Dispatches From the Muckdog Gazette
by Bill Kauffman
New York: Henry Holt and Company; 207 pp., $22.00
A decade ago, a friend of mine was working for a prestigious law firm in Washington, D.C., which had decided to institute a “paperless” office. The process would take a couple of years; in the interim, to smooth the transition, every form had to be filled out three times—and each time in triplicate. (It was astonishing, my friend remarked, how many trees had to die in order to save paper.)
The process was overseen by a highly paid consultant, who demanded that the staff attend weekly meetings, which often ran most of the day. During a break from a particularly long and brutal session, my friend asked the consultant, whose business took him all across the country, about his travels.
“It must be hard to be on the road so much.”
“Well, I’ve gotten used to it. Of course, every city now pretty much looks the same; sometimes, I forget where I am. Today, every place looks like Cleveland.”
My friend, who had grown up on Long Island, began to commiserate, railing against the chain restaurants and big-box stores that are uprooting the last vestiges of local cultures and local economies. Pausing to catch his breath, he noticed the consultant looking...