Thursday, March 10, 2005

Visit BONG's News Gorilla store at . The sun'll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun! And you'll wish you and your posse had BONG's beautiful eyeshades, available nowhere else!

DAN RATHER, WE HARDLY KNEW YE! But we do know that if you coulda just picked a phony name, worked weekends as a male hooker and lobbed softballs to the White House flack, you coulda had a West Wing press pass and been quoted liberally (ahem) on Fox News, so maybe you want to go fishing now anyway, says the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 664!

EARLY EDITIONS. Click on the News Gorilla blog address above before we post this edition there, to catch some breaking stuff from the past week or so. It will all be there next week too, but when this stuff hits, it will be further down, get it?

TAKE THAT THURBER, YOU PEDANTIC MOUNTEBANK! The New Yorker recently told of Miss Eleanor Gould, their "Grammarian" a/k/a copy editor of 54 years, who recently died. She copyread all the greats over the years. She had fallen on the bad side of James Thurber by not recognizing the word "raunchy," instead changing it to "paunchy" to his great displeasure.
Things improved between the two when Thurber wrote that "facetiously" was the only English word with all vowels in order. "What about 'abstemiously?'" she asked. Even if Thurber had shot back with "abstentious," she might have whipped out "phragelliorhynchus," so it's good Thurber backed down.


BRIBES, PAYOFFS AND OTHER PATRIOTIC IDEALS. How curious that the administration saw the need to slide thousands of dollars to U.S. columnists to promote, lessee here, keeping kids in school and, what else oh yeah, marriage. One gets the idea that when the crossing light turns green, White House people look around for someone to pay off. Hey guys, Tom DeLay pretty much stays up on the Hill. You won't find him with his hand out this far from an election.
Anyway, longtime BONGer John D. Ayer, who professes law at UC Davis, sent in this little ditty of Hilaire Belloc's to remind use that coziness with power is not exclusively Amedican: You cannot hope to bribe or twist Thank God, the British journalist. But when you see what he will do Unbribed, there's no occasion to.

SO LONG, DUKE. Hunter S. Thompson was one of those writers who had something missing, and then he also had something extra. Most of us would not have expected him to off himself but now that he's gone, it's fair to assess his effects. Like most geniuses, Thompson made it look too easy. After him came a generation of hacks unfit to deliver cocoa to Rolling Stone. But they found jobs on countless small and middle-sized papers. They are remarkable in middle age not nearly so much for their writing as for their whining. They brought an infestation of 40-line paragraphs and 200-inch stories and proudly judged their own work by how closely it resembled gray 2x4 lumber lying on the page. The readers judge it the same way, but with a different response.

YEAH, WELL, PRETTY ABSORBENT ANYWAY. Angus Lind at the New Orleans Times-Picayune asked for some tips about fun newspaper mottoes a couple of weeks ago. We told him about the family's old subtabloid weekly in Arizona called "Sage: The only newspaper you can open up in a high wind or read on a horse." And there are several that have been using "The only newspaper in the world that gives a damn about (insert town name here)." Any others, copy Angus too.

WILD ART. Peter Zicari reports, "I don't think I ever wrote a horoscope, but I did swap a few (just peel the type off an old page before they throw it out, simple as pie). But when I started in Syracuse, the regional office was perpetually desperate for art, because the buses from the bureaus didn't arrive till after the page designers had to have their plans in shape -- and they didn't trust the stringers and reporters to actually deliver on the pictures they promised (with good reason).
"You could always make a few dollars by shooting off a roll in the office Yashica twin-lens, and one by one they got used as inside art or even the anchor of a section page. One lucrative day I drove clear to Cortland, N.Y., and then out of the circulation area to see my parents, and they even used the shot I took of a robin nesting in a mop on their back porch. With some creative fudging of the location.
"But as I was congratulating myself, an old-timer put it in perspective: The month before I arrived, a bureau reporter had stepped out of his office and ripped off a roll of shots without leaving the block. The last one (four parked cars, six parking meters and some creative cutline writing) was still waiting to go when it snowed. They were painting on the picture with the white-out when a roll of something else showed up in the nick of time."
Peter brings to mind a snow-country rule that had slipped our mind since returning to the land of exhausts (horse, cow and SUV). The Dayton Daily News kept files of wild-art filler matter, but in winter it had to be sorted into Snow and Unsnow. One couldn't show kids biking woodland trails when there was 22 inches on them. How do you guys sort wild art in Palm Springs – caddy day vs. cart day?

