Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WSJ, 118

The Wall Street Journal wrote its own obituary today:
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. sealed a $5 billion agreement to purchase the publisher of The Wall Street Journal after three months of drama in the controlling family and public debate about journalistic values.

One of the oldest and best-known franchises in the newspaper industry, beset in recent years by business pressures, now enters a new era as part of a world-wide media conglomerate. The 76-year-old Mr. Murdoch, whose properties range from the Fox television network to the Times of London, negotiated hard to win the paper he long coveted. He has promised to invest more in Dow Jones journalism.
It was a great read, while it lasted.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Longtime newsman and television personality. Once interviewed Charlie Manson and may have been crazier than the killer. Knew how to use the medium. MIT rushes in to grab the point.


John Roberts, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, has apparently taken quite a spill today. CNN is moving file footage of the CJ; so far, no story has crossed the wires.

Added 4:30 p.m.: AP now reports that Roberts has been taken by ambulance to a hospital in Maine. The justice fell at his summer home on an island.


Died Monday, according to The Associated Press obituary:
"It's an unbelievable loss for Sweden, but even more so internationally," Astrid Soderbergh Widding, president of The Ingmar Bergman Foundation, which administers the directors' archives, told The Associated Press.

Bergman died at his home in Faro, Sweden, Swedish news agency TT said, citing his daughter Eva Bergman. A cause of death was not immediately available.

Through more than 50 films, Bergman's vision encompassed all the extremes of his beloved Sweden: the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, the gentle merriment of glowing summer evenings and the bleak magnificence of the island where he spent his last years.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


In a nutshell: These guys wanted to meet this girl. Thought she was cute. So they went to her grave is Wisconsin and tried to dig her up.

What they did -- what they wanted to do -- isn't a crime.

According to The Associated Press:
A judge was correct to dismiss the charges against twin brothers Nicholas and Alexander Grunke and Dustin Radke, all 21, because lawmakers never intended to criminalize sex with a corpse, the District 4 Court of Appeals said in a 3-0 ruling.

The three men went to a cemetery in Cassville in southwestern Wisconsin on Sept. 2 to remove the body of Laura Tennessen, 20, who had been killed the week before in a motorcycle crash.

The men used shovels to reach her grave. They abandoned their plan and were eventually arrested after a vehicle drove into the cemetery and reported suspicious behavior, authorities said.

They said the men had seen an obituary of Tennessen with her photo and wanted to dig up her body to have sexual intercourse. Such an act is known as necrophilia.

The men were charged with attempted third-degree sexual assault and misdemeanor attempted theft charges. But Grant County Circuit Judge George Curry dismissed the sexual assault charges in September, saying no Wisconsin law addressed necrophilia. Prosecutors appealed his ruling.
And lost, meaning Wisconsin legislators will soon pass a law outlawing sex with a corpse. Probably a good idea.

On the way to rob the grave, the three men stopped at a Wal-Mart to buy condoms. Make of this what you will.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Two congressmen want records from World Wrestling Entertainment. More fallout from the Chris Benoit case. ESPN reports:
In a three-page letter dated Friday, Rep. Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Tom Davis, its ranking minority member, asked McMahon to provide a series of documents intended to give the committee and its investigation a detailed look at WWE's drug-testing policy, including information about the results of performance-enhancing drug tests on pro wrestlers.

"The tragic deaths of World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Benoit and his family have raised questions about reports of widespread use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs by professional wrestlers," the congressmen wrote.

"These allegations -- which include first-hand reports of steroid use by prominent former wrestlers -- have swirled around the WWE for over a decade. Investigations by journalists have described a culture of performance-enhancing drug use in professional wrestling, high fatality rates among young professional wrestlers, and an inability or unwillingness of WWE to address these problems."
Vince McMahon, boss of WWE, has until Aug. 24 to comply with the congressional request.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Dueling premieres this Thursday night, as The Simpsons Movie came to Springfield.

