This is one of those times when it's hard to focus. Every day, I'm newly enchanted—in a breathless, serial-novel-reader sort of way—by the unfolding News of the World/News Corp. scandal in Britain.
Every entertainment aspect of it is profoundly gratifying: The stunning change of fortunes of a nasty, bullying tabloid empire; the vindication of the legit British press that stayed on the story; the rippling exposure of irrefutable and probably prosecutable collusion among tabloid journalists, highly placed politicians, the police and career criminals; and, best of all, the fury of a public that lapped up the swill until it became clear that the papers were preying not just on royals and other fun celebrities, but on suffering ordinary citizens, too.
There's even a glimmer of hope in it for American politics—if News Corp.'s Fox News were to be exposed to the guy on the street as the propaganda machine for billionaires that it is, what would happen? What if everyone suddenly saw the man behind the curtain?
In England, people in public life have been terrified of the tabloids for years, for good reason. In one incident in 2004, a middle-age female politician who dared to complain in passing about the daily topless-girl feature in Rupert Murdoch's The Sun was subsequently described in a headline as "fat" and "jealous," and in a richly reported scene, she had her home set upon by a fabricated mob of topless models sent by the paper's then-editor, Murdoch favorite Rebekah Brooks.
In this country, the role of stagey bimbo-mob recruited by News Corp., for News Corp., is played throughout the country by the Tea Party, with starring roles for photogenic climbers like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. The surface may look different, but the tactical structure is the same.
You've got to hand it to the British: They know how to do dark, rolling, multi-tentacled, unstoppable scandal. These public moments are most entertaining when they involve not piffling sexual naughtiness, but the crashing fall of gods. All that's missing is Charles Dickens, who, by the way, once invented a pair of brother-and-sister villains named Murdstone. (The first syllable evokes "murder," combined with the French mordre—to bite. With, of course, a bracing whiff of merde.) Some people think Dickens was broad and obvious, too comic-book and fairytale-ish. In fact, he simply paid attention. Try rolling Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch, around in your mouth for a bit. Read the bio. Study the photos with the many warring kids and over-excited protégés. See him smiling broadly next to other bazillionaires of dubious origin. Observe him on the yacht with the Hong Kong princess wife. Dickens would have been hard put to exaggerate any of it.
But that's that, and it's over there, and Jimmy Boegle loves local. And here we also have swell stuff. We have the monsoon.
Devoutly longed for, grand and benevolent, it swept in ahead of schedule, bringing towering, oceanic clouds, intoxicating night rains and virtually no dry lightning strikes. A palpable sense of communal satisfaction settled over all the people of Southern Arizona as, day after day, it delivered unto drought-stricken us, a precious third of an inch at a time.
Why we loved the monsoon overture:
• It doused the wildfires. Thank God.
• It broke just in time to stop us all from worrying ourselves sick about fireworks-related fires and viciously cursing the morons running our state who thought legalizing personal fireworks during a drought was a good idea.
• It sent a spectacular dust storm rolling over Phoenix, much to everyone's delight.
• It broke the June heat. A friend of mine had been going around saying that it was so hot that her internal organs were baking. She's from Minnesota, and I felt that she was dramatizing a bit, but it's actually pretty descriptive of how 110 feels.
• It gave all the critters a drink and a bath, and filled the pools in the wash, which immediately swarmed with tadpoles. Almost as quickly, sap that I am, I started worrying about their fate. Sure enough, the rain backed off, and the small puddles dried up in less than week. But the Cooper's hawk who's been standing in the deep, shady pool at the upper end gorging on infant toads for hours each day seems philosophical. As well he might—his belly's full; his feet are wet; and it's July in Tucson.