Monday, November 30, 2009

Danvers High School Students Put On "Free Meep" T-Shirts

Meep is not dead, despite what the Danvers High School principal would like to believe.

Two seniors — Mike Spiewak and Matt LaFleur — wore blue "Free meep" t-shirts to school last week, so they could sell them and raise money for a scholarship or grant.

Now, although the principal said the word "meep" was being used to disrupt the school, it's now being used to further their education.

Is that irony, or just poetic justice?

LaFleur and Spiewak told the Salem News that they weren't suspended, but some teachers asked them to cover the shirts up in class. LaFleur has already been suspended twice for meeping, including once for creating a Facebook page about the t-shirts.

He made the page "to show how stupid it is we are getting banned from saying 'meep.'"

Spiewak told the News that Principal Thomas Murray told him his actions were "inappropriate and unacceptable" and said he should have sought permission first.

Spiewak: Principal Murray, can I give my friends some shirts that has that word on it that made you the laughing stock of the entire country?

Principal Murray: Why sure, that would be fine. Just fine.

Principal Murray, you remind me of Frank Burns in that early episode of M*A*S*H, where Burns banned poker from the camp. When one enlisted man said he lost his money playing poker, Burns said, "I can only conclude it was stolen, since I banned poker from the camp."

So would you have given permission, since the shirt is being used to ultimately further education? I somehow doubt it.

Michael Brownson, an insurance agent who works with Spiewak's mother, was outside the school with the two boys in a show of support.

"I thought there was an overreaction in Danvers," Brownson told the Salem News. "I'm a businessman, I saw an opportunity to make things right."

Brownson wants to use the funds raised by t-shirt sales to create a scholarship that will "(raise) awareness of constitutional law and what is right."

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Phone It In Sunday: The Muppets Do "Bohemian Rhapsody"

This has got to be one of the funniest damn things I've seen in a month. This isn't just the Muppets imitating Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" video, they do their own take on it. What really made me laugh is the "mahna mahna" Muppets — talk about your years-later callback.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Some Tennesseans Don't Understand Which Finger is the Bad One

Some people in Tennessee are a little consternated by a billboard where a young woman is, at first glance, flipping off local drivers.

According to a story on WRCB TV's website, the billboard says "she's tired of waiting," with a picture of a woman showing her ring finger in a gesture every driver in the world is familiar with.

"If you look at it twice you ought to get a chuckle," Barry Schenck of M.M. Schenck Jeweler told WRCB. "That's what we are hoping for."

Some people are complaining that Schenck's marketing campaign is in bad taste, but he is sticking to his guns.

WRCB spoke to the woman in question, Carla Fernandez, who is a Schenk employee.

"All women I feel at one point in their life are going to want that question," said Fernandez, "and when they get tired of waiting, those fingers are going to fly up."

Schenk says that when they do fly up, he hopes it's his store the men will visit. He said that he needed to do something to bring in the clientele, and thought the image would stick with people, whether it's insulting or inspiring.

"Of course in advertising that's exactly what you want," said Schenck, "at least talk about me, good or bad."

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Friday, November 27, 2009

‘Twas the Month Before Christmas 2009

‘Twas the Month Before Christmas

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

Ah, Black Friday. Nothing celebrates the birth of the Savior like getting 30% of the last plasma screen TV at 6:00 in the morning at Best Buy. And nothing commemorates that day like our own Laughing Stalk tradition, and running reader favorite “Month Before Christmas.”

'Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the town
Halloween decorations were just coming down.

I went to the mall for a weekend reprieve
And saw such a sight that I could not believe.

The place had gone crazy, the mall was just packed.
With new clothes and new toys and cheap plastic sacks
The store owners were praying and pulling their hair
Desperately hoping we'd spend money there.

When in one of the stores there arose such a clatter
I thought to myself "Now what's the matter?"
Away toward the noise the crowd flew like a flash
And knocked an old woman right on her caboose.

The cheesy green lights and the canned Christmas music
Made me realize no word rhymes with "music"
What I saw next made me scream and turn pale
A red and green sign said "We're having a sale!"

With a perky sales clerk, so cheerful and quick
I knew in a moment I was going to be sick!
She herded us in like sheep to the slaughter,
"Come in and buy things for your sons and your daughters!"

"We take Visa and Mastercard and Discover!" she chimed.
"American Express, credit cards of all kind!
From the back of the store, all the way to the front
Everything is on sale, there is no need to hunt!"

With the power and fury of an eight-point earthquake
The people were drawn in like a fat guy to cake
And into the store, the crowd they just flew
But what they were after, I hadn't a clue.

And then with a shudder, I heard behind me.
The ear-piercing scream of a child, age three
He gave a shrill shriek that would curl your hair
He yelled at his parents, "Hey let's go in there!"

"I see lots of games and toys," yelled the runt
"Why can't we go in there and get what I want?!"
I looked at his parents, all haggard and worn.
Their faces were bruised, their clothes, they were torn.

Their eyes, how they drooped. Their coats were all muddy.
She was missing her shoes, his nose, it was bloody.
He clung to his wallet, she clutched at her purse.
They tried not to explode as they held back a curse.

"You've got enough stuff already," the two parents said.
But the child just screamed and cried and turned red.
"What's the matter?" I asked, though I wished I had not.
They said "You can guess at the problem we've got."

"We're shopping for Christmas, for family and friends,
But it seems like this madness goes on without end."
"We've been here since morning, looking for sales.
But we've spent too much money. We feel like we've failed."

"Credit cards, debit cards, checkbooks and cash,
It's only November, and our budget has crashed."
Then the child came running and shouting with glee
"Hey, I found something else! You must come with me."

And I heard them exclaim, as they left with a grunt,
"Merry Christmas to you, though it's not 'til next month!"

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

President Obama Pardons His First Turkey, PETA Manages to Stick Its Nose In

President Barack Obama just pardoned his first turkey of his administration, following the Thanksgiving presidential tradition started by President George H.W. Bush.

The turkey in question is named Courage, a 45-pound turkey that probably had drumsticks that could feed a family of four.

According to an Associated Press story, Sasha and Malia Obama accompanied their dad while he received the gift from the National Turkey Federation — a tradition started in 1947. (It was President Bush Sr. who first pardoned the bird.)

"I'm told Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson actually ate their turkeys," Obama said. "You can't fault them for that; that's a good-looking bird."

"Thanks to the interventions of Malia and Sasha — because I was planning to eat this sucker — Courage will also be spared this terrible and delicious fate," he said.

And because Malia and Sasha played an important role in saving this turkey, PETA is granting the First Daughters honorary memberships in PETA Kids.

(In case you're wondering, this is the same PETA that kills thousands of pets each in its Norfolk, Virginia animal shelter.)

Trust PETA to seek to thrust themselves into the news spotlight like the creepy photobombers you went to high school with, sticking their faces in photos at the last second.

"We want to thank them for their involvement in pardoning the turkey this Thanksgiving," said Ashley Byrne, PETA spokeswoman.

Muh-huh. For once in your life, please understand that this is not about you. In fact, it's never about you. Just go away and stick to killing house pets.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wayback Wednesday: I Can Even Use a Power Saw

I Can Even Use a Power Saw

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2005

On Wednesdays, rather than rehashing a news story, I reprint one of my old columns. I've got 15 years' worth of the damn things, so there's no point in letting them sit moldering in a box in my garage. At least not the good ones. This one is from September 2005.

Ever since we moved into our house 11 years ago, I've enjoyed working on it. Building and insulating the walls, putting up drywall, and watching my wife paint.

We finished off the upstairs and the basement with her parents' help, and I learned the manly art of bashing my own thumb with a hammer. In fact, I got so good at it that I find I enjoy working with my hands, beyond just typing on the computer.

Some days, I even fancy myself capable of doing this on a daily basis. I can just imagine what it would be like to earn a living, doing what I do on the weekends: drink beer, putter around in the garage, clean it a bit, drink more beer, and watch football on TV.

Sadly, there is more to being a contractor than that. It's not as much football watching, which is bad, but a lot more beer drinking, which is good, unless you're using a power nailer.

The problem with doing this kind of work is that it really can damage a Guy's hands. Whenever I think, "wouldn't this be fun to do everyday?" I remember what my hands looked like when I was finishing the upstairs of my house six years ago.

Every week brought a new scratch, scrape, scar, or bandage. I began to look like a walking triage unit, and personal injury attorneys followed me in the grocery store.

A hand's scars are a historical road map. They show us where we've been, what we've done, and the total screwups we've made when handling sharp objects. There's the scar where I cut myself with my dad's hunting knife, the scar where I cut myself with a kitchen knife, and the scar where I cut myself with a utility knife while cutting some drywall. Apparently, I have serious issues with knives.

For the past few weeks, my wife and I have been tackling major projects around the house, and my hands look like I've been wrestling a sack of nettles. I have cuts on my fingers from an errant hacksaw, a few poison ivy blisters, and a couple of scratches from God only knows what. And this was a good week.

But Guys wear their scars like badges of honor. Stupid, I-wasn't-paying-attention-and-sliced-my-hand-with-my-utility-knife scars. Big hey-want-to-see-what-a-hot-drill-bit-can-do-to-human-flesh scars. And we parade them around for others to see.

When most non-Guys (i.e. "Men") injure themselves, they will carefully clean the wound with Bactine, put some antibiotic ointment on it, and put a clean bandage on it every day. They also get their wives to "kiss it and make it all better." Guys, on the other hand, will only put a small Band-Aid on the wound to make sure they don't get blood in their nachos. Afterward, they take it off so people will ask them about it at work the next day.

Mildly concerned co-worker: Eww, gross! What did you do to your hand?

Guy: Oh that? That's just a scratch. I was building a new storage shed out of some pine logs and plywood. I guess one of the pieces got away from me, because it slipped and gashed my hand up pretty good. I just wrapped a little duct tape around it and kept working.

Other Guy: What are you talking about? I was over at your house, and you were cutting little rosettes into some baby redskin potatoes, and you sliced your hand on that little bitty paring knife. You cried like a baby and insisted I take you to the emergency room.

Guy: Yeah? Well, now you can forget about me making that lobster bisque and pasta bolognese for your birthday!

But Guys take pride in their scars, because we earned them. We performed the labor, we put ourselves at risk, and we made the gross error that nearly lopped off a finger or severed an artery. These aren't self-inflicted little scratches that we made to look cool. That would be like buying pre-torn jeans, like some non-Guys I could name. Guys just don't fake injuries. We may lie about them, but we'd never fake them.

We'd never intentionally drop lumber on our foot. We'd never try to injure ourselves with a sharp chisel. And we'd never overdramatize a groin injury and then purposely get suspended from training camp as a way to try to leverage a better contract than the 7-year-$49-million contract our moron of an agent made us sign the year before.

Not that I'm pointing a finger or anything. It's still too painful to move after I whacked it with a hammer.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Food Finally Used in Self-Defense in Florida Bagel Robbery

It was bound to happen. Food has been used often enough to assault others. It was only a matter of time before it thwarted an assault.

In a move that made Second Amendment supporters fire their guns into the air and say, "See? Told you so," a bagel cart was used to stop two armed suspects from robbing an Einstein Bros. Bagels in College Park, Florida yesterday morning.

According to a story in the Orlando Sentinel, two suspects wearing masks and hoodies, and carrying a shotgun, entered Einstein Bros. They tried to rob the place, but one of the employees pushed a bagel cart at the suspects and they fled.

"Bagels protect our freedom, our families, and ourselves," said Murray Lender, president of the National Bagel Association. "You can have my bagel when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!" he shouted.

In the meantime, Einstein Bros. is considering putting some new lox on the doors.

Photo: gay.goy.gourmet
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Five More People Who Bug Me

I had so much fun with my last People Who Bug Me post, I decided to do another. This may become a regular thing, so if you can think of any suggestions, put them in the comments.

  • That costs money: Of course it costs money. Everything in life costs money. Unless you're sneaky, and/or have a fast getaway car, you're not going to get much in life for free. This was a common objection I heard when I worked for a company in the mid-2000s. It was their way of saying "we're too cheap." (Special thanks to Doug Karr for this one.)

  • I've slept since then: It was funny the first 10 times I heard it. The next 1,000, not so much. Just say "I don't know," or "I forgot." Considering we're talking about something we discussed six months ago, I would hope you've slept at least a little bit.

  • I haven't woken up yet: Commonly heard at morning meetings. You just drove a 3/4 ton vehicle across town to an 8 am meeting, and you're telling me you're not fully functional? First, I'm glad you're still alive. Second, give me a 10 minute head start before you leave here.

  • People who say "let there be light:" If anything is truly older than God, it's this joke. Please just stop saying it. The biggest reason a joke is funny is because of the element of surprise. The only thing that will surprise me about this joke is if you don't say it after you change a light bulb.

  • "Slow" Guys Who Direct Traffic in Construction Zones: Picture this: You're driving on the street, and you hit a 1-lane only construction zone. You come to stop, 12th in a long line of cars, waiting their turn. When the cars finish coming from the opposite direction, your line begins making its way down the now empty lane. Standing at the entrance is the guy holding the "Slow" sign, waving you on, like you're going to go somewhere else. "Thank God you're here," you want to say. "This long line of cars and hundreds of orange barrels was absolutely no help in showing me where to go." Dude, you're basically one worker's comp claim from being replaced by a portable stoplight. Don't get above yourself.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Phone It In Sunday: Upper Class Twit of the Year

Monty Python's "Upper Class Twit of the Year" was the first Monty Python's Flying Circus skit I ever saw. To me, it's the definitive Python skit. Enjoy.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

This Old New House

This Old New House

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

I miss living in an old house.

I lived in an old mansion-turned-fraternity house when I was in college. My last day there was about 21 years, at Ball State University.

The thing was a dump. About what you'd expect a fraternity house to look like, sound like, and of course, smell like. There's nothing like the smell of stale beer in the basement carpet to smack you in the face on a hot summer day.

But it was our house, all the sights, sounds, and smells.

That house is gone now, the fraternity chapter closed down. Not too surprising: a house that smells like that tends to be a little more disreputable than the other houses on campus. (A reputation we were proud of.)

I have one of the few remaining bricks from the old plaec, having taken a few of them a few years before it was torn down. (Don't worry, no one was living in there at the time.)

Since that time, I have lived in four houses, all new. In fact, we just moved into a brand new house two months ago. It's missing something.

Don't get me wrong. I love my house. After renting for three years, it's the first house we've been able to call ours in a long time. The last house we owned seems so long ago, my 7-year-old son barely remembers it. But my new house is not an old house.

Old houses are great, because they're filled with character. They have personalities, stories, a past. The floorboards creak at the memory of the kids who played there decades ago. The door that never stays shut. The window that gets stuck when it's going to rain.

People who live in historic homes love their painted ladies, not despite their problems and weird quirks, but because of them. They learn to live with them, and even to love them, blaming noises on the the heat, the cold, or the ghost of the first owner who never quite left.

New houses don't have any of that. They lack the character and charm of the old house.

Our fraternity house was built in 1912, designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright's. And 75 years later, it had all the charm of a Southern belle at a cotillion.

We had two sets of stairs, one of which creaked horribly. The steam radiators had to be bled once in a while to get rid of the air bubbles. And we had to cover the windows with plastic film during the winter.

While the house had all these faults, it was our house. We knew how to make the house work. We knew we couldn't let more than two people shower at one time. Or that you couldn't flush the toilet while they were in there. And that the dining room could not hold more than 20 people at once without the floor possibly collapsing into the basement.

It was sort of like your college car that needed a thump on the dashboard to get started on a cold morning.

When I lived in Syracuse, we moved into a brand new house in 1995, but it wasn't new when we left it. It had grown its own lovable quirks. One of the basement steps squeaked. When we finished the upstairs, the outline of the dormer bays looked like a coffin. And the crawlspace doors at the ends of the dormers would blow open if it was a windy day, but only in winter. I loved every inch of it, including the bathroom wall that was not quite square to the other walls.

I've done my best to give our house some character though. My most noticeable contribution is the black scuffmarks in the wall I made while carrying in our 10-year-old 70 pound television. They look like eyes squinting at you from inside the wall, like the kitchen is glaring at you.

On the other hand, old houses are cold in the winter, because they're notoriously underinsulated. There are so many cracks going into the attics that are big enough for a bear to crawl through. The only reason they don't is because they're afraid of the bats that live there.

On the other hand, my house is sealed tight against bats, rodents, and bears. And what it lacks for in creaking floors and sticking doors, it more than makes up for by being toasty warm in the winter, and pleasantly free of ghosts.

And no stale beer smells.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

People Who Bug Me

I was inspired by Davezilla's "More People We Dislike" post to come up with my own list of people who bug me.

  • Left foot brakers: I can always recognize the left foot braker, because they're going down the highway at the same speed as everyone else, but their brake lights flicker on and off. Their brakes probably have a lifespan of 8 weeks.

  • Left lane drivers: Are you sensing a pattern here? I hate it when people drive in the left lane and they're going slower than the people in the right lane, and there's no one in front of them.

  • People who correct me with questions: If I am ever forced to go into a Starbucks, I order a medium latte. The barista always says, "Grande latte?" I say, "No, a medium." This is why I always go to independent coffee shops.

  • People who pull out in front of me, but go slower than me: You know who you are. (This didn't start out to be a driving rant, but so far, it's bad drivers who bug me the most.

  • People who say I hate beer: That's like saying I don't like food. There are literally thousands of beers available, and they all taste different. And unless you have a wheat/gluten allergy, I can find a beer you'll like.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ESPN Announcer Joe Morgan Says a Naughty on National TV

I was looking back through my Moleskine notebook today, and came across this little gem: On May 11, 2008, Joe Morgan, former second baseman for my beloved Cincinnati Reds was on ESPN doing color commentary for the Boston Red Sox - Minnesota Twins game.

A foul ball was hit into the stands, and it was caught by a fan wearing a baseball glove.

Joe Morgan said, "Anyone can catch a foul ball with a glove. I'm impressed by the guy who catches it with his hands. If I'm putting together a top ten list of catches, I want someone who catches it with his bare hands."

The same batter hit another foul ball into the stands. And Joe said, "Let's see if someone can get a bare hand job there."

Stay classy, Joe.

Photo: pvsbond

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Racist Philadelphia Swim Club Files For Bankruptcy

The Valley Swim club — the "private, exclusive" swim club that turned away 65 inner-city day care children — is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

But, they're quick to point out, it wasn't because of the allegations this past summer that they're all a bunch of racists and bigots who didn't want black and Hispanic kids in their pool.

(That's the same pool where some members said they just didn't want poor people, but race had nothing to do with it. "This has nothing to do with race. I paid my money for a private swim club…if they're gonna have it out to camps, then I want my money back," said one member.)

According to a story in the Philadelphia Daily News, Valley Swim Club president John Duesler emailed club members and said that the board of directors voted to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

But Duesler said that it wasn't the legal proceedings of defending themselves against several civil lawsuits. Rather, the rich, snooty members of the Valley Swim Club weren't enough to keep the pool afloat. (Get it? Pool? Afloat? Ah, never mind.)

And while many will point towards our legal situation and negative media exposure this summer as the reason for this decision, the truth is that the club has struggled to stay out of the red for at least the last decade. Despite our most ambitious efforts and countless hours of dedication towards the club, we have been unable to grow our membership enough to sustain The Valley Club any longer. Indeed, we have not been profitable, for as long as I’ve been with the club. And our current debt from this year’s operation and legal fees now exceeds $100,000.

Look at the next-to-last sentence. I think this says more than anything about why the club is going under for the last time:

Indeed, we have not been profitable, for as long as I’ve been with the club.

I'm not trying to gloat about the demise of an elitist, exclusionary, rich swim club that denied a bunch of kids the chance to swim, just after they had accepted a contract to allow them to swim, but I called this back when the story first broke: Duesler is basically incompetent.

Back in July, he said the reason they didn't want the kids there was because they didn't have enough lifeguards to handle the extra workload, despite accepting Creative Steps' check for $1,950, and the checks of two other day care centers. This is what I said:

What Duesler said he meant to say was his site does not have enough lifeguards to safely watch over the 65 extra kids.

Muh-huh. So you're not a racist, you're just incompetent?

In other words, he meant to say that he overcommitted his pool, that he failed to plan properly, that he couldn't find any way to fix the problem without becoming a pariah, that he wasn't able to marshal his resources properly, and basically can't properly run a private swimming club for a bunch of snooty rich people without sticking his foot in his mouth.

And now, he has said that during his entire tenure there, he hasn't been able to make the pool run successfully.

I can't say I feel bad for the Valley Swim Club. They were either incompetently run, which Duesler has admitted to, or they're a bunch of racists, which other members have shown themselves to be.

While I should feel bad about my overwhelming sense of schadenfreude, I don't. People who still believe in Jim Crow in the 21st century need to have this kind of shame and humiliation brought down on them. There is no place for racism in this country or this century, and the sooner you learn that, the better off we'll all be.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Phone It In Sunday: Target Women: Broadview Security

Sarah Haskins always makes me laugh. She's right on target with how Broadview Security uses fear as a way to get people to buy their security systems.

I recently wrote on my work blog about how marketers use fear and greed to motivate buyers. And Broadview is tapping into women's fear with laser-like accuracy.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Zero Tolerance School Arrests Kids for a Food Fight

Just when I thought schools couldn't get any dumber, they did.

This week's "Dumbest School In The World" award goes to the Perspectives Charter Middle School in Chicago, which had police arrest more than 2 dozen children for reckless conduct.

Their horrible crime? A food fight.

According to a story on the ABC News website, there was a food fight at the school this past Thursday, and so the 25+ children were arrested, handcuffed, fingerprinted, and took mugshots.

"Hey kid, what are you in for?"

"I threw a carrot at a another kid."

"Uh, I-I-I don't want any t-trouble. I'll just sit over h-h-here."

The students were then suspended, and will have to appear in court.

Erica Russell, mother of Cassandra and Aliyah, told ABC News that she's "stunned."

"Who does that? Lock children up for throwing a carrot, a biscuit, milk, Jello," Russell said. "Who does that?"

ABC News wanted to know why the kids weren't just given detention.

"You have police coming in and investigating and sometimes taking kids down to the police station — grade-school children — for what we used to call childish behavior," John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group, said.

Oh, but this is serious stuff, said Perspectives. These kids could cause injuries, be terrorist, or worse, disrupt other students' education!

"The Chicago police officers who help protect our school, concerned about potential injuries resulting from the fight, felt it was necessary to arrest those responsible," the school said in a statement.

How do you injure someone with Jell-O or a carrot?

I myself was never in a food fight in my entire educational career. (However, I am only one of two students to ever hang a dead possum from the roof of a school next to a sheet with the words "Eat Me" spray-painted on it. The other one was the guy who did it with me.)

Yes it's annoying, yes it's a pain, and yes, the kids should be punished. But arrested? I think that's more than a little over the top. While their records will be wiped clean when they turn 18, those things are going to follow them around until then.

McDonald's Manager: So, have you ever been convicted of a crime?

Student: Well, I threw a biscuit at another kid when I was 12.

McDonald's Manager: I'm sorry, the position has been filled by someone less dangerous.

The problem is Zero Tolerance forces all school administrators to walk in lockstep with all the rules, treating all major violations and minor incidents exactly with the same draconian, life-harming results.

Kids who have an aspirin are treated the same as the kid dealing drugs. Kids who have a butter knife are treated the same as the kid with a gun.

Zero Tolerance has long equaled Zero Sense for most school administrators, and they can't see how stupid they've become. They would prefer to make a basic knee-jerk reaction and think that they're somehow doing the kids some good.

Rather than turning an incident into a teachable moment (hey, isn't that what schools are all about?), or better yet, eliminate Zero Tolerance policies completely, they instead dream up the harshest punishment they can, but are caught off guard when it hits the airwaves and they're lambasted for being such morons.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

What the Bleep is Wrong With Meep?

What the Bleep is Wrong With Meep?
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

I hate it when people bleep themselves.

No, I'm not bleeping out a bad word. I mean, I really don't like it when people say "bleep." As in "what the bleep is wrong with you?!" (If I actually had to use a bad word, I would write %#@!, which is called a "grawlix" by cartoonists.)

Don't say "bleep." It makes you sound five, or like you're trying to be funny with a really old joke, like "let there be light!" whenever you flip a light switch. If you want to say a curse word, just say the damn word. If you don't want to say the word, then say another freakin' word. Say "dang," "darn," "golly," or "goldurn." Just don't bleep yourself.

My kids don't even say "bleep." They usually say, "uh, that word you, uh, don't want us to say." Then we spend the next five minutes convincing them they won't be punished for saying it.

I appreciate that about my kids. They understand that there is a time and place for everything. The time is "not for the next 10 years," and the place is "not around me."

Still, one would hope that kids would have a little more respect for themselves than that, and would refrain from cussing, or at least practice a little self-censorship.

I could live with the word "meep," for example. But Danvers High School in Danvers, Mass. is up in arms about it.

Principal Thomas Murray was concerned because kids were saying "meep" at school. He was so concerned in fact, he sent all the parents an automated call saying if their kids said or displayed the offending word at school, they could be suspended.

Murray said students had been using it and other nonsensical words in the school, and that it was going to be a part of a planned disruption some of the students had organized online.

"It's really not about the word in particular," Murray told the Salem News. (Translation: "It's really about that word in particular.") Murray explained that the reason for his message was that students had been instructed to not use those or other words in a particular part of the building.

So he asked the students not to use the word to disrupt school and to stop other disruptive behaviors, but they didn't listen.

"Then... then..." he said, breaths coming in ragged, shuddering gasps. "Those big kids were mean to me!"

Okay, that's not really what happened. What he really said was "Students were not going along with the direction or refraining from a particular type of language."

Meep? Are you freaking kidding me?! There are all kinds of cuss words those kids could be saying, and you got your panties in a bunch because a bunch of kids said meep?! (See what I did there? I didn't use the F-word, but I didn't say "bleep" either.)

Murray said the automated call was made as a way to stop an apparent meep-in that was being planned on Facebook.

Murray says that thanks to the phone call, the "disruption" never happened, although some students were suspended, but "there were additional factors involved in their suspension unrelated to simply saying 'meep.'" But Murray insists that the word "meep" is not the problem.

"It has nothing to do with the word," Murray said. "It has to do with the conduct of the students. We wouldn't just ban a word just to ban a word."

So Murray instead blamed social networking in general and Facebook in particular for the whole thing. He thinks this should be a warning to parents about how kids are using social networking sites.

Having solved all other teen social networking problems like sexting, teenagers posting racy photos of themselves, and chatting online with complete strangers who may or may not be sex offenders, Murray is now keeping us safe from dangerous words like "meep."

"I'm not sure parents are aware of what students are getting into on the Facebook sites," Murray said.

Don't blame Facebook for this. Kids have been organizing pranks and "disruptions" to their education for centureis. Before Facebook, it was text messages, calling each other after school, passing notes in class, and chiseling out messages on stone tablets.

Learn to identify the real problem. A bunch of kids started using a silly word instead of a curse word. And you didn't want your authority threatened by this non-word, so you flexed your power over such a non-issue that Napoleon was heard clapping in his tomb.

Just man up and quit being such a meep baby.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Food-Related Assault Frame-up in Florida. Yeah, Florida again.

It was only a matter of time before someone started faking food-related assaults. And of course, it happened in Florida, where most of these assaults have happened in the past.

According to a story in the St. Petersburg Times, Robert Turley, a 51-year-old man living in Largo, Florida, called police to report that a man was attacking a woman by smashing potatoes over her head. It was actually the second of three calls he made in two hours. The other two calls were first that a man was chasing a woman with a knife, and then third, that he was punching the woman in the face.

Dude, I think it needs to go the otherway. Escalate, don't de-escalate (is that even a word?) First fists, then potatoes, then knives.

After he made the call, Turley would hide in a neighbor's yard when the cops showed up.

Turley finally admitted that the incident never happened, and that he made the calls because he was drunk and pissed at his roommates, a man and woman.

You know things have gotten out of hand when people start copycatting food-related assaults.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good Wishes and Many Thanks to Our Veterans on Veterans Day

The Moon gives you light
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans
My heart gives you love.
Walt Whitman

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Wayback Wednesday: Stay Out of the Attic!

Stay Out of the Attic!

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2004

On Wednesdays, rather than rehashing a news story, I reprint one of my old columns. I've got 15 years' worth of the damn things, so there's no point in letting them sit moldering in a box in my garage. At least not the good ones. This one is from October 2004, but is actually a reprint from 2001.

Ever since I was a small boy, I've always had strong feelings when it comes to scary movies.

I hate them.

They scare the bejeezus out of me. Whenever I make the stupid mistake of watching one, I have nightmares, I jump at strange sounds, and all the monsters -- including the shark from "Jaws" -- are waiting for me under my bed. It doesn't matter whether I'm at home (the monsters are in my closet), at a friend's house (they're in his closet), or at the movie theater (they're hiding in the popcorn).

And yet no one takes me seriously. Just a few weeks ago, my wife, my sister-in-law, and her husband badgered me into seeing "The Others," the Nicole Kidman-Tom Cruise pre-divorce production, and they promised me "it wasn't so bad."

"The Others" is a "supernatural suspense thriller" about a young mother (Nicole Kidman) and her children (two pasty-faced English kids) who live in a house on the Channel Islands. The kids believe there are ghosts in the house, and Kidman gradually realizes they may just be right. So one reviewer called it "the scariest thriller of the year."

"The scariest thriller of the year!" I griped to my wife, the following week. "You made me see the scariest thriller of the year."

At the time, I begged and pleaded not to go. I swore up and down I didn't like scary movies. "'Supernatural thrillers' is just a polite way of saying 'horror flicks!' " I sobbed. But I was outvoted and scared out of my wits.

When we got home, I turned on every light in the house, and made sure I was the first one in bed, so my wife had to turn all the lights off herself. I hoped the monsters would mistake her for me and get her instead, but their sense of smell is uncanny. That, and she was carrying her shotgun.

The last time I watched a scary movie was August 1989, 12 hours before I was supposed to start graduate school. I hadn't seen a horror movie for several years, and thought I was old enough to handle "The Shining." I told myself, "I'm 21 years old, I'm a college graduate, so I should be smart enough and mature enough to watch 'The Shining.' "

If horror movies scared you as a kid, they'll scare you when you're an adult.

As one would expect, I had nightmares that night, and woke up in a sweat, covers pulled up to my chin. I slowly pulled the covers back with my feet, convinced the monsters were under my bed, and did the unthinkable: I opened my eyes.

As I opened my eyes, I saw something hovering several feet above me. It was a small white blob, about 12 inches across. Of course, my eyesight is so bad without my glasses, it could have been the Queen Mum, and she still would have looked like a blob. However, since it was 4:00 in the morning, I knew there shouldn't be anything hovering several feet above me, Queen Mum or not.

I was convinced I was either seeing a disembodied head or a small ghost, and I couldn't look away. I had made eye contact, which is a major no-no in dealing with monsters.

The thing just hovered there, waiting for me to try to escape, so it could pounce, and drain away my life's energy. I laid there for several minutes, aware that my heart was beating faster, I was sweating profusely, and if I didn't get to the bathroom fast, I was going to have a bigger problem than just having my lifeforce sucked out by the Queen Mum.

As time passed, I began to remember the setting of the room, the various items my sister had left there from years past, and it suddenly hit me: I wasn't looking at the Queen Mum at all! It was just a stupid Winnie the Pooh mobile my sister had when as a baby. I had been lying there for 30 minutes, trying not to wet myself, waiting to be pounced on by Winnie the Pooh and his friends!

I stormed out of the bed, stomping on several monster hands, and went to the bathroom. Afterward, I was still too scared to go back to sleep, so I watched infomercials until it was time to leave. And until I was dragged to The Others, it was the last time I ever watched a horror movie.

But as soon as I get my own shotgun, I'll watch as many as I want.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Britain Won't Air Sesame Street. Rest of the World Not Surprised

Sesame Street, the show that's responsible for nearly every American under 45 learning to read, is celebrating its 40th year in production.

It's a milestone so popular that Google has been running cute little graphics celebrating it.

It's also no surprise that the Nanny State won't air the program, believing it to be outdated, not very competitive in the pre-school market, and that puppets are just out of date, said an article on the BBC website.

Nick Wilson the know-nothing in charge of children's programming for a show called Over at Five, says there are other shows that have similar learning themes, so Sesame Street got squeezed out because of xenophobia in favor of having home made shows instead.

Because, says the BBC, "it's preferable to put British voices on imported programmes."

Oh really? So who's doing the overdub on BBC America then? I don't recall hearing Gordon Ramsay's F-Word show being redone so Ramsey sounds like a Texan. The show might be interesting then.

"The style of the programme is a tad out-dated - there are very few puppet shows around now. Perhaps LazyTown, but that's a very different tempo, although it does have the overt educational message," said Know-Nothing Wilson.

You know, the sheer fact that Sesame Street is on in 140 other countries tells me that 140 other program directors are smarter than you. The rest are just getting warmed up.

So you can keep your Numberjacks and Tikkabilla and other pap. The rest of the world and I will stick with the world-loved pioneer in children's educational programming.

Today's rant was brought to you by the letters "B B C," and by the number "can suck it."
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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Phone It In Sunday: The Biggus Dickus Scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian

The Biggus Dickus scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian. One of my favorite scenes — although not my absolute favorite — from one of my most favorite movies ever.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Drunk Scotsman Challenges Lamppost to a Fight and Loses

Several years ago, I was driving in downtown Mishawaka, Indiana with my wife, sitting behind a car at a stoplight. The two passengers in the car started hassling a teenager who was walking on the sidewalk, because he held his arms wide and shouted, "you want a piece of me? You want a piece of me?!"

Because he was glaring at those people so intently, he completely missed the lamppost until he ran face first into it.

Nothing deflates an ego worse than a face plant into a lamppost. Unless you challenge it to a fight.

David Robinson of Crieff, Scotland had been drunk when he was shouting at passers-by and challenging him to a fight. However, Robinson must not have been that threatening, because they ignored him, which made him more angry.

According to an article on STV, the police showed up and watched as Robinson, tired of being ignored by real people, turned on the lamppost and shouted at it to "come and have a go."

When the police moved to arrest them, he yelled at them to fight him.

Robinson later admitted his guilt in Perth Sheriff Court (in Scotland, a Sheriff is a judge), and was given 80 hours of community service.

After he completes his community service, fight organizers have arranged a bout between Robinson and a mail box. If he wins, he'll face a telephone box for the title.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Justice is Blind, Not Very Smart

Justice is Blind, Not Very Smart

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

I'm a big supporter of civil rights and personal liberties. In this country, we're all guaranteed certain inalienable rights, and are allowed certain dignities, even when facing criminal charges.

For example, if you're accused of a crime, you have a right to not have your name dragged through the mud during the investigation. Of course, if you're found guilty, all bets are off. Let the name dragging begin. But until then, people deserve the whole "innocent until proven guilty" benefit of the doubt.

Look what happened to Richard Jewell, the security guard who saved several people from being blown up during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Rather than being hailed as a hero, he was accused by the FBI of planting the bomb, and all but found guilty by the news media. Despite some nasty accusations and rumors in the news, he was exonerated. So he sued several media outlets for a kajillion dollars, and won or settled every one of them.

Still, there are times when the criminals in question don't deserve sympathy or special treatment. I found two cases where I thought the criminals were getting special treatment, while the victims were being unnecessarily prosecuted or persecuted. And surprisingly, neither of them are in the United States.

In Toronto, Canada, David Chen, owner of the Lucky Moose store, was relieved to learn that some of the most serious charges against him were dropped related to a shoplifting incident this past spring.

Only Chen wasn't the shoplifter.

No, that was Anthony Bennett, an apparently habitual shoplifter Chen caught trying to steal from his store for a second time in the same day.

Chen and two other employees caught Bennett and held him until police arrived. The police freed Bennett, and then arrested the three Lucky Moose workers. Bennett later pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail for his crime.

Meanwhile, Chen was charged with kidnapping, possession of a dangerous weapon (a box cutter he wore on his belt), assault, and forcible confinement. The first two charges were dropped, which means Chen goes on trial next June before a judge for the last two charges that stemmed from stopping a shoplifter from ruining his livelihood.

Many Canadian activists are wondering why Chen is facing the more serious charges, even though Bennett has a 33-year police record, and only spent a month in jail. Chen was trying to protect his store from further theft, and faces several years in prison for it.

One of Chen's customers, Marianne Chong, told the Toronto Sun, that the Canadian courts are being rather unreasonable. She pointed out that Chen has to work 16 hour days just to cover his court and legal costs, while Bennett was able to get a free legal aid lawyer.

This week, another tale of misplaced priorities comes from Cornwall, England, shop owners Dennis and Christine Lusby had all the windows in their village store smashed out by one Ben Hill. The 20-year-old troublemaker, who had been in trouble with the law before, admitted to breaking the windows, and spent 74 days in jail for it. In fact, he did over £3,000 ($5,000) in damage to the windows, as well as a farmhouse window, a car, and another house.

The Lusbys, tired of answering the same old "what happened to your windows?" question from customers, wrote "damage done by Ben Hill" on all the plywood.

Not a problem, right? Hill committed the crime, pled guilty to it, and spent over two months in jail for it. They're just reporting the facts of the case.

But the police told the Lusbys to remove Hill's name from the boards, because the mere stating of the truth was taking away his civil liberties.

In other words, the police didn't want the Lusbys to tell everyone that BEN HILL BROKE THEIR WINDOWS. Apparently, telling people that BEN HILL BROKE THEIR WINDOWS was somehow going to create problems for the poor lad, who already had a well-earned reputation for terrorizing the village of St. Breward.

Ironically, I saw the story about how BEN HILL BROKE THEIR WINDOWS in the (London) Daily Mail. It's ironic, because once the story hit the British newspapers, any civil liberties the destructive little punk might have had immediately flew out the window.

He probably got blamed for breaking that one too.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Food-Related Assault Epidemic Spreads to Idaho, Condiments

The food-related assault epidemic is continuing to spread. This past June, it reached Idaho, and has mutated from food-only items to condiments.

That's when 18-year-old Tiffany Wallace of Boise rammed her pickup truck into another car several times, after throwing plastic packets of ranch salad dressing at an unnamed male driver.

According to the Idaho Statesman website, Wallace rammed a Kia sedan during a road rage incident that ended in the Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.
The male driver of the Kia told police the conflict began after he was cut off by a woman driving a pickup truck on Fairview Avenue near Orchard Street. The male driver told police that the woman driving the pickup then began driving aggressively — cutting him off, tailgating, and pulling the pickup next to him, where she yelled at him and threw coins and small plastic containers of ranch dressing at the car.
According to the police report, not only had the rear bumper fallen off and taillights been smashed, but "the car's sides and trunk were also covered by spots of ranch dressing and there appeared to be dents from the coins."

And nothing gets out ranch dressing. I mean, you can spray Shout on it, but those little greasy spots will be there forever.

Wallace pleaded guilty to felony aggravated battery. Ada County prosecutors dropped a use of a deadly weapon during the in the commission of a felony charge (which is also a felony) in exchange for her guilty plea.

I know ranch dressing isn't good for you, but a felony? Isn't that a little excessive? I mean, they were only small packets, not the great big bottles you get at Costco.

Wallace will be sentenced on December 11th. She faces up to 15 years in prison, but prosecutors are recommending a 10-year-prison sentence with a nice raspberry vinaigrette.

However, prosecutors are also recommending that Wallace receive six months of treatment in an Idaho Department of Correction facility, before the judge decides if she should serve her prison sentence or be placed on felony probation for the 10 years.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Confessions of a Know-It-All

Confessions of a Know-It-All

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2005

On Wednesdays, rather than rehashing a news story, I reprint one of my old columns. I've got 15 years' worth of the damn things, so there's no point in letting them sit moldering in a box in my garage. At least not the good ones. This one is from October 2005.

As a self-proclaimed Know-It-All, I am in the enviable position of being able to demonstrate my vast knowledge on a wide array of topics, like how Benjamin Frankton invented the kite, or how Ora and Wilfred Right were the first to fly an airplane across the Pacific Ocean to France.

And people enjoy hearing about these important facts. Oh sure, they may pretend to not be interested. But their eye rolling and shouts of "Would you just shut up?!" are really just good-natured jokes. I think they really appreciate it when I continue to lecture on about important fact that pops into my mind, like how Sir Isaac Newton invented the Apple computer.

But I hate it when other people do it to me. They do it in that smug way that just grates on my nerves, and correct me by asking a question in response to a statement I made.

"You mean Ben Franklin?" or "Haven't kites been around for centuries?"

Even those smarmy baristas do it at Starbucks, whenever I order a "large" latte.

"Venti latte?" they ask in a condescending way that both confirms my order and gently reminds me that they don't serve something as gauche and bourgeois as a "large."

"Yes," I respond. I refuse to say "venti." However, I have to salute their attempts at being Know-It-Alls, but it's obvious they aren't, otherwise they would recognize me as their king.

The benefit of being a Know-It-All is that I know the other people don't, in fact, know all; unfortunately, they don't. If they knew as much as they thought, they would realize that I did. As a result, they're unaware that Lewis and Clark were searching for the Fountain of Youth in Bend, Oregon, or that the United States fought Liechtenstein in World War II.

So it's my obligation to enlighten people about the gaps in their knowledge with interesting bits of trivia, like Alexander Graham Bell invented the graham cracker, or that "Inherit the Wind" is the sequel to "Gone With the Wind."

Unfortunately, some people don't take my pearls of knowledge to heart. They argue with me and say that I don't know what I'm talking about. If that's the case, then how did I get to be a self-proclaimed Know-It-All? These naysayers usually mumble something about how "self-proclaimed should be obvious" before stalking away in an envious huff.

It can be a lonely life at times. There aren't a lot of us Know-It-Alls around. In fact, in addition to myself, I only know two others: a kid from high school I used to play Dungeons and Dragons with, and a former psychology professor from Ball State University I met when I was a kid. However, that guy is not there anymore, so I guess he didn't know as much as he thought he did.

I first realized I was a Know-It-All when I was 12 or 13 years old and discovered I knew way more than my parents did. Most teenagers go through that phase, but they grow out of it when they reach high school and have it pounded out of them by their teachers. I, on the other hand, spent the next 15 years slowly educating my parents on things, until we were nearly on par. Of course, once I had children, it was like they had an educational growth spurt, and were much wiser and smarter than I had ever given them credit for.

Being a Know-It-All parent is a huge responsibility though. I only have a few short years to teach my children all the important facts of life, before the public educational system tries to drum it out of them. Important things like how George Washington crossed the state of Delaware to defeat the Confederate Army.

Sure, the teachers will tell me I'm ruining my children's education, but they're part of the problem, spouting off such nonsense as Canada is a country to the north of the United States, or fluoridated drinking water is not a government mind control plot. But I stand firm in my beliefs.

It's like Albert Einstein once said, "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." I figure if anyone knows what they're talking about, it's Albert. After all, he invented black holes and co-founded the Einstein Brothers Bagels shops.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

PETA Doesn't Want Wildlife Park Elephants Washing Cars

Animal rights joke organization PETA wants the Wildlife Safari in Oregon to stop using elephants to wash cars.

The group — which is also widely known for killing pets at its Norfolk, Virginia animal shelter — thinks the elephant carwash is "a gimmick that does nothing to foster respect for endangered species."

Gimmick? A gimmick?!

You're the same bozos who have started calling fish "sea kittens," wanted to open a "chicken empathy museum" in Louisiana, and wanted to whack a 6-foot bottle of Canadian maple syrup in Vermont with a club to protest seal clubbing in Canada.

Meanwhile, PETA's little gimmicks do nothing to foster respect for painfully-thin, faux-leather-Birkenstock-wearing granola munchers, but yet they keep doing stupid stuff.

In a story in the Roseburg (Oregon) News-Review, the PETA whiners believe the bullhooks, more commonly called an ankus, are being used to threaten the elephants with harm if they don't do their jobs.

But Dan Brands, the man who actually works with the elephants on a daily basis, told the News-Review that these bullhooks are used as an extension of the trainers' arms as guides, not hitting implements. Trainers actually give the elephants carrots or yams as treats.

"These are 2-ton animals," Brands said. "You can't force them to do anything they wouldn't want to do."

If PETA was truly concerned, they would put down their Starbucks soy half-caffe organic fair trade latte, leave their cushy air conditioned offices, and volunteer to wash these cars themselves. But until they're truly willing to step in and take over for the elephants, they need to stick to doing what they know best: killing Virginia's pets and making fools of themselves.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

What Peyton Manning Shouts at the Line of Scrimmage

Ever wondered what Peyton Manning shouts at the line of scrimmage? ESPN gives us a look at what goes through the mind of the QB genius.

"Now THAT'S next level."

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