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When RFK Was Killed

Posted by Howard Denson on June 7, 2018 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)
By HOWARD DENSON

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I was sharing an apartment in Birmingham with my brother John. As a flunky journalist on the Bham News copy desk, I had to get up at 4:15 to make it to work at 5 a.m. John had left on the toilet seat a note that said RFK had been shot in California. I was stunned (even though I was a Goldwater supporter in '64 and for Nixon in '68.

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At work, the news room was filled and busy as reporters got reactions from local notables or wrote about RFK's visit to the state. On the copy desk, Bob Hawkins was staring dumfounded at a "redline" edition from the day before. (That was the edition with all the final stock listing.) He had written the headline for the front page: "Do or Die Day for RFK." He had done it (won the California primary) ahd then he had died.

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Some time later, the JFK-RFK supporters told Ted Kennedy, "You're all we have now . . . and you're not good enough."

Divine Rights of Cabbage Heads and Kings

Posted by Howard Denson on June 6, 2018 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

By HOWARD DENSON

Li'l ol' Donnie Trump's lawyers are having another go at justifying the principle of the divine right of kings (or, in his case, someone who is the president).

 

 

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You can go back thousands of years and find claims that the king is on the throne because of God's orders. Especially with James I of the U.K., he was arguing that you must accept what the king orders unless you are defying God . . . and we know THAT won't do you a bit of good.

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There's a big problem with the divine right of kings and POTUS's: Only the monarch himself will find that it's solid logic. James' predecessor, Elizabeth I, knew that any sane monarch needed to train his or her antennae on the country to make certain that policies weren't contrary to the wishes of the people. Elizabeth knew, of course, that her grandfather, Henry Tudor (future Henry VII) had killed Richard III to snatch away the crown.

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Elizabeth also knew that her father, the king, had snicked off the heads of her own mother and    Queen Catherine Howard. Kings had a lot of power, obviously, but they could find themselves calling "a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" if someone else got antsy for the throne.

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James I (aka "the wisest fool in Christendom") indoctrinated his son Charles about the divine right, and this fool pushed it to the limit just as the Puritans were setting up a Commonwealth republic with Oliver Cromwell as the dictator. Charles crossed the line while imprisoned and wound up having his own head snicked off.

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When the Restoration occurred with his son, Charles II, people were walking on egg shells, trying to make nice-nice. Charles II knew that he shouldn't step over the line and that the ultimate power lay with Parliament. Charles II presided as king for almost 25 years and was called the "Merry Monarch" because of frolics with his lady friends.

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His brother, James II, came to the throne with a Catholic inclination and crossed the line right off the bat. A "glorious revolution" occurred when William and Mary (his daughter) were invited to take over the throne.

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Let's gallop forward in time and cross the channel to mention Louis XVI, a good steady chap with a solid head on his shoulders. Unfortunately, the Revolutionaries snicked it off and then removed his wife's head, too, proving that divine rights are one thing, but headbones attached to the neckbones are greatly to be desired.

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More galloping, and we are in America today, where a former New York City "mare" is arguing, in effect, that the president has a divine or constitutional right and can't be touched.

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Oh, really? Lincoln's successor was nearly removed. Andrew Johnson survived impeachment because the Senate lacked ONE vote to reach the 2/3rds needed for conviction.

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Nixon wasn't impeached because of his resignation. He realized that he wouldn't have the numbers to stay in office.

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Clinton was impeached but not convicted because (among other things) most males would lie about extra marital oral sex.

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So li'l ol' Donnie does have a line that he had better not cross. If he, in effect, claims a divine right, his counselors have to argue that he views himself as a king.

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That might not be a good road to travel.

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Some Cussed Notes after the Roseanne Kerfuffle

Posted by Howard Denson on June 1, 2018 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)


By HOWARD DENSON

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First of all, I can outcuss you 10 to 1. I can even cuss you in Neapolitan Italian so severe that, if you knew Italian, you'd cut my throat. (Sad fact: I learned the Italian curses at age 18 and haven't forgotten them since. I'm inept in everything else in Italian.) One thing I've learned is that cursing and using four-letter words are close to sneezing. You can do it automatically . . . without thinking. It comes as easily as blinking your eye.

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Second, we devolved from the days of persistent taboo-enforced words to what we have now because of several factors: The Puritan language code was essentially dishonest. A legislator would outlaw "fuck" or "shit," but in the South would refuse to pass anti-lynching laws. Lenny Bruce went to jail over the language issue. Other comics (Richard Pryor especially) gradually pushed back against The Code.

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Then the gates opened, and it all came out, thanks to the internet, rap records, etc. F-words intruded everywhere. If Joyce Kilmer had been alive, he would have written:

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I think that I shall never see

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a poem lovely as a fucking tree . . .

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If a joke ends with a so-so punchline saying, "And you should have seen the expression on her face," a comic may say, "And you should have seen the fucking expression on her gawdamned face." It's still a so-so punchline despite the two off-color words.

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When I was teaching creative writing, students would ask about what was forbidden. "Curse words?" No, I'd tell them; you have freedom to write whatever you wish, but do keep in mind that your eventual manuscript may need to pass muster with an editor.

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Stories often rolled in with dozens or hundreds of once-taboo words. They were grossly overdone, but come to think of it were no more exaggerated than dialogue on "The Sopranos," "American Beauty," or "Deadwood."

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I was urging students to pull back from full-cussword mode. After all, on a page, a writer has certain limitations due to the nature of the beast. If someone has effed his or her way through a story and damned it all to hell in every sentence, what does he or she do when the protagonist smashes his thumb with a hammer right after catching a significant other flagrante delicto?

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A notion is going around that people who curse are more honest than others. I have serious doubts about it. If someone naturally lies, the listener shouldn't believe the lies just because the speaker had gained a potty-mouth.

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Stand-up comics have built-in challenges. Jerry Seinfeld deliberately makes his act family-friendly. Ditto for Jeff Foxworthy, Trevor Noah, and others. Sadly, Bill Cosby was noted for a clean act, despite his actions later in a hotel room.

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Comedians have a ritual: If a joke doesn't work in the comedy club in Omaha, maybe this twist will work in Kansas City. Hmm, if it doesn't get a laugh in Chicago, it's out of the act. If they are lucky, they can eventually do a Netflix special or a theatrical performance movie, and the misfiring joke is no where to be seen. However, if they wind up on cable, it's time for the robot to call, "Danger, Will Robinson!" They do the subpar joke, and instead of falling flat, it forks lightning.

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I quit reading one author's books. They were set in Boston, and it was eff this and that to beat the effing band. Tedious. However, I do read Robert Parker's Boston novels. They aren't sanitized, but the reader is aware that, while this dialogue is occurring, the setting alone suggests that the verboten words were being spoken around Spenser and Hawk.

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I was checking for writers born on July 11 for a second edition of HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AUTHORS (available on Amazon.com) when I spotted Thomas Bowdler's name. He gave us the verb Bowdlerize and made this statement:

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"I acknowledge Shakespeare to be the world's greatest dramatic poet, but regret that no parent could place the uncorrected book in the hands of his daughter, and therefore I have prepared the Family Shakespeare."

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We don't need to Bowdlerize all communication, but we also don't need to smear excrement over everything either.

When Jokes Backfire

Posted by Howard Denson on May 30, 2018 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)
When Jokes Backfire


By HOWARD DENSON

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I received a warning letter from the National Board of Natterers that I hadn't weighed in on the Roseanne racist joke controversy and failure to do so would result in a prison sentence of seventy-five years and a fine of $10,892.16.

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So here is my response, which I'll make less than a diatribe but a little more than a riposte.

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Roseanne tweeted a bad joke. I don't just mean that it was racist, which it was, but it also wasn't natural and facile. A Muslim and Planet of the Apes have a baby, and it's "vj." Huh? If she had tried it out in a tour of comedy clubs, she would have found that the damned line just didn't work. So she tweeted a bad racist joke and got fired for it.

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Keep in mind that ALL jokes and most comedy are designed to belittle someone or a group of people. The Three Stooges would have amused Shakespeare and Will Kemp 400 years ago because they too wrote or performed about dummies who thought they knew everything but screwed up everything. We can also make fun of the things we fear, such as death, and, while jokes haven't done anything to relieve the effects of death and taxes, they do help us in the moment.

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I date back to the Golden Age of Radio and, thanks to my mentor Charlie McCarthy, have tracked jokes that backfired for whatever reason.

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I didn't hear it when it first aired, but I read about Danny Thomas's run-in with Corporate Propriety. Danny was sponsored by Post cereals, and the announcer on each show would say something like "And remember, Post Toasties taste great with cream and strawberries." During one program, Danny blurted out, "Hay would taste good with cream and strawberries."

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Post fired him for the scandalous slur against the company (just as Walt Disney fired an employee for referring to Mickey as "that little rat"). Post and Danny kissed and made up later.

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During the Fifties, ol' lonesome George Gobel had a variety show and ended one show with a line like this: "The National Safety Board has warned us that 340 people would be killed over this holiday weekend. So far, 198 have died. Come on, some of you folks just aren't even trying." The switchboards lit up, the network apologized and fussed at George, and Gobel apologized, too. After all, families that have lost loved ones in traffic accidents aren't going to find the joke funny.

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In my Wild-Eyed Moderate collections of ruminations, a diligent reader will find a couple of essays that relate to jokes backfiring. In Shoot-Out with a Wild-Eyed Moderate, the reader may peruse "Southerners and Croaking in the Big Power Pond," which points out the diverse ways that supposedly good-natured racial teasing can backfire and destroy careers. (Roseanne's out of Utah, not the Deep South, but the rules still apply.) In "On 'Who Dat,' 'Begorra,' and 'By Cracky,'" in Gunfight with a Wild-Eyed Moderate, we briefly trace dialect and humor from music hall days till the modern time.