At the Campbell 16, devoted fans got a day-before look, while local celebs and media types caught the movie at the Springfield 8. What we saw at the latter screening:

•Liz Delany, better-looking half of the Kevin & Liz morning show on Alice @ 95.5, spilling popcorn (but then cleaning it up as only a Mom can).

•Annie Busch, head of the Springfield-Greene County Library, graciously accepting deserved compliments for her star turn in Springfield's video entry for the Fox contest. Busch was great. The rest of the local entry is best summed up by one local media type: Worst. Episode. Ever.

•A reporter from radio station KTTS trying to interview people waiting to watch the movie. Too bad she asked Dave Hines, program director of radio station US 97. He was good enough to tell her not to waste her time or batteries.

•Speaking of US 97 -- no Spankmeister on hand to liven up the festivities.

•The Springfield 8 screening was held in a too-big room. A couple hundred people in a room meant for twice as many bodies made turnout seem dissatisfying.

Oh yeah -- the movie. Worth the wait. Marge says "goddamn." Applause at the end. Smiling faces. And the commemorative poster is definitely a keeper.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


KB points out this story, and we can't resist. The Associated Press reports on Oscar the Death Cat, straight outta Providence, R.I.:
Oscar has the uncanny ability to predict when nursing home patients are within hours of death.

The two-year-old cat has curled up beside 25 people at a Rhode Island nursing home in their final hours.

A doctor at the home says the feline isn't one to make too many mistakes. Oscar has proven so accurate, he has gotten his own wall plaque and an essay coming out in tomorrow's New England Journal of Medicine.

The furry grim reaper grew up in a third-floor dementia unit.

The staff there is so convinced of his ability, they will call family members once he has chosen someone.
It's so nice to be chosen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


In honor of this week's Simpsons movie, we point you to 10 Zen Monkeys and its recap of "the six trippiest scenes from The Simpsons."

Best one: When Homer eats Guatemalan Insanity Peppers and receives wisdom from a coyote voiced by Johnny Cash. More, please.


We're lucky to live in the Ozarks -- lucky just being able to survive here. The New York Times on Wednesday tells the story of College of the Ozarks, and in doing so, the paper reveals how this region is viewed from afar.

College of the Ozarks, according to the paper, is "spread across a thousand acres of the hardscrabble hills and hollows of southwestern Missouri." Makes you want to hit your knees and thank God you can wring a living from the barren, meager land. It's a wonder more people don't up and die from their Joadesque torment.

The NYT report does include this factoid-packed graf:
College of the Ozarks also gets students to do its maintenance and office jobs; student labor accounts for 7.5 percent of the $51 million budget, said Rick Hughes, the business manager. And the college has a $362.8 million endowment, 173rd among the nation’s colleges, which allows it to hand out $11.5 million in scholarships. Three of four students have family incomes low enough to qualify for Federal Pell grants of up to $4,310.


Lindsay Lohan was busted early Tuesday for driving drunk. According to The Associated Press:
Police in Santa Monica, California pulled her over after they say they saw Lohan's car chasing another.

Police gave Lohan a field sobriety test and then took her to the station.

She was booked on suspicion of D-U-I, driving on a suspended license and possession of cocaine. They say they found coke in one of her pants pockets.
Lohan had just finished Round Two in rehab.

Monday, July 23, 2007


At least until that summer, according to The New York Times. The paper of record reports:
The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.

The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security.
Expect a "formal briefing" for lawmakers this week, followed by a fan being hit.


The kids at Examiner.com combed through Stephen F. Hayes’ biography of Dick Cheney and mined nuggets galore. Our favorite Cheney moment is this one:
He once confused Jessica Simpson with Jessica Lynch. Hayes details how, when the vice president threw out the first pitch before a 2003 game between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs, Cheney was first informed that “Nick Lachey — a native of Cincinnati — would sing the national anthem before the game and would be accompanied by his girlfriend, Jessica Simpson. Cheney thought Simpson’s name sounded familiar. He asked his staff: ‘Is that the soldier who was captured in Iraq?’”
Dick Cheney ... Dick Nixon ... Dick Butkus. Still a Dick.


