Good question, isn’t it?
I’m not going to answer it yet, because it would make my announcement seem a little self-serving. Yes, friends, it’s finally happened! Synergy! Synthesis! Brand consolidation! In a move that was as welcome as it was unexpected, I’ve been moved – you could almost say promoted – over to the StarTribune online division.
I’ll be developing new content, both video and audio, as well as blogging throughout the day in a new, improved, evolving Bleat! History buffs will relish the new “Then and Now” feature; podcast fans who want something new to hear on the way into work may enjoy my new “Constant Comment” feature, in which I read the stories and offer small editorial asides (think the MST3K approach, applied to a newspaper, spoken aloud.) Since the production costs on the podcast are nil, we’ve lined up some unusual sponsors who otherwise might not be able to afford print ads. (Comic book stores, online merchants, start-up sites, and other niche clients.) The video stuff I can’t quite describe yet, but I know the objective: get the clips into YouTube and beyond, with the StarTribune logo embedded in the corner for all to see.
Diner? Yes. Weekly. And perhaps a Joe-Ohio type serialized online novel, set in Minneapolis, using the old Star newspapers from the 30s to drive the plot; it'll be a way of promoting the new deep archive feature that makes the entire history of the paper, and hence the community, available as a searchable online resource.
In short, it’s everything I’ve been looking for. All these worlds are mine, except Europa! There are union rules about that, I gather.
Hah! Just kidding.
That didn't happen.
As it happens, they've killed my column, and assigned me to write straight local news stories.
There’s been some talk that I might leverage my mad web skillz into a tech beat, reporting on the Internet. But a local beat about the Internet? How many stories can do you about six guys in a loft coding a hot new start-up? And heaven forbid we have to illustrate them, because then you get the inevitable geek-by-the-screen shot. Look! He’s customizing the drop-down location menu so it defaults to the United States instead of Afghanistan!
I don’t want to write about the Internet. I want to write on the Internet. I’d rather develop content than report about content developers. It’s that simple, and it’s also a matter of recognizing my failings: I am not Biff Deadline, Ace Reporter. I can do long stories with lots of color, all aslosh with subjective opinions, but writing straight news - clearly, simply, briskly - is a skill I lack, and I take off my hat to those who've mastered that discipline.
My column will end a week from this Friday. (There’s a series of pieces I can’t wait to write.) After that, it's just-the-facts-ma'am - and I'll no longer be telecommuting, either. This means I will start burning my share of hydrocarbons like a good American. Hell, I may leave the vehicle running all day outside the building just to make up for lost time. Maybe I will put a green roof on the car to balance things out. Some turf, some switchgrass. It's murder on the paint but we all must do our part.
Would it matter if you contacted the paper? It very well might. Here's the reader's rep's page.
If I can get my column back and / or a nice big Online gig, that would be a satisfactory conclusion. Reporting on internet start-ups as opposed to joining an internet start-up – eh, not so much.
And let that be the last time the phrase “not so much” is used here. It’s old. We’ve all had a jolly laugh, but I heard Jeff Foxworthy use it on an oil-change commercial, which is like the UN-approved international standard for something being over.
As you might expect, it was a thrilling weekend, and I confess to wasting 7 entire hours on “sleep.” Adrenalin? You’re soaking in it! No, wait, that’s the rank fear of penury that will surely result when my first “hard news” story is sent back to remove 3,203 examples of the first person singular. Eventually I’d fall asleep, then awake with a jolt in the old Fitzgerald Hour. (I never quite grasped the truth of his remark – “In the real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.” Makes a bit more sense now, having gotten to know the actual three o’clock much better than before. Of course, this is not dark-night-of-the-soul stuff, for heaven’s sake. It’s almost funny: boo hoo, pamper-lad has to get a real job. Granted. That said, though, F. Scott had a point; three o’clock in the morning is an empty, useless time. I’m old friends with 2 AM; we get along, and we’ve accomplished a lot. He gets surly and weird after half an hour, so I leave his company early. One o’clock, midnight? Pals. Eleven o’clock, for me, comes like the Ghost of Christmas Present. But three? A dank and bony thing, long-shanked and silent. You begin to wonder if you really need to breathe. This could be the hour where nothing breathes. Everything just sits inert, waiting for four. Because four knows five, and five can put in a good word with six.)
I mention this only because Sunday afternoon was the final concert of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, and that meant suiting up and heading downtown and talking to a very large number of people in a very large orchestra hall. I was beat. I had a head full of bees, but I was exhausted. Good thing I only had to read the script, eh? I had conversations with people, and I couldn’t really talk; I could feel the words being extruded one by one from a small, cramped tube in my head, strung together with rusty wire and pulled across my tongue through a mouth full of sawdust and pencil erasers. Well, let’s not talk to people, then. Spontaneous conversation is not my forte at the moment. I was early, so I wandered around taking pictures. From the plaza around the Convention Center:
These are the eagles salvaged from the 1927 convention center. A plaque recites the civic bromides engraved on corners of the Auditorium's interior:
Participation in the rights of citizenship presumes participation in the duties of citizenship
Built for a community knit together by common needs and with a common devotion directing its common life
The fullest expression of life is cooperative service for the common good
Ever citizen owes his city constructive interest in his city’s affairs
I don't think they believed number three either, but oh, it sounded good.
Then the concert. I made one huge honking mistake right out of the gate, and it was particularly garish. The Symphony conductor is Manny Laureano, and he’s the one who asked me to MC the concerts, however many years ago. (He was a caller to the Diner radio show; that’s how we met.) The first time I did the concert I was so knee-knockingly nervous I called him Maury. And we all had a good laugh. But the moment was somehow hard-wired into my brain, and ever since then, the word MAURY comes up in my head when I say his name. It’s hellish. And I did it today. I said MAURY. Oy. Well, I explained to the audience what I just wrote above, and slunk off stage.
Maury – sorry, Manny and his wife Claudette, who also helms one of the orchestras, gave a little speech. I listened backstage, and thought: eh? Manny was describing how we’d first met on the Diner radio show. I thought this was a curious use of time, since he was surely out there to make a fundraising pitch, or something. But no. He was celebrating my tenth anniversary with the organization, and had an incredible mantelpiece clock (with a pendulum!) to present to me. Engraved and everything. So I went back out, rather stunned, and accepted the gift.
And then I realized what was expected in these situations: a speech. That would require a working brain.
Well, the emotion of the moment opened up the sluicegates. This was an unexpected and marvelous gesture, and it could not have possibly come at a better time. I found my tongue, and probably made an utter fool of myself. But the applause at the end seemed to indicate more than relief, so I think it went all right.
Then the concert. The usual array of brilliant young kids, including one high school junior who nailed a devilishly intricate Tchaikovsky violin concerto. A junior! She plans to go to medical school instead of pursue a musical career, alas. Well, she’ll always have something to fall back on. The last piece was Respighi's “Pines of Rome” - and he meant Rome. The composer described this section thus:
Misty dawn on the Appian Way: solitary pine trees guarding the magic landscape; the muffled, ceaseless rhythm of unending footsteps. The poet has a fantastic vision of bygone glories: trumpets sound and, in the brilliance of the newly-risen sun, a consular army bursts forth towards the Sacred Way, mounting in triumph to the Capitol."
The music sums up exactly how I feel now, frankly. To quote Dave Bowman in “2010”: something is going to happen. Something wonderful.
That was before Jupiter became a new sun. Yes, I plan on collapsing into a giant ball of flaming gas. It’s worked for me before.
Again: the reader’s rep contact page.
No fancy menu today. Maybe tomorrow. Here’s the permanent link. Stay tuned! This is just beginning.