Shy of a Load

Teen Score and Whole Foods Ago, An Onion

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.


  • “Humor is a wonderful coping mechanism for anything that life throws at you.”
  • The Onion is the world’s first humor newspaper, he said, as opposed to humor magazine, which have existed for centuries. The reason was that the two founders, University of Wisconsin undergrads at the time, found newsprint far cheaper.
  • The old saw that comedy equals tragedy plus time is true, he said, but when you get down to it, though, “Comedy equals tragedy, period.”

Dikkers did discuss nuts and bolts about how The Onion is put together, but those are easily found online: He apparently gives the same speech at any campus. I recommend Dikkers’ interview with KUAF’s Kyle Kellams. Audio of “Area Interviewer Talks to Onion Mastermind” is 16:55 long.

• • •

Fayetteville got its first Whole Foods Market early in March. The concept of a grocery featuring organics and relatively more wholesome foodstuffs is far from new here. Ozark Natural Foods, a cooperative, began in late 1971. My wife and I joined upon moving here in 1998.

The new-store crowds are loosening, so what’s left? There’s some bellyaching on Facebook, but only a few sarcastically slam Whole Foods with the stale nickname Whole Paycheck. That refers to the relative expense of its inventory.

If you land at the cashier with more than you can afford, then it’s you: impulsive, gullible.

Whole Foods makes its goods tempting; that’s the job. Overspending overtakes me the same way at Wal-Mart — Hershey’s just put out Simply 5, a syrup free of high fructose corn syrup, so I bought a bottle. Thumbs down, not chocolatey enough.

The new store should be dubbed Hipster Haven, describing most of the patrons seen in my three visits. (I’ll try to visit less than weekly after this.) This is weighing people’s clothes, mannerisms and conversation.

Plus, I haven’t seen most of them at Ozark Natural Foods. In visiting with a couple of folks at WFM, I’ve found they have not heard of ONF. Ozark Natural Foods does some advertising and been around decades, making this a phenomena.

How to shop wiser? Well, go with a list, those sorts of tips. My advice is to know roughly what things cost elsewhere then decide whether it’s worth buying them at a specialty store — not just Hipster Haven and ONF but Natural Grocers and Fresh Market. In fact, recalling retail prices helps when strolling through farmers markets. Hit the bulk food sections — spices, beans, grains and the like are more affordable that way, besides buying the amounts you want.

Also, prep with Whole Food ads in the Wednesday newspaper and via its website and mobile app. Hipster Haven has incredible specials. Its first week saw fresh asparagus for 99 cents a pound, and last week Swiss chard was 88 cents a bunch. Normally these when organic are three-four times this.

• • •

Clicking various online links to cuts off early Emerson, Lake and Palmer albums, I fail to find the one song that for a while in junior high I played every day after school. It is the only piece from any cassette that I ever played extra loud and danced to.

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 for cultural references.
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 for cultural references. Source for image: Wikipedia

ELP is not the reason I have early hearing loss; my parents’ speakers were tiny — surely did not reach 11. The stereo in the den went up to the equivalent of 4.

My personal film score was an instrumental emphasizing keyboards (synthesizer, organ, piano). Meaning Keith Emerson was the object of my dervish. The musician died earlier this month. Such pioneering rockers are hitting or passing 70 faster these days. We’re reading more obituaries, hearing more clips, viewing more tributes.

Where my friends played Yes or Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, I chose Emerson Lake & Palmer. Similarly, Blood Sweat & Tears over Chicago. I enjoyed the others, but ELP and BST buzzed my early adolescent brain.

Rolling Stone has collated “Emerson, Lake and Palmer: 10 Essential Songs — The Greatest from the Audacious, Virtuosic Progressive Rock Icons.” After listening to these, I don’t think my song was any of these. After some months, I got sick of the instrumental. That was that.

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