A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 25, 2011.
Editor's note: Despite last week's column's promise to deliver all the celebrity news our readers would ever need to read, as you will see, we had to publish this story.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The body of actress and comedienne Shari Lewis has been exhumed, the Los Angeles Medical Examiner announced today, initiating a new investigation into of the circumstances surrounding to her death in 1998. The death which had originally been investigated as a suicide but ruled "death by natural causes" is being reopened as a probable homicide.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office denied that this move bore any relation to the posthumous publication this week of Ms. Lewis's autobiography, entitled "Socks, Lies and Videotape." The book details the rocky relationship between Ms. Lewis and her protégé, co-performer and longtime companion, Lamb Chop.
Observers have long noted that the witty on-air banter between Lewis and Lamb Chop became increasingly acrid over the years, paralleling the increasing warmth of relationship among Lewis, Hush Puppy and Charlie Horse.
According to his close associate Oscar, Lamb Chop always resented the "cute" Lamb Chop name, as well as getting second billing to Lewis. "They treat us like their little marionettes," said Oscar. "And who do you think wrote our best stuff? Henson? Lewis? Right." Adding, "Neither one of them could improv their way out of bag puppet. Just one time, I'd like to Punch and Judy them."
The interview with Oscar terminated quickly when the topic of Henson's untimely death was raised.
In her autobiography Lewis reveals that in late 1996 she began to develop an allergy to wool "which put a barrier between Lamb Chop and me." Lewis also said that Lamb Chop often complained of "being used." She quotes him as saying to her, "How would you like to try to perform comedy with someone's hand stuck up your . . ." just before throwing himself onto the middle of the bedroom floor in tears.
"Toward the end," Lewis wrote, "our friendship was just an act."
Attorney Levi Cohen, of the law firm of Cohen, Kohein, Cohn, Cahn, Cone, Kohn, Kahn and possibly Katz, which represents the Lewis family, said that regardless of how the investigation turns out, he is sure his firm will make lots of money.
Buzz Berkeley, of E. F. Mutton and Associates, the public relations firm representing the artist formerly known as Lamb Chop, said that "Chopper had moved on in his life" and that "this travesty would do nothing but unravel old wounds."
Chopper, who was a "sock of interest" in the original investigation into Ms. Lewis's death, parlayed that notoriety into a new career as part of the controversial rap duo Chops and the Ice Kween. According to figures from Amazon.com, sales of the latest C/IK CD, "Bust Yer Chops," spiked immediately following the exhumation announcement.
LAPD investigators said technology unavailable in 1998 may bring to light new information regarding the death of Lewis. "For example," said Detective Kram Manfuhr, "the previously unexplained rash on Lewis's neck may have been caused by contact dermatitis." Manfuhr was quick to note that while the investigation was "not focusing" on any one individual, "Mr. Chop was the only one in the room at the time of Ms. Lewis's death."
Gary D. Gaddy has been a fan of Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop for decades, beginning perhaps as early as one of their first guest appearances on Captain Kangaroo, but was certainly a regular viewer of the Shari Lewis Show.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 18, 2011.
Copyright 2011 Gary D. Gaddy
READERS MAY WISH TO CLIP this special special-edition column and save it to read every week, or even every day if necessary, as it allows an individual to keep up with all the important celebrity news without maintaining a subscription to People magazine, buying the latest National Enquirer or even watching tonight's Entertainment Tonight.
HOLLYWOOD – Academy-Award®-winning actor was arrested again on substance abuse charges following a fray at a currently notable night club. Actor could not be contacted for comment. Celebrity attorney says that Oscar®-winning client has checked into well-known drug rehabilitation facility.
CHICAGO – Following persistent rumors of numerous affairs, Hall-of-Fame athlete has been slapped simultaneously with multiple paternity suits. Published pictures of the individuals filing suits indicate that all of the paramours are all natural or bleach blondes. Famous athlete is reported to have bought current wife one or more items of multi-carat diamond and gold jewelry.
LOS ANGELES – Person famous for no other reason except being famous was arrested again for driving under the influence. Latest mug shots make this person look even worse than usual. On-scene photos show famous person drives a notably expensive status symbol even when DUI.
MIAMI – Famous person is divorcing person famous for marrying famous person. In written statements, both famous person and soon-to-be ex-spouse of famous person say that they hope to remain friends. Other terms of divorce settlement are not disclosed. Unnamed sources say large sums of money will be involved. Follow-up stories indicate amicable breakup is not so amicable.
LOS CABOS – Formerly ordinary person made notorious by extended appearance on a popular reality television series has been arrested for: a) trashing hotel room, b) assaulting hotel staff and c) manhandling local celebrity who called in hotel staff to their shared room. Incident resolved as reality TV star is paid substantial sum for interview with entertainment news channel which money is used to a) reimburse hotel for damages to room, b) pay off hotel staff and c) buy back affection of local celebrity, who is now, it is announced, reality star’s significant other.
ANTIGUA – Person newsworthy for their inherited wealth was taken to the hospital for bizarre, psychotic behavior while on a large luxury yacht moored in an exclusive marina. Famous heir/heiress quickly released when psychiatrist recognizes person and realizes famous rich person is just eccentric.
NEW YORK – Notable politician specifically known for his very public views supporting family values was arrested after a not-very-well-known stripper and/or minor porn star accused him of stalking her. Politician's wife stood by him uncomfortably at his press conference while notable politician admitted to a generic addiction and asked prayers and/or forgiveness from the "great people of this state" and says he has been "humbled by the experience," not specifying whether the humbling came from the recognition of his moral failing or being caught in it.
AUSTIN – Once notable quasi-country musician, now famous for his multiple drug possession arrests, is arrested for drug possession. Charges dropped.
RALEIGH – Prominent politician charged with several crimes related to corrupting and/or being corrupt announces he has retained a celebrated attorney who always goes by first name, middle initial and last name, as well as the suffix of IIIrd, IVth or Vth. Said eminent attorney at law, who always looks distinguished in his dapper attire, informs the assembled press that his client has been a "faithful steward for and a tireless servant of the great people of this great state," but is being crucified in the media because he stood up "against powerful interests and for the common man," one of which, notable attorney notes, his client is.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: If, when you have completed reading the above, your celebrity news craving is not stemmed, please return to top and begin again. Repeat as many times as necessary.
CAUTION: DO NOT COMBINE WITH PERUSING SUPERMARKET TABLIODS, WATCHING GOSSIP TV OR READING ANY NEWSPAPERS OR NEWS MAGAZINES. OVERDOSE MAY RESULT.
Gary D. Gaddy wishes, if he ever were to be charged with a generic crime, to be represented by an attorney with a prominent middle initial who goes by IVth, Vth or VIth.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 11, 2011.
Copyright 2011 Gary D. Gaddy
THIS PAST WEEK'S SPORTS NEWS featuring the Tar Heel Nation illustrates several fundamental principles of the sporting life. The most prominent being: "It does not matter what you say about me, just make sure you spell my name right."
The Tar Heel Haters, of whom there are not a few, have enjoyed the last six months of bad news regarding the University of North Carolina's beleaguered football program. The NC State fan base of the Tar Heel Haters, of whom there are not a few, have particularly enjoyed watching the Tar Heel Nation squirm under the unforgiving light of multiple serial and simultaneous NCAA investigations.
