Commentary: Memoriam

Admired Work Journalism Memoriam Parenthood

Ted Lippman (1929-2014)

It’s hard to scale the heights of requiem without stumbling into a deep ravine of sentiment and cliche, and I know some will measure what follows against the known place of the old Baltimore Sun in the pantheon of American newspapering. No, we were not a Washington Post of the last late century, with Bradlee’s feet on the desk and Watergate dueling scars adorning a set jawline, or a New York Times for the Middle Atlantic, our paper-of-record certitude enshrining our every effort. We certainly weren’t some rough-and-tumble tabloid squealing about headless bodies in topless bars, or even a Chicago broadsheet or Hearst rag for which Hildy Johnsons might labor with gin on their breath and cigarette burns between their typing fingers. We were pretty staid. Too staid, perhaps, and a little too proud of a noble, grey history. We were often accused by our younger sibling, the Evening Sun, of pretense and pomposity. H. L. Mencken, who we vaguely claimed but who had in fact...

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Memoriam Music People

Pete Seeger, 1919-2014

  If there is an American who has lived a more honorable and creative life in the past century, the name cannot be readily conjured.  Pete Seeger did everything possible to merge the power of popular song to the very idea of community.  

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Admired Work Memoriam

Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)

A master departs. It isn’t that he merely took a blowtorch to all the affectations and pretenses of genre fiction.  No, he made the lines between genre and literary fiction ridiculous and arbitrary for all time.  Fuck your categorizations:  This guy did some of the best writing in the last half of the Twentieth Century.  He leaves behind narratives that make us think harder about the human condition, not to mention all of our presumptions about how our society actually functions — or doesn’t. I met him once.  I was a newspaper reporter, and so proud of that simple fact that I never wanted to ever be seen “going civilian,” fawning on celebrities or artists or political leaders or whoever.  Good journalists, Mencken said, can write about cats and kings.  The day’s assignment  — and the personages you encounter — shall not adulterate the requisite mixture of detached interest and dry, professional disdain.  Observe everything, admire...

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