Archive for April, 2011

Revisited: Warning — Post contains (typo)graphic violence

April 30, 2011

Recently, a near-panic on Wall Street dropped the Dow almost a thousand points in just a few minutes. It was later discovered the plunge might be attributable to a trader who meant to sell a million shares of stock but instead typed the word “billion.”

Then, I published a post on this blog titled “Thre Magic Words.” Some 159 people viewed the defective headline, though probably only about half of those skimmed the article while roughly a quarter gave up after a few paragraphs and perhaps as many as three noticed that “thre” was misspelled.

Two events — one bringing the world to the brink of financial catastrophe and the other bothering the heck out of me till I corrected it about an hour later — with one thing in common: both involved that bane of written communications, the typo.

Typographical errors go back as far as written history itself. When cultures were passed from one generation to the next through the oral tradition, it was instead the “speak-o” that confounded perfectionists and resulted in some nasty misunderstandings, most notably the ritual sacrifice of humans when all the village elders actually wanted to burn was “cumin.” The advent of cave paintings and hieroglyphs and ultimately movable type allowed such mistakes to be recorded for centuries. (Today we can reprint or “update post” if necessary, but the Neanderthal had to blow up his whole cave if he drew a bear but meant to draw an antelope.)

I’ve been an aficionado of proper spelling my entire life. At Miami Norland Elementary School, I won the fifth-grade spelling bee, advancing to the school-wide finals against a taller, stronger and more athletic sixth-grader who “posterized” me when I stumbled on accrued while he monster-dunked inchoate to take the championship. My two best subjects throughout grade school were spelling and geography, and I was crestfallen to learn from the vocational counselor in high school that you couldn’t enter either subject as a career.

With my dreams dashed of opening a specialty boutique where customers could ask how to spell the capital of North Dakota, I instead went to college to study journalism. It was the early seventies and Florida State was gripped with the revolutionary zeal of the times. However, as much as we questioned the establishment and cultural mores and business-as-usual and why Mary Bess wouldn’t allow me to touch her chest, we never challenged the time-tested rules of written communication. Our manifestos demanding the resignation of the president and ROTC OFF CAMPUS NOW! were carefully edited and exquisitely punctuated.

Only once during my tenure as an editor of the school paper did we dare to question The Man (Noah Webster) on the subject of proper spelling, and that was at the prompting of The Woman. Amy Rogers was head of the local feminist coalition, and came to my office one day demanding that as good liberals we abandon the misogynistic term “woman” in our reporting of campus news.

“We repudiate the word, because it comes from the origin ‘womb-man,’” she told me. “We prefer ‘womyn’ instead, and strongly urge you to prefer it too.”

We convened an editorial meeting and debated for several hours the merits of the request. Ultimately, I moved that the proposal was stupid and got a slim majority (all the guys) to agree with me. Then we closed down the paper and had a sit-in, just for the fun of it.

After leaving college, I took numerous part-time jobs in the closest thing I could find to professional spelling, which was typesetting and proofreading. I was a fast and accurate typist, and to this day can churn out 100 words-per-minute with 98% accuracy (just ask “Typer-Shark”). What I didn’t get right while typing I would correct while checking my work. In 1980 I consolidated the part-time work into one full-time job in financial printing, where I continue to make my career today.

Though my first love is typing – as you can probably tell from this and many other examples of sentences in my posts that run on and on and on – where the company needed me most was in proofreading. That can be a difficult and stressful job, primarily because your entire reason for being is to find and point out the mistakes of others. After identifying the minute deficiencies of other people’s performance all day long, proofreaders typically go home to a lonely existence watching for mistakes in movie credits. Family members fled a long time ago, sick of having every move critiqued. (“Are you sure you meant to say you’re going to the bathroom, dear? Isn’t it really the toilet you intend to use?”).

We’re left to form our own little cult of petty purists, laughing amongst ourselves at how incompetent everyone else is with the language. Remember that time Sue typed an alteration as “bored of directors”? Or when Jackie misread “code of ethics” as “code of ethnics,” and when Bob wrote about the “Antirust Division” in the Justice Department instead of “Antitrust”? And who can ever forget the time we almost printed “annual report” as “anal retort”?

And since our company specializes in helping publically held corporations with their legally required public disclosure documents, it’s that little word “public” that becomes the most problematic of all. We’ve had to catch and fix everything from “pubic announcement” to “certified pubic auditors” to “pubic defender.”

For a long time, such a life was all very satisfying for me. Lately, however, it’s grown a little strained. Sure, we can be justly proud of our high quality standards, helping guarantee the accuracy of information that American shareholders use to help them make wise investment decisions (sort of). But all we’re really responsible for is converting files the client has supplied us and making sure our draft reads exactly like theirs, right or wrong. If we happen to notice that they’ve written “;likjio&%@nehw”, well maybe that’s just the British spelling.

When we split into opposing factions on the subject of which punctuation mark was proper to show a range of numbers, I knew we had gone too far. Those who favored the hyphen with no space on either side (the “Hyphenates”) were pitted against those who felt strongly that an en-dash surrounded by thin spaces (the “Dashers”) was proper. Armed clashes in the parking lot between the two forces were breaking out more frequently now, with at least two proofreaders already injured by sharpened pica sticks. Management has yet to broker a peace.

I think those who care about proper spelling and word usage are being overtaken by larger events anyway. Between emoticons and Twitterese and texting, I think we’ll soon see radical changes to the language in all its forms. Even financial documents, with their stiff, legalistic prose, will soon be created in a new way. For example, the “risk factors” section, which lists in detail potential reasons why a stock may not perform up to its potential, will soon read something like this: “The company operates in a sector in which significant price variations may subject revenue streams to extreme instability (OMG).” Or, “Our acquisition of XYZ Corporation may result in a dilution of our stock price and a reduced market capitalization :( “.

At least it’s pretty hard to typo a frowny face.

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News from the tri-county area

April 29, 2011

More weird, funny and/or interesting news briefs from my local hometown newspaper.

The pen is mightier than the sword

A pen became the weapon of choice for a Rock Hill man charged with threatening people with a knife, according to a police incident report.

William Jackson, 44, was arrested after witnesses said he was walking around threatening people with a knife.

When police brought Jackson to the law center to book him, he refused to walk into a cell and then grabbed a pen from the pocket of an officer’s shirt, according to the report.

Jackson was clutching the pen “as if he was going to try and use it as a weapon,” the report said.

Another officer came to assist. No one was injured.

Jackson was charged with disorderly conduct, intimidation and resisting arrest.

Take that, you stupid Lexus

A Fort Mill woman reported an angry driver smashed her windshield, sun roof and door in a fit of road rage, according to a Fort Mill Police report.

The woman, 29, told police on April 22 around 8 p.m. she accidentally cut off another driver on Dobys Bridge Road.

When the cars came to a stop at the intersection of Tom Hall Street, the driver of the car behind her walked up to her Lexus and took a hammer-like tool and smashed her windshield, sun roof and dented her door, the report states.

The man fled the scene in a dark sedan, the woman told police.

The damage is estimated at $1,500. No one was injured.

Subaru takes a dive

Crews spent nearly six hours fishing a car out of a backyard pool after a Chester man flipped his Subaru into his neighbor’s swimming pool.

Charles Weldon, 32, side-swiped a house and ran his car into the pool around 10 a.m. Monday, said Chief Mike Brown with the Chester City Police. He will be charged with driving under the influence, Brown said.

Weldon was taken to the Carolinas Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition.

The crash caused major damage to the house, deck and pool of a house owned by Rae Woods.

“The car came across the street, off the road, through a 6-foot-tall chain link fence, through the deck and down a great big hill before going into the pool,” said Woods, who rents the property. “I’m still in disbelief about all the damage.”

By 4 p.m., the car was out and by 5 Woods was draining the pool and calling the insurance company.

She said the liner on the pool was ripped and will need to be replaced, as will the deck, fence and a portion of the house.

‘You’ll never catch me, copper’

Police arrested a man Monday while he was in the process of stealing copper pipes from under a Rock Hill house.

The 46-year-old man told officers he was stealing the pipes from the home on Stonewall Avenue because he was homeless, according to a Rock Hill police report. Most copper thieves make quick money by selling the items to scrap yards.

In this case, officers arrived at the address about 11 a.m. and met with a witness and several neighbors. The witness said he saw the man entering the crawlspace beneath the house. An officer heard movement within the crawlspace and saw the man moving, according to the report.

Several pieces of copper pipe were found in a pile under the house, the report states.

The man was charged with second-degree burglary and obtaining non-ferrous metal and transported to the Rock Hill City Jail.

Copper is currently selling for nearly $4.50 per pound. Other metals are also spiking in value and, as a result, thefts are spiking.

The official state waste-of-time

South Carolina legislators gave the lowly collard green its due Tuesday when the Senate agreed to make it the official state vegetable.

Frequently boiled and traditionally a charm for wealth in the New Year, the collard green first put on Southern tables by slaves would join dozens of other “official” things the state recognizes.

For instance, milk is the state’s official beverage and state-grown tea is South Carolina’s official hospitality beverage. The Carolina wolf spider is the state’s official spider and the bottlenose dolphin is the state’s official mammal.

Not everyone was biting at the veggie proposal, however.

The 30-12 vote showed there were collard green doubters, including Sen. Greg Ryberg, an Aiken Republican and Wisconsin transplant. “Was there competition?” Ryberg asked.

Sen. Larry Martin, a Pickens Republican, defended the choice. He told his colleagues — inaccurately — that the bill would only set the collard green as the state’s official leafy vegetable. “We all know the popularity of the collard,” Martin told Ryberg.

“What about the green bean?” Ryberg asked in a reference to past efforts to put money into a green bean museum.

“The green bean’s not leafy,” Martin said flatly. “This is very specialized.”

When told of what the bill actually said, Martin was surprised. “Oh, it is? I thought it was leafy,” Martin said.

Princess-to-be Kate declares herself a ‘birther’

April 28, 2011

The royal wedding is off!

Would-be princess Kate Middleton shocked the world on the day before what was to be her induction into the royal family by suddenly cancelling her marriage plans with Prince William. Middleton said she was not convinced the second-in-line to the British throne was born in England, and demanded that he produce a birth certificate before she would consider proceeding.

William’s birth to his mother Princess Diana almost 30 years ago was one of the most widely covered events of the 1980s. The prince bears a striking resemblance to both his parents. He’s often seen walking around London with a crown on his head.

Yet Kate is not fully convinced.

“I just want to see the paperwork for myself,” Middleton told a friend. “If he’s really a prince, it should be easy for him to produce it. And I want to see the original. No bloody PDFs for me.”

The long-form birth certificate of all the royals is kept at the British Museum, as are other official papers tracing the line back to 1066. It might be the most thoroughly documented 1,000-year-old genealogy in the world. Still, Kate has her doubts.

“The entire British Commonwealth deserves the right to be 100% convinced,” Kate said. “Before I handle any royal jewels, I want to handle the royal certificate.”

Doubts about William’s birthplace have been fanned by right-wing elements in the English countryside. Member of Parliament Nigel Tufts says the British people have a right to believe what they want to about the alleged prince’s origins.

“A lot of Britons believe their nation is still relevant on the world stage in the 21st century, for example,” Tufts said. “Of course, that’s not true. But vague impressions matter as much as facts.”

Other doubters say they’re content to take William at his word, implying that the public has to trust the prince rather than believe in an objective reality.

“I mean, he does have that princely look, and all those medals,” said Priscilla Andrews, a commoner from the north. “And his accent makes me want to believe. If we were talking about (brother) Harry … sure, you’d have your doubts. He looks like his father could be Howdy Doody.”

Meanwhile, what was to be the social event of the decade now stands perilously on hold. Tens of thousands of visitors and guests are left wondering how to spend a rainy Friday in London. Instead of witnessing the pomp and pageantry of a royal wedding, they’ll be left to sort through the capital’s other offerings: a ride on the Eye ferris wheel, a photo session in front of Big Ben, or another go at the Changing of the Guard (maybe, for once, they’ll forget to change).

The royal family was said to be deeply disturbed by today’s development. The Queen was reported to be in tears, though husband Prince Phillip was maintaining a stiff upper lip, thanks to recent Botox treatments. William’s father, Prince Charles, seemed to comprehend that something was amiss, though that could simply be reflexes often seen in those reduced to a vegetative state.

The would-be groom appeared to be taking the news in stride, however.

“Why buy a cow when the milk is free? Am I right?” he reportedly asked a friend. “If she doesn’t believe I’m the culmination of centuries of inbreeding, then screw her.”

Kate said she simply wanted to make sure there wasn’t any misunderstanding in what is the biggest move of her young life.

“Maybe people were just saying, ‘hey, he’s a prince of a guy,'” Kate said. “I admit that he’s nice and all, but I just want to be certain.”

The whole world weeps with sorrow

April 27, 2011

Hopes for a world in which all people can be free, happy, prosperous, productive, friendly, healthy, good-looking and at peace were cruelly dashed earlier this week when Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour announced he would not be seeking the Republican nomination to be president.

Barbour had shown strong indications he would seek the presidency in 2012. He had lined up potential donors, hired a campaign manager and even shed 20 pounds in preparation for a run. But nine days ago, after speaking at a Republican county convention in South Carolina, Barbour was seen grabbing a donut before heading for the door, according to The New York Times. That move turned out to be a foreshadowing of the announcement he made Monday.

“I don’t have an absolute fire in the [still substantial, to the point of hanging over his belt] belly,” Barbour said. “I have concluded that I was not ready to dedicate myself to the all-consuming effort a campaign would require. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required.”

“Plus,” he added, “there’s the whole donut thing. I gots to have my donuts, and I don’t want the powdered sugar to cause my finger to slip when it’s time to push the nuclear button.”

Following the surprise announcement, loud wailing was heard throughout the streets of America. In Europe, leaders of the allies were distraught to the point of interrupting their illicit affairs with underage women. In Asia, Africa and other emerging areas of the globe, more primitive peoples emerged from their grass huts and dung homes, beating their chests with tree branches. Antarcticans gnashed their teeth, though that may have been due more to the intense cold than to distress over the plump Southerner’s surprise decision.

“Oh, whatever will we do?” asked Seattle attorney Mark Abrams. “The fate of humanity had rested in the hope that we’d soon have a President Haley. I now see no other fate for our fragile world than its complete and utter destruction.”

“I’m thinking I’ll just end the suspense and eliminate the likelihood that my family and I will have to face a post-apocalyptic hellscape come Jan. 21, 2013,” said Arne DuPre, a Paris architect. “I’m thinking murder-suicide.”

“Se me olvido mi cuaderno,” offered Hector Rodriguez of Mexico City. “Donde esta la biblioteca?”

Most of the world had pinned its hopes on a bright and secure future on the prospect that the veteran mega-lobbyist could usher in a new era of prosperity and justice. It was felt in many quarters that election of the former Republican National Committee chairman and segregation sympathizer would result in a world where the lion could lay down with the lamb, where every day was filled with sunshine, where everyone could thrive on a diet of lollypops, ambrosia and liquid gold.

Despite a past viewed as checkered by a handful of critics, Barbour had risen to national prominence by leading the nation’s poorest and dumbest state through the effects of Hurricane Katrina. His Washington-based lobbying firm, the BGR Group, pressed meteorologists hard in the aftermath of the storm to never predict another tropical storm landfall on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.

Some have also questioned his commitment to integration and racial equality, in light of several incidents in his home state. In April 2010, he told CNN that slavery was a “nit” and “not significant.” He later clarified his stance by adding “anybody that thinks you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing, I think that goes without saying. So I won’t say it.”

Later that same year, he said of racism in his hometown of Yazoo City “I just don’t remember it (racism) as being that bad.” He credited the racist White Citizens’ Council with keeping the Ku Klux Klan out of town. The council had publicly named and blacklisted individuals who petitioned for educational integration and used its political pressure, as well as violence, to force African-American residents to move away.

However, in light of his withdrawal from the 2012 presidential sweepstakes, all that now pales beside the reality that Barbour will not inhabit the White House.

“Really, it just makes me sick,” said incumbent President Barack Obama. “As soon as he had formally declared, I was prepared to resign and move back to Kenya. Now I — and all Americans — will have to find the strength to struggle on. It’s going to be …” The President’s voice broke as he contemplated the future. “It’s going to be a major blow to the entire world. The universe will be a much poorer place without a President Barbour.”

And you call yourselves commercial spokespeople

April 26, 2011

My first impression of TV commercials growing up wasn’t that they were too loud or too obtrusive or too untrue. It was that they were, in the word we used frequently in elementary school, “conceited.”

“Why do they brag about themselves like that?” I remember asking my mother. “Isn’t it more polite to be modest? Why do they keep telling us how great they are?”

I forget my mom’s exact response, but I’m pretty sure it involved me going outside to play until it was time for dinner.

In my senior year of high school, I entered a scholarship essay contest in which entrants were to explain how advertising contributed to our great American democracy. Sponsored not surprisingly by the local advertising council, my theme was that TV commercials and other ads represented “freedom of speech” and therefore were intrinsically good. Sure, I argued, limits were necessary in some circumstances — you couldn’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater and you couldn’t say Kentucky Fried Chicken was edible — but in general all was fair when it came to advertised self-promotion.

Needless to say, I won a $500 scholarship.

Now I am a fully matured adult and recognize the realities of the commercial marketplace for what they are. There’s no point in resisting the thousands of impressions we receive each day from advertisers. We need only do what they say and trust that they know better than us. After all, they’re on TV and we’re not.

