Saturday, March 01, 2003

A genuine letter to the editor of the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News, after a story about water-conserving toilets promoted by the San Antonio Water System (SAWS):

"Being a good citizen, as soon as I heard there was such a thing as a
low flow toilet I went to Builder's Square and bought two new ones made
by American Standard. This was way before SAWS got involved and started
paying incentives to do so. This was also a big mistake. These things
averaged three to five flushes. Obviously they didn't save water.
After my doctor advised me to use Metamucil the problem worsened. Then
the solids had so much fiber in them they floated and it was nearly
impossible to empty the bowl. The average number of flushes went up to
from five to seven flushes and, on one occasion I counted 11 flushes
before the bowl was emptied. Now I've had to replace them again. This
time I replaced them one at a time, the first one being a Crane. It
works a lot better. Then my plumber advised me to buy a Pro Flow and it
works even better than the Crane. The dumb thing is even though the Pro
Flow will almost suck the curtains off the wall, it is not on the SAWS
list of approved toilets. Go figure."

Monday, February 24, 2003

The Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild's World-Famous Encyclical
No. 614
and News Gorilla

For February 25, 2003. Extra! Extra! Nice move, Mr. Fang, shutting off the phones and computers before sacking the staff. But wow, if anyone ever felt like the fifth wheel, the 13th egg or an extra newspaper, it's the new throwaway rag the San Francisco Examiner, says the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 614!

INTRODUCING BONG Bull, the Blog, and its name is News Gorilla.
The News Gorilla store now offers colorful if enigmatic posters of our mascot, as well as Captain Gorilla's News Cadets lunchboxes (be the envy of the lunchroom if not perennial wedgie target of the J-school).

SO MUCH FOR THE PEN VS. THE SWORD. You badmouth the mayor, you lose your fellowship. Newsday says Bloomberg L.P. has cut support for a business journalism program at New York University because a prof got mouthy about Bloomberg News logos all over the stage at a city hall press conference.
Let's make up our minds, news ethicists. First a certain Midwestern font of knowledge gets rapped for editing a soda pop can out of a photo, then the employer of many editors -- exhausted editors, to be sure, but editors -- gets spanked for a little product placement? We could live with the banners and calendars if the candidates would keep their brats off the platform, even if they're standing in front of the beer signs.

CAN'T GET HER OUT OF MY MIND. Frida Kahlo. Hear the music. Go see the movie. Try to forget how Salma Hayek says the last two words.

BONG HITS. Doug Pizzi mailto: asserts:
"Congrats on the new format. I don't know how you got my old editor's permission to use the likeness for your site, but the old wretch is gonna be pissed. Well, the old wretch was always three parts pissed anyway.
"Moving on, I have a modest proposal to celebrate BONG's longevity (I have been a faithful reader since the early days, when you never did answer my question about whether the name was made up around the acronym.). There is some great old stuff in the archives and I think you should pick an item for each edition from that massive morgue and call it, after all of the best pressmen I ever knew, 'BONG Hits.' So, whaddaya think? Great idea, huh?"
Actually it is a good idea, Doug, and unfortunately we do have most of the 14 (egad! did he say FOURTEEN?!) years of BONGdom in one or another form of archive. A minority of the Editorial Standards and Martini Recipes Committee suggests running it as if new, like writer's magazines do with that article about making millions writing poetry, and conferring prizes on those who recognize it as rehash.

BOY, FOR A PROF HE SURE ASKS A LOT OF QUESTIONS. John McClelland, who professes journalism at Roosevelt University
advises, "I may actually have to start looking at blogs now, dern ya" and enquires:
Q. -- "Will Speed and Typo become visible cartoon characters now that they'll be on a site with easy graphics?"
A. -- Dunno. For one thing, somebody has to read the HTML manual on art and it's coming on tax time. For another, there was a lot of grumbling when Don Vanderbeek drew the sweatshirt art some years ago; something about video spoiling the radio star, that sort of thing.
Q. -- "Did I share the tale of the Rose Tap, across the street from the late lamented Champaign-Urbana (Ill.) Daily Courier? From the end of Prohibition until after becoming a one-newspaper market in 1977, Champaign County, Ill., went dry at midnight Saturday. A lot of people died early Sundays on the roads to and from adjoining counties.
"The L.L. Champaign-Urbana Daily Courier had a nominal midnight press start for the main Sunday edition. Rarely on time during the week, it somehow started about 30 seconds early on Saturday night. During that half-minute, it was dangerous to be between the Courier building and the Rose Tap across Race Street. The printers and an occasional stray editor dashed in at the stroke of 12 to join some writers and a photog who were already drowning their sorrows. The barkeep barred the door to stay legal. He understood each arrival to be an order for the usual four (or six) brews, to be poured in stages and consumed before the law's 'everybody out' edict would kick in an hour or two later."
A. -- No, you never did.

HEADS YOU LOSE. William "DAMN-I'm-good!" Breyfogle" avers, "Charley, this one may be apocryphal, but Larry at the copydesk of the (Dubuque) Telegraph-Herald (the same Larry who plays on the newsroom softball team, pitching with a beer in one hand and throwing a wicked underhand with the other) swears it is true.
"Seems the Catholic Archdiocese staff in nearby Chicago was investigating a supposed miracle. Some statue of the Virgin Mary was reputed to be weeping real tears, and the church was going to impanel several theologians to investigate the matter. My paper, the Dubuque "Terrible Herald" ran with the headline, "Catholics Probe Weeping Virgin."

IS THERE ANYBODY BETTER? Not to drive another nail into the coffin of the poor SF Examiner, but is there a better gossiper anywhere than Leah Garchik of the San Francisco Chronicle? Here she is on the news of the century, or at least last week's part of it:
"Diane Sawyer's been awfully quiet during all the fuss about whether Martin Bashir treated Michael Jackson unfairly in his recent two-hour interview. Jackson had no cause to complain when Sawyer talked with him eight years ago for 'Primetime Live,' in an interview more aptly described as a warming than a grilling."
We also learn from Leah, with links to the Mirror of London, that Jennifer Lopez travels with 20 in her party, including an eyebrow specialist and an eyebrow assistant. Compare to Courtney Love, whose company is a therapist who keeps her on even keel. Except when Courtney's in first class and the therapist is in coach, which is why London police detained her on landing.

HANK WOULDN'T HAVE MISSED IT. If you go to Panama you should see the ruins of the old city, sacked in 1671 by buccaneer Henry Morgan. Someone will tell you that the cathedral contained an altar of gold that was whitewashed so Morgan thought it was plaster, and after the pirates left it was moved to the new city, where it is now.
There's a beautiful gold-leafed altar in Panama City, Panama, but despite what the tour guides tell you, there's not much chance it was around in 1671. I researched the story for my novel Stone Flute, a timeline story set in Panama from pirate days to the present time. And what became apparent would shame a cub reporter for not seeing it from the start. Consider as journalism exercise:
-- The amazing altar, had it existed in 1600s colonial frontier days, would have been famous (imagine a roller coaster in 1880s Dodge City), but there's no mention of it in Spanish records of 1670 or earlier, before Morgan's arrival with 1,200 murderous thieves.
-- To be sure he found all the loot in Panama, Morgan took the town apart, board by board and stone by stone. He also seized many hostages for ransom. Some hostages were indigenous people, whose free relatives -- even if converted by the conquistadors -- were not fervent enough Christians, nor enamored enough of gold, to let their families go to the slave auction in Jamaica. They'd have snitched.
-- When Panama won its independence from Colombia in 1903, officials wrote to Seville for information on the city's founding. Spanish librarians found royal patents ordering the colonists to take the stone from the ruins and build a new city six miles to the west, where it is now. No mention is made in those documents of any golden altar. If it had existed and been saved, someone would have bragged.
-- Even in 1903, Panamanians press reports of the Seville news would have mentioned the altar as an artifact of the old city. Zip.
Inescapable conclusion: It wasn't there in 1671 to be overlooked by Morgan. If it was there in 1903, its connection to Morgan's raid hadn't occurred to tour guides yet. But it is beautiful.
You can get a copy of Stone Flute from Barnes & Noble.

THE OTHER END OF THE SHELF. To complete your collection of Charles Stough novels, also consider Warm Spit, my first trashy novel of Texas crime and culture, such as it is. Warm Spit is also available from online booksellers.
First trashy novel, did he say? Yep. Having outlived expectations, we're on a new project for Texas Gulf newsman Batton Shanks and his smarter, leggier pal, Christine Flanders. Working title: Horse Apples. We need a new novel just to get everybody in who wants to be a character in one.

HAS ANYONE PINNED DOWN THE SOURCE? Someone said "Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion." We've seen two attributions, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. But we've seen others, and Don, though sarcastic enough, doesn't strike us as that clever. Any tips?

COMIX SECTION. The Further Adventures of Herman "Speed" Graphic, Ace Photographer for the Chagrin Falls Commercial Scimitar, and his Faithful Companion, Typo the Wonder Pig.
PANEL ONE: Rushing into the photo lab to find Speed dozing in his trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island, Typo announces, "Boss! I got us a gig, and you'll only have to wear a costume part of the time!"
PANEL TWO: Speed splutters, "Gig...? Costume...?"
Typo explicates, "Right, Boss! The President mandates more educational TV programming for kids, and I signed us for 13 weeks on PBS from the front, embedded with the 82nd Airborne! You're Speedy the Erudite Clown!"
PANEL THREE: Speed blinks, "TV...? Clown...?"
Typo declares, "You got it right, Boss! Illustrate science concepts with kitchen-table explosives! Explain geometric
theorems with mine-clearing tactics! This ring-toss game with the busts of deposed desert sheiks will be the history segment!"
PANEL FOUR: Speed squints, "Science concepts...? Ring-toss...?"
Typo cheers, "I know you'd dig the concept, Boss, and I already got us syndicated and CNN-linked! The only thing we need is a bikini-clad assistant, and I'm waiting for Features Editor Hyperba Lee's agent to get back on that...!"
INTERPANEL SILHOUETTE: Flames, teeth, noise and fists.
PANEL FIVE: On the ledge outside the photo lab, Speed gasps, "You told her bikini-clad...?"
Beside him Typo reassures, "Only a negotiating tactic, Boss! As soon as Hyperba sees the Mess Tent Pass, we'll be in Fat City!"

BONG Bull is the product of Chief Copyboy Charley Stough, a copy editor at the San Antonio Express News. Email for any reason. Phone (210) 250-3191 after 6 p.m. central time.