Being a child of the '70s, CHATTER's chief typist has a fondness for the Bradys, the fake all-American family that taught us how easily eight people (nine if you count Alice) could survive in a house with an Astroturf lawn and one bathroom.

Now comes word of a new kind of Brady Bunch. Adult Video News spills about Not the Bradys XXX, a DVD with a wicked twist. AVN tells us about the flick's plotline:
Faced with financial difficulties at home due to slow business at his architectural firm, Mike and his wife Carol reluctantly tell the kids that the entire household will be on a budget for the next few months until business picks back up and the cash crisis ends. The kids get together and decide to help out by taking on odd jobs, holding car washes and pitching in wherever they can to help save the family house from bank foreclosure. Wild fun and mayhem ensue, especially when Marcia unwittingly applies for a job as a "figure model" and finds out she's about to star in a porn movie.
Ron Jeremy guests as Sam the Butcher. The meat jokes have just begun.


Not in any deep, metaphysical way, of course -- Barker is the man, unable to be replaced by any mere mortal.

But Carey is the new host of "The Price is Right." The Associated Press reports:
Carey confirmed the deal during a taping of the "Late Show" with David Letterman.

The selection has attracted more attention than usual for a daytime show because of the prospect of replacing Barker, who retired after 35 years in the job last month.

The opening had attracted widespread interest, including from comic Rosie O'Donnell after she left "The View."
Not bad for a guy with pierced nipples.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Locked in a fight with Blockbuster for online movie rentals, Netflix announced on Sunday a $1 drop in two subscription plans -- matching Blockbuster's fees and opening a vein on company revenue. The Associated Press reports:
Netflix will charge $16.99 per month for a plan that allows subscribers to keep up to three DVDs at a time with no limit on how frequently the discs can be mailed back in return for another movie. The price for a similar plan that lets customers keep one DVD at a time will fall to $8.99 per month.
Netflix earned $49 million last year but has already warned Wall Street that earnings and subscriptions are flattening. The new price cuts take effect Tuesday.

Blockbuster is in worse shape -- $49 million lost in the first quarter this year -- but its subscribers can order online and have the option to pick up or drop off DVDs at brick-and-mortar stores. No waiting for movies, a distinct disadvantage for Netflix.


Buy the sub. For just $78 million you can pick up the Phoenix 1000, a 213-foot "personal luxury submarine." Where? At U.S. Submarines, of course, the one-stop shop for rich people who love water:
Powered on the surface by twin turbocharged marine diesels, all of our luxury submarine models ... have extended surface range and are capable of diving to 305 meters (1000'). Bad weather? Simply close the hatch and dive, cruising effortlessly far below the waves in air conditioned comfort. The submarines' battery capacity and life support systems allow you to stay submerged for days at a time.
The Phoenix comes with "very large acrylic viewports." Like the Seaview, only with an acrylic deck saloon.


A Bay Area icon of the airwaves, plying his trade on KGO and KRON for the past quarter-century of news. According to this San Francisco Chronicle report, Wilson died on Friday, a day after suffering a heart attack during hip replacement surgery.

From the story:
Other news anchors read the news. Wilson instructed you. He gave you the impression he had some things to tell you, and you'd be wise to sit up, pipe down and pay attention. And, if it was one of those stories that piqued his ever-vigilant sense of outrage, there was likely to be eye-rolling, deep sighs, and even some head-shaking at the ridiculousness of it all.
A longtime friend said this of Pete Wilson: "Forget PC. He was a straight shooter." A nice way to be remembered.


Labeled as the "emotive evangelist" by The New York Times. Death came just days after she appeared on Larry King and scared the hell out of small children (as Larry does on a nightly basis).

Who gets the point?

Fat Jack wins with notification at 7:54 p.m. Saturday, followed by Brother Richard and Desdinova at 8:39, Bus Plunge at 8:56, Matt L. at 9:01, Gentle Whisper at 1:24 a.m.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Out this week and worth your eye time -- the National Intelligence Estimate titled "The Terrorist Threat to the Homeland" (it's a .pdf file). We're putting it in the CHATTER Public File.

