Tag Archives: newspaper

I Wonder…

I wonder about TV news. As a newspaper journalist I covered the Falkland Island conflict in 1983. I remember seeing a fledging CNN news channel correspondent doing a stand-up report. He didn’t mention Donald Trump once.

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Don’t Look Now

By Larry Day

Some years ago a stand-up comedian who was known for his self-deprecating humor, was arrested for fighting in a bar after his show. The comedian had smacked his opponent in the face. When the case got to court and the judge asked the comedian how the fight started.

“He laughed at me,” said the comedian.

There are nearly five billion websites in cyberspace. There are more than a billion unique You Tube users on the planet. There are six billion hours of video in 61 languages on the World Wide Web.

In this interconnected world, millions of people use Internet to invite total strangers into their lives. They invite everyone from elderly Mongolians in Ulan Bator, to Argentine teenagers in Mar del Plata, to connect to their websites and view intimate details of their lives. Then these website owners are stunned to find out that crooks, scam artists, identity thieves, Internet marketers, and digital sales representatives have honed in on their websites and have exploited the information they found there.

That comedian became rich and famous by inviting audiences to laugh at his fabricated foibles. But when a stranger in a bar laughed at one of his real foibles, the comedian doubled his fists and started swinging. Lots of folks are like that comedian. They spread their personal information all over the Internet. But they get mad as hell when they hear that authorities are analyzing Internet data flow patterns to see if they can find information that might thwart a terrorist attack. Whoa. Whoa! That’s a violation of people’s privacy.

Finding out what constitutes acceptable government surveillance and what is considered unacceptable prying, is a valuable process. Most of that process is serious, but sometimes it can be funny.

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Consider this story: Back in 2010 forty-year-old Ginger Pitchfork of Mound Tree, Texas, phoned the U.S. Census Bureau to lodge a complaint. She said a census worker had called and asked about her marital status and her vaccination history. Ginger said that Census call was an unwarranted government intrusion into her privacy. What was hilarious was that at the time Ginger was operating a website that chronicled intimate details of her love life.

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And how about this?: A herd of pigs broke out of their sty on a Midwest farm and ran down to a four lane highway. Kurk and Wadley, a couple of forty-something city dwellers, were driving along in a heavy duty pickup truck and saw the pigs. They decided to round up the pigs and put them in the truck and drive them to a nearby stockyard.

Kurk and Wadley figured that since they had found the pigs on the highway it was a “finders keepers,” and they offered to sell the herd to the stockyard manager for $200.

The stockyard manager declined their offer, and retrieved ownership data from tattoos on the pigs’ ears. He called the owner. The owner was looking for the pigs and was not far from the stockyards. When he arrived, the owner thanked Kurk and Wadley, and gave them each$40. Then he loaded up his pigs and drove back to the farm.

Wadley and Kurk were fascinated and amazed. They didn’t know how the pigs had been identified. They jumped the conclusion that there was a government surveillance system so powerful that it could even keep track of an obscure herd of pigs.

Kurk and Wadley organized a series of workshops to tell their story. They told those who attended: “If the government can spy on a herd of Midwest pigs, what do you think it’s finding out about you and your family?”

After that, Wadley and Kurk found what they considered evidence of government surveillance in virtually every aspect of U.S. life. So they set up a network of vigilance websites to warn people of an impending dictatorship that would take over the country as soon as the government had processed all its surveillance data. Kurk and Wadley shut the website down after it become a target for stand-up comedians and late night talk show humor.

