Today’s Compare/Contrast Paper Assignment

Okay, class, today I want you to write a compare/contrast paper where you describe the similarities and differences between the following statements and value judgments:

Spraying the departing White House press secretary with a fire hose: Funny!

Throwing a water balloon near Speaker of the House: Felony!

And Is A Photo With a Birth Announcement Now a Civil Right?

I just can’t stop getting riled over this item about the baby with the birth defects and its litiguous parents. As you remember, this baby died from its severe and disfiguring birth defects and its parents began a crusade to force a newspaper to print its picture with the birth announcement. These parents also filed civil rights complaints against the news paper.

Civil rights complaints? Getting your picture with your birth announcement is a CIVIL RIGHT now?

I imagine they framed this in some sort of discrimination against disabilities legalese. However, the exclusion of the photograph isn’t discrimination against the child, who is dead anyway (although its estate and legacy might turn out to be more than my annual salary). It’s editorial discretion.

Can I file a civil rights claim because I don’t get to grace the cover of Esquire or the centerfold of Playboy (those sexist schnucks are discriminating based on my gender!)?

I would hope whatever authorities see these complaints dismiss them easily, but common sense is proving harder and harder.

Rage Is Much Easier Than Grief

When your child is born with extreme, visible birth defects from which it dies from in five days, people expect you to grieve. I can sympathize.

Whereas you might want the child’s birth announcement for your scrapbook, that’s okay too. However, I also understand when the newspaper might balk at running a photograph of the child, especially a newborn with extreme facial birth defects. In normal circumstances, people might accuse the paper of sensationalism or insensitivity for running a photo like that.

I do not have any sympathy, however, for throwing a civil fit because the paper balked.

A couple of parents in St. Louis are doing just that. The mother, in between filing civil complaints against the publisher of the Suburban Journals, offered this bit of vocabularial ignorance:

    “He … used the word ‘disfigured,'” Kelly Kittinger said. “He needs sensitivity training if he’s going to be dealing with the public.”

Let’s go to the dictionary:

    dis·fig·ure (ds-fgyr)
    tr.v. dis·fig·ured, dis·fig·ur·ing, dis·fig·ures

    To mar or spoil the appearance or shape of; deform.

These particular birth defects (“Perjorative!” the PC banshees will soon wail) marred the appearance of the baby. Disfigured is an accurate description, and I’m certainly not in favor of sensitivity training that destroys accuracy to sooth inflamed feelings of an allegedly grieving mother.

However, this mother is subverting grief into “righteous” rage at the indignities afllicted upon her lost child by lashing out. Perhaps something good will then come of the child’s short life. Increased “sensitivity” and maybe a little settled-out-of-court jackpot for the grieving raging parents.

Also, kudos to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for its continuing coverage of this important breaking story and for showing its compassion for the “little people” by elevating trivial slights into crusades while humping the legs of big corporate interests in St. Louis (publicly funded stadiums, anyone?). An earlier story this week described the birth defects and their disfiguring nature. The linked story does not. By Sunday’s paper, perhaps you, oh monopolithic dispenser of wisdom, will have forgotten why the Suburban Journal balked at displaying the picture at all.

Rage Is Much Easier Than Grief

When your child is born with extreme, visible birth defects from which it dies from in five days, people expect you to grieve. I can sympathize.

Whereas you might want the child’s birth announcement for your scrapbook, that’s okay too. However, I also understand when the newspaper might balk at running a photograph of the child, especially a newborn with extreme facial birth defects. In normal circumstances, people might accuse the paper of sensationalism or insensitivity for running a photo like that.

I do not have any sympathy, however, for throwing a civil fit because the paper balked.

A couple of parents in St. Louis are doing just that. The mother, in between filing civil complaints against the publisher of the Suburban Journals, offered this bit of vocabularial ignorance:

    “He … used the word ‘disfigured,'” Kelly Kittinger said. “He needs sensitivity training if he’s going to be dealing with the public.”

