Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild's World-Famous Encyclical
No. 655
and News Gorilla

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For Sept. 23, 2004. Oh wow, CBS, unverified documents!? Oh no! This changes everything! Of course now we must believe that Dubbya showed up at every drill, fended off the red horde single-handedly and is a war hero so adept that – unlike the Other Guy – he didn't even need a Swift boat to save our democracy (nor even much time in that F-102), says the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 655!

THAT'S THE SPIRIT. San Francisco Chronicle's Mark Morford knows how to put those Hummer drivers in thumbsucking, prenatal curl. Flash by in an International Truck and Engine Corp. CXT, the 14,500-pound "world's largest production pickup."
Granted, this thing is for the better-heeled fantasy cowboy with an extra $115,000 in his jeans. But with comico-agro-macho tax cuts such as the GOP lays out for its donors, it can't be long before we see dentists' wives dropping the kids off at their dance lessons in CXTs on their ways to squelch oil well fires. If you don't mind being seen driving drain cleaners' trucks, it's a short step up to circus wagons.
See Morford's able analysis ("There is this point where it all becomes just beyond silly and absurd and surreal. There is this threshold you reach where you finally just have to toss in the moral and spiritual and intellectual and commonsensical towel and just laugh out loud and shake your head and sigh and then run off to the woods with a bottle of fine sake and the collected Coltrane.") at

LONELIEST GUY IN THE WORLD. Gordon Jump was funny as the ditzy WKRP station manager but became hilarious as the do-nothing Maytag repairman. Radio folks would call his WKRP role near lifelike; the Maytag gig too, as we can attest from six in-home visits to the headquarters microwave oven since June, 12 calls to the service-call boiler room, three parts shipments sitting in the kitchen awaiting installation, and Maytag's offer to replace the beast if we pay them $110 to haul it off. Columnists need a tickler? Phone Gordon or his surrogates, ask what's up.

WORKED THAT BEAT TOO. Ed Susman contributeth:
"Your comments on Vietnam refugees in the U.S. brought back a memorable event as city editor for the now defunct Hartford (Conn.) Times. One of my community service jobs was to present American Flags to new immigrants. For the self-aggrandizing photo op, City editor presented the flag to our first immigrants who fled Vietnam. No one spoke a word of English, but I managed to communicate with the 12-year-old daughter who spoke some French and I hadn't forgotten all my French from high school days.
"Flash forward about 4-5 years, during the last days of the Times, and this young Asian woman shows up at my desk. In flawless English she thanked me for the flag so many years past. She was now graduating high school, had a scholarship to some school I would never have even applied to and was either valedictorian or salutatorian or something major in her high school class. "In the course of conversation, I asked her why stereotypically do Asian students out perform those born and raised here. She said she had the answer. "After the flag picture was shown, the local board of education enforcement people showed up at the girl's house and confronted the mother, asking her to register her four children for school. Oh, mama said, I can only afford to register my two young sons.' Oh, the school chief said, there are no fees. Education is guaranteed and free. So all the kids were registered. "The girl told me that after the school official left, her mother gathered her children around her and said: 'It is true that the streets are paved with gold in this country. They give away education. If any of you ever misses a day of class I will beat you so hard you will never sit down again.' She said that grades less than a B were similarly punishable. All the girl's siblings were at the head of their classes. "That's why immigrant kids do well and why people who risk life itself to get here on leaky boats have little longing to go home again."

MEANWHILE, IN OHIO. Ed's report echoes my own experience reporting at about the same time (although, to no credit of my Dayton Daily News boss du jour, the assignment was to find Vietnamese who wanted to go back to Vietnam). I went to a high school class of about five Viet kids and watched a teacher tutor one of them. Suddenly one of the others, seeing the wasted resource, slid her chair over next to mine, slapped open her book and started interrogating me on verbs. A county commish told me the welfare dept was puzzled by the Vietnamese, saying, 'We sign 'em up for monthly relief, they take one, maybe two checks, then we never see them again.' I did stories about dishwashers sleeping under sinks and in six months making enough to transport five relatives from the Philippines. In a year, they had big houses and businesses. I think maybe we won the war after all.

AS FOR MANAGEMENT. The assistant city editor who demanded a takeout on Dayton, Ohio refugees trying to get back to Vietnam? Dumped his wife and followed his girlfriend-reporter to some distant newsroom. But his most memorable contribution to lore was the night he and a buddy sent drinks to two hot chicks at another table in a Greek bar, apparently thinking the girls' burly escorts would also be flattered. The guy was dumb as a stump, but a survivor, somehow.

THAT SASQUATCH, WHAT A GUY. Maria Gallagher of Philadelphia magazine reports, "So I'm standing in the checkout line at the Acme this week, glancing as I always do at the front page of the Weekly World News, when I spy my favorite tabloid byline of all time:
"Wait a minute. I've seen this headline before. In fact, I cut this same headline, out of this same rag, about 20 years ago. It was posted on the city room wall at the Philadelphia Daily News for quite some time, inspiring an untold number of young talents, until it fell victim to a building-wide renovation.
"Now I don't know what to think. Either the WWN has taken to running its greatest-hits stories, or Bigfoot -- who must be hundreds of years old by now -- got himself some Viagra. Sounds like a folo to me."
Actually makes good sense to the Professional Standards and Party Excuses Committee, Maria. Anybody ever notice you never see a really, really tenured journalism prof and Bigfoot at the same time? Once we thought it was lecturing half a semester about brevity that made their feet flat, their butts sag and their knuckles hairy. Could it be the groupies that keep them going?

TYPE FONT NEWS. Andrew Greene enlightens us on typographical forensics: "Times Roman was designed (or, more accurately, adapted) by Stanley Morrison for the Times. You know, the one that considers it beneath itself to mention that it's from London. "And the prime motivator wasn't clarity, it was a tight set. Even inthose halcyon days, publishers didn't want to waste perfectly good ad
space on articles."

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 skulk behind a file cabinet as
Typo yells, "Hey, Sports Department! The cooking editor's renting
out your parking spaces!"
PANEL TWO: From behind the water cooler, Typo barks, "Yo,
Copy Desk! Metro's using up all your pizza discount coupons!"
PANEL THREE: Into the air tube Typo bellows, "Hey, Computer
Geeks! One more system crash and the Kiddie Page gets your air
PANEL FOUR: Down the mahogany hallway Typo intones, "Yoo
hoo, Editorial Page! World Desk found your butter mints stash!"
PANEL FIVE: Speed, trying to hide his face under the collar
of his trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire
service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island,
enquires, "Gee, Typo, do you think this really will work?"
Typo vows, "Can do, Boss! With everybody brawling in the parking lot, for at least a half-hour we have a free hand at every candy dish in the building!"

A production of BONG Chief Copyboy Charley Stough. E-mail
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