Below the Fold

News you won't find on the front page. Commentary you won't find in the editorial section. And other stuff.

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Monday, March 31, 2003
 
SEND IN THE NUNS

Well, we've been at war for just about two weeks now, and I'm still not sure whether to be in favor of it or not.

On one hand, I think Saddam Hussein has the potential to be very dangerous, and that it's a good thing we're trying to remove him from power before he can do some serious harm to our safety.

On the other hand, I'm still waiting for our military to discover some kind of chemical weapon more powerful than Lysol Tub 'n' Tile Cleaner. Until we do, I'm going to remain skeptical about our whole rationale for attacking Iraq because they failed to disarm.

In the meantime, I've decided to practice writing anti-war protest songs so I'll be ready to quit my job and play guitar at rallies full-time if things should turn ugly over there.

The problem is, I don't have any actual anti-war experiences of my own to write about, so I have to borrow experiences from other people for inspiration. And I think I've found a very profound and moving story to write my first song about (link via Yahoo News).

Here's what I've written so far:

If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer on a Minuteman III missile silo after I've drawn a cross on it with my own blood as a form of anti-war protest, just like I did with a fighter jet at Peterson Air Force Base in the year 2000, oh and did I mention I'm a nun?
All over this land


Well, there it is. Is it a keeper or not? Let me know what you think.



Friday, March 28, 2003
 
GUNS AND GRANNIES

According to this story from GoUpstate.com, Margaret Summey, a 64-year-old widow from Duncan, South Carolina, shot a man in the leg after he broke into her home last Thursday afternoon.

Sometime around 1:00 p.m., the man rang Summey's doorbell. When she didn't answer, he moved a trash can under a bedroom window, smashed the window with a brick, and made his way into Summey's kitchen.

Summey, thinking on her feet, made an important decision.

"I went straight and got the .357 Magnum," she said.

Summey snuck down a utility room hallway to a locked door that led to her kitchen. She dropped to the floor, where she could see the man through the gap between the door and the floor. She waited until she saw him come closer to the door, then fired her Magnum through the closed door in the man's direction.

Summey is not an old woman that you want to mess with. Many widows her age are into crocheting or playing Bingo or something. They might even have a Clapper so they can turn off lights in their house without getting out of bed. Summey owns a gun that can fire through a two-inch-thick door. If she needed to turn a lamp off from across the room, she'd probably shoot the light bulb.

This is not to say that Summey is careless with firearms, or has no regard for her own personal property. In fact, Summey's home decor had everything to do with her choice of weaponry.

"I would have used the shotgun [instead of the Magnum], but I had just had new countertops done and I didn't want to tear up the kitchen."

So how did Summey get to be so fearless? According to her twin brother, Edwin Johnson, it has a lot to do with her upbringing.

"She was raised up with three brothers. Dadgum right she had to be tough," he said.


Ms. Summey reminds me of Doris, the lady who lives across the road from me. Doris is an older lady who grew up in the hills of Kentucky, and, to put it frankly, she's not an easy person to intimidate.

One day, Doris was working in her back yard when a bullet flew over her head and hit a tree. Rather than freak out and run inside the house for cover, she dropped what she was doing and walked to the house down the road where the bullet came from.

When she got there, she found two 15-year-old boys shooting at a target with a .22 rifle. The boys had placed the target so that they had to shoot toward Doris' house rather than into the acres and acres of woods behind them. It is not likely that either of these boys could have successfully matched wits with an unplugged toaster.

Doris approached the boys, who were reloading the gun at the time. "Boys," she said, "where I come from, I learned that if bullets fly in your direction, you send some of your own right back at 'em. So unless you want things to get ugly, you need to move the target or else put that gun away until you've got brains enough to use it right."

Doris is the coolest neighbor we've ever had.



Tuesday, March 25, 2003
 
STORIES THAT END IN "DOH," VOL. 2

I see a bright and promising future ahead for this man (story from Independent Online):

"An English machine operator lost part of his thumb in a workplace accident, then lost a chunk of a finger on his other hand while trying to demonstrate to bosses how the first accident happened, his company said on Thursday."

The man, whose name is Keith Sanderson, sliced off part of his right thumb with a guillotine machine while working in a kitchen countertop factory.

That sounds bad enough, but some people just don't learn. A little while later, Sanderson lost part of his left index finger while showing his bosses what happened the first time.

Comedian Bill Engvall has a great routine about how manufacturers put warning labels on products to keep people from doing stupid things with them. He mentions how, when he changed a fan belt on his car, a warning label said to stop the motor before changing the belt. Engvall says:

"Wouldn't you love to have been there the first time that happened? Some guy walks into the house and his hands are all cut up. His friends say, 'Hey, Walt, what happened!?'

'Well, uh... I'm gonna give you boys a little tip. If you're gonna put a fan belt on a car, you better shut that motor off first! You can't stop it with your hands, man! It's like a machine or something!"

Evidently, Mr. Sanderson missed the warning label on the guillotine machine which said: "Warning! Do not place hand under blade! Also, do not demonstrate effects of placing hand under blade because eventually you will run out of fingers."



Monday, March 17, 2003
 
THIS AIN'T NO "BILLY BASS"

You know, some stories are just a bunch of carp (link from The Observer):

"An obscure Jewish sect in New York has been gripped in awe by what it believes to be a mystical visitation by a 20lb carp that was heard shouting in Hebrew, in what many Jews worldwide are hailing as a modern miracle."

Many people in the 7,000-member Skver sect, located in New Square, about 30 miles north of Manhattan, believe God revealed Himself in the body of the fish.

Zalmen Rosen and Luis Nivelo, fish-cutters from New Square, claim they were about to slaughter the carp when it suddenly began shouting apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew.

"'It said "Tzaruch shemirah" and "Hasof bah",' [Rosen] told the New York Times, 'which essentially means that everyone needs to account for themselves because the end is near'."

Now, that's one smart fish. If I was a talking fish and someone was about to whomp me with a club and slice me open, I would have just yelled, "No! Don't club me!" But this fish was savvy enough to skip the simple plea for mercy, which people usually ignore anyway, and take the old "tell 'em they can't kill you because they need you" approach instead ("You're going to Hell unless you listen to me!"). That kind of thing always works for bad guys in movies, but unfortunately it didn't quite work for the fish:

"The animated carp commanded Rosen to pray and study the Torah. Rosen tried to kill the fish but injured himself. It was finally butchered by Nivelo and sold."

This looks like a classic case of history repeating itself. God comes to Earth in a fleshly form and tries to teach Jewish people how to please Him; before too long, these same Jewish people get really upset and kill Him. No word yet on whether Rosen and Nivelo sold this fish for 30 pieces of silver.

Speaking of history repeating itself, Lithuania's president is reliving a few chapters from Russia's past.

According to this story from Reuters, Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas has gotten himself into trouble after publicly announcing his faith in Lena Lolisvili, a mystic faith healer.

Lithuanians refer to Lolisvili as "Rasputin," after the mystic who influenced Russia's Tsar Nicholas II in the early 1900s. But Lolisvili is no ordinary mystic:

"Lolisvili, an ethnic Georgian who claims God tells her the future and energises toilet paper she then wraps around her patients, told Paksas in 1996 he would become president...

...Paksas has said Lolisvili helped him when he was ill, but has never given details of his treatment."

Paksas' faith has caused an uproar among Lithuanian citizens, who fear global ridicule because of their president's remarks:

"'Lithuania risks becoming the laughing stock of the world for the next five years,' its largest newspaper, Lietuvos Rytas, said in an editorial on Friday."


As an American, I want to encourage the Lithuanian people not to worry. Our president's remarks have made us a target of global ridicule for just over two years now, and it hasn't been so bad.

However, given the recent conflict between the United States and the United Nations over the Iraq situation, I am just a little bit concerned that the leader of a U.N. member country believes in mystic toilet paper. I am also concerned that the U.N. headquarters is located near a community of people who listen to talking fish.

Maybe the U.N.'s judgment isn't so sound. Maybe President Bush is doing the right thing. And maybe, just maybe, war with Iraq is necessary after all.

I don't know exactly where to stand on this issue. I guess I'll have to talk it over with the ghost of my breakfast cereal the next time it appears to me in a dream.



Monday, March 10, 2003
 
STORIES THAT END IN "DOH!" (VOL. 1)

Your parents had a good reason for teaching you to look both ways before crossing the street, as this story from South Africa's News24.com illustrates:

(BETHLEHEM) -- A man was killed on Saturday when he was hit by a car while he crossed the road after he checked if his sister was injured after her car overturned.

The man, Phillip Kok, was following his sister Estelle home after leaving their older brother's wedding. Estelle lost control of her car and flipped it over. The story continues:

Phillip went to see whether Estelle had been injured. As he crossed the road to return to [his] own vehicle he was hit by a a car and died on the spot.

Wow. You talk about your bad luck. And to make things worse, just as the ambulance arrived, it blew a tire, slid off the side of the road, and rolled end-over-end down a steep embankment where it burst into flames. Rescue workers managed to extract the ambulance crew from the wreckage and fly them by helicopter to the nearest hospital.

But shortly after the helicopter took off, it flew past a wildlife preserve and into the flight path of a small family of endangered Rudd larks, which were sucked into the helicoptor's rotors. The damaged helicopter then crashed into a nearby orphanage.



Saturday, March 08, 2003
 
WHY I WRITE

Some people have wondered, as our economy collapses and the world teeters on the brink of nuclear war, why I choose to write about things like reality TV for dogs and people who make musical instruments out of carrots.

I believe that if you read this article from the Boulder News/Daily Camera, you might better understand why I'm drawn to this kind of subject matter.

The story is about the second annual Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland, Colorado. I will not say much about the article, because my words would only detract from its beauty. I will only encourage you to read it and gain a new appreciation for the world we live in. (An actual quote from the article: "This festival is like the Mardi Gras of cryonics.")

As a side note, Steff vonMende, another Nederland resident, will attempt on Tuesday to break the Guinness World Record for number of oysters eaten in 90 seconds. The current record stands at 64 oysters, which is 64 more oysters than I've considered eating in my entire life. (I strictly adhere to certain rules when it comes to the food I eat, and one of these rules is to never eat meat that's served inside the animal's original body. Oysters fall under this category.)

You can read about vonMende and the oyster eating contest here.



Wednesday, March 05, 2003
 
PUTTING THE "HIGH" IN "HIGH NOON"

Izra Nowitzke wasn't having a very good time. His wife had left him, he had financial problems, and, to top it off, his truck had just broken down. It was just too much for him to handle. So he did what anyone would do in his situation: Dress up like a cowboy, climb to the top of a bridge, and twirl a lasso around while threatening to kill himself.

According to Lt. Mike Rushing, a Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, Nowitzke, who lives in Polk City, called a tow truck early Friday morning to pull his truck to his brother's house in Tampa. As the tow truck driver crept slowly over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge because of heavy fog, Nowitzke jumped out of the tow truck, and grabbed a lasso from the back of his pickup. The story (from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune) continues:

Nowitzke climbed 50 to 60 feet above the bridge, then threatened to jump, said Hillsborough Sheriff's Office Maj. Gary Terry.

"He twirled it (the lasso) around like he was trying to rope a calf," Rushing said. "I thought I'd seen it all, but I've never seen anything like this before."

Traffic was stopped in both directions [for two hours] as rescue workers tried to get Nowitzke to come down.

When he finally came down, he was taken to a Pinellas County hospital for mental health evaluation. You may be wondering, "Was Mr. Nowitzke, by any chance, smoking crack cocaine at the time of this incident?" Allow Lt. Rushing to answer that question for you.

Nowitzke told negotiators he had been smoking crack cocaine, Rushing said.

Now, as sorry as we should feel for Mr. Nowitzke, I think this story should cause us to worry even more about the safety and well-being of President Bush. Why? Let's compare the facts:

Nowitzke: Dressed like a cowboy
Bush: Occasionally dresses like a cowboy

Nowitzke: Has a brother who lives in Florida
Bush: Has a brother who lives in Florida

Nowitzke: Smoked crack cocaine
Bush: May have smoked crack cocaine, but if he did, he was in his twenties and doesn't remember anymore

Nowitzke: Feels alone because his wife left him
Bush: Feels alone because he is the only Head of State in the entire world who can see how big of a threat Saddam Hussein poses

Nowitzke: Has major financial problems
Bush: Has major financial problems (See also: toilet, flushing of U.S. economy down the)

As you can see, the similarities are striking. What happened to Nowitzke could easily happen to the President. We should all keep a very close eye on him.



Monday, March 03, 2003
 
From the February 26 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press:

A Queen's Bench justice dismissed an appeal bid yesterday by a university professor who has spent five years fighting a $59 ticket he received for running a stop sign.

Rod Yellon, an associate professor at the University of Manitoba, was convicted of the traffic infraction last February after managing to have the case adjourned nine times.

He received the ticket in March 1998 but chose to fight it on the grounds that the word "Stop" is too vague and that stop signs don't have standards of calibration or testing.

When he was unsuccessful in gaining a 10th adjournment last February, Yellon stormed out of court during a break.

Provincial Judge Murray Howell chose to continue the trial anyway and convicted Yellon in his absence.


Let's get this straight. Yellon runs a stop sign, gets a ticket, goes to court, and has his trial postponed NINE times over four years before finally being convicted at his tenth appearance in court, which he doesn't technically attend because he throws a tantrum and leaves the courthouse partway through the hearing. Then he appeals the decision on the grounds that convicting him when he wasn't in the room violated his right to a fair trial. A judge denies the appeal, and Yellon has to fork over $59 for a traffic ticket and (this is merely speculation on my part) somewhere in the neighborhood of a gazillion dollars in court costs.

Even John Grisham couldn't think up a plot like this.

All this because, according to Yellon, the word "Stop" leaves a lot to the imagination. For instance, it doesn't necessarily mean "Cause your vehicle to cease forward motion on the roadway at a point near, but not in, the intersection, until the road is free of all objects that could collide with your vehicle and prevent you from safely crossing the intersection." The word "stop," by itself, leaves questions like these open to interpretation: "What's supposed to stop?"; "Stop where? On the sidewalk?"; "Stop when, exactly?"; "Stop what? Stop breathing? Stop slowing down? Stop running over people in crosswalks?"

While Yellon technically has a point, his argument just wasn't good enough for the judge. It's too bad that Yellon lives in Canada. Here in the United States, we almost ALWAYS let people off in court when they argue about the definition of even the simplest words. Heck, we even invite these people back later for jury duty!

Oh, by the way, Bill Clinton was summoned for jury duty last Friday.



Saturday, March 01, 2003
 
THIS GUY IS FALLING

According to this article from Expatica, maybe flying coach isn't so bad after all:

PARIS, Feb 25 (AFP) - The body of an African man who had stowed away in the landing-gear of an aircraft bound for Paris fell to earth as the plane came in to land early Tuesday, landing on the conservatory of a suburban home, French police said.


The article doesn't give many more details concerning the actual death of the man, but based on some information I found about other airplane stowaways, he likely was still alive when the landing-gear compartment opened up, dumping him out of the plane thousands of feet above Paris.

Isn't that sickening? I can't think of a more terrible, frightening way to spend your last moments alive. I mean, FRANCE, of all places.

According to the article, the owner of the home discovered the man's body on the roof first thing in the morning. This leads me to wonder two things.

First, what does a body crashing into a rooftop from thousands of feet in the air sound like? ("WHUMP," probably.) Second, why would the homeowner not investigate something like that until the next day?

WHUMP!
WIFE (bolting upright): "What was that!? It sounded like it came from the roof!"
HUSBAND (groggy): "Huh? Wha... It's probably just Santa, dear... (yawning) Now go back to slee--zzzzzzzz..."


As far-fetched as that may sound, you need to understand that Santa's had his share of accidents. Take, for instance, this item from the "Memories of Yesteryear" column in the November 26, 1999, issue of the Jonesville Independent, my weekly hometown newspaper:

"35 years ago: November 19, 1964
Santa Claus is planning to visit the kiddies at the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored free movie on December 19. To make it easy on the parents, we hope he 'arrives' on the ground. Last year in another locality, all the kids in town had gathered to watch him drop by parachute on a distant field. When the chute failed to open, it took some real doing to convince a number of frantic youngsters that Santa was not hurt and would be waiting for them in town."


The column doesn't say where this incident actually occurred. Buf if it happened anywhere near Jonesville, one thing is for sure: Those traumatized youngsters grew up to become the parents of the people I went to high school with. And believe me, that explains a lot.