Sunday, November 30, 2008

Flunking News Writing 101 in Omaha

I look at the above crime brief from the Omaha City Weekly, and I wonder what Bob Sheldon would have done if I had turned that in for Journalism 2151, Beginning Newswriting.

I mean, apart from giving me an "F" for the assignment and strongly suggesting I find a new field of interest. And apart from suggesting, perhaps, that I find something else to do with my time than hang out on the LSU campus -- or that of any other college or university.

SHELDON WAS an old-time newspaperman. Did some time at the National Enquirer. Loved snappy ledes and colorful headlines.

Didn't think much of calling homicide suspects "dumb f***s" in your copy. He was funny that way. Made a friend of mine cry once in class over far less of a journalistic sin.

God knows what might have happened had I been stupid enough to hand in something like this:
It's no surprise that the one-night shooting spree that took place on Nov. 12 in the midtown Omaha Dundee area was the work of three mentally disabled dumb f***s with ties to local gangs.
OR . . . AS PERRY WHITE might have said, "Great Caesar's ghost! Get me a libel lawyer . . . now!"

It could be, though, that our Nov. 26 item from one of Omaha's "alternative" weeklies just might have rendered my old professor speechless. Back in the day, journalism schools expected more of teen-age reporter wannabes than some publications demand of alleged adult "professionals" in 2008.

Also, it seems to me that in far too many cases -- especially in cities the size of Omaha -- arrested-development types manage to grab hold of the green eyeshades, leading the "alternative press" into a high-school hell concocted by Jeff Spicoli, just emerged through a cloud of smoke from a VW microbus. What you end up with is gratuitous sludge like the
City Weekly story above, where rank incompetence conflates itself with simple-minded notions of "narrative" and Anglo-Saxon expletives sprinkled through ill-written copy passes for "edgy."

EVERY PARAGRAPH of crap contained in half-baked rags, whether they be "mainstream" or "alternative," is a compounding tragedy for an industry with one foot in the grave already, as well as for the society that industry purports to inform.

And on a smaller scale, these journalistic Jeff Spicolis -- pretentious, poseur rubes turning out their "tasty" stories in their "gnarly" mags -- make it look like their brand of half-baked, foul-mouthed, faux-edgy dreck is about the best one might expect out of somewhere like Omaha.

Maybe it is, but I sure could have taken this city for a far smarter place than that.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The most ironic website comment ever

My old college newspaper, The Daily Reveille at Louisiana State, has just captured first-place in the ongoing race for the most ironic comment-box posting ever.

IT COMES amid the feedback to's story on the Tigers' crushing 31-30, last-minute loss to Arkansas on Friday:
Les needs to issue IQ tests before he signs players to a scholarship. The moronic penalties from stupid, undisciplined players is what cost LSU this game. LSU players have made dumb choices all year. If they can't play under control maybe we need a coaching change. I've backed Miles ever since he came to LSU, but consoling a player who makes a personal foul when the next down would have been 4th from deep in their territory shows me there are no consequences for their actions. Players don't have respect for Miles any longer and fans are quickly losing their respect for players who can't control their emotions.
AN LSU FAN left that comment. An. LSU. Fan. Left. That. Comment.

LSU fans "are quickly losing their respect for players who can't control their emotions." I cannot adequately express to you how rich that is.

Oh, Lordy. That is so rich that one bite of that baloney sandwich would give an anorexic a real lard-ass problem.

I wonder how Tiger fans might express that disappointment and lack of respect? By tumping over the team bus?

Lord God Almighty!

Of course, at this writing, the lead comment on that Reveille story goes like this:

This comes down to the pure moral difference between white and black people. These blacks on the football team have no discipline and no moral compass. They're a bunch of ghetto thugs who don't know how to behave. I'd rather have an LSU team with great character that loses games with integrity than even having this gang of thugs winning a title.
SOMEWHERE IN LOUISIANA, it's always 1959.

Or, as my wife said after I told her about that comment, "I'm never going down there again." Frankly, I'm half inclined to follow her lead.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The 'Axis of Evil' begins here

These are the faces of killers.

They are not like the Muslim-fanatic killers and terrorists reaping the whirlwind, for example, in Mumbai this week. Those misguided and evil souls think they kill for the sake of Allah . . . to uphold the dignity and law of the Almighty.

These homegrown, all-American killers do so because stupidity and greed is a deadly combination.

OUR TERRORISTS and killers are, instead, shoppers of mass destruction. They destroy, pillage and kill at Wal-Mart for the sake of cheap manufactured goods and Black Friday bargains. Most of it, stuff they don't even need.

Third World "primitives" riot over flour, wheat and rice, because they and their children are hungry. We Americans are much more advanced. We kill for stuff we can't even eat.

By the hundreds, we trample defenseless pregnant women and employees of big-box stores for the Holy Trinity of digital TVs, Tickle Me Elmos and George Foreman grills. As the New York
Daily News recounts on its website today, we should be so fuggin' proud to be American:
A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said.

