S**t I Read In The Papers

Mark Twain once said that, whenever he read something in the newspapers, about which he had personal knowledge, they always got it wrong.  Then he nailed the concept by stating that, reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.  I often read funny things in newspapers.  Occasionally it’s intentional.

I read two newspapers a day, five days a week.  I read the Waterloo Region Record.  It’s a somewhat conservative broadsheet.  I also read the Toronto Sun, which is a bit more liberal, tabloid style.  I read them both to get some idea of the average of social and political issues.  I actually read the Sun a day late, to give me some time to assimilate the Record’s position first.  I also read the Sun because it has more and better comics which, aside from the humor, are also a good reflection of modern life, and I read it for the strange and amusing little filler articles.

Like Mr. Clemens, sometimes I see things printed that just make me go, “WHAT!”  Non-weapon knowledgable writers referring to .9 MM pistols.  Those bullets would be the size of the lead in an automatic pencil.  Last summer, there was a story about a tanker truck which crashed on a tight turn in the hills above Monte Carlo.  The piece included description of, “streams of burning liquid oxygen running down the hill and into a tourist camp.”  Now, I stayed awake in high school, both (especially) in English and in Chemistry.  The dictionary definition, backed up by the Chemistry textbook, says that, “burning is the rapid combination of an element or compound with oxygen, producing heat, and sometimes light”.  It is chemically, physically impossible for Oxygen to combine with Oxygen.  It was probably truck fuel that witnesses saw burning.

I called up my old friend, the editor at the Record, to mention this bit of silliness.  Instead I got a summer-job Journalism intern.  I said I’d call back or, since it wasn’t important, I’d just forget it.  Oh, no, he says.  You give me the message, and I’ll pass it on.  I thought that I did a lucid job of describing the error, but, after I finished, I got back a snippy comment that, if I didn’t like stories about burning trucks, I just shouldn’t read them.

I saw a socially/politically active woman on a CBC talk show trying to save the world from CFCs.  The first statement out of her mouth was a provable mistake.  I had been corresponding with a columnist who held the same indefensible views.  I sent him an email to show how she was in error.  Instead of admitting that he might possibly be wrong, he sent back a reply demanding to know what her name was.  What did it matter?   What side of your desk do you put your coffee on when you’re incorrect?

Earlier this week there was a horrific crash about an hour west of here, just the other side of Justin Bieber’s house.  A Canadian driver with 12 Peruvian farm workers in a van was returning to Kitchener after a day on a farm.  The van was t-boned and a truck driver, the van driver and 9 of the workers were killed.  Three articles, in the two papers, said that they were coming back to Kitchener, which is east of the crash site, yet insist they were travelling west.  If they were travelling west and were struck by a north-bound truck, the van would have been impacted on the driver’s side, but every photo shows the passengers’ side destroyed.

Driver’s error, or failed brakes?  My brother works part-time for a limo company.  He had to study and pass a test to drive the extra-long, extra-heavy stretch limo.  It takes special knowledge.  This guy had a regular license.  13 men in the vehicle, and a box the width of the van and extending four feet back, carrying clothes? tools? food?  The brakes, suspension and steering are just not designed to carry that much.  Twice, the wife and I have been out and seen overloaded vans.  The first time we counted 17 people, the second time, a different van, there were 18  sardines in the can.  Both times they were church vehicles.  Oh, good!  Let’s kill Grandma and Grandpa on their way to worship.  They’ll get to Heaven early.  She wrote a letter to the editor, protesting this practice, yet it’s still happening.  Now, finally, with 13 dead, the politicians are waking up.

Even when they get it right, they often don’t get, or print the whole story.  From Toronto, the story of an 18-year-old female.  She’s been the skimpily-clad Sunshine Girl in the paper four times and was moving on to a career in modelling and acting.  Somehow, she fell, jumped, or was thrown from a car on the expressway.  Then she was struck by a five-ton truck,  Perhaps that was a mercy.

As a teenager, I “fell” from a car once.  It was doing 30 MPH on a hardpacked beach.  I thought I could just roll over the side of a convertible and hit the sand running and slow to a stop.  I got about three steps before physics took over and I cartwheeled onto the ground.  Sand in orifices I didn’t even know I had, some interesting bruises, but I avoided actually breaking anything, most especially my neck.

What in Hell was going on in that car?  I know what it was like hitting wet sand at thirty.  I don’t think I want to know what it was like to hit pavement at 60/65 MPH.  No more modelling career.  She’d have been lucky to get a job as a doorstop.

Today’s paper has a story about the Russians drilling a mile through the Antarctic ice to get to a lake underneath, to do research on biologicals that have been sequestered for over 200,000 years.  Have they not seen either movie version of The Thing?  Let’s release an Ebola type virus, or blood-sucking parasites, or a damned E.T.  Sure, what could possibly go wrong?

The location of the drill-site was given as “1300 KM Southwest of the South Pole.”  There’s nothing Southier than the South Pole.  1300 KM southwest would be somewhere in orbit.  You can’t even fix it by substituting Northwest for Southwest, because, when you leave the South Pole, no matter what direction you take, it’s just North.

We are warned that information obtained on the Internet may not be reliable.  Much the same can be said of what is printed in the “reliable” media.