A zany day on the national mall

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My wife, Sally, and I got on a train Saturday morning in Maryland and headed for the rally for whatever. Part of the point was that we now could -- hop on a train, that is, as we could not do during our 16 years in Kansas -- and be in DC in a half hour.

Part of it was curiosity. My colleague, Michael Sean Winters, makes a very good point about the larger culture and the lack of any hefty public intellectuals (though they may be as terrified of the public mood and 24/7 screamers as hefty potential political candidates) out shaping that culture.

But I must say that we enjoyed the day on the National Mall and the performance. It was a bit of a relief valve for the stored up craziness of this election season. There were, unfortunately, signs that were oh, so, serious. But mostly it was a zany, witty crowd with funny/serious things to say and some wonderful costumes. There were more smiles in a crowd than I've seen in a long time.

One serious note that I appreciated in Stewart's talk was his line that said that when we amplify everything we hear nothing.

I'm a product of old newsrooms. The noise then came from clacking wire machines and manual typewriters (yes, that long ago) and there was lots of smoke and black coffee and shouting editors. However, on major stories that would affect a person's life we often had time to reflect during a news cycle much longer than today's. There was time to ask extra questions, to modulate the tone of things, perhaps, to consider what was really necessary and what was gratuitous. There was time for some refinement. And we handled some really tough stories.

Now so much of what occurs in the newsrooms of the ether seems to me a crude, amplified belch, a stream of often unfiltered words over which someone has thought a nano-second or two, all as shapeless and lacking in substance as a belch. But I'm showing my grumpy age.

I've thought of Saturday on the mall as a throwback to a kind of minstrelsy, or even an old coffee house kind of satire with a huge crowd that was long overdue for some laughs and music.

The trains were very crowded.

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