But, and here comes, "It does not matter what you say about me, just make sure you spell my name right." It turns out "UNC" is hard to misspell. (And hardly anybody, it seems, confuses the University of North Carolina with the University of Northern Colorado.) All this negative press, and the prospect of NCAA probation and other sanctions, should have killed UNC's football recruiting, right? Wrong.
This week included the most important date of the football season: "Signing Day," the day in which football-playing high school seniors sign their binding letters of intent. And, in case you haven't noticed, players are what make up football teams. In the various national recruiting rankings, UNC, bad press and all, was listed as 19th, 15th and 13th in three different polls, while NC State, which had nothing but good press, what little there was of it, ended up 67th in one and unranked in the other two.
As for basketball, ESPN GameDay covered, on national television, for seven long minutes, more than a week after the fact, Roy Williams' televised press conference tirade against a "fan" who criticized his team and Williams' subsequent apology for his rant during his radio call-in show. This is, some would say, the kind of distraction that could knock a team off of its game. Some would be wrong.
The supposedly soft Heels proceeded to demolish a talented NC State team and obliterate a veteran Boston College squad. Former Duke player and Duke Law School graduate, Jay Bilas* said of Williams' rant, "I loved it because he was standing up for his players," adding, "I liked what Roy Williams said, and I'm sure his players did, too." I'm sure they did, too.
The Duke women and the Duke men let me down this week. The Duke men lost to St. John's, the eleventh place team in the Big East, by 15 points. Duke, as the only ranked team in the ACC, made the rest of the conference, including my Heels, look even more pathetic. Now we'll have to beat them to feel good about ourselves.
Likewise it goes for the Duke women’s team's loss to the University of Connecticut Huskies. As little a fan as I am of Joanne P. McCauley, I am even less a fan of the most undeserving coach in all of coachdom, Geno "I yell obscene things at teenagers because it makes them play better"** Auriemma. I pulled hard for the Devils until the game was over, that is, ten minutes into the game when the score was 23-2 Huskies. Now we'll have to beat them to feel good about ourselves.
* My lawyeresque wife once had an on-campus interview at a law school which shall remain unnamed with attorney Bilas for a summer internship at his law firm. She shocked some of her younger co-ed classmates with the frank evaluation she made of him afterwards: "He's cute!!"
** Auriemma’s player-directed obscenities are not a rumor or a second-hand report or even the transcript from a lip-reading friend of my wife who once interpreted Mike Krzyzewski's "comments" to an official during a televised game. It comes from an ear-tingling personal experience several years ago when I sat behind the UConn bench in the Smith Center. I won't tell you what Auriemma said because I don't repeat such things even in a whisper and certainly wouldn't put them in a family newspaper. One disgusting thing Auriemma once yelled at one of his players which I will repeat: "I don't even know why I recruited you!!!" Sweet guy, ain't he?
Gary D. Gaddy's wife, despite her Wahoo grad degree and her devilish legal credentials, is now and ever shall be, true Tar Heel blue.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 4, 2011.
Copyright 2011 Gary D. Gaddy
THE HAGUE -- The International Court of Justice, operating under the Lucerne Conventions Concerning Blogging and Hacking, today presented an indictment of Gary D. Gaddy, the originator, author and sole proprietor of GaryGaddy.com, for "multiple and serial violations of blogging protocol."
Gaddy, court officials hope, may be the first person convicted under the new conventions.
"The Lucerne Conventions are an unfortunately necessary adjunct to the expanding scope of the worldwide web," said the Court's standing Rules Committee member Judge Antônio A. Cançado Trindade. According to Trindade, formalization of the formerly informal rules of blogging were inevitable given the expansion of access to the internet to those not inculcated in its shared culture.
Gaddy was indicted under four separate articles of the Lucerne Conventions, including Section 8, Subsection C, Article I, "failure to use appropriate quantities of abbreviations, acronyms and emoticons," which Gaddy is accused of repeatedly violating. Expert witnesses said that Gaddy had regularly posted entries of up to 675 words without including so much as a single "u" or "&" or “BTW”.
Gaddy was charged with, under Section 3, Subsection B, Article II, "being clothed in attire other than underwear or pajamas or other sleepwear while composing materials intended for online posting," Gaddy has, on several occasions, according the indictment, written and/or edited material for internet posts while wearing “street clothes, socks and shoes.”
Under Section 3, Subsection B, Article I, "authoring and/or editing while clean shaven," officials claimed as evidence a cordless electric razor found in Gaddy’s domicile that was not only “regularly and recently used” but “shows clear evidence of recent automated cleaning.”
Under Section 10, Subsection A, Article IV, Gaddy was charged with maintaining an image "inappropriate for online viewing." Gaddy, the indictment claims, appears in at least one posted webcam photo “wearing a necktie or cravat tied with a four-in-hand knot.”
The International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, has its seat at the Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands. The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.
In related news, U.S. law enforcement agencies are studying placing federal criminal charges against Gaddy, contrapositively related to the charges filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which were made under the Espionage Act for Assange's publication of classified U.S. diplomatic cables. The proposed charges against Gaddy are for nondisclosure of unclassified disinformation, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday. No further information was released.
Amish scientists invent time machine
LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. -- Amish scientists reported today that they have designed, developed and implemented the world’s first practical time machine. Aaron Garber, who was also the lead engineer for the design and construction of the Amish fireplace, also known as the Heat Surge® Roll-n-Glow® electric fireplace, with Amish-made wood mantle, led the effort.
One drawback to the Amish Time Traveler’s® innovative buttonless operational design, the Garber reports, is that the engineers have not determined how to reverse the polarity of function and thus travel into the future or, more significantly, return from the past.
While the Amish Time Traveler® is not currently available for purchase, Garber noted that the Amish Mantle Heat Surge® miracle heater is currently on sale at HeatSurge.com for as little as $298, not including shipping and handling.
Gary D. Gaddy has a long legal record, beginning with his first court appearance in the summer of 1963 for disturbing the peace and the illegal discharge of Class C fireworks.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 28, 2011.
Copyright 2011 Gary D. Gaddy
A COUPLE OF OCTOBERS AGO my sweet wife and I had the opportunity to travel to Sicily for a vacation, so we took it. We were invited by my step-daughter's husband's parents, which makes them . . . some people from Juneau, Alaska? (We'll give you their email addresses if you ever want to go on a great vacation that involves lots of walking, lots of talking, lots of eating and more ancient ruins than you can shake a stick at.)
Because the Lutchanskys are from Juneau, they travel a lot. (Trust me, if you were from Juneau, you'd travel a lot too. For example, what month would you say generally has the best weather in Juneau? If you said August, you would be correct. In the August preceding their vacation in Italy, it rained 30 out of 31 days. That's the good weather.) So, Leo and Llewellyn invited us to join them in Catania for the last 10 days of their month-long trek across Italy.
Some background: Sicily is the football at the bottom of the boot which is the peninsula of Italy. Sicily is a wonder of the ancient Mediterranean. According to our unbiased Sicilian tour guides, Sicily was the most important place in the ancient world, strategically if not culturally. The island of Sicily is the center of chessboard militarily. If you wanted to control the Mediterranean, you needed to control Sicily. That's what they said, and I believe them.
I learned a lot more on our wonderful trip to Sicily.