Intriguing: The report's claim of danger from "non-Muslim terrorist groups ... and even small numbers of alienated people" who could "find and connect with one another, justify and intensify their anger, and mobilize resources to attack -- all without requiring a centralized terrorist organization, training camp, or leader."

"Single-issue groups" will "probably" launch attacks in the next three years, according to the report. This sounds less like terror talk, more like fear of a revolution.


... to The Voice Of Truth, a new blog in Springfield:
I’m conservative but not Republican. I don’t hate liberals and get tired of those on the left who think anyone who disagrees with them is a bigot, homophobe, racist or intolerant. I don’t trust most of our politicians and social institutions. I’ve a Christian who thinks the churches in America continually get it wrong but I don’t think the government is the answer to fill any voids the church has left or caused.
TVOT is kind enough to link to us, so we return the favor and encourage you to check it out.


An update to our earlier post about the riches being gathered by the two leading candidates for Missouri governor:

The Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated campaign contribution limits. The ruling was unanimous, and written by Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. The Associated Press reports:
The court, in a unanimous decision, overturned a lower judge who had thrown out a fundraising ban for elected officials and challengers during the legislative session but kept intact the overall repeal of Missouri’s individual contribution limits.

The Supreme Court said the legislative history of the bill indicated lawmakers would not have repealed contribution limits if the donation blackout period was not in effect.

The court noted that when the measure was debated by the Senate, it considered — and rejected — an amendment that would have allowed unlimited contributions without a blackout period.

“That the two provisions were inseparably connected and dependent upon each other is conclusively proven by the fact that the Senate amendment to decouple the provisions failed,” the Supreme Court said.
Still in the air: What happens to the big bucks already collected by Matt Blunt and Jay Nixon?

Also without answer: Is Stephen Limbaugh an activist judge?


In a speech this week to conservatives in Colorado Springs, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney opened a can of whip-bumpers (he would never call it "whip-ass") on sex offenders.

David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network had this account of Romney's pitch:
His latest idea is called the "One-Strike, You're Ours" Law. Catchy title. Basically, what Romney proposed ... was tougher penalties for first time sexual Internet predators who prey on young children. If you are caught and convicted then you'll get "stiff mandatory jail time" plus Romney will sic big brother on you because the penalty will also be a lifetime of tracking by GPS systems. ...

He says he will require the Department of Justice to enforce the federal obscenity laws already on the books and ensure that producers and distributors of obscene material are prosecuted. How he will do that isn't clear.

Romney also says he'll "punish and fine" stores for selling really over the top violent and sexual video games to minors.
Some social conservatives already question Romney's anti-porn stance because of his decade-long tenure on the Marriott Corporation's board of directors. Marriott makes millions from in-room porn rentals; this makes the hotel chain "one of the country's top porn distributors," according to Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


And not in a fond way; this is a product recall on 10-ounce cans of Castleberry's, Austex and Kroger brands of hot dog chili sauce with "best by" dates from April 30, 2009, through May 22, 2009. The Associated Press reports that the sauce has been linked to "the first cases of botulism in commercially canned foods in decades." Four people have been sickened.


The last words of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, a Chicago mobster who thought he was about to be promoted to capo in his city's mob. Instead the meeting was a lure. Spilotro was about to die.

A mobster-turned-squealer testified this week about Spilotro's death. The Associated Press reports:
Nicholas Calabrese, an admitted mob killer, said he and two other men were driven to the scene of the crime by James Marcello, one of those on trial.

Spilotro had been lured with the promise he would become a "capo," or captain, in the Outfit — as Chicago's organized crime family is known — and his brother, Michael, would be initiated as a "made guy," Calabrese testified.

Michael came downstairs first, Calabrese testified.

"I said, 'How are you doing, Mike?' because I knew him," Calabrese testified. But he said a few seconds later, "I grabbed his legs and I noticed right away that Louie the Mooch had a rope around his neck."

