Perhaps I feel this way because I cut my teeth at a real-life newspaper, but apps and websites that lack a hierarchy seem half-baked to me. A well-edited product should guide the reader down and/or across the page, highlighting which stories are most important. Otherwise, it’s of little more use than an RSS feed reader.
After hearing for months that costume drama “Downton Abbey” was the best thing since buttered scones, I decided to watch an episode via Netflix instant. And then another. And another. I emerged two days later sleep-deprived and hopelessly in love.
This show is like sweet crack cocaine for a silly woman with a head full of romantic notions and a genuine longing to know the world as her forebears knew it (witness past obsessions with the Little House and Anne of Green Gables series and everything written by Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters). The costumes are lovely, the sets are lovey, the actors are lovely … it’s just a lovely way to spend an hour — or many, many consecutive hours.
Now, I will admit that the plot wavers from believability once or twice, and that the whole thing might be slightly melodramatic. However, love is blind. And willing to forgo sleep, food, sunlight and human interaction for extended periods.
I could and possibly will write more about the show, but for now I will end with a thought it provoked: Stoicism is close to extinction in America, if it isn’t dead already.
I think we can trace stoicism’s decline to the 1980s, when daytime talk shows — which rewarded people for blabbing their troubles before a live or taped audience — began to proliferate. When our once stiff upper lips began to soften. When it became not only acceptable but desirable to receive the pity of others.
Only once in my life have I been happy to be a light sleeper, and that was Tuesday morning.
Around 5:45 a.m., I heard a sound at the window one foot from my head, like tapping on metal. Initially I assumed it was Simon messing with the bedroom blinds — a favorite wee-hour pastime of his — but then I remembered I’d raised them a few hours earlier because he’d been doing just that. The sight of his small form curled at my feet confirmed his innocence. I turned my head, looked up at the window, and saw a man descending from the roof via the fire escape ladder.
I sprang out of bed and rushed to the living room to wake up SGF, who’d fallen asleep on the couch. “Chris! There’s someone on the fire escape!” I whispered. It took three tries to wake him, but once roused SGF was on his feet and in the bedroom like a flash. Both of us still half asleep, we determined the best course of action was to quietly shut and lock the window and sneak downstairs to get a better look at our prowler. (I admit our judgment was perhaps not 100 percent sound at that given moment.)
Once outside, we crept to the side of the building, peeked around the corner, determined that the man was still on the fire escape and called the police. Chris kept an eye on the man — who’d by this point climbed down to the second floor, stood for an uncomfortable time staring into our neighbor’s apartment, then scaled the ladder back onto the roof and down the other fire escape — and when he finally vaulted over the fence, followed him at a safe distance down the sidewalk.
When the officers arrived, I told them, essentially, “He went thataway!” The dispatcher had sent three cars, all of which headed toward the far intersection. Two turned right, and the third did a three-point turn and zoomed back past me, driving the wrong way on a one-way street, lights flashing. I have no idea where he was going, but it was awfully dramatic.
Anyway, the police in the first car found Chris and directed him to jump in the car with them, and they sped away in hot pursuit. Chris spotted the suspect in the park. The officers wasted no time chasing him on foot. They instead hopped the curb and drove on the narrow jogging path to reach him.
“Hey, buddy, come here a minute,” they called out. In exaggerated fashion, he pointed toward himself with both hands as if to say “Who, me?”
“Yeah, you,” one officer said in response. When asked where he was going, the suspect didn’t supply a definite answer. I guess that was enough to justify cuffing and frisking him.
“Where you coming from?” they asked him. He mumbled that he’d been, you know, around. Then they asked if he’d been on any buildings that morning.
“Have I been on any buildings …?” he mused. After a pause, he answered sheepishly, “Yeah, I was.” He elaborated, explaining that it was his first night in New York, he didn’t have anyplace to stay and that, of course, he was practicing to be a ninja. Like one does.
They carted him off to jail, where I imagine he stayed until he sobered up. The police told us it’s unlikely they could charge him with anything, which shocked and disturbed me. Though this story had a peaceful — and arguably comical — ending, what if he’d lied about his career aspirations and was really A) stalking someone in our building or B) looking to rob or rape one of us? You’d think they could at least get him for trespassing. Sigh.
This past week, I happened to notice a headline for a blog post about a black baseball player that included the phrase “legal lynching.” Appalled, I argued — unsuccessfully — for its immediate revision. Unless the story is about a literal hanging, you do not use that term. Or at least I don’t, and I condemn all those who do. If the baseball player were Jewish, would it be acceptable to call it a “legal gassing” or a “decade in Auschwitz?” Of course it wouldn’t. Think before you type.
I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this. Back in my newspaper days, that term wouldn’t have gotten past the slot editor. Not in a million years! Anyone who thinks copy editors don’t make a valuable difference should consider this little anecdote.