For example, whatever you might think of the “Victory Mosque at Ground Zero,” we went inside a Roman temple that became an early Christian basilica that became a Moslem mosque and then, via the Norman conquest, became a Baroque Roman Catholic cathedral. Such are the ebbs and flows of history – which is always written by the victors.
I also learned I don't like Baroque. Right off, it's screwy. If you've ever seen a Baroque column (and known what you were looking at), you will know what I'm talking about. Baroque boasts too much. Baroque’s the brat who is always yelling, "Look at me! Look at me!" If there ever was a self-centered, ostentatious architecture, it's Baroque. Happily, Sicily has but a little of it.
One thing my lovely and talented and wine-drinking wife learned quickly to like about Sicily was how they do dinner. Nicer Sicilian restaurants have a per capita “table charge” which covers plates, dinner ware, napkins, bread and, here's the kicker, the wine. They bring to your table freely refillable pitchers of red and white wine. It's like they do the sweet tea at Allen & Sons BBQ.
And the wine is good, and, as the bottomless carafe suggests, quite affordable. One of my most memorable memories from our very memorific time in Sicily was a service station, or at least what I thought was a service station, in Palermo. It had glass-paneled garage-type doors and we could see people at two pumps filling large 20-liter containers (like you might use if you use kerosene space heaters to heat your house). One pump said "vino rosso" and the other "vino bianco." It was a wine filling station, where they sold wine by the liter.
The food in Sicily was meraviglioso. Italy has been at the forefront of the "slow food movement." Sicily, to the best I could see, never left it. Meals in Sicily can last hours, and the food is universally exquisite. We stopped once at an actual service station where I got the best Italian sub sandwich I ever put in my mouth.
We stayed at a B&B set in a vineyard/olive orchard and asked the proprietor to recommend a “good restaurant.” He led us in his rattling little pickup to what looked like a biker bar way out Highway 54. It was the best homemade pasta I ever tasted.
Our trip to Sicily was, as we put it afterwards, "the search for the bad Italian restaurant." What this means we will have to return, 'cause we didn't find it.
Gary D. Gaddy got a laugh from his Italian hosts when he told them he was a Lupo.*
* Lupo was his Sicilian grandmother’s maiden name. In Italian it means a crazy person.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 21, 2011.
Copyright 2011 Gary D. Gaddy
I AM GETTING SOCIALIZED. Over the last months I have become expert in the new social media such as Tweeter, MyFace and Spacebook. [Excuse me for a second.] I'm sorry. My wife says it's Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. Anyway, you knew what I meant.
But here is how it is settling out. I inadvertently got LinkedIn but I am now trying to get LinkedOut. My MySpace page is a vacant lot. I think I need a lot more readers before I really try Tweeter. (Admit it, Tweeter does sound better than Twitter. And further why do they call it Twitter if what you send are Tweets anyway?)
In any case, Facebook is the place for me. I am friending, befriending, defriending and being unfriended all day long these days.
I realize now how disconnected I was from the world around me. But, with the help of Facebook, I am now friends with dozens of people I never met. With the assistance of marvelous social networking tools, I get to re-live my years at Robert E. Lee Junior High School — without undue risk of getting beaten up again by the 15-and-a-half-year-old hoods with the slicked-back hair in gym class.
It is a good thing that my wife is not the jealous sort, what with now-ex junior-high-school cheerleaders chasing after me again. (Just like back in junior hi.)
And, through Facebook, not only can you get together with old flames from high school, but you don't need to go out on a single actual date to be reminded why you broke up with them in the first place.
Furthermore, Facebook is an intergenerational treasure trove of information that just a few years ago would have taken a small army of private investigators to uncover, but now is delivered to my digital doorstep free of charge. Last semester I could know which bars in Buenos Aires my niece was happily hopping amongst. (Boy is Franklin Street going to be bore, bore, boring this semester for her.)
Now I am told, by a reputable source, that my mother-in-law is on Facebook, which is causing me to re-think this whole intergenerational transfer of information thing. Gotta go. Need to check if I have any new friend requests.
The $50 billion question
Facebook is a privately held company, so it would normally be hard to know what it is worth. Its most substantial asset is me, and, also, people like me, i.e., Facebook users. Recently that changed, and the Wall Street Journal Online posed this question: "Goldman Sachs and Russia's Digital Sky Technologies have invested $500 million in Facebook Inc., a deal that gives the social-networking site a valuation of $50 billion. What do you think? Is the company worth more than eBay, Yahoo and Time Warner?"
Here are some selected online responses to that question.
Maciej Janiec wrote: "$50 billion means that every Facebook user is valued at about $100. I wonder how to extract this money out of the users?"
Stephen Borsher wrote: ". . . That valuation is absurd. Looks to me like we are headed for another dot-com bomb; or, more likely, a meltdown of unclear [Editor’s note: perhaps this is a typo, and should have said ‘nuclear’] proportions."
Tommy Butler wrote: "If your marketing strategy is ‘pump and dump,’ then the current value is irrelevant. You simply have to locate a gullible buyer. . . .You can't be serious. Surely these shares were purchased with the thought that they will be re-sold at a higher price, soon."
Justin Murray wrote: "Reminds me of 1999. Soon it will remind me of March 2000." [Editor’s note: March 2000 is when the dot-com bubble first began to burst.]
Gary Gaddy says: "Please friend me on Facebook, so I can help these poor investors out — and have a Joy-filled New Year!"
Gary D. Gaddy really does want you to friend him on Facebook. Please do mention that you saw him first in the Chapel Hill Herald.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 14, 2011.
Copyright 2011 Gary D. Gaddy
News you may have missed in 2010. You tell me which are fact and which are fiction.
Playmate "overexposed" by TSA
LOS ANGELES — Former Playboy Playmate Donna D'Errico — Miss September 1995 — feels overexposed by TSA airport scanners. The former "Baywatch" babe accused a TSA official of singling out her, and her son, to undergo full body scans at the Los Angeles International Airport.
"It is my personal belief that they pulled me aside because they thought I was attractive," said D'Errico.
"My boyfriend looks much more like a terrorist than either I or my son do, and he went through security with no problems," D'Errico said.
As a further complaint, D'Errico says the agent never gave her the option for a pat-down.
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen fired
COLLEGE PARK — Ralph Friedgen, head coach of the University of Maryland football team, was fired in the same season he was named Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year, even though there has been no hint of scandal during his tenure.
Friedgen won the conference championship during his first season, when he was the consensus national coach of the year. He also earned ACC coaching honors both his first year and this one, and took his teams to seven bowl games in 10 seasons.
Cops catch suspect tattooed suspect
MIAMI — Police locked up a suspected iPhone thief on Tuesday thanks to his distinctive forehead tattoo.
Each heist involved a man entering a store, jerking one or two display iPhones from their security cables, and running away. Witnesses remembered the man's tattoo.
It's a great help when suspects "put stupid things on their face and make it easier to identify them," said Jim Leljedal, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.
Joseph Williams, 19, will face at least 19 counts of grand theft. His tattoo read: "I'm Me."
Police taken on horse-and-buggy ride
LEON, N.Y. — Levi Detweiler, a 17-year-old Amish youth, accused of leading police on a low-speed one-mile chase when he allegedly refused to pull over while driving his horse and buggy, has been charged with underage possession of alcohol, reckless endangerment, failure to stop at a stop sign, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle and over-driving an animal.
And, yes, "over-driving an animal" is an actual crime.
