There’s something quite Wall-E about the fate of the Mars landers, rolling around on the red planet. We’ve lost one now. It went dark.

One of the tropes I used to hate - it mostly pops up in comment threads by oldsters now, if ever - was “beam me up, Scotty, there’s no intelligent life down here.” Because people are stoopid ha ha, you know, they have fights at Wal-Mart. Yes, people, in innumerable specific examples, are stupid. The aggregate lesson from history is that they can be brutal and stupid, if their hearts yearn to be yoked to a cause that promises glory and a sense of self-vindication that plugs the vacant ache. The lesson from all that is to be wary of all broad causes, particularly those that promise to set the world right. Distrust anything that bifurcates humanity, just as much as you should be wary of anything that promises to knit it together with one effortless stroke.

But people are awesome. It’s not our failings that depress me; I expect us to fail, to disappoint. It’s the triumphs that astonish. "We're no better than apes, just nastier." Uh huh. Drop me a line when chimps stand atop a 100 story building, listening to Beethoven, and use their pocket slabs to get pictures of their robots on other planets.

Said goodbye to a co-worker last week. It was a surprise when she left. How could anyone leave the exciting - and oh so secure - world of daily journalism?

I put together a little highlight reel of the news shows we did ten years ago - TEN. YEARS - and it was a reminder that everything is better now. For one thing, we’re not pretending anymore that people want to watch long-form video on our website, even if looks like TV news. I was at loggerheads with the brass from the start on this project, because I thought that doing a typical anchor-driven show was wrong-headed. Why copy the existing model when we could make our own?

The guy they hired to make our TV news programs was from one of the local stations, and he agreed: let’s blow it up. In those days, those dim bygone days, it took forever to encode video and get it up on the site, so anything we did was guar-an-fargin’-teed to be out of date and stale by the time we did it. There was simply no point. Why would people click and sit and stare when they could scan the front page of the site and get all the headlines?

Here’s one of my mock-serious promos.

And here's a short intro.


What I suggested, and the new guy embraced utterly, was a live shot wandering around the newsroom asking people what was coming up. Use the newsroom as the set.

But they wanted the TV model, so they got the TV model.

It didn’t work. It was an interesting time, though - I had to get up earlier than ever before, go to the office, write copy, and perform. I loved doing the TV stuff, simply because it’s not my primary skill set, and it’s always fun to be reasonably competent at something that’s not what you’re known for. Two things came to mind when I edited the footage.

1. The old building. The putty-colored monitors, the 90s cubicles, the pervasive dread of collapse. I mean, we couldn’t collapse, we were the STAR TRIBUNE, but everything we had assumed was a granite foundation felt like wet sand in an earthquake in those days. As the company contracted, thanks to our godless overlords, vast areas of the building were depopulated and shut down.

There's nothing like working in a single-purpose building that's catastrophically contracting. To make it all worse, we had so much documentary evidence of our glory years.


Our TV studio was in an area that used to be devoted to specialty magazines we no longer made. There was a lesson.

2. I don’t think I was happy, but in retrospect, I was. Or perhaps the other way around. It was a horrible time in the industry, and I had a crap editor who did me wrong, and I was relegated to online without a print presence. It was horrible. Unless I was in print, I didn’t feel as if I had any purchase anywhere.

Print was special.

I’d be back in the paper in a year and a half, but I didn’t know that. I chipped away at these online projects that felt like howling in an empty dark barn. I did videos, I blogged, I produced a ton of content - and got nothing back. Off all the radars. Returning to print was everything.

It remains so now.








If you were curious about Delphos after yesterday’s Clippings feature, prepare to have your ravening desire for all things Delphosian slaked, completely. How many souls, based on the picture above? Seven thousand. Seems as if there might have been more, once.

It's named after the son of Poseidon. You may think: hah! Ridiculous. The water god? Well, just wait.

Boastful little false front there, but a city on the make needs things like this.


The Clerk's Office. How do I know that?

They were pretty sure it would always be the clerk’s office. If at some point it wasn’t, that was someone else’s problem.

My careful, years-long study of small-town remodeling jobs makes me think there might be an older structure behind that facade. It’s possible, that’s all.


I just have a feeling.

Besmirched, bothered and beshiiiingled


The full Buckaroo provides a complete ruination of the block.

I don’t think it was a hotel. Why?


Because there aren’t any little windows to indicate a bathroom.

Nice Moderne post office.


That’s all. Oh, you want details? Buildings like this were scant on details . . . .

Unless they weren't.

box Victoria sponge cake owt apple and pears I bid you good day fork out, Dr. Watson absolute twoddle Bad Wolf the chippy. Nosh naff off fish and chips laughing gear conkers a reet bobbydazzler 'tis, blummin' spend a penny what a doddle biscuits two weeks on't trot golly gosh, darling pigeons in Trafalgar Square bog off

Lovely old department store signage - and a good example of how you close off the upper floor if it’s disused. Looks like they could just open the shutters and let the light and air in, if they wished.

If you’ve been following this feature for a while, you know the lower floors were once open, with big glass windows letting you look inside the store.


This looks like twins bought the building so they could live next door but have a big room where the kids could play upstairs.

When I saw this picture I thought - why did I capture this? What was it? What will happen when I google DELPHOS CANAL?



Lots. Poseidon's son, remember.

The Miami and Erie Canal was a 274-mile (441 km) canal that ran from Cincinnati to Toledo, Ohio, creating a water route between the Ohio River and Lake Erie.

Construction on the canal began in 1825 and was completed in 1845 at a cost to the state government of $8,062,680.07. At its peak, it included 19 aqueducts, three guard locks, 103 canal locks, multiple feeder canals, and a few man-made water reservoirs.

Boats up to 80 feet long were towed along the canal by mules, horses, or oxen walking on a prepared towpath along the bank, at a rate of four to five miles per hour.

Due to competition from railroads, which began to be built in the area in the 1850s, the commercial use of the canal gradually declined during the late 19th century. It was permanently abandoned for commercial use in 1913 after a historic flood in Ohio severely damaged it. Only a small fraction of the canal survives today, along with its towpath and locks.

It's odd to consider that the canal was damaged by a flood.


All together now: OUMB

Empty, but impressive.


Impressive, but empty.

You should be getting the impression of a place that flowered nicely at the end of the 19th century:



Lots of solid buildings with proud names and clean ornamentation.


Not the original color scheme, but I don’t care. THAT SIGN.

Label scar says Shenk’s.


Big name in town. The papers of the 1890s refer to a Shenk store, and there was also a Shenk Oil company, working the Delphos oil field.

The . . . what? Yes: “The petroleum industry in Ohio dates from 1859. Ohio continues to produce significant quantities of oil and gas, having produced more than 1 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas since 1860.”

Well, that had to have been a theater, right?



Yes. The Capitol. 1922 to the 1970s. You'll remember the ad from yesterday's clippings.

Early 20s (or very late teens) commercial structure, heavy on the terracotta. Which is a good thing.


Uh - well.



Oh, don’t bother painting the upper floor. No one looks up there. You might get a crick in your neck.

I didn’t stretch this in Photoshop. Makes you wonder why they didn’t do this more often with the top floor: it really adds some drama.


Waiting for renewal. Perhaps it's already happened since Google came to town.

The most woebegone segment of downtown. Not a clue what used to go on in these buildings; not a clue what goes on there now.


“Well, everyone thinks we’re a secretive organization; might as well look like it.


Finally, to complete what we started yesterday: Ladies and gentlemen, the newspaper.


Since 1869.

Seven thousand people? Only seven thousand people?

That'll do; see you around. Penultimate week of Main Street postcards awaits.





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