Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The state's paper of record (at least, the daily paper in the state's most populous area) recently published an article on the controversy I complained about here. Since they have covered the topic much less than I, the article on it is much more of a general overview, but the hook of its story is a site visit on Monday morning, which I went to as well. I expected the visit was only for information and a better understanding of the situation, but I was asked afterwards to write about it, so I did.

But my story was not usable, my editor said. I'm hoping he doesn't notice the other story, at least not for a few days, especially since it's written by a freelancer who works for him sometimes.

And yet, I'm really not bothered about being upstaged. Partly because things really are going well here otherwise. Also, partly because it's comparing apples and oranges. The site visit Monday was a time when all the main actors were in one place, so it was useful for an article, but no actual news was generated. Instead, the linked article covered the ongoing controversy, and happened to use the visit to get perspective and a face-to-face talk with people. But as for me, I covered the attempt to change the plan and the meeting last month and I'm going to the one in a couple weeks and everyone's still waiting for a court date, so if I wrote a news article about Monday's visit, there would have been nothing new in it.

So instead, I wrote a detailed description of the site. I didn't actually know much about it, so we figure most other people don't either. How do you get there, where can it be seen from, what will it look like after the project has started, etc. My story wasn't in the first person, but it might as well have been. Neither the tour nor my written account of it seemed much like my boss expected, but it was still pretty good — the ways it wasn't what he expected were not a matter of me forgetting to include X, it's just that Y is what people really cared about — and I think the article turned out to be pretty informative.

But not actually newsworthy, apparently. So, oh well. He thought there would be news material here, but there wasn't, unless some cleverly phrased cutting remarks in an ongoing feud qualify. This article won't get published, but my future articles on the subject will be able to be much more detailed. And... that's it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

One of the many complaints about America's electoral process is the nonsensical choice of election day. Why on a constantly shifting day rather than a fixed date, and why during the week when most people are working? The explanation I've heard is that it's on Tuesday because back in the 18th century it could take a full day to get to a polling place and back in rural America, so it had to be on a day that was neither market day nor Sunday, and Tuesday was sufficiently removed from either. This, via Sullivan, gives an explanation (which admittedly might be apocryphal, since it doesn't cite a source for the Election Day connection) for having elections in early November, but it caught my attention just because it was moving.

But today Britons have a take on Guy Fawkes that is much at odds with the historical one. Once Fawkes was a symbol of the traitor within. The people were called to be on guard against his like. No longer. Today Guy Fawkes is increasingly viewed as the heroic figure prepared to stand against an unjust and oppressive state, as a martyr and a victim of torture.
For (George Washington), America was involved in a struggle for its liberty, and the commemoration of Guy Fawkes stood for the opposite: government by fear, oppression of a minority, a celebration of arbitrary power. Guy Fawkes Day was the abnegation of the essential values of the Revolution. So the original George W. put it in an order: No more Guy Fawkes Day.
America, it was settled, having abolished Guy Fawkes Day would mark that week with a new tradition: the exercise of the democratic franchise. It was to be the time in which the rulers are held accountable to the people.

My knowledge of Guy Fawkes Day is no better than that of most Americans: it was a paragraph or two in history class. I know the traditional costume of Guy Fawkes, and the first few lines of the rhyme, from the "V for Vendetta" graphic novel. To the extent I thought about it at all, I thought Guy Fawkes Day seemed kinda barbaric — a national holiday to celebrate killing a failed revolutionary? Isn't that sort of kicking them when they're down? — but minor and harmless — it was 400 years ago; you might as well refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving because its popular portrayal whitewashes manifest destiny. Reading this, though, it's kind of a nice surprise that British comic book readers aren't the only people with an alternate view of the holiday, and it's a great surprise to see that the holiday actually is celebrated in America. In a way.