Thursday, July 26, 2012

News Flash: Amelia Earhart Still Missing

Well, they still haven't found Amelia Earhart or her plane.
Of course, it's only been 75 years, so what's the rush?
The famed female aviator disappeared in a horrific crash in turn four during the 41st running of the Daytona 500.
Wait, that was Dale Earnhardt.
Earhart vanished while trying to fly around the world in search of a guy named Lindbergh that she wanted to punch in the nose.
Since then, she has become the only adequate two-word defense by husbands whose wives insist that they stop and ask for directions when lost while driving.
"Harry, you fedora-wearing buffoon, you know you're lost again.  Why don't you pull over at this gas station and buy a map?"
"Amelia frickin' Earhart."
For the last 75 years, a popular home game involves speculation over Earhart's whereabouts, and whether she's been spotted hanging out with Elvis. 
A search party was organized this year by a group of hide-and-go-seek experts who believe she landed on a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean.  Reports that she was stranded with a professor, a movie star, an obscenely wealthy couple, a boat captain and his red-shirted mate, and some girl named Mary Anne have not yet been confirmed.
It took this long to mount a serious search because investigators had to wait for a certain television channel to "discover" the $2 million required for the hunt.  Also, they wanted to give her a good head start.
The expedition also had a second purpose: to confirm a posit that television networks have way more money than sense, a theory thoroughly tested by E! network's renewal of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" for a seventh season.
According to the story in what appears to be an east coast horse racing sheet called, a group of researchers used the cash to buy high-tech equipment like a really good iPhone 4S with the Socialcam video app and maybe some surplus sonar gear from the Andrea Doria to help with their investigation.
They spent weeks doing underwater reconnaissance around the island of Nikumaroro, but couldn't locate anything that might be as big as, say, a twin-engine 10-passenger airplane.  However, the scientists with degrees and large titles had a legitimate response, explaining that stuff left at the bottom of the ocean for 75 years is, quote, "hard to find."
The results of their extensive and well-hyped search were "inconclusive," which is scientist-speak for "we didn't find nuthin'."
So far, rumors that Geraldo Rivera of Capone's Vault fame was in charge of the search are still unsubstantiated.
In previous trips, researchers have found what they believe to be incontrovertible evidence that the flier spent time on the island, including (wait for it)...a campfire!  Nearby they also found an empty can, a bottle, and a bumper sticker that says "My Other Car Is A Lockheed Electra 10E."
However, in 1991, the group found a woman's shoe that resembles the kind known to have been worn by Earhart, and of a style that no local cannibal would be caught dead wearing after Labor Day.  Results of testing on that shoe are still pending, awaiting the return of legendary footwear expert Prince Charming.
The fact that the explorers didn't find Earhart, her navigator, her plane, or any paperwork from a TSA strip-search hasn't stopped plans by the Discovery Channel to air the project's documentary in August.
So far, no confirmation has been given as to whether Rivera will host the show.
In an effort not to be outdone by the educational upstarts at the Discovery Channel, speculation has increased that PBS will soon mount their own well-funded search for Earhart.
Early reports that PBS will use some of today's best global investigators, including Dora the Explorer and Carmen Sandiego, are still unconfirmed at this time.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Check Yes or No

More than 20 years ago, Robert Fulghum wrote a brilliant essay entitled "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten."  It was such a profound concept, I once had a poster framed in my den that enumerated those 14 things, including "don't hit people," "warm cookies and cold milk are good for you," and of course, "flush."
I reflected on that list recently because of Facebook.
For those who don't know, Facebook is an internet phenomenon that is changing the way people interact and conduct their lives.  It's a great way to reconnect to old and forgotten friends from your high school days, and to keep up with what your grown children and grandchildren are doing.  (Heaven knows your kids won't actually TELL you what they're up to).
While mingling on Facebook recently, I realized that it electronically embodies one of the most basic of human interactions, one that first came to light as soon as I was able to figure out which end of the fat first-grade pencil went up.
The minute I could scrawl all 26 letters on the strangely-lined green paper of my Big Chief tablet in a manner that could be deciphered by people who didn't arrive on saucer-shaped space craft or were James Bond-worthy cryptographers, this recitation became the cornerstone of my first-grade social existence:
Do you like me?
__ Yes
__ No
None of Dick and Jane's exciting adventures with Spot could match the heart-stopping, stomach-in-the-throat anticipation of awaiting a response to that all important question.
Like most kids at the age of six, I didn't discriminate.  Guys got the same note as girls, mostly because they were basically the same to me.  I didn't develop the aversion to "gross, yucky girls" until deep into second grade, and had pretty much finished off that phase by fifth grade, when we had our first school dance.
Today, nearly a half century later, I find myself in the same position thanks to Facebook.
In the course of a normal day in real life, we meet new and interesting people, strike up conversations, engage in the occasional "Ginger vs. Mary Anne"-esque debate on Lohan or Kardashian, and maybe even exchange cell phone numbers.  Not so we can call each other, mind you, but so we can text one another.
However, it takes time to ferret out whether a new acquaintance has become a friend or not, and even then we don't have any definitive, documented evidence of the relationship's status.
Except on Facebook.
In the 21st century version of the old "do you like me" question, one person will send another person a "Friend Request," then wait anxiously for the answer.
I realized that it's just like the days of folded notes passed from aisle to aisle between sessions of "1+1" and printing your name a few hundred times on another of those ubiquitous green sheets.
When accessing a schoolmate online from 30 years ago...will they remember me?  Will they recognize the name?  Did I forget that I used to put bugs in their hair during recess?
Sometimes it's an old colleague you used to go bar-hopping with in third grade.  (Monkey bars, that is).  Or it could be a co-worker from a job long past.  Maybe it's even that cute red-haired girl that scratched an X in the "no" box back in Miss Gallagher's class. 
Just like your days in elementary school, sometimes you'll get a confirmation, which is like the cherished "Yes" on your note that leads you to a happy dance that is suspiciously similar to your clumsy gym floor moves at age six.
Sometimes you get no answer at all, leaving you to wonder if the note didn't make it through, or if it's the polite version of a "no."  You might even resubmit your request two or three times like a pathetic Internet stalker, the electronic equivalent of standing under someone's window holding a boom box playing Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes."
And, like the class snitch, on rare occasion someone will report you to the Facebook teacher, claiming they don't know you and that you should be sanctioned for daring to bother them when they're doing something important like editing their porn catalog.
Unlike real life, where verbal proclamations regarding a relationship's status are rare, at least you know.
And you don't have to worry about punishments like clapping erasers and cleaning the blackboard after getting caught passing notes in class.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ending My Affair With Paula Deen

It's over.
Now is the time to confess, to come clean, and beg for absolution.
The truth is, I've been having a secret affair with Paula Deen for years.
How secret?
It was so secret that not even Paula knew.
For me, watching her cook was like food porn.  I'd sneak onto the cooking channels when nobody was home, careful not to get caught, just to catch a glimpse of this voluptuous woman doing naughty things with sticks of butter.
I loved everything about her, from her gorgeous silver hair to her tantalizing southern accent. 
To paraphrase the immortal line from "Jerry Maguire," Paula had me at "today we're going to fry up some chicken, y'all."
Her infectious laugh and sparkling eyes were a vision to behold.  And the woman could sure fill out a smock!
Sadly, the affair ended this week when I saw pictures of her on the cover of a supermarket tabloid.  It wasn't a story about her having a wild weekend fling with Wolfgang Puck, or a jailhouse photo of her after an all night binge at Denny's.
No, it was a full-body photo of her new physique.  Or should I say, a three-quarter-body photo, because there's a big chunk of her missing.
According to the screaming headline, Paula has lost 30 pounds.
If that's true (and it's People magazine, so it HAS to be true), she's lost me as well.
One of the many things I loved about Paula was that she was all woman, a REAL woman.  She was every bit as beautiful as Dolly Parton, but with all original factory-installed equipment instead of being a rebuilt belle with aftermarket parts.  Paula was as God made her, an inspiration among the vapid stick figures who parade across my TV screen with their store-bought breasts and anorexically thin bodies by Jake, Jason, or Jillian. 
Now she's just another Hollywood hottie.  Before, I considered her a perfect 10 (occasionally even an 11, because of her way with pie).  Today, she merely wears a size 10.
I realize that the haters forced her into losing weight because of her diabetes (a malady which was just one more thing we had in common, a part of our bond).  If you believe the TV quacks like Dr. Oz, the weight loss might be healthy.  But as Billy Crystal taught us on Saturday Night Live as Fernando Lamas, it's better to look good than to feel good.  It doesn't matter how you feel, just so you look mahvelous.
Our break-up is not solely about looks.  It's about truth.
How can any man trust a woman who looks you in the eye and prepares scrumptious sweet chicken bacon wraps, while backstage she's nibbling on Greek salad and steamed fish? 
Then you have the issue of children.
Which would make a better mother, the woman who encourages chubby little girls and tells them they are valuable and beautiful no matter what size they are, or the mom who reminds you daily that love only comes to those who stick their fingers down their throats after every meal? 
If you're unsure of the answer to that question, you've never watched an episode of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians," "Living Lohan," or "Toddlers and Tiaras."
So it's over between Paula and I. 
It's time for me to find a new celebrity crush, which will be a bigger challenge than you might think.  After all, how many gorgeous, sweet, plus-size, silver-haired, luscious-voiced southern-talking women do you find on television?
I guess I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed and wait for Kellie Pickler to grow old and see what happens.
In the meantime, maybe I should send her a Betty Crocker cookbook... 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Free At Last

"Free at last, free at last.  Thank God Almighty we are free at last!"  -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'm not so arrogant as to think I'm anywhere in the vicinity of someone like Dr. King.  They won't be naming streets in bad parts of town after me, people won't be taking my birthday off from work, and stores won't be holding special white sales on sheets and towels in my name each February.
But I dig his message.
For the last year, I've been living my own quiet version of bondage (and not the good kind, like you see late at night on Cinemax).
When Cindi Delaney and I sold the Mesquite Local News in 2009 to Stephens Media, the parent company of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, I had to sign a contract.  It didn't involve any first-born children or blood oaths over a bubbling cauldron, but I was prohibited from working for any other newspaper in town for one full year after departing their employ.
That day of departure came in June of 2011 when my two-year contract ended.
So for the next full year, this local Mesquite newspaper writer was not allowed to write for any local newspaper in Mesquite.
I was the one who signed the contract, so I can't whine too much.  But think of it this way: you're a French fry cooker at McDonalds.  After you get canned because the assistant hamburger assembler doesn't like you, you're barred from making French fries down the street at Jack In The Box.
Extrapolate that any way you want.
My "emancipation" came last week, when the one year anniversary of my departure arrived and my non-compete clause expired.  So now I'm free.  And like the dog that finally caught the what?
The news landscape in Mesquite is different.
First, the Desert Valley Times has a new editor.  Things haven't changed much there, which is to be expected from a property owned by the Gannett anti-news mega-corporation, a company that seems to consider things like bunions to be worthy of front-page coverage in their USA Today.
Then you have Mesquite Local News, which is just a shell of the vibrant news source Cindi, Sue Hurley and I founded.  The less I say about that paper, the less likely I'll be sued.  (Remember, Stephens Media helped found RIghthaven, the group that once sued a little old lady for using part of a copyrighted story on her blog about cats.)  I'm just sayin'.  Also, there are still some good people there who have survived despite a constant corporate stick across the brow.
Which leaves the newest entry in the Mesquite news merry-go-round: Mesquite Citizen Journal.
It's run by a real journalist, a woman I've respected for years because of her fierce dedication to finding and telling the truth. 
If I was going to get back into the news business (like the guy with the hangover, I swore I was never going to do THAT again), her online newspaper was the only place I could see myself.
But the truth is, the MCJ doesn't need me.
It already has a top-notch editor in Barbara Ellestad, and her investigative reporting is every bit as good as anything I had ever done back at "that other newspaper." 
She is complemented by John Taylor, another former Mesquite Local News alum, who has become a tremendous writer in his own right.
Her lineup of weekly columnists is like a "who's who" of the best MLN had to offer, including Betty Haines, Mike McGreer, Terry Donnelly, and Susan Lang, with the extra bonus of newcomer Mike Young.
Fortunately, for some reason Barb figured she needed someone on staff who could start every sentence with "back in my day." (As I learned from my time at Stephens Media, apparently it's a critical position in corporate news hierarchies.)
She asked.  I accepted.
So here I am, back in my favorite role -- writing a weekly humor column, something I started all the way back in 2004 when I was with the DVT, and continued throughout my time at MLN.
Of course, as I mentioned, the landscape has changed.  Holecheck is gone.  Ence is gone.  Hacker is gone.  Can I still be funny without that cast of characters? (Which I used to consider the comedic equivalent of shooting over a baited field).
I don't know.  Let's find out. 
Strap in, hold on, and enjoy the ride.