Nine years ago, at about this time in the cycle of the Earth's spin, I made this statement: "Even if poverty has precluded a full complement of presents, you’re seasonally separated from beloved family members, and the stress of the holidays has brought you low, you can at least be grateful for one thing: Between Christmas and New Year’s, most politicians and candidates are sequestered with their own families, thus giving us – and you – a temporary reprieve from their drivel."
Wow. How little did I know. I had no clue in the relative naivete of my youth that politicians would be jerked about on the ends of threads, like so many marionettes, as is being done today. I had no idea I might be standing in front of the U.S. Capitol, watching a politician I recognized, hunched over and wobbling toward a port-a-potty – a more preferable and private locale than a fancy, marble-laden restroom in the majestic building reflecting the pink glow of marble in the setting sun.
But the complaints about politicians had far different meanings back then than they do today. In those days, I didn't expect Donald Trump, nor could I have foreseen a pandemic. But one thing hasn't changed: I get as tired of the politician conundrum as do readers – and those who either can't or won't absorb the printed word. I get just as tired of what they say as how they look.
Today, we are disgusted by the games being played by the "relief package." Will we receive checks for $600, or $2,000? Do we need or deserve either amount? What will either sum, with so many zeroes tacked onto the end of it that I can't even conceive of it, mean to the deficit? How will our children pay for it? What sorts of games are politicians playing with the national budget – and with our lives?
Whatever our political persuasion, we were all in the same leaky dinghy in those days, and so we are today – one we can’t afford to patch, and thank goodness we have oars, because fuel for an outboard motor would be too high. And we can also agree most “public servants” in the Beltway don’t deserve the time it takes to type their names in a word program, much less the astronomical salary and benefits packages they receive on our backs.
Philosophically, few things have changed since then. Look at the topics on which they waste money with their endless tussling. In 2011, it was incandescent lightbulbs. George W. Bush signed a bill aimed at their eventual demise, because of the energy they waste in comparison to fluorescents. But then, certain politicians began advancing the notion that we should have the “freedom” to waste energy if we want to, and that inefficient bulbs should be embraced at all costs. Back in those heady days, candidate Michelle Bachmann – herself a rather dim bulb in some respects – was among the champions of outdated technology.
Ten years ago, I faced a conundrum that seems ridiculous by today's standards. I was griping about the fact that some people's faces didn't fit nicely into the parameters of the “mugshot” box we had established for their photos on the pages of our paper. This would seem like a niggling little thing for the average Joe Blow, but for a person doing newspaper layout on a computer, it could cause considerable grief.
Why not change the shape of the photo box to fit the particular shape of the face? It’s just not done. It has something to do with consistency, uniformity, and aesthetic appeal. Nor can we “force fit” the photo in the box, or readers would puzzle over the apparent deformity of certain faces. They’d call to complain, and we don’t need more of that than we already get. And I remember that President Barack Obama caused extra work every time his photo appeared. His face was rather thin – and is so today – and thus we wound up with unneeded space on both sides of his head, which was only partially filled by his sizable ears. This meant that sometimes, he lost the tip of his chin.
Sarah Palin’s poofy hairdo wreaked havoc at the pagination desk, as did her appealing glasses. If you left all of her hair, or the aforementioned Bachmann’s, in the mugshot, their faces wound up so small as to be almost indiscernible to anyone without a telescope handy. We had hoped until 2010 that we had heard the last of Newt Gingrich, and would no longer have to wrestle with his block-shaped head. But he has continued to surface, off and on, over the ensuing years.
I won't even go into the problems newspaper editors face with President Trump, whose jowly face requires a "box" more wide than tall – unless one considers his oral orifice, which juts out like one of those orange trumpeter flowers that attracts honeybees. Thin faces, oversized glasses and sunglasses, baseball caps, mammoth earrings and perpetually open mouths also pose challenges to page designers.
The worst offender a decade ago was Mitt Romney, whose long face would have given Salvador Dali fits of ecstasy. Try getting that one into a standard mug box without huge gaps on either side of his ears. All I can say is, there’s plenty of room on the horizontal axis, so if you don’t want half of your own face in the photo with him, don’t stand too close. But then, consider once again, President Trump. His face is as wide as Romney's was long and narrow. I'm not sure what fits of rage President-Elect Joe Biden will cause newspaper page designers.
If only page design were the worst of our worries. I still am not willing to wager money on what will happen on Jan. 6, or Jan. 20. Are you?