Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘news of the weird’

All of us make questionable decisions.

I remember, for instance, the day in 1982 when I was driving my 1968 Mustang in Phoenix, Arizona, much faster than was prudent on a road that gradually curved to the left. It is vital to this story that you understand that the car had leather, bench-style seats, and while the car had seat belts, those seat belts were detached and sitting loose in the trunk. Therefore, by the time I completed the curve, I was steering from the passenger side of the front seat, where I had slid.

That’s just one of many poor choices I have made in my life, and one of the few I am willing to share.

Happily, though, none of my poor decisions has involved putting shoe polish on my face or attempting to blackmail the richest man in the world, which are two of the biggest poor decisions in the news the past week.

Perhaps I would have made at least the first of those decisions if I had hit my teens or 20s while living in Virginia, where during the 1970s and ‘80s apparently every young white man out for fun on the town donned blackface and posed in front of a camera to immortalize his stupidity.

Luckily, though, my family lived in Virginia for only a couple of years and moved to North Carolina when I was 6. I did not live in Virginia again until I was nearly 36. The only things I ever slathered on my face were red and gray paint (my high school colors), Oxy10 (acne ointment), sunscreen, and aloe vera when I forgot the sunscreen.

It also has never occurred to me to try to blackmail or extort someone with unlimited means to fight back, as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, says the owner of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc., attempted to do to him. The Enquirer threatened to publish suggestive or lewd photos it had acquired that Bezos and his mistress had exchanged.

I can only imagine the conversation behind such a decision.

Enquirer stooge: “Hey, boss, I thought of a sure-fire way to get the richest man in the world to do what we want!”

Boss: “That would be a great thing, to have control of such a man. What is your plan?”

Stooge: “A secret source of mine gave me these sexy photos from his phone that he and his girlfriend sent back and forth.”

Boss: “Oh, yes?”

Stooge: “Yes.”

Boss: “Interesting.”

Stooge: “I’ll say. So what if we tell him that unless he does what we want, we’ll publish these photos and embarrass him? He’s sure to beg us and offer to do anything just so he won’t be embarrassed. It has never failed.”

Boss: “Now, this is the same man who made his billions founding a high-tech company, right? A company that relies on top security technology.”

Stooge: “Yeah, that’s him.”

Boss: “So he knows basically all of the top computer security experts in the world on a first-name basis, right?”

Stooge: “Well, he probably does.”

Boss: “And in theory he could spend many millions of dollars, far more than we have, to find out how we acquired those photos, take us to court and ruin us, leaving us to beg for pennies in the streets …”

Stooge: “Well, I mean, if you want to be pessimistic about it, maybe …”

Boss: “Hmmm.”

Stooge: “So what do you say, boss?”

Boss: “It’s a bold move. I say do it.”

Maybe the conversation didn’t go that way. But it’s hard to think of a reason no one involved didn’t consider what might go wrong with the plan. They even got lawyers involved. Perhaps they hired really bad lawyers – another poor decision.

I don’t say that I will never make a bad decision that tops these. After all, I’m on social media. That alone raises the odds. I drink beer – higher odds yet. Like many people, I have a smartphone and have Wi-Fi at home. In some ways, you could say that I and many others of us are practically begging for our darker angels to prod us into doing something impulsively stupid that will haunt us forever.

I hope by now I’m old enough to have enough healthy awareness of my own fragility to make me back away.

But I admit, anything’s possible.

I just find it hard to imagine.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It wasn’t until a few years ago, when an editor friend who makes an annual address to a civic group elsewhere in North Carolina asked me for predictions of news in the coming year, that I realized I am a modern Nostradamus.

Since I started contributing, I have an accuracy rate of 100 percent. Or, in case you think “accuracy” should mean “things that came true,” that may be zero percent.

But some research reveals that still leaves me in the range of Nostradamus. (Full disclosure: no actual research was done.)

Lucky you!

So, following are my predictions for 2019. Take note, and plan accordingly:

Early in the year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller issues the formal report of his investigation, though it leaves many unanswered questions that set the world of political talk shows ablaze. Within hours, Mueller appears at a joint press conference with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Paul Ryan, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and the presidents of Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN as they enthusiastically announce a five-year renewal of the hit reality series “Dystopia,” which all present then realize they forgot to announce the launch of in 2016.

A new biopharmaceutical foods company introduces bacon infused with pleasure-giving dopamines and neurotransmitters that simultaneously trigger “fear of missing out,” anxiety, wanderlust, nostalgia, jealousy and schadenfreude. Facebook stock collapses.

Responding to a continuing escalation in tariffs on products from Asian countries, a coalition of furniture companies establishes a floating factory complex operating from international waters that has the ability to navigate to avoid major storms. Shortly after beginning operations, however, it becomes mired in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” of floating plastic debris and is unable to escape 2019’s first typhoon, which sinks the entire complex.

Triggered by the sudden explosion of the bacon market, pork belly futures skyrocket, and industrial pig farms in eastern North Carolina become the new center of the state’s economy. Twenty-story office towers appear in Smithfield and Kinston.