WikiLeaker wronged by leaks
LONDON — Julian Assange, the spokesperson and editor in chief for WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website and conduit for news leaks, has been wronged.
In November, WikiLeaks began releasing the 251,000 American diplomatic cables in their possession, 40 percent of which are listed "Confidential" and six percent are classified "Secret."
In December, someone leaked records involving a criminal prosecution of Assange, who describes himself as an activist for "radical transparency."
As a result of the leaks, "Julian may be forced into a trial in the media" and "the purpose can only be one thing — trying to make Julian look bad," said Bjorn Hurtig, Assange’s lawyer.
Big Ten to change name
PARK RIDGE, Ill. — The Big Ten Conference has decided to change its name following the addition of a 12th member to the formerly 11-member athletic conference and in consideration of the 0-5 shellacking it took in New Year's Day football bowl games. The new name will be the Modestly Sized 12. Also, the proposed names of the two new conference divisions have been changed from Leaders and Legends to Losers and Lousy Losers.
Suspect tries low-speed escape
TAMPA — Sheriff's deputies were searching a house for stolen property when they got a tip that one of the suspects, identified as Charles McDaniel, 25, was trying to make his escape — on a riding mower.
Lawn mowers aren't good getaway vehicles, according to Bobby Cleveland.
"And they're just a little too slow — unless you're on my mower," said Cleveland, the man who holds the world record for highest speed reached on a lawn mower, 96.529 miles per hour.
McDaniel was apprehended, arrested and charged with theft of a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm — but not speeding. He left the crime scene at an estimated seven to eight miles per hour.
Christmas tree threatens peace
SEOUL — The South Korean government responded aggressively to North Korea's sinking of a South Korean warship in March and the November shelling of a South Korean island which killed two and injured 20 more — by lighting a Christmas Tree
South Korea says a giant Christmas tree near the North Korean border will stay lit up till January 8 — the date that marks the birthday of North Korea's heir apparent. The tree — a nearly 100-foot-tall metal tower strung with light bulbs — was lit up as marines stood guard against any cross-border attack on it.
Gary D. Gaddy would like to wish his reader(s) a joy-filled new year.
NOTE: All of the above stories are absolutely true, with the exception of the one on the Big Ten, in which the name-change parts were made up — but not the rest if it. (But I should acknowledge that a "Big Ten," team, The Ohio State University, won — for the first time in ten tries — a bowl game against a Southeastern Conference team. But I should also note TOSU used five suspended players in the game. True. Look it up.)
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 7, 2011.
Copyright 2011 Gary D. Gaddy
THIS IS WHAT I SAID: "My New Year's resolution this year is to have no New Year's resolution." Well, that didn't work.
All the major American holidays have some bad traditions associated with them. For example, gluttony is associated with . . . hmmm . . . all the major American holidays. Penitence and subsequent penance often follows shortly thereafter — when the cumulative impact of Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's comes home to roost, usually on my belly.
Like my friend Dave! Ward, I say: "I would be willing to do anything to have a fit and muscular physique — except diet or exercise."
* One year I resolve to lose weight.
* The next year I resolve to diet.
* The next year I resolve to get more exercise.
* The next year I resolve to use the treadmill more often.
* This year I am going to resolve to sell the like-new treadmill.
I don't know about yours but all my resolutions end up dissolving like a North Carolina snow -- quickly.
My resolution to this conundrum? This year I am resolute to be resolute in whatever I resolve, if I resolve anything at all. For now, it is just to provide the news you can't get anywhere else.
New Year refusing to come in
NEW YORK — For the first time since the year-change from 1929 to1930, the New Year is refusing to come in. Chronologists at Columbia University's Department of Dimensional Studies say this will leave the Old Year to serve another term — which bodes for another disastrous year for the planet Earth.
"People often think of the New Year as innocent as a new-born babe, and that is how he is commonly portrayed, but he's been watching things incubate for nine months so he has gained a little perspective — and he doesn't seem to like what he's seeing," said Dr. Milbourne Tique, an expert in astrometrics.
"We have had Old Years that wanted to stick around, sort of like football coaches Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, when everybody else knew their time was up, but it is pretty rare for a New Year to balk like this. But, to tell the truth, who could blame him," added Professor Tique.
"I guess we will just have to wait for the ball to drop to see what happens," said Tique.
Fruitcake reveals “old earth”
ATLANTA — Scientists at the Georgian Institute of Technology have discovered a wrapped and uneaten fruitcake that was carbon-dated at 8.4 billion years old, pushing back estimates of the earth's age by nearly four billion years from the previous estimate of 4.54 billion years.
A combination of fingerprint and DNA analysis suggests that the fruitcake, which was discovered in house of one of the researchers’ Aunt Mildred, was passed repeatedly among a relatively small family and friendship circle, and may be one of the earliest known examples of the now-common practice of re-gifting.
Advice to my New Year's Eve readers
Do not spend New Year's Day with a hangover. (Taking this advice, of course, begins on New Year's Eve.) I know I won't start the New Year with a hangover because I don't drink much of anything alcohol laden, especially champagne. (Taking care with champagne is a lesson learned from an episode in my younger years [circa 1976] in which I got into a champagne drinking contest with an Austrian. I don't remember who won, but I do know who lost. I also don't remember whether I had 13 glasses or 17 glasses of champagne — but it seems like it was a double-digit prime number. The fact of the matter is I don't remember much of anything from that afternoon or night — but I do remember the next morning — and it makes my head throb just think about it.)
Note to my everyday readers
Regarding an earlier column, which referenced "questions you never want to be asked," my lovely, talented and clever wife explained how I should respond if she were ever to ask me: "Do I look fat in this?" She says I should simply reply: "Do I look stupid?"
Gary D. Gaddy, according to a reputable source, doesn’t look stupid.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday December 31, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
IN THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON, I thought I would share my column space with my wife's cousin, Bobo Herring, who is from Traphill over in Wilkes County up in the Brushy Mountains. Bobo likes to tell the Nativity Story.
Now here's the story how the Baby Jesus got to be the Baby Jesus. His momma, Mary Lee, was plannin' to marry Uncle Joe, but they weren't hitched yet when Mary Lee found out she was in a fam'ly way, even though she hadn't been messin' 'round with Joe — nor anybody fer that matter. Mary Lee tolt Ol' Joe about it and he was kindly notioned enough not to want to make a spectacle of it all and thought maybe he would send her quiet-like back home to her fam'ly.
But that was 'fore Uncle Joe had a dream where an angel appear'd to him, sayin', "Brother Joe, don't be a-feared to take that little woman for thy lawfully wedded wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost, and thou shalt call that baby Jesus, 'cause that's who he's gonna be." (Angels, they talk like that.)
And came to be 'bout that same time, a call went up outta Raleigh that ever'body oughta be counted and taxed. So, ever' fam'ly had to go back to their home place to pay their tab. So, ol' Uncle Joe packed up from Robeson County down Lumberton way and drove over to Mecklenburg to the city of Charlotte ('cause he was of uptown folks) in his Pinto, so he could pay his taxes. And Mary Lee, his wife-to-be, was 'bout fit to bust. While they was up to Charlotte, Mary Lee had that young'un, her firstest one. It was a cold December, so she wrapped that boy up in shop towels, and lay him in a tool chest in the garage where they was sheltered, 'cause the motels were all full up.
