

I don’t know how science works.

To the best of my knowledge, electricity can be explained thus: Step 1, flowing water or wind turns a turbine which looks like a giant screw, and Step 2, I walk through my front door, pick up a black rectangle, punch a red button, and “Dah dahdah, dah dahdah,” Sportscenter is on. (I wrote technical documents—white papers—for electrical engineers for five years and instruction manuals that were used in home construction around the nation. You’re welcome. Expertise takes different forms, and mine is in forming sentences. The engineers supplied all the science-y numbers that make buildings happen.)

Cooking is among my top several favorite activities to pursue for when cooking is something to be done. I reminded my girlfriend of this recently:
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Jimmy Carter’s Moment

“The course of human events, even the greatest historical events, are not determined by the leaders of a nation or a state, like presidents and governors and senators. They are controlled by the combined wisdom and courage and commitment and discernment and unselfishness and compassion and love and idealism of the common ordinary people. And if that was true in the case of Russia where they had a czar or France where they had an emperor, how much more true is it in our own case where the Constitution charges us with a direct responsibility for determining what our government is and ought to be?”—Jimmy Carter, then Governor of Georgia, May 4, 1974, “Law Day.” University of Georgia, Athens, GA.

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