Shy of a Load

Who to believe, once again. The Washington Post on Dec. 15 reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been instructed to not use seven words (including two two-word phrases) in budget documents. Later CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald partly refuted that, “calling the report ‘a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process,'” reported The Boston Globe’s science news site STAT.

That the list comprised seven words instantly reminded the culturally aware among us of late comic George Carlin’s 1972 routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” a classic. (Here’s a not-too-blurry YouTube of the spiel.)

Here is one sentence from the Post’s article, which tracked the policy up to the overseeing Department of Health and Human Services: “In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of ‘science-based’ or ‘evidence-based,’ the suggested phrase is ‘CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,’ the person [an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing] said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.”

A humor writer friend, Paul Lander, made a great post of this, “Quiz.”

Between the news and Paul, I saw this as a writing prompt. If it’s not particularly literary then call it a self-dare. That is, to use all 14 in a single sentence.

Note: It’s awkward for me to use cuss words in writing. Besides, it may offend my 14 readers. Hence asterisks abound.

Overheard at the Voyage of the Beagle Gastropub in Foggy Bottom: “What do you mean, you c*cksucker of ent*tlement, this sh*t stratifies my p*ss and population-sequences my t*ts, and it’s a motherf*cker, too, what that c*nt at HHS told us here at CDC, that the grant for the NIH transg*nder epigenetics project is stalled, though we can do the job right, it’ll be random-sampled, evid*nce-based and transparent thus sc*ence-based, but it won’t matter, it won’t help the f*tuses of today grow toward a distribution of div*rsity tomorrow, that they’re just as v*lnerable as ever — oh, f*ck.”

Speaking of Foggy Bottom, the administration’s recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel kicks any hope of peace into a gully. Early in December, DJT (say digit) proclaimed this presidential edict and today our U.N ambassador, Nikki Haley, endorsed it before the world body, which condemned Trump’s move. Continue reading

Positive Developments, at Gunpoint

Shy of a Load: Guns, Memoir and Comedy

Sign on Maple Street in the University of Arkansas, still up after Sept. 1, 2017. Ben Pollock photo
Sign on Maple Street, University of Arkansas, still up Sept. 10, 2017.
Ben Pollock photo

It’s been nine days since guns became technically legal at Arkansas colleges and universities (and some other places) when carried by holders of enhanced concealed weapon state permits, and no one’s been shot on campus. That includes a major football game. Heck, professors already have assigned papers to write, books to read and problem sets to solve. Mixers have been held on weekend nights, and the hapless failed to, er, mix.

“Technically” is the key word.

Those folks need 8 more hours of “enhanced” training for campus concealed carry, in addition to the 6 now required for general carry. Good news: Training hasn’t begun, so no enhanced permits yet. The State Police began figuring out what’s to be taught Sept. 1, the same day the ASP was allowed to begin determining the other particulars of the new weapons laws. Better news: The officials have up to 120 days — that is, no later than Dec. 30, 2017 — to ink those regulations. Then people legally can begin wearing bulky jackets for another reason besides that it’s December.

Sign reading r'Asadink Tiddlywinks Stadium - Home of University Tabletop SportsFortunately, the Legislature added an examption to continue weapons bans at sporting events. This makes me bulletproof as I am declaring my academic office an athletic facility. I could be threatened from the door of my table sports arena, but the shooter would be in big big trouble.

I’m rating this good news, what with natural disasters and divisive politics. There’s more to praise.

Yeah, as if my praise means anything in the greater concept of the world. So let’s herald approximately three other bits.

Sherman Alexie this summer published his latest, the memoir You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. A memoir generally is autobiographic, but the “you” her is his mom, Lillian Alexie, so the book circles around their relationship. Continue reading

DJT (Say Digit) Smooths on Emollient Clause

Being acrimonious about acronyms is a worthy goal. Presidents used to be known by abbreviations. Now there are calls for the new president’s term to be abbreviated by impeachment or the 25th Amendment. My suggestion as a longtime editor would be shorten by language.

Now having worked a year in academia, acronyms surround me. That I expected. What’s been surprising is the shock of campus veterans that their abbreviations are not always understood, even at times within the same classroom building. So I find ways to compel the spelling out of these confusing shortcuts. But like cliches, acronyms have their place

One nostalgic spot where initials were great was in headlines about political leaders — FDR, HST, JFK, LBJ. They’re also smooth to say out loud, which is a key to my editing style. Eisenhower had the easy-to-speak “Ike” so never did we read DDE. In Arkansas, WR was the way the copy desk wrote single-column-wide headlines for Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller in the late 1960s. Nixon fit in narrow columns, the “i” being one of the “l-i-f-t” half-count letters. RMN did not glide on the tongue, and Nixon was only a 5-count, Ford 4 1/2.