Facebook use falls to near zero, and the company files for bankruptcy protection. Days later, a weeping, hysterical Mark Zuckerberg is arrested after undressing inside a Publix, wrapping himself in bacon and trying to climb into shoppers’ carts.

Faced with the possibility of a clean break from the European Union without a new agreement on trade and travel, voters in Great Britain overwhelmingly approve a new referendum that literally says only, “Oh nevermind.”

Elon Musk, the eccentric CEO of car-maker Tesla, announces a new software update for something that is euphemistically called “emissions testing mode,” a built-in practical joke that can make the car emit farting noises when a turn signal is on. The car owner can choose from six different tooting sounds, including “Short Shorts Ripper,” “Ludicrous Fart” and “Neurastink.” … Oh, wait, nevermind, that actually happened in December 2018. (Seriously, it really happened. You can Google it if you don’t believe me.)

Late in the year, the company that revolutionized bacon expands into artificial intelligence with a neurotransmitter-bacon-skinned sex robot. Civilization collapses.

Bacon-loving America soon resembles a scene from “The Walking Dead” as those left alive wish they were dead and attempt to hickory-smoke members of opposing tribes.

As the Christmas season nears, the survivors of the Baconpocalypse find hope for world peace as observant Jews and observant Muslims, who don’t eat bacon, finally settle their rancor to make common cause against the only remaining world power, a multinational army of vegetarians and vegans sweeping across the continents of Europe and Asia.

Read Full Post »

When the news came out last week that NASCAR driver Kurt Busch testified in court that his ex-girlfriend was a trained assassin, and he cited the things that made him think so, like a lot of people I had one thought:

There are perfectly reasonable explanations for each of those things.

For instance, the time that his ex, Patricia Driscoll, came home wearing a trench coat over an evening gown that was covered in blood. The exact same thing happened to me. My wife had left our house, as Driscoll did, wearing camouflage gear, and she said she was going to meet some friends. Four or five hours later, I came out of the kitchen with a snack of microwaved hot wings, and suddenly Jane was standing there in the foyer, her hair mussed, wearing this stunning, off-the-shoulder, white dress that had large, red spatters all over the left side. I didn’t even hear her come in, which happens all the time – we joke that she moves like a ninja.

“I should have told you, it was an engagement party, but a few of us decided our group should arrive as just us girls, so we didn’t tell our husbands and changed clothes on the way,” she explained, and I was so relieved, because I get so bored with her friends’ talk of travel to places like Moscow and Baghdad and their midnight meetings in dark alleys.

And she said the red on the dress was just chocolate syrup with red food coloring, just like they use in movies for fake blood. The bride-to-be, she explained, loves red – it’s going to be a big color in the wedding – so there were red Kit Kats and red-velvet-cake bites on sticks that everyone could dip in this fountain of red chocolate, which someone who had way too many red mimosas fell into and knocked to the floor, and the chocolate spattered everywhere, and Jane happened to be standing fairly close it.

There’s always a reasonable explanation.

Again, take the testimony by Richard Andrew Sniffen, a friend of Busch’s who is a Christian music minister, that after Busch broke up with Driscoll, she said to Sniffen that she would take Busch down.

“I will destroy him,” Sniffen said Driscoll told him.

That reminded me of one night recently when I thought Jane was really mad with me after I yelled at her for having left her Bushmaster Carbon 15 with collapsible stock and red-dot sight leaning up against the bed, where I tripped over it.

“I’ll murder you,” I thought I heard her mutter.

“Did you say, ‘I’ll murder you’?” I asked.

“What? No,” she said, smiling. “No, I said, ‘I’m really sorry.’” She came over to me and caressed my face. “You’re so silly,” she said as she tugged a lock of my hair. She tugged it a little too roughly, really. It hurt. She’s stronger than she looks, I keep reminding her, and I have the bruises to prove it.

But she kissed me, picked up her rifle and went to the study to finish reading this month’s “Soldier of Fortune.”

If I hadn’t asked what she really said, think of the misunderstanding and hurt feelings that could have resulted.

Really, it’s obvious why Busch and Driscoll broke up. Clear communication and understanding are the cornerstones of any serious relationship.

Read Full Post »

As I sat at the office daydreaming about a coming shipment of fresh, raw Liberian monkey meat – it’s Africa’s sushi, you know – a friend posted a link on Facebook to a list from Britain’s Daily Mirror of the top 10 tips for avoiding catching the Ebola virus.

This, I thought, fits the very definition of “news you can use.” On “Morning Joe” just this morning, one of the show’s guests was practically beside herself over what she saw as clear parallels between the Ebola cases in Texas and the 1995 movie “Outbreak.”

“How can anyone say no one could have guessed what would happen when things are playing out exactly, exactly, like they did in that Hollywood movie,” she said more than once, which was big news to me because I had not realized until that very moment that the Ebola virus has mutated and become airborne so that it is as easily transmitted as the flu, which is the entire basis of the movie and the earlier novel by the same name. She had to have meant that because she repeatedly used the word “exactly,” which I believe the FCC forbids unless you have first read a dictionary and know what the word means so you can use it without sounding like an idiot.