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Eric the Red, 21-Century Revisited

One of my favorite “Day Dreaming” characters is Eric the Red. When conceived, Eric had a different name and ethnicity. I changed both at the suggestion of my publisher. It turned out that the change enhanced both the comedic effect and the descriptive possibilities of the character. This from the book: “Sven was wearing an academic gown that had military epaulets on the shoulders, and a Viking helmet with America flags attached to the horns.” In the story “Eric the Red” whose name is Sven Torgelson comes back to Letongaloosa to warn me (we meet in a back booth at the Enchantment) that I am the target of a Mainland Patriotic Corps investigation. It seems that Patcorps had put me on its black list because I had subscribed to a liberal journal. Patcorps had put me on its white list for subscribing to a conservative journal. Apparently I had fouled up the organization’s vigilance apparatus. Apparently no one had ever been on both the black list and the white list before. It’s a fun story. You should read it.

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Holiday Afterglow

When I was a boy the holidays didn’t end the day after New Year’s as they do now.    At our house the holiday season often lasted until after Ground Hog Day.  It was usually early February before Mom carefully removed the ornaments, the strings of lights, and the tinfoil icicles from our Christmas tree and swept up the pile of pine needles from the floor.

This year my wife Emmaline and I took down the outside and inside decorations, including my Christmas train, on Jan. 2.  The Christmas train is my pride and joy.

I bought it years ago in Atlanta.  I had flown down to attend a niece’s December wedding.  I arrived a day early. The women invited me to go shopping with them.  In a department store I saw a toy train running around a track.

It was a Christmas Train—Santa atop the engine. It had four cars plus a caboose.  The train had lights, and the figures moved.

Decades dropped away.  I was seven or eight years old again.  I had to have that train.  Never mind that it cost $250; never mind that the box it came in was larger than a hard sider suitcase. I took out my credit card.

Now each Christmas season, after I have inexpertly installed the outside house lights and Emmaline has expertly and creatively decorated the inside of the house, I open the box and take out my Christmas Train.

I’ve cut assembly time to two hours.  One has to put  together the track,  attach the electric gear,  hook up the cars (each car is attached to the car ahead by a little black umbilical cord that makes the figures move and the lights dance).  I’ve been known to cuss a bit as I assemble the train.

It’s a wonderful train.  One pushes the ON button.  One pushes the forward button. A voice shouts “All Aboard.”  Bells ring, a realistic train whistle blows, and the train moves around the track.  Santa goes “ho, ho, ho.”

For the first few years I had the train to myself.  Then my granddaughter came along and wanted to run the train.  Then my grandson came along and  wanted to run the train.  Then Emmaline told me to let the grandchildren help me assemble the train.

I steadfastly resisted that suggestion until Christmas 2008.  My granddaughter is now eight and my grandson is five.   Emmaline sand bagged me.  She didn’t tell me the kids were coming until they were at the front door.

When they came in Emmaline said, “You can help Grandpa put his train together.”

I said, “Okay. Okay, kids, this is a very difficult project, so watch carefully and I’ll show you how I do it.”

“Okay, Grandpa.”

Then Emmaline called me to come upstairs.  It was the kind of pre-preemptory call that I’ve learned not to ignore.

“I’ll be RIGHT BACK,” I said.  “You kids go to Grandma’s office and play computer games.  We’ll put the train together when I get back.”

After a few minutes I heard kid voices from the living room. I took four steps down the back stairs.  Emmaline ordered me, in a preemptory voice, to finish my assigned task. Several elongated minutes later I sprinted for the living room.

Halfway down the stairs I heard a robotic voice say “All Aboard!”  My heart sank.  Had the kids gotten the electrical apparatus out of the big box and plugged it in?  What harm such mischief might do to my train I could only imagine.

I charged down stairs and into the living room.

“Ding, Ding, Ding,”   “Whooo, Whooo, Whooo,”  “All Aboard,”    “Merry Christmas!” “Ho, Ho, Ho,”  “Chug, Chug, Chug.”

My train was fully assembled and running around the track.   My granddaughter was at the controls and my grandson was jumping back and forth across the track just ahead of the train.

“Grandpa, we put the train together!”

The grandkids weren’t here on Jan. 2 when I put on my engineer’s cap and ran the train around the track one last time.  Then I put it back in the box for another year.

