The toughest critic

The six-week self-assessment, and more!

Six weeks! I’ve done it without missing an entry! I haven’t written (for outside consumption) this often in more than a decade. I’m grateful and humbled for the support, financial and professional and psychic.

But I’ve failed to hit my standards on every post. So I’m conducting an employee review a bit later. First …

Dr. Seuss was NOT canceled

Earlier this week, the estate of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, decided it would stop selling six of Geisel’s works that Dr. Seuss Enterprises deemed problematic, with text and images depicting racial and ethnic stereotypes. Other than his first book, And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street, none have been big sellers recently.

The professional right got a case of the vapors. 

Tucker Carlson has, of course, used this for ratings gold. As have others on the political and cultural right.

Even longtime libertarian Cathy Young sounded an alarm. For The Week, she wrote that the move by booksellers and literacy advocates to de-emphasize Dr. Seuss’ work was chilling. It resulted from “tendentious” interpretations by leftist scholars. “If such takedowns can get an author moved to the ‘problematic’ list, who and what will escape the purges?” 

Here’s my problem. Dr. Seuss’ catalog is not in the public domain. It’s copyrighted material. Its use and distribution are controlled by Geisel’s estate. If his heirs want to pull some works from the commercial sphere, they can. We may disagree what they did, and why, but it’s not our call.

“The decision was made by the company that owns and controls the books, not by the government, or by a ‘mob’ that pressured them,” critic Stephen Silver wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Precisely. As an argument against cultural “purges” egged on by hypersensitive leftists, Cathy has an argument, and she made it.

But the government isn’t raiding people’s homes and removing the offending literature. Or ordering it burned.

If this is cancellation, notify the Geisel estate’s accountants. Amazon and other booksellers can’t keep Dr. Seuss books on the virtual shelves. Nothing new here. The Monty Python troupe made a mint over the controversy surrounding “Life of Brian.”

Also in The Week, Damon Linker makes a better argument, essentially: Don’t be so uptight. Listen to one another. Rather than “trying to rule our opponents out of line, we might try reasoning with them.” 

Sign me up. 

I understand that using today’s sensibilities, a 30-year-old Mel Brooks couldn’t get a job in Hollywood. That’s the loss of those who’ve never enjoyed the man’s ridiculous genius. Until the government starts deleting “Blazing Saddles” from cloud servers, though, he’s not being canceled. Dr. Seuss isn’t, either.

School officials read the polls

Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 37, the school reopening bill, has lit up parents. The State Board of Education passed a resolution Thursday urging all school districts to resume some in-person instruction before the end of March. 

The General Assembly is taking up several “local bills,” each reopening school districts in a handful of counties.

School districts are rushing to get kids back in class too. Durham Public Schools were to resume classroom instruction April 8. The school board will meet Tuesday and vote to advance that date to March 15, over the objections of the local teachers union chapter.

The governor may keep his emergency powers, but he’s losing the school closing battle — and his bully pulpit, too.

Media week

My Monday post on the school veto landed me on The Pete Kaliner Show and podcast (check out the pod here). Thanks again to Pete for the call and the conversation. He’s doing this thing on his own as well, and deserves a listen and, if you like it, your support. 

I’m continuing my Wednesday morning coffee date at 7:40 with Scott Briggaman on WPTF 680 in Raleigh. You can listen over the air or online. I appreciate Scott letting me check in.

I’m also grateful to Tom Campbell for posting one piece each week on the NC Spin website. To BJ Murphy, for letting me send items to the service. And to Thomas Mills for inviting me to post items on his site. Thanks to all for the exposure.

Six week internal review

Again, thank you for the encouragement during the launch of this project. I began with hope of reaching an audience that may share at least an interest in the way I approach current events and larger civic issues. And, just maybe, paying the bills as I do it.

I’m learning as I go. I’m pleased with a lot of what I’ve done so far, notwithstanding a couple of clunkers (or, at least, disappointments). 

Such as yesterday’s post. It wasn’t fully baked. The ingredients weren’t in balance. For that, I promise to do better. Some days, I insist on forcing something out that could have used more thought. But I hit my deadline!

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So here are a few things I’ve gleaned about how I think I should improve:

  • Edit myself more ruthlessly. Remove extraneous points. Ramble less. Your time is valuable. I appreciate your decision to subscribe to the work of a single writer. I don’t want to waste your time, or your trust.

  • End notebook dumps. If I could tell you how many times I’ve griped (privately, for the most part) about writers who have to vomit (a great Virginia term) every useless detail into the keyboard … 

    This is my gig. I can cover the same topic from dozens of angles. I must do better sticking to information that’s relevant for that day’s post. Hold back the other stuff for the next one. And the next one …

  • Solicit more feedback. I’m not sure what’s working and what could work better. You can help. A lot. Substack isn’t a good platform to embed reader polls, but I want to figure out how to make one happen. (Again, suggestions for doing that are welcome!)

    • Timing: I try to get these in the email ether by 2 p.m. Is that convenient? Should I instead send at cocktail hour? Midnight? Does it matter?

    • Frequency: One post per day. Too many? Enough?

    • Content: Do you prefer the written word only? A podcast (either short bursts several times during the week or a weekly wrapup)? Live chats, say, on Facebook or some other service, perhaps for paid members only?

    • Footprint: More local content? Regional or national issues? What subjects interest you: current legislative stuff; trends in political culture/discourse; “straight” reporting; navel-gazing?

  • Reach. I appreciate your support. I also need to get this newsletter in front of more people. If you have ideas or suggestions, send them my way. My year-long paid subscribers will soon get a little bonus they can use to help the cause, too. Stay tuned!

What do you think? How can I improve Deregulator, and how should it evolve? 

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Now it’s time for the Cardiff Crooner, the Welsh Wizard of Twang, Mr. Dave Edmunds!

(He is a genius in the studio. It appears he was singing the three parts live before it was mixed. If so, impressive.)

Enjoy your weekend!