Methinks You Canny

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

Methinks You Canny

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

Methinks You Canny
An email conversation about the news of the day.
June 5 2000 3:46 PM

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

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Dear Squid Lover,

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Your reading of the nudes is so much better than mine, I've adopted it wholesale. But you got me all wrong on the squid. My rotting-calamari comment was a dig at those heartless squid scientists, not at the big guy on the metal table, who, to me, was poignancy itself. During the brutal squirting sequence, I almost lost a tear.

But shouldn't we reveal there's another reason we got into the squid show? Last week we started reading Moby Dick---that is, we're both reading it, though not literally reading it together, and we're talking about it as we go. And I know I paused on the Discovery Channel because I heard the announcer say some faintly Melvillean thing about the "vastness of the sea." Too bad the Discovery writers didn't have more Melville in them, as I thought their script could have been improved by some of his special outrageousness. Yes, the biologists never found a living giant squid, but isn't it the idea of this elusive beast, rather than the body, that matters most here, and couldn't they have said as much? They might have quoted straight from my favorite out-there Ishmael meditation so far:  

Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being.

Of course, on hearing those four sentences, 90 percent of the audience instantly would have fled. But that remaining 10 percent---I mean, we're talking one high-grade demographic. I should have gone into TV.

Funny you should be drawn to---and repelled by---that Hillary-Lazio photo. Unbeknownst to you, that very image prompted me to call Mike, my editor, this morning and propose I write this week about the media's emerging strategy in the new New York race. From a media point of view, politics is mainly about stage management, and I think we've got Rick and Hillary doing all the right turns so far. By summer's end, that story may well blot out Gore-Bush, which admittedly is not going to be hard to do.

Picking up on your Miss America theme, I wonder how far away we are from candidate swimsuit competitions. It feels close.

William Powers writes a weekly column on the media for National Journal magazine. Martha Sherrill is a former staff writer for the Washington Post, a contributing editor at Esquire, and the author of The Buddha from Brooklyn (click here to buy it).