I hope my grandkids will let me help them put the train together next December.

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

 

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Die-Hard Technology

Many of the e-mails I get have an automatic message at the end:

“Sent by Mobile.com”

“Sent by I-Phone”

“Sent by Daedalus.com”

So when I reply I put a note at the bottom of my e-mail that says:

Sent by 1970 Royal portable typewriter.

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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The Decibel Dilemma

Almost nobody from Letongaloosa makes a big splash on the national or international scene.  In fact most Legtongaloosans recoil at the thought of making  a big splash in public.  That’s why folks in town felt sorry for Ruby Jentlow.  Ruby didn’t seek the spotlight.  The spotlight found her after she decided to rein in her volatile temper and to modulate her voice.
Ruby grew up in a family of shouters.  Her parents and brothers and sisters shouted a lot.  Ruby’s mom and dad, Rufe and Gina Jentlow, met in Washington, D.C. back in 1971 at the height of a presidential campaign.  Rufe and Gina were young members of the Muglump Alliance, a small one-issue political movement.
Because Muglump leaders weren’t fluent in Politic-Speak, the Muglump Alliance was shut out of  mainstream political discourse. So they began to shout, and people began to listen.
As young political Muglump operatives, Rufe and Gina  became well trained shouters. Their children, including Ruby, grew up to be shouters.
When she wasn’t shouting, Ruby was friendly, kind, charming, woman who had no desire to make a national splash.
But one day she and Angus Rex, a good friend whom she admired for his soft spoken demeanor, were having a quiet conversation at a coffee shop. They disagreed about something that didn’t amount to a hill of beans, and before they knew it the conversation had turned into a shouting match.
It wasn’t much of a match.  The best Angus could muster was 65 decibels.  Ruby’s shouts averaged 82 decibels.  She hit 88 a couple of times, and once topped 90.   Ruby crushed poor Angus.   A couple of bystanders, who loved to hear Ruby get wound up, clapped.  Ruby felt terrible when Angus walked away crestfallen.
She resolved to change. She vowed to rein in her temper and pledged never to let her voice rise above 60 decibels.   When people found out about the pledge some of them began baiting Ruby, hoping to goad her into a high decibel outburst.  The more they persisted, the quieter Ruby’s voice became.
Amazingly, people around her, even those who came to goad her,  began to speak more quietly too.  And people began to actually listen to Ruby and to one another.
After word of Ruby’s transformation got around, a group offered a prize to anyone  who could make her yell. No one succeeded. Those who yelled at Ruby not only failed to make her yell, they often ended up speaking more quietly themselves.  Someone  recorded one such encounter on a cell phone and posted the video on the Internet.
A network reality TV show “How Weird Is That?” pulled the Ruby video off the Internet and broadcast it on national television.  There was a big public response. Some people said Ruby was a true citizen leading a much needed movement toward public civility.  Others said Ruby was part of a clandestine movement to subvert the Constitution.
Political talk show hosts jumped on the issue and harangued their audiences and each other at the top of their lungs.  National newspapers and broadcast news organizations transmitted the story around the world.  Some people suggested, quietly, that Ruby should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  A few shouted that she should have her mouth washed out with soap.
That’s when folks in Letongaloosa started really feeling sorry for Ruby. Reporters and paparazzi camped out in front of her house, and trailed her everywhere she went.  They stuck  microphones in her face and beamed strobe lights through the windshield of her car.
Through it all Ruby raised her voice above 40 decibels only once. That was to ask a hard-of-hearing hardware clerk where she could find a light bulb for her refrigerator.
The story has a happy ending.  Most  news-cycle-driven issues have a very short life span after they disappear from the mass media. The public soon forgets about them. A few worthy issues move forward.
The  James Mapleton Emery Foundation offered  Ruby a half a million dollar grant to conduct research on low-decibel public discourse.  She accepted  the grant and went quietly to work.

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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