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Speaking of music halls, I was shocked on my second trip to England when I attended performances at the London Palladium. Two of the five comics were blacks, yet they were doing the same racist jokes as the white comics. Example: "You know why they don't let the Pakis swim in the channel? Because they leave a rim around the English Channel." A black comic was saying, "Me mum is black, you know, big lips, and--" I looked around to see if the Royal Police of Propriety were going to burst in and drag off performers and audience. Another joke was about two Paki hitchhikers. No car was stopping, so one had the great idea: He would lie down on the road when the next car came. Unfortunately, there was a bump-bump since the driver was anti-immigrationist Enoch Powell. I had heard the same joke in the U.S., except the driver was Gov. Faubus or Wallace.

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A racist, but good joke was about a truck driver and his partner, an African American. Trash is blowing off the back of the truck, and the partner has to get back there, stretch out, and hold it down. Eventually, two bozos spot the truck and lament, "Somebody's thrown away a perfectly good nigger." No movie or TV comedy would use that line, but they have transformed it. The scenario appeared in a John Cusack comedy and then in a comedy by the Sheen brothers, except the line now said, "Somebody's thrown away a perfectly good white boy."

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When I refer to the Big Power Pond, you should think of the Big Pond as where the big frogs croak. They have to watch their tongues as they flit them out for insects, lest they be gigged for some transgression. Unfortunately, in the Age of Trump, these rules haven't applied, so far. He neither watches what he says nor even thinks very coherently. So he is above the rule, and Trumpsters have a free rein, right? Nope, to switch metaphors, his chickens haven't come home to roast yet. He is good at winning enough Electoral Votes to slip into office, perhaps with the aid of the Kremlin and Russian mobsters, but everything else that he touches goes bankrupt.

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Floridians, of course, noticed recently when the "die-in" demonstrations reminded Publix that it was dangerous to endorse the bloody candidates of the NRA when Florida youth (and adults) lie down in their stores to remind shoppers of the murdered students and staff. Publix backtracked quickly.

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Now, demonstrators can't embarrass Trump by doing die-in demonstrations on the sidewalks around the White House, but they do have access to Trump properties. It would make a nice advertisement: "Come to Trump Towers and step over the simulated corpses of school kids."

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The demonstrations could be great, absolutely wonderful, believe me, splendid, nothing better has ever occurred in the whole history of the world. Trust me.

1950ish? Hardly

Posted by Howard Denson on April 25, 2018 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)


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By HOWARD DENSON

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: A local tempest in Mr. Coffee Pot occurred when the outgoing president carelessly said that one of the campuses was like something out of the 1950s when she arrived four years earlier. A former campus president resented the assessment, and this writer gave a faculty perspective.]

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I was a charter member of the North Campus faculty when the campus opened in 1970 and taught there until the end of 2007. When new-comers refer to the campus as something out of the 1950s, I do have to take exception.

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Originally, we were the science and computer campus. If you took physics, you trucked out to North Campus. If you were studying DOS, COBOL, etc., again you did it at North. By and by, the various administrations peeled off programs and, after a decade or so, returned some of them to North.

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When I took an adult enrichment course on the $12,000 IBM Displaywriter (with an 8-inch disk), I fell in love with this new way of processing words. As cheaper units (Apples at first and then IBMs later) became available, I required (not recommended, but required) my students to write their papers on word processing programs. When someone complained, I said, "This is how writing will be done in the 21st Century."

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Our North Campus lab (called Learning Center and other names as fads came and went) featured PLATO lessons, a Cadillac-program for courses ranging from economics to chemistry, to English grammar. These lessons replaced the embarrassing and time-consuming trips to the board as students did exercises on subject-verb agreement, etc.

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Other campuses simply were not using such advances, sometimes arguing, "Good grammar will not make you a great writer," while ignoring that bad grammar will not make you even a good writer.

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In certain classrooms, especially in the humanities, we were able to use a variety of aids as we perhaps compared the various statues of David done by Donatello, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, and Bernini. In the 1950s, you would have to hope the textbook had photos of each or you would have to walk two or three books around the room for the students to notice the similarities and differences. Each student got about five seconds to check out a picture.

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For a couple of years, a South Campus natural science instructor came to North to use the room that could broadcast to and interact with students at a downtown location.

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Certain classes at North could be broadcast to students up in Nassau County.

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These were expensive, and, while administrations are adept in pushing this or that fad, they are even more proficient in canceling fads that seemingly cost too much money.

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I could go on, but each campus has its own virtues and its own special problems.

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The edifice complex is a big institutional problem, because any college loves an excuse to erect new buildings. At one time, they wanted a separate building for a library at North, but one fad caused them to discard all of their books in favor of electronics. Bye-bye for any justification for a new building. There was a mention of building an allied health building to bring them all together. As it is, the programs are fewer than 50 to 100 feet from each other today.

