Friday, November 30, 2007

Check Your Head

People tease your Lightning Round editor about his long hair, which he is attempting to style into an 18th Century-appropriate ponytail without a wig. It's a minor distraction, however, compared to the taunting some ladies are in for now.

DUMBING DOWN. A French study finds merely looking at blondes drive down intelligence in men... and women, too.

As Cox News Service reports:
Thierry Meyer, joint author of the study and professor of social psychology at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, said that the study proves a general phenomenon.

"There's a decrease in performance after an unobtrusive exposure to a stereotype about people who have the reputation to be cognitively impaired," he said.

In plainer language, blonds might make people act in a less intelligent manner because the people believe -- whether they want to admit it or not -- that they are in the presence of someone who's not very smart.
Our crack Lightning Round researchers have another term for it: adaptation to habitat. Theories aside however, we recently uncovered strong evidence to back up the French theory, and it comes from a news broadcast on WESH in Orlando, Florida:



Listen children and you shall hear the sounds of remotes clicking.

CONQUER YOUR IGNORANCE! Read/WriteWeb offers "A Big List of Sites That Teach You How To Do Stuff." Throw this one in your bookmark closet. In case of stupidity, click.

THAT WASN'T IN THE SCRIPT... OH, MAYBE IT WAS. TMZ.com, that tabloid site which is more reliable than many would like to admit, claims Marie Osmond's much-gawked-about faint on "Dancing With The Stars" was planned and scripted. But here's what raised our eyes:
Our moles say Marie has a writer on set at all times, prompting her with witty conversation. One on-set source says he was in position when Marie went down -- and didn't miss a beat.
Marie's handler denies this, of course, but we all know the long tradition of entertainers using outside writers. The late great Bob Hope had a staff of joke writers on retainer. Marie, if this is true, cut the chain. You didn't need a writer to become famous, and you certainly don't need one to dance. Besides, there's a strike going on... you wouldn't be employing a scab, now, would you?

THANK YOU AND GOODBYE. Is this the job an American wouldn't take? An illegal immigrant is lauded for helping a 9-year-old boy after a car accident near Nogales, Arizona. He couldn't save his mother, but he did help keep the boy warm until help arrived. Authorities praised him, but they still deported him.

From the AP:
"I am a father of four children. For that, I stayed," Manuel de Jesus Córdova Soberanes said in Spanish from his home in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora. "I never could have left him. Never."

Authorities said Cordova may have saved the life of 9-year-old Christopher Buchleitner, whose mother was killed when their van ran off a cliff in a remote area north of the Mexico-Arizona border on Thanksgiving Day.

Accosted by the media in the past few days, Córdova has become a bit of a hometown celebrity. Contacted Wednesday, Córdova asked about the whereabouts of the boy. "I'd like to know how he is, how he feels," Córdova said.
The Mexican Consulate's office in Nogales is trying to get Córdova a visa so he can come back across the border legally for some measure of formal appreciation. The Minuteman Project plans to give Córdova the "Git Yer Butt Back To Mexico" award.

THE BIG FALLDOWN. With people discussing your Lightning Round editor's recent game-show exploits, our closing moment of mirth comes from an episode of that 70's game show "The Big Showdown" where host Jim Peck got the slip.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Disqualified... And Then "Dissed"

I have read all sorts of responses to my appearance on The Price Is Right. Many of you have been supportive and sympathetic. But I cannot go on without addressing a persistent and annoying allegation raised at me.

In essence, it's this: "You [insert favorite pejorative here], don't you know you can't win on a network game show if you work for one of the network's stations?"

And its corollary: "You [pejorative], an affiliate is a subsidiary! What a moron!"

Let's begin with the second allegation first. As defined by dictionary.com:

n. pl. sub·sid·i·ar·ies
1. One that is subsidiary to another.
2. A subsidiary company.
3. Music - A theme subordinate to a main theme or subject.
KOLD is not owned or controlled by CBS. We have a programming contract with them, which we pay the network for. That's what an affiliation agreement is. None of the people at KOLD are involved in the production of CBS shows. We simply take them off the satellite, promote them and play 'em. That's all.

As for the main allegation: that I should have known better. I will admit I was naive, and I didn't want to ask lest I get disqualified in line. But I honestly felt I was interpreting the rules fairly. Critics: how many of you would have done the same thing in my position? How many of you would have seen "a loophole" by omission? I know my explanation -- that nothing was said about affiliates -- sounds like a weak, "don't ask, don't tell" policy. But that's the way I interpreted the announcement.

And let me offer this argument: in the growing world of octopus media conglomerates, just how far do we want to stretch the rule of ineligibility? Should a Blockbuster clerk be ineligible because he works for a company connected to a company that owns another company producing the show? I see no need to take eligibility rules as far as they go.