Let’s go to the dictionary:

    dis·fig·ure (ds-fgyr)
    tr.v. dis·fig·ured, dis·fig·ur·ing, dis·fig·ures

    To mar or spoil the appearance or shape of; deform.

These particular birth defects (“Perjorative!” the PC banshees will soon wail) marred the appearance of the baby. Disfigured is an accurate description, and I’m certainly not in favor of sensitivity training that destroys accuracy to sooth inflamed feelings of an allegedly grieving mother.

However, this mother is subverting grief into “righteous” rage at the indignities afllicted upon her lost child by lashing out. Perhaps something good will then come of the child’s short life. Increased “sensitivity” and maybe a little settled-out-of-court jackpot for the grieving raging parents.

Also, kudos to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for its continuing coverage of this important breaking story and for showing its compassion for the “little people” by elevating trivial slights into crusades while humping the legs of big corporate interests in St. Louis (publicly funded stadiums, anyone?). An earlier story this week described the birth defects and their disfiguring nature. The linked story does not. By Sunday’s paper, perhaps you, oh monopolithic dispenser of wisdom, will have forgotten why the Suburban Journal balked at displaying the picture at all.

A Gentle Reminder

Remember, dear reader, the number 1 hit song from C+C Music Factory was not entitled “Everybody Dance Now” even though that’s what “Zelma Davis” shouted several times during the song, between Freedom Williams’ rapping. The correct title for this song is “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)“. Please remember to request it by its full name the next time you’re in a honky tonk.

Tidbit: The reason I enclosed Zelma’s name in scare quotes is because VH1.com asserts that she merely lip synched vocals performed by others. Talk about a thing that makes you go hmmmm.

Reader Survey Response for Speakeasy Magazine

As some of you know, I fancy myself a “Writer” who dabbles in fiction but also keeps his or her, sorry, Proper Writer Ettiquette sneaking in, MY eyes on more literary fiction, just in case I write a short story in which no crimes occur, no swords are swung, and nobody disappears into a quantum universe. Market research, don’t cha know?

So anyways, I picked up a copy of Speakeasy, a writers’ musing kind of magazine which contains a bunch of personal essays typically grouped around a theme by professorial writers. I liked it well enough to subscribe, so now I get this magazine delivered every week. Of course, since I was once voted by the Marquette University English Deparment staff as the Most Likely Not To Return To the University (I think I was the only one in the program, and certainly I seem to hold that distinction), I’m not a typical subscriber.

In fact, I work for a living. Well, I write software documentation, and it’s true you can put an analogy on the SAT that says Work:Technical Writing::Play: and make the correct answer b.) Napping. I spend 40 hours a week, 49 weeks a year, turning the great Corporate Millstone. Oh, and I vote Republican. So I’m not exactly a typical Speakeasy subscriber.

So I was ever so pleased to read my May/June 2003 “Speak Out! Voicing Dissent: A Special Section On Writing and Politics” issue. Not only does it amuse me to read the prognostications and pre-emptive outrage for the coming war with Iraq that these sorts of magazines provide (read any Harper’s from the winter and spring for fun), but it included the Speakeasy Reader Survey.

I have such a blast shattering stereotypes of typical readership that I had to respond:


How do you get Speakeasy?

 X I subscribe
 _ At the newstand or bookstore
 _ Borrow from a friend
 _ At the dentist’s or doctor’s office
 _ I’m a Loft member
How do you read Speakeasy?

 _ From cover to cover
 _ I’ll finish reasing most of the issue before the next arrives
 X I might read a few articles that catch my eye
What do you do with your copy of Speakeasy?

 _ So far, I have been saving them
 _ I pass it on to ____ (this # of) friends
 X It goes out with the recycling
Are you…..

 _ A writer
 _ A reader
 X A writer who reads
 _ A reader who writes
If you consider yourself a writer, what do you like to write?

Genre fiction, essays, user’s guides
Where do you write (in a café, at home, in the garage…)?

In a home office
Has your work been published?

 X Yes

 _ No
As a reader or writer, what do you value most in Speakeasy? Why do you read Speakeasy?

I enjoy the brief, lightweight musings.
Which of the following actions has Speakeasy inspired?
[I assumed they meant in me]

 _ I bought a book reviewed or advertised in the magazine
 _ I developed a colossal case of writer’s block
 _ I read more by a consulting author
 _ I brought a Speakeasy theme into my writing or discussion
What types of books do you like to read (poetry, mysteries, fiction, cookbooks…)?

Mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction
Where do you typically get your books?

 _ Library
 _ Borrow from friends
 X Purchase
Where do you purchase most of your books?

 _ Chain Bookstores

 _ Independent, local bookstores
 _ The Internet
 _ Catalogs
 X Garage Sales
How many books (of all types) did you buy last year?

 _ Less than 5 [sic]
 _ 5 to 9
 _ 10 to 14
 _ 15 to 19
 X 20 or more
What else do you like to shop for?

 _ Clothes – I’m a fashion maven

 _ Music – I love (circle):
          Rock and roll
          Jazz
          Classical
          Other: _______________
 _ Furniture, housewares – my home is my castle
 _ Anything, but only on the Internet
 _ The parking lots? The crowds? I’d rather read
 _ Other __________________
Where do you buy most of your food?

 X Supermarket

 _ Farmer’s market
 _ Co-op
 _ Health food or specialty store
 _ Other ____________________
What is the ideal beverage to accompany your reading or writing?

 _ Hot cocoa
 _ Orange juice
 X Beer
 _ Wine
 _ A good martini or two
 _ Coffee
 _ Other _____________
While writing or reading, do you like listening to music?

 X Yes

 _ No
What kind of music?

Jazz
What other magazines do you read regularly?

 _ Poets & Writers
 _ Utne

 _ The Sun

 _ Outside

 _ The New Yorker

 _ Bon Appetit

 _ Rolling Stone

 X Other

    The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Family Handyman, Handy, St. Louis Homes, Intercom, Technical
    Communicator, America’s 1st Freedom, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Spin, Esquire, FHM,
    Writer’s Digest, The Writer

    [I had to include an attachment to list these, which represent only my current active
    subscriptions.]
In the last year, how many times did you attend the following cultural events?

Live music? _1_
Live theater? _0_
Art gallery or museum? _1_
Movies? _10_
Publication reading? _0_
Spoken word event? _0_
Book group? _0_
Writers’ group? _0_
Environmental group? _0_
Political forum? _0_
Political demonstration? _0_
Other _0_
[Heck, I didn’t even go to that many hockey games this year.]
Have you ever written a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper or magazine?

 _ Yes

 X No
[Of course, my current favorite magazine is The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
You don’t write too many responsive letters of outrage to genre digest magazines. It has, however,
rejected my short fiction submissions.]

What kind of television do you watch?

 _ Only the news

 _ Cooking shows – as many as possible
 _ I indulge in the occasional sitcom or dram–a good story is a good story
 _ Sports
 X TV? I never touch the stuff, give me books!
[Apparently, this question refers to what type of television content you watch, not
what kind of television upon which you watch it. We use a 25″ Sharp.]

What is your favorite literary moment involving a car?

None
[Who can name any literary moment involving a car?]
What kind of car do you imagine yourself driving?

 _ Honda sedan

 _ BMW convertible
 _ SUV
 _ Hybrid vehicle
 X Vintage muscle car
 _ Why drive? I own a bicycle
[I doubt by “hybrid vehicle” they mean like a
DUKW, but that would be a cool vehicle to
have. Of course, by “Vintage Muscle Car, I mean a 1984 Ford Mustang GT with a 5.0 liter
engine.]

What kind of car do you actually drive?

GMC Sonoma pick-up
What’s your favorite travel activity?

 _ Theme parks

 _ Cruises
 _ Hiking/biking
 _ Ecotourism
 _ Gambling
 X Activity? I prefer to lie on the beach [or sit in a coffeeshop] with a book
Where have you traveled in the past year?

