Sunday, May 9, 2010

Love is All Around (Gay/Lesbian Relationship Breakups Division)

SAN FRANCISCO, Ca. – A workshop is being offered here to provide guidance to lesbian and gay couples whose relationships are ending, and not a moment too soon, if organizers are to be believed, and why shouldn't they be? They, after all, are the experts.
  The Bay Area Reporter, a free weekly newspaper (“Serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities since 1971”), noted in a May 6 piece that the first session of the two-part course was Friday (May 8). The second will be Saturday, June 5.
 The appealingly named Judy Appel, the executive director of Our Family Coalition, the coordinating organization, told the paper, “Our families, like all families, go through all the same cycles of meeting and getting together and having relationships, and unfortunately, sometimes breaking up.”
  She added, referring to mismatched state laws regarding same-gender marriage and domestic partnerships, “There’s [sic] definitely complicating factors that heterosexual couples don’t have to think about. … We have to work so hard to build recognition of our relationships that sometimes we’re reluctant to talk about the breakups.”
  This is true. Heterosexuals, who allegedly revere the state of holy matrimony, have made it easy on themselves to get out of it. Gays and lesbians eager for the day when same-gender marriage spreads across the land need take note.

  (And if their relationships are crumbling, they can visit, a URL for which we would create a hyperlink if hyperlinks didn’t disappear with dispiriting regularity from this blog, something about which the good folks at Google have some explaining to do.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Crime of the Century (Questionable Reporting Division)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A man who was discovered to have stood in for his twin brother in a May 4 court appearance was sentenced to six months in jail for “direct criminal attempt” – an offense a judge witnesses in a court.
  Marcus Mauceri, who is thirty, claimed under oath to be his brother, Matthew, and agreed to be fingerprinted to establish his identity.
  When the procedure revealed the truth, Marcus said he’d appeared to aid his brother, whom he knew would be late.

   This is all you need to know about this story, but it is nothing you’d know if you read the first seven paragraphs of May 5 story posted on, the Web site of the St. Petersburg Times:

  Something just didn’t seem right to attorney Jimmy Thomas when he talked to his client before his fraud trial Tuesday.
  The 30-year-old man did not seem to remember basic aspects of the case they had discussed.
  Thomas knew that his client, Matthew Mauceri, had a twin brother named Marcus.
  Thomas had represented both men in court, and the two often changed their appearances – sometimes [wearing] beards or goatees, sometimes clean-shaven.
  Could the man in court Tuesday be the twin?
  Thomas faced an ethical pinch few lawyers have encountered: Should he reveal his suspicion that his client was an imposter?
  Ultimately he did, and his suspicion was correct.

  Only in the eighth paragraph do we encounter what in journalism is known as the “nut” graph – the paragraph with the story's true news nugget:

  Marcus Mauceri had taken the place of his brother, Matthew, at the trial. The reason: He claimed his brother was flying in from out of state and couldn’t make it to the courthouse on time.

  In news reporting, the “lead” – a story’s first paragraph – is meant to include that nugget. More than one press critic has lamented the inroads made by flash storytelling into simple who-what-where-when-why-how reporting. One wrote:

  Among the major menaces to American journalism today (and there are so many that it hardly seems worth while even beginning this little article) is the O.Henry-Irvin Cobb tradition. According to this pretty belief, every reporter is potentially master of the short-story, and because of it we find Human Interest raising its ugly head in seven out of every eight news columns and a Human Document being turned out every time Henry H. Mackle of 1356 Grand Boulevard finds a robin or Mrs. Rasher Feiman of 425 West Forty-Ninth Street attacks the scissors grinder.
  Copy readers in the old days used to insist that all the facts in the story be bunched together in the opening paragraph. This never made for a very moving chronicle, but at least you got the idea of what was going on. Under the new system, where every reporter has his eye on George Horace Lorimer, you first establish your atmosphere, then shake a pair of doves out of the handkerchief, round off your lead with a couple of bars from a Chopin etude, and finally, in the next to last paragraph, divulge the names and addresses and what it was that happened. …
  Most of the trouble began about ten years ago when the Columbia School of Journalism began unloading its graduates on what was then the N.Y. Tribune (retaining the best features of neither).
  Fine writing in news stories was actually encouraged by the management and daily prizes were offered for the best concealed facts. The writer of this article was a reporter at the time – “the worst reporter in New York City” the editors affectionately called him – and one day he won the prize with a couple of sticks on the funeral of Ada Rehan. This story consisted of two paragraphs of sentimental contemplation of old-time English comedy with a bitterly satirical comparison with modern movie comedy, and a short paragraph at the end saying that Ada Rehan was buried yesterday. Unfortunately the exigencies of make-up necessitated the cutting of the last paragraph; so the readers of the Tribune never did find out what inspired this really beautiful tribute to somebody. …
  A picture of the City Room of [one New York paper], by one who has never been there, would disclose a dozen or so nervous word artists, each sitting in a cubicle furnished to represent an attic, sipping at black coffee, with now and then a dab of cocaine, writing and tearing up, writing and tearing up, pacing back and forth in what the French call (in French) le travail du style. One feels that back copies of [that paper] should be bound and saved for perusal on rainy days when the volumes of “Harpers Round Table” have begun to pall.

  The writer quips that soon such a style will creep even into the reporting of overseas news, and concludes:

  When this has happened, we can have newstickers installed in our homes and let the newspapers give themselves over entirely to the belles lettres.

  This was written by Robert Benchley for The New Yorker.
  In 1925.
ADDENDUM (9 May 2010): As incisive as is Mr. Benchley's dissection, things changed at the magazine in the next decade, according to Genius in Disguise, Thomas Kunkel's 1995 biography of The New Yorker founder and editor Harold Wallace Ross. 
  Kunkel writes that there was a "happy development that distinguished The New Yorker of the late Thirties. This was the explosion of reporting talent at the magazine, and the growing prominence of their journalism. These new voices belonged to young writers, most with newspaper experience but all with freer, more interpretive writing styles that was typical of the dailies. They drew on the fiction techniques of narrative, character development, shading and irony to tell their stories - stories that just happened to be true. Their so-called literary journalism was a hybrid of a very high order." 
  These writers, Kunkel adds, "probably did the most to advance the innovative, literate reportage that became a New Yorker trademark. They set the standard for all the great New Yorker reporters who followed, as well as the so-called New Journalists of the Sixties." Kunkel is referring to writers such as Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter S. Thompson, among many others. 
  So, you see, one man's disdain is another decade's Big Bang. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Love is All Around (Public Transportation Division)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - It is inarguable that Danish culture is extremely socially progressive.
   In 1969, for example, Denmark was the first country to legalize pornography, a move for which it should be awarded a Nobel prize, as have been some of its authors and physicists (for literature and science, not, alas, for pornography). 
  In that tradition - the socially progressive one, not the pornographic one - a bus company in the capital city of Copenhagen (population 1,181,239) has decided to put what it calls "love seats" in its buses to spur light-hearted conversation and even, perhaps, romance. 
  Two seats on each bus are covered in red cloth and sport a "Love Seat" sign, according to a May 3 post on the Web site of AFP, an international news wire service. 
  "Even love at first sight is possible on the bus," Martin Wex, a spokesman for the Arriva bus company, told the AFP. "You never know what will happen. We cannot guarantee that you will find the person of your dreams. We are just offering the possibility for people to communicate, to smile a bit more, and, possibly, to win someone's heart."
  The experiment, already a success - Mr. Wex said drivers have noticed lightened moods on buses - will last a fortnight, and is secondarily geared to getting drives out of cars and into buses. 
  This is incredibly touching, and is the sort of thing one hopes might catch on worldwide, but with modifications appropriate to the culture that appropriates it.
  For example, here in America the seats would be termed "Hate Seats" and equipped with bullhorns and earplugs. That way, people could scream political slogans at each other without being required to engage in civil dialogue.
  The seats would be outfitted with holsters for the participants' handguns and a selection of hors d'oeuvres from Taco Bell, Burger King, Jack in the Box and McDonald's. 
  Out of deference to the troubling gastronomical habits endemic to the United States, the seats would be the size of small beds, the better to accommodate the ever-expanding American badonkadonk.

  (In an interesting geographical side note, Denmark, one of the three Nordic countries - the others are Sweden and Norway - is possessed of a peninsula named, quite reasonably, Jutland. This is not unlike having a mountain range named Reachpeak, which, come to think of it, would also be an excellent name for an exotic dancer or, indeed, a fitness coach.)

Great Days in the Justice System (Spoken Word Division)

LANCASTER, Ca. - Via a lawyer friend comes a pointed if bewildering exchange between a judge and a witness in a case in Lancaster, a California city located seventy miles north of Los Angeles (pop. in 2000: 118,718; puzzling Web site motto: "It's Positively Clear"): 

COURT: [So you signed the declarations] a couple hours after the July 11 exchange?
WITNESS: No, no, no. Yes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Crime of the Century (Emergency Ride Divison)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Plainly, Quandria Bailey is a woman of monumental resourcefulness, a fact that evidently escaped New Haven authorities recently, if an April 25 report on the Web site of WSFB-TV Eyewitness News 3 is credible, and why wouldn't it be? A station with that many letters and numbers and words in its name must do its homework. 
  Ms. Bailey, who is twenty-eight, apparently was having trouble getting to Meridian, the town in which she lives, from the Van Dome Night Club, at 102 Hamilton Street, in New Haven, late one night, and so, showing remarkable ingenuity, she phoned 911 and asked for a ride home. 
   (We do not know which night it was, because the report on the WSFB Web site does not say. This is an appalling journalistic oversight for which the many-named, -numbered and -lettered station should be roundly rebuked. Is it really that difficult to report fully and factually? The answer for First of All, who worked at a mainstream daily for some years, is yes indeed; we made so many errors that we should have been fired countless times. This is why we now write a blog in which, with a disquieting lack of empathy, we decry others' fallible reporting. We are, in short, idiots. Rather, an idiot - who is rather an idiot.)
  That Ms. Bailey called 911 not once but six times suggests that emergency operators were, figuratively if not literally, asleep at the switch. If someone called to ask you for a ride home, wouldn't you give her one? After all, being stuck outside of a night club on an early morning unnamed by WSFB is, in essence, torturous. By that point in the party, one just wants to return home, soak one's feet, and lose oneself in serial episodes of, say, "Whale Wars." 
  Alas, New Haven police, as police will, saw things differently. They arrested Ms. Bailey on six counts of misuse of the emergency 911 system, according to the by-now suspect reporting on the WSFB site. She was sprung from the can after posting a thousand dollars in bail, and is slated to appear in court on May 5. 
  Incidentally, the Van Dome nightclub (WSFB calls it "Vandome"; really, the mainstream media are just coming apart at the seams), according to its Web site (which we would link here, except that links keep disappearing from this blog, something that those, and we mean this with love, motherfuckers at Google are going to get an earful about), boasts theme nights that include "In Those Jeans (The $500 Blue Jean Party)," a Thursday night party sensibly called "Thursday Nights (Music by DJ Cocoa Chanelle)," and "Reggaeton Fridays," as well as performances by various no-doubt skilled DJs. 
  It is possible that New Haven 911 operators knew this, and therefore it was, for them, an act of kindness to refuse Ms. Bailey a ride. Why, they were probably thinking, would anyone want to leave such a blazing hot spot before it had gone cold for the night?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Crime of the Century (A Son, A Mom, A Bra Division)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A Memphis man was jailed on Thursday for allegedly stealing prescription pain pills - from his mother's bra.
  The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported on April 29 that Charlie Boyd, who is twenty-eight, was discovered by his mother, when she woke before sunrise on Wednesday, to be rifling through her bra, where she stashes her prescription pain medications so that her son, Mr. Boyd - don't you see? - won't unearth and then pilfer them. 
  Commercial-Appeal reporter Cindy Wolff leaves unclear whether or not the mother was wearing the bra when she noticed her son attempting to purloin the pills. If so, well, ew.
  The woman, whom the Commercial-Appeal did not name, tried to restrain Mr. Boyd, but he made off with the goods - in this case, Xanax, one of pharmacology's vaunted vacations-in-a-pill. 
  Mr. Boyd apparently was planning a long vacation. Police searched him after discovering him hiding under a neighbor's sport utility vehicle, and ascertained that he was in possession of twenty-two generic Xanax pills. 
   Later, in Mr. Boyd's room, police found what they said were crack pipes, needles, a spoon with meth on it, other drug paraphernalia, and pills. 
   It is not for us to say, but it sounds like Mr. Boyd (below) may be living with a substance-abuse quandary. This, then, is a sad story. A man's demons possessed him to allegedly steal drugs from his very own sainted mother, and to do it by trifling with her unmentionables. 
  Mr. Boyd's mom was right to find inventive places to stash her medications. But drug addicts are a crafty lot. Therefore, the best place to hide drugs is right next to the truth, because no strung-out addict will go within a mile of that. 

Charlie Boyd