If you are associated with the show producer, you shouldn't be eligible. If you are associated with the network, you shouldn't be eligible. If you are associated with the show sponsor, you shouldn't be eligible. Beyond that, we need to think seriously. For crying out loud, let's draw some reasonable lines. The Price Is Right is great for the wide variety of people it draws into its contestant pool. The fear of another quiz show scandal should not have producers tilting at windmills.

I didn't get my prizes. I never will. That should show you the system works. And why are you so upset by what you see as ignorance on my part? In your eyes, I got what was coming to me. Hundreds of people who didn't get picked to "Come On Down" still have a chance to play and win. I took nothing from them.

My bosses and co-workers at KOLD have been nothing but supportive. Now you know why I have stayed with this station for eight years, triple the lifespan of the typical TV producer at one station. Yes, I'm keeping my job. Helping keep a newscast number one is healthy job security.

For you conspiracy theorists: My station did not know I was going to be on the show before I actually got on. Nobody "got me in." I'm just a person who grew up watching this show and wanted to play. That's all. This wasn't a cooked-up promotional stunt.

And to that person who chided me for how I saw this as a test of faith and wanted me to "STFU" -- I'm praying for you.

The "Price" Of Fame

My episode of the The Price Is Right has aired. For those of you who missed it, here's some clips.

All clips courtesy CBS/FreemantleMedia/KOLD-TV. No infringement is intended.

ACT I: In which an enthusiastic and surprised Christopher makes the perfect bid and loses a comfortable bed

video

As I watch this, I keep thinking, Boy do I look like a goofball, waving my hands around like that. Notice that I'm so full of mirth I almost forget to look at the gorgeous model and the camera up for bids. Also notice how I nearly fall on the stairs while running up on stage. C'mon, Christopher, act your age, not your shoe size.

ACT II: In which Christopher gets one spin -- or two -- at redemption.

video

My brother was mad because I didn't give him a shout-out. We Make History is a historical re-enactment group I'm involved with. And yes, that wheel is a bit heavy, but even a weakling like me can spin it. Notice the edit when I told Drew I was a TV news producer. He told me "I wish you many fires," but obviously, CBS had to cut that crack out when all those homes in Southern California went up in smoke.

ACT III: In which it is disclosed that Christopher receives nothing.

Here is the disclaimer added to the end of the show to trumpet my ineligibility, read by Rich Fields.

video

EPILOGUE: In which Christopher discusses it all on the Noon newscast.

Drew alluded to it when I spun the big wheel, and my appearance made the "kicker" segment of KOLD News 13 at Noon the day the show aired. Our noon producer was kind enough to let me onto the set for a brief interview.

video

So there you have it: my national TV debut, bare legs, wild hair and all. The game show message boards have been buzzing about me and my disqualification. Many people have sent me kind words -- and you can guess what the other half said.

I will respond to some of the allegations raised about me in a subsequent post. But to summarize, yes, I had a feeling I might be found ineligible, but I truly believed I was eligible based on what was told to me and what I read.

And no, a subsidiary is not the same as an affiliate. KOLD has a programming contract with CBS. We are not owned or controlled by them, as a subsidiary would be.

For more on my Price Is Right experience, click here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"It's Over."
MSgt. Behling And PODS Reach Settlement

MSgt. Bradley Behling will not be seeing PODS in court after the storage company mistakenly sold all his possessions while he was in Iraq. Today he tells me a mediation session a week and a half ago produced a reasonable settlement.

Neither MSgt. Behling nor I can publicly disclose the terms of the settlement, but to paraphrase his sentiments, PODS basically paid a lawyer to tell them to do the right thing. From some of the facts that came to light in this case -- which I also can't disclose -- PODS would have been trounced in court, likely for millions. This case is tailor-made for courtroom drama: a huge corporation versus an honored Air Force Sergeant who has served in Iraq, a father with a family now facing a huge personal and financial struggle because of a gargantuan boo-boo nobody wants to take responsibility for. PODS got out with its hide.

This settlement will not replace MSgt. Behling's most personal and prized possessions sold out from under him. Hopefully somebody can locate those and return them. But both he and I thank you all for your prayers and support. No doubt Thanksgiving was a truly thankful event in his household.

I'll continue to update you with any new developments.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Joyful And Triumphant

What is this feeling? The spirit of Christmas, the way it should be, as celebrated by the family of We Make History.

From the journal of Pvt. Christopher Francis of the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry

"Are you seeking a partner for a dance?" inquires the Confederate soldier of a young lady in front of him.

"No," she says.

He is puzzled. She certainly looks like she is seeking somebody amid the crowded ballroom floor, swirling with the festive colors of Christmas-themed gowns and tailcoats and fellow recruits in their dress uniforms. Perhaps he has heard it wrong in the din of the bustle and laughter of couples forming lines. And if she is not seeking a partner, why is she still standing there before him?

