The Comic Strip Message of Peanuts: “Life can be hard, perseverance is required, joy is fleeting, imagination is essential.”

From a post on by Andrew Blauner titled “The Spiritual Message at the Heart of ‘Peanuts'”:

In the 70 years since the comic strip “Peanuts” first appeared, countless other comic strips have come and gone. All the while. . .some of the themes and touchstones of “Peanuts” have woven their way into our vocabulary, our views and voices, our senses and sensibilities.

“Peanuts” may not have the cool factor of other things in our culture, but it has transcended the test of time. . . .

Dan Jenkins on Learning to Write

My grandmother bought me a typewriter. It sat on the kitchen table. I would take the paper every day, put a piece of paper in and start copying the newspaper story word for word. One day, I started trying to improve on it. I thought, ‘This guy’s an idiot. I can do better than this.” It hasn’t stopped since.

—From the Washington Post obit by Matt Schudel on Sports Illustrated writer Dan Jenkins.

A Vogue cover featuring Kamala Harris: “What happened to the powder blue suit with the American flag on it?”

From senior media writer Tom Jones at The Poynter Report

The cover of February’s Vogue is causing controversy. It all started Saturday night when HuffPost contributor Yashar Ali tweeted out the Vogue cover days before it’s scheduled to hit newsstands.

The cover has Vice President-elect Kamala Harris wearing black pants, a black blazer and her Converse Chuck Taylor shoes. That cover, apparently, blindsided Harris’ team. They thought another photo was going to be used, a photo with Harris wearing a powder blue power suit with an American flag pin on it and Harris’ arms folded. (Both will be displayed digitally. You can see both photos here.)

Ved Mehta: “The act of writing was a way of retaining mastery over a visual universe that had been denied him nearly all his life.”

From a New York Times obit by Margalit Fox headlined “Ved Mehta, Celebrated Writer for The New Yorker, Dies at 86”:

Ved Mehta, a longtime writer for The New Yorker whose best-known work, spanning a dozen volumes, explored the vast, turbulent history of modern India through the intimate lens of his own autobiography, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. . . .

Associated with the magazine for more than three decades — much of his magnum opus began as articles in its pages — Mr. Mehta was widely considered the 20th-century writer most responsible for introducing American readers to India.

Stephen Ambrose: “Many of the stories he wrote in his popular history books were ones he’d told over and over to his college students.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of Stephen Ambrose, born in Lovington, Illinois, in 1936, who wrote best-selling books about American history, including Band of Brothers (1992) and Undaunted Courage: Meriwether LewisThomas Jeffersonand the Opening of the American West (1996).

He was a longtime professor, and many of the stories he wrote in his popular history books were ones he’d told over and over to his college students, trying hard to entertain them. He said: “There is nothing like standing before 50 students at 8:00 a.m. to start talking about an event that occurred 100 years ago, because the look on their faces is a challenge — ‘Let’s see you keep me awake.’ You learn what works and what doesn’t in a hurry.”

“Covering the Capitol Siege: This Could Get Ugly.”

From a New York Times story by Katie Robertson and Tiffany Hsu headlined “11 Journalists on Covering the Capitol Siege: ‘This Could Get Ugly'”:

Reporters knew before they arrived at the Capitol on Wednesday that there would be large protests in support of President Trump. But most expected the day’s main event to be the drama and ceremony of the nation’s leaders debating the ratification of the Electoral College vote for Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the next president.

The journalists ended up chronicling a siege that underscored the fragility of American democracy. Many did their jobs a few feet from drawn weapons. Others faced the wrath of pro-Trump agitators with a grudge against the news media.

“Is Pam Jenoff a Law Professor Moonlighting as a Novelist, or Vice Versa?”

From a New York Times Inside the List column by Elizabeth Egan titled “Is Pam Jenoff a Law Professor Moonlighting as a Novelist, or Vice Versa?”:

When Pam Jenoff introduces herself to a new group of students at Rutgers Law School, she doesn’t usually talk about what she’s up to outside the classroom.

But at some point during the year, a prospective lawyer might mention that a relative is reading one of her books — and that’s when Jenoff will open up about her other career as the best-selling author of 10 novels, with another on the way in May. . . .

Mary Catherine Bateson: “We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.”

A death notice in the Washington Post:

Dr. Mary Catherine Bateson, died peacefully on January 2, 2021 holding her daughter’s hand.

Dr. Bateson was a best-selling author, a linguist, and a cultural anthropologist. Among her many books, With A Daughter’s Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, was the New York Times Best of the Year list in 1984. Her New York Times best-selling Composing A Life was published in 1991.

Her literary legacy will be cataloged at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

It’s a Nice Idea But It’s Probably Off-Broadway

By Jack Limpert

One of my favorite writers was Ernest B. “Pat” Furgurson, a longtime Baltimore Sun reporter, Washington bureau chief, and book author. He wrote some great pieces for the Washingtonian and once when we were talking the name Ashbel Green came up. It turned out that Green was the Knopf editor who handled Pat’s books.

Pat greatly admired how Green edited—calm, soft-spoken, with a vast historical memory. Pat said Ash suggested rather than insisted, and thus reliably got what he wanted, serving the reader and upholding Knopf’s tradition of quality.

“How to save local news but do it in a way that is future—and First Amendment—friendly.”

From a Washington Monthly story by Steven Waldman headlined “The Coming Era of ‘Civic News'”:

Francis Wick’s family has been running local newspapers since 1926, when his grandfather Milton and his grand-uncle James took over the Niles Daily Times in Niles, Ohio. These second-generation Norwegian immigrants, and their children, gradually grew the company, and it now includes more than 25 small-circulation newspapers in 11 states. Although Wick Communications is not even among the top 25 newspaper chains, these publications are important in their communities. A typical homepage for the website of Wick-run Wenatchee World, in central Washington State, includes headlines like “Two More Fatalities from COVID-19 Reported in Chelan and Douglas Counties” and “Former Health Administrator Emails Reveal Infighting over Pandemic Response.” There are no big TV stations or metro dailies that provide this kind of coverage. If these newspapers went away, places like Wenatchee would become news deserts.