There are, however, three commercial spokespeople frequently seen on network television these days whom I wish to address about certain issues I have with them.

Sprint

Dan Hesse has used his position as chief executive officer of Sprint to wrangle a role as company spokesman. I’m sure the ad agency Sprint works with thought the executive’s idea to put himself on television was a brilliant masterstroke of salesmanship, or at least that’s what they better think if they expect to be paid.

Hesse appears in a whole series of commercials, usually standing outside somewhere in an overcoat and scarf. He speaks earnestly and directly into the camera, trying to convince viewers he’s smart enough to run one of the nation’s largest wireless carriers even though he won’t come in out of the cold to film his ad.

One particular spot has caught my attention. In it, Hesse tells how “I looked up the word ‘unlimited’ the other day” and it said nothing about hidden fees, overage charges or any other features of cell phone billing that consumers have come to hate.

I have two suggestions for Mr. Hesse. One, next time you pull out that dictionary of yours, please look up the word “rapacious”. Or I could save you the trouble — it means “greedy and grasping, especially for money, and sometimes willing to use unscrupulous means to obtain what is desired.” This is the word I tend to think of most when I’m considering the cost of my wireless service.

Secondly, can you use your power to get me appointed to the position of authority that will allow me to enforce what I think should be the rules of public cellphone use? For example, regarding the young mother I saw pushing a baby stroller across six lanes of rush-hour traffic while talking into the phone tucked between her shoulder and ear: can I turn her in to social services so the child can be put into foster care?

I’m sure you have the power to make this happen. Just reach into that overcoat of yours, grab your smartphone, make a few calls, and I shall become Cellphone Warrior, enforcer of arbitrary rules against the kind of usage that annoys me for some reason, though I’m not sure why.

T-Mobile

When I was in second grade, I had a crush on a little girl by the name of Cory Boulter. To show my affection, and to convince her I was someone she should not just like, but “like like,” I would give her my lunch money every day. It wasn’t much, even in those pre-inflationary days, when a quarter could still buy you choice of salisbury steak or sloppy joe, tater tots, creamed spinach, applesauce cake and milk. But I thought if I gave her enough quarters, she’d get the idea.

Hey, it worked for Donald Trump.

Today, I have that same innocent, pre-pubescent crush on the so-called “T-Mobile Girl.” I’m eager to sign not just one two-year contract with her company, but as many as they’ll let me sign. Just in the hope that she’ll notice me and maybe consider my offer to squire her to the Norland Elementary School Spring Dance.

She’s so cute! Though she might also be sexy, my affection for her has nothing to do with such a base, animal attraction. See how she swirls her kicky pink sundress as she prances past the T-Mobile logo? Notice how she almost bites her lip with coy insouciance as she watches some shlub complain about excessive buffering on his device? I could be that shlub, if only she’d give me a chance.

Unfortunately, the recent announcement on Wall Street that AT&T will soon be acquiring T-Mobile will probably crush the dream I have of the two of us skipping through a daisy-filled meadow, our young hearts pounding first from the exertion and then, as we tumble into the grass and our eyes meet, with an intense passion. Unless the Federal Trade Commission intercedes and considers the proposed merger to be monopolistic.

Please, FTC, I beg of you! Allow our relationship to bloom! I’ll give you a dollar if you’ll only block this acquisition. It not only excessively dilutes shareholder value; it’s also dilutive of a love that no federal regulatory agency could ever understand.

Domino’s

Finally, I wish to address a bright but misdirected young man by the name of Tate Dillow. He’s as plain a fellow as T-Mobile Girl is sparkling. Yet you have to admire his passion for creating the perfect boneless chicken nugget to accompany Domino’s pizzas.

Tate is the guy you see in the current ad campaign, reluctantly brought to center stage as the master chef who will create the perfect chicken to accompany tasteless, cardboard-textured pizza. A handheld camera watches him schlep around his kitchen, fretting over whether people will like his real-not-preformed chicken and, by extension, him.

His boss and the company’s marketing department have devised special packaging that allow consumers to weigh in on whether or not Tate should keep his job. “Did We Get It Right?” asks the type on the box. Our choices include “Nope,” “Almost” and “Yes We Did!”

Tate scowls at the camera as CEO Patrick Doyle describes how the survey will work. “I don’t like it,” Tate says of the feedback, and you get the vague impression he’s willing to do something about it (like travel around the nation to each of the 2,000 Domino’s franchisees and personally spit on every order).

Unexplained is how the box, once checked-off, makes it back to corporate headquarters. I’m guessing they have the same crews that collect “fresh” pizza ingredients from dumpsters being on the lookout for this discarded packaging.

Or, you can simply go to dominos.com and watch the Facebook and Twitter feeds coming in, like these that showed up just today:

The new chicken is horrible. The new ones are tasteless, tough, and a total disappointment. Sorry Tate but I don’t like the new chicken at all and won’t order it.

[Domino’s chicken] is, was, and always will be nasty. Found a big chunk of dark mystery meat in it one time.

Absolutely terrible. Ridiculous that this is what Domino’s can offer. Screw you Dominos. Take you ads and stick it up your ……

Just ordered the wings…They were soggy and meh.

Overpriced, tiny little nuggets that have no flavor.

Your chicken sucks.

Don’t let these nay-sayers get you down, Tate. I don’t want to be reading about any incidents of workplace violence up there in the Domino’s labs. Your life could always be worse. You could be a chicken.

Mr. Pope answers all your questions

April 25, 2011

In a remarkable acknowledgment that the world has emerged from the Middle Ages, the Vatican staged an unprecedented question-and-answer session with Pope Benedict XVI Friday, including inquiries submitted via Facebook and Twitter.

The Catholic Church was once content to address only queries that people pondered internally via an old-media method called “prayer.” Now, the Church is initiating a push to engage the online world.

