Archive for May 30th, 2006

Progressives

Shouldn't there be a bar-mitvah-type ceremony for becoming middle-aged? Well, unless there is, I'll have to make do with my new glasses. They're "progressives" -- bifocals (actually, tri-) with no visible seams between the different parts of the lens. This feels especially appropriate, as this year marks the 300th birthday of Ben Franklin, who invented bifocals when he was about my age. ...

It also marks the anniversary of the passing of my first boss, Jimmy Weinstein. As editor and publisher of the leftwing newspaper In These Times, Jimmy laid down a few inviolable copy-editing rules -- and as his copy editor, I was contractually bound to follow them. For one thing, Jimmy hated split infinitives more than he hated Republicans (and almost as much as he hated Stalinists). For another, he insisted that "not only" be followed by "but also" (the "also" being considered optional by less rigorous souls). And not only did he enforce those rules without exception, but he also refused to under any circumstances allow the use of the word "progressive" as a political noun. "No one's a 'progressive'!" he'd bark as he blue-penned the offending copy. "They're 'leftists.'"

Me, I didn't really feel the distinction. But it was Jimmy who signed all our checks, which counted for a lot (except on those all-too-frequent occasions when they bounced). Also, by making the only job offer I received during my senior year, he'd single-handedly rescued me from years of post-college aimlessness. Plus he introduced me to a rule that has proved indispensable, in writing as well as editing: "When in doubt, take it out." (To which, as a twenty-something wiseacre, I instantly added my own corollary: "It's a sin to leave it in.")

So Jimmy, as I squint at these words through progressively deteriorating eyes, I remember you with not only warmth but also gratitude and -- not to unduly belabor the point -- respect.

2 comments May 30th, 2006


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