Just outside the city limits, there were mechanics rummagin' through a junkyard that night, when a light came a-shinin' on them, and they were sorely a-feared. But then a voice said to them: "Do not be a-feared! This here is good news we's a-bringin' you and all the folks, 'cause today, in the Queen City of the South, a chile's been born, which is gonna turn out to be Jesus, the Lord of the Whole Universe. If'n you don't believe us, just wait, 'cause when you see the little rascal he'll be layin' in a tool box all wrapped up in grease rags."
Then, pow! there was a whole choir a-voices a-singin' and a-sayin': "Glory here! Glory there! Glory be to God up in the air! Peace be to men! Good will ever'where! Glory be to God up in the air!"
But just as quick as that choir showed up, they was gone. And them mechanics looked smack at one 'nother and said, all right at the same time: "Let's go up to Charlotte and see what in heaven's name they is talkin' 'bout." They went a-speedin' into town in Zeb's Mustang and found Mary Lee and Uncle Joe in a garage and the little baby layin' in a toolbox all wrapped up in grease rags, just like that choir tolt'em. Zeb and Zeke and all the rest of them mechanics was fit to be tied what with all they had seen, and was tellin' ever'body they bumped into what the choir tolt'em and that Baby Jesus was in that garage shed just like they said.
A little later and little bit further down the road, three sharp-witted fellers from down east came lookin' for the Baby Jesus. First thing them sharp fellers did was cruise up to Raleigh in their Expedition to the history museum and ask where a Baby King Jesus oughta be born, and they was a-tolt that Charlotte was the royal city 'round these parts. So, these fellers follered the highway 'til they got down to Charlotte and found Mary Lee and Joe livin' in a mill house with Joe's kin. Those sharp fellers gave the baby gifts from Goldsboro, Franklinton and Murfreesboro, and worshipped him like he was the Baby Jesus, Son of God and Saver of Ever'body.
So, thanks be to Mary Lee and ol' Uncle Joe and the lil' Baby Jesus, that's how we get to have Christmas.
Gary D. Gaddy wishes all his readers a Merry Christmas!
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday December 24, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
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Chernobyl visitors bring back glowing reports
MOSCOW — The first visitors to the Ukraine's hottest new tourist destination, the moth-balled Chernobyl nuclear plant, are just back in the United States. The glowing reports to their friends and neighbors from these inaugural visits, Ukrainian tourism officials hope, will set off a chain-reaction of new visitors.
Kick the Can new national sport
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In unanimous bi-partisan action, Congress voted today to make Kick the Can the new national sport. Each successive Congress is expected to extend this unfunded mandate.
The Stimulus! The Sequel!
HOLLYWOOD — Billed as a 21st century Fantasia, "The Stimulus! The Sequel!" will initiate casting this week, said Walt Disney Productions. Insiders expect an extended cameo featuring Dumbo, along with leading roles for Bacchus, the god of wine, and his horned donkey, Jacchus.
Carrboro tops for flashbacks
CARRBORO — In its December issue, High Times magazine named Carrboro the top town in America for experiencing flashbacks. In response, the Carrboro Board of Alderpersons passed a one-word resolution: "Groovy!"
Local invention to spark recovery
CHAPEL HILL — Local inventor Gerald Sensanough says his proposed innovation "will spark a nationwide economic recovery." Sensanough was understandably coy about divulging too many details about his new product, described it as "an electric fork" specifically designed for consuming pork.
UNC study predicts procrastination
CHAPEL HILL — A new study from the University of North Carolina shows that individuals who are late for their own funerals were often late to earlier events. Evan De Bolivar, a chronologist in the school's Department of Anthropology, said a follow-up study will examine the same relationship for post-term babies, that is, those who are late for their own births.
Some things I hope you never hear
From your boss: "I can give you a good reference."
From your real estate agent: "Think double-wide."
From your neighbor: "Actually meth labs are pretty safe."
From your accountant: "So, I was a few zeros off?"
From your lawyer: "So, how would you feel about jail time?"
From your surgeon: "Let's go in there and look around."
From your flight attendant: "You may want to use your seat cushion as a flotation device."
From your wife: "We need to talk."
Questions you never want her to ask
"Do you know what day today is?"
"Notice anything different?"
"Do I look fat in this?"
Department of Corections
Due to some confusion by compositors in the typesetting department who were acting with a heightened sense of urgency due to deadline pressure, last week's column referring to WikiLeaks linked to an entirely distinct website, an internet discussion group for urologists specializing in the treatment of urinary incontinence, Wiki-Leaks.org. We apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused our readers.
Gary D. Gaddy sometimes wears boxers, sometimes briefs.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday December 17, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
CHAPEL HILL — In an unprecedented decision, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has reinstated former University of North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin and defensive end Robert Quinn, who had both been previously ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for collegiate play, so that they can appear in the Bowl Championship Series Championship Game on January 10, 2011.
Austin and Quinn, who were ruled permanently ineligible for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules, did not in any games for UNC this season.
Austin is expected to start at nose tackle for the Auburn University Tigers. Quinn is slated to start at defensive end for the University of Oregon Ducks.
The NCAA's head of enforcement, Julie Roe Lach, said that the decision reinstating Austin and Quinn was made in light of its decision to reinstate Auburn University's Heisman finalist quarterback Cam Newton, after a one-day suspension.
Newton began his college career at the University of Florida, but left there, according to the Orlando Sentinel, amid allegations of academic fraud and following an arrest in which he was found with a stolen laptop which he threw out the window when police arrived. Newton then transferred to Auburn.
After the NCAA determined that Cam Newton's father, Cecil Newton, actively marketed his son to at least one other university in a pay-for-play scheme amounting to $180,000 before the younger Newton signed with Auburn, he was held out of one practice before being reinstated.
"Since these violations [by Austin and Quinn] occurred while these student-athletes were enrolled at UNC," said the NCAA's Lach, "it seemed reasonable that they also should be allowed to play with other, championship-potential, teams."
"With Austin and Quinn, the process took longer than it did with Cam because, although both are projected as first-round picks in the upcoming NFL draft, neither is viable Heisman trophy prospect — and we had bigger fish to fry," said Lach.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: As defensive players, neither Quinn nor Austin was considered a likely candidate for the Heisman, which is awarded annually to "the player deemed the most outstanding player in collegiate football," which is clearly understood by Heisman voters to mean most outstanding offensive player, as no strictly defensive player has ever won the award.]
The NCAA, Lach wanted to emphasize, had no part in the punishment meted out this season to Oregon's Heisman finalist running back LaMichael James. According to The Oregonian, police in Springfield, Oregon, arrested James outside his apartment last February, after an argument with a former girlfriend escalated. James was charged with with one count of strangulation, two counts of fourth-degree assault and two charges of physical harassment.. He pled down to physical harassment and was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 24 months of probation.
As a result of this criminal conviction, Oregon suspended James for one game, the season opener versus New Mexico — which Oregon won 72-0. Lach said the NCAA was considering sanctions against Oregon for their punishment of James. The game, Lach noted, was regionally televised on the Oregon Sports Network.
Lach also said that the NCAA had not reinstated the five other UNC players, defensive end Michael McAdoo, receiver Greg Little, cornerback Charles Brown, safety Brian Gupton or safety Jonathan Smith, who were all ruled ineligible to play for the entire season by the NCAA. Lach said the NCAA would not do so until the NCAA received more complete information from Nielsen Media Research about those players' Q scores and viewer name recognition.