While they were strangling Michael Spilotro, Calabrese said, he heard what may have been Tony Spilotro's last words. Several of the mobsters involved, including Louie "The Mooch" Eboli, are now dead.
Four mobsters are on trial in Chicago, including Nicholas Calabrese's brother, Frank. Ratting out your own brother seems low, even by mob standards. Then again, this was a gang that doled out nicknames like "The Ant" and "The Mooch."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


This is the first campaign season in Missouri without limits on campaign contributions. No more caps on how much you can donate to a candidate. Last year the most you could give to someone running for governor was $1,275. This year? Matt Blunt and Jay Nixon both list six-figure donations from individual donors.

Springfield-based Prime donated $50,000 to the governor. The contributions were spread over five companies with the same address on North Mayfair.

AT&T in St. Louis donated $50,000.

The former Burlington Northern -- now known as BNSF Railway -- has given the governor $51,200.

Springfield businessman Gerald Cook contributed 50 grand this quarter, upping his total to nearly $52,500.

Silver Eagle Distributors of Houston donated $50,000, via the company and its owner. According to its web site, Silver Eagle is the nation's second-largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products.

Burgers and beer are a good pair at the table -- and on the campaign trail. CKE Restaurants -- that would be Carl's Jr. -- gave $25,000 to the governor.

Harold Simmons, founder of Dallas-based Contran Corporation, had given $50,000 to Blunt. He did it in two payments -- 10 grand on June 11, the rest on June 29.

The biggest Blunt backer is Bob Perry, owner of Perry Homes in Houston -- known in political circles for being the money man behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 2004 presidential election. Perry and his wife have so far contributed a combined $300,000 to Matt Blunt.

Attorney General Jay Nixon has plenty of deep-pocketed contributors, too. His campaign finance form lists a 25-cent donation from a retired rancher in South Dakota -- but it also includes $50,000 in contributions from Springfield attorney Tom Strong and his law firm.

The biggest Nixon donor is the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees -- the nation's largest union for public-sector workers. It contributed $100,000 to Jay Nixon on May 18.

Another union group -- the Ironworkers Political Education Fund -- gave 25 grand. The United Food & Commercial Workers Union has given more than $16,000. So has Taxpayers Unlimited of Kansas City, another union front.

Kansas City Councilman Bill Skaggs gave 10 grand -- as did his son, state Rep. Trent Skaggs. They made their contributions on the same day. Very handy.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


On stage, no less. The Associated Press reports from Wyoming:
Robin Munis was struck in the head with one gunshot that came from outside the Old Chicago restaurant where she had been performing just after midnight Saturday, Cheyenne police Capt. Jeff Schulz said. No one else was hurt.

Witnesses saw her husband, David Munis, in the area, but no one has reported seeing the shot fired, Schulz said. No weapon was found.
The estranged husband is a National Guardsman with sharpshooter training. Cops say they warned him on Friday to quit harassing his soon-to-be ex. The fatal shot came from the parking lot and went through a glass door.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Lynndie England -- remember her? -- is out of prison, after serving half of a three-year term for her part in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

What's she doing now? The Associated Press reports:
England, 24, contributed her knowledge of computers, electronics and graphics for the Keysey, W. Va., Strawberry Festival, which helped her land an unpaid position on the town's recreation board, said Roy Hardy, the England family’s attorney.

"When (council members) saw how hard she worked for the festival, they didn’t hesitate to put her on the board," said Hardy, who is also a board member. "If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have been able to pull off (the Strawberry Festival). She was an absolute asset."
From ass to asset. That's saying something.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona testified this week before Congress. No surprise that he said the office has been politicized. No surprise that he said he was ordered to not talk about certain controversial topics.

Big surprise at the current administration's insistence on lauding the leader. According to this New York Times account:
Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to a "prominent family" that he refused to name.

"I was specifically told by a senior person, 'Why would you want to help those people?'" Dr. Carmona said.
"Those people" being liberals, not the retarded. Or so we assume.


Three feet long. Ten pounds plus. A lobster worth wrestling.

