Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Small Upside

I've been feeling worse and worse about seeing my blog piece carved up and quotes extracted sans context in tomorrow's NY Times (the reporter was the first who contacted me, and I made the mistake of returning the call to say, essentially, "no comment" to all his questions, which gave him leeway to claim an interview with me and to lift quotes from the blog piece). I pray that I don't come off like the victim's cousin's barber, pontificating about a dim acquaintance to horn in on the spectacle. The article's already been picked up elsewhere (again, disaster reporting abhors a vacuum), and no one's linking to my original piece for context.

It's been a surreal day. I'm used to happily giving interviews about brownies and tacos, not to stonewalling tides of desperate reporters. But I just spotted the following kind responses to my original remembrance, on the Book of Faces, reassuring me that I've done at least some small good in all this:
"Thanks for sharing this. Stories about the people, for me at least, add much more meaning than just names and photos."

"This is better insight into the whole situation than you will ever see, hear, or read in the MSM. Thank you for sharing."

Heartfelt thanks to the many who've emailed praise for my original piece and sympathy for the butchering.

The paper's out today, but I find myself relaxing within a serendipitous bubble. Times readers assume I'm a loudmouthed opportunist. But those who venture here to read the original article know I was trying (naively) to do something sweet and dignified. And while there are millions of the former (including syndication), and mere hundreds of the latter, I'm not getting feedback from the millions, because they have to come here to talk to me...and if they do that, they'll read that article and see what happened!

So for all I know, you guys are all there is, and I'm sticking with that conclusion. This attitude could be seen as childish denial; a willful attempt to replace reality with fantasy.But I had a huge insight recently from viewing a fantastic, warm-hearted and revelatory documentary called Marwencol (which is on streaming Netflix). I've said this once before here on the Slog, but it bears repeating:
Human beings spend their lives in conflict with imaginary people: mentally rearguing old arguments, worrying about faceless attackers and detractors, reliving bygone humiliations, and generally using our imaginations to make our lives a living hell.

That's considered "normal", but using the same faculty in positive ways to help us cope seems, for some bizarre reason, childish and loopy.


Unknown said...

Thank you for this, for all of it. I posted a link to your blog in the comments of the NY Times article.
To tell you the truth, the "quotes" in the article rang so false, I simply had to dig further, and easily found your blog, which I am very grateful you wrote. Your description of what you know and what you perceived about this tragedy are about a trillion times more truthful and mysterious (and therefore... truthful) than anything the Media has concocted.
I was listening to a surviving teacher being interviewed by a local DJ here in LA, and she couldn't place the name Nancy Lanza as being an employee of the school, though the DJ was gently insisting that she must have been.
When warning bells go off that the reporters might be wrong, I'm learning to listen.
Anyway, thank you. Ms. Lanza would be grateful that you tried to memorialize her with grace. It is not your fault that reporters are stomping all over it, any more than it is her fault her son went mad.

Unknown said...

When I was a child, there was a popular game called "Lie Detector," in which you tried to determine who among a cast of characters committed the crime. One of the characters was The Trombone Player, easily identified by his "thick lower lip." When I actually became that trombone player, I always wondered if people could tell...

But when the crime is truly fantastical, everyone's searching for clues. And Everyone is a larger number than most people realize. You stepped into the vortex created by millions of minds searching for clues. Powerful stuff.

When you feel like it, drop me a line. I'm still at the Home For Aging Trombonists. You've probably still got the address. --andy

Jim Leff said...

Andy (I'm guessing you're my old trombone teacher), thanks for that. I LOVED the lie detector game, and I was always proud to grow up to be that fat-lower-lipped hipped-out trombonist ("flashy dresser", too, if I recall correctly?).

I tried emailing you a year or two ago, but you didn't seem to get it. I'll try again.

Display Name said...

Sorry about the mess. I'm a long time reader and always look forward to your posts. Was thinking of asking to friend you on facebook just so I can read more of your insights but I think I will wait awhile. I'm the older female magic the gathering player.

Jim Leff said...

Thanks, Display Name (the final sentence is mysterious, but that's not a bad thing).

I don't say anything worthwhile on facebook that I don't say here. Quite the's mostly just a vehicle for announcing new Slog entries (which you can do just as effectively via RSS, etc.)

Fresh Brew Marketing said...

Unfortunately, we are stuck with the media - and they will continue to report too many one-sided, often un-qualified news articles for, probably, the rest of our days.. I just hope and pray for common sense to prevail.

Let the media report what they want to - but let us (the readers) hold on to common sense, values and integrity to be able to discern all the sides of the story. When the media starts to realise that what they're doing, isn't selling, then we're on to a winning recipe. My dad always told me that there are 3 sides to every story: What one person thinks happened, what the other person thinks happened, and what really happened.

I'm South African - so I speak from experience about media reports resulting in completely out-of-context news from our amazing country.

Thank you for your honest words. They do come across as genuine, peaceful and most of all - honest. The world loves sensation, and sensationalism is, unfortunately, the currency for most of the modern-day media.

I found your blog - through all this mass of news, and I thought it was GREAT!

All the best,

Cedarwaxwing said...

Of course I came here because of the Times article -- as ashamed as I am of reading any news about this terrible event. I found your blog via a search -- easy one though.

Thank you for what you have written. It is the first calm thing I have read since Friday -- and as Katy said, honest. And thank you for not deleting your blog/blog posts. Many people would have with this kind of pressure/attention.

Bad Bunni said...

Just so you know, your original entry about Nancy Lanza was posted in the Metafilter discussion about this incident. You can find the specific comment here if you're curious I'm glad I clicked the link to read not only your full story but also how you have responded to reporters, with empathy as opposed to contempt, which would be completely understandable. Hopefully, those of us who come here will give you hope that some of us go to the trouble to try and find out the original story and in the process found a wonderful blog.

Unknown said...

hi jim...i have read numerous posts since detecting interesting language variances within the character witness quotes you have provided here and elsewhere. i also have a propensity for insular coding so i figured you might want to talk to me and have your POV logged in my research. either way, i am confident in my findings and i believe we may have many commonalities regarding our fields of expertise.


Jim Leff said...

I owe everyone replies. Stay tuned. Need to catch my breath!

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