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Over Easy

Dan Mackie: The ‘Downtown’ Economy

I have confessed previously to a fondness for Downton Abbey — the British historical drama/soap opera that shines like fine silver. That is, it shines like fine silver would if you had sufficient staff to polish it. In my home, when we set the dinner table for 24, we have to make concessions. We put out our best Edwardian finery, but at some point someone has to do make do with a Dora the Explorer cup. It has occurred to me lately that Downton Abbey

Dan Mackie: How Copy Editors Rule the World

A longtime New Yorker copy editor has written a book about thrilling moments in grammar and other career highlights, threatening to blow open the secretive world of copy editors, who, behind the cover of their shabby back corner desks, hold untold power in the literary world, and beyond. Mary Norris may seem charming and self-effacing in interviews as she talks about editing the masterful copy of John Updike, or how she worships at the altar of Henry James, the master builder of sentences as exquisitely

Dan Mackie: Avast, Therapy for Pirates!

Readers of the Valley News should closely examine the paper in its entirety every day, because, as with Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. And so I found myself one recent morning devouring the television page, in front of a dour bowl of creamy oat bran, high in fiber, low in flavor — made entirely of stern stuff. I initially didn’t have much interest in the story below the TV schedule, because it was about Black Sails,

Dan Mackie: Man Vs. Robots ­—We’re Doomed

Recently, while many of us were obsessing about the proper inflation of footballs, or storms that presented the biggest threat to mankind since a big asteroid killed the dinosaurs (that might be the best hyperbole ever!), really smart people have been putting their minds to other topics. Such as: We’re doomed. Well, of course we’re doomed, you say, it’s just a matter of whether we’ll be finished off by Rick Perry, ISIS, measles, the Hartford school budget, recycling fees, the Lebanon school budget, defective airbags,

Dan Mackie: Inane Names for Winter Storms

Some things are so inane that they almost slip by ­— there’s some part of you that can’t believe they just happened. Suppose you saw someone shopping at WalMart sans pants, or you heard there are students who get into one of America’s finest colleges and cheat and skip classes because it’s more fun to play video games than attend lectures delivered by top professors. You ask yourself: Did I see that wrong? Did I hear that wrong? And so it was recently when I

Dan Mackie: The Upper Valley Year in Advance

For many years, humorist Dave Barry has been writing his fun-packed year in review. Unfortunately, he leaves slim pickings for others. That’s why you only see niche essays elsewhere in the media: 2014, the Year in Iambic Pentameter; 2014: the Year in Mime; or 2014, the Major News Events and Personalities Dramatized by William Shatner. Dave Barry’s dominance doesn’t bother me, since I’m all about the future. My Year in Advance jumps ahead to 2015, nice and early so you can put on your jammies

Dan Mackie: When I Was a Boy Publisher

When I was about 8 or 9 or 10 — the exact year has been lost to history — I spent a brief summer stretch as a newspaper publisher. When I say brief, I should say very brief, as I will explain. I had read somewhere, in Boys Life, the scouting magazine, or perhaps a comic book, that making your own newspaper was a fun summer activity. Like most kids of that era, I wasn’t exactly starving for summer diversions, since I had a bike,

Over Easy: A Cheapskate Crusade, or How I Learned to Love the Dark

War was officially declared when it was announced that Liberty Utilities was seeking a 50 percent rate hike on my personal electric bill this winter. “Get ready, Dede,’’ I told the other major consumer of electricity in our West Lebanon home, “for Operation Darkness.” The reason for the rate increase is that there is not enough natural gas reaching the state, or that prices on the spot market are up, or that coal and nuclear plants have shut down, or that, according to the West

Dan Mackie: Zombie ‘Car Talk’

The Car Talk radio guys make me laugh, but not as much as they make themselves guffaw, tee-hee, chortle, snort and wheeze with delight. I often listen to them as I head to the dump on Saturday, or during a Sunday drive. They are unique — the only radio hosts who provide their own laugh track. But lately I have a wistful feeling as I listen, since it’s finally hit me that Tom and Ray have actually retired from the show. Without much explanation, other

Dan Mackie: There’s Still More to Say About Jeter, A Lot More

Red Sox fans were left unsettled last weekend by the lavish retirement ceremony for Derek Jeter at Fenway Park, where he was feted as if he’d played for the Red Sox for 20 seasons, rather than the New York Yankees. But Jeter was something special, with commentators treating his finale as a transcendent moment, as if he’d descended to Earth not just to play baseball, but to achieve some higher goal, such as helping America’s orphans, or building a casino. Broadcasters liked to say that