Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crime of the Century (Free Willy Division)

CHURCH HILL, Tennessee, March 29th - Police arrested a local man Friday on a charge of indecent exposure after he allegedly dashed through a grocery store dressed in nothing but a rubber mask, according to a report today in the Kingston (TN) Times-News.
   The piece, by a reporter charmingly named Rain Smith, is a textbook case of excellent journalism, as it perfectly incorporates the classic Five Ws: Who, What, Where, When and Why:
   WHO: Daniel, R. Lee, twenty-two, of 612 East Main Boulevard, Apt. A, Church Hill, TN. He was accompanied by a woman who claimed to be his girlfriend. She is Katelyn M. Trent, eighteen, of 1849 1/2 Forest View Drive, Kinsgport, TN.
 WHAT: Mr. Lee, according to supermarket personnel quoted by the Times-News, "ran around the store exposing himself to several customers and employees." A question suggests itself: did Mr. Lee stop to waggle his wing-wang at customers, thereby consciously exposing himself, or does the mere fact of scampering around a store with baby's arm bobbing constitute exposure? The question goes unanswered in the Times-News report. 
   As it happens, one staff member tried to catch Mr. Lee, but couldn't. This suggests either that Mr. Lee is very, very fast, or that the store employee is very, very slow. Alas, although Rain Smith lays out her facts clearly and concisely, she does not expand upon them, and so we shall never know which is true.
   WHERE: An IGA (Independent Grocers Alliance) supermarket at 3006 North John B. Dennis Highway. After leaving the store, Mr. Lee allegedly scuttled to a nearby Hardee's, where, wearing naught but an orange hoodie sweatshirt, he asked employees if someone could lend him something to wear. Apparently, in planning his misdeed, Mr. Lee did not think ahead to the moment when, suffused with joy from his bare-assed scurry, he would leave the store and need to cover himself with, well, clothing. 
   A Hardee's employee gave Mr. Lee a pair of "basketball shorts." This means that Mr. Lee, a healthy young man of twenty-two, was wearing a hoodie and athletic shorts, which, and we mean this in the strictest journalistic sense, could not be hotter. 
   Inexplicably, Mr. Lee stayed in the Hardee's bathroom, and that's where police found him. They took him to jail and only charged him with indecent exposure, which was a kindness; they could also have charged him, no offense to Mr. Lee and his choice of color scheme, with a fashion crime for wearing an orange sweatshirt. (Photo, below.)
   WHEN: Just after nine p.m. on Friday, March 26.
   WHY: An officer who wrote the police report quoted by the Times-News noted that "Daniel advised me that he did run through the IGA nude because he was bored and didn't have anything to do."
Image   The use of "Daniel," as opposed to the more formal "Mr. Lee," or the chillingly dehumanizing "Lee," suggests that police look favorably on Mr. Lee's youthful hijinks.
   And why not? Church Hill is a town of roughly 7,000 people. It was a Friday night. Mr. Lee and Ms. Trent were bored. 
   First, it is an act of benevolence to a small-town community, citizens of most of which believe fervently in God, for one of its healthy young males to display his ding-a-ling, the design of which surely is proof that the Lord is Good and His Gifts are many. 
   Second, it is better, is it not, for a young man to run nude through a grocery store than to, say, join a rural militia, arm himself to the teeth, and, with his fellow mental defectives, tear apart the fabric of this great nation grenade by grenade?
   As First Of All likes to put it: Bones Not Bombs!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TV Report Blurs Facts, Language; Nation Weeps

   A New Jersey town recently outlawed dog barking twenty-four hours a day, according to a story reported by WCBS2, a television station there, but we are simply not concerned with that law for the purposes of this post. 
   What concerns us is the ban-related news story posted yesterday on the WCBS2 Web site. It is a glorious if dispiriting mess apparently written by someone for whom English is - no offense - a second, third, fourth or never-studied language.
    See for yourself. (The story excerpts are in italics.)

   Muzzle it.
   Let us forgive WCBS this unforgivable lede. Beginning in the nineteen-seventies, American news outlets came to believe that a cute lede draws readers. It does not. It repels them - at least the remaining twelve or thirteen who value good writing, and who welcome news outlets to communicate as though to adults. 

   That's the word in one local town as officials try to put dog owners on a financial leash if they can't keep their pets quiet - no matter what time of day or night.
   So far, so good, the "leash" reference notwithstanding. 