"You were not seeking a partner?" the soldier clarifies.

"Oh, no, I wasn't attached to one," she adds in a hurry.

Relieved, the soldier escorts her to a forming set, apologizing for any misunderstanding, which she accepts with a smile.

At this festive Victorian celebration, the ballroom is a living scrapbook to him, the many faces of friends eliciting memory after memory of moments on the battlefield or the dance floor -- men he fought with, ladies he danced with. A warmth possesses him, stronger than he has felt in many months, and it affixes a smile upon his face even through the most breathtaking dances. He wishes to cavort with every lady in the room, even though he knows it is impossible. But he can try.

The venue is almost too small at times to contain the lines of dancers, either circling around or lining up in sets. Couples pass back and forth among themselves, guided by call, swinging each other and sashaying down the lines to ubiquitous clapping and stomping. The spirited recruit skips about his dancing companion, and one could draw a straight line between their eyes and hearts. He bows often to her as a flourishing touch, catching a smile every now and then until the music ceases and he praises her.

"Thank you so much for a wonderful dance!" he compliments with a bow more apropos to the 18th Century than 19th. "You did that beautifully." He turns to the other couples in the set with bows. "All of you did."

In an exhaustive state of bliss, ladies fan themselves, and still they are ready for a waltz.

A lady in a red gown and bonnet approaches the merrily winded Confederate. To his surprise and delight, she asks him for a waltz, which he accepts with another courtly bow.

Some couples tread lightly. Others twirl in ballroom ecstasy, leading each other as forerunners of Fred and Ginger in another place and time.

"I'll keep it simple," the gentleman soldier says, admitting his pedestrian waltzing ability. It gnaws in him, this inability to sweep a lady off her feet, as they say. But the kind and gentle lady minds not a bit in the moment of simple grace, and she asks him for another dance before the evening is through.

"You have my word, ma'am," the recruit says, his Virginia drawl a soothing cloak of reassurance. "I keep my word."

He does, on the very next set dance, not wanting to be distracted with all the beauty surrounding him.

* * *

The ladies and gentlemen of the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry stand about, relaxing and socializing between dances and eagerly anticipating the holidays.

The young ladies voice their anticipation. "Christmas is my favorite time of the year!"

"Caroling, beautiful decorations, so much joy. There's no other season quite like it."

"And Christmas is finally here!"

The talk turns to a Ladies' Chorale fundraiser to procure medical supplies for the troops. But what do the Virginia gentlemen have to offer?

"What would there be to prevent you and these other fine gentlemen from giving it a go?" a lady asks.

The enthusiastic private cautions her: "No doubt your intentions are the best, but I'm afraid after hearing some of us gentlemen sing that it might be the audience would require the medical supplies!"

Encouraged on, the recruits agree, if the ladies can endure it.

"God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas Day,
To save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray,
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy..."


The Virginia ladies reward them with applause, but now the challenge is offered. "Let us see if you might be able to top that."

It takes only one of them top that -- a young Miss Fox.

"Once in royal Davids city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child..."


Her solo voice is a candle in the night, a glowing light of beauty in the darkness, enhanced by the cavernous heights of the ballroom to an ethereal tonality.

The 1st Virginia gentlemen add to the harmony, and later, the entire gathering joins in for a round of hymns. Merely calling them Christmas Carols would understate the peace flowing through each word lifted up and echoing forth from every corner of the room, deep into the hearts of the assembled.

"O Come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of angels;
O Come, let us adore Him,
O Come, let us adore Him,
O Come, let us adore Him,
Christ The Lord!"


"Isn't this a little of what Heaven will be like," the host notes of the singing and worshiping together.

And once again, it happens. The gentlemen recruit finds his eyes misty with tears of Thanksgiving, overcome with joy but puzzled at why it always manifests itself in this way... wishing he could halt time in its march.

* * *

"Gentlemen, about face!"

The recruits and civilians turn away from the ladies as they remove one shoe each and toss the footwear in the center of the room. Before the imminent charge, their commander warns them of the dangerous task before them. And if anyone is slow...

"Shoot him!" a soldier cries from the rear rank.

Gentlemen pounce on the shoes like mongrels over scraps, save for the Confederate recruit, who has devised his own strategy. As fingers fly over laces and heels, he gracefully steps into the pile, plucks a neglected Capezio, and steps out again, holding the prize high above him to locate its owner, his partner for the next dance. She slips it on before he can offer to fit it himself.

Less is more, the gentleman soldier concludes as he and his beautiful dancing partner begin another set dance, one with only four other couples. They have space to move and flow their steps together.

