Two Journalists and a Newt

I got three short-topics today.

I write like Karl Marx!

karlmarxI watched an interview with Jonathon Sperber, who wrote a book about the brains behind the Communist ideal, and I realized two things about the man that I could identify heartily with.

He was much more comfortable writing short pieces. He was first and foremost a journalist, so it was uncommon for him to pen  anything more than 2,000 words. He really struggled with his larger works.

Secondly, he paced when he wrote. I’ve done this as long as I can remember.  I’ll write a sentence, walk around a minute, do a ridiculous little dance when I’m inspired, and write a new sentence. I seldom go back and edit. Walking around helps with this, although I’m not clear why. It’s just what I do. It’s also what Karl Marx did.

Who would have ever thought I had anything in common with a hairy German stump of a philosopher from the 19th century…?


SISKEL  EBERTI was deeply saddened by the death of film critic Roger Ebert earlier this week. I’ve been sitting on my butt trying to write a quick obituary for the guy, but nothing has been forthcoming. I was a fan of his, I guess, because he could clearly articulate, usually in less than a thousand words, what I struggle to say in 2000.  For me, he wasn’t a film writer so much as a blueprint for consise, clear writing with a sense of humor, about topics that are tough to get one’s head around. I have been following his blog for 3 or 4 years and although I’ve been less connected in the last 12 months or so, I’ve been deeply honored to have him respond to my comments on his blog–an honor and a rarity, as he gets hundreds, if not thousands, of comments per post. He was unabashed about his agnosticism, and his political liberal leanings. He reminisced about growing up in suburban Illinois in the 1940s and 1950s, and his pieces read like Jean Shepherd’s “The Christmas Story”. His topics were only sometimes about film. He’d rather talk about science, or global warming, or Hyde park, or attending Catholic school, or Steak ‘n’ Shake.

For the last few years, he’s been unable to speak or eat, but his presence online has never been felt more stongly.

I’ll miss him. I’ve spent the last couple days reading his obituaries, which seemed to saturate all the major news and entertainment webistes. None of them seemed to say what I wanted to say.

The man made me comfortable as a writer with (maybe unpopular) questions. He made me aware of an audience, how to state things clearly, and with passion eloquence .

Oh. And he also reviewed films. I’ll miss him for that too.


ImageA propos of nothing, anybody in Oregon remember these? Locals called them waterdogs. There’s a good chance they had other names, like Pacific Newts, but in my mind they’ll always be water dogs.  We used to round them up by the hundreds at the side of creeks, and build makeshift dams to collect them. Nothing says fun like 300 waterdogs in a 2’x2′ watery pit of fun. Sometimes I’d sit in the pit with all the waterdogs. Oh. So you know, they make terrible bait.

It’s one of those content-free blog days. Enjoy the picture of your waterdog!

I know I did.



5 thoughts on “Two Journalists and a Newt”

  1. I too will miss good ol’ Ebert…and have many fond memories of playing with waterdogs….but what’s really stickin’ to my shoe about this blog, is that I MUST see this ridiculous dance you do when writing inspiration hits you. I humbly request,… nay, DEMAND that you film yourself during the writing process and post it at the beginning of your blogs. The picture of the lovely bridge is nice and all, but I ask you, what could possibly be better than a short repeating clip of a giant dancing? Nothing.


  2. We called them newts. Of course, the ones I remember we’re smaller and had black backs. So…maybe they were newts.


  3. We called them waterdogs too! Up on the North Umpqua River we had crawdads too, back in the early 1970s. This past summer we went for a hike to the place I remember seeing them–Susan Creek Falls. There’s a parking lot and trail up to the falls now, so a lot more people go there these days. I suspect that’s why we didn’t see any crawdads this time. But the falls were as beautiful as I remember…


    1. Waterdogs are amazing. They never peed on me. They made good temporary pets! Pistol River didn’t have many crawdads in my experience; I’m not sure why. They seemed to be more prolific up the Rogue, headed toward Agness.


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