Brad Diller, with what would not be my worst nightmare, either. My worst nightmare is coming face to face with incompetent cliche-ridden writing.
Yes, I face a lot of nightmares, now more than ever. Some I would be happy to sit down and have a beer with, but not my worst. Only the others.
A number of years ago, now, journalists discovered storytelling.
Actually, storytelling has been part of journalism from the start, and you can begin with Thucydides' brilliant, contemporaneous wrap up of the Peloponnesian Wars, which lacked the dramatic license of Homer's much more distant, fictionalized "based on a true story" version of the Trojan War but remains not simply a classic but good reading as well.
However, it's only in recent years that the preening, self-aggrandizing work of Barbara Walters and Geraldo Rivera has become the ideal, and that this vision of storytelling has meant that every journalist is expected to abandon straight reporting and yank on heartstrings.
"The inverted pyramid is dead!" the self-anointed experts declared, opting instead for stories where you have to really dig down to find out what the damn thing is about, if it is about anything at all except the revelation that death and dismemberment and disability are indeed quite sad. To this reporter.
In fact, they are everyone's worst nightmare. Until the next news cycle, when something else will turn out to be everyone's worst nightmare.
Somebody should do a Lexis/Nexis search and compile a list of "worst nightmares," perhaps in the form of a roundup of the Top 30 Worst Nightmares, starting with #30 and taking us right up the Everybody's #1 Worst Nightmare.
Disclosure: Having lost a brother, I got to see my folks go through the experience, and cannot tell you the utter disgust I bear for every hack reporter since who, in writing about death, disability, being bullied, catching a dread disease, being diagnosed as learning disabled, whatever, has used that lazy, incompetent soulless cliche, "It's every parent's worst nightmare."
No, every parent's worst nightmare is having the worst moment of their lives turned into a cheesy, meaningless cliche by a fatuous hack.
Speaking of which, the GoComics reruns of Bloom County have been featuring Sundays lately (sans color, which involves a more laborious process). Today, by happenstance, the gang is hot on the trail of the Super Crip cliches:
By other happenstance, I've been re-reading Dostoevsky's "The Possessed," in a newer translation under the more accurate title, "The Demons."
I decided to read it because of its wickedly insightful satire of what one of my professors, back when I first encountered the book, referred to as "dimestore Robespierres," those armchair revolutionaries and great theoretical reformers whose vision is clearer for having never, as Detroit Mayor Coleman Young famously said of Jesse Jackson, "run anything but his mouth."
They're back, you may have noticed. They're blogging the revolution. Or Tweeting it, or something. I guess nobody blogs anymore. Nobody hip.
Anyway, another high point in this savagely funny and ultimately chilling novel is the character of Karmazinov, a famous writer based on the very-real famous writer Ivan Turgenev and, in particular, on Turgenev's classic example of what, a century later, would be called "The New Journalism."
In "The Execution of Tropmann," Turgenev follows the condemned murderer, step by step, to the headsman, only to faint and turn away at the moment of execution, whereupon the essay stops being about Tropmann's death and becomes about Turgenev's own wonderful sensitivity.
To appreciate Dostoevsky's disgust, you need to realize that, on account of some disloyal writings, he had been stood up in front of a firing squad, only to be told -- somewhere between "Aim!" and "Fire!" -- that he was actually being exiled to Siberia for several years.
That, my friends, would be on my list of "Worst Nightmares." And I think earned him the right to spit on anybody who mistook reporting on such an event for a chance to bloviate upon his own sensitive nature.
As he wrote to a friend:
"(T)his pompous and finicky article exasperated me. Why does he get all flustered and maintain that he had no right to be there? Yes, of course, if he only came for the spectacle, but man on the surface of the earth does not have the right to turn away and ignore what is happening on earth, and there are lofty moral reasons for this ... The most comic thing of all is, in the end, he turns away and doesn't see how (Tropmann) is finally executed. 'Just look, gentlemen, at how delicately I have been nurtured! I just couldn't bear it!"
His brilliant, hilarious portrait in "The Demons" is equally unsparing.
In fact, I'd say winding up on the sharp end of Dostoevsky's pen is every sentimental egotist's worst nightmare.
And now for something completely different:
The lion is walking through the jungle when he comes upon an antelope. "Who is the King of Beasts?" he roars.
"Y-y-y-you are, O Majesty!" the terrified antelope replies.
Satisfied, the lion steps even more proudly, until he encounters a giraffe. "Who is the King of Beasts?" he roars.
"Y-y-y-you are, O Mighty Lion!" the giraffe answers, quaking on his long legs.
The lion is even more pleased with himself, and struts along until he comes upon an elephant browsing on some bushes.
"Who is the King of Beasts?" he roars.
There is no response. The elephant continues to eat.
"Who is the King of Beasts?" The lion once more roars.
Still no answer.
The lion draws himself up to his full height and shouts "WHO IS THE KING OF BEASTS?"
The elephant opens one eye and looks down, then stops stripping leaves from the bush for a moment, reaches out with his trunk and grabs one of the lion's rear legs. He whips the lion in circles over his head several times, then WHAP WHAP WHAP WHAP WHAPs him on the ground, tosses him into a thorn bush and goes back to eating.
After some moments, the lion crawls painfully out of the thicket and says, "Well, you don't have to get pissed, just because you don't know the answer."
David Fitzsimmons reversed the animals, but kept the story the same: