May 25th, 2024


Cleaning Off the Desk

Greg Crosby

By Greg Crosby

Published Dec. 1, 2017

Every now and again, like maybe 5 to 10 years, I get an impulse to clean my desk. Not a total complete cleaning, mind you, that would take too much out of me, just a quick once over lightly. I try to do enough so that my desk can actually function as a desk again. It's rather nice to see that under all the papers, file folders, envelopes, glue sticks, pens and pencils, markers, rulers, ink bottles, telephone, pencil sharpener, label tags, instruction sheets for long ago forgotten devices, books, maps, small toys, postage stamps, bills, old keys, calendars, tape dispenser, stapler, paper clips, blotter, and about ? inch of dust there still exists a wooden surface.

The idea is to clear away enough room so I can literally make an area in which to work. I can now happily report that this has been done and my wife (although she would have preferred I had cleaned the entire thing completely) is grateful. As part of my tidying up I perused through several of my clip files, which have been sleeping soundly on the desk since at least 2004.

My clip files have nothing to do with electronic computer storage; I wouldn't even know what to do with stuff like that. I prefer to actually open a real manila file folder and thumb through the clippings and notes I've stored in it. Yes that's right, I keep old-fashioned clip files, just like the newspapers used to do back in prehistoric times.

Most of the clippings, half-baked ideas and scribbled notes were preserved in these files for possible future articles and columns. Some were used, but most are still languishing in journalistic Purgatory, waiting to be glorified in print. As I attempted to separate the wheat from the chaff it suddenly dawned on me that this whole process would make a pretty good column. So without further ado I bring you a few tidbits from the Crosby clip file. In no particular context and in no particular order. Make of them what you will.

Quote from T.S. Eliot: "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harmÑbut the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

Idea for a short story or film; a person's life story told through checkbook entrees.

I find it interesting that modern technology has given filmmakers the ability to produce violence and special effects that look more realistic than ever. The breakdown of the production code has allowed filmmakers the freedom to use foul language, engage in subject matter of questionable taste, and photograph just about anything without fear of censorship. Almost no subject matter is taboo anymore.

And yet most of the movies produced today are more stilted, more juvenile, shallow, and phony than the movies that were made under the so-called "restrictions" of years ago. Why is that? The pictures of the golden era possessed a greater range of human emotions and depth of character than what is made now. Those emotions were handled with more honesty and on a far more sophisticated level then movies today.

Today's moviemakers have much more tools available to them and yet they are crafting a far inferior product compared to the level of quality in films of 60 or 70 years ago. Interesting, no?

A question: Is this the first time in recorded history when people actually WANT to look dirty, sloppy, and unkempt? Most people today, it seems to me, attempt to emulate the lower classes of our society. In days gone by, people made every effort to try to look well dressed, clean, and mannered. Even (or especially) the poorest among us strove to dress as well as they possibly could. Why in our time is it a wonderful thing to look like a street person, thug or convict? What happened?

Speaking of sloppy and unkempt. Why have we resorted to call beggars, hobos, drug addicts, drunks, and tramps "the homeless?" Why not call them the "jobless?" Or the "aimless." Or the "useless." Or the "mindless." Or the "senseless." Aren't they all those things too? Having a "home" doesn't automatically make you normal. Just ask Phil Spector. There are lots of things people on the street don't have besides homes. Why not call them the "Louboutinless?" Or call them the "Playstationless." Or what most of them really are, the "soapless."

Okay, that's enough clip file tidbits for now. But stay tuned; there may be more in the futureÉ if you ask real nice.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. He's been a JWR contributor since 1999.