A few dances later, he lets the rhythm of a waltz flow through him with a woman in a blue colonial gown. When he saw her, his mind flashed back to another waltz he shared with her at the beginning of the year -- his remedy to seeing the heartbreaking sight of her dancing by herself.

Now he delights in a circle mixer, stately balancing his partner back and forth and changing places with her, doing the same with his neighbor, and then repeating it all the way around before forming left- and right-handed stars: one hand joined to the others, the other hand raised in the air as he steps to the majesty of three quarter time. The others follow his example and raise their free hands as well.

"That's it!" the gentleman soldier encourages. "Be joyous!"

A young lad offers him a question: "In the stars, why do you raise your other hand?"

"My heart is all in the dance," he explains, adding that it is a little bit of 18th Century flourish he is pulling forward into the 19th Century.

Stateliness and flourish dissolves as the recruit finds himself in a predicament -- bumbling in the middle of a beloved Virginia Reel.

His set, lined with the finest ladies and gentlemen of the 1st Virginia, gets behind the call, and now their moves are out of line with the caller. His setmates call one move. The host calls another.

What on earth am I supposed to do? the soldier frets. What is going on here? This is our commander calling us here! Is this the Virginia Reel or the Arizona Reel?

But rebels will be rebels on this dance, and so the set continues on its own course, separate from the caller but eventually catching up. The recruit hopes he and his partner will be top couple once again to atone for his mistakes, but instead, everything progresses into vigorous swinging and turning at the command of the caller.

A few couples hurry back into set position, desiring more, looking longingly at the host, hoping for a few more iterations. The dance has lasted barely ten minutes, hardly breaking a sweat for the hardy 1st Virginia! Unfortunately for them and the fretful private, this is all the reeling for the night. Atonement will have to wait.

* * *

"You have not danced with me yet all night," a young lady informs the Virginia private on the next to the last dance of the festivities.

Good grief, the recruit wonders, has she been longing for me to dance with her all night -- or longer?

He bows to her in acceptance. "Well, let me rectify this situation right now!" His dance with her is short lived, however, as another circle mixer follows with frequent partner changes.

Time allows for one more slow waltz with another young lady, one who admits she does not know how to waltz very well.

"Not to worry," the recruit reassures her, "I am not a great waltzer."

She opens up to him, telling him of a time at a wedding when she felt disappointed in her dancing ability. The recruits heart sinks as she relates a story to him of pressure to dance well. He keeps his steps simple, remembering what he has told another waltzing companion earlier in the evening:

"We are all full of grace."


More pictures, more joy, more words of warmth and appreciation here.

COMING IN JANUARY: The Realm Of The Merry

Friday, November 23, 2007

Leftovers, Anyone?

Writers' strike? No, no. Hunger strike, maybe. Your Lightning Round staffers are way too stuffed to drag ourselves back to the keyboards and plow through the depths of wire copy. We swear it's not the tryptophan. But never fear -- in the holiday spirit, we submit our second annual edition of stories and sites we've been meaning to talk about but pushed aside for a later date... like now.

HIGH-CLASS CONDEMNATION. Many people curse their neighbors, but it's the rare person who can phrase disapproval in a manner you almost savor. BoreMe.com offers several examples of when insults had class:
"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know."
Abraham Lincoln

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
Groucho Marx

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."
Oscar Wilde
We submit one more from that great figure Foghorn Leghorn: "That girl's about as sharp as a bowl of wet mush!"

YOU'RE NOT ALONE. Behold the misunderstood introvert, a personality type dear to your Lightning Round editor's heart -- having been one himself, more or less. Who are they? What's wrong with them? Why are they so lonely, or are they really?

Jonathan Rauch offers a guide to caring for this puzzling personality type:
Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
Rauch busts several myths, even laying the foundation for an Introverts' Rights Movement:
We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."
Yes, silence is golden.

PUT YOUR HAND DOWN. Be very careful in giving a thumbs-up when overseas. And be especially careful with that "V" for Victory sign too. What you don't know could get you punched out. It seems our innocent and happy expressions of digits have rude and obscene meanings abroad. Language Trainers blog breaks it all down in graphic detail. You -- and your hands -- have been warned.

TO TELL THE TRUTH. So you can't afford a lie detector? We can't either. But Ken Osborn of Entrepreneur.com has come up with some dead giveaways to fibbing, among them:
Nose touch: We have erectile tissues in our noses, which engorge with blood when we lie. This causes a tingling or itching sensation that requires a nose touch to satisfy. The absence of a nose touch doesn't guarantee truth, but the presence of a nose touch often means deception. Of course, sometimes a person will touch his or her nose because of a non-deceptive cause, such as a cold. With some practice, you can quickly learn to distinguish a deceptive nose touch from something innocent.
We call it "Pinocchio syndrome." Poor guy. He didn't just itch, he had to get out the belt sander.

