REFLECTIONS ON HITTING THE BIG THREE-OH
This Sunday I will turn thirty. It will be time for me to put away childish things. Actually it’s been long past time for me to put away childish things — Yoda action figures can hurt like a sonofabitch when you step on them barefoot.
In order to make me feel better about what I do for a “living,” I’ve decided I must get more buzz going on the Goldberg File. I’ve decided to make the second half of March the sweeps weeks of this column. Towards that end, I will try to do everything I can — base or high-minded — to get word of mouth going for the Goldberg File, except leave the house. Unfortunately, it’s one thing to say you’ll be remorseless in doing whatever it takes to rake in those sweet, sweet web hits. (You e-subscribers could come by the site and visit every now and then, you know.) It’s another thing to do it. But the response to recent columns has given me a clue.
There is an old joke in the publishing industry which says that the three best words to sell a book are: Lincoln, Mother, and Dog. So the best-selling book would be about Lincoln’s mother’s dog. A more recent version of the quip says that you can’t go wrong with a book about Lincoln, Nazis, Golfing, and Cats. My mother — a literary agent of some repute — used to joke that if she could just get a picture of a Nazi teeing up to drive a cat across the fairway she could make millions selling books with blank pages. I asked her why she wouldn’t just put Lincoln in the Nazi uniform and she answered, “please.”
In the last two weeks I’ve clearly stumbled onto the truth behind this old saw. I’ve written about Lincoln, dogs (for Slate.com), and Nazis — and I’ve been inundated with both enraged and flattering email. (The anti-Lincoln feeling out there, I must say, shocked me and will be dealt with on clarification and correction Friday). I’ve yet to write about cats and golfing and I haven’t talked too much about my mother lately — but I don’t think anybody will accuse me of being inappropriately distant from the spider queen of the vast right wing.
Now, about cats I’ve got plenty to say. They steal affection rather than give it. If they were the size of large dogs nobody would feel safe with them in their homes. But, if dogs were the size of small elephants people would still love to have them around. Even though I like cats, I have sympathy with Bart Simpson’s assertion that they are the sandpaper-tongued handmaidens of Satan. So if cat-bashing sells — expect me to hang a kick-cat-for-ratings sign on Muffin here.
As for golfing, well, I don’t have much to say. I am, to put it succinctly, the world’s worst two-armed, two-legged, non-blind golfer. How anybody expects me to hit, cleanly, a two-inch round ball with a long stick when it’s sitting on top of a 25,000-mile round ball, I’ll never know.
I’ve come to recognize that column readers appreciate strong idiosyncratic opinions backed up by the intelligent marshalling of relevant facts. So expect more impressive assertions from this guy. Things like: Gay men are sexually attracted to men. Bill Clinton is not entirely trustworthy. Tuesdays are by far the best day of the week except days when better stuff happens. Fawn Liebowitz deserved to die in that kiln accident.
But there’s a problem here. Axioms about strong convictions or the selling power of Nazis or Lincoln or Cats are fine for the old snail-mail world of dusty books and moveable type. This is the cyber-age man. In the web-savvy world that stuff doesn’t count.
So what can I write about that will get people in the door, as it were? Well, first, I can appeal to the biases of the search engines. I could cravenly include such things as FREE HOT, HOT, HOT, ALL GIRL-GIRL ACTION!!! TEEN LESBIANS GET IT ON IN STUDY HALL! FREE XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX PORN. But that wouldn’t be right. I am a mature thinker, writer about affairs of state, and cultural conservative. To take advantage of the fact that people and search engines alike look for things like LIVE VIDEO OF LESBIAN LOVE GOATS wouldn’t be right. I should be writing about Chinese espionage and technology transfers. I should be dissecting the probe by House members Christopher Cox and Norman Dicks, which has exposed Asian spying. Hmmm. Cox, Dicks, members…Yes, that’s it; I should take the high road and write about Dicks and Cox and probing members exposing Asians.
But I’ve learned from experience that my readers just don’t come to this site for the raw animal sexuality I exude. Fortunately, like most really sexy men who spend most of the day on the couch or trying to keep their pants up while they search the back of the fridge, I also talk about such things as Star Trek, Star Wars, TV trivia and comic books. So expect more hard-edged, tell- it-like-it-is opinions. Return of the Jedi was a commercialized disgrace, the holo-deck makes zero sense and has ruined Star Trek, Marvel is better than D.C.; and did you know that Radar O’Reilly had a deformed left hand which he concealed from the camera for his entire run on M*A*S*H?
Of course, there are other things I could do. I could break some news or do some real reporting. So I might give that a try too. But only if the HOT ALL-LESBIAN ASIAN TEENAGERS don’t do the job.
AL GORE, SUPER GENIUS. I LIKE THE WAY THAT SOUNDS.
There is one more thing that readers seem to like: thoughtful and balanced criticism of the current administration. As we move into campaign mode, I think we need to spend a little more time on Gore than on Clinton — at least until the president drops his pants or takes foreign money again. To that end, a few minutes on the vice president’s “record” might be in order. The Associated Press reports today that Prince Albert boasted about his farming experience to Iowa voters. He said that he “lived on a farm,” hosed out the hog waste, and that with the aid of mules (no not Buddhist monks who carried money from the People’s Republic of China but the actual animal- things) he plowed steep hillsides and learned how to “take up hay all day long in the hot sun.”
Now, we need to be ever watchful. The vice president has a Clintonian penchant for embellishment and a Quayle-esque gift for gaffes. Unfortunately and unfairly the press beats up Quayle for his mistakes and looks the other way at Gore’s.
Taking the gaffes first, Gore once said that, “we all know a leopard cannot change its stripes.” He asked a guide “Who are these people?” while pointing at statues of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams at Monticello. He called the editor of the Washington Post to hector him that the picture of the planet earth in the morning’s paper was “upside down.”
Our “space-age” VP apparently thinks there is an “up” in space. And of course, in a prepared text, the VP said that Milwaukee’s ethnic melting pot shows America “can be e pluribus unum — out of one, many.”
Now, the embellishing. Gore said that he and his wife Tipper were the model characters for Love Story. The author of Love Story, Erich Segal, was “befuddled” by this wholly fictional assertion. At the 1996 Democratic convention, Gore said that he dedicated his life to fighting the tobacco industry after his sister died of cancer. But in 1988 — after his sister had already died — he bragged at great length to tobacco farmers about his pride in farming and selling tobacco.
Gore tried to claim moral parity with Senator Bob Kerrey by saying rather humbly that both were “Vietnam veterans.” However, Kerrey led an elite team of Navy Seal commandos. He was wounded badly, eventually losing his leg. But he still orchestrated a pitched fire-fight battle. He won the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor, and his exploits are still taught throughout the military. Vice President Gore did serve, out of harm’s way, as a buck-private journalism specialist. Some report that he spent most of his time enjoying the herbal treats of the Orient while reading anti-war poetry.
He also claimed — and continues to through spokesmen — that he invented the Internet. And oh, yeah, he asserted that he had the “privilege” to serve as vice president to the “greatest president of the 20th century.”