 X The continental United States
 _ Canada
 _ Alaska, Hawaii, or the Caribbean
 _ Central or Latin America
 _ Europe
 _ Asia
 _ Africa
 _ Other ____
[Nobody tell Tim Blair that
Australia doesn’t get its own check box, the same as Antarctica.]

How do you make travel plans?

 _ I’ve had the same travel agent for years

 X Internet, Internet, Internet
 _ Plans? I point wes (east, south, north) and drive
[Better answer for me: Say “Okay” to
beautiful wife.]

Age

31
Gender

 X M

 _ F
Education

 X High school
 _ Technical school
 X Some college
 X Undergraduate degree
 _ Advanced degree
[An undergraduate degree in philosophy leads one to recognize that an undergraduate degree
or an advanced degree would require some college as a prerequisite.]

Occupation

 _ Professional

 X Technical

 _ Business owner

 _ Educator or academic

 X Writer, artist, or other creative field

 _ Self-employed

[I wanted to check “academic,” too, since no one really reads the friendly manuals so my
job is largely academic, but I doubt that’s what they meant.]

Household Size

 _ 1 adult

 X 2+ adults _0_ Number of children

Annual household income

 _ Up to $30K

 _ $30K to $40K

 _ $40K to $50K
 _ $50K to $75K
 _ $75K to $100K
 _ $100K to $250K
 _ More than $250K
[It says check one, but what do you do if you make $30K a year? There are two check boxes!
Note that I have not filled this out for you, dear readers, because as my maternal grandfather, Grampa
Naperschevski, used to say, “Do not reveal sensitive financial information on the Internet.”]

City of residence

Maryland Heights
State of residence

Missouri

All right, it’s not the Political Compass quiz, but it’s something, and I don’t doubt I fit into the minority of subscribers who voted for Bush for president and will do so again.

I’ve subscribed to slicks every since I was a lonely conservative voice in Writing Intensive English program at college, when I spent twenty bucks on Harper’s instead of, well, textbooks. I hope that my answers to surveys like these remind the editors that a variety of viewpoints consume their material, and to remember that pick-up driving people in the reddest part of the red states can be thoughtful, inquisitive, and appreciative of good prose.

But it’s too easy for me to think that if the magazines do notice the low numbers who responded atypically don’t matter, or were merely shining them on.

A Gentle Reminder

Remember, dear reader, the number 1 hit song from C+C Music Factory was not entitled “Everybody Dance Now” even though that’s what “Zelma Davis” shouted several times during the song, between Freedom Williams’ rapping. The correct title for this song is “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)“. Please remember to request it by its full name the next time you’re in a honky tonk.

Tidbit: The reason I enclosed Zelma’s name in scare quotes is because VH1.com asserts that she merely lip synched vocals performed by others. Talk about a thing that makes you go hmmmm.

Support the Biking Wife

As some of you know, my beautiful wife has a bike now, a biking team of which she is a part, and an urge to ride 150 miles in two days to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

I urge you to visit her personal MS 150 page and sponsor her for a couple of dollars.

The more you all sponsor her, the less we have to dip into beer money to meet her goal.

Thank you, that is all.

Support the Biking Wife

As some of you know, my beautiful wife has a bike now, a biking team of which she is a part, and an urge to ride 150 miles in two days to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

I urge you to visit her personal MS 150 page and sponsor her for a couple of dollars.

The more you all sponsor her, the less we have to dip into beer money to meet her goal.

Thank you, that is all.

Bang The Dustbin Lid Slowly

Bono, one of the idle and bored rich, is looking forward to a campaign of civil disobedience until all national debt in the world is forgiven. Well, all national debt for the selected countries who have trouble paying their bills now.

Bono has not announced his plans for the period when welfare states in Europe and the rest of the Western world bankrupt themselves from coddling the impoverished everywhere, but he is expected to unveil a double standard whereby those nations should be held accountable for their debts.

Fun With Statistics

Meanwhile, back in the Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman comments (registration required) on President Bush’s trip to Africa and wonders whether we’re helping or hindering Africa’s case with monetary aid. Good question. Unfortunately, he includes this interesting factoid:

This week, he became only the third U.S. president to visit Africa in the last 25 years.