The BBC reports:
Chris Hovard, from Wyke Regis, Dorset, was diving when the creature - weighing more than 10lbs - scuttled towards him near Weymouth jetty on Saturday.

The 51-year-old, who has been diving for 34 years, said he had never seen a crustacean "anywhere near this size".

The lobster, he named Lemmy after the lead singer of rock band Motorhead, is now at Weymouth's Sea Life Park.
Rescued from boiling water. Damn.


For real, this time. The former First Lady died at her home in Austin, Texas.

Who gets the point?

Matthew L. chimes in at 4:35 p.m., followed by Addie at 4:37, Gay and MIT at 4:50. and Tristan at 4:59. Inexplicably, Sniderman finished 6th, with a check-in at 5:08.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Matt Lemmon, a local journalist, now taking the blog plunge with A Running Commentary. Click it, read it, embrace it as you would a favorite, long-lost novel. And congrats to Matt for running a damned fine read.


Name: Holly Spreen. Age: 34. Arrested for: Child endangerment. Reason: Drunk enough to die.

Spreen is a special education teacher in New Hampshire. She was arrested after dropping (and dragging) her 2-year-old son aboard a cruise ship.

Sea Coast Online has the story:
Prosecutor Corey MacDonald told the Herald Spreen’s .49 blood alcohol concentration, which was measured by medical professionals at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, was high enough to induce a coma or cause death.

“I’d be dead,” he said.

The prosecutor alleges Spreen was already intoxicated when she showed up to board the cruise ship and that witnesses who saw her drop and drag the child reported their concerns to ship management who notified police. MacDonald said following Spreen’s arrest, her car was impounded and an empty wine bottle was found inside.

Through attorney John Driscoll, Spreen pleaded not guilty to the charges and told the court the child is staying with his father. The attorney said his client is a special education teacher in New Hampshire and according to public records she has been employed as a special education teacher in Seabrook for the past five years.
Spreen's trial is set for Aug. 14.


Going to (and in) Branson requires one thing: a pit stop at Shoji Tabuchi's bathroom. Not the one at his home (though we're sure it's nice) -- we're talking the cans at Tabuchi's theater. They're magnificent.

But a city in China may have created the most over-the-top bathroom in the world. CNN reports:
Officials in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing plan to ask Guinness World Records to have the free four-story public bathroom listed as the world's largest, state-run China Central Television reported Friday.

"We are spreading toilet culture. People can listen to gentle music and watch TV," said Lu Xiaoqing, an official with the Yangrenjie, or "Foreigners Street," tourist area where the bathroom is. "After they use the bathroom they will be very, very happy."
We're flush with factoids -- more than 1,000 toilets, more than 30,000 square feet. An Egyptian facade. Recorded music. Bet there's not a version of Tabuchi's "Flight of the Bumblebee" anywhere within earshot.


One thing wrong with the TASER is its inability to control more than one person at a time. We're in a multitasking world, kids; we need the ability to zap a crowd into herky-jerky land.

We are in luck. UPI reports:
A multi-shot TASER weapon will boost riot-control capabilities in the United States by controlling the streets through non-lethal means.

The 6-shot Shockwave is designed for military use and can launch multiple electric-shock prongs that will disable even the most determined protesters.

"The TASER Shockwave addresses the need for enhanced area denial and force protection at checkpoints where life-and-death decisions must be made instantaneously," CEO Rick Smith said Monday at the TASER Tactical Conference in Chicago.
Shockwave can launch in a 22-degree arc; it fires darts up to 25 feet. There's also a wireless version that can be fired from a special shotgun.

TASER stands for Tom A. Swift's Electric Rifle. No need for a fake gun, we said, blankly.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Or both? Ted Doudak, president of Riva Jewelry Manufacturing in Queens, N.Y., reportedly quoted the Bible around the office. One of his employees, John Fairchild, said Doudak talked about gays and lesbians being "repulsive."

One day, Fairchild mentioned that his daughter is a lesbian -- and by the way, he's gay. The next day he was fired, Fairchild said.