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When enrollment is stagnant or declining, we do not need new buildings. When more classes are taken online, we do not need new buildings.

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The building craze kicked in back in the 1950s and 1960s when the system was hitting its stride. To keep building is so, well, 1950ish.

Fake News, Editorials, & All That

Posted by Howard Denson on April 4, 2018 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)


By HOWARD DENSON

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The word "Sinclair" has been in the news lately regarding Orwellian broadcasts in which all Sinclair TV staff mouth the same words.

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As a codger, "Sinclair" reminds me of gasoline signs with a dinosaur mascot . . . or, knowing history before I came along, of Harry Sinclair, who was slap-dab in the middle of the Teapot Dome scandal during the administration of Warren G. Harding. (Can you believe cabinet secretaries and cronies thinking they could make big profits on Uncle Sam?)

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We have any number of media conglomerates who own chains of newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio stations. If the groups want to continue buying out each other, Uncle Sam needs to put a halt to it. That's what Teddy Roosevelt would have done.

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During the Sixties, I worked as a flunky journalist for newspapers. The Pensacola News-Journal was owned by Perry Newspapers. I forget who owned The Tallahassee Democrat, but I believe The New York Times eventually bought it. My paper in Birmingham, The News, was owned by the Newhouse Syndicate (not the name of the current owners). The morning paper, The Post-Herald (now defunct), was owned by Scripps-Howard.

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When elections rolled around, the Scripps-Howard editorial boards assembled somewhere and voted about whom the chain should support. The Newhouse chain had a different philosophy. They wanted the local papers to make a nice profit and forward the green stuff to headquarters.

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Thus, in 1964 and 1968, memory says The News supported Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon respectively. A statewide poll of readers in '68 probably would have wanted The News to support George Wallace. In those two years, The Post-Herald likely went along with the Scripps-Howard recommendations: Lyndon Johnson and then Hubert Humphrey.

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The unfortunate truth is this: If an individual owns a newspaper or a TV station, the individual gets to run whatever he or she wants to run.

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I picked up on that when I was working as a flunky printer's devil for Paul Driver, owner and publisher of The Escambia Sun-Press in Pensacola. A family member asked if any reader might object to their running a picture of their son who had been promoted in the military in Alaska. Driver said, "It's my paper, and I'll run what I want. If they don't like it, let them buy their own newspaper."

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Protestors do have options, of course. They can quit buying a publication or quit watching or listening to a station. They can apply pressure to advertisers.

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What the Sinclair syndicate did was, therefore, was within their rights as proprietors, but so was Ford putting out the Edsel and Coke changing its classic formula.

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Sinclair was putting out a promo and simply went about it all wrong. A template could have been sent to the stations, along with a note like this: "Go through and personalize the message in the template so that it has a unique feel for your demographic area," etc., etc. They didn't do this and opened themselves to ridicule.

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I don't really care what stations include in their promotional material. I'll hit the Mute button and shut them off anyway. However, a year or so ago, one of the media-monitoring sites tracked how canned pieces, potential news articles, went to various stations, and the stations marched along like little tin soldiers as they regurgitated the content word for word.

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Again, management can run whatever they want . . . but I do have my remote control, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Where is Tex Ritter when you need him?

Posted by Howard Denson on March 31, 2018 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)


By HOWARD DENSON

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I desperately need to hear Tex Ritter singing while I write this piece. I already hear the refrain, "Looking for a home," from the Boll Weevil song, but I need to hear Tex singing about looking for a word or phrase . . . without creating a redundancy or an anachronism. And it's all the fault of the French, of course.

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We took movie courses in college because we thought it would be an easy grade, but then the prof insisted on talking about the French auteur theory popularized by André Bazin and Alexandre Astruc . . . and then spread throughout the U.S. by Andrew Sarris. They were trying to differentiate between film directors who were cogs in the machinery (each director able to step in and complete a film without any viewer noticing the switch and between directors who dominated most of their projects and stamped them with a visual signature. For Americans today, the latter group would include such recognizable names as Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Jerry Lewis, Woody Allen, and at times Clint Eastwood.

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Bazin and Astruc needed a special word or phrase so they decided on "film auteur."

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Or "film author," you see.

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Listen up, they argued. The director is like the author of a book. He or she does everything and puts a personalized touch on each project. The product isn't like the everyday Schlock und Dreck churned out by Hollywood studios in their heyday. Their products aren't like the flicks of the Poverty Row studios, but they were polished and smooth even when the end results were mediocre. True, François Truffaut's films often featured rough cuts, shaky cameras, and other flaws that Schlock und Dreckers lamented.

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Pauline Kael fought with Sarris at every chance and called him a silly twit . . . or something that rhymed with that. She gassed on about the contributions made to auteur films by those behind the cameras, set designers, etc.