   Now, CBS 2 HD encountered one dog on Monday that was quite obviously barking because we - strangers after all who've had the nerve to come into what is really her house in Piscataway, N.J. - got her excited. 
   Gracious. Where to start. 
   The dog was "quite obviously barking.... because we got her excited." Who are "we?" In broad terms, this is, of course, an existential question. More practically, however, this phrase is so - no offense - terribly constructed that we readers have no idea who "we" is (are?). 
   Well, wait; yes we do. "We" are "strangers after all who've had the nerve...." The commas missing between strangers/after and all/who've suggest that these strangers are chasing after everything. 
   Had the nerve to what? "Come into what really is her house.... " This makes no sense unless one considers that it is possible, if not likely, that this print story is merely a transcript of the audio portion of a televised news report. Perhaps the camera operator strolled up to the doghouse and rolled film; hence the "her house" reference. 
   Still. Would it be impossible to rewrite a transcribed TV report so that it read well in print? 

   But now in Piscataway an ordinance about incessant barking between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. has been expanded to include barking around the clock. And yes, you could be fined.
   An ordinance "about" barking? Or "prohibiting" it? Outlawing? Banning? Barring? Disallowing? Proscribing? Forbidding?
   And: "... you could be fined." Who is "you?" The viewer/reader with a dog? What about we who are without canine? Can we be fined too? (First of All has a cat who is, it must be said, the single best animal on earth, bar none, and not least because he doesn't bark at all, much less all night long.) 

   "That's not fair at all. Dogs shouldn't be scrutinized for what? They're talking! Talking is their barking!" resident Anthony Brullo said. 
   "Dogs shouldn't be scrutinized for what?" This sounds like a Zen koan. Perhaps it is. Indeed, First of All has just emerged from a ten-hour meditation on the phrase during which we became enlightened: the sentence makes - no offense - no fucking sense. (To be fair, it's probably a typu typo: a period after "scrutinized" would make sense.)
   As to talking being "their barking," the excitable Mr. Brullo - who, thanks to the WCBS writer, speaks in, Lord save us, exclamation points! - obviously mixed up his words. It's likely he meant to suggest that barking, for dogs, is the same as talking is for us humans. But it is not. Barking is to dogs is as shouting is to humans, and shouting humans are - no offense - heinous. 

   Anne Gordon is Piscataways' public information officer.
   This is a good, strong declarative sentence that is, nonetheless, entirely tangential to anything that came before it. 

   "The first thing that our animal control officer does when he gets a complaint, he sends a letter to the person who's complaining and they try to get it resolved," Gordon said.
    The colloquial language is charming and appropriate. However, one wonders if Ms. Gordon really meant that the letter goes to the complainant. If so, then one scratches one's beard, or would if he had one, and questions why the letter wouldn't go to the offending dog owner. 
   Alas, we shall never know, because WCBS, home of television "news" "reporting," does not tell us. The station just bravely soldiers on. Here we skip an irrelevant paragraph or two - well, not irrelevant; just terribly written, no offense - to arrive at this: 

   CBS 2 HD heard the barking of Jake Johnson's wife's dog. Jake has been next-door neighbors with Ulrick Charles here for nearly 30 years. Charles does not have a dog, but said he has no problems with the neighbors on either side who do. Johnson, who has a dog, surprisingly said he likes the rule against constant barking. 
   "Some of them bark pretty much all day long," Johnson said. "Yes, well I try to keep our dog quiet." 
   First off, we're led to understand that the Johnson dog belongs to Mrs., not Mr., Johnson. Yet three sentences later, we read that "Johnson... has a dog." Hm. Does this mean Mr. Johnson has a dog in addition to his wife's? Or that in the span of three sentence he simply appropriated his wife's dog, making it his own? If the latter, one can't help but question the strength of the Johnson marriage. 
   In the second sentence Mr. Johnson is referred to, amiably, as "Jake." Two sentences later, Mr. Charles is identified with the more formal (and chillier) "Charles." Later, Mr. Johnson apparently has fallen from the good graces of WCBS: he, too, is identified, chillingly, as "Johnson." Alas, no longer "Jake." WCBS giveth, WCBS taketh away. 
   Finally, why is it surprising that a dog owner appreciates the no-barking ordinance? 
   An additional note: one very much appreciates Mr. Johnson's odd declaration: "Yes, well, I try to keep our dog quiet." It is possible that the reporter asked a question which has been elided from the print version of the story. But maybe not. Maybe Mr. Johnson simply hears queries floating through his brain and tries to answer them the best he can. It's really all you can ask of a man, don't you agree? 