Fairchild sued. A judge ruled that he can quiz Doudak about his religious beliefs. The New York Daily News reports:
Fairchild's lawyer, William Kaiser, sought to quiz Doudak about his religious beliefs before trial, asking if Doudak "believes that 'homosexuality is a sin against God' ... believes that 'gays and lesbians are doomed to eternal damnation' ... [or] regards homosexuals as 'repulsive.'"

[Doudak's attorney, Todd] Krakower said that being forced to answer those questions would violate Doudak's First Amendment rights, and Fairchild would try to use Doudak's beliefs as proof he intended to illegally discriminate.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead last month ordered Doudak to answer, saying no one can use their right to religious freedom "as a cloak for acts of discrimination or as a justification of [discriminatory] practices."
Doudak has every right to his beliefs. He just can't use them to discriminate against another human being.

For a unique perspective from historians on gay discrimination in the U.S., click here. It's not as age-old an issue as you might think.


James "Pee Wee" Coleman turned 12 last month. He lived alone, on his own, away from his 26-year-old mother.

He died on Independence Day in his hometown of Camden, Penn. Cause of death: gunshot wound to the head.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Police arrived shortly after 11 p.m. to find the boy slumped in the back seat of a beat-up Oldsmobile, which was riddled with bullet holes and parked at the Branch Village housing project. More than 20 shell casings, most likely fired from an AK-47 assault rifle, were found nearby.

Robbery apparently was not the motive. Coleman's pockets were stuffed with cash - more than $500 - when investigators arrived. ...

"R.I.P. Pee-Wee" was scrawled in fresh black spray paint on a wall less than a block from where the 12-year-old was killed. On another corner, in oversized letters, was older graffiti that hinted Coleman may have aspired to be a drug-slinging gangster.

"GUN BOYZ. Pee-Wee-10th Street," it reads in weathered script.
The public schools couldn't confirm whether James Coleman ever attended classes, and Pennsylvania's Division of Youth and Family Services had never heard of him. "A kid with no supervision," a police lieutenant called him.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Kwok Wai-ming loved Po Shiu-fong so much that he forgave her when she poked her finger in his eye -- the left one -- and blinded him. That unfortunate incident happened six years ago. It was all in the past.

Was. Until Po accused Kwok of infidelity.

Reuters reports:
During the row, Po stabbed a plastic chopstick into his left eye, which she had already blinded six years ago when she poked it with her finger.

"Po became hysterical when she saw the wound and mopped it with a towel. The pair then went to bed," the paper said.

"The next morning they had another argument in which she grabbed a chopstick and stabbed Kwok's right eye," it said.

Two days later, he sought medical treatment and filed a police report against Po, whom he had dated since 1993.

The paper said he didn't report the attack six years ago, telling the court his silence was "a love sacrifice."
Blind in one eye? A love sacrifice. Blind in both eyes? Now Kwok can finally see. Po is off to jail for six months. Kwok says he can't -- won't -- forgive her.


What to do with a ton of excavated dinosaur bones? When in central Chia, boil them in soup. Or grind 'em up and use 'em as medicine.

The Associated Press reports:
Until last year, the fossils were being sold in Henan province as "dragon bones" at about 4 yuan (50 cents) per kilogram (2.2 pounds), scientist Dong Zhiming told The Associated Press.
Villagers apparently believed the bones were from flying dragons. And yes, the doc's name is Dong.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Henry Louis Mencken was an iconoclast. But sometimes he got it right.

Two Mencken quotes for this Fourth of July:
The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.
And, of course, this one:
Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
Patriots question authority. Don't let any sycophant tell you otherwise.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Saxophonist. Wrote and recorded the instrumental, "Yakety Sax." Reeders around the world mourn.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Cause of death: Lung cancer. She died in her Manhattan home Monday night. The New York Times has the obligatory canned obit:
Ms. Sills was America’s idea of a prima donna. Her plain-spoken manner and telegenic vitality made her a genuine celebrity and an invaluable advocate for the fine arts. Her life embodied an archetypal American story of humble origins, years of struggle, family tragedy and artistic triumph.