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We have the word auteur hanging out there and realize that the 20th Century deities of serious literature were not equivalent to the film auteurs. Let's use Thomas Wolfe to represent most Great American Authors. He submitted O LOST to Scribners, where Maxwell Perkins took the manuscript of 1,110 pages (300,000 words), shortened and refocused it until LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL emerged. Later one critic Bernard DeVoto declared that the publishing house had produced a book that was "hacked and shaped and compressed into something resembling a novel by Mr. Perkins and the assembly-line at Scribners." Notice the "assembly-line" reference? Similar to the studio system of MGM, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, etc., eh?

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Our Great American Authors can't truly be called auteurs because they mainly just wrote a manuscript (which may have been drastically changed). The system is (a) you find an agent, (b) the agent finds a publishing house, (c) each editor argues for his/her choices in an acquisition committee, (d) if selected, the manuscript is edited, either severely in the olden days or casually in more recent times, and (d) the ms. is published.

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At the editing stage, the author may be involved more than a little. Pulitzer Prize-winner Shirley Ann Grau didn't want her words changed without a damned good reason. Many, many other writers turned in their mss. and ended their interest in their projects, especially involving spelling and grammar, saying, "I wrote it, you edit it."

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Instead, American equivalents of auteurs can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin. As a boy, he was apprenticed as a printer, helped out on his brother's newspaper, and wrote some anonymous pieces that caught everyone's attention. As a young man, he continued the trade and wrote and published his own manuscripts.

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Next, we have our Good Gray Poet, Walt Whitman, who was a printer, but would also work as an editor. Over the decades he kept adjusting his LEAVES OF GRASS that he would have printed by colleagues.

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Later, we have Sam Clemens, who, as a boy, was apprenticed as a printer, worked with newspapers in that capacity, and wrote articles and stories for them. He graduated to book author and novelist. As an adult, he made unsuccessful investments in innovative printing equipment.

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Other Great American Authors did not follow this route. It wasn't respectable during the Gilded Age for proper young ladies to (gasp, gasp) write, so Edith Wharton used a male penname and her father financed some early publications. Later, she followed Dickens' pattern: (a) write the book, (b) publish chapters or sections in magazines, and (c) publish everything in book form.

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Stephen Crane mainly skipped college to write for newspapers (thus setting the standard for Hemingway). He went from stories and poems published in periodicals to actual novels before tuberculosis took him out at age twenty-eight.

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To help out the family financially, Louisa Mae Alcott turned to writing, ranging from thrillers under a penname to LITTLE WOMEN and LITTLE MEN.

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Edna Ferber had some newspaper experience, largely related to the theatre, until she turned to novels. Some writers were aware that they were writing Great Literature, while others saw their writing as ways to afford alimony, a new car, or college tuition for the kiddies. That accounts for some of the lesser products churned out by Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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Writing for a quick buck lets us examine two well-known novelists: Erle Stanley Gardner and Mickey Spillane.

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Gardner would retreat to a mountain cabin with a Dictaphone, dictate a Perry Mason or A. A. Fair novel over two or three days, and return the recordings to his secretarial staff, who would type it up and send it in to the publishers. Did he dwell over the text very much or simply insist on typists who knew their grammar?

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Spillane could check into a hotel where he couldn't be reached (yes, it's the pre-cell phone era, folks), open a bottle of whiskey, and pound away until a Mike Hammer novel emerged.

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And . . .

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I would go on about Great American Authors, except I hear Tex singing about "looking for a word, looking for a phrase." I'm looking for a category for myself, a direct writing descendant of Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, and others who have worked with hot-metal type, Ludlow machines, and stereotyping machine.

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In fifth grade, I produced many front pages for newspapers in the classes at Central Elementary . . . pages drawn on regular school papers. It had "photographs," that tended toward jets and biplanes firing away at enemies in the town.

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Later that stage was supplanted in college by "dummies" of pages for The Corsair in Pensacola and The Florida Flambeau in Tallahassee. You wrote, you laid something out, and you saw it in print.

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After graduation, the dummies (now called "diagrams") were for a weekly and then a daily newspaper in Bessemer and Birmingham respectively. You wrote, you laid something out, you saw the proofs and searched out any errors, and you saw it in print.

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In the 1970s, while teaching, he encountered the absolute wonderful magic of word processing with the IBM Displaywriter ($12,000 each, with eight-inch diskettes). Here, a Disney sprite would swing a sparkling wand over the screen as you changed words, moved sentences or paragraphs, all without having to retype an entire page. You wrote easily, and eventually you had a desktop program that let you see the final product, and you saw it all in print. Ah, what you have, sayeth a sniffer, is "Vanity Publishing."

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No, no. The pattern with a Vanity author is that something is written and pretty well published immediately. It often goes from Hot Prose (largely unedited) to Hot, Largely Unedited Book.

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If you are serious about the craft, you must let the prose cool off and make each word justify its existence and placement in a sentence. It may take me a year or two to finish proofing and editing a proof copy of a book.

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Someone suggests the term "Author Auteur."

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No, no, that's a redundancy.

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How about "a Franklin/Twain Author"?

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Tex! Tex! Sing it for me.

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"Looking for a Franklin/Twain Author, looking for an FTA."

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Sigh. Now I can't decide between looking into the Dark Abyss of Despair . . . or maybe watching once again the episodes of "Firefly."

Latrine or garbage dump countries

Posted by Howard Denson on January 13, 2018 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (1)


By HOWARD DENSON

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DONALD TRUMP COMES IN first again, not surprisingly. He was ahead of the pack in the competition for the World’s Stupidest National Leader. He has even received the endorsements of the American Bozo Board, the North American Society of Inanely Stupid Whackos, and the Mortimer Snerd Foundation for the Clueless and Incompetent.

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This, of course, refers to Trump’s complaints about our admitting so many refugees and immigrants from countries that may be more delicately identified as Latrine Countries or Garbage Dump Countries.

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That individual, with his best brain and lots of good words, not to mention enviable academic credentials, has reached his Seventies and lets us know that he never heeded his mother’s advice: “Donald, you don’t have to say every damned thing that pops into your head.”

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The clueless idgit also failed to take (or stay awake in) any philosophy courses. They would have taught him to ask about First Causes. For example, if you have a leaky ceiling with a bulge threatening to collapse, you want to fix it, of course. But your first question should be, “What is causing the leaky ceiling and that bulge?” Eventually you may discover that the whole roof is kaput and needs to be replaced.

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So let’s agree that certain countries or regions are Latrine/Garbage Dump Countries. Now, let’s kick in that First Causes question.

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What has caused them to be kicked out of the United Nations of Respectability?

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Ah, I thought you would never ask. Let me number the causes for you.

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1. NATURAL DISASTERS—Whether a disaster is an earthquake, a flood, cyclones, or hurricanes, an area can have its homes, businesses, and hospitals wiped out. The people can’t live there without food and water, not to mention law enforcement and medical care. They will go where they can survive. A functioning government will take care of a city so afflicted . . . unless it’s Puerto Rico and the head of the government is Trump.

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2. GANGS & KLEPTOCRACY—The polis (city/state) doesn’t function. It’s dominated by warlords and governmental thieves who deposit what they steal in European banks. The gangs may trace their roots to religious sects. Tribe A kills Tribe B (and vice versa) because that’s how they get their rocks off.

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3. MILITARY & INDUSTRIALIZED COMPLEX—These gangs and governmental thieves can’t butcher people without the cooperation of industrialized nations. Who are the guilty parties who are enabling butchery? Look at the list below from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Notice that the U.S. still exports MORE than former enemies Russia, China, and the Ukraine. Thugs and brigands don’t require billion-dollar missile systems. When they wish to chop off the arms and legs, and heads, of opponents, they can shop cheaply enough at Murder & Garden Depot. A used car lot will yield a Toyota pickup that they can use to go from mischief to murder.

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2012–’16 Rank Supplier Arms Exported

United States . . . . . 47,169

Russia . . . . . 33,186

China . . . . . 9,132

France . . . . . 8,564

Germany . . . . . 7,946

United Kingdom . . . . . 6,586

Spain . . . . . 3,958

Italy . . . . . 3,823

Ukraine . . . . . 3,677

Israel . . . . . 3,233

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4. LACK OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR A PEOPLE—When presidents for life build up armed forces and conceal in foreign banks the revenue they have stolen, they deplete the resources of their countries. There is nothing left to “trickle down” to the people, except poverty and despair. Education is often non-existent. The infrastructure probably is on the verge of collapse. North Korea belongs on this list. They have a potent military force and use bluster and bluff to retain their people’s loyalty. Meanwhile, they can’t feed their people.

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5. COLLUSION OF BANKSTERS WITH CROOKS—The banksters of European (and American) financial institutions know exactly what is going on. Yet they are complicit in efforts to turn regions and states into latrines or garbage dumps.

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What is the remedy? First, we recognize that no part of God’s generally green earth do we have latrines from coast to coast. Until fear destroys their tranquility, people love their arid deserts, their mountains, their beaches and palm trees, etc. They love their homes and only leave so their families will have a chance at not just the good life, but any life at all.

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If we address the real problems, the refugee/immigrant problem will take care of itself.

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--30--


Govertainment on the horizon or is it already here?

Posted by Howard Denson on January 12, 2018 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

By HOWARD DENSON

When I was a young political wonk immersing myself in The Making of a President and similar books, it occurred to me that the U.S. needed a variation on what some European countries had: a president (who was a ribbon-cutter and meeter-and-greeter for ceremonies of state) and a prime minister (who ran the shooting match with his/her cabinet).

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I reasoned that Americans needed a CEO (chief entertainment officer) and a boss (some dull, competent fart who ran things). Some presidents were their own CEOs (Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama). Others weren’t (Wilson, Hoover, Truman, Ike, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, the Bushes).