   One house were [sic] visited in particular had no problems because the family greeted us with open arms - more or less - and barking dogs. 
   We hear you. 
   To be fair, that "were" should be "we." It is merely a typo, and those are completely understandable. First of All maks typis all tha tyme. 
   Nevertheless, the beginning of that first sentence makes it sound as though, in the case of this house, what was "particular" is that WCBS visited it. This suggests that at other houses WCBS did other things: set the porch on fire; tended to the garden; washed the windows. Perhaps the writer meant: "One house in particular that we visited had no problems...." 
   Which brings us to: "One house... had no problems...." Houses don't have problems (save clogged drains and toilets and so forth); people do. So it might have been better as: "One family that we visited had no problems...." (Indeed, it should be problem, singular, not problems, plural.) 
   Ah, but problem(s) with what? We don't know. We may confidently assume the writer is referring to the barking ban. But it's difficult to tell from the rest of the sentence. 
   "One house... had no problems because the family greeted us...." This construction suggests that the house is, in the main, a very jealous creature, but in this case felt secure enough to allow the family to welcome visitors. The family may want to attend to the house's feelings. If they don't, it may, in a fit of jealous rage, collapse upon them one night as they sleep the sleep of the blameless. 
   Now then. The family "greeted us with open arms - more or less...." What does this mean? Uncertain how to greet a television reporter, did family members cautiously open their arms, say, halfway? A quarter of the way? Three-quarters of the way, showing a near-total trust? Alas, we shall never know - unless, perhaps, we see the video, which apparently we cannot; it is not to be found on the Web site, at least not anywhere that one can easily locate it. This may mean nothing; one is, to be truthful, rather an idiot when it comes to technology. 
   "[B]arking dogs. We hear you." Let's just assume, for the sake of kindness, that the reporter, cutely, uttered the last phrase as the camera zoomed in on the "barking dogs." Let's assume it for the sake of kindness, and also because, at this point, one is simply exhausted from the attempt to dissect the nearly "undissectable," a word that doesn't exist and that therefore is perfect for a future WCBS-2 HD report. 

   One is aware that in certain circles, to write well is considered merely an eccentricity of the so-called elites. It is snobbish and unkind, this thinking goes, to have unreasonable expectations of those who, perhaps lacking in educational opportunities, or having been poorly guided in schools, or being possessed of one or the other type of learning disability, may not write with clarity, vigor and correct punctuation.
   Fair point. But is it unreasonable to expect that employees of news organizations who are paid to report news clearly should be able to string together coherent sentences?
   There was a time, long ago and far away - perhaps one that exists only in the fevered, melancholic and paralyzingly nostalgic First of All imagination - when Americans of all sorts strove to better themselves not just materially but intellectually, a desire reflected in mature news reporting and the sales of encyclopedias and other print learning tools. 
   Alas, that time, which probably never existed, is long gone. And so we are left with, for example, the garbled WCBS "report." 
   We will now leave this report behind in favor of traveling to the Alps for a rest cure. As they say, it is better to let sleeping (and illegally barking) dogs lie, or lay. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

News That Makes Life Worth Living (Loving to Death Division)

 MOSCOW, March 20 -- A Southern Moscow couple evidently decided it would be fun to have sex in their car, and to ward off the chill of the Russian winter they turned on the engine. Alas, sometime during the act, they died of carbon monoxide poisoning, Reuters reported Wednesday. 
   The wire service quoted the Russian Interfax news agency as quoting an unnamed police source as saying that "a man and a woman retreated to their Volkswagen to have sex." The car was parked in a tiny garage. Sometime "during the act of closeness," according to the police source, the pair inhaled the gas and died. 
   One is boggled by all aspects of this story, not least this: sex in a Volkswagen? Really? 
   With their fact-light reporting, Interfax and Reuters have completely dropped the ball. The news services neglected to inform readers about the mechanics of sex in a VW, the color of the car, the age of the couple, the position the pair was in and whether or not one or both had achieved, well, lift-off before the blessed end arrived. These are the kinds of details that make or break a story. 
   It seems sad that we will never know. 

Crime of the Century (Online Chat Division)

KENNEWICK, Wa., March 18 -- A seventeen-year-old youth robbing the Bella Office Furniture store in Kennewick (pop: 63,216 in July 2008) took a five-hour break from his work to use the store's computer to scan his MySpace account, attempt to sell stolen items (presumably, the ones he was in the act, or had been in the act, of stealing) and, inevitably, watch pornography, according to a March 18 story in the Tri-City Herald ("The Voice of Mid-Columbia/Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, Wash.")
   Police later learned the burglar's identity via his MySpace page and arrested him Tuesday on a charge of first-degree burglary. 
   This, you see, proves that the newest Inter-nets generation really has no attention span a'tall, and that criminals just ain't what they used to be. The burglars of yore would be aghast. 