The 34-year-old employee, a temporary maintenance worker, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.

"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. "They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too...I literally had to fight people off my back."


A 28-year-old pregnant woman was knocked to the floor during the mad rush. She was hospitalized for observation, police said. Early witness accounts that the woman suffered a miscarriage were unfounded, police said.

Three other shoppers suffered minor injuries, cops said.
ALL THIS. For stuff. Not food, not God . . . stuff.

Cheap stuff.

The Daily News further reported shoppers blithely streamed past emergency medical crews as they tried to save the trampled Wal-Mart worker. Priorities, you know.

One shopper summed it up pretty well for the newspaper, and for the demented, barbaric society we have become:
"They're savages," said shopper Kimberly Cribbs, 27. "It's sad. It's terrible."

UPDATE: Houston, we really, really have a problem. And we can't blame this one on the Religious Right. In fact, the Religious Right might hold a big part of the answer.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

3 Chords & the Truth: Real. Good. Real good.

This is the Sex Pistols, back in the glory days. Only on 3 Chords & the Truth could the Sex Pistols somehow coexist with Ernest Tubb.

BOTH ARE REAL. Both are good. As far as we're concerned on 3 Chords & the Truth, both are real good.

I think that tells you all you need to know about this week's episode of the Big Show. In fact, I think that tells you all you need to know about any episode of our little program.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

It's not Thanksgiving unless. . . .

Happy Thanksgiving

You know this is the cold-sweat-inducing truth. It just is.

Happy Thanksgiving. And remember the five-second rule.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm thankful for. . . .

I could be thankful for world peace, financial prosperity, complete joy and happiness and an assured kick-ass future.

But I don't got none of that.

Apart from the usual suspects of what I ought to be thankful for -- which I am -- you have to grab a hold of what you can in the thankfulness department.

So I did.

I'm thankful for WD-40 and its new flip-up "Smart Straw" nozzle.

DO YOU HAVE any idea how many of those damned unattached "dumb straws" I've lost over the past quarter century or so?

Or how many times I've sprayed myself -- and everything else -- trying to insert the little unattached straw into the spray nozzle of a can of WD-40?

So I'm thankful for something as simple as not having to futz with that crap ever again. At least in the WD-40 lubrication universe.


Like I said, you grab a hold of what you can in this age of uncertainty and suckiness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dat bitch & the railroad in Prairieville

If it was Monday, it must have been another phone call from Mama down in Louisiana.

Today's topic was the shiftlessness and basic evil of Cousin (Deleted) and her no-account grandchillins. And it was time for this middle-aged, bearded Alice -- stuck, alas, up here in the Great White Nawth -- to telephonically step through the looking glass into a surreal land called the Gret Stet.

Now, note please that I'm just repeating what I was told, which is entirely subject to the funhouse mirror of Mama. That said, here we go.

WE WERE OFF AND RUNNING on the subject of "dat lyin' bitch (Deleted)" the second Mama mentioned that Deleted's brother-in-law -- who also is my cousin on the other side of the family . . . roll wid me here, it's Louisiana -- had called to ask if she had gotten an invitation.

"What invitation is that?" I foolishly asked.

"Oh, (Deleted Granddaughter) is gettin' married when her boyfriend get back from I-raq. She ain't send me no invitation. I bet (Deleted) takin' over the whole weddin' like she did dat other one," Mama fumed. "She take over everthing, and she lie on people. She a lyin' bitch is what she is."

(From Omaha, silence.)

From Baton Rouge, Mama is just getting warmed up:

"You know he been sendin' (Deleted Grandddaughter of Cousin Deleted) money every month from I-raq. Now what he do dat for? When I was comin' up, dey call dat a kep' woman.

"You know what a kep' woman is?"

I do think I've heard that phrase, yes.

"All I know is when I die, I don' want dat lyin' bitch anywhere near dat funeral home. I'm gonna call David [pronounced DAH-veed in the Gret Stet -- R21] over at Rabenhorst an' tell him dat if she show up, dey need to throw her ass out of there.

"She try to take over if you let her. She try to take over the funeral."

I HAD a question. That's because I am not a smart man.

"Why are you even worrying about (Cousin Deleted)?" I ask.

"I AIN'T WORRIED ABOUT HER!" Mama says, and we're off to the races for another 10 minutes. Now it's about (Cousin Deleted's) grandson, who shall remain Nameless.

Cousin (Deleted's) brother-in-law's oldest daughter's husband, who works for the railroad in Prairieville, apparently had gotten Nameless hired on there.

"Which railroad is that," I ask.

"The one in Prairieville," says Mama.

"The Union Pacific . . . ?"

"I don't know if it the Illinois Central or what. It's the railroad in Prairieville."

PERSONALLY, I prefer to think it might have been the
Cannonball, running daily between Hooterville, Pixley . . . and Prairieville. But I digress.