At a time when American opera singers routinely went overseas for training and professional opportunities, Ms. Sills was a product of her native country and did not even perform in Europe until she was 36. At a time when opera singers regularly appeared as guests on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” Ms. Sills was the only opera star who was invited to be guest host. She made frequent television appearances with Carol Burnett, Danny Kaye and even the Muppets.
Nothing like a canned obit to make your final mark on this plain. Ever wonder what would be in your ready-to-go obituary?


A vicious strain of the meme virus has infected Blogistan, triggering bloggers to reveal way too much information about themselves. One admits to typing in his underwear. Another cops to liking the music of John Denver.

From Blue Girl, Red State to Corner of the Sky to Fat Jack, the meme has now made it to CHATTER, where the faithful chief typist succumbs to the madness.

Herewith, eight things from that punk:
1) I've shared an enjoyable, albeit soggy, camping adventure with a member of the Bush Administration.

2) I've seen a UFO.

3) Almost any ABBA song will do. The exception: "The Winner Takes It All."

4) I attended an international Elvis Presley impersonators convention and did not swivel a hip or curl a lip.

5) I've eagled one hole while golfing.

6) With several equally goofy peers, I rode a ski lift to the top of Big Mountain, just to buy a drink. Skiers looked askance at my Chucks.

7) I have tattoos.

8) Thousands of clips later, and I think three or four stories I've written are pretty damned good. Maybe.
Now that the unpleasant factoids are through the system, it's time to infect the others. Marmot, Branson Blue Hair, MoJoe's In The Mailbox and Tony Messenger, consider yourself tagged. Come join the circle jerk.


Some drown in drink. Others wield the needle, mindless of the damage done. The reason is usually the same: to blot out the pain. To forget.

Without a Vulcan mind meld, it never really works. Sobriety eventually intrudes. Bad memories never die.

That could change. Scientists are working on a drug that deletes bad memories. Live Science has the story:
In a new study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, the drug propranolol is used along with therapy to "dampen" memories of trauma victims. They treated 19 accident or rape victims for ten days, during which the patients were asked to describe their memories of the traumatic event that had happened 10 years earlier. Some patients were given the drug, which is also used to treat amnesia, while others were given a placebo.

A week later, they found that patients given the drug showed fewer signs of stress when recalling their trauma.

Similar research led by Professor Joseph LeDoux has been carried out at New York University on rats; scientists were able to remove a specific memory from the brains of rats while leaving the rest of the animals' memories intact. An amnesia drug called U0126 was administered.
Or, as Alexander Pope once wrote:

How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd ...


Got an extra $135 million? You could buy the ultimate palace. In Transylvania.

As The Associated Press reports
The Bran Castle, perched on a cliff near Brasov in mountainous central Romania, is a top tourist attraction because of its ties to Prince Vlad the Impaler, the warlord whose cruelty inspired Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, "Dracula."

Legend has it that Vlad, who earned his nickname because of the way he tortured his enemies, spent one night in the 1400s at the castle.

Bran Castle was built in the 14th century to serve as a fortress to protect against the invading Ottoman Turks. The royal family moved into the castle in the 1920s, living there until the communist regime confiscated it from Princess Ileana in 1948.

After being restored in the late 1980s and following the end of communist rule in Romania, it gained popularity as a tourist attraction known as "Dracula's Castle."

In May 2006, the castle was returned to Princess Ileana's son, Archduke Dominic Habsburg.

Habsburg, a 69-year-old New York architect, pledged to keep it open as a museum until 2009 and offered to sell the castle last year to local authorities for $80 million, but the offer was rejected.

On Monday, he put the castle up for sale "to the right purchaser under the right circumstances," said Michael Gardner, chief executive of Baytree Capital, the company representing Habsburg. "The Habsburgs are not in the business of managing a museum."

No price was announced, though Gardner predicted the castle would sell for more than $135 million. He added that Habsburg will only sell it to a buyer "who will treat the property and its history with appropriate respect."
We've seen the Blade trilogy. We know what to do with vampires.