The Joys of Holy Matrimony (My Husband The Pimp Division)

ROCKFORD, Minn., March 20 -- A local man named Clinton Danner was arrested at a Chicago hotel Sunday after authorities learned he was prostituting his wife via Craigslist ads, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
   His wife, whom the AP didn't name, told authorities that Mr. Danner would arrange the encounters, after the completion of which she was expected to deposit her earnings into his bank account. She said her husband told ther that if she failed to comply with his scheme, she would never see their young son again. 
   Mr. Danner, who is thirty-two, faces a felony charge of pandering. He is being held on a $150,000 bond.
   People like Mr. Danner are examples of why heterosexual marriage should come under strict review, and sooner rather than later. Obviously, some straights can't handle their allegedly beloved institution of matrimony. And yet they deem it prudent to legislatively "protect" it from same-gender couples who love and cherish each other. 
   Gays and lesbians pressing for the opportunity to marry need pay attention. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Queer Notes from All Over (AZ. Politician Says Same-Gender Marriage = Horse Love)

SOMEWHERE IN ARIZONA, Arizona, March 18 -- A former six-term Arizona congressman (1994-2006) said recently that the November 2003 Massachusetts Judicial Supreme Court decision allowing same-gender marriage could lead to a man being legally allowed to marry his horse, Huffington Post blogger Sam Stein noted Monday. 
   The apparently very strange man, who is named J.D. Hayworth, has unfairly overlooked all kinds of animals, and this is sad. One would, if one could, marry one's cat, Comma, but only, one admits, for the tax breaks and the veterinary hospital visitation rights. 
  Perhaps, to be fair, Hayworth agrees. Stein quoted the Orlando radio station WORL as quoting Hayworth. Do you see? It's like a game of telephone. It is possible that Hayworth originally said "man-cat marriage," and a WORL reporter, one who favors horses, changed the quote. It's hard to say.
   Either way, Hayworth said, according to Stein---->WORL, that in its decision, the Mass. Supreme Court defined marriage as "now get this - it defined marriage as simply, quote, 'the establishment of intimacy.'"

          "The Voluntary Union Of"

   The HuffPo's Stein points out in a followup piece there is no such provision in the decision, which defines marriage as "the voluntary union of spouses, to the exclusion of all others." 
   When MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow asked Hayworth about the discrepancy the next day, he said, "You and I can have a disagreement about that," and closed down the interview - not a response to inspire confidence in the man's confidence in his comments. 
    Intimacy, voluntary union of spouses - feh. These are mere details, and Hayworth, like all politicians and crazy people (redundancy), wasn't about to let them stand in the way of a good barnyard yarn the day he spoke to WORL. 
   "I mean," he went on, "I don't mean to be absurd about it, but I guess I can make the point of absurdity with an absurd point - I guess that would mean if you really had affection for your horse, I guess you could marry your horse."
   This is a syllogism long favored by far-rightist lawmakers and religionists eager to demonize homosexuals. They link homosexuality with pedophilia, incest and bestiality ("I guess you could marry your horse"). Of course, homosexuality - and its open-hearted manifestation, gay and lesbianism - has naught to do with any of those categories. 
   Hayworth concluded: "It's the wrong way to go, and the only way to protect the institution of marriage is with that federal amendment that I support." 
   It should be noted that Hayworth, a Republican, is challenging John McCain for his Senate seat. The comments, then, were uttered in the context of an Arizona political campaign, and are therefore calculated to harm Hayworth's opponent. By saying he "supports" marriage legislation, Hayworth corners McCain: if the sitting Senator does not say he "supports" marriage legislation - in this case in the form of a constitutional amendment legislatively defining marriage, a loathsome concept to some who revere the Constitution in its present, quite workable form - he stands to lose votes on the right-wing fringe. 

    Statement Clarified Comments? No

   Hayworth released a statement the following day clarifying his man-horse-nuptials comments. Oh, wait: no he didn't. He issued a statement standing by the comments, and he did it using every cliched talking point from the Republican playbook. The statement is a case study in the calculated uses of repetition and coded language. Orwell would be proud. Let's have a look. (Cliches are in bold, translation in italics.)
   "[S]adly, the liberal media [Rachel Maddow is a dyke] intent on defending the ultra-leftist, progressive [caring] politicians in Massachusetts [gay], are attacking me [I am running for the Senate] for standing up [I am running for the Senate] once again for family values [vote for me] and for rejecting this absurd court ruling. 
   "But they don't intimidate me at all. [My campaign chest runneth over.] I know right from wrong [I plan to win] and as a staunch defender of marriage [politician who needs votes] I know I can count of millions of supporters [voters] across America [Arizona] to stand with me [vote for me] when our values are under attack [I am down in the polls] and when I am under attack [I am down in the polls] for standing up [I am running for the Senate] to defend those values [hustle for votes]."
   The tally: 
   *Liberal media - 1
   *Ultra-leftist, progressive - 1
   *Attacking me/under attack - 3
   *Values - 3
   *Standing (up, with me, etc.) - 3
   So you see, repetition gets a message across. And Hayworth, a craven nacissist, knows that. Hayworth, a craven narcissist, knows that. Hayworth, a craven narcissist, knows that.

           Knowledge is Power

   Back, for a moment, to the man-horse business. One idly wonders why far-rightist heterosexual lawmakers and religionists show such a wide-ranging and intimate knowledge of pedophilia, incest and bestiality. Is it because these are the hallmarks of the "family unit," which these lawmakers and God-talkers so deeply revere? Alas, we shall never know. 
   One is less surprised at talk of a Constitutional "marriage" amendment. Heterosexuals evidently have so little faith in the institution of marriage that some feel the need to legislate "protection" of it. This does not inspire a deep sense of trust either in them or in their hallowed tradition. 
   Gays and lesbians enthused about getting hitched should take note. 

Crime of the Century (Wagging the Dog Division)

ABERDEEN, Scotland, March 17 -- A twenty-eight-year old man has been fined nine hundred dollars for attempting to "assault" a female Scottish police officer with a dangerous weapon: his penis.
   Various British news outlets - the Sun, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mirror and BBC News, but not the Times, because that august broadsheet dasn't touch news of the common willie - reported today that the man, named Marium Varinauskas (photo, below), was arguing with his girlfriend when police were called to his Aberdeen apartment.
   When officers showed up, a Huffington Post roundup of the British press stories noted, he was "drunk and in his underpants." Colloquially, this means he was entirely shitfaced and nearly bare-assed nekkid.
   The HuffPo did not say, however -  nor, apparently, did the British press - what kind of "underpants" Mr. Varinauskas was wearing, so readers learned news neither of style, color, brand nor type: thong, bikini, briefs, boxer briefs, boxers, or other. This cannot be seen as anything other than an appalling oversight.
   An official told the court that Mr. V. (honestly, how many times does one need to type out "Varinauskas" in his ever-shortening lifetime?) stood over the police officer "exposing his penis and thrusting it in her face, forcing her to take evasive action to avoid getting struck." 
   It is unclear what "stood over" actually means. Mr. V. was, when deputies arrived, sitting on a couch. Presumably, as they were standing, they loomed  over him. When he stood, he'd have been eye-to-eye with them. 
   For him to have "stood over" the female officer, then, suggests that she was somehow below him, perhaps in a kneeling position, which would further explain why the potted Mr. V., who later confessed to having been in an alcoholic blackout, might have mistakenly thought it entirely correct and context appropriate  to "thrust" his member "in her face." 
   Alas, we will never know. 
   With classic Scottish understatement, a police department spokesman said, "This was a distasteful experience for the officer." 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

News That Makes Life Worth Living (Scentless Apprentice Division)

DETROIT, Michigan, March 17 - A Detroit city employee named Susan McBride successfully sued the city for $100,000 in damages stemming from what she called her inability to breathe and do her job because a co-worker wore strong perfume.
   One term of the settlement, the Detroit News reported Sunday, is that the city will post warnings in city buildings urging city employees to refrain from "wearing scented products, including ... colognes, aftershave lotions, perfumes, deodarants, body/face lotions ... (and) the use of scented candles, perfume samples from magazines, spray or solid air fresheners...." 
   Ms. McBride's lawyer, a woman named Ann Curry Thompson, told the News the settlement is "unique. I think it should be used as a model for other people who are having similar problems."
   Ms. McBride is a heroic example of the rugged individualism upon which America was founded. If others, in their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, are bothersome, then one simply need stop them, using the long arm of the law if necessary. 
   To get others - in this case hundreds, perhaps thousands - to conform to her idiosyncratic personal needs was the sole aim and end of Ms. McBride's suit. Well, that and the hundred K. 
   The terror of one's own mortality is a painful psychological fact for all humans, and each confronts or ignores it differently. Some bungee jump. Others gamble. Still others help humanity.
   And then there are the Ms. McBrides of the land. They are not naturally given to societal ties. They operate apart from their fellows, existing in a special world of their own mental devising. Their myriad forms of narcissism are so advanced that they believe they are exempt from facing the ordinary existential fear of the Great Void (I can't breathe! I can't breathe!). So they force innocent others about them to rearrange their lives - to do, indeed, their heavy psycho-spiritual lifting for them. In their deluded minds, it is but common sense that the world should fit itself to them rather than vice versa. 
   And yet these same people, who by nature prove incapable of social integration, live with the constant fear and frustration that arise from feeling disconnected, heart and soul, from their fellows.
   Ms. McBride wasn't choking on perfume. She was choking on rage. And because she was too immature to face it - to become, indeed, a part of the human race - she took it out on everyone else. 
   Well, she's the big winner now. 
   And yet, what a loser. 

Queer Notes from All Over (Smart Students Support Same-Gender Marriage Division)

SOMEWHERE, United States, March 17 - Here are some facts about same-gender marriage support among American college freshman as reported yesterday in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is not, as it turns out, a pro-marijuana-on-campus publication, but rather a Washington, D.C.- based one the Web site of which describes it as "the No. 1 source of news, information, and jobs for college university faculty members and administrators." 
   But then, it would say that, wouldn't it?
   The stats: 
   *Sixty-five percent of college freshman polled last fall support same-gender marriage, according to a study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, a group, or groups, unbowed by ampersands. 
   *Fifty-eight percent of Americans aged eighteen to twenty-nine support it, Pew&Pew reported. 
   *Thirty-nine percent of all Americans support it (PewPew). 
Students studying in Sherman Art Library   *Twenty-four percent of college students describing themselves as "far right" support it, as opposed to a mere fourteen percent of conservative Republicans nationwide, according to a recently released study by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.    
    There are many more facts and figures in the studies, far too many for a lazy reporter to cope with. However, a few bear mentioning, all of them having to do with college freshmen and deriving from both studies. 
   *Women supported same-gender marriage over men by seventy-two to fifty-seven percent. (Nationwide: women forty-three percent, men thirty-four.)
   *Hispanics favored it by sixty-nine percent, white students sixty-five percent, black students fifty-three percent. (Nationwide: Hispanics forty-five percent; whites thirty-nine; blacks twenty-six.)
   *Eighty-seven percent of those who identified as Jewish, Buddhist or non-religious supported it; sixty-six percent of Catholics (!); fifty-eight percent of Muslim students; and between fifty to seventy-five percent of students affiliated with most Protestant Christian denominations. 
   The Chronicle piece quotes a man named Glenn Stanton, who is the director of something called family-formation studies at the conservative Focus on the Family, as being unruffled by the studies' findings. Says he: "Typically, across the board, young people tend to be more liberal or progressive. As they get older ... they really start to see the world in a different way." 
   This may or may not be true. If true, it is because groups like Focus on the Family brainwash innocent children into their deviant lifestyle of sensual denial and generalized self-abasement. 
   (The Focus on the Family Web site says the group "is a global Christian ministry that helps build thriving marriages that reflect God's design, and equips parents to raise their children according to morals and values grounded in biblical principles. We are... protecting [families] from the harmful influences of culture..." That sentiment no doubt freezes Simon Cowell's blood.)
   By way of balance, the Chronicle quoted same-gender marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry executive director Evan Wolfson as saying college freshmen's growing support stems from personal experience: "Young people who know gay people, talk with them, and examine why marriage matters in the lives of real people move in support."
   Incidentally, the journalistic practice of offering "balanced" quotes and opinions - on the one hand; on the other - is an anachronistic way of covering bases. Yes, journalism ought to offer differing views. But quoting a guy from a pro-marriage group, and another from a, well, anti-marriage group, advances the dialogue not a'tall. 
   But what do you expect from the (pretty) penny press? 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hope Is All Around

   It is nice to know that some people, whatever their orientation, still enjoy reading. "Whatever their orientation" - that is, whether it is to John Grisham, Christopher Hitchens or, God spare us, Sarah Palin, who "wrote" her very own book.

Monday, March 15, 2010

News That Makes Life Worth Living (Bear Feeding on Woman Who Tried to Feed Him Division)

MANITOWOC, Wisconsin, March 6 - A woman who, colloquially speaking, was drunk as a skunk during a visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo attempted to feed one of two Asiatic black bears in captivity there, and the bear returned the favor by biting off one of her thumbs and a forefinger and partially severing two other fingers, the Associated Press reported. 
   A man the AP described as the woman's "boyfriend" also got bitten as he tried to pry open the bear's mouth to release the woman's hand. His fingers, however, remained attached. 
   The woman, who is forty-seven, has a granddaughter, three, who the AP said "wasn't injured," to which one would only add "other than the psychological scarring that resulted from her seeing grandma shrieking in horror at the blood spurting from her hand, and from watching an enormous bear - which, to a three-year-old, is basically a furry black skyscraper - chewing ruminatively on grandma's thumb." 
   This proves that between animals and humans, animals are by far the more sensible creatures, and also that drinking and illegal bear feeding simply do not mix. 

Crime of the Century (Returning to the Scene of the Crime Division)

WINTER HAVEN, Florida, March 7 - A local man was arrested recently after he took a winning scratch-off lottery ticket back to the store from which he had stolen it a day earlier, the Associated Press reports. 
   The man, twenty-two, stole seventy dollars worth of tickets from a Circle K store on a Sunday. The next day, he returned to the store to collect fifty dollars, a prize from one of the tickets. 
   The fast-thinking clerk wrote down the man's drivers license information and then called police. Deputies arrested the man, who will be charged with dimwittedness and made to sit in the corner without his supper. 