Nameless' employment by the Prairieville Railroad came, in fact, despite Nameless being shiftless, and a high-school dropout to boot. But (Cousin Deleted's) brother-in-law's oldest daughter's husband (etc., etc., yadda yadda, so on . . . Prairieville) got Nameless the job, and the railroad helped him get his GED.

Apparently -- and this is where Mama's funhouse mirror starts doing some really weird s*** -- the railroad, the one in Prairieville, supposedly let Nameless use a company truck to get back and forth to work. Until, one day, the truck disappeared.

"He tol' 'em dat the truck broke down one night, and he left it on the side a the road," says Mama, recounting Nameless' Excellent Adventure. "Dey ask him where he left it, and he tol' 'em he didn't know.

"Den the truck show up on that fella's lot, and he SOLD it! Dat's when they found it."

How could he sell it without a title? And why weren't both Nameless and the "fence" in . . . uh . . . jail?

Who knows? I guess that's just not how the railroad in Prairieville handles stuff. Needless to say, Nameless no longer is employed by the railroad in Prairieville.

"Oh, he quit that job," says Mama. "He just uses people. He used 'em, and then he quit."

I SUPPOSE by now you wouldn't be surprised that Louisiana isn't exactly a businessman's paradise.
Forbes isn't either.
Louisiana ranks as the second worst state for business. It has been ranked in the bottom two each year in our Best States list. Louisiana is still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but it also struggles with two major problems that existed long before the storms: an uneducated labor force and an unhealthy reputation for corruption.

Louisiana boasts a high-school graduation rate of only 80%; only Texas has a lower rate. This is a long-term problem that Governor Bobby Jindal, who took office in January, will need to address. In the meantime, Jindal, a rising star in the Republican Party, has made rooting out corruption in Louisiana one of his chief priorities.

"We adopted comprehensive governmental ethics reforms that have made Louisiana a national leader in accountability and transparency," says Stephen Moret, head of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development. Moret also cites the elimination of several unconventional business taxes and the adoption of the largest personal-income tax cut in state history as ways that the state has improved its economic competitiveness.

Louisiana and West Virginia both feature low labor costs, 11% and 7% below the national average, but that is not enough. "These states are lower cost areas, but their labor forces are not competitive and therefore are not going to attract venture capital money or big outside investments," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at
MY FAMILY is a stone-cold economic wrecking crew. I ga-ron-tee.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Please come home! I'm a changed city!

Come January, Baton Rouge chamber-of-commerce types will start searching far and wide across the South for prodigal sons (and daughters) to lure back home. They're promising to slaughter fatted calves and everything.

OR SO SAYS The Advocate, the city's daily. The next two photos, meanwhile, represent what Abandoned Baton Rouge says. Which truth, do you reckon, is closer to THE truth?

A $100,000 campaign, funded by businesses and possibly the state, will carry the “Welcome Back to Baton Rouge” theme through outdoor advertising and targeted business and specialty magazines.

It’s not associated formally with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s Creative Corridor campaign for branding the Interstate 10 and Interstate 12 corridor. But the chamber campaign does seek a similar result, BRAC’s Adam Knapp said: bringing back young but seasoned workers to a Baton Rouge region that’s changed much for the better in the past decade.

“We have envisioned a program for marketing our available jobs in these areas where our college graduates are most dense, which is Houston, Dallas and Atlanta, and we’ll be launching a program along those lines,” said Knapp, the chamber’s chief executive officer.


Beginning in January, the chamber will seek to interest people with seven to 12 years of work, including management backgrounds, people who already have started families and people who may not have been considering taking their careers and families to Baton Rouge but who’ll listen to that possibility.

The campaign will drive those candidates to a Web site that taps them into the current state of Baton Rouge possibilities, including job opportunities and resources for trailing spouses making a move.

The second phase of the campaign would organize social events in each of the cities beginning in mid-2009 to tell expatriates “This isn’t the same Baton Rouge you left 10 years ago,” Odom said.

Baton Rouge Magnet High . . . and why most of it is slated to be rebuilt.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

3 Chords & the Truth: Chasing the blues away

Kermit might not think it's easy being green, but these days, it's all too easy to be blue.

Me, I'll take green. Or the music on this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth. OK, definitely the uber-cool music on the Big Show.

SO, THIS GO 'ROUND on the program, I guess you could say we're chasing away the blues via really good tunes. Performed by great artists. Like John Lennon.

WE'VE GOT Mose Allison, too.

NOT TO MENTION Dr. John. How do you spell "funk"? D-R (period) J-O-H-N. Period.

OH, YEAH. And Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band. Are you ready for Captain Beefheart? I don't think you're ready for Captain Beefheart.

Oh, yeah? Prove it.

IT'S 3 Chords & the Truth: Tune in, mellow out . . . freak out. We don't care, just as long as you're OK with it.

Be there. Aloha.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Sarah Palin thought "this was neat."