Gary D. Gaddy, it is reported by the Chapel Hill Herald, has provided false information to his column's readers despite "multiple opportunities to correct his assertions."
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday December 10, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
THIS WEEK, 136 YEARS AGO, on November 30, 1874 to be exact, one of the great men, historians and wordsmiths of the past century was born.
Winston Churchill served as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when, closely following the Allied forces victory in Europe, the voters summarily rejected him and his Conservative Party. That moment, I would argue, marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire.
Churchill won the Nobel Prize in literature, and was the first person to be recognized as an honorary citizen of the United States. See if you don't agree with me that the gentleman still has some relevance today.
[Note: Each of these quotations has been attributed to Churchill thousands of times, but given how rapidly error proliferates in the cut-and-paste era, I still wouldn't be too sure about some of them myself.]
IdeasChurchill kept to his own ideals about ideas.
As I read him, Churchill was not a socialist.
“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
“Christopher Columbus was the first socialist: he didn’t know where he was going, he didn’t know where he was . . . and he did it all at taxpayer’s expense.”
“Socialism is like a dream. Sooner or later you wake up to reality.”
The very quotable Churchill spoke as he thought speech should be spoken.
“Old expressions are the best, and short ones even better.”
“The rule which forbids ending a sentence with a preposition is the kind of nonsense up with which I will not put.”
[On the U.S. and the U.K.] “Two nations divided by a common language.”
“It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read a book of quotations.”
Gary D. Gaddy thinks it is good thing for the educated to read columns of quotations too.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday December 3, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Continuing to grope for an answer to the conundrum of how to provide enhanced security against terrorists who are targeting airline travel while it tries to satisfy the traveling public, the Transportation Security Administration today announced a set of initiatives and refinements to existing policies and technologies.
"We're feeling our way through this sensitive process," said transportation security chief John Pistole. While he wanted to make clear that the changes in protocol are "still being massaged," Pistole enumerated a series of policy adjustments being put into place immediately.
Those who are offended, or might potentially be offended, by the revealing visual full body scans, may use lead aprons like those used during dental X-rays. For others less sensitive, 9x12 glossy prints suitable for framing will be made available at a nominal cost.
In order to reduce delays caused by those opting out of the body scans, passengers will no longer be allowed to request repeat pat downs, said Pistole.
The TSA will change its hiring criteria. "Using licensed masseurs and masseuses for the manual body screenings seemed like a good idea at the time, but we are re-thinking it," he added.
Passengers will be pre-sorted before passing through the security portal according to threat level, but, to avoid profiling, the passengers will self-assess. The preliminary categories will be labeled "Not a Terrorist at this Time," "Incompetent Terrorist" and "Competent Terrorist."
Said Pistole, "We expect to spend the most time with the 'Not a Terrorist' and the 'Competent Terrorist' categories as our current screening and detection protocols have been shown to work well with incompetent terrorists."
Pilots, flight crew members as well as passengers traveling commando will no longer be subject to underwear searches.
The Air Travel Liquid ban, which was initiated by the TSA in 2006 after British police foiled a plot to blow up airliners with liquid explosives and which limits Americans to bringing only 3.4-ounce-and-smaller bottles in plastic baggies through the security gate, has been relaxed to allow non-clear liquor in mini-bottles, as it has been determined to be forbidden under Sharia law.
Printer toner cartridges in general will no longer be banned from carry-on luggage, as they were immediately following the incidents on Oct. 29 in which bombs crafted from laser printer toner cartridges were discovered on flights from Yemen to Canada and the United States.
"Careful further examination of those bombs shows that they all were constructed from Canon products, and from a limited range of models. To reduce the burden on the public, especially those who like to print hard copies while in flight, we will only exclude model numbers CRG-104, L104, 104 and 104-compatible cartridges," said Pistole.
Following a careful analysis of the attempt by “Shoe Bomber” Richard C. Reid to blow up an American Airlines flight out of Paris on Dec. 22, 2001, Pistole said the TSA will limit its requests to remove shoes to those wearing Bass "Weejun"-type cordovan loafers of men's size 11 wide.
Further, Pistole said he had followed up on the recent report of an ABC News employee traveling through Newark Liberty International Airport Sunday morning, who said that the TSA officer who checked her "reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around." Pistole said the report was verified and the TSA employee has been charged with practicing medicine without a license.
Per a request made by Pistole as he concluded this interview, all travelers are asked not disburse information on these new procedures to any known or probable terrorists regardless of competency as the TSA would like to keep them secret for as long as possible.
Gary D. Gaddy likes to make jokes about almost everything to just about anyone -- but not around Transportation Security Administration employees.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday November 26, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
Apologies again to my readers. Due to preparations for an upcoming family reunion, I have not had the time or energy to write my regular column. In its place, I did find an interesting news article from ABloombergNews.com that I thought my readers might appreciate. My regular column may return next week.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a move that analysts are calling a brilliant combination of fiscal and political calculus, the United States has agreed to sell the state of California to the People's Republic of China for a portion of China's U.S. federal debt holdings. The selling price was not released.
According to one political scientist, Georgetown University's Holden Cardwell, this sale was to be expected in its general direction but not in its scope. "This is unusual in that foreign creditor nations typically buy up debtor nations piecemeal, one major corporation, one sizeable real estate holding at a time," said Cardwell, "but not in a chunk as large as a state like California." California's economy is the largest of any U.S. state, and would be, if it were a country, the eighth largest economy in the world, said Cardwell.
The sale of California will solve one looming crisis for the federal government. As it is financially insolvent, it was only a matter of time before California went bankrupt and came to the federal government for a handout, a bailout or in receivership, said Cardwell.
California, to use a real estate term, is under water, said former Bear-Stearns government securities analyst Mortimer Grist. "Completely submerged," said Grist, "with little likelihood of getting its nose above the surface anytime soon. The entire crew of Baywatch couldn't rescue this puppy."
According to BusinessInsider.com, California currently faces an estimated $25 billion shortfall and red ink for as far as the eye can see.
Because of the state's massive debt obligations, particularly public employee pension funds, the sale of the state will bring in relatively few dollars to the federal treasury, but will prevent a major default in state issued bonds and relieve the federal government from assuming responsibility for these obligations.
[Editor's note: In 2006, California’s local government employees were paid on average $60,780 annually. Under one California law, Three-for-Thirty, public employees get a pension of 3% of their salary for every year they work, so that after 30 years of work, with a retirement age as young as 51, an employee could receive 90% of his or her final year’s salary. As a result, in 2009, for example, about 3,000 former public school teachers received pensions of more than $100,000 per year, some collecting more than $150,000.]
President Barack Obama supported the move on a political as well as financial basis. "It will free me from my friend Nancy [Pelosi], who lost me the House I had won," Obama is said to have said, according a well-placed White House source.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, for the first time in the Obama era, worked with the president.
"Giving him one bipartisan victory was worth it to McConnell and the Republican House majority leadership," said a source within the Republican caucus, "if only to get rid of Hollywood."
"I would have been willing to give up the whole Pacific Time Zone not have to listen to Sean Penn testifying in front of one more Senate hearing on God knows what," said Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).
The sale itself did not surprise some economic observers but China as the buyer did. Financial analysts had long thought that the best offer was likely to come from one of the major Mexican drug cartels. Rumor had it that drug lord Rafael Muñoz Talavera of the Juárez cartel made a lucrative cash and in-kind offer that was being seriously considered before the emissaries from Beijing arrived on the scene.
Early polls of California residents show a split on support for the Chinese takeover. A majority, especially high among those from the Bay area, support the sale. Those opposed, most of whom are clustered in the Beverly Hills area of Los Angeles, expressed disappointment that the reputed offer from Venezuela had not been more seriously considered.
Gary D. Gaddy has a North Carolina state government pension due to him -- some day -- but it won't be worth writing a column about.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday November 19, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
I AM NOT SAYING I had anything to do with it but . . . I am hard pressed to say it was a coincidence. (Especially since I don't believe in coincidence.) Two weeks ago I drove to Pittsburgh to pick up my lovely, talented and now grandmotherly wife who had flown up to see the precious little Adrian Gray who was born on the same day that my niece Kristina was moved, to everyone's great joy, to the cancer ward. As my brother said at the time, "everything is relative." When you have been in the intensive care unit, the cancer ward is a move up. Only Kristina's news could have beat out Carson and Nathan's birth announcement for sheer joy.
Anyway, when I stopped by Morgantown on Wednesday, October 27, where Kristina was being treated in the West Virginia University Hospital, I gave her a gift I had bought at Lil John's Mountain Music Festival. It was small handmade rosin dispenser (with aged rosin), like a fiddler might be wont to use. As I gave it to Kristina, I quoted to her from one of the all-time greatest old-time songs, Jack of Diamonds (which is also known as Rye Whiskey or the Drunkard's Hiccups), which quote I hoped would be an inspiration to her:
Gonna take down my fiddle;
Gonna rosin up my bow;
Gonna make myself welcome
Wherever I go.
Then on Saturday, November 6, 2010, her dad asked this question in the following edited CaringBridge post:
Anybody know of a fiddlers' convention with a category for "Best-fiddler-with-IV-line-attached (old-time)"? Kristina's practicing. [See the photo on left for Kristina's new therapy regime. Picture a fiddle hanging on an IV tree.]
Yes, here she is, finally got her baby back in arms. We walked around the halls and found an empty room, where Kristina gave me (her dad Cliff) and Mike (her artist boyfriend) a little concert.
As you can tell, Kristina's in great spirits. As the doctors have said, all the staff talk about how much they enjoy coming into Kristina's room, because they know she'll be smiling and joking.
Oh, yes, why does Kristina have an IV line attached at all? We are pretty sure it is like a Martha Stewart-style ankle bracelet. They think it may deter her from escaping again.
Below is from his CaringBridge post from two days later:
[Note: My brother is not a caps-lock kinda guy. (When he once seriously considered graduate study in linguistics, my thought was that he would specialize in punctuation.) But there are days that demand the caps lock be turned on and left on. (But, let's be honest, he could have used more exclamation points!!!!)]
KRISTINA'S OUT OF THE HOSPITAL!
I [her dad] just received a phone call from Kristina -- she's in the car leaving Morgantown and on the way to Elkins! She and Kerstin [her very Swedish mom] will spend the night there, and then it's on to Kensington tomorrow.
Yes, she was officially discharged. The white cell counts zoomed upward over the past two days, so the doctors cut back on the antibiotics and antifungal medicines and released her.
It's hard to believe. It was four weeks ago, almost to the minute, that she was admitted to West Virginia University Hospital's cancer unit and then diagnosed with acute leukemia. It was only a little more than two weeks ago that she was on life support in the intensive care unit. And now she's going home. It's really a miracle. Thanks to everyone at that hospital who helped save her life at all the different critical stages. And thanks to all of you who gave her such strong moral support all the time.
But don't stop now. Kristina will now begin, almost immediately, follow-up chemo treatments designed to rid her of this disease completely. We can later give you more information about what's in store, but we know that it will last continuously for about four months. At least in the beginning she'll be [home] in Kensington and going to a hospital or clinic for out-patient chemo treatments.
That's it for now. I'm sure there will be more to write once we settle down a bit.
And little Adrian’s doing great too. He's sleeping like a baby. [See the photo on right for proof. Imagine a photo of a week-old baby sleeping on a table.] (And yes, his dad was standing right by in case Adrian moved – but they know this boy sleeps like a rock.)
Gary D. Gaddy has requested that Kristina work on the fiddle part for Jack of Diamonds.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday November 12, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
WHEN I WAS YOUNG, maybe three or four years old, and our family was living on Marshall Terrace in Danville, Virginia, my best friend was named Paul. (We called him Skip, and his mother always called him Skipper.) Our families were neighbors and our mothers were best friends. Our mothers did lots together as they were both, unremarkably for the era, stay-at-home moms with multiple kids.
Skip's mom, Jane, was a force of nature, even then. My family has a slide show of the Fourth of July parade that Jane organized for our street, which was essentially one long block. You can see Skipper and me on our festooned tricycles. As I remember it, the parade also had a pony, and Uncle Sam, and various wagons decorated as floats. Those were the days.
I recently got re-acquainted with Skipper myself. If you haven’t already, you will probably be acquainting yourselves with him as well. Before Tuesday, it had been, as you may have heard, 112 years since the Republican Party had control of the North Carolina state legislature.
Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam (R-Wake) has a good chance of becoming the next Speaker of the our state's House of Representatives. I may be biased, but Skip Stam will be a good one: open, honorable, honest and forthright (which is more than we can say about some of his predecessors). And as his mother told me long ago, when he competed in anything, he always knew the rules and played by them.
He is, not just in my opinion, one of the best, if not the best, legislator in the legislature. While he was in the minority, Democratic legislators, even very liberal ones, would go to Rep. Stam for help in crafting bills. He knows how to construct bills that make good laws – and he is constructive enough to take even what he thought was a bad bill and make from it a better law.
I will tell you how good he is. For this election cycle, the News and Observer endorsed him – one of the more conservative members of the legislature. (I will note, cynically, that the N&O editors were probably well aware that he was a shoo-in for re-election in his race.)
It was, in my opinion, time for this election's outcome. After a hundred years of one party calling the shots, I would say it's time another gets at least one. Here are some reasons why.
Our state's schools are failing a large number of our students. Read any comparison of the states in terms of elementary and secondary education – keeping in mind that the country as a whole is failing in comparison to other school systems in the developed world. Competition could help change that. Even Oprah supports charter schools, and Stam proposes to eliminate the cap on charter schools.
Corruption is as endemic in our state government as it is in almost any Third-World country’s. (Read the newspaper on any given day.) Stam commits to pass a law requiring a valid photo ID to vote, to end pay-to-play politics and to limit government power by passing an eminent domain constitutional amendment to protect private property from government confiscation for private development.
Stam commits to balancing the state budget without raising tax rates, then making our tax rates competitive with other states, while reducing the regulatory burden on small business. It won't be easy, but Stam says they will try.
But there is, in my mind, one reason sufficient to not be dismayed at Stam and the Republicans being given a chance to run our state's legislative branch. Next time you look at a map of this election's U.S. congressional races, don't look at who won and who lost, just look at the shapes of the districts.