REAL TIME? New York City and Matamoros, Mexico sit thousands of miles apart, but they share a strong bond: both are bastions of the ubiquitous fake Rolex watch. Mind you, many of the fakes we've seen are not half bad. But for the uneducated eye, quality is blind.

ProductDose.com has advice on keeping it real, including one obvious giveaway:
The second hand on a genuine Rolex watch features a smooth and continuous movement that often cannot be duplicated by fake watches. Their movements are often in small, jerky increments.
And if it's running backwards, that's not good either.

"JUBILATION! SHE LOVES ME AGAIN!" And finally, in our tribute to beautiful traditions and colorful dances -- your Lighning Round editor has enjoyed both -- we offer this fusion of past and present. You will never think of Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecila" the same way again after seeing it interpreted by a Latvian folk group. Enjoy, and see you next week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stand By For Broadcast

You've read. You've waited. You've anticipated. And finally, I can tell you my episode of The Price Is Right will air on WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 28, at 10am on "most of these CBS stations." Please check the listings for your area.

What am I talking about? Read the backstory.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Back To England, Ye Bloody Lobsterbacks!

Your Patriot Blogmaster charging a few redcoats at the Battle of Cowpens...

...and running the Yankees back to Ohio.
Photos by Rosemary Woods, Copyright © 2007

This is but a taste of the richness of this past weekend's American Heritage Festival in Queen Creek. More words and pictures are coming, I assure you. Enjoy Thanksgiving with your families, and I'll have more to come sometime after the Big Feast and before Christmas.

In the meantime, reflect on these words from President Abraham Lincoln, spoken during his second inaugural address in 1865:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Many of you will agree Lincoln's sentiments of 1865 are germane to 2007 as well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sad 'Ol Saddam

Who would've thunk it? A member of the Axis Of Evil was more than just a dictator and murderer. He was also a tearful ex-tyrant at the end... and quite the ladies' man.

HUSSEIN UNPLUGGED. The Terrorist Watch, a new book from Washington reporter Ronald Kessler, recounts the interrogation of Saddam Hussein by FBI agent George Piro. AFP sums it up:
Piro describes Saddam as having a mania for hygiene, and won his trust by supplying him with copious amounts of baby wipes, to clean his hands and food such as apples.

While praying five times a day in captivity, Saddam also liked fine wine, Johnny Walker Blue Label scotch and Cuban cigars. He also had an eye for the ladies.

"When an American nurse came to draw his blood, Saddam asked Piro to tell her in English that she was cute. Piro demurred," Kessler writes.
Cute, but what about all those WMDs?
Saddam confirmed that he only "pretended" to have retained weapons of mass destruction, to keep arch-rival Iran on the back foot, and believed that he could resume a nuclear program once UN sanctions were eventually lifted.

Outside of the formal interview room, Piro said he and Saddam talked about history, politics, art and sports. Using a notebook given to him by his FBI interrogator, the ruthless fallen dictator began to write love poems.
However, he also admitted gassing the Kurds and underestimating the Bushes, whom he hated. But he came to admire his questioner.
When the interviews were finally complete, Piro said Saddam turned emotional.

"We sat outside, smoked a couple of Cuban cigars, had some coffee, and chatted," the FBI agent recounted. "When we were saying bye, he started to tear up."
And what did Piro think of him?
"However, he was charming, he was charismatic, he was polite, he had a great sense of humor. And yeah, he was likeable," Piro said.
Yeah, we bet Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were too at parties.

FAT BRAINS. A study from the University of Pittsburgh and University of California suggests curvy women -- ones with big thighs and hips -- have more smarts and pass them on to their kids.

From FOX News:
The researchers suggest that the fat around fuller hips and thighs holds higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the growth of the brain during pregnancy. Fat around the waist, on the other hand, may have higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which are less suited to brain growth, the researchers said.
So go ahead, eat that cupcake. You'll leave behind a smarter generation -- one hopefully smart enough not to watch another season of The Bachelor.

JUNK IN THE TRUNK. Many an eyebrow lifted in your Lightning Round newsroom this week, when we saw this AP bulletin cross the wire:
GAUHATI, India (AP) - In a Nov. 13 story, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that Paris Hilton was praised by conservationists for highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India. Lori Berk, a publicist for Hilton, said she never made any comments about helping drunken elephants in India.
It seems like our trusted wire reporters swallowed an Internet hoax, according to the original story quoted by USA Today:
The Associated Press reports that World Entertainment News Network quotes Hilton saying: "There would have been more casualties if the villagers hadn't chased them away. And four elephants died in a similar way three years ago. It is just so sad. The biggest problems are in Assam and Meghalaya. The elephants get drunk all the time. It is becoming really dangerous. We need to stop making alcohol available to them."
Sending them to AA meetings might help, too, if this story weren't a convoluted piece of work... like much of Paris' life.

