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For July 14, 2003. Happy Bastille Day and of course we can forgive a little flaw in fact gathering by a speechwriting committee, Mr. President! And by the way, did you hear that Knight-Ridder was trying to buy uranium? asks the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 628!
BALLAD OF THE SAD COPY DESK. Amy Wang, formerly of the Philadelphia
Inquirer pitched this one for the big screen, titled "The Copy Editor Who Cracked!" starring: Jack Nicholson as the grammar-checker, Annette Bening as his extraneous and neglected but loyal wife, Rick Mouranis as the weaselly boss, Marlon Brando as the detached boss of the
Scene: A newsroom of modern American vintage. Nicholson plods in, lunchbag in one hand, lunchtime reading material in the other. He is mild-mannered until he gets to his desk, finding NO CHAIR (swell of dramatic music) and NO KEYBOARD (another swell of dramatic music). "Awright," he says plaintively, "who stole my chair? And my keyboard?" He is answered only by the squeaking of numerous chairs and the tapping of numerous keyboards. Fadeout.
Scene: A newsroom of modern American vintage. The next day. Nicholson plods in, lunchbag in one hand, lunchtime reading material in the other. He is mild-mannered until he gets to his desk. He produces A CHAIN (swell of dramatic music). His hand shoots out and corrals the nearest chair, which he beats into submission, pins and chains to the desk! A small crowd gathers.
Cut to: Panting, Nicholson seizes a nearby keyboard. He slams it down in front of his terminal. He produces A DRILL (swell of dramatic music). He fires it up. (SFX: Chainsaw sound). He aims at the keyboard and (camera begins shaking) begins to drill right through it. Reporters come running. Editors stand up. Crowd grows larger (Off-camera gasps and whispers: "...just like a postal worker...stress...but he's always so quiet...").
Cut to: Nicholson finishes drilling through the keyboard. He produces another CHAIN! (swell of dramatic music). He chains the keyboard to the desk. He glares. Fadeout.
As credits roll, Mouranis types up a letter of reprimand and slides it into Nicholson's file. Brando returns from vacation and inspects the keyboard with a half-amused, half-bemused expression. Bening makes a shoo-fly pie. And Nicholson, now a legend in his own time, calls up yet another zoning story to check the spelling, while around him extras continue to whisper in amazement at THE DAY! THE COPY EDITOR! CRACKED!
Wang added: "I did not witness this event. So Nicholson wasn't really in my newsroom. So revoke my creative license. Anyway, it's a great yarn. And best of all, it's true. Well, the chain and drill part, anyway."
THAT HONDA AD PART II. If you haven't seen Honda's Rube Goldberg TV ad, see www.honda.co.uk/multimedia and click "Cog." Then see Quentin Letts' takeout on the 606-take project that made madmen of otherwise merely off-kilter commercial makers. It took four days in a Paris studio (stop thinking what you're thinking; four days, day and night, in the studio!) and when things were bollixy, production rats would mutter, "The parts are being very moody today." Letts' story:
POPUP. Bill Eger's lovely interrupter ad. As of last week there was no such place as BigLavaSplash.com, but who knows?
Once in a lifetime VACATION TREAT in PARADISE
Visit America's only volcano -- gushing red-hot lava for eighteen years
from the mountain to the sea Lava moves slowly but there is nothing
slow about the newest Hawaiian Visitor Delight
A 1,000-Foot Drop into the Vent!
The Big Island of Hawai`i has a huge hole in its side oozing great
volumes of molten rock. It also has terrific helicopters for visitor tours.
Now these attractions are joined to bring you a sight you will never
forget, a genuine abandoned car dropping 1,000 feet into the boiling
lava pit. What a splash!
Every Saturday just as dark falls, be in the comfortable new
air-conditioned stadium surrounding Madame Pele's Pu`u O`o lava pit.
Don't forget your camera.
Information available at BigLavaSplash.com
SO LONG, MISS RHEE, THE WORLD'S THE GRIMMER FOR YOUR PASSING. Lost to us June 21 was Miss Elizabeth "Dolly" Rhee, 88, former S.F. Chronicle editorial assistant turned political power broker. A roadblock to the office of Editor Scott Newhall in his day (she fended off candidate Richard Nixon on his request to drop in on the boss, and told a couple of governors, "That's not going to happen. He'll call you when he wants to."
Michael Taylor reported in the Chron's obit, "At a party several decades ago, a man looked fondly at Miss Rhee and said, 'I always wanted to take your picture nude.' Without missing a beat, according to Chronicle reporter Carl Nolte, Miss Rhee shot back, 'Why didn't you ask me that 50 years ago?'"
THE BRUSH WITH FAME THAT KEEPS ON BRUSHING. The San Antonio (Texas) Express-News copy desk has been instructed to insert into all stories about the New York Times scandal a sentence such as the following:
"Some of Blair's material was stolen from the San Antonio Express-News."
Also, whenever possible, editors should make reference to the Express-News in heads or display type associated with these stories.
WHEN NIELSEN RATINGS JUST DON'T CUT IT. Paul McFedries' Word Spy for July 2 describes Driveway Effect, "A special quality exhibited by a radio program that causes listeners to stay in their cars after they have arrived home so they can hear the end of the program."
Also see "coffee-spitter" and "Hey Mabel effect." http://www.wordspy.com/
SH-T HAPPENS. Some years ago BONG Bull reported worldwide
chortles on publicity about the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune's
unfortunate nickname, the SH-T.
An occasionally reliable staff source reported, ".... One bespectacled former business editor, now toiling in hospital flackdom, suggested 'SH-T Happens' as the title for our periodic compendium of copy desk scoldings. Another time, a group of us lobbied to call our softball team the SH-T Heads. The features editor vetoed the idea, saying she did not consider the name all that flattering. So the name became The Sticks, which I'm sure you will agree is MUCH more memorable. Still, I made myself an SH-T Heads T-shirt."
ANOTHER PRECINCT HEARD FROM. And then another source, Barry A. Hollander, professing journalism at the University of Georgia,
recalled, "When I was working there, the editors created the
tired old 'I-team' for investigative work. Obviously, we commented
that the editors had put the 'I' in the SH-T."
BONG DOES DAYTON. The Chief Copyboy and SWMBO will do a week in Dayton and/or Minneapolis July 20-27, starting with a cash chili omelet bar at the Golden Nugget on Keowee Street in Dayton, Ohio at about 2 p.m. Sunday (July 20). The week will deteriorate from there. We look forward to closing the place, when the waitresses ceremonially empty all the pepper shakers onto the carpet (and Pamplona thinks their drunks-and-cows stampede is cool!). All are invited!
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: As Speed dozes under his trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island, Typo rushes into the photo lab, declaring, "Oh, excellent, Boss, you're resting up before your big chain-wide closed-circuit teleconference TV hookup to the interns! You're due in the Committee Conference Ballroom in 10 minutes!"
Speed sputters, "Conference . . .? Interns . . . ?
PANEL TWO: Typo elucidates, "Too right, Boss! Features Editor Hyperba Lee was booked for the gig, but the makeup boys said they didn't bring their industrial tools! Here's your script, Boss!"
Speed mumbles, "Hyperba . . . ? Industrial . . .?"
PANEL THREE: Typo declaims, "You got it, Boss! Now, Hyperba's stories about expense-account travel on assignment with hunky reporters isn't quite for you, so I reworked it into a lexicon of news meeting code words. See, like 'the Enron Rule' means when scandals break about local Republicans, we have to sit on the story for more investigating. But 'we're not in the censorship business' means it's about Democrats!"
Speed coughs, "Code words . . .? Scandals . . .?"
PANEL FOUR: "I knew you'd catch on quick, Boss! See, 'let the reader be the judge' means we can't confirm it but we got a big hole to fill. And 'people are just going to hear it on TV' means we can handle half-truths better than Fox, 'cause we analyze and put in bar charts!"
Speed gasps, "Half-truths . . .? Analyze . . .?"
PANEL FIVE: Typo cheers, "You got it down, Boss! Here are your note cards! Wipe the Cheez Doodles off your tie and get down to the studio! And Boss, remember if you lose your notes, tell the kids that 'If no news, send rumors' means send rumors INSTEAD!"
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BONG Bull is the product of Chief Copyboy Charley Stough, a copy editor at the San Antonio Express News. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for any reason.