Friday, November 5, 2010

Lorem ipsum?

Unless you are in the publishing business, you have no earthly idea what “lorem ipsum” means.

Years ago, editors used to yell “gimme 12 inches of copy for page two” and you’d measure that up by column inch. With the advent of computerized page design, it’s “gimme 540 words.” In order to know that exact number, the designer fills the space with “dummy type.”

Lorem ipsum dolar sit amet, consectutur adipiscing elit. Sed orci magna, convallis eget interdum eget, doales ornate ante.

That’s what a small chunk looks like. Sounds kind of like something you’d hear at a Sunday Mass, doesn’t it? That’s probably because it has its roots in classic Latin literature.

Of course, lorem ipsum says nothing. It was jumbled five centuries ago from something Cicero wrote. It’s been kept alive by purist typographers, but has no meaning.

Unfortunately, the publishing business is full of lorem ipsum – words that when put together, don’t say anything.

Finding a magazine – or newspaper – that has real content isn’t easy these days because editorial staffs have cut their writing work force back to the bone. In the past two years, more than 166 newspapers in the United States have closed down. There’s actually a website called Magazine Death Pool that chronicles the hundreds of magazines that die each year.

The good news for you: As 2010 comes to a close, we begin our 36th year. Land Line Magazine not only is surviving; we are thriving. Since OOIDA established its own magazine in 1975, Land Line has continued to develop a broader-based advocacy through journalism – both in print and over the airwaves.

Moving forward into 2011, we remain fiscally solid and editorially strong, with a real live award-winning staff that has its marching orders to stay close to our Association’s core mission. No fluff and stuff editorial, no baloney, no filler, no irresponsible advertising and no lorem ipsum on our pages.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Trucker Buddy the Cowpoke way

Our chocolate Cocker Spaniel “Dudley” was first. Then the truck, my wife Geri and I were in a three-way tie for second by our Trucker Buddy class on who they wanted to see first when we visited the school.

We had a Trucker Buddy class of fifth-graders in Tyler, TX, for two years. Going in we knew nothing about it, but I could see that to do it right it would have to involve a school visit near the start of the school year and again at the end. We did and it worked out super.

At our first visit in the fall we were all strangers, so old “Dudley” was a real icebreaker. We did the usual stuff, and everybody got to go in the truck. “Hey, they have a TV, refrigerator and microwave in here.” I explained that it was a “Dave Sweetman Starter Kit.”

And we had a question-and-answer session. We talked about our job and some of the places it took us, promised to send pictures and other mementoes of our travels, and agreed the kids would each write us a letter once a month and we would respond.

We did our part. Running all over the country gave us plenty of opportunity to get some neat mementoes, especially in the second year when we had leased on with Trailer Transit. Places like the Kennedy Space Center, various Broadway shows, golf tourneys, The Grand Ole Opry, Grand Canyon, etc. We would collect fliers, programs, take photos, etc. We had stuff to send in every week.

Houston, we have a problem.

Everything had been going smoothly until one weekend Geri and I were hiding from that Houston heat and humidity in a motel. We had been working on our letters, 25 or 30 to our class, and had them spread out on the unused queen-sized bed and went out for breakfast. When we got back, the maid had thrown them all in the trash. We saved them without the manager having to go dumpster diving.

Before our spring visits we knew we couldn’t come empty-handed. We were in the Shell SuperRigs calendar in 1997 and had a copy of the calendar for everyone. One year just before our visit we were in Denton, TX, as members of Peterbilt’s Council of Class doing a focus group thing. I told our host about our Trucker Buddy class and our visit the next day. He promptly overnighted Peterbilt hats and key chains for everyone. The next year Trailer Transit furnished hats all around.

The visit in the fall had been kinda laid back, the get-acquainted meeting, but the visit in the spring after we had been “together” all year was electric. You would have thought we were royalty. Only if you have had a class would you know what it’s like. We spent the whole afternoon there. They carried in dinner and brought another round of Mexican food for us to take with us. We might have mentioned that was our favorite …

I’ll admit, to do the job right took some time and effort. To keep coming up with something new and communicating to kids so young was hard at times, but the rewards far outweighed the bad. That final school visit both years made it more than worthwhile.

Looking back, I would have robbed a Boy Scout to have a digital camera and a computer back then. We could have sent updates and photos every day: a photo of last night’s desert sunset, a big city skyline, mountain sunrise or state welcome sign this morning, and a note about where we were and our plan for the day.

Of course a “Dudley” report every day would have been a given. Wish we could do it again, but with today’s technology.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A town called Skidmore

About 20 yellow sticky notes sit crumpled on my desk this afternoon, evidence of my effort to mark interesting sections of a true crime novel about Skidmore, MO.

The November edition of Land Line includes a feature story on the farming and trucking town of Skidmore, MO.

Skidmore has unfortunately become famous for being the site of several awful crimes, including the 1981 shooting of noted bully Ken Rex McElroy.

Originally, I started marking the most interesting portions of the book, “In Broad Daylight,” as I read it. After the 20th sticky-note, it seemed half the book was covered in sticky notes.

I was sort of looking for names of people that might be key players to revisit nearly 30 years later. We found a handful of truckers, diesel mechanics and several OOIDA members to use as sources for our article.

If you like crime stories and true novels with deep, rich background, I recommend picking up a copy of Harry MacLean’s “In Broad Daylight.” Two copies of the book have been floating around our office for weeks now as my co-workers have enjoyed diving into the book as much as I have.

One copy happens to belong to my grandmother – who bought her copy in the 1980s and who has always loved a good mystery, especially if it’s true. Half of the fun I had working on this article came when I got to check in with her and exchange info about Skidmore and Nodaway County – an area she has visited since she was a child in the 1930s.

As you’ll read, MacLean relied heavily on an OOIDA Member named Kriss for background, interviews and story rights for many people in town. What resulted is a New York Times best-selling account of McElroy’s shooting, with several nods to daily Midwestern and small town life.

I have never called up a book’s author before, but MacLean was as interested in Skidmore as ever, and even offered to help a bit with our story.

MacLean, an attorney, pursued the story with a writer’s vengeance, spending about three years total in Skidmore to develop sources and write what would become a made for TV movie.

It wasn’t easy, he said.

“I just got in my car, found Skidmore and started knocking on doors,” MacLean told me by phone from his home in Denver. “I had doors slammed in my face, dogs bite me and shotguns pulled on me. It was pretty rough in the beginning.”

MacLean told me he had always been a great fan of the Truman Capote book “In Cold Blood,” the legendary true crime account of the brutal 1950s murder of the Clutter family in small town western Kansas.

His editor came up with the title of “In Broad Daylight” after seeing it in a sentence MacLean had written. The title seems to give a tip of the hat to “In Cold Blood,” while preparing readers for a distinctly different story of a small town killing.

“I reread ‘In Cold Blood’ about every five years, and I always get freaked out by it. It’s so powerful,” MacLean said. “I wasn’t trying to mimic the name, but it’s not bad that it comes out that way.”