DIRTY AND HAIRY. A Florida town may need that gorilla detector from the old Muppet Show. People in Glen St. Mary are spotting anonymous apes.

From NBC10.com:
"There is kind of that 'I've seen a bigfoot' type of feel to it," said resident Eric Lawson. "They said it made a nest in that tree, so it's probably somewhere here in the area."

Some believe the mysterious animal is an orangutan -- one local family had found what looked to be an orange ape up high in a tree.
Maybe they need Clint Eastwood instead: "Somebody keep an eye on Clyde!"

PICTURE THIS! Despite the millions pouring into studio coffers every weekend, a new analysis says movies simply don't make money. The reason? Big-name stars are taking their cut off the top through so-called "participation deals," leaving less for everybody else, including the writers and producers now locked in a strike.

The International Herald Tribune reports:
Through the twists and turns of contemporary deal-making, major studios in theory give away as much as 25 percent of a film's receipts under such arrangements.

The actual take is lower, because of certain adjustments. (This is Hollywood, after all.) But a Hanks, Cruise or Carrey whose movie brings $600 million back to the studio from all sources might easily wind up with a $20 million salary, and an additional $50 million on the back end, while an A-list director and producer could take in tens of millions more.
As IHT writer Michael Cieply suggests, maybe the writers and producers should be picketing outside the stars' homes. But what your Lightning Round can't understand is how Hollywood studios continue make profits and lose them at the same time. The studio execs should be working for the Treasury department.

BREAKING UP IS EASY TO DO. You can get married in Vegas at a drive-through chapel, and now you can break up in Broward County, Florida by logging onto the Internet. As the Sun-Sentinel reports:
The Broward County Clerk of Courts launched an online service this month that steers citizens through the application process for filing divorce actions, small claims lawsuits and tenant evictions.

"It kind of guides you through, it asks questions. Once it knows your name, it will put it in every space it should go," said Kris Mazzeo, director of the circuit/civil family division of the clerk of courts.

The self-service system is intended for people who can't afford an attorney or don't want to spend the money on one. Each section provides legal definitions and asks questions to determine which forms need to be filled out. The completed forms can be printed at home and mailed to the clerk's office. Some paperwork requires a notary signature.
Unfortunately, it won't mitigate any backstabbing, money-grubbing or child-pawning. That's still your problem.

WE'RE SHOCKED, SHOCKED! And finally this week, we leave you with this news blooper from Davenport, IA, courtesy of Break. KWQC-TV tried to run a story on a woman recovering from a lightning strike (and no, she hadn't just read one of our stories). If you believe everything you see, it looks like she has a little more recovering to do.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thin The Candidate Herd In Mere Minutes

The presidential primaries and caucai will be here sooner than you think. We know you don't have time to do your homework and figure out who you're voting for. Nobody's jumping out at you, and you realize the answer is not Ron Paul.

VAJoe.com is here to help with its Candidate Calculator. In the spirit of online dating sites, you submit where you stand on various issues, and the site determines what candidate is the best fit for you.

For the record, it said I was a 64 percent match with Rudy Giulaini. Of course, I'm a moderate mutt, meaning I'm persona non grata with most of the wingers.

My dad scored an 84 percent match with Mitt Romney, even though Dad can be very liberal on a lot of things. I guess that explains the other 16 percent.

Friday, November 9, 2007

And Away They Go

As Genesis sang in the 1980's, "It's no fun being an illegal alien." Yet so many continue to cross the line, thinking they can live under the radar. Many do, but we have a few words for those who don't.

EXPELLED. Faculty at Catalina Magnet High School in Tucson found marijuana on a student. They called police. Then police called the Border Patrol to the school when they found out he was an illegal immigrant. Now the student and his family have all been deported.

A student protest march followed. Tucson Police say they've changed their policy -- but only a little, as the Arizona Daily Star notes:
Tucson police officers no longer will call Border Patrol agents to schools or churches, [Assistant Chief Roberto] Villaseñor said. However, police will provide information to the federal government that will allow those officials to follow up on the investigation, he said. The change is based on Border Patrol policy not to respond to schools or churches unless agents are asked to do so.
Star columnist Ernesto Portillo notes:
Undocumented immigrants, the bulk of whom keep our economy running, are being chased further underground by heavy-handed incidents like this.
Some at the march said they worried smaller schoolyard infractions, like ditching or fighting, could result in their families being deported.

The students said they are tired of being made to feel unwanted and treated with naked disdain.
We at your Lightning Round empathize with those feelings. But who's the real villain -- the government, or the families of these children for putting them in a position where they could be deported in the first place?

