Tuesday, August 31, 2010


. Lies & Fishermen

“TV and newspapers . . . leave out too many things, which in my opinion is the same thing as lying. . . . I became so opposed to the Atlanta Journal that I wouldn’t even wrap a carp in it and scratch the carp.”
—Ronnie Hunt, fishing guide and Tea Party supporter, April 2010 URL

Editor’s Note: Try wrapping a carp in Fox News...

Today’s Wish-I-Were-Here Photo:
Morning Coast

Monday, August 30, 2010

Season 15?!? The WORD Returns. Hundreds Swoon

Pesky WORD Demonstrates ‘Recidivism,’ Flees Asylum
to Launch 15th Season of Dubious Wisdom on the Press

LOGAN, Utah—After stuffing a laundry bag full of used aphorisms and adages on the press to create a comatose “reader” dummy, the nation’s most dreaded repeat quoter escaped St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose—again!—early Monday and immediately has started spamming hundreds of victims of his insidious daily quotes on the press.

“He did it again!” a frustrated sanitarium attendant was heard yelling as he kicked the Word’s decoy, scattering old verbiage and Mark Twain citations across the patio of the world-renowned hospital for the excessively erudite in the Redwood coast of northern California. “Just last week he was spouting Glenn Beckery. I should have known he was off his rocker.”

Authorities and fact-checkers confirmed at 6 a.m. (MDT) today that the WORD is once more free to afflict a news-addled planet with more pithy “wisdom” on journalism, the mass media, and a nearly extinct superannuated institution, the press.

Reaction from college campuses, lexicographers and the handful of surviving newspaper newsrooms from Melbourne to Shanghai to Ames, Iowa, was muted—mostly because the students and addled professors who flock back to classrooms like the buzzards returning to Hinckley, Ohio, at this time of year weren’t awake yet.

But by sunrise, a growing wail could be heard echoing across the Quad at Utah State University, where the half-cocked professor who created the Word in the first place in 1995 locked himself in his office as furious students and colleagues gathered outside. Many were bearing old, 12-pound Oxford English Dictionaries and dusty thesaruses, determined to give the Wordmeister a solid whacking.

“OED’s going online, so the 2009 edition will have to do,” explained one English lecturer, hefting a tome threateningly. The underemployed Stanford modern lit PhD had a child’s wagon in tow, stacked with reference books she was offering for sale to others interested in “booking” the journalism Wordmeister into drooling insensibility.

“Shouldn’t take much,” she growled.

At St. Mumbles, clinical conjugators and security staff buttoned up the sanitarium to conduct a headcount of the other patients. Numbers at the facility have swelled over the past year as news organizations everywhere have jettisoned their most dangerous, er, “creative” writers and editors.

A St. Mumbles spokeswoman said Today’s WORD on Journalism normally is confined in a padded maximum citation cubicle, but had somehow been left in a wheelchair on a rocky crag overlooking the Pacific last night. An attendant was found tongue-tied nearby. Apparently the attendant had passed out after hours of listening to the WORD’s quotations on free expression.

“When he started on the 19th set of Federalist Papers, alternating with Jerry Seinfeld, I was a dumb as a Wikipedia post,” the rueful staff member confessed, clutching his head.

Contacted in his crypt, former President Thomas Jefferson rescinded his famous edict—“No government ought to be without censors & where the press is free, no one ever will”—saying, “I take it back. If the WORD is this generation’s version of truth and wisdom, then we deserve Rush Limbaugh and ‘Dancing With the Stars.’”

Over recent weeks, snoozing uneasily beneath stacks of Bartlett’s, Brainy Quotes and Marvel comics, St. Mumbles officials reported, the WORD has been thrashing in his uneasy sleep, muttering, “Mama grizzlies!” “Blago is innocent.” “Truthiness!” and other obscure epithets. Taking a page, literally, from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prescription, “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath,” the WORD seems to have escaped St. Mumbles by sea. A capsized canoe, the “Parsing Peas,” was found swamped on a rocky beach two miles away.

“There is some slim hope that he fell overboard and drowned,” one officer at the scene said.

• • •

Back-story: The WORD was originally concocted (“conceived” is, I think, altogether too grand) as a way to get journalism students to pay attention to their email. Strange as it may sound, email was a new and unpleasant disturbance of the general peace back in 1995, and many students did not then spend 16 hours a day online. As a professor hoping to get and keep their attention while also instructing them, my object was that the WORD would give them something to think about before class. Hope, like the WORD, springs eternal.

I think it’s fair to say that this strategy was a dismal failure. Most of my students continue to ignore their daily WORDs and gaily accept point reductions on their quizzes for not knowing the day's wordish wisdom from philosophers ranging from Soren Kierkegaard to Brian Williams to Lisa Simpson.

But the WORD has become rather frighteningly popular with non-students—purported grown-ups, mostly, who actually ask to be afflicted or who send email addresses of unsuspecting friends/colleagues/parents/bosses, so that they might be victimized as well.

When the WORD was trundled by those nice white-jacketed men into St. Mumbles last spring, about 1,800 (mostly volunteer) victims subscribed to the direct email WORD list. More got the WORD by checking the website, whence it was linked and forwarded like a pox to many more unsuspecting victims by so-called “friends.”

As usual, we launch this season with the ever-useful wisdom of the genial former colonial Royal High Pontentate of the Virginia Colony, whose high regard for both education and the press still rings with an increasingly popular fervor today. Enjoy!

The Perennial Season Opener

“I thank God we have no free schools or printing, and I hope that we shall not have these for a hundred years. For learning has brought disobediences and heresy and sects into the world; and printing has divulged them and libels against the government. God keep us from both.”
—Sir William Berkeley
Governor, Virginia Colony, 1671