"You need a little bit of levity in this job," she said, after "pardoning" an Alaska turkey before Thanksgiving. "This was fun."

I thought it was fun, too . . . snort, guffaw. Really, do watch the video.

In a dissenting note, all but one of the turkeys saw nothing fun about any of it. And that bird probably now has a hell of a case of "survivor's guilt."

Note well, some Republicans think this woman ought to lead their party and, someday, be president. If that were to happen, also note she would be surrounding herself with staffers just as smart as the one who OK'd her doing a "fun" interview, with gobblers meeting their mechanized end as a backdrop.

In a battle of wits with the governor and her posse, my money's on the expired turkey.

I'm with Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con. If Sarah Palin didn't exist, the Monty Python gang would have had to conjure her up. Better yet, the real one writes her own material.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Maybe this guy will pop up on the Big Show

And if Tony Bennett can't make it, maybe we'll get that Anthony Benedetto cat.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth. Be there. Aloha.

It's not about the paper. It's about the news.

Michael Rosenblum talks common sense to some British newspaper editors. Are they listening? Who knows?

Meanwhile, back on this side of the Atlantic. . . .

Let's just say if we're looking at an "innovate or die" scenario for American newspapers, "die" is entering the final straightaway ahead by three lengths. Let's hope people like Rosenblum can spur "innovate" before it's too late.

(Note: Rosenblum's language gets, uh, colorful in a couple of spots.)

The Journalism Iconoclast.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Unifying Theory of Louisiana

The truth pops up in the damnedest places sometimes.

Like in the mouth of a Louisiana legislator.

IN THIS CASE, it was state Rep. Austin Badon Jr., D-New Orleans, who accidentally stumbled upon the Unifying Theory of Louisiana. That's the theory, heretofore little discussed in the Gret Stet, that explains why things are so bad there . . . and getting worse.

Let's see if you can spot where the Unifying Theory of Louisiana pops up in this excerpt
from a Baton Rouge Advocate story about high-school graduation standards:
Roughly four in 10 ninth-graders fail to earn a high school diploma in four years in Louisiana. About 190,000 students attend public high schools.

Fannin said traditional math, English and science classes have failed to keep many students in school.

But Badon said students with no plans to attend college already have high school options.

Most students enroll in a college-prep curriculum.

However, those who finish the 10th grade, with the permission of parents or guardians, can opt to follow a different curriculum that helps train them for careers.

Badon said there are other ways to tackle the high school dropout problem without making major changes for a “select few.”

“One of the main things that we need to do is to educate parents that it is not acceptable for your children to drop out,” he said.
IF YOU PICKED Badon's uttering “One of the main things that we need to do is to educate parents that it is not acceptable for your children to drop out,” you win a 35-year-old can of Pop Rouge. I don't know if Badon realizes what he said, but the important thing is that he said it.

That's the problem of Louisiana -- it's a state where legislators find a pressing need to convince parents their kids really ought to stay in school.

Everything boils down to culture, not politics. Culture precedes politics . . . precedes all issues of governance. If you have a culture where you really have to work hard to convince Mama and Daddy it's really best that Junior not go through life uneducated, you start out behind the eight ball.

It's a vicious cycle. Because Louisianians never have found it that important for Tee Dummy to know his ass from his elbow -- academically, at least -- they never, for 300 years, have realized they're behind the eight ball because they don't consider education important.

Sometimes, the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results this time) intersects with the definition of stupidity.

IT'S THE CULTURE, STUPID. But because the culture is stupid, the culture doesn't recognize its stupidity, which keeps the culture stupid, which means the culture never recognizes its stupidity, which keeps the culture stupid, which means. . . .

Rinse, repeat, and get the hell out of Louisiana while you still can.

Snopes is as Snopes tries to justify

From the comments on the white riot preceding Louisiana State home football games:

At least we dont [sic] riot and kill people like Euro-trash soccer fans. Everything that goes on is in good fun. No one is forced to come out and experiance [sic] SEC football.
OH, WELL . . . that's different, then. Assault, sexual assault, indecent exposure, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct all "in good fun" is so much better than your run-of-the-mill assault, sexual assault, indecent exposure, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

Tonight, I think I'll call Mrs. Favog a c*** and a bitch -- all in good fun, of course. Then, I expect her to respond -- in equally good fun -- by smashing a cast-iron skillet into my cranium. That would precede her channeling the Ginsu-y spirit of Lorena Bobbitt.

All, once again, "in good fun." Just like at LSU.

IF ONLY Adolf Hitler had had more LSU football fans on his general staff, perhaps the world could have seen the Holocaust in a much more benevolent light. Because, frankly, there isn't any foolishness -- or worse -- these folks can't justify.

Or, at least, whose justification they won't give the ol' college try.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dear LSU: Take out the (white) trash

Click on the frat boy's butt for video.

I wonder what Noël Coward -- famous for noting "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" -- would have made of Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium?

If he had happened upon the LSU gridiron scene today (or, really, any time in the last 40 years), bon mots about how "white trash and drunken men come out on a football night" would have been flowing from his pen.

It's come to this. A state known for feeding on the bottom of every index of societal success manages to find world-class acclaim in the field of loutish behavior by sports fans.

Even the English football hooligans are starting to get nervous.

THE LATEST DOCUMENTATION of some very, very bad behavior on the part of Tiger fans comes from . . . Louisiana State's student newspaper (and my old stomping grounds), The Daily Reveille. The student paper did quite an ingenious thing -- two female staffers went tailgating Nov. 8 for the Alabama game in Baton Rouge.

With a video camera.

Dressed as Crimson Tide fans.

What they could show on a website not run by Larry Flynt, Al Goldstein or Hugh Hefner is not a pretty sight. What they couldn't show was exponentially worse.

But one of the brave -- and calling her "brave" isn't just whistlin' "Dixie" here -- student journalists who posed as 'Bama fans did write about it in a Reveille editorial Nov. 11. Editorial board member Gerri Sax didn't shy away from recounting some of the language she was subjected to, either.

I shall. When you see asterisks in this excerpt, assume the worst:

The final video of our experiences on is an accurate depiction of what we encountered, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few things we couldn’t fit in the video.

Vulgar language has never really bothered me, and the incessant “Tiger-baiting” and “Around the bowl and down the hole, Roll Tide, Roll” mocking were the least of my worries.

Almost every tailgate spot we visited greeted us with the same expressions. The women called us “bitches,” and the men called us “c***s” followed by the traditional “Rip. Rip. Rip. Rap. Rap. Rap. You ‘Bama girls got the clap, clap, clap!” cheer.

And if that wasn’t enough, the amount of times we were spit on also struck a nerve.

Spitting on someone is one of the most degrading things a human being can do to another.

Verbal abuse is powerful, but when things get physical, that’s a little more effective.

The most significant physical encounters were from male Tiger fans. And they all involved some kind of inappropriate gestures. We were groped and squeezed by just about every guy we interviewed.

Not only did things get physical for us personally, our camera equipment also has some bruises as well. I can’t even count the number of times a Tiger fan ran up to the camera and shouted expletives or just yelled at the lens.

LET'S SEE. In a pregame afternoon and evening of seeing "how the other half lives," the two young ladies from the Reveille were witness to -- or victim of -- disturbing the peace, assault, public drunkenness, drunk and disorderly conduct, terroristic threats, lewd conduct and sexual assault. And I may have missed a few.

That's entertainment.

That's also the kind of behavior Louisiana's "flagship" university puts up with -- on its property, in its name, by its students and football fans. It's particularly disheartening to see a state's "best and brightest" reveling in acting like anything but.

Note to LSU's Greek community: Dressing like preppies for the big game is no prophylactic against "common" if you get drunk, become even more obnoxious than usual, then proceed to act like . . . white trash. Snopes is as Snopes does.

And if "family night at the Snopeses" is what visitors to a major state university can expect amid its "stately oaks and broad magnolias," the scene inside the halls they shade must be something less than inspiring these days. You are what you tolerate. Six or seven Saturdays every autumn, the top university in Louisiana tolerates behavior that will land you in jail in Nebraska.

Or in Louisiana, if you do it at the mall, instead of on the LSU campus.

THIS KIND of loutish, criminal foolishness not only is met with grudging acceptance in Louisiana -- in the shadow of what passes for an ivory tower in the Gret Stet -- it's become a perverse source of pride. It's the pride of the ignorant redneck who knows he's doomed to lose at schoolin', and at work, and pretty much at life, but is satisfied if he can win the fistfight.

It's likewise the pride of the 'hood, where hopelessness and death is to be accepted, and even embraced . . . but never, ever "disrespect."

But respect cannot be gained at the point of a gun. Or by a right cross to the eye.

Or by a bunch of foul-mouthed drunks who think a good time on a Saturday night is to go out in public and let their Id hang out. Among other things.

And woe unto the school -- or the state -- of which this is the best that can be expected when company comes calling, because you're making a horrible first (second, third and fourth) impression. That, people don't easily forget.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bad kid? Don't get stuck. Act now!

I told you so.

I told you there'd be the biggest land rush to Nebraska since the Homestead Act -- this one by parents with dysfunctional teens and tykes in tow -- once the governor announced a special session to fix the state's latest foray into the jungle of unintended consequences, otherwise known as the state's "safe haven" law.

AND NOW look at what the Omaha World-Herald has found. I'm so surprised:
The pace of safe haven drop-offs nearly doubled after the announcement of the special legislative session to limit the law to infants, a World-Herald analysis shows.

Nebraska's unique safe haven law was intended to let mothers leave babies at hospitals without being prosecuted for child abandonment, but the law did not specify an age limit for children.

In the last two months, 25 parents and guardians have dropped off 34 children at hospitals - none of them newborns. Most were ages 11 to 17, many with psychiatric and behavioral disorders.

Since the law was used for the first time Sept. 13, parents and guardians dropped off children once nearly every three days.

The number of children - including several brought from other states - prompted Gov. Dave Heineman on Oct. 29 to announce an emergency session of the Legislature specifically to set an age limit.

Since Oct. 29, the pace has jumped to one new case every day and a half.

No children have been dropped off since the Legislature went into session Friday, even though the law remains in effect until revisions are passed when the session ends this Friday.

A proposal introduced at Heineman's request would limit the safe haven provision to babies no older than 72 hours.

Another proposal to create a system for older children gets a public hearing today, even though the Nebraska attorney general issued an opinion Sunday that the bill falls outside the limited purpose designated for the special session.

I WONDER WHAT will turn out to have been worse -- overmatched or neglectful parents dumping their broken kids on the state of Nebraska . . . or their no longer dumping their broken kids on the state of Nebraska?

You suin' me? YOU . . . suin' . . . ME???

At long last!

joyous news is carried unto us by The Associated Press:

The music industry's courtroom campaign against people who share songs online is coming under counterattack.

A Harvard Law School professor has launched a constitutional assault against a federal copyright law at the heart of the industry's aggressive strategy, which has wrung payments from thousands of song-swappers since 2003.

The professor, Charles Nesson, has come to the defense of a Boston University graduate student targeted in one of the music industry's lawsuits. By taking on the case, Nesson hopes to challenge the basis for the suit, and all others like it.

Nesson argues that the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 is unconstitutional because it effectively lets a private group - the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA - carry out civil enforcement of a criminal law. He also says the music industry group abused the legal process by brandishing the prospects of lengthy and costly lawsuits in an effort to intimidate people into settling cases out of court.

Nesson, the founder of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said in an interview that his goal is to "turn the courts away from allowing themselves to be used like a low-grade collection agency."

Nesson is best known for defending the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers and for consulting on the case against chemical companies that was depicted in the film "A Civil Action." His challenge against the music labels, made in U.S. District Court in Boston, is one of the most determined attempts to derail the industry's flurry of litigation.

The initiative has generated more than 30,000 complaints against people accused of sharing songs online. Only one case has gone to trial; nearly everyone else settled out of court to avoid damages and limit the attorney fees and legal costs that escalate over time.

Nesson intervened after a federal judge in Boston asked his office to represent Joel Tenenbaum, who was among dozens of people who appeared in court in RIAA cases without legal help.

The 24-year-old Tenenbaum is a graduate student accused by the RIAA of downloading at least seven songs and making 816 music files available for distribution on the Kazaa file-sharing network in 2004. He offered to settle the case for $500, but music companies rejected that, demanding $12,000.

The Digital Theft Deterrence Act, the law at issue in the case, sets damages of $750 to $30,000 for each infringement, and as much as $150,000 for a willful violation. That means Tenenbaum could be forced to pay $1 million if it is determined that his alleged actions were willful.

Poppin' Fresh pwns the Great Brown Hope

Bobby Jindal talks big.

Sunday, Louisiana's wunderkind governor -- the Republican Party's last best dope . . . er, hope -- went on CBS's Face the Nation to offer a three-point critique of what the problem was with the GOP brand.

ECHOING COMMENTS he made last week in Miami at the Republican Governor's Association meeting, Jindal told newsman Bob Schieffer that "we've got to stop defending the kinds of corruption we would rightfully criticize in the other party. The week before the election, our most senior senator is convicted on federal charges - and that's only the latest example."

What does this mean for the Republican Party? Is the GOP ready to clean house . . . and the Senate?

For the answer to this, let's turn to
a story in Saturday's editions of the Omaha World-Herald:

Gov. Dave Heineman put his fellow GOP governors on the spot this week, urging them to take a stand against party corruption by turning against one of their own.

The Nebraska governor asked his fellow governors at a meeting in Miami to publicly urge U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska to immediately resign.

No one took Heineman up on his challenge.

Stevens was convicted of felony corruption charges last month. His re-election effort remains up in the air, as he and Democrat Mark Begich are locked in a tight contest with thousands of ballots left to count.

"I knew everybody was going to be a little uncomfortable. But the fact of the matter is, we ought to be a party that stands up against corruption," Heineman said in a telephone interview from Miami, where the Republican Governors Association was meeting.

"And I said we should call for Ted Stevens to resign. He should resign today."

Heineman's request came as some Republicans in Miami acknowledged that the GOP brand took a hit in the national elections.

He said Republicans in Washington strayed from their values, ratcheting up the national debt and failing to address critical issues such as the energy crisis.

Heineman said the GOP has had too many corruption cases in recent years, feeding into people's perception that the party had been in power too long.

Republicans have faced their share of scandals, including those of jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California, who is in prison on conspiracy and tax evasion convictions.

At the Miami meeting, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana told the group that his party must "stop making excuses for corruption."

When Jindal finished, Heineman responded that he believed Stevens should resign, and he asked whether his fellow governors wanted to make a similar statement. He said he wanted to take the discussion beyond the talking stages.

"Do we have the courage to do that?" Heineman said.

There was silence at the conference table, according to the Washington Post.
THERE'S YOUR ANSWER. Talk is cheap. And Bobby Jindal -- as evidenced by his own inaction when Nebraska's governor (a.k.a., Poppin' Fresh) called his bluff -- isn't willing to put his money where his own mouth is. But he was able to go on television and tell Schieffer, "We've got to match our actions with our rhetoric."

Or not. Whatever.

Today, I have strange new respect for a Nebraska pol I've never supported. He has a pair! Who knew?

And my suspicion that Jindal was all about gamesmanship, as opposed to leadership, has been confirmed. I tell you true, cher . . . if the Republican Party is in such bad shape that it's looking to a fast-talking Louisiana politician for redemption, its chances for survival well might be closer to "none" than "slim."

I ga-ron-tee.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

3 Chords & the Truth: It's mind expanding

Lionel Hampton. Great stuff, eh?

We'll be hearing from Lionel Hampton and his quartet -- only with Lionel on his famous vibraphone this time -- on today's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth.

JIMI HENDRIX from 1967. Amazing.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience is on this week's show, too. We're paying tribute to the drummer of the trio, Mitch Mitchell, whom we lost this past week at age 61. They're all gone now -- Hendrix, bassist Noel Redding and Mitchell.

But they all live through their recordings, and this week on the Big Show.

PARLIAMENT'S on 3 Chords & the Truth this time, too. If you can't groove to George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and the boys . . . well, there's something wrong with you.

NINA SIMONE? Yep. On the show this week, too.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. We're Catholic . . . and catholic. You can't put the Big Show in a tidy little box, because you can't put great music -- and a rich culture -- in a box, either.

Good is good, and that's all that matters. That's what 3 Chords & the Truth is about.

Hope you'll drop by this week and every week. It's mind expanding. Be there. Aloha.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Coming up on 3 Chords & the Truth

We'll be hearing from these brothers -- and their band -- on the next edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.

The first person who calls into Pennsylvania 6-5000 with the right answer probably will get hung up on.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Red Skelton previews the boob tube

In the movie "Ziegfield Follies," released in 1946, Red Skelton tries to warn us about "When Television Comes."

Come to think of it, I think I'll have me a double of that Guzzler's Gin.

Good night, and God bless.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Puppet wars

Statler and Waldorf, like during Muppet Show days of old, sat through the program and didn't much like what they saw.

BECAUSE OF a non-compete clause in their Muppet contract, though, they had to catcall at puppeteer Loren Feldman under the pseudonym of "Brian Hogg."
Here at Hoggworks Studios, we take the making of puppets very seriously. We put a lot of effort into it, and in fact we’re looking forward to devoting our creative and professional lives to the medium. We slave over our puppets, agonize over the performances, over the writing, and everything else down the line. We know we’re always improving, and we hope that everything we do will make the thing we did previous seem smaller.

We want to look back and see not just a progression, but such a stark progression that our previous work never reflects what we’re capable of now.

As we look online at the work of other puppeteers, surfing here and there, from the Muppet Central Forums to Puppet Hub to Flickr searches, we stumble upon some really great work, and some work that is being made by people who are clearly new at the puppetry game, but who appear to be putting in real effort. And then we stumble across things like monochrom, and Loren Feldman’s puppet shows.

This latter character irks us — irks me specifically, and here I break from the royal we to descend into the specific, into the I, because I am irked by these productions. I, speaking as a puppeteer, as a person who would modestly suggest that am putting in the effort, am annoyed by this type of work. These people are buying low-end puppets (which there’s nothing wrong with), and filming a show. Now, certainly, I’d never suggest that a person should dedicate themselves to the profession as a lifelong endeavor before putting puppet to hand: that’s not how I got into it. I decided to make dotBoom as a puppet show rather on a whim, made some puppets, and started recording. But I am a person — here’s where I sound terribly vain, and while I do apologize if it is offputting, I can’t apologize for the vanity, because it’s as sincere a statement as you’re going to get from me — who puts in the effort to get good at something. I’ve heard it said that the difference between a person who plays chess and a grand master isn’t the quantity of time spent playing, but the quality of the time spent playing.

To put it another way, it’s less important the amount of time you spend studying a subject, then it is how you spend your time studying.

I take it all very seriously, and I respect others who do, too. I wouldn’t say that we’re doing things perfectly here, and there are a huge number of ways I want us to improve our craft, both from a technical standpoint and a creative one. There are some insanely talented puppet builders and performers out there, and I am both inspired by their work and driven to match and exceed it, if I’m able.


Maybe I’m being oversensitive. Maybe a person goofing off isn’t a big deal. Maybe that I’m the abberation for pushing myself so hard, for being so over-critical. Maybe these people who irk me are just trying to have fun, and aren’t simply projecting an air of superiority for their minimal efforts.