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No, what we needed for the CEO was Al Jolson or Eddie Cantor for the Twenties and Thirties, Bob Hope or Bing Crosby for the Forties, Elvis or Sinatra for the Fifties, and Joel Grey for the Sixties. I’m open to other nominations (e.g., James Brown or Bette Midler).

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It would be important that the actual president generally should NOT have a press conference. If the media wishes to hear anybody, trot out the CEO, not the boring PM. Let him go down on one knee and sing, “I’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles, my M-a-m-m-y!” or “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog.”

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Most viewers would prefer that as opposed to a press secretary lying with a straight face.

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With Trump, of course, we got the Showman, except this CEO bears watching and doesn’t take his meds. You can’t trust him to swallow a sword or blow a stream of fire. He’s not curious. He’s not into the growth-thing. He’s only interested in golf and in his press clippings and how he’s rated in Variety. His slogan could be: “Ask what my country can do for my bank account, but don’t ask to see my taxes.” He’s not a Will Rogers who could deliver pithy truisms. Unlike Will, he would have to say, “I never met a man I actually liked.”

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Today’s political wonks often like to pretend that Trump really is just another conservative Republican. No, don’t laugh! He deserves respect. After all, he’s President. Come on, no laughing! Besides, you Dems don’t have anyone who could beat him, since the Constitution won’t let Obama run again. You wouldn’t try Hillary again. You just wouldn’t, so nyah, nyah, nyah. There!

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Enter someone else from Celebrity Land: Oprah Winfrey. Let’s compare her to Trump:

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Oprah spelled backwards is Harpo. Trump backwards is Pmurt. (“So what?” you ask, to which I say, "Oh, yeah? Yeah? )

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She started from a poor family. Trump’s papa loaned or gave him $1 million to play with.

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She moved up from a millionaire to a multi-billionaire, making her the richest African American in the country. Trump claims to be a multi-billionaire but won’t show his taxes to confirm his boasts. Fortune says he’s about No. 544 on the list, about where she is.

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She has an intellectual side and promotes books and literacy. He doesn’t read.

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Oprah may be an excellent self-promoter, but she is aware of what a “good person” does and touches the appropriate bases. She even gives away her own money. Trump first, last, and always is a self-promoter, a barker for his fairgrounds sideshow. Since he stiffs employees, contractors, students in his university, etc., he is not a “good person.” If he gives away money, it usually comes a fund established by others.

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The trouble in America is that we end up with govertainment because quality leaders won’t run.

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For several elections, it was a shame that Colin Powell, now 80, wouldn’t run. If we must have a multi-billionaire, then Bill Gates could step forward, but probably won’t.

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The Dems sputter about the possible candidacies’: They have swallowed the fake news put out by the Russkies and mutter they are lucky to have dodged that bullet. Bernie’s people say everyone should get behind Bernie, not that he and his troops will get behind anyone else if he’s not nominated. Elizabeth Warren actually understands finances and banking, but sputtering Dems worry about her not being strong enough to defeat Pmurt.

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Will we be surprised at who wins the White House in 2020?

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Nyet, Comrade.

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--30--



What to do about N.O.S.?

Posted by Howard Denson on December 19, 2017 at 11:25 PM Comments comments (0)

By HOWARD DENSON

She Who Knows All and I were discussing the whole problem involving N.O.S. (or Nasty Ol’ Sex), and she informed me the solution was to kill all men.

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Since our house has several handy mirrors, all defective, I was compelled to give the suggestion some serious reflection. It was a lost cause because the wise guru in the mirrors was a fat, gray-haired lunatic.

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So, pondering alone, like Rodin’s Thinker, I deduced that various labs would be able to store gadzillion sperm for future use; thus, the race could go on without the gender that is loud and often smelly. When male babies developed their smart-mouths at puberty, they could be sent to “join Uncle Floyd on the golf course” or whatever benign euphemism you prefer for Bye-Bye Land.

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Is there a less drastic approach? She Who made her pointing finger and the index finger form cutting motions. I restrained myself from pretending she was imitating the gator chomp.

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“That wouldn’t solve problems,” said I, “because Will Cuppy said that countries that had a lot of eunuchs close to the throne still had trouble because the eunuchs had more time to think up mischief.”

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When we look at the NOS scene today, with politicos hitting on fourteen-year-olds and so on through the NOS Chart, we can’t say that there is a 50-50 percentage of male vs. female offenses. No, we guys are much more at fault. The percentage may well be 80-20 or even 90-10.

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Mother Nature created the initial problem. The females care for the young and the home. The males have to quit goofing off to drop a seed now and then. After that, we can go off to plowing the south forty, fighting wars, or watching fuhbol.

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To get the female’s attention, the male has an “on” button, and it’s most evident in a park where you can sit on a bench and watch the male pigeons bump into a female to see if she’s interested and, if she isn’t, to bump in another one for any interest. By and by, Lady Pigeon #99 coo’s, “About time,” and another generation is introduced.

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So we males are just symbolic feathered bumper cars, beeping, “How about it? How about it?”

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Many a woman, like Rose Sayer in The African Queen, has told males, “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.” Instead of fixing a propeller or fighting leeches, the predator male is more focused on the sexual kill, the trophy, than telling his nether regions to behave themselves.

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Predator females, of course, do exist, but in lesser numbers than the male side. After all, we are familiar with the femme fatale, if only in primetime soaps, spy novels, and tales of hard-boiled detectives. If you start writing about famous wicked women, you will have a multi-volume project on your hands: Jezebel, Messalina, Agrippina, and so on.

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We automatically want to blame The Culture for sexual crimes and misconduct. We can’t shake our heads in bafflement and lament, “How did we get here?” Why not? Because we have practically always encouraged the predator male. Moreover, Hef and Playboy’s motto, in effect, was “Non solum sexus” or “It’s only sex.” See, gals, thanks to the Pill and to condoms, you too can get it on like the guys do. It can be the stuff of sit-coms: Sex and the City, Crudities with the Kardashians, Friends, and your secret pleasure. Or the stuff of porn: “Here’s your pizza . . . and thank you, ma’am—no, thank you, sir.”

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The gray-haired nut in the mirror claims that girls err when they imitate the behavior of males, especially hollow-chested children who like to act tough or thuggish but can’t even change a tire. Even so, some girls and young women continue with the imitation, not realizing, for example, that male rock singers are mainly preening or performing for other males. (Oh, hush, you know it’s true.)

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When Anna Airhead sets the standard for females, she is undercutting women who are serious and trying their best to succeed. Right, right, says a superior, it’s Play Time! More often, it’s not.

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One womanizer decades ago maintained that there is a rule for playing around: “Nothing within a mile of the flagpole.” That flagpole could be for a company, a college or university, a church, a fire house, or (if employees are at a conference) the conference hotel/headquarters.

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The rule didn’t ensure a high moral standard. N.O.S. could still occur, but individuals wouldn’t be caught with their pants down in a company office. (Quick! How many times has someone gotten into trouble by keeping on his pants?)

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Going back centuries, we see that women in general were treated like chattel or cattle. Once married, they essentially had few rights, and they could be burned out by multiple pregnancies and planted in the cemetery when they were 30 to 40. Ah, well, till Death do us part. If a woman wouldn’t go away, metaphorically, she could be locked up in an asylum while the husband cavorted with his patootie. Women couldn’t vote, couldn’t make transactions in their own names, etc.

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Meanwhile, Her reputation could be easily lost, while His was (chuckle, chuckle) a man being a man.

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The ideal for men was (pick your choice) Don Draper of Mad Men, always on the prowl, or Bond James Bond and his harem of Pussy, Honey, Plenty, or Holly. A handsome movie star goes a little out of control? Well, he’s in like Errol Flynn, and a model for other males.

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Two or three decades ago, feminists had at least two aphorisms worth considering:

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“Seduction downward is a power trip.”

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“Sexual harassment is anything that a woman says it is.”

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I will accept the first bit of wisdom, but have problems with the second one. Sexual harassment is not ANYTHING. It is something. It may be three somethings, or thirty, or three hundred, or three thousand somethings, but it’s something specific, not just anything.

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As I was a child, I was hearing our preacher say, “There’s no such thing as a big sin or a little sin. Sin is sin, whether you kill someone or steal a bottle of milk from a doorstep to feed a starving child.” That was total nonsense, of course.

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I prefer the Catholics’ concept of venial and mortal sins. Venial sin is stealing a bottle of milk, while a mortal sin is—I believe I’ve got this right—something like learning to play the accordion.

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Cultural differences play a part in potential N.O.S. situations As a Celtic-Appalachian, like a dour Scot, I’m not a hugger. Some guys stand closer than I’m comfortable with, and they have hands all over their colleagues, not in a N.O.S. way, just in their idiosyncratic way. What happens when the colleague or acquaintance is a female? Hrrumph.

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We often don’t read signals that well. Once upon a lifetime ago, when I was a flunky journalist, I complimented a “copy girl” (the term then): “Gladys, you’re looking great today.”

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With a worried look, she asked, “But what was wrong with me yesterday?”

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With N.O.S., we certainly have mortal and venial sins. A mortal sin is rape. A venial sin is assing off for the camera as Al Franken was doing. Practically all stand-up comedians commit venial sins if their acts would be non-existent if you took away references to the genitals and various sexual acts.

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A repressed society will cause girls and women to clam up about sexual harassment, and it will take a little time to shorten the distance between the crime and the reporting. Statutes of limitation cause the offenders to escape punishment, not to mention the legal problem of defending or prosecuting a crime that happened twenty years ago.

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Looking to the future, our pitiful excuse of a president offers no useful guidance (and neither did JFK), but, when you encounter a bee-you-tiful dame or a handsome hunk, imagine you are in a museum or gallery. There’s a cord to keep you at a distance. You don’t touch. You simply admire. You don’t leer and whistle like a Warner Bros. wolf.

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That's all, folks! 


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