Well, TechTV mostly requires past-tense verbs. But it becomes really official for most of the employees on Tuesday. That’s July 6, the end of our 60-day layoff-notice period when the people “selected for termination,” as the new owners put it, are officially ex-employees. More on that later, I hope. But I did happen to see a link to a nice, understated short essay by Mark Neuling, one of our photographers, about the closure; it’s worth checking out just for his nice stills of the staff.
Here’s an oft-quoted passage from William Faulkner (from “Intruder in the Dust,” which no, I have not read) that grabs a lot of people:
For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two oclock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is stll time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago….
As a northerner and as someone who grew up believing (and who still believes) that the Civil War was fought in the most just of causes — ultimately, to end slavery — it’s probably impossible to fully appreciate the feelings Faulkner’s evoking there. Yes, history’s full of moments of barely missed opportunity, of heroes thwarted, of big “what if” moments. What if Lincoln hadn’t been at Ford’s Theatre? What if Bobby Kennedy had lived? But what Faulkner is talking about is where history blends into myth. In some important way, it doesn’t take into account a moral dimension of the event it interprets. What if Lee had prevailed at Gettysburg (that’s the premise for a series of historical novels being written by Newt Gingrich, by the way)? Yeah — and what if the Soviets hadn’t stopped Hitler at Stalingrad? Sure, we have a wish that true valor had some reward beyond a glorified version of “nice try” and a bullet in the chest. But part of the reason we can look back and daydream about these episodes is because they came out the way they did. The Faulkner quote reminds me of another that kicks around in my head, from Grant’s account of Lee’s surrender at Appamattox:
“I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the
sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”
If you’re of a certain persuasion, the first three days of July mean Gettysburg. And by “certain persuasion,” I don’t mean a Civil War “buff,” whatever that is, or a re-enactor type. At least not necessarily. I mean someone who might be struck sometime at this time of year by the events of those three days and what they mean still, and the fresh meaning the history has in light of what we’re going through today.
There’s a good piece at Salon.com — which you can’t read in full unless you pay for it — a Q and A with Mario Cuomo about his book on Lincoln and Lincoln’s relevance in our war-on-terrorism world. An excerpt:
Would Lincoln have had anything to say about President Bush’s doctrine of preemptive war?
Yes. He specifically condemned preventive war on the grounds it would allow a leader to start a war cynically or unwisely. He thought it better to allow constitutional devices to work, which means going to Congress and obtaining a declaration of war. Lincoln also made it clear that you should avoid at all costs doing two wars at once. During the course of the Civil War, he was tempted by everyone around him to intervene with the British on the Trent affair [sparked by the Union’s capture of two Confederate diplomats aboard a British mail steamer] and with the Mexicans [who were fending off a French attack aimed at installing a puppet government]. But he avoided it, saying we needed to concentrate our effort, which is precisely the critique that [Florida Sen.] Bob Graham was making of Bush during the Democratic primary elections.
What we have here is the packaging for a neoprene rectangle, 4 and 3/8ths inches wide, 10 and 3/4ths inches long, and 1/16th of an inch thick. How did this little patch of foam come into my life? I just bought a new iBook laptop, and the clerk at the Apple Store grabbed one and added it to the bundle of stuff I was getting. Not free, mind you. It cost $9.95. The reason she said I needed it was to prevent the keyboard from marking up the laptop screen. Fair enough — you don’t want your display scratched up.
Wouldn’t it be nice for Apple to throw in a little scrap of free neoprene, maybe with the company logo, when you shell out your two or three grand or whatever it is for one of their machines? Answer, yes, it would be nice. And it wouldn’t hurt profit margins much. I mean, how much can this little patch of fabric cost to produce? My totally unresearched guess is between a nickel and a quarter. (Hell, now I’ll have to research it.)
But the thinking is, I’m sure, who’s going to squawk about 10 bucks when they’re spending $2,000? No one, probably, though if I’d thought faster, maybe I would have said keep your keyboard cover because a sheet of typing paper or something like that will work just as well.
Checking the maker’s site, by the way, I see they charge $6.95. Apple’s markup is $3, or about 42 percent.