These reptilian entities are an abomination to every principle of reasonableness, fairness and common decency. Elbridge Gerry would be embarrassed looking at them. These are the unconstitutional products (as determined by repeated decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court) of our Democratically controlled legislature. These districts run down highway medians and follow along the banks of rivers picking up voters of a particular hue and political stripe to create districts that will vote dependably one way. They are an anathema to true democracy.
As Chris Fitzsimon of the liberal advocacy organization North Carolina Policywatch says, "Politicians shouldn't choose their voters; voters should choose their politicians." Maybe the next year will see principle placed over politics and have redistricting done by an independent redistricting commission, one that operates in a way that promotes democracy rather than incumbency. Stam has supported the creation of one for more than a decade.
I don’t know about you, but if Stam accomplishes even some of this, I will be happy about this election.
Gary D. Gaddy voted early but not very often – though he could have.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday November 5, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
I was in a convenience store recently when it was robbed. Even sitting here at my computer I can see the frightened look in your eyes. No, it wasn’t a robbery like that. It was shoplifting. It was, however, a real robbery -- and a lot of people really did get robbed.
I was heading home from Fuquay-Varina north on Hwy. 401 toward Raleigh when the road started looking unfamiliar so I decided to stop and make sure I hadn't already driven past I-40 without noticing. (Yeah, I could do that.) I stopped at a gas station convenience market on South Saunders Street, in one of the poorer Raleigh neighborhoods, to buy something, mostly as an excuse to ask the clerk for directions.
As I entered a group of four or five adolescents entered with me, one of whom was displaying several dollar bills in his hand. As we entered the store the clerk was coming out from the back of the store.
These kids quickly dispersed throughout the store's cramped aisles between the high display racks. One, who I watched put a pack of Twinkies in the kangaroo pouch on his sweatshirt, was blocking my view of the Danish pastry display. He asked, politely, if he was in my way.
In a few moments they were gone from the store with their takings. I am not sure that any of them paid for anything. Most got the five-finger discount for their selections. I can't really say but my guess is that the group of them took $10 or $20 worth of goodies.
The store clerk, I think, knew what was happening but did nothing. What could he do? Even if he had a shotgun behind the counter, like in some Wild West saloon, he likely wouldn't have pulled it out. One of them could have had a gun too -- and who's going to die for $20 while working a slightly above minimum wage job? Given the neighborhood, I have a suspicion this was neither the first nor the last of such coordinated robbings.
So, who got robbed? The owners of the store, of course. Theft comes straight out of profit. I was robbed, along with any other customers present and future. Higher prices pay partially for "inventory shrinkage." The people who live in the neighborhood of the store will be especially hit by that -- and will be hit even harder if stores in the neighborhood all decide the price of doing business there is too high.
So, who else got robbed? Their friends, that is, the guys who live down the street, who go to their schools, the guys who look like them. Guys who will be looked upon with suspicion everywhere they go. As you may have assumed already, these teens were African-American.
These were not, based on their good manners, thugs. But, I predict reluctantly, they will be. Here's why. They were young and black and learning, wrongly I would say, that crime does pay. The taste of the Twinkies will tell them that, a sweet savor that will last but a moment -- while the trajectory of these smallish misdeeds will last much longer.
Based on their dispositions as they rummaged through the store, they thought crime was fun. But that fun feeling won't stay with them for long, as eventually, the statistics say, they will get caught. Among males, blacks are six times more likely than whites (28.5% vs. 4.4%) to be admitted to prison during their life, which leads to this sad statistic: In America more black males are in prison than are in college.
African-American males are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white males. Add a notable criminal conviction to your resume and you aren't unemployed, you're unemployable, which leaves panhandling -- and criminal activity -- as about the only ways to make money.
Oh, yeah, I got my directions. I hadn't missed I-40. But I did have to make a U-turn to get there, something I hope that some of these kids will do too.
Gary D. Gaddy briefly worked as the weekend night desk clerk at the Econo-Lodge Motel in inner city Norfolk which is not too far from south Raleigh.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday October 29, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy
KRISTINA ISN'T OUT OF THE WOODS YET. (She couldn't be because she is still in West Virginia.) And she hasn't climbed her last mountain either. (Well, she couldn't have done that either because she is still in West Virginia). But if I were the woods or the mountains, I'd be stayin' outta her way.
Ten days ago, you see, my niece Kristina was diagnosed with leukemia. But if personality and will power have anything to do with it, this leukemia doesn't stand a chance.
I remember the first time I discovered that Kristina, cute and seemingly delicate little Kristina, would do just fine in this tough world. She was about two years old and her brother, older by two years and bigger than her by more than that, came flying at her from across the room. I wanted to intercept him but I was too far away, so all I could do was watch. Right before Benjamin got to her, Kristina stuck her arm out like a crossing guard signaling "Stop!" His forehead ran straight into her palm, leveling him. It was a stiff arm that an all-pro wide receiver would be proud of.
While her brother ran off to his mom, Kristina just shrugged and walked away. I remember thinking, "We don't need to worry about her." So, as you might expect, Kristina took up rugby. (Her favorite rugby match was played in the mud. By the time the match was over all the players on both teams were the same color: brown.)
If playing rugby suggests she's tough, that's just the start. While she was doing a semester abroad in Valparaiso, Chile, Kristina was competing on a rugby pitch when she hurt her hand. She didn't just finish the match, she scored a goal -- while having, it turns out, several fractured bones in her hand. This pretty thing with her stunning red hair and beautiful blue eyes could eat nails for breakfast (as long as they were vegetarian).
When our fiddle-playin' Kristina was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, she was immediately hospitalized at West Virginia University Hospital in Morgantown where she is expected to be hospitalized for a month during her chemotherapy. The good news is that this is an acute myelogenous leukemia that "is associated with the highest proportion of patients who are presumably cured of their disease."
Some progressive physicians like for their patients to take charge of their treatment. Let's hope Kristina's WVU doctors are quite progressive. Here's an updated and abbreviated version of her father's Wednesday posting under "My Story" telling about Kristina's doings this week.
On Tuesday we (her mom and dad) got a call from the ICU saying, don't worry, Kristina's in no danger, but she removed "the tube." It wasn't until after hanging up that we realized they didn't say what kind of tube -- IV tube, feeding tube, breathing tube, what?
When we were allowed to return, we found out it was the breathing and feeding tubes. She had removed them herself. Rather than replace them, the doctors decided to see what happened when they were out. In fact, it turns out that she was able to keep them out for the night.
So what really happened with this tube? Here's her story: "I woke up and found myself strapped down on the bed. I had this horrible tube in my throat. I heard and saw people walking around. I wanted to tell them to take the tube out. But I couldn't talk. I felt like the Hulk. So I just used all my strength and lifted my arms up and took away the tube."
We and she are not sure that's exactly what happened. The fact is, she was strapped down. But who knows? Maybe she did break the restraints, or stretch them.
During her "break" from the breathing tubes, Kristina is half-lying, half-sitting up in bed, talking, joking. (I wish I had room to write some of the things she said last night as she was awakening. But some are best kept private. Whatever they gave her would make a good truth serum.)
She is really looking forward to getting back up to the cancer ward (that sounds funny -- but everything's relative), where, in contrast to the ICU, you are allowed to use iPhones and computers. Because then she can read all your messages. And maybe it won't be long before this really turns into MY story -- she'll write herself about her progress.
Gary D. Gaddy is praying for Kristina's recovery -- and hoping the cancer ward is a fiddle-friendly zone.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday October 22, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy