Twenty Four Years Later: PSACOT
October 09, 2022
(A reprint of my annual anniversary item, with small adjustments).
As of Oct. 16, it's been 24 years since my online revival of this 52-year-old column. (As published, as a Typepad Entry) Twenty four years online! (with a small six-year gap in the middle). I’ve written 848 columns, successors to an idea born in MIT’s objectivist student newspaper, ERGO, on September 23, 1970, six days after my 18th birthday. (See entire first column here)
When I started this column online, "W" was still the second-rate governor of Texas, Sara Palin was busy running Wasila, and John McCain was angry. W is still second rate, Palin isn't running anything, and John McCain is gone.
I was still working for CMP (computer journalism company), and had a weekly podcast, back before Ipods (which definitely cut into our audience). My heart beat by itself and I weighed 270 pounds. In short, things were different.
In 1998, during the Clinton impeachment, I either had to start a column or check into a mental institution. PSACOT gave me a forum in which to express, to an audience (no matter how small) my feelings about that political circus. [As a one-time U.S. history teacher, I am forced to note that Andrew Johnson's impeachment was a rabid partisan witch hunt, as was Clinton's. Only Nixon's near-impeachment was bipartisan--and only Nixon resigned. And only Trump was charged twice for crimes he actually committed.]
The column/blog has since evolved into a combination of diary for my family and me and bulletin board for my clever friends--in short, a personal column. Like, but not as good as, former San Francisco Chronicle columnists Adair Lara or Jon Carroll. Or Doug Baker of the Oregon Journal. Or, to take a national example, former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen, considered the mother of the personal column concept (even though Stanton Delaplane and Charles McCabe of the San Francisco Chronicle actually beat her to it--but of course, if it hasn't happened in New York, it hasn't happened).
PSACOT is also a revival of sorts. My MIT readers would remember the original P.S. A Column On Things, which ran in ERGO, MIT's objectivist newspaper from September 1970 to March 1971, and The Tech, MIT's semi-official student newspaper, six times from March 1971 to May 1971. Those were among my happiest days as a journalist. If I had truly understood the fulfillment a personal column gave me, perhaps I would have fought harder to keep it when Bob Fourer killed it, or I would have revived it when I became editor-in-chief two years later, or tried to practice the craft as an adult (and become the father of the personal column).
In any case, I expect to still be doing this next October; I'll meet you here.