Risking your own neck is one thing. Pulling your family in with you and subjecting them to the same danger is simply cruel. I dare call it a form of child neglect. Parents who love their children don't leave them vulnerable to deportation, regardless of whether they're living better in the U.S. or not.

As for "naked disdain," what about the naked disdain for proper procedure, or for legal immigrants who have put up with the system, its mounds of paperwork, its unfathomable delays and frustrations, and its bureaucratic baloney? What about Mexico's disdain for wanting to solve the problem?

We maintain the best advice is simple -- painful, counter-cultural, politically incorrect, yet simple: don't immigrate illegally.

ANYTHING WE FIND UNDER THE BED CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU IN A COURT OF LAW. Children in the Tucson Police Department's gang-outreach program may have their rooms searched by cops, if both the kids and their parents consent.

As the Arizona Daily Star reports:
The searches, police and City Council members say, are meant to be educational, showing concerned parents signs of gang activity.

...

"Ultimately our goal is to help these kids stay away from gangs," said Sgt. Greg Mammana, who heads the gang unit. "It's all done on a consent basis. … There is nothing in terms of us going in there to identify stuff to arrest anyone."

But Mammana acknowledged that if criminal evidence was found, police would take appropriate action.
We just have to wonder what signs of "gang activity" the police are looking for.

Do the 20th Street Dawgs hand out membership cards now? Do the Crips have a handbook? Are the kids violating their acceptable quota of red or blue bandannas and headwraps?

REMEMBER, REMEMBER THE CASH OF NOVEMBER. Your Lightning Round staffers have been sitting on their hands, politely yet begrudgingly abstaining from sharing exactly what they think about Ron Paul. However, we couldn't ignore how he raised more than $4 million in one day on Monday, which happened to be Guy Fawkes Day.

From the AP:
Fawkes was a British mercenary who failed in his attempt to kill King James I on Nov. 5, 1605. He also was the model for the protagonist in the movie "V for Vendetta." Paul backers motivated donors on the Internet with mashed-up clips of the film on the online video site YouTube as well as the Guy Fawkes Day refrain: "Remember, remember the 5th of November."
We liked V For Vendetta. However, let us also remember, remember Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

So when Paul says he's running for the White House -- oh, we shudder to think about what he's going to do if he gets there.

THE COMMANDMENTS YOU CAN'T REFUSE. The London Daily Mail reports police found a list of the Mafia's "Ten Commandments" after arresting a top Godfather in Sicily.

Here they are, and we translated them into "commandmentese."
1. Thou shalt not present thyself directly to a Mafioso. A third person must do such.
2. Thou shalt not covet wives of thine friends.
3. Thou shalt not be seen with cops.
4. Thou shalt not partake of pubs and clubs.
5. Thou shalt always be available for The Family, even if thy wife is great with child.
6. Thou shalt always respect appointments.
7. Thou shalt honour thy wife.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness when asked for any information.
9. Thou shalt not appropriate money belonging to others.
10. Anyone with a close relative of the cops, kin who bear false witness, and those bereft of morality cannot be a member of The Family.
Number 8 seems odd given the Mafia code of silence. And we wonder about Number 4, given Tony Soprano's office in the back of the "Bing."

WE ARE... REINDEER! We leave you with a trailer for a holiday classic like you've never seen it before.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dick Cheney's Latest Hang-Up

One of our heartfelt principles here at your Lightning Round states that some people have nothing better to do than to look for ways to be outraged, even to the point of hyperventilating over minor annoyances until they're gasping and choking on their own anger. So it's understandable yet regrettable to see the scene unfolding around the vice president. Forget about skeletons in the closet. We want to see what's hanging next to the car...

SENSE IS FLAGGING. You'd think people would be worried about Dick Cheney's aim. But nooooooo. What's working people up is that he went hunting at a New York club where a Confederate battle flag hangs in the garage.

From The New York Times:
In a brief interview [Tuesday] morning, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney told us that neither the vice president nor anyone in his entourage had seen the flag.

“Until this issue was raised by the press last night, no one in our office was aware there was such a flag,” said the spokeswoman, Megan M. Mitchell. “The vice president did not see a flag, nor did anyone on his staff traveling with him in New York.”

