Saturday, August 04, 2007

Chicken Blue String or, The Column In Which I Attempt to Defend Our Language and Culture

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Recent opinion pieces in this newspaper have expressed indignation and dismay about the public proliferation of languages other than our beloved mother tongue (by which I mean English).

I share your sentiments. I, too, have felt our national unity crumbling when I've been forcibly exposed to some kind of foreign gibberish right here in the good old U.S. of A.

But I'm doing more than griping. When I'm asked by an automated customer service line to "press 1 for English," by golly, I take a stand. I mean, really, why should I press 1? They should give me English without me even having to ask for it. So I just don't press anything. I can wait just as long as any dumb old mechanical voice can. So if you call and the line is always busy, well, don't be annoyed. That's the sound of me fighting for our culture.

But it's not enough, fellow Americans, to passively resist. We need to go out and seek those foreign influences that are creeping into our language like Viet Cong infiltrating the barbed wire around our country's values. Take, for example, this word chipotle. Seems like everywhere you turn these days you're hearing about chipotle chicken or chipotle burgers.

The word always sounded suspiciously foreign to me. So I did a little research and found that yep, it's a foreign word. Mexican, to be precise. So the next time I heard a commercial playing in the other room about chipotle something or other, I ran in to see who was polluting our ears and assaulting our culture with words in Mexican. And who should it be but -- Taco Bell.

Hey, I thought, that word taco. Could it be -- suddenly my blood ran cold. It was. Mexican. "Pookie," I called to my wife, "I'm never eating at Taco Bell again!"

"You never eat there anyway," she said. "You say it gives you the poots. And quit calling me Pookie."

"That's not the point!" I yelled.

She sighed. "Oh, lord. What now?"

"Our language! The bedrock of our culture!"

"What about it?"

"It's being corrupted! Changed! By foreigners!"

"Whatever. Come to dinner."

"What are we having?

"Chicken Cordon Bleu."

"All right! I love -- wait a minute. What did you say?"

"Chicken Cordon Bleu?"

"Isn't that ..." I dropped my voice to a whisper, "French?"

She shrugged. "I guess. So what?"

"Don't you see? There are foreign words sneaking into our language everywhere! Before long, you won't be able to understand a word I'm saying!"

"I never understand a word you're saying now."

"Oh my God! It's happening already!"

"Will you just come eat?"

"No. Not if you call it that."

"Oh for the love of....what do you want me to call it?"

"What's the English translation?"

"For Chicken Cordon Bleu? I guess it's... " she furrowed her brow, "Chicken Blue String."

"So call it that."

"I am not going to -- oh, all right. If it'll get you to eat it."

My daughter walked in. "What's for dinner?"

"Chicken..." my wife said, looking sideways at me, "Chicken Blue String."

"That sounds gross," my daughter said. "I'm not eating it."

"Now you see what you've done?" My wife snapped.

"I'll just have a sandwich," my daughter said. "Have we got any bologna? And some of that Dijon mustard?"

I started to speak, but my wife's glare cut me off. "Do. Not. Start." She turned to my daughter. "It's just that chicken with ham and cheese dish that you like."

"Oh! You mean Chicken Cordon" she stopped. My wife was making slashing motions across her throat. Comprehension dawned on my daughter's face. "Ah," she said. "Dad's gone off the deep end again."

"Right," my wife said. "Now get ready to eat."

My son walked in. "What's for dinner?" he asked.

"Chicken Blue String," my wife said, putting the plates on the table.

"Oh," my son said as he recognized the dish, "Is Dad ticked off at the French again?"

"Just their language," my wife said. "He wants the house to be English only. No French, no Spanish."

"So no more fajitas?" my daughter asked.

"You can have fajitas," I explained. "You just have to call them something in English."

"Like what?"

"Like" I thought. "Rolled sizzling meat and onion and pepper thingies."

"Hey," my son said, "why is the phone off the hook?"

"I'm outwaiting the customer service recording..." I stopped, suddenly embarrassed. "Be quiet," I said, "And eat your Chicken Blue String."

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. Some of the conversations in the preceding column were dramatizations. And by "dramatizations," we mean "stuff he completely made up."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

CONTEST: Who Said It?

"Republican political doctrine has been a failure. Look at New Orleans. How can you say that was a success? Look at Baghdad ... We've been in charge for six years and I don't think you can look around and say that was a great success."


"None of you should believe we are winning this war [referring to the so-called war on terror]. We are in a phony war ... we have not been taking this seriously."

First one to get it right wins the first three Jack Keller books: THE DEVIL'S RIGHT HAND and GOOD DAY IN HELL in paperback, and the new one, SAFE AND SOUND, in hardcover.

No Googling--you're on the honor system.

