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For April 9, 2003. Memo to Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf: One of the first things you learn at a PRSA meeting is that a flack stripping off his uniform and loping down Route 8 in his skivvies is not a convincing flack, advises the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 620!
OUR HERO. When the retirees' newsletter comes from Cox we're usually grateful for a dry coaster under the rum punch. But this week we read the great news that our old buddy Hal McCoy has been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame's sportswriter's division. Huzzah for the good guys!
Hal, who spent most of his time traveling with the Reds or working off OT from same, once gave me a great item for a column I did at the Dayton Daily News. With umpires vigilant for pitchers throwing spitters, I asked, what's a dirty-playing pitcher to do?
Oh, easy, Hal grinned. They conceal sandpaper, emery boards and cutting edges in their belts, gloves or cap bills. They stash tubes of Vaseline or K-Y Jelly in tucks and folds of their apparel. If the umps have been too close, all these tricks are played by someone in the infield, and the ball gets fixed when they toss the ball around in peppers; the last baseman with the ball before the pitcher, that's the guy with the grease on his cap.
"A really strong pitcher," Hal told, "can actually loosen the horsehide with his hands when he twists the ball. King Kong couldn't hit that ball past second base."
What a great column. What great times. What a great reporter is Hal McCoy.
CAN'T BE FOOLED. A poor but sincere reporter dined on the company patio with a grizzled city editor, when a persistent fly began flying around the editor's head.
"Oh, that's one of those circle flies," the poor but sincere reporter said.
"What's a damn circle fly?" the editor demanded, swatting futilely.
"A circle fly gets its name from its habit of circling round and round the vicinity of a horse's rear end," the poor but sincere reporter said. "Nothing will make it stop."
"Are you calling me a horse's ass?" the editor growled.
"Oh no," the poor but sincere reporter said. "I recognize you as a hard-working, skilled, experienced, intelligent and very imaginative newsroom leader!"
"All right, then," the editor muttered.
"Yeah," the poor but sincere reporter continued, "but there's just no fooling those circle flies, is there?"
VOLUMINATING. Phil Smith III reports that someone asked, on a list he subscribes to: "Does anyone remember when there used to be two words, 'volume' and volumn?' I thought the latter referred to units of information, as a member of an encyclopedia. But, you hardly ever see 'volumn' in print nowadays, and it seems that 'volume' is used for both meanings. Any English-speaking types care to comment or instruct?"
Well, to BONG's Margarita Recipes and English Syntax Standards Committee it looks like a reflection of the peculiar magnetics of blogdom, Phil. Blogs, the celebrated contraction of "weblog," (of which News Gorilla is one) attract writers who don't like to be edited. Which is to say, writers who most need editing, a syndrome known as the Drudge Report Paradox. Many blogs and websites are maundering drivel, such as what Shirley got on her history test, best sweater or nose, where the president keeps his cigars, etc. But some are worthwhile reading. See News Gorilla, for example.
HEY, CAN THEY DO THAT ON TV? Frank Dobisky says the sap has been running a little slow up in New Hampshire and with war and all, the natives have spent a lot of time in front of the TV. Maybe too much time.
"Watching a report on MSNBC the other day," Dobisky reports, "we saw an embedded reporter atop a tank somewhere in the Iraqi desert talking about the troops getting 'fat' -- stocking up on supplies.
"But on closer examination -- and am I the only one who saw this? -- it appeared some of the troops were relieving themselves, too. In the upper left-hand corner of the picture, there was a GI standing next to a tree, his back to the camera, and I swear he was taking care of business. And I don't think the TV cameraman noticed him right away. For several seconds, the GI stood there, then shook himself and appeared to be zipping up when the camera suddenly zoomed in on the reporter -- cutting off the picture of the relieved GI."
No, Frank, we're sure no one else saw that. But keep in mind that GIs are deep at heart a sympathetic bunch, and a parched desert palm tree is a compelling sight for any do-gooder. Also, behavior that would shock participants in a lunch at the Plaza or a croquet tournament is perfectly acceptable in less civilized environs such as a Middle Eastern battlefield or an ASNE convention.
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: Speed and Typo collaborate on literary projects. Speed says, "Underline that part, Typo! Publisher Gimlet Peen is carrying on an illicit relationship with Features Editor Hyperba Lee and they pirate Dixie Chicks posters in the pressroom but heroic Area Man is crawling down the bundle conveyor, about to break up the nefarious enterprise! Then what?"
PANEL TWO: Typo responds, "That's good enough for one episode, Boss! Let's mail that script off to Fox on our way to lunch! It's Meatloaf Surprise day at the Bait Shop!"
PANEL THREE: Later, the Deft Duo sip Bromos as the phone rings. Typo reports, "It's Peen's secretary, Boss! She wants to know why we lost the Pulitzer contest again!"
PANEL FOUR: Speed observes, "Kind of a quandary here, Typo! Is she speaking for Gimlet, in which case it's a serious question, or is she demanding to know why she has to pay her bookie, in which case it's more serious!"
PANEL FIVE: On the ledge outside the photo lab, Speed huddles in his trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island as Typo reasons, "The way I see it, Boss, we still have two choices! Either we get the Southern Pacific to stop the 12:02 Red Ball, or ... !"
Speed continues, "... Or we hope the Projects Team can be fooled into spending another half mil on computer-aided research into remote and irrelevant subjects, and we try for the Pulitzer again next year!"
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BONG Bull is the product of Chief Copyboy Charley Stough, a copy editor at the San Antonio Express News. Email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for any reason. Phone (210) 250-3191 after 6 p.m. central time.