Asked whether Mr. Cheney had an opinion about the flag’s being displayed, Ms. Mitchell replied, “Bottom line, he didn’t see the flag.” Asked whether the vice president had views in general on the appropriateness of displaying the Confederate battle flag, she said, “I haven’t had a chance to talk with him about that.”
He didn't wave that flag. It wasn't his garage. He didn't even see it. And in our estimation, the veep has a lot of other things on his plate these days besides a rebel banner. But the Rev. Al Sharpton is not letting it slide:
The Rev. Al Sharpton issued a statement last night that read, in part:
I call on Vice President Cheney to leave immediately, denounce the club, and apologize for going to a club that represents lynching, hate, and murder to black people. In this age of Jena, La., events and hangman nooses all over the country, for the Vice President to relax under the flag of the hangman nooses is an unpardonable insult to all Americans, particularly blacks. He ought to leave immediately, call for the flag to be brought down at once, and apologize for being connected to an institution that would be insensitive enough to fly it in the first place. What is interesting to me is that this is not even in the South that it is flying. The club owners must identify with the philosophy of the Confederacy because they can’t say that they are a historic club that 200 years ago was a part of the Confederacy since New York was never a Confederate state.
Your Lightning Round editor-in-chief poses this question: symbol of hatred or not, are we so desperate to hate Dick Cheney that we'll grasp at anything we can get to justify our seething? Credit the VP with not taking the bait. The whole controversy reeks of manufactured outrage.

Perhaps he should have shot that flag. Then the haters would have to weigh a loose trigger finger against the powerful symbolism of the pellet spray. Could their poisoned brains handle such deep thought?

BUSTED. Speaking of thoughtless hatred, the notorious Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS is ordered to pay nearly $11 million in damages to a Maryland family. The church (and we at your Lightning Round use that term very loosely with this group) believes the death of American soldiers is God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality, and they shamelessly picket the funerals of service members holding signs like "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." But this time, they picked the wrong family to mess with, they got sued, and now they're going to have to buck up.

It doesn't matter what their lawyer said, as reported by Reuters:
Defense attorney Jonathan Katz urged jurors not to award punitive damages because the $2.9 million in compensatory damages was already three times the defendants' net worth.

"It's enough already to bankrupt them and financially destroy them," Katz said.
Hmmm, Jon, don't you think that's the idea?

FAKING IT. FEMA got burned on a fake news conference they held last week to discuss emergency assistance on the California wildfires. As Amanda Ripley of Time explains it:
Real reporters were only notified 15 minutes in advance, so all they could reasonably do was call in to a conference line. But the line was set to "listen-only" mode, so asking questions was out of the question. Only the people there — a group consisting almost entirely of FEMA public affairs employees — could grill FEMA representatives.

None of this was disclosed by Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator of FEMA, who dutifully responded to the softballs from his underlings (i.e. "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?") as if they were real.
Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff later called it "one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government," and vowed it wouldn't happen again -- after it's happened several times already.

Notes Ripley:
Since 2000, the nation has held four full-scale exercises to simulate a major terrorist attack. Each time, the "mock media" is played by fake reporters — paid PR people, to be specific — just like in the fake FEMA press conference last week.

Since 2003, Ogilvy PR, an international firm which also works for Disney and Slim-Fast, has been paid by the government to hold fake press conferences and broadcast live to a Virtual News Network (VNN), a closed-circuit satellite TV network modeled after CNN. Only people involved in the exercise can watch VNN or access its web site. The real media are only allowed to watch from afar.
Heckuva job, Mikey. Your Lighting Round has learned FEMA hired correspondents from The Onion.

GONE GREEN. Many people are waving off going out in style for going back to nature. Hence, the green funeral -- no additives, no preservatives, and biodegradable caskets. The Portland Press-Herald lays it all out:
The idea of earth-friendly funerals is catching on as part of that broader green movement. But there are other factors, too, including distaste for the embalming process and modern commercial funerals that can cost $10,000.

A green burial can cost $1,000 to $2,000, although there is no market standard. [One green funeral] and cremation cost about $350.

Some also have the desire to return to a simpler, personal way of laying loved ones to rest.

"It's a lot more than just about the environment. It's a return to tradition. It speaks to the idea of dust to dust," [author Mark] Harris said. "This is the way we used to bury people, in the first hundred years of our country's history."
It could also be a respite for the frustrated loved one. Your Lightning Round editor recalls a colleague whose boyfriend didn't care about his unhealthy ways... or dying from them.

"I'm gonna bury you in a cardboard box!" she threatened to him. "And then I'm gonna take the money for your funeral and go on a cruise!"

PLAY IT AGAIN. Records -- yes, those vinyl things with holes in the middle -- are making a comeback. It's all about the musical experience, Wired magazine reports:
Records, the vinyl evangelists will tell you, provide more of a connection between fans and artists. And many of today's music fans buy 180-gram vinyl LPs for home listening and MP3s for their portable devices.
And CD's, despite what I think, simply don't sound as good to audiophiles.
Although CDs have a wider dynamic range, mastering houses are often encouraged to compress the audio on CDs to make it as loud as possible: It's the so-called loudness war. Since the audio on vinyl can't be compressed to such extremes, records generally offer a more nuanced sound.

Another reason for vinyl's sonic superiority is that no matter how high a sampling rate is, it can never contain all of the data present in an analog groove, Nyquist's theorem to the contrary.
We assume that would include all the dust, crackles and pops, too.