ONE QUESTION MANY OF MY LOYAL READERS (as well as some of my sometime skimmers) regularly ask me is this: "What do you do when you don't have any column ideas?" One plan I have pondered, but never tried, is to have the Chapel Hill Herald print a large blank space.
This would be philosophical statement akin to the musical statement made by composer John Cage in his seminal work 4'33" which challenged his listeners with four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence. (A work, I might add, that I consider to be among his most aesthetically pleasing.)
"Drawing a Blank," as I considered titling this work, would extend the later, derivative musical statement made by Yoko Ono in her piece Two Minutes Silence which challenged her listeners with two minutes of silence and which moved the form forward by spelling out "Two Minutes" as well as enunciating "Silence." This opus, the critics and I agree, is unquestionably Ono's greatest direct contribution to the musical arts.
If I thought that my sophisticated readers would fathom the depth of such an open form, I would consider it further, but I fear that you would not.
Another reason that I have not published a blank column is that it might evoke memories of when the "journalists" of the Duke Chronicle published a faux newspaper just before the Duke/Carolina basketball game in 1991 with a large empty box on the front page with this caption: "This useless white space was placed here to remind you of Eric Montross." This was so crass, so cruel, so insensitive -- so Duke -- that I would not want it to ever be brought up again. Besides, some people might find it funny still.
(Disclaimer: I once met Eric Montross, looked up at his face and shook his hand -- and I really love the guy. I am not endorsing the devilish sentiment stated above. The only thing bigger than Eric's body is his heart. [Please resist the temptation to dissect this statement logically. It's metaphorical.] I, like every other tried and true Tar Heel blue fan, loved Eric as a basketball player -- when he bled.)
Besides blank columns to deal with column blanking, I have also thought of republishing "Classic Columns." However, after little more than one year of being "The Chapel Hill Herald's Leading Regular Thursday Columnist," that seems a little premature.
(It took the Coca-Cola Bottling Company more than one hundred years, and the introduction of New Coke, before they produced Coke Classic, so I'm going to wait a couple of months on this idea.)
I also have considered just making stuff up -- which seems to have worked quite well for James Frey (of the "A Million Little Pieces" and Oprah Book Club controversy). Frey, after gaining fame for faking his biography, has moved on to what seems to be a more natural genre, fiction.
The reason that just making stuff up when I can’t think of anything to write wouldn’t work for me is that just making stuff up is what I usually do anyway. And for my biographically oriented material, "just making stuff up" seems pointless since my actual life has been goofier than anything my limited imagination is capable of producing. A fuzzy memory seems to be all I really need.
I could also take questions from my readers but that really seems like cheating so I wouldn't do that.
So, where does that leave me? With rhetorical questions, pointless musings and non-sequitorial asides (frequently in parentheses [sometimes with brackets within parentheses]), which ruminations convey to my readers the sometimes convoluted, often circuitous nature of my mental life.
And what if instead of having no idea at all I just run short of words? I guess could try just leaving a paragraph empty with this notation:
[This paragraph left intentionally blank.]
Gary D. Gaddy, who studied the music of John Cage very briefly, as an unreformed Beatlemaniac detests the most truly significant work of Yoko Ono -- breaking up the Beatles.
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday January 10, 2008.
Copyright 2008 Gary D. Gaddy