I guess the style fell out of favor in the Jimmy Carter years, no JEC.

Last year saw the potential for the return of a need for an leader name abbreviation. Hillary Rodham Clinton would’ve been perfect for headlines in any media as HRC to distinguish instantly from the previous President Clinton. HRC fell, though. The Republican nominee won. Yet I cannot and have not said or written Donald J. Trump in the same sentence after the.

I won’t say the proper noun in the same sentence after the word “president.”

DJT though I’ve used. Don’t need “president,” the letter trio signifies the executive position. Besides, djt is best pronounced as “digit” as in finger. As in, “Did you see what DJT (say Digit) tweeted overnight?”

Continue reading

Teen Score and Whole Foods Ago, An Onion

The knobs on the amp of guitarist "Nigel Tufnel" go to 11 not 10. The 1984 fictional documentary "This Is Spinal Tap" continues to be a locus of cultural history.

Shy of a Load

A longtime Onion fan, I had to see Scott Dikkers, an early editor and former, longtime owner of the satiric website. He spoke March 10 at the University of Arkansas. About a hundred people attended the midweek evening lecture, which the sponsoring Honors College publicized widely.

Also compelling me to learn more about this successful enterprise was my being a working journalist, sometime educator and freelance media ethicist. Yet, the Journalism Department did not co-sponsor the speech, nor were any faculty apparently present. The campus newspaper did not cover the event. Dikkers asked if any journalism students were in the audience, and one person raised a hand. One.

Instead of considering what that says about my ol’ haunt, here are highlights of the talk, on behalf of a friend who couldn’t go and asked for them (she was an Arkansas State University J major).

Dikkers’ Five Principles — for magazine publishing, business or maybe life in general — followed by paraphrases of his explanations:

  1. No Permission — just do what you want to be doing
  2. Invest Your Passion, Not Your Money — this is anti-Shark Tank thinking, he said, noting that for him financials come second to drive when it comes to making something a success
  3. Be Prepared to Scrap Everything — use your brain and your hard work but do not deplete your savings so that you can move on if needed
  4. Trust Your People — this Dikkers called his biggest lesson, you should be the best boss, hire the best people, who will be smarter than you, and trust them
  5. Don’t Just Work Hard, Work Smart; Not Just Work Smart, Work Right — learn from the mistakes and successes of predecessors, rivals, competitors because that’s efficient.


Continue reading

Tea, Careers and Calm

Shy of a Load

0512 brick logoCults, Conspiracies and the Twisted History of Sleepytime Tea” by Megan Giller may well keep you awake. Celestial Seasonings had somewhat predictable beginnings in the hippy movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But besides free love and illicit drugs, that period saw lots of spiritual explorations and offbeat theories.

The herbal tea founders were inspired by one called “Urantia.” It is definitely strange. And unsettling, the opposite of Sleepytime, which My Beloved and I have enjoyed a few evenings a week for many years. The story is in the online Van Winkle’s, an electronic publication about all matters relating to sleep, produced by the new online mattress company Casper.

• • •

Next week, the Career Development Center of the University of Arkansas is hosting a “Media, Communication and Design Career Fair” in the campus union. It is posted in the emailed daily newsletter of University Headlines. The write-up, published today, lists “advertising, public relations, graphic and Web design, broadcast radio and TV, communication, editing and writing, marketing, recruiting and account management.”

Does anyone see “news” or “iournalism” in there? Maybe they’re implied, if you squint, but otherwise, nope.

• • •

Roberto A. Ferdman posts his long-form Q-and-A in The Washington Post’s Wonkblog with Bill Marler, a lawyer who works in issues concerning food-borne illness. Marler is fascinating, and the question-and-answer format is perfect for  “Why a Top Food Poisoning Expert Won’t Ever Eat These Foods.”

Continue reading

Angela, We Have Heard on High

Time Magazine’s selection of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as 2015 Person of the Year is fascinating.. It shows the magazine still heeds that this award is not for popularity nor just for Yankees. It’s for the person who’s been, what, the biggest newsmaker of the calendar year.

Its cover story profiling Merkel proves the point. Not least interesting is that she has a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry. If there’s just two biographical bits that make her the kind of leader she has been, that’s one. The other is she grew up in the now-former East Germany. She understands that life.

The article is long but rewarding. To see the highlights, view the sidebar, “The 13 Most Surprising Things You Never Knew About Angela Merkel.” For ease click “View as List, as the default “View as Gallery” is a slideshow that you have to wait each time to open a page.

Germany has been fortunate to have such a strong, focused and clever leader this past decade.