So, knowing that the virus now is spreading “exactly” as it did in those works of fiction, I was eager to read these tips on how to prepare myself for avoiding the coming plague.

For the most part, though, the tips were disappointing.

“Wash your hands.” Wash my hands? I need medical experts to tell me this? My mother told me this all the time, and her college degree was in journalism, which anyone, including my state’s governor, can tell you means she had no skills.

“Avoid contact with anyone you believe is infected.” Uh huh. Got it. If you see me walking down the sidewalk toward you and I suddenly cross the street to avoid you, go see your doctor because clearly you don’t look right.

The Mirror added that “should you need to go near someone with Ebola you need to be wearing protective gear, including a face mask and gloves,” and it helpfully provided a link to Amazon (use the link or go to Amazon and search for “ebola protection”), where you can buy a Honeywell Liquid Tight Safety Coverall with integrated Gloves and Overboots for about $110.

Buying that means I’ll have to tell my wife we need to skip a couple of “date night” dinners downtown to keep my credit card bill down, but for the sake of escaping Ebola, I know she’ll agree it’s worth the sacrifice.

“Avoid dead bodies.”

I’m waaaaaaay ahead of you there.

“Do not touch bats, chimpanzees, monkeys or gorillas,” the Mirror warned.

OK, define “touch.”

“Or their blood or fluids. And do not eat raw meat prepared from these animals.”

What?! No raw monkey meat treats?!

There goes my weekend.

Read Full Post »

Now just a cotton-pickin’ minute here.

Do you mean to tell me that someone is trying to move Mayberry out of North Carolina to some spot way up North?

Uh-uh, naw sir, that won’t do. That won’t do ay-tall.

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports that the town of Danville, Indiana, is planning a two-day “Mayberry in the Midwest” festival in May. The idea apparently sprang from a Mayberry-themed restaurant in the town.

Now, you might not have been able to tell it from the accents of many of the people populating Mayberry in “The Andy Griffith Show” – the mayor, the lady druggist, Barney, Aunt Bee, Otis, the chorus director and any member of the state police who passed through town, to name a few – but Mayberry was set in North Carolina, not central Indiana barely more than a hop, a skip and a jump from the home of the Indy 500, where the cars may all keep turning left but look more like cigars than anything in a dealership’s stock.

Andy Griffith, of course, grew up in Mount Airy and based the fictional Mayberry in great part on his hometown. There has long been a Snappy Lunch there, just like in the show, and you might recall the frequent references in the TV show to the nearby town of Mount Pilot and notice on a map that Mount Airy is very near Pilot Mountain. Mount Airy, in turn, has been a top attraction for fans of the TV show and long ago adopted Mayberry as its alter ago. It hosts an annual Mayberry Days festival, and the actress who played Thelma Lou moved to Mount Airy a few years ago to escape California and settle in to a place where people make her feel like family.

Considering all this, you just have to ask yourself two questions. One: Do the good people of Danville, Indiana, think folks don’t remember that the show was set in North Carolina and won’t notice the decided lack of any Andy-like way of talking in those parts? That hardly seems likely.

Now, what would all those folks up in Indiana think if we down here tried to take up one of their better-known attractions and make like it was ours? Maybe the “World’s Largest Ball of Paint” in Alexandria, or the Giant Lady’s Leg Sundial in Lake Village.

They might not like it one bit, and who could blame them?

No, right is right, Mayberry belongs in North Carolina, and anyone who knows anything about Mayberry knows exactly what Danville, Indiana, has to do to make this here sitchyayshun right.

Nip it. Nip it in the bud.

Read Full Post »

A damp Wednesday morning in a small town in central North Carolina. People file into a tiny church (seating capacity approximately 100) for the funeral of a beloved writer, who was my wife’s mentor. A woman sits down next to me. She is a writer, from Winston-Salem. We three chat. She asks whether I, like my wife, am a writer too. I explain I am in the netherworld between newspapers and online: “I have a website where all of my company’s newspapers, which include the Winston-Salem Journal, can share th–”

“You ruined a perfectly good newspaper,” she says.

“I didn’t do it.”

“Ruined.”

Somehow I don’t feel up to a discourse on the economics of advertising, especially classified advertising, and how little any newspaper reader actually pays of the total cost of producing a newspaper.

Read Full Post »

The Guardian has a new advertisement for its “open journalism” (essentially the intersection of traditional journalism, crowdsourcing and social media) that is the most fun ad ever for a news outlet. I wish I could embed the video here, but it isn’t working. (Warning when you go to the page: It’s an extremely slow-loading page.) The ad’s explainer text:

“This advert for the Guardian’s open journalism, screened for the first time on 29 February 2012, imagines how we might cover the story of the Three Little Pigs in print and online. Follow the story from the paper’s front page headline, through a social media discussion and finally to an unexpected conclusion.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »