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Item 7 is in reference to the university library severely curtailing its periodical subscriptions over the years because of decreasing funding. The problem with cutting periodicals, from magazines to academic journals, you end up cutting someone's favorite. When they cut The Skeptical Inquirer I was devastated. Fortunately they also cut the Journal of Parapsychology. Someone noticed that amid all the periodicals being cut, Playboy magazine wasn't one of them. People wanted to know a) why wasn't that being cut and b) why an academic institution subscribed to it in the first place? Why indeed! The short answer was the library got it for the articles. Uh huh. The long answer was the library didn't have a subscription to Playboy per se. Once a year they got sent the 12 issues on microfilm (which ostensibly did not include the newsstand only specials like The All Catholic High School Girl Lingerie issue). The reason they got a microfilm archive was because Playboy tended to publish a lot of important works of fiction. Playboy paid the highest per word rate in the industry. So a lot of important established writers had fiction published in Playboy and a lot of up-and-coming writers saw some of their initial works appear in the pages of this stroke magazine. From the point of view of offering future scholars research materials, Playboy stayed.
Chang did propose in one of his campaign speeches that he would make sure The Lance had a crossword puzzle. Its placement on the editorial page is in itself a stinging joke. You don't place puzzles on your editorial page. The Lance editorial page normally had two editorials. The one on top was usually unsigned. It was either the express opinion of the Editor-in-chief, or the consensus of the paper's staff. The bottom editorial was a signed editorial and written by a staff member, usually not the Editor-in-chief. For a few years prior to Terry's editorship, the bottom half was devoted to a column. After a paid position at The Lance, the job of columnist was the most desired. First, you were unique. The Lance only had one columnist and you were him. Second, you didn't have to bother with researching facts or interviewing people. You just had to issue opinion and wrap it in 600 clever words.
Because it was highly coveted and demanded someone who could turn out clever opinion on a weekly basis, the job of Lance columnist didn't go to just anyone. It almost went to me. But I turned it down. Wisdom comes in not only knowing what you can do well, but what you can't do well. Sure everyone thinks they can offer funny insightful opinions on a weekly basis, but most can't. Oh no. No, sir.
This is what happened.
first year at The Lance I was a volunteer. I used to write weird
humorous articles for the Arts editor Bernie. Every couple months, I'd hammer
out a two page feature. Once I wrote a feature called "Saturday Night
Live at the Leddy Library". I wanted to find out who spent their
Saturday night at the university library and why. I found an interesting cast
of characters and wrote about them. Another time I wrote a feature revealing
all the tips and secrets I had learned about parking for free around the
campus. People liked what I wrote. One beautiful
Lance I made friends with a former volunteer named Martin Deck. Martin
had been around for a while but not in one of those spooky "I can't make
it in the real world and I live off student media jobs that should be going to
people ten years younger than me so they can learn marketable skills"
sort of way. And not in one of those even spookier "I'm three years out
of high school but I like parking my Dodge Duster outside of my old school
and hooting at grade 9 girls and offering them rides to the Dairy Queen"
sort of way. No. Martin lived close to the university and many of his friends
and relatives were still working on graduate degrees and volunteering at The
Lance. So Martin would just pop in from time to time and have a smoke. The
Lance was one of the few places outside of
Martin really enjoyed his smoking.
I remember how one day I was looking at Martin's cigarettes and noticed they were Players Unfiltered. Just paper wrapped around tobacco and no filter to catch the larger, more potent carcinogens. I looked at Martin with the same kind of unbelieving horror one might look at a toddler trying to pet a burning dog.
"Martin, you smoke unfiltered cigarettes?"
Without emotion or hesitation in his voice, Martin answered "I'm in a hurry."
Anyway, Martin would also come by The Lance to find out when his girlfriend Mary Popovich was coming home and check in on his younger brother Larry, making sure the Scientologists or the Trekkies hadn't gotten to him. Martin was also something of an elder statesman to The Lance volunteers. He'd offer fair criticism, good books to read, and obscure Motown artists to dupe onto tape at CJAM.
Right about the time I started my first year at the University of Windsor, Martin and his friend Desmond McGrath wrote The Lanceís editorial column. Desmond, equally as wise as me, realized both the awesome responsibility of the position and his own short comings. So he enlisted Martin to co-write the column. They went by the pen name McGrath & Deck. They called their column "The Gophermend". Not sure why. Now let me note here that Martin Deck was brilliant. Martin liked to read the classics in their original ancient Greek. However smart you think you are, you'd never be as smart as Martin. If Martin's intelligence was the burning sun, yours would be cold, dark Pluto. If you tried hard for several decades and read a lot, you might get as close to him as Saturn. Naturally, the words Martin (and McGrath) laid down on paper were nothing short of cryptic to a student body that more than likely would identify Northrop Frye as a small fish related to the smelt. I remember once sitting in a Communications Studies class and some graduate student who never failed to remind anyone in class that he was a grad student was complaining bitterly about "The Gophermend" column.
"My God, why can't they write something that people can understand?"
Around this time, before Scott the editor of The Lance was impeached and The Legendary Kevin Johnson took the reigns, the columnist was a guy named Ted. Ted was okay but seemed to borrow too freely from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for ideas and jokes without giving credit. It's as if he thought he was the only one in Windsor who ever read that book. Of the many reasons Scott was impeached, Scott couldn't really say no. Since Ted seemed to make the job of columnist look easy, everyone at The Lance got into the act. One issue Scott ran about four columns. People quickly realized this columnist inflation was getting silly and we best return to the one paper/one columnist philosophy. Since the three impromptu columnist had shown themselves to be as capable as Ted, the question was how to decide who to make columnist. It was decided to accept nominations and staffers would vote on the new columnist.
My name was put forward by someone. Ted remained silent. I stood up and in my best Lyndon Johnson voice said "I won't accept this nomination."
And this is why.
Martin's younger brother Larry was getting interested in book binding. He put together a collection of Martin's "Gophermend" columns and he bound them. Martin's girlfriend Mary Popovich concluded, rightly, that I needed some humbling. Mary gave me a copy of Larry's bound Gophermend collection.
I read it. After I read it, I had my first Brian Wilson moment. There's a story that Beach Boy Brian Wilson was thrown into a deep depression after he heard The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's. The Beach Boys had a number of hit albums and lots of adulation. Wilson was feeling pretty good about himself as an artist. But when he heard Sergeant Pepper's he knew he could never do anything that good. The Gophermend, then, was my Sergeant Pepper's. Having read Martin's columns, I knew anything I would write for The Lance, column wise, would be a pale imitation.
There was, if I recall, a tradition at The Lance that in the final issue the small Lance logo above the masthead was coyly modified. For example, one year in The Lance was replaced with "The Laura", in honor of long-serving and long-suffering Lance volunteer and subeditor Laura Gould.
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