After 10 years and something approaching 500 columns, Zane’s World is ending as a weekly feature in the Santa Fe Reporter.
I have a muddy recollection of once reading that, when Herb Caen retired his daily column for the San Francisco Chronicle, a printed record of his work would have stretched from the Bay Area to the moon—or at least Nevada. Even printed on a suspiciously heavy paper stock, I don’t think a stack of all the Zane’s World columns would make it halfway across Marcy Street, but it still feels like a decade of hard work and an appropriate milestone for change—for myself and for SFR.
Having a public soapbox in one’s community is a privilege, and it has been an unqualified honor to contribute to public dialogue with such free rein.
Zane’s World originally focused exclusively on visual arts criticism, slogging to galleries and museums with the purpose of judging the relative success or lack thereof of artists and their exhibitions. But the column soon began to drift—wasn’t it important to talk about the structure of the art world, and the monetary and social engines that feed it? What about the value of cultural expression in general or, more specifically, in terms of education, economic development, tourism and social change?
By the time the City of Santa Fe approved its current (if tweaked) economic development plan back in 2004, an unintentional but successful mission creep had taken place, and Zane’s World became a repository for rants, musings, observations and meditations on politics, planning, land use and almost anything else.
For the past several years, when I’ve met people and they’ve asked me what I write about, I’ve had the great luxury of answering “whatever I feel like.”
Not that former SFR Editor Julia Goldberg would agree with that completely: I would never have been allowed to publish anything vindictive or retaliatory or that strafed any ethical boundaries. But for the most part, I have been left largely free to follow my nose down whatever hole I could manage to stick it in.
Certainly, I will miss that privilege. I’ll miss the back-and-forth with the opponents of wireless technology and telecommunications infrastructure, now that the World Health Organization officially believes mobile phones to possibly be as carcinogenic as fermented fruits and vegetables. I will miss the opportunity to get mouthy when—especially if Republicans continue to hold the national economy hostage—the US becomes a greater pool of cheap labor than China. According to a study published in May by the Boston Consulting Group, wages are rising rapidly in China, while ours continue to stagnate. By 2015, the study suggests, European industries are likely to view the cost of running manufacturing operations in China and the United States as roughly equivalent. It will be depressing to not have a platform to say “I told you so” when that sad day rolls around.
But then one of the first things I came to understand when trying to unpack and intuit truths about governments and economies is that the best efforts and manifestations are deeply local. We may feel as though we’re floundering with our national and state elections, but every citizen has a profound and measurable impact at the local level. Various parts of the United States may be satisfied with a relegation to cheap, nonunionized labor, but we don’t have to accept that situation in Santa Fe. The city has the talent, the energy, the cultural depth and the historic diversity to reinvent itself as an innovative community and a municipal leader on any number of levels.
That potential, at least in part, is why Zane’s World needs to come to a close. I’ve always tried to balance the ability to complain about public dysfunction with some amount of personal energy and effort toward implementing solutions, but it’s time for me to do more and complain less.
It’s also time, at least from my perspective, for SFR to showcase some new and different voices and perspectives on the community. Incoming Editor Alexa Schirtzinger is dedicated to ensuring that SFR keeps pace with the spirit of innovation, and many compelling content options are on the horizon.
So thank you to the Santa Fe Reporter and its readers for giving me the gift of writing a regular rant this past decade.
And to all you crazy bastards out there, it’s OK if you still send me hate mail after I stop writing the column.
Because I’ll miss that too.