ACCUFINGER. Dr. Denny Wilkins, who professes journalism at St. Bonaventure U., confesses, "OK, OK, I 'fess up. Those who concocted horoscopes (admittedly 'cause the syndicates screwed up) never worked alone on Friday night -- and not get the AP's weather forecast for Saturday. "So I'd walk outside, wet my finger and stick it in the wind (not elsewhere, people) and guesstimate the temperature for Saturday. It's New England, I figured. How wrong could I be? Just write 'unseasonable temperatures and chance of rain late.' Sadly, I was never more accurate than the AP." Don't beat yourself up, Prof. How could anyone be?

TICKLER FILE. This is a find: Vlierodam, a Netherlands wire rope company that serves the world shipping industry, publishes a more-or-less-daily collection of news about ships, boats and ports. Pirates in Malaysian waters, rescues at sea, polluters and assorted mishaps are reported among beautiful photos of sometimes very ugly vessels. Face it, a heavy-lift loaded with a North Sea oil platform lying sideways resembles nothing so much as a train wreck with a paint job. And some of those RORO (roll-on, roll-off) carriers remind us of that college dorm that kept catching fire mysteriously. But you can find tips for local, science or business pages almost every day. For example, folks in Texas may not know that old asbestos- and chemical-tainted ships get sent from Virginia down to Brownsville fairly often for breaking up. It's a free PDF file:

avers that in Wenatchee, Wash., the annual Apple Blossom Festival, preceded by the Apple Blossom Queen contest, are both huge beyond all human reason, no matter how appallingly sexist is the pageant,
and dated and tired. So they were down to 10 finalists and the paper was running the profiles of the girls, based on questionnaires they filled out.
"So one of the copy editors, a former English teacher, is editing
them, groans and tells me 'Vanessa, listen to this: she says her
favorite book is 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Anita Price Davis.
"I say, 'Who the hell is that?' since obviously Harper Lee, not this
Anita Price Davis, wrote 'To Kill a Mockingbird' -- and the copy
editor informs me that Anita P. Davis is the author of many
well-used literary study guides.
"'So her favorite book is a Cliff's Note,'" the copy editor says.
"We got a good laugh out of that one, and had the reporter call her
to save her from public humiliation, although it was tempting to
leave it. Couldn't be sure it wasn't just someone erroneouslyfilling in the author's name for her. Yeah, right."

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: Dozing in his trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island, Speed is awakened by Typo's loud arrival. Typo declares, "I was just down checking the trash bins in the alley for seminar hors d' oeuvres, Boss! Don't worry if you see someone going through the bins! He's clean!"
PANEL TWO: Speed blusters, "Wh-what, Typo? Let me contemplate that statement a moment."
PANEL THREE: Spreading a checked tablecloth and laying out a plate of cold cuts and crudités, Typo avers, "No, really, Boss! It's just some guy from the Swift Boat vets! They have so much money now that they're broadening their crack investigative powers to the military records of newspaper publishers, the better to destroy more people!"
Speed sputters, "Newspaper publishers . . . destroy more people?"
PANEL FOUR: Popping the cork on a bottle of Chateau Hediondo '03, Typo appends, "Yes, Boss! I thought he might help us find Absentee Publisher Gimlet Peen, missing since that tango contest riot! The swifties' crack operative instantly got on his cell phone and found 14 fellow members who say they worked in the very same Camp Basurero grease pit as Mr. Peen, and in almost the very same decade! They're already compiling affidavits and doctoring photos!" Speed wonders, "I never heard any of that about Mr. Peen . . . ?"
PANEL FIVE: Savoring a sample of the vintage, Typo mentions, "Oh, I didn't say he was in the AMERICAN army, Boss! But I'm sure they'll work out the details! The Swift Boats vets' head guy is a Texas lawyer, after all!"

News Gorilla, a version of BONG Bull, is the product of Charles Stough, who recently woke up dressed strangely and craving enchiladas and pico de gallo in San Antonio, Texas. Email for any reason.