Over Easy

Dan Mackie: Hey — Read This

“Hey —” So began a recent email sent to me by a young person pitching an opinion piece for the newspaper. I assume the writer was young, because I can’t imagine a person with a gray hair or two starting a correspondence so breezily. Even if the writer was, as the saying goes, a friend I hadn’t met yet, “Hey” felt as if we had skipped introductions and jumped ahead to being best buddies. Whether or not the emailer was young, the writer on whose

Over Easy: Bad First Drafts of Great Literature

The “discovery’’ of a “lost” Harper Lee novel, under mysterious circumstances, has set the literary world aflame with the hope that other first drafts and rejected manuscripts might be of scholarly interest, or huge money makers, whichever takes precedence. Many have been startled by the revelation that in one imagining, Atticus Finch wasn’t the most just and sympathetic man ever, but rather a crabby old bigot who in a later time would have spent his days watching Fox News and railing against Obama. Disheartening, yes,

The Sound Of Summer: Beep ... Beep

This has been the summer of noise. It goes like this: beep ... beep ... beep. It is the sound of the Bac-a-Larm, invented in Boise, Idaho, by the late Ed Peterson, an automotive service and parts supplier. Ed’s ingenuity has saved countless lives on construction sites. It has also turned my formerly quiet dead-end street in West Lebanon into a madhouse. Beep ... beep ... beep ... beep ... beep ... beep. That’s the noise we hear from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The

Dan Mackie: My Kindergarten Commencement Speech

I was looking through some papers recently and found my kindergarten valedictory address. Some people are surprised that such a thing exists, but I went to an aspirational kindergarten and peaked early in life. I received a perfect 4.0 that year, just ahead of teacher’s pet Mary Miley, who was neck and neck with me for top honors but fell out of the running when she dropped the snack tray with only a week left of classes. She shed a tear, then two, then her

For Health, Get Up and Leap About

“Mackie, was that you leaping about the office?” the boss asked, with a note of disapproval in his voice. “Why do you ask?” I replied, neither confirming nor denying anything until I knew where this was headed. “There was a report of leaping. And someone said it looked like you.” “Who was that someone?” “Actually several people. One of them took a video with a cell phone.” “Umm, then, I guess I did …” We have all been under a lot of stress at the

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