Maybe nobody cares. After all, Loren Feldman’s work is becoming increasingly popular. Much of the most popular work online in places like Youtube have the lowest production values, because the content is striking a chord with the viewers, irrespective of the polish or intent of the creators.

I don’t actually care if nobody else cares, because I do. It’s important to me to take it so seriously, and to improve continuously. It matters. And puppetry is an artform, and it should be respected as such. No matter how much of a curmudgeon or a killjoy it may make me seem to say it, if you don’t take this seriously but are presenting it in a way that suggests you are, all you’re doing is insulting those people who do take it seriously.

HERE'S THE THING. Loren Feldman of 1938 Media, it seems, is really Oscar the Grouch. And Oscar can't take criticism. At all.

Worse than that -- and please, children, cover your ears -- Oscar the Grouch has developed quite the potty mouth. Today's show is brought to you by the letter "F."

And the letter "U."

OH, MY! What would Kermit do?

Well, for starters, I think Kermit would turn Miss Piggy loose on Oscar the Potty Mouth Grouch -- a.k.a., Loren Feldman. (Whose stuff really isn't that funny, by the way.)

I also think Kermit would wonder what has become of the wonderful world of puppetry, and how it has become just as debased, angry, unfunny and sad as the world from which it once gave us momentary refuge. (Nice job, by the way, in having one of your cloth characters call Barack Obama a "Schvartze" during a skit.)

This shaygetz knows his Yiddish slurs, and I'll bet President-Elect Obama does, too.

Maybe Feldman's outraged response to his puppeteer critic was part of his shtick. If so, his performance art is about as unfunny as his puppets.

If Feldman is seriously outraged, however, that may be even more disturbing.

AT WHAT POINT in American cultural history did our default response to criticism reset to "unhinged"? When did we decide it was appropriate to bypass cool reason, sarcasm or wit and go straight for bad impressions of 2 a.m. at the Dewdrop Inn when somebody's just told Bubba his woman is ugly?

Just when did we slip the tenuous bonds of culture and become an anticulture?

Of which Loren Feldman would seem to be the unhinged Id.

I suppose if he reads this, Feldman might post a video in which he calls me bad and awful things as his blood pressure redlines. Whatever.

I'LL BE WATCHING some funny puppetry. Like this.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tolerance and diversity on the march

When an angry mob attacks a grandma, rips a cross out of her hands and stomps it to splinters, then sets upon her and the TV crew trying to interview her. . . . Well, I don't know about you, but in contemporary parlance, I think that's called a "hate crime."

HAT TIP: Catholic and Enjoying It.

Tales from home: Sin makes you stupid

Talked to Mama on the phone this afternoon.

"Your Uncle (deleted to protect the guilty) was supposed to be back in the hospital today."

"What for?"

"They was gonna give him a colonoptomy [That's colonoscopy everywhere else in the English-speaking world. -- R21], but he refuse to go."

"Why is that?"

"He said he wadn't gonna let no damn n****r put they hands on him. Your cousin said that's on him, they cain't force him to go."

"Well, you know there's gonna be a black president now. Is Uncle (deleted) gonna give up his citizenship?"

Confirm us in our trespasses, and deliver us from African-American proctologists. Amen.

UNCLE DELETED IS 88 years old, and he'd been in the hospital a week or so ago because he needed a blood transfusion because he was bleeding internally somewhere. The colonoscopy was to find out where.

But he won't have it done because the doctor who was supposed to perform the procedure is black. This in the Age of Obama.

America needn't get its hopes up unnecessarily or pat itself on the back prematurely. In lots of places -- most especially the South -- the ugly past not only hasn't been forgotten, it's not really past. William Faulkner knew of what he wrote.

Likewise, there are reasons my home state of Louisiana was a backwater, is a backwater and seemingly will forever doom itself to being a backwater. One big reason is that Uncle Deleted isn't all that unusual there -- still. Another is that folks down there still think his kind of s*** is normal.

To be tolerated, even.

Unlike African-American proctologists sticking scopes up white butts.

THERE'S A REASON why my home state is on the bottom of all the good lists, at the top of all the bad lists and nowhere to be found on the short lists of corporate America. There's a reason why the public schools in my hometown, Baton Rouge, are 83-percent minority.

There's a reason why literacy and high-school graduation rates there lag behind almost every other state. (And the even worse scofflaws are likewise all in the South.)

There's a reason so many people are poor there.

The reason? Sin makes you stupid.

Its wake swamps all of history and extends well into the future. It has consequences for every segment of society, and it can turn its victims into sinners, too. (See New Orleans, City of.)

Imagine someone who'd rather -- perhaps -- die before his time rather than let a black physician mess with his colon. Imagine a whole society built upon that premise.

Imagine the mess my home state perpetually is . . . and why some of us find that "We shall overcome" sadly coincides with "We have left for good."