By my dead reckoning, since 1978 we have had only 5 presidents (Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush) serve, and of those 5, only 3 have served their complete terms. At very worst, of our last five presidents, 60% have gone to Africa. I’m not certain 60% merits an only.

Bang The Dustbin Lid Slowly

Bono, one of the idle and bored rich, is looking forward to a campaign of civil disobedience until all national debt in the world is forgiven. Well, all national debt for the selected countries who have trouble paying their bills now.

Bono has not announced his plans for the period when welfare states in Europe and the rest of the Western world bankrupt themselves from coddling the impoverished everywhere, but he is expected to unveil a double standard whereby those nations should be held accountable for their debts.

Send an Unsolicited E-Mail, Go To Jail!

CNN reports on the latest Congressional Zero-Intolergence law, which will throw spammers in jail for up to two years for a non-violent offense. That’s right. Send an unsolicited e-mail to someone, go to JAIL! I’ll have to watch my step when it’s time to send out next year’s Atari Party invitations.

The story says:

    The bill also won praise from law-enforcement officials, who said spammers who now shrug off civil penalties as a cost of doing business may think twice when faced with a jail sentence of up to two years.

    “We believe criminal sanctions will make a big difference in Virginia,” Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore told the House subcommittee on crime.

  1. How many spammers have been identified and penalized civilly? Not many, but hey, if you’re going to fire aimlessly and not hit anything, it’s best to have a full quiver of punishment arrows so you can just keep firing.
  2. law enforcement officials“? But Jerry Kilgore is an elected politician, undoubtedly only stopping by the Attorney General’s office on his way to bigger and better elected offices.

Undoubtedly, unsolicited e-mail is annoying, but it’s a stupid target for legislation and law enforcement with the current state of deficits and the continued existence of violent crime which, you know, actually hurts people.

Send an Unsolicited E-Mail, Go To Jail!

CNN reports on the latest Congressional Zero-Intolergence law, which will throw spammers in jail for up to two years for a non-violent offense. That’s right. Send an unsolicited e-mail to someone, go to JAIL! I’ll have to watch my step when it’s time to send out next year’s Atari Party invitations.

The story says:

    The bill also won praise from law-enforcement officials, who said spammers who now shrug off civil penalties as a cost of doing business may think twice when faced with a jail sentence of up to two years.

    “We believe criminal sanctions will make a big difference in Virginia,” Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore told the House subcommittee on crime.

  1. How many spammers have been identified and penalized civilly? Not many, but hey, if you’re going to fire aimlessly and not hit anything, it’s best to have a full quiver of punishment arrows so you can just keep firing.
  2. law enforcement officials“? But Jerry Kilgore is an elected politician, undoubtedly only stopping by the Attorney General’s office on his way to bigger and better elected offices.

Undoubtedly, unsolicited e-mail is annoying, but it’s a stupid target for legislation and law enforcement with the current state of deficits and the continued existence of violent crime which, you know, actually hurts people.

My Kind of Month

According to the Onion today:

    Shape Magazine Declares July ‘Let Yourself Go’ Month


    WOODLAND HILLS, CA—Shape, the women’s fitness magazine, has officially declared July “Let Yourself Go” Month. “You’ve toned those abs and burned the flab in time for bikini season… Now it’s time for a meatball sandwich,” wrote Shape editor-in-chief Barbara Harris in her ‘From The Editor’ column. “Come on, live a little. Don’t be a tight-ass with a tight ass. Eat, lounge, and slouch your way to a happier, more satisfied you.” Features in the issue include “Girth Equals Mirth: Six Sure-Fire Techniques For Broadening That Belly,” “Wrinkles: The More You Have, The More You’ve Lived,” and “Reduce Unwanted Stress By Not Giving A Fuck.”

By reprinting this, I realize I have just become an R-rated blog. Sorry, Ms. Igert. But look on the bright side. Apparently, the Onion uses American rules for putting commas in quotes even when the commas don’t appear in the article titles, unlike certain stubborn son-in-laws.