Though it’s doubtful that the Holy Father will be issuing encyclicals via text message any time soon, observers said it was refreshing to see the Pope so responsive. Especially since he’s 84 years old and has been known to slip into the occasional papal nap.

The as-yet-untitled talk show, broadcast on Italian state TV under the working title “It’s Pope Time,” was a no-frills production. Benedict sat stiffly in a big white chair behind his desk inside the Apostolic Palace while an unseen interviewer (who sounded a lot like American talk show hostess Wendy Williams) read the letters to him.

The questions were screened from thousands received, to make sure they touched on themes of the Easter season and to avoid embarrassing the pontiff with any that involved algebra. The answers were, by and large, predictable.

“Why do children have to be so sad?’ asked a young girl from earthquake-ravaged Japan.

“Kids today,” Benedict responded in Latin. “What are you gonna do?”

“Has the soul of my (vegetative-state) son left his body since he’s no longer conscious?” asked an anguished mother.

The pope said her son was like a guitar with the strings broken. The son’s soul “is still present in his body,” but “don’t expect extended renditions of ‘Layla’ any time soon.”

“As an ambassador of Jesus, what do you advise for our country?” asked a Muslim from Ivory Coast, where a political standoff has been marked by deadly fighting.

“Discover huge reserves of oil, and wait for the Americans to intervene,” Benedict said.

“We Christians in Baghdad are persecuted like Jesus,” offered an Iraqi concerned with oppression from the Muslim majority.

“Please put your response in the form of a question,” the pope advised.

Though the event was generally well-received by an Italian TV audience used to enduring endless episodes of inane game shows and boring soccer matches, sources in the Church said preparations already under way for the next show would be “tweaked after we focus-group the first show and look at how to appeal to that much-desired 18-to-24-year-old demographic.”

In the interim, the Vatican’s human resources department is working on a set of questions that could better showcase the pope’s firm grasp on both spiritual and interpersonal matters. Hiring manager Cardinal Giuseppe Salameda said his inquiries were designed to bring out the “authentic side” of job candidates seeking positions in the church, and might also allow the world to see “the real pope — the ‘Man behind the Miter,’ as it were,” adding that producers were free to use that as a title for the show, provided an appr0priate licensing fee was tendered.

DavisW’s Blog has obtained a copy of those questions, along with some possible answers, and releases those here:

Q: What do you find most challenging in your current/last role?

Possible answer: Being both Christ’s representative on Earth and the go-to guy for every half-baked plea from the powerless that comes down the pike. I’m definitely a skilled multi-tasker but frequently struggle with prioritization.

Q: Tell me about a time you communicated a new direction during a reorganization or start-up.

Possible answer: When I was still a Cardinal, I had to handle a revamp of the German branch when we had a lot of sexual abuse allegations against some of our priests. I swept everything under the rug with a lot of transfers, and was recognized by my then-supervisor on my performance review for having done “above average” work on the issue.

Q: How do you anticipate the changing needs of your internal customers?

Possible answer: They come to me in vivid visions that feature lots of horsemen and fire and clouds and stuff. I try to write all of them down afterwards, so I don’t forget, but my penmanship is not the best. I’m thinking of taking a typing course so I can use some of that new technology out there, such as the typewriter.

Q: What factors are important to you when hiring into your team?

Possible answer: Of course, they’d have to be Catholic and male and heterosexual and single and at least semi-holy. Also, a strong familiarity with Excel would be a plus, in case we ever figure out how to get all billion believers entered onto a spreadsheet so we can track their sins.

Q: Tell me about a time when you became too hands-on and had to let go and let the team do more.

Possible answer: When I was a member of the Hitler Youth, growing up in Germany, some of the guys wanted to burn down the house of a Jewish shopkeeper. I was the only one with any experience in firebombing, but I figured it might get held against me some day if I ever wanted to be the infallible representative of Christ on Earth. So I showed Heinrick how to do it.

Q: Tell me about a time when you handled an arrogant person or one who made you angry.

Possible answer: Well, I don’t know if He counts technically as a “person,” but there is Someone whose Name I won’t mention here that comes off as a little — shall we say — self-important. I find it best just to give these kind of folks a wide berth and deal with them as little as possible.

Q: Describe a time when you had to give honest negative feedback to a colleague or team member.

Possible answer: When the Cardinals opened their season playing sub-.500 ball, and Albert Pujols was in that terrible slump, I called him up and suggested a slight adjustment in his swing and maybe an extra “Hail Mary” or two while he warmed up in the on-deck circle. Now, he’s slamming it out of the park, just like the old Albert.

Q: Tell me about a time when you had to determine a situation warranted an exception to policy. Describe the situation and your thought process.

Possible answer: There are no exceptions allowed in the Catholic Church. You sin, you burn in hell — that’s just the way it is. The only exception is if you ask for forgiveness of an entire life’s worth of horrible sins on your death bed. Only then can I say, “Don’t worry about it. No prob.”

Q: What did you enjoy most about the culture and environment in your last role?

Possible answer: Between the time I was just a cardinal and the time I became Holy Father in 2005, there was a brief break in service where I worked at a convenience store. There was a guy who came in every morning to buy lottery tickets who always told me a funny joke. I got to know a whole group of regulars and used every opportunity I could to impart the Word of God to them. Also, I got all the free Slushees I could drink.

Q: What did you enjoy least about the culture and environment in your last role?

Possible answer: People pumping gas and then driving off without paying. They took that out of my paycheck, for which I firmly believe the local franchise operator will suffer for an eternity. At least if I have any say in the matter.

Revisited: An editorial — Shhh!

April 24, 2011

People of America, hear me: You need to be quiet.

There’s entirely too much idle chatter going on here. You have to simmer down and get back to work. You’re never going to make anything of yourself if you spend all day yacking with your friends.

What was good advice from our third-grade teacher is good advice today. People blather on incessantly about the most pointless topics, diverting much-needed attention from the advancement of Western Civilization. It’s no wonder we’re falling behind the rest of the world in so many areas. Being number one in telling stories about our dogs is not going to cut it when it comes to global competitiveness.

“How are you?”/”I’m fine, how are you?”

“How’s it going?”/”Oh, it’s going.”

“What’s happening?”/”Same ol’ same ol’.”

“How’s it hangin’?”/”Oh, it’s quite comfortably packaged in a cotton-blend brief.”

Will you please shut the hell up?

The editorial board here at DavisW’s Blog is anticipating a summer-long extravaganza of incessant yammering, and goes on record with this editorial as saying it doesn’t like the prospect one bit. We will not stand for endless stories about the cute blouse you almost bought, that back-handed catch in last night’s Mariners’ game, and those allergies that are going around right now. Anything short of you being hit by a meteor, spare us the details.

We’re proposing alternate forms of communication for some of the big events likely to be the most irritating in the months ahead.

At the Senate confirmation hearings for new Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, we’d like to see all parties agree to use exaggerated facial expressions rather than words to debate the merits of her qualifications. Supporters will be limited to broad smiles and wide-eyed nods. Those still on the fence can furrow their brows, narrow their eyes and peer over the rims of their glasses. Republicans can do like they always do, shake their heads no.

Nominee Kagan can make her case by the clothes she wears, the jewelry she rocks and the makeup she carefully applies. Regardless of what she does, she’ll still not compare to the woman we’d like to have appointed (see yesterday’s editorial, “Our Pick for High Court: Lost‘s Hottie Evangeline Lilly”). If Kagan wants to jump up and down or wave her arms wildly in the air to prove to the Judiciary Committee that she’ll be a strict constructionist, that’s fine.

In the entertainment world, let’s have a half-baked limited-run TV reality series in which contestants are locked in a house and not allowed to talk to each other. Only menacing stares, threatening glances, heavy sighs and chimp-like grunts are permitted. In the season finale, all participants will be allowed to file restraining orders against each other and lawsuits against the producers. Ensuing trials will be conducted using semaphore flags.

Sports analysts will not be allowed to discuss what’s the latest news on Tiger Woods. Instead, they can only employ the pantomime conventions of the parlor game “Charades.” Viewers will tweet in their guesses until the entire commentary is revealed. “Bulging something, right? Bulging dick. Bulging disc. BULGING DISC!”

And of course, it goes without saying that our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends and our associates will keep their heads down, mind their own business, and clam up, for Christ’s sake. Use your mouth for eating hot dogs and catching fireflies on your tongue, just as our ancestors did in summers gone by. Otherwise, keep your yap shut.

This is our decree. Heed our word.

Revisited: Holy Saturday — how Jesus spent his day off

April 23, 2011

During Holy Week, much is made of the days leading up to Easter. First was Maundy Thursday, the day when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, then was ratted out by Judas at the after-party. Yesterday was Good Friday, though Christ Himself would probably choose a different adjective than “good,” since it marks the day He was crucified (for example, “Bad Friday” or “Painful Friday” both seem more accurate). Sunday is Easter itself, the day Jesus rose from the dead and was presented with a beautiful ham.  

But today, sometimes referred to as “Holy Saturday” or “Silent Saturday” on the liturgical calendar, plays a much smaller role in Resurrection Weekend. There are no special church services, no ceremonial waving of palms or schlepping of crosses. It’s just a plain old Saturday, plenty good enough for the rest of us to spend in relaxation, and not that big a deal to those who celebrate the life, death and rebirth of our Lord and Savior.  

Little is known of how Jesus Himself spent that solemn day almost two millennia ago. It’s generally thought that He mostly just lay around, recovering from one of the worst weeks anyone ever suffered, including that one you had in February where not one, not two, but three PowerPoint presentations were due on the boss’s desk by close of business Friday. Traditionally, it’s believed that Christ’s actual reanimation took place Sunday morning shortly before the angels rolled the stone away from the grave. It’s entirely possible, however, that it occurred much earlier, and that Jesus had a whole day to kill on Saturday while waiting for the dramatic Easter morning reveal.  

Think about it: if you just moved into a new place, you’d be using your first day off to spruce it up bit, do some cleaning and some chores, and find a little time to absorb the ambience of what has become your home. Maybe the tomb had a little-used back door that allowed Jesus to freely come and go for a day before inviting his friends over to the house-warming bash on Sunday.  

Some historians are now ready to speculate how the founder of the world’s one true religion spent his Holy Saturday:  

9 a.m. — Wakes up late, hoping that a good night’s sleep will ease the pain of one of the worst methods of execution known to mankind.  

9:15 a.m. — Slips out to nearby Panera for coffee and a cinnamon crunch bagel. Hasn’t unpacked His laptop yet so He has to get His news the old-fashioned way, by picking up a newspaper (lead story: “Son of God Executed”; second lead: “Idol Castoff is Gay”). Spends a leisurely hour sipping free refills of the dark roast blend, and wondering why they gave Him a fork with His bagel.  

10:15 a.m. — Swings by Home Depot to pick up some grass seed and fertilizer for a little lawn work He wants to do later in the afternoon.  

10:30 a.m. — After returning to the crypt, Christ starts tackling the “honey-do” list of chores around the house. Since He’s not married, the existence of the list is itself something of a miracle, and the scrap of paper is now enshrined at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It’s believed the hand of the Lord Himself crossed off “fix hinge on sunroom door,” “replace porch light” and “heal dishwasher.” One chore is sadly left unmarked: “Make sure followers don’t kill others in My name.”  

12:15 p.m. — Grabs a quick lunch at Arby’s drive-thru and says “hi” to Dad who’s working there at His part-time retirement job. Orders the junior roast beef sandwich from dollar-menu but has to get the barbecue sauce because He gets embarrassed asking for His real favorite, the “horsey sauce.”  

1 p.m. — Back at home, which He now thinks of by the nickname “The Sepulcher” or maybe “The Sep,” it’s time to pay a few bills. Jesus has refrained from using online banking and still writes checks and drops them in the mail. Just as He wanted to mingle with the lepers and the prostitutes, He also likes to keep a personal touch in dealing with the bankers and the utility company.  

1:30 p.m. — Lies down for a quick nap but wakes up after only half an hour when His cat tries to sleep on His chest.  

2 p.m. — Walks over to the Golgotha Driving Range to hit a bucket of balls. Considers trying to get in a quick nine but remembers He’s got to get that grass seed down before it germinates in His shed.  

2:45 p.m. — Begins yard work but finds it tough going in the sandy soil of the Negev Desert. Manages to scrape clear a small patch and get it sufficiently watered to possibly grow a little fescue, though He’s concerned the spot He’s picked won’t get enough sun in the shade of an olive tree. After sweating away for almost two hours, finally gives in and waves His mighty hand across the land, miraculously creating a lush garden complete with perennials, which shouldn’t take as much work as those damn annuals He had back in Nazareth.  

5 p.m. — Time to fire up the grill for some hamburgers and corn on the cob. He’s dying for a Yeungling but knows, according to the laws of the scripture, that He must drink wine instead, though even the prophets would have to admit that it’s not as refreshing as a cold beer.  

6:30 p.m. — Resists the “great temptation of Christ” — to turn in early — and decides instead to catch a movie over in the Gethsemane Mall. Though He’s already seen it four times, Jesus again chooses to watch “Avatar,” because James Cameron reminds Him so much of Himself, and because He thinks He looks cool in 3-D glasses.  

9:15 p.m. — Makes a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up some Peeps for the nephews He suspects will be dropping by tomorrow. Ends up filling a whole shopping cart full of chocolate rabbits, robin’s eggs, jelly beans and other junk, most of which He proceeds to eat while watching Lawrence Welk reruns on PBS.  

10:45 p.m. — Falls asleep on couch even though sugar rush haunts His dreams all night, and gives him the wacky idea of ascending into Heaven before a gathering of believers. Thinks He might just be able to pull it off if He can spend the next 40 days being nice to that friend who owns a jet-pack.  

I pray it doesn’t rain before I can get that grass seed down

Sweet home, South Carolina

April 22, 2011

Local news briefs from my small hometown newspaper.

No snakes, at least

A jet scheduled to leave Charlotte/Douglas International Airport on Thursday returned to the gate after someone found a dead scorpion aboard.

Officials decided it was best to re-accommodate passengers on US Airways Flight 1972 after finding the creature.

The flight was headed for Newark.

The plane will be fumigated before going back into service.

That’s teal, as in “steal”

Two men dressed in drag stole electronics from a Fort Mill truck stop, police say.

Around 7:30 p.m. Friday, the men — one of whom was in a teal dress — stole a GPS unit and TV/DVD player from Love’s Travel Plaza in Fort Mill, according to a police report.

An employee told officers the man dressed in teal distracted him by giving him a credit card that wouldn’t process while the other man, wearing all black, put the GPS unit in a bag, according to the report. Then the man in black ran from the store with the TV/DVD player in his arms. The man in teal was right behind him, and the two drove away in a Kia Optima.

The employee was able to write down the tag number for the vehicle, which was traced to a Lancaster address, according to the report. The owner of the car stated his son was using it and was “very vague” about when he would be in touch with his son.

A record sure to be broken

Carowinds will try to break the world record for the largest amount of people dyeing Easter eggs at one time.

The amusement park on the N.C./S.C. border is teaming up with Guinness World Records for the event, set for 3 p.m. Saturday. All park guests are encouraged to participate.

“When you think of world-class rides and attractions, you think of Carowinds,” said John Taylor, director of marketing for Carowinds. “We are thrilled to be working with Guinness World Records Live! during this exciting event sure to make our guests Easter weekend even more memorable.”

Blind bowler narrowly misses concession stand

May Williams grabbed her bowling ball with manicured fingers Wednesday, shuffled up to the line, and fired away.

She left the 2-10 split. Not that she knew it.

“I’m blind as a bat,” said Williams, celebrating her 100th birthday. “But dead, I am not. Now excuse me one moment — I have to pick this spare.”

May Williams then grabbed her ball once more. When you are blind and a hundred years old, and believed to be the oldest sanctioned bowler in the state of South Carolina, bowling means war.

“I get somebody to drive me here,” Williams said. “I can’t see to drive anymore.”

She has bowled 335 games this season with an average of 118. Her high game was 143, with a high three-game series of 434.

She still takes on all comers. In a birthday match Wednesday before league play, against a stunning 30-year-old from a Charlotte TV station who talked a good game, Williams — with belts older than her competitor — destroyed the young starlet by the score of 128-113.

The competitor had charm, but lacked game. Williams has game.

In league play Wednesday, one of Williams’ teammates on her team, a kid at age 73 named Jan Allen, whispered in her ear as Williams readied for her second shot. Because May is 100, to be heard, the whisper sounded like cannon fire.

“The 2-10 May,” Allen said.

“Yes, the 2-10,” said another teammate. Her voice could be heard on Mars.

Williams rolled and missed the split.

A foot fetish, perhaps?

Two people were charged with disorderly conduct after police say they were behind a Rock Hill shoe store engaged in a sex act Monday night.

Just after 11 p.m. officers arrived at Rack Room Shoes on Dave Lyle Boulevard and saw a man and woman beside the dumpster on a pile of cardboard boxes, according to a Rock Hill police report.

The two appeared to be having sexual relations. Officers asked them to put on their clothes and stand up.

The 48-year-old man and 49-year-old woman, both from Rock Hill, appeared to be unsteady on their feet, had slurred speech and smelled strongly of alcohol, according to the report.

The two told officers they had each drank two 40-oz. beers.

They were both arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

“Do you take this goofy mascot? …”

As beautiful a wedding as has ever happened went off without a hitch Saturday afternoon in Winthrop University’s McBryde Hall. A piano tinkled. A wedding planner scared hapless groomsmen and ushers with orders worthy of a field marshal. Single women with dates elbowed those men to say wordlessly, “I better be next!”

The bride, Michelle Waters, looked stunning as “Here Comes the Bride” was played. The groom, like all grooms, just looked stunned.

After all, this time, he was wearing pants. 

The crowd was a bit clueless at first as the minister and father of the groom, a normally serious fellow named the Rev. Wolfgang Schneider, told them they were going to witness something “unusual.”

“Not only will the bride be given away,” Schneider told the audience of friends and family, “but since my son is such a big fan of Winthrop, we have someone to give him away, too.”

All gawked, then clapped and cheered, and a little girl about age 3 blurted out: “It’s a big chicken!”

No chicken. Johannes Schneider, groom and Winthrop Eagles basketball super fan, marched down the aisle, arm-in-arm, with Big Stuff — the Winthrop Eagle mascot.

Schneider, 29, was such a fan during his undergraduate days at Winthrop that he founded the fan club, the “WU Crew.” He attended all home games wearing face paint and a Winthrop flag covering his lower regions rather than pants. Sometimes he wore no shirt, just a painted “E” for Eagles.

“My son sure loved college,” said his smiling mother, Helen Schneider.

Johannes and Big Stuff were together all the time. Johannes has yelled so often and so loud at referees that last season he was told by campus cops that he would be kicked out of a game for being too rambunctious.

“I love Winthrop,” Schneider said before the wedding.

So a few weeks ago when Schneider’s friends were talking about the wedding reception, the idea was floated that Big Stuff should show up and have a couple of drinks like the old days, after big Winthrop victories in big games.

“Better idea,” said Michelle Walters, the bride-to-be. “Invite Big Stuff to the wedding. Have him give you away.”

So that is exactly what happened.

Both families were a bit surprised; most wedding parties feature chicken, but not Eagle.

“Well, there’s something you don’t see every day — a big bird at a wedding,” said John Waters, father of the bride, after he walked his daughter down the aisle. “Actually, you never see it. Until my daughter gets married to a guy brought in by a big bird. And then the guy hugs the bird.”

John and Marilyn Waters loved the idea from the get-go and were proud of Michelle for coming up with such a novel way of showing love. Wolfgang and Helen Schneider took a bit of warming up to embrace a wedding that might be the first ever to include a beak and talons.

“I told my son, ‘you better tell your father,'” Helen Schneider said. “This is one surprise he might need a few days to get used to.”

But Wolfgang Schneider — who said “America is some country for sure!” after hearing the idea for the first time — figured out how to have a wedding with a big bird, even incorporating Big Stuff into the entry walk.

So Big Stuff brought Johannes Schneider down the aisle, handed him off to his father the preacher, then did what Big Stuff does — he high-fived a burly groomsman.

Then it was time for wedding pictures that will be put on mantels from Rock Hill to Germany. The beautiful bride alone. The bride and groom, who like all grooms is smiling because he cannot believe the good fortune that somebody would actually want to live with him. And a picture of the bride and groom and a 6-foot bird.

Woman, 80, remembers something

Several pieces of outdoor furniture were stolen from an 80-year-old Clover woman, police say.

The woman said she last remembers seeing her picnic table, metal table and six chairs in her yard Wednesday, according to a York County Sheriff’s Office report. She believes someone stole them between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 5 p.m. Friday.

She described the picnic table as very heavy and huge, and would have taken several people to lift, according to the report.

The other table and chairs are all black, with the table having a place for an umbrella.

Fundamentalist pastor is at it again

April 21, 2011

 

Rev. Terry Jones, the Florida fundamentalist preacher who declared “Islam is of the Devil” and recently burned its Holy Koran in protest, is ready to take on a faith even larger and more threatening to Christian values.

WrestleMania.

Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center have scheduled the burning of a boxed set of all WrestleMania DVD’s produced since the professional wrestling event was first staged in 1985.

“World Wrestling Entertainment bills these annual events as ‘The Showcase of Immortals,’ implying the participants are gods,” Jones told a press conference in Gainesville yesterday. “Christianity does not regard the likes of The Undertaker, Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock to be part of the Holy Trinity. Though I have to admit that I enjoyed The Rock’s performance in his current film, Fast Five, and thought the nuance he brought to the title role of The Scorpion King was woefully underappreciated by critics.”

Jones said features of the event serve to mock ideals and traditions long held sacred in the Christian Church. He cited the “Money in the Bank Ladder Match,” in which six to ten participants try to retrieve a briefcase of cash suspended above the ring, as implying that the most effective smackdown will gain the winning fighter access to eternal life.

“There is only one truth path to Heaven and that is through me,” Jones said. “And I challenge any and all comers who say otherwise to face my wrath. I will smite them with the Folding Chair of Righteousness so hard that they won’t know what hit them.”

Jones cited the 2011 WrestleMania, which included a tag team battle featuring Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi taking on LayCool and Dolph Ziggler, as particularly offensive to the Almighty.

“They may claim that, in the context of Bret Hart’s return to WWE over 12 years since the Montreal Screwjob incident, that having a diminutive ‘Guidette’ romping around the ring in a tight miniskirt was appropriate,” Jones said. “But I know that the God of Abraham would disapprove. And I have to say that, despite record television ratings for the pay-per-view finale, I would agree with that God.”

Jones denied contentions that the staged wrestling matches were simply innocent fun, saying that participants “failed to drop to their knees in prayer frequently enough” and that the piledriver move which left victims prone and unconscious “didn’t count.”

Jones said he would proceed with the DVD burning, even though many WrestleMania followers promised retribution that would make the Apocalypse look like a picnic.

Jones also denied he was simply unhappy because he hasn’t talked with his long-lost-son, professional wrestling icon Hulk Hogan, in over two decades.

“That boy is dead to me. I’m over him,” Jones said. “This protest is all about glorifying Jesus and has next to nothing to do with how his mother and I threw him out of the house at age 16.”