Monday, July 30, 2007

He's Lucky The Judge Didn't Hold Him In Contempt

Convicted killer threatens Durham jury

DURHAM - Tyrone Dean loudly and profanely proclaimed his gang allegiance and threatened the jury that sentenced him Monday to life in prison for a 2004 killing.

Dean, 22, was one of four people accused of shooting and killing Reginald Diondra Johnson, 22, on Weaver Street. He became the first to be convicted and sentenced on Monday.

The jury spent most of the day deliberating and returned with a verdict just before 5 p.m. After the guilty verdict was rendered, Dean launched into a tirade against the jurors and judge J.B. Allen.

"Thanks to y'all for giving that verdict," Dean said as he clapped sarcastically.

Allen snapped, "Be quiet before I slap tape over your mouth."

But Dean ignored him and looked directly at the jurors when he said, "Hope you have a nice ride home. I'll have someone following y'all."

Jurors, some of them in tears, were escorted out of the courthouse by sheriff's deputies.

Some people have no damn gratitude at all....

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Dark Day For American Journamalism

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It's the end of an era. Nay, the end of an epoch.

In a stunning and heartbreaking announcement, one of the great institutions of American journalism abruptly announced last week that it's closing its doors forever.

The New York Times? The Washington Post? The Sacramento Bee? No, this soon-to-be-shuttered paragon of editorial excellence touched the lives and hearts of many more people than any of the above.

I'm talking, of course, about The Weekly World News.

The beloved tabloid, a staple in supermarket checkout lines since its debut in 1979, is shutting its doors in August. No real reason was given, according to a staff member. The reporters were abruptly called into the managing editor's office and told that the publication was kaput as of the Aug. 3 edition.

"The reasons given make no sense," the source said. "We're stunned and shell-shocked."

As are we all, my friend, as are we all. Where will the world be without "The Nation's Only Reliable Newspaper" and its weekly dose of bizarre stories, the ones other newspapers were just too cowardly to touch?

Like the story of the Japanese woman who was celebrating her seventh year of marriage to a space alien. Receptionist Miyoki Tanaka, 25, reported that marriage to the little gray being known only as "X1431" hadn't always been a bed of roses.

"He has a nasty habit of floating around the room at night, which is distracting when you're trying to sleep," groused Tanaka (or should that be Mrs. 1431?). Plus, he was "given to producing earsplitting shrieks when excited," which may be one explanation for why the couple reminded childless.

In fact, space aliens were a regular staple of the WWN, and I for one had come to depend on it for news as to the comings and goings of our intergalactic cousins and their interactions with earthlings both great and small.

Was it The Wall Street Journal or The Christian Science Monitor that reported the story of the alien P'lod and his torrid affair with First Lady Hillary Clinton? It was not. Nor did those establishment rags have the courage to report the real reason for the outcome of the 2000 election: the fickle P'lod had switched his endorsement from Al Gore and thrown his superior intellect and advanced technology behind George Dubbya Bush (proof, if you needed it, that these alien critters wish us ill).

The Weekly World News even got the real skinny on stories that American intelligence services got wrong. Back when President Bush was admitting, however grudgingly, that there was no hard evidence linking Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the WWN blew the lid off the story by reporting on the homosexual marriage between the brutal dictator and the fiend behind 9/11, following up with the story of how they'd adopted a shaved chimp and were raising it as their son. (They named it Robert).

The Times and the Post never reported on those stories, most likely due to a lack of powerful hallucinogens in their respective newsrooms.

But the WWN contained more than just hard news. It had its fun, whimsical side, too -- such as its advice column from Lester the Typing Horse, whose column "Horse Sense" offered advice on topics ranging from anorexia and bulimia (problems "less about food than they are about gaining control") to cutting down on your production of phlegm (consume fewer dairy products, says Lester).

But The Weekly World News' most popular stories, the ones that captured the hearts and imaginations of Americans everywhere, were the ones that featured Batboy.

Discovered in a West Virginia cave in 1992, the half-human, half-bat hybrid was only two feet tall, with giant eyes, grotesquely large ears, and wings that he shed every three years in order to grow a new pair.

As he grew and matured, however, Batboy fought for acceptance and a life of his own, trapped in a world that shunned and hated him for his grotesque appearance. His life was sometimes chaotic. On Feb. 27, 2001, according to the Batboy entry in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, he "allegedly attacked a fifth-grader in an Orlando, Fla., park." The girl was nearly ripped to shreds. The next day, he endorsed presidential candidate Al Gore.

It had to be true. You can't make this stuff up. After 9/11, Batboy tried to enlist in the Marines, but was apparently not accepted, because by 2003 he was running against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the California gubernatorial election. When last heard of, he was living in the New York subways. There was even an actual Broadway musical based on Batboy's crazy life and times.

How, without The Weekly World News, will we keep abreast of all things Batboy? What will we do without the WWN's own brand of deliriously surreal "news"? The world will be a smaller and sadder place without The Weekly World News, and less well informed, too.