Queer Notes From all Over (Underwear Occasions Bad Writing Division)

SYDNEY, Australia, March 5 - Reuters Life!, evidently a life-style offshoot of the Reuters news wire service, reports that underwear in a new, "eco-friendly" AussieBum line are composed of twenty-seven percent banana fiber, sixty-four percent cotton and nine percent lycra. 
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_BSJgRwkCqbU/SjtEGQPvvSI/AAAAAAAAAJ0/bZvBcNXRqNU/s320/Banana_Panties_by_4sticks.jpg   The two-graf Reuters Life! report, though alluring, is hazy. It notes that the banana fiber, made from bark weave found in banana plants, "makes the underwear not only lightweight, but also very absorbent...." This sounds promising, but what there is for the underwear to absorb Reuters Life! does not say.
   Lloyd Jones, an AussieBum functionary, noted that if the undies were to contain any more than twenty-percent of the banana fiber, "it might get a bit squishy." Mmmmm. 
   Jones added, according to Reuters Life!, that "wearers did not have to worry about real monkeys, because the underwear does not smell like a banana." 
image   What it does smell like Jones did not say, perhaps because, in a monumental journalistic oversight, the Reuters Life! reporter, a woman by the name of Amy Pyett, failed to ask him. Or perhaps she did and her editor, a woman named Miral Fahmy, simply cut the information. Alas, we shall never know. 
   We also cannot know whether it was Ms. Fahmy or a nameless copy-editor who wrote the hed (headline),  but whoever it was should be disciplined severely. It read: "Aussie Underwear Has Gone Bananas."
   And Ms. Fahmy really shouldn't have let Ms. Pyett get away with this lede (first paragraph): "Australian underwear company AussieBum has been monkeying around and the result is a range of men's underwear made with bananas." 
   Not only is that factually wrong - the ingredient is banana bark weave, not bananas - but it is exemplary of the kind of writing that is driving readers away  from newspapers and leading, you see, to the collapse of the Fourth Estate. 
   Here, for curious readers, are some examples of AussieBum underwear. I don't know whether or not they're the banana-bark-weave ones, but who cares? The pictures are lovely. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Joys of Holy Matrimony (Virtual Weaning Division)

SEOUL, Korea, March 5 - After nearly six months on the run, a Korean couple was arrested last week for allowing their child to die of malnutrition even as they raised a virtual child in an online game, the Associated Press reported on March 5. 
   Kim Yoo-chul, forty-one, and Choi Mi-Sun, twenty-five, became unreasonably mesmerized by an online game known as Prius. (This is not to be confused with the automobile of the same name, which, although it saves on gas money and protects the environment, has been shown to have a questionable braking system, and therefore tends to smash into things with alarming regularity.)
   The AP wrote: "The pair were obsessed with raising their internet child, called Anima, resulting in the neglect of their unnamed real daughter." 
   A Korean police officer told the local press that the couple, jobless and dispirited over having given birth to the baby prematurely, only fed the child - the barely living, barely breathing one, that is - when not at an Inter-nets cafe engaging in twelve-hour online gaming sessions. 
   "Online game addiction can blur the line between reality and the virtual world," Professor Kwak Dae-kyung, of Dongguk University, in Seoul, told the local press, and one is hard-pressed not to believe him: after all, as they say, if it waddles, swims and Kwaks like a Dae-kyung, then it probably is a Dae-kyung.
   Child-rearing is a blessed past-time, and is just one of the many delights of holy matrimony, an institution in which some heterosexuals have so little confidence that they feel the need to legislatively protect it. 
   Gays and lesbians eager to tie the knot ought to take note. 


   Last night a friend and I went to see singer-songwriter/performance artist Justin Bond at the Rrazz Room (yes, two "Rs": isn't that cute?), which is located in the Hotel Nikko in downtown San Francisco. 
   Her hilarious show, "Angel of the Morning: Ladies of the A.M.," revolved around the great lost hits of 1970s AM radio. (I say "her"; Justin Bond is a male, but her character in the show was female.)
   Bond appeared in a (velour?) caftan covered with garish burnt orange and brown stripes. Stack-heeled Espadrilles, brown fingernail polish (a wonderful touch), silver bracelets, a blond wig with swoopy bangs and hair floating down her back: the ensemble was so spot-on I felt like I was once again fifteen and saying hi to my best friend's mom. (I grew up in California in the nineteen-sixties and -seventies; it was the only place in the world to be at the time.)
   With a live band and a warbly vibrato wide enough to drive an AMC Pacer through, Ms. Bond covered songs such as "Different Drum" (Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys), "Angel of the Morning" (Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts), "Superstar" (the Carpenters), "You're So Vain" (Carly Simon) and many more. 
   Her between-tune patter veered vertiginously through a range of cracked topics, including an early infatuation with "The Turk," the man in 1970s advertisements for Camel filtered cigarettes (photo, left); her teenage liaison with a rough-trade stud named Tango; and, again, much more. 
   Bond lived in San Francisco in the nineteen-nineties; it was here that she perfected her demented lounge act, "Kiki and Herb." When she moved to New York roughly fifteen years ago, the act took the Big Apple by storm. ("Took the Big Apple by storm": two cliches for the price of one. Don't say First of All has never given you anything). 
   Mr./Ms. Bond has received a passel of awards (the Obie, Bessie, and Ethyl Eichelberger awards) and was nominated for a Tony, which is prestigious, believe you me. Time Out New York magazine named him one of the top forty favorite New Yorkers, and - oh, for Christ's sake, look it up for yourself on his Web site. There's an entire paragraph about her accomplishments. I simply cannot do everything for you; I'm sorry. 
   See Justin Bond in anything. Really. She's a gem; she's the turquoise center stone in the large silver bracelet of performance art. 

Below, Bond sings "Angel of the Morning" without, sadly, the caftan and wig:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Crime of the Century (Parking is Hard to Find Division)

LOVELAND, Colo., March 12 - Richard Albers, who is eighty-five, evidently is a man of consistent habits. 
   Nearly every morning for sixteen years, Mr. Albers parked in a particular spot in the lot of the McDonald's in Loveland, Colo. (pop. roughly 55,000). Although news reports don't specify, it is fair to assume that, after parking and likely locking his vehicle, Mr. Albers would walk into the restaurant and avail himself of the many delectable delights on display. 
   Sometime in 2008, or perhaps earlier, this bucolic, not to say halcyon, existence was shattered when a man named Vernon Brandt, who is now fifty-one, parked in the spot Mr. Albers had, as do so many people, come to think of as his own. 
   This began to happen with increasing frequency, and Messrs. Brandt and Albers apparently had words, over time, about this, well, travesty. 
  It all came to a head on July 29,2008, when Mr. Brandt parked his truck and trailer in a way that, intentionally or not, blocked what can only by this point be called the Albers spot. 
   Mr. Albers, arriving for his customary, oh, maybe a Happy Meal, or a simple milkshake (with, on his more sinful days, a side of fries?), couldn't help but notice that, once again, Mr. Brandt had prevented him from parking in the place where he, Mr. Albers, felt happiest. 
   Well, life is full of sorrow and a man's pleasures are few. So it makes sense that, perhaps swearing under his breath (news reports are vague), Mr. Albers climbed down from his sport utility vehicle, walked over to Mr. Brandt's truck and tapped on the driver's side window in order, presumably, to initiate a conversation. 
   Mr. Brandt, who later claimed he was startled, opened the driver's door with terrific force. It toppled Mr. Albers, who, at the time, remember, was roughly eighty-three years old, more than thirty years older than Mr. Brandt. 
  A witness at Mr. Brandt's recent trial for third-degree assault testified that Mr. Brandt then grabbed Mr. Albers, cocked his fist, and said (growled? shouted? hissed? Details are sketchy), "You want to fight, you son of a bitch?" 
   The Ft. Collins Coloradan reported on March 7 that it took a jury less than three hours to convict Mr. Brandt, a local contractor, of a single charge of third-degree assault. 
   Whatever his transgressions, Mr. Brandt should be lauded for selecting, in defense attorney Tony Krenning, a creative lawyer not averse to engaging in a little bit of creative lawyering. 
   During the trial, Krenning told the jury that Mr. Albers' tapping scared Mr. Brandt, who merely opened his door quickly to escape. Mr. Krenning added that the testimony about the threat (you know, the "you son of a bitch" comment) was merely "salt and pepper" added by the witness.
   "It didn't happen," Mr. Krenning told the jury, referring to the contretemps between Messrs. Brandt and Albers (you know, the fist cocking, and etcetera), "but it makes a good story now." 
   And then Mr. Krenning waxed philosophic: "It's so incredible because we're talking about a parking space. At a doggone McDonald's. It's tragic." 
   Too true. Too, too true. 
   Well, wait. No. The Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, young lives cut short on the fields of battle - those are tragedies. A parking lot quarrel? That's more of a quandary. 
   On the stand, Mr. Brandt claimed he didn't know whether the window tapper was, as ace Coloradan reporter Trevor Hughes wrote, "a 9-year-old child or a man with a gun outside." 
   Upon hearing that, prosecutor Greg Biggers may have chuckled a little; Hughes's report didn't say. We do know, however, that Biggs, referring to Brandt, said to the jury, "His own words: 'Could have been a 9-year-old.' That's reckless, folks." 
   One is hardly a legal expert, but it seems reasonable to assume that, more than anything else, that folksy "folks" absolutely sealed the case for the prosecution. People who are just plain folks, and proud of it, like to have their proud plain folks-ness recognized and affirmed, and any prosecutor worth his salt knows this in the marrow of his bones. 
   Mr. Brandt will be sentenced next month. He faces up to two years in jail or prison. (The Coloradan, coyly, didn't specify which. Hughes, the reporter, only used the phrase "behind bars," which, technically, could mean Mr. Brandt might spend up to twenty-four months out back of a few saloons.)