Thursday, November 29, 2007

Maybe it was looking for a one-armed gator

DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Officials in Ukraine recaptured a crocodile on Wednesday which had escaped from a travelling circus six months previously and repeatedly eluded search teams.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

One of the best of the last of a breed

My friend Ed French was part of a world that no longer exists, a world that now seems as far away as the days of the horse and buggy, although it came to an end only within the last 40 years.

Ed, who died last weekend, was a newspaper printer for 44 years, a period that included the days when hot type was set by Linotype operators, the days when anyone visiting a newspaper would be greeted by the caressing aroma of ink and paper, the olfactory equivalent of a siren song to those who were susceptible to the charms of newspapering, charms I willingly surrendered to as a high school student interested in journalism.

By the time I entered the business a few years later, computers had turned the Linotype into a museum piece. Hot type had bowed to "cold type," which was either set by an editor pushing a button on a newsroom computer or scanned into the system by a printer using hard copy. Ed and his remaining colleagues were at the other end of this process, pasting up stories after they came out of a machine in the composing room.

I often had to work in the composing room, troubleshooting problems under the always cocked trigger of the deadline gun. Some of the folks in the composing room were good at paste-up. Others were not so good. A couple of them could put a piece of type in straight only if an earthquake struck on deadline, and it had better be at least a 7.0 on the Richter scale.

But Ed French was pretty near perfect. I can still see him tilting his head this way and that, his omnipresent pipe in his bearded mouth, checking the completed page from seemingly every conceivable angle before turning it in to the technicians who would use it to make the printing plate.

After hours Ed and I would get a jump on the next day's paper, all the while discussing old movies. The composing room was hardly Gertrude Stein's salon, but if you had to be somewhere other than your own home at 2:30 in the morning, Ed French was very good company.

Many times, earlier in a shift, we'd have an exchange like this:

"Hey, Ed, we've lost another one!"


"Greer Garson died! Just came over the wire!"

He'd puff his pipe, shake his head. "They're droppin' like flies!"

Other quotes from Chairman Ed:

Upon noting that an editor has sent out a story that's way too long for the assigned space: "You can't get 10 pounds of (expletive deleted) in a five-pound bag!"

Upon examining a graphic or a layout plan that he deemed too arty: "Yeh, this'll sell a lot of papers!"

And he'd bitch, and he'd grumble, and he'd groan -- and then he'd get the job done, making that crazy graphic or layout work, getting it done better than just about anyone else.

No one does paste-up anymore, at least not by hand. It's all computerized; someone in the newsroom presses a button, and a fully formed plate comes out at the other end of the building, ready for the presses. It's streamlined and efficient, and people like me no longer have to go to the composing room and garner more gray hairs on deadline.

Heck, there isn't even a composing room anymore, not that I miss it.

Mr. French retired many years ago. I ran into him once or twice at company clambakes. Now that I, too, am retired, I had hoped to talk to him again.

We've lost another one, Ed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Blues for Mr. Whipple

I fear that his life was a lonely one;
Just consider, if you please:
That stuff with which we rub our butts
Was apparently his main squeeze.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What's the name of their shortstop?

I can't help wondering if the people who think up the names of those, um, male enhancement drugs are fans of Abbott and Costello...

Lou: Gee, Bud, you sure look chipper today!

Bud: I feel great! My wife and I made love last night, and it went exceptionally well!

Lou: And why was that?

Bud: Because of what my doctor recommended!

Lou: And what was that?

Bud: Cialis!

Lou (after a pause): See Alice?

Bud: Yep!

Lou: What? You go to a doctor, tell him you and your wife are having problems, and he says, "See Alice"?

Bud: Yep!

Lou: And your wife went along with it?

Bud: Of course! She only wants what's best for me.

Lou: I can't believe it! But you must have had to talk her into it!

Bud: Quite the contrary! She insisted on it! Otherwise she said it might mean the end of our marriage!

Lou: So the doctor tells you this, and you come home, and --

Bud: Not straight home! I went to the drugstore first!

Lou: Why?

Bud: I just told you! It's what the doctor said! Cialis!

Lou: See Alice? At the drugstore?

Bud: Yep!

Lou: And the guy who runs the drugstore is OK with this?

Bud: Of course! That's getting to be a big part of his business, he tells me!

Lou: You mean you went in a back room and...

Bud: No! Over the counter!

Lou: Over the counter?! With everybody watching?

Bud: Of course!

Lou: I must be going to the wrong drugstore!

Bud: No, I could have gone to any drugstore!

Lou: See Alice at any drugstore? (To himself) Girl gets around! (To Bud) Well, I'm glad things worked out!

Bud: Thanks! And even if it hadn't worked, the doctor had another idea!

Lou: Really? What?

Bud: Viagra!


Bud: Sure I'm sure! Why do you ask?

Lou: Cause Vi Agra told me I'M the only guy in her life!

(Cue rimshot.)

As long as it's faitful to the orignal...

Page 2 of next Sunday's New York Times Book Review contains a full-page ad for "The nationwide bestseller and literary event of the fall."

The ad also shows the book and its cover:







To be fair, I should note that this is apparently an artist's rendering of the book and its cover; at my local Borders, the misspelled word is correctly spelled on the book's cover.

But still...

Friday, November 2, 2007

I won't spend it all at once

I received an e-mail with the following subject line:

Mark, You've Earned $0.00 in Borders Bucks!

The body of the e-mail is a coupon for that exact amount.

Among other things, the coupon says, "Cashier must validate Borders Bucks balance at register."

Well. they do have to protect themselves against counterfeiters....

Update: Borders later sent me a corrected e-mail.

Do blogs get results, or what?

(The correct amount, by the way, is $5, which I suspect I will be spending all at once after all....)