Friday, December 30, 2016

A Few Parting Words


If we can’t leave 2016 with a smile, perhaps a smirk will do.

In that spirit, we leave you with a collection of oddities which crossed my desk during the year, presented here to amuse, not to enlighten nor educate.

Best Corrections

This odd advisory from the AP: “France’s deeply unpopular Socialist president Francois Hollande says he will/won’t seek reelection.”

From the New York Times:  “Because of an editing error, an article Monday about a theological battle being fought by Muslim imams and scholars in the West against the Islamic State misstated the Snapchat handle used by Suhaib Webb, one of the Muslim leaders speaking out. It is imamsuhaibwebb, not Pimpin4Paradise786.”

From the Guardian: “Margaret Ritchie is not the MP for Down South as we suggested. Nor is she the MP for Up North. Her seat is South Down.”

From the Huffington Post: “This story originally said Marr asked Corbyn about a capella group The Flying Pickets. He a actually asked about flying pickets, people who travel to attend pickets during strikes. In our defense, both are associated with the 1980s.”

From the New York Times: “In an article March 20 about wave piloting in the Marshall Islands misstated the number of paths that could be navigated without instruments among the 34 islands and atolls of the Marshall Islands. It is 561, not a trillion trillion.”

From Wired: “Due to an oversight involving a haphazardly installed Chrome extension during the editing process, the name Donald Trump was erroneously replaced with the phrase, ‘Someone with tiny hands’” when this story was originally published.

From the New York Times: “A television review Friday about the new Amazon series ‘Goliath’ included an inaccurate discussion of the show’s plot structure.  The critic mistakenly watched the first two episodes out of order.”

From the New York Times (and I’m glad I didn’t take the call on this one): “The listing of highlights about the wedding of Cassandra Ilich and Shaun Reed, featured in the Vows column last Sunday, misstated the number of stones in her engagement ring. It has nine stones, not seven.”

From the Boulder Camera:” EDITOR'S NOTE: Comments attributed to a Trump campaign spokeswoman were removed from an earlier version of this story at her request after she learned she would be identified by name.”

From the New York Times whose editors must be wondering if anything in this story was correct: “An obituary on Wednesday about the pilot Bob Hoover referred incorrectly to his escape from a prisoner of war camp in the final days of World War II. While he escaped from the camp with a friend, only Mr. Hoover then flew a German aircraft to freedom; his friend was not with him on the plane. The obituary also misstated the name of the Ohio airfield, now part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where Mr. Hoover was based after the war. It was Wright Field, not Wilbur Wright Field. In addition, the obituary misidentified the Bell Aircraft X-1, which Mr. Hoover trained to fly. It was a rocket plane, not a jet. The obituary also misidentified the company with which North American Aviation, for which Mr. Hoover worked as a test pilot, merged. It was Rockwell-Standard, not Rockwell International. And the obituary referred incorrectly to the P-51 fighter. It was a propeller plane, not a jet, and Mr. Hoover did not test it at Wright Field. In addition, a picture caption with the obituary misidentified the plane shown with Mr. Hoover. It is an F-100D Super Sabre, not an F-86 Sabre. And because of an editing error, the byline for the obituary misstated the surname of the reporter in some copies. He is Craig H. Mellow, not Bellow.”

Best Restaurant Review of the Year

The Trump Grill by Tina Nguyen, Vanity Fair

Ngyuen, whose regular beat is politics, took note of everything, from the bathroom situation that she compared to lining up for essentials in Venezuela to the fact that a pig’s eyeball she once ate on a dare tasted better than the Trump Grill’s Gold Label Burger.

 She waxes especially eloquent on the faux lavish touches all around the lobby-style restaurant, such as the French-styled art d├ęcor that looks as though it were actually purchased at a Home Goods. She uses this as the occasion to cite a now-famous Fran Lebowitz quote, that Trump “is a poor person’s idea of a rich person.” Vanity Fair reportedly got 13,000 new subscribers within 24 hours of the story running after Trump tweeted angrily in response. 

Notable Dish: Filet mignon. “The steak came out overcooked and mealy, with an ugly strain of pure fat running through it, crying out for A.1. sauce (it was missing the promised demi-glace, too). The plate must have tilted during its journey from the kitchen to the table, as the steak slumped to the side over the potatoes like a dead body inside a T-boned minivan.”

Best Wordsmithery (from the Washington Post)

Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you’ve gained.
Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
Gargoyle (n.), gross olive-flavored mouthwash.
Flatulance (n.), emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
Pokemon (n.), a Rastafarian proctologist.
Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
Foreploy (n): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
Skilljoy (n.): The would-be friend who’s a bit better than you at everything.
Percycution (n.): Giving your child a name he will hate for the rest of his life.
Coughin (n.): A small enclosure designed especially for smokers.
Typochondriac (adj.): A paranoid proofreader.
Ignorial (n.): A monument that nobody visits.

And finally, the year in politics summed up by Dave Barry:

“…the American people, looking for a leader, ended up with a choice between ointment and suppository. The fall campaign was an unending national nightmare, broadcast relentlessly on cable TV. CNN told us over and over that Donald Trump was a colossally ignorant, narcissistic, out-of-control sex-predator buffoon; Fox News countered that Hillary Clinton was a greedy, corrupt, coldly calculating liar of massive ambition and minimal accomplishment. And in our hearts we knew the awful truth: They were both right.

It wasn’t just bad. It was the Worst. Election. Ever.”

Happy New Year.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Truth Is Marching On

Fake news.

It’s the topic du jour thanks in large part to the fact that it has been shamelessly embraced by our President-elect who has become a walking, talking supermarket tabloid.

“All I know is what’s on the internet,” he famously remarked.

You’ll find it in e-mails and web sites that publish hoaxes, propaganda and disinformation to drive web traffic inflamed by social media.

Fact checked? Sources? No need for that. If it ridicules someone you oppose, well, then, it must be true. It may be garbage, but if it's presented as red meat, people will bite.

Indeed, it mirrors modern-day politics where debate is now a knife fight and those with differing opinions are enemies to be crushed.

It is malicious gossip created anonymously in the dark corners of the Internet and produced for profit by those who put cash above conscience. It is the work of conspiracy theorists who give paranoia a bad name.

It is reminiscence of the tin foil hat set who used to fire off single spaced typewritten letters to newspapers written in all caps and headlined, “Wake Up America!”

Now, thanks to the internet, they have the entire world as an audience.

I have been a soldier of long standing in the war against this gibberish. It seems I have a number of family members, friends and acquaintances who have generously included me on the mailing list of these harebrained chain letters.

Their numbers include accountants, lawyers, engineers, business owners, doctors, people who at one point in their lives must have learned critical thinking skills but now embrace vitriol.

I know exactly when this stuff started landing in my e-mail queue. It was the day Barack Obama was sworn in as president.

Over the next eight years, I was informed that Obama is a Muslim. Not just a Muslim, but a Jihadist. He installed a prayer rug in the Oval Office. He was sworn in on the Koran, not the Bible. 

He refuses to salute the flag.  He has a secret plan to take away our guns. He is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as "Delphi" to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship.  

Obama's efforts to force banks to lend to African Americans in the mid-'90s led to the subprime mortgage crisis that killed the economy in 2008.

He plans to deliver the country to Islamic jihadists who will convert our churches to mosques, veil our women, toss our liquor into the Pacific Ocean and pack the halls of Congress with radical clerics. He is a fascist. He is a socialist. He is in fact the Antichrist.

I'm still waiting for one these websites to run a correction that says, "For the Record: Everything we wrote about Obama is wrong."

Hillary Clinton had no sooner declared for the presidency than she was branded a lesbian who had an affair with Yoko Ono.  She once said that children should be raised and trained by the state, and parents should have only a secondary role. She and President Obama were charged with being “accessories to terrorism” by the Egyptian government.

Hillary is in fact a tool of the Dark Lord Lucifer sent to oppose Jesus Christ in the Last Days.

Like any newsperson, I dutifully researched some of these claims and explained to my chain mail buddies that these so-called facts didn’t hold up upon examination.

 I further pointed out that if any of these claims were even remotely true, it would be front page news and that the good people of America would be marching on the White House with torches and pitchforks. Neither of which happened.

I should have known what would come next.  I was informed that the media, me included, was involved in covering up these claims and was  part of an insidious conspiracy that included untold millions of people. 

One texted, “I’m glad I don’t live in your world where everything you read is wrong.” Which is something I could have said to him.

Ultimately, I decided to lick my wounds and live to fight another day, directing these true believers to Snopes instead. I had reached the point where I was incredulous that people could believe this stuff.

Then Trump was elected.

I have not lost faith in the American public, however.

Post-Trump, the New York Times has seen "a net increase of approximately 132,000 paid subscriptions to our news products," the media giant told CNBC.

The Washington Post’s surge in new sign-ups parallels the Times,’ according to published reports.

Though the Post, a privately owned company, doesn’t release much data on its business performance, it said that ”We began to see a strong surge in digital subscriptions over the summer, and those numbers continued to increase through the month of November. Our monthly average of new subscriptions (July through November 21) is up 73% from the first half of the year.”).

The Los Aneles Times saw a 60 percent increase in new digital subscriptions in the weeks following the election according to the Columbia Journalism Review. For the month of November, the paper added more than four times as many new subscribers as it did during the same period in 2015.

At The Wall Street Journal, orders and new subscribers were up 300 percent on Nov. 9, versus an average Wednesday.

It appears Real News may be trumping Fake News. And that’s Good News for all of us.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.