Monday, May 28, 2012

The editor's mailbag

I'm sure that in every occupation, people receive interesting or odd emails. It would be interesting to glance through the inbox of a Congressman, a rodeo cowboy, an attorney, or even an exotic dancer. Each would be on the receiving end of some odd requests and stories. But as a newspaper editor, I am ready to put my inbox up against most anyone as far as having the widest variety of, let's call them unique emails. Even still, among all the community event items and press releases from obscure special interest groups there is the occasional item which stands out as just plain strange.
I got one of those the other day. This email originated in London, England. (At least that's what it claims.) In the text of the letter, the author asks me to publish this new incredible information or at least get it to those involved. This man believes he has critical information about a famous crime that heretofore has not been public knowledge. The author claims he knows who killed former Beatle John Lennon.
Now, I know what you're thinking -- "They caught the guy who shot Lennon! Mark David Chapman! He was arrested at the scene! How could that be wrong?" Well, according to our English tipster, the real killer was the Maharishi who began the Transcendental Meditation movement back in the late 1960s. The emailer claims that the Maharishi used mind control to accomplish the killing in revenge for Lennon and fellow-Beatle George Harrison's quick exit from the Marharishi's movement back in the day. I guess we are to believe that Chapman's mind was controlled all the way from India and he pulled the trigger, not to impress actress Jodie Foster, but to exact vengeance for someone on the other side of the world. My email buddy also claims that a knife attack on Harrison 19 years after Chapman's fatal shot was fired.
And how does our London do-gooder know this? He claims to be a victim of other crimes of the Maharishi and his cohorts. The exact nature of the crimes or the extent of his victimhood is nowhere to be found in the email.
I'm not a big believer in conspiracy theories anyway. I believe Oswald acted alone, Elvis has been dead since the late summer of 1977, and no one is trying to poison us with gas released from airplanes. So, I'm certainly not going to go off believing this idea simply because it came to me via email -- the same way I'm reached by virtually every Nigerian businessman and his wife with those money scams. (Yes, I still get those emails too!) But this email was certainly one of the more entertaining items in my inbox so far this year.
Aside from the lid being blown off the freshly-revealed John Lennon murder conspiracy, most of my email is the type that no one really cares about. I am apparently on the mailing list of upwards of 34 ka-jillion groups who want to convince me to publish information about the latest threat to our security, the newest self-help book to hit the shelves, and the best way to find a good-fitting bra. And that is just the items that make it through the email filters here in the palatial Times Bulletin Media offices. Just think about what is stuck in my spam filter!
I do get the occasional request to publish one side of the story in a family dispute or a supposed bad customer experience -- usually to try to drag someone else's name through the mud. Of course the newspaper is not the place to take unverifiable shots on people to get revenge. That's for the trashy Internet sites and the gossip chain at the local restaurant or parking lot.
I'm not certain just what the inbox of a cowboy, a congressman, or a cleaning woman looks like. But for pure entertainment value, I have to believe mine ranks somewhere in the upper half. But then again, maybe someone has me under mind control.

Something to chew on

I have never been much of a gum chewer. It’s not that I don’t like gum, but I just never got into that habit. Recently my attention was distracted from the tabloids and magazines at the checkout stand and started gazing at the array of chewing gum choices available. I was a bit amazed at the number of brands, but what really caught my eye was the assortment of flavors and the mixing of flavors. Really? Lime-melon? Raspberry-mint? Who came up with these flavors, and why would I want to risk a sour stomach to try pomegranate mixed with any sort of mint? What’s next? Grapefruit-potato? Watermelon-rutabega?
Back in my day, there were the basic chewing gum flavors, and we knew all about them. There were the standard Wrigley’s gums - Spearmint, Doublemint, and Juicy Fruit. Five sticks in a foil pack. No questions. You knew what you were going to get. I went through phases when each of these were my favorite, usually doled out a half-stick at a time from my grandmother’s pocketbook. (Not a purse. It was her pocketbook. I’m not sure why.) As a kid, half of a stick of gum was barely enough to interest my mouth, let alone my taste buds. So many times, I would pass on the pocketbook gum. If I was going to chew, I wanted two pieces. Make it worth my while, Grandma!
Aside from the Big Three, in 1976 there was the addition of Big Red, a cinnamon gum that I didn’t like. There was also the stuff that nobody I knew would touch with a ten-foot toothbrush. There was Blackjack gum, and Teaberry, and Clove. I’m not sure I ever put an actual stick of either Blackjack or Clove in my actual mouth, but I suffered for less than a minute with Teaberry. I have no idea what the taste was supposed to be. I just knew I wasn’t going to wait until I had chewed the flavor out of it.
Lest I forget the gum that most every kid loved. We couldn’t wait to get a stick of Fruit Stripe gum. Maybe it was the stripes, but I think it was probably the fact that there was enough sweetness to allow me to pass up on chocolate cake if I had a stick of that good striped stuff. Give me a pack with the zebra on the outside, and I was good for the afternoon. Apparently, there were other striped animals on the packs for a while too. Maybe because there were five flavors, I don’t know anymore. But even if I could get a half-stick from Grandma, Fruit Stripe was worth the effort.
Of course there were a few others -- Trident (the one four out of five dentists approved for their patients who chew gum), Dentyne (with the sticks that gave you less gum than a half-stick out of Grandma’s pocketbook), and Chicklets (which I always accepted from the teller while accompanying my parents to the bank). And at some point, the hottest gum to have was Freshen-Up (the gum that goes ‘squirt’). That was the cubical gum with the liquid in the center. When you got a couple of good chews in, you would break open the center and the fresh flavor squirted all over your mouth. If you made a slice in the side of a piece of Freshen-Up, placed it on the floor and stepped on it just right, you could really get the school janitor upset!
For the most part, any other gums were bubble gum -- Hubba Bubba, Bazooka, Double Bubble, and the like. They could shred it like tobacco (Big League Chew) or make it as hard and dry as possible (inside packs of baseball cards), but it was all just bubble gum. There were no gums that changed flavor midstream or sticks that mixed fruit and mint or anything on that order. We peeled open the Juicy Fruit, the Doublemint, or on a good day, the Fruit Stripe gum, and we chewed. Then we begged Grandma for the other half of the stick.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May I have the envelope please?

I have never been a big fan of award shows. It’s not the awards and the occasional acceptance speech that set me off, but it’s all the other trappings. For instance, two people walk out onstage to some random tune performed by an orchestra assembled just for the occasion. They meander to some sort of podium and proceed to read stale jokes from cue cards to the forced laughter from the captive audience made up of nominees who just want to know if they’ve won something. The list of awards is seemingly endless and the categories are incredibly obscure, like Best Performance By A Redheaded Left-handed Soprano In A Film With A Title Consisting Of Precisely Three Words. These programs typically run too long for the slot on television. They blame the winners who thank everyone from the doctor who delivered them to the kid who mowed the lawn. But the culprit is whoever organizes these shows into marathon events.
With that admitted prejudice inside me, I attended the Associated Press Society of Ohio’s awards dinner last weekend expecting the worst. But I attended because these fine folks wished to honor me with an award for my writing in this weekly column. So I put on a tie, drove to Columbus, and waited to see how these Associated Press awards would be handled.
I knew that I was already a winner, but I was not sure if I was a first place, second place or third place award winner. I would find that out and receive my award at the luncheon. Looking at the program, I realized that the awards were divided up into five divisions, depending on the size of the newspaper’s circulation. I was in Division I, for the smallest papers. However, this division had the most competition. There are something like 32 or 33 publications in the division with the Times Bulletin. The bigger newspapers in the state had almost no competition with only five or six in the upper divisions, so I felt even better about having been named a winner.
Division I came first. After a presentation of a special award, a tall gentleman stepped to the podium with no cue cards or stale jokes. He simply began reading the categories and the three winners for each. When the Best Columnist category came along about five minutes into the presentation, my name was called. I walked forward to accept third place, shaking someone’s hand and grabbing a certificate which is suitable for framing. (I know because the certificate was already in a frame!) Then I sat down. Times Bulletin Publisher Kirk Dougal’s category, Best Editorial Writer, was next, and he walked up and accepted his suitable-for-framing award. A few minutes later the Best Special Sports Section award came up, and I was told to pick up our first place award. This one needed no frame. It was a wooden plaque with silver accents. But it is suitable for hanging. The notch for the nail was already in place.
After picking up our three awards, we sat there as the rest of the Division I awards were handed out. There were 35 in all. And bless that tall gentleman who read them as quickly as humanly possible. Then it was time for Division II. That meant 35 more awards. Then 35 more in Division III, 35 more in Division IV, and 35 more in Division V. Wow! That’s a lot of awards. And a lot of sitting and applauding. By the end of Division I, my hands were sore. So those poor folks in the top two sections went without my personal praise as I gripped a glass full of ice.
I’ll note that I gave no acceptance speech, thanked none of the little people who helped me, nor was I escorted off the stage by a pretty lady in a tight, sparkling dress. There was no music played when my name was read. However there was a screen where my name and picture were projected and the applause of audience members who had not yet realized that they’d be applauding for another few hours or so. There was also the opportunity for me to realize that some people actually appreciate my weekly babbling and that I’m not simply amusing myself every seven days. And to those of you, I thank you, whether you’re a little person or not.

Listening differently

It hit me with a start as I was rummaging through my belongings. I have literally thousands of audio cassette tapes that I have accumulated over the years, but do you think I have any audio cassette player? Apparently not. Certainly I have owned plenty of these devices. But, like many things in my life, they have either been broken, lost or stolen by my children. It’s not really a pressing need though. I can listen to music through any number of methods these days. But all the work that I put into saving recordings from what is now ancient technology seems wasted. And it doesn’t even begin with my huge cassette collection.
Like most of us seasoned folk, my first real memory of possessing music was on a vinyl record. There were 78’s that spun at an incredible pace, then the 45’s that were smaller in size but still packed the same amount of music onto a side thanks to microgroove technology. Today, microgroove sounds like some sort of new coffee variant. The tough deal about the 7-inch 45’s was the adapter that you needed to play the things on a standard record player. If your player did not come with a large cylindrical adapter useful for playing stacks of hit songs, you needed a plastic adapter, often called a spider because, well, I’m not really sure why anybody called it a spider since it looked more like a round three-legged swastika than any insect I have seen. But with a pack of spiders and an automatic changer for the player, the music would never end -- at least not for about an hour.
For real music lovers, the album was the chosen method of listening. Turning at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, the disk would run under the record needle which would faithfully reproduce anything from “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” for our listening pleasure. Of course, the record player didn’t help for those long car trips when Mom and Dad wanted to listen to the equivalent of Muzak on the radio. But soon, music lovers were presented with salvation itself. It was called the 8-track tape. With just a quick push into the dashboard or into the slot on the home hi-fi, and the music would flow.
I never owned an 8-track tape or an 8-track player. I found early on that there were disadvantages to the 8-track technology. For one, there were four “programs” on the tape and often the recording didn’t fit well onto the allotted space on the tape. The result was a fade out of the music, a click to the next program on the tape, and a fade in of the music again. Annoying. The other drawback was that the vast majority of 8-track machines were simply players and not recorders. So I bypassed the 8-track for the prize that didn’t include fading during guitar solos and did include the ability to create my own recordings. I went straight to cassette. Yes, I was a trendsetter. It took a while before I could get many pre-recorded cassettes. In fact, if not for the Columbia House Record and Tape Club, I probably would have been music-free in my formidable years except for recording my favorite songs from the radio.
I still have no 8-track player, although I do have a turntable, which is the fancy way of saying record player. I can play music from the vinyl discs and from the more-common compact discs. Then there is the new standard for music -- digital. I never had an mp3 player of my own or any kind of iPod, but I do now have an iPhone which accomplishes the same purpose. (Oddly enough, my iPhone also makes phone calls. Who’da thunk it?)
But for some reason, I don’t have a cassette player to my name. I purposely avoided the 8-tracks that I knew would be worthless and sunk my time, money and energy into a different obsolete music format. Now I’m faced with the fact that I have a boatload of cassettes that I can store in the same room as all the VHS video tapes I can no longer watch since my VCR blew up a few years ago. I feel like technology has marched right over me.

Wrestling rebirth

It was 30 years ago that professional wrestling was born. Well, wait. Strike that. Let’s say that it was reborn. It was April 5, 1982 that comedian/actor Andy Kaufman faced off in the ring with pro wrestler Jerry “the King” Lawler in Memphis, Tennessee. As part of his comedy act, the skinny Kaufman (better known as Latka Gravas from the TV series, Taxi) had been challenging women in his audience to wrestle, offering a cash prize and his hand in marriage to any woman who could beat him. Lawler took offense and the typical bluster of a wrestling feud began. After Lawler predictably put Kaufman into the hospital after the match, the feud continued with a famous appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, etc. The true importance of this whole charade (spoiler alert: the whole feud was scripted) was that a young wrestling promoter named Vince McMahon saw how much attention a celebrity brought to the often-ignored world of professional wrestling and used the idea to build his organization -- the World Wrestling Federation (the WWF then, the WWE today).
I first remember actually watching professional wrestling shortly after this time. My college roommate used to watch and got me to watch one day when his favorite wrestler, Sgt. Slaughter, made an appearance. Then there was this up-and-coming guy named The Incredible Hulk Hogan and the Iron Shiek and Nicolai Volkov and the whole gang. I was amused, but not addicted. After all, this was professional wrestling and not a real sport, right? But soon the inspiration of Kaufman’s antics hit and Cyndi Lauper (the Katy Perry of the 80s) was taking part as was red-hot actor Mr. T. The WWF was everywhere and was probably on MTV more than either Hall or Oates. Eventually by 1989, McMahon let the cat out of the bag. Faced with the prospect of paying higher taxes or admitting that the matches were staged, McMahon took the cash and affirmed the worst-kept secret on television.
Back in 1986, the radio station where I worked sponsored the WWF show and four of us were given complementary ringside seats. It was four guys (because no woman would even think about going), sitting in the second row (or “close enough to be spit on” as I phrased it at the time), screaming and laughing for two to three hours at the spectacle. I remember little about the wrestling from that night, but I do remember that we watched a match between future Minnesota Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura and a character known as Uncle Elmer. Ventura was the bad guy and one of the locals (who must have been shocked when he found out the matches were staged) was in grand form. He had walked down from the cheap seats, screaming and pointing his finger at the boa-wearing Ventura, cussing him up one side and down the other. Old Jesse stood there in his corner staring back at the lunatic, face in a mean scowl. Then, suddenly, I saw Ventura do something I’ve never seen any professional wrestler do before or since. He broke character. The corners of his mouth started to curl upward and The Body couldn’t keep it in any longer. He broke out laughing at the show that most everyone else in the crowd had been gawking at for the past few minutes. After about five to ten seconds, Jesse took his hands away from his face, stood up straight again, and set his face back into that scowl.
I haven’t watched any professional wrestling for a long time now. I do know that somewhere after McMahon admitted that the fix was in, the shows got raunchier than the cartoonish wrestling characters of the Rock ‘N Wrestling Connection days. But I’ve always thought of pro wrestling as an easy metaphor for life. There are good guys, bad guys, and those who alternate between good and bad. There is passion, anger, bitterness, forgiveness, revenge, ego, and greed all dressed in tights. Thanks, Andy, for bringing it to our attention.

Somebody' got to do it

Parenting is hard work. The uproar over the accusation by a Democrat strategist that Mitt Romney’s wife hadn’t worked a day in her life despite being a stay-at-home mother has highlighted the job of raising children. Yes, it is hard work, although it is unpaid. If you have raised kids, you already know how much effort is put into all sorts of teaching and training. Sure, there’s the whole ‘love’ factor. We take care of our children and prepare them for adulthood because we love them. But there is a bit of a startling trend that I need to report.
As I was chewing my breakfast Thursday morning with the radio playing, I heard an interview with a woman who apparently began a company which specializes in... well, let’s just me just tell you the name of the firm: PTS. That stands for International Potty Training Services. Yup. Now you can hire someone to potty-train your child. At first I thought it was just a joke interview on the AM radio. Well, if it’s a joke, the joke also has a website. ( And the lady with the nondescript foreign accent seemed to have all the answers. She didn’t reveal her secrets, of course. And she kept the toilet talk to a minimum, perhaps because the interviewer was as amazed as myself that someone would consider hiring out for this kind of service.
For those of you who are truly curious, the website is full of items and cute pictures of kids sitting on toilets of various sizes. The page I sought out was the one listing the types of services available. From the looks of things, there is a $200 initial psychological exam to determine why a parent is calling out to have someone else do the work. Once that is completed, you can choose two different types of service. Number one, short-term training or number two (if you’ll pardon the expression), long-term training. Short-term is for those 18 months of age or older. Long-term is for the younger ones, as young as nine months old.
The other choices are to either bring in a trainer into the home or to get tips from the experts via phone or email. In-home trainers are paid anywhere from $20-$55 per hour, while phone tips are dispensed at anywhere from $1.25 - $2.00 per minute, depending on how many hours a day the expert is on call. I’m not sure what the difference in quality would be. I’m thinking that’s the risk you take.
As I’ve pondered the whole idea of hired gun potty-training experts, I have considered children with special needs as a possible legitimate case for the PTS experts. After that, I’m a little stumped. I’m afraid that PTS is a symptom of that growing problem of detached parenting. I’m very thankful that I had loving parents who helped me with everything from potty-training to learning to cook and do my own laundry. And I’ve tried my best to be an involved, instructive parent for my kids also. But I think we all know that there are some parents who, by choice or due to unforeseen circumstances, aren’t all that involved in their kids’ activities, schoolwork, friends, or even behavior. Is PTS just another excuse for a parent to skip out on basic parenting? It could be, but at $55 an hour it would certainly be an expensive method of avoidance.
I get that some parents try to avoid changing diapers or doing the dirty work of potty training on occasion. I never did shirk my responsibilities in this department, although if there was a cheap potty training expert that could teach my dogs to use the commode, especially at 3 a.m., I’d be mighty tempted to shell out the funds. But for children, let’s all try to wipe away the urge to push that responsibility onto someone else.

Everyone's a critic

So what is art, anyway? The question came up this week in discussion following the death of the self-proclaimed Painter of Light, Thomas Kinkade. You see, Kinkade has been a lightning rod in the art community. Art critics could never stand the guy. Well, mostly it couldn’t stand his work, but for some critics it got personal too. They called his paintings everything from unoriginal to amateurish with a whole lot of expletives thrown in the mix as well. They said he was too commercial, opening up his own galleries and even hawking his prints on television shopping channels. And somewhere along the line, the Associated Press started a side discussion earlier this week asking if Kinkade’s work was really art or simply pop culture.
Personally, I thought that was a pretty silly question. I believe the word art deals with all manner of items judged on their beauty, but I don’t recall anything being kicked out of “art” because it wasn’t beautiful. In elementary school, I made an ash tray in art class. It was hardly a thing of beauty. Mostly it was a concave object with some sort of apparatus upon which a burning cigarette could be rested. It was clay-colored. This was not breathtaking in any manner or form. But it was art. And it earned me a passing mark in art class.
As I read through the various comments about Kinkade’s work, I remembered some of the various items I had encountered over the years that were classified as art of some sort. That included the work of someone who strung women’s undergarments together to form a chain that crossed a large gorge. It also included a canvas with half of it painted one color and the other half painted white. It also included a crucifix sitting in a jar of urine. These were works of art. So how is it that a painting of a garden cottage surrounded by flowers could be considered anything but art?
The secret lies in the world of criticism. As a whole, I find critics to have a sense of standards that rarely correspond to the average person. That is alright, I guess, but typically the opinion of the critic suggests that those of us who are viewing a painting are unable to determine whether or not we should like it. The stereotypical critic is much more intelligent that the rest of us and has a more informed opinion. It’s not just paintings and sculpture. Music critics are the same way. Movie critics are the same also. Most anyone who used to watch Siskel & Ebert using the patented Two Thumbs Up method of reviewing movies soon realized that just because the critics in the balcony gave two thumbs up, that didn’t mean we were going to enjoy the movie. If you’ve read music reviews in magazines like Rolling Stone, you know that certain musicians will usually get good critical reviews while others will not, no matter how many records they sell. Those seeking to make music that appeal to a large number of people are called “sellouts” and are spat upon by many music critics.
So, back to the Painter of Light. This guy moved merchandise. He was not the typical starving artist. And so some critics despised him for that. Kinkade was also a man who expressed his religious faith openly, even when he failed to live up to his ideals. And some critics despised him for that. He also painted things with a gimmick that highlighted light in the picture. That gimmick earned him some slams from the critical world. And, full disclosure here, I have three Kinkade prints. Not original prints. Copies of copies, most likely. They were gifts for my wife. And I like them. I’ve always been a fan of artwork where you can actually identify what has been painted on the canvas. But I realize these are not Leonardo da Vinci quality. And that is okay. It seems that the most important aspect of art in any form is how it makes you feel and what it makes you think about. Art can be pop culture too, if it is popular or at least depicts what is popular. Isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? If so, you should have beholded my ash tray. I’m no sellout.

Productivity problems

It used to be that the two least productive work days of the year were the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA mens basketball tournament. Workers would head out to lunch and not come back, and those on the job would give half-hearted effort to work and most of their attention to that all-important matchup between two schools whose campuses 99 percent of America couldn't find on map. Now, I will agree that those two days can throw a wrench into a firm's productivity, but I think I can beat them.
We are coming out of the least productive two weeks in Van Wert County. That's right, it's not late December through New Years, and it's not Peony Festival weekend. Give me two weeks of temperatures in the 70s and 80s in mid-March, and I can bring Van Wert County to a screeching halt! Well, not completely. But just how hard has it been to continue with that Midwestern U.S. work ethic with a full-blown case of spring fever? Sure, I've seen lawns mowed for the first time of 2012, flower gardens weeded, and cars washed. But the work most of us earn paychecks to do has to have suffered since spring got such a big head start.
Here in the palatial offices of Times Bulletin Media, we work without windows. Well, the front office has windows. The rest of us doing all the grunt work back in the South Wing of the estate have little idea if it is day or night, rainy or sunny, March or November. We just keep plugging away, far away from the temptation of windows and the call of Mr. Blue Sky. These days that beckon those with the window seats have no effect on us... until we need to go outside. Maybe news has just broken out. Maybe it's lunch time. Maybe we thought we heard a noise. Whatever. And we go outside and then...
I'm not really sure what happens from that point. Nobody ever seems to come back. Not until the next day when it all starts up again. Or when we get all overcome by guilt that we drag our sorry selves back through the high-security doors, sit down at our chairs and wait for the memory of how nice it is outside to fade away. Let's face it, if we all had better memories, every factory, store and business in this county would have been empty at least half this week.
Those people who work outside are not immune to this either. The percentage of time daydreaming as opposed to cleaning up brush or framing up that wall has certainly been skewed toward fantasyland over the past two weeks. Don't try to deny it! It's only human nature. Unless you are one of those people who apparently has some penguins in your family tree, you long for the beginning of spring and you curse that wretched groundhog and the shadow he rode in on every February.
Spring is when a young man's fancy turns to love. At least I think I read that in a high school English class once. Spring is also when our collective fancies turn to baseball, bikinis, barbecue, and at least three other things that begin with 'B.' There are a few other items we are reminded of when spring makes an early entrance. Farmers are wondering if they should press their luck and get out into a field in the near future. Some use the opportunity to test the air conditioning at home, at work, and in the vehicle. Others realize that exercise programs are not restricted to the climate-controlled indoor spaces. Sleeves are short to non-existent. Skirts are short to almost non-existent. Attention spans are short to... well, I forgot what I was talking about.
But praise be! Clouds and rain are on the horizon. April showers are right around the corner. And maybe, eventually, I'll be able to get some work done without having my brain drift out to lunch in the warm sunshine. Or maybe I'll just watch the NCAA tournament.

Bobbing My Head

It’s strange what you remember. I remember lots of toys from my childhood. There were the typical ones -- Hot Wheels, board games, sports accessories, that sort of things. But one of the items I used to spend a lot of time with was a set of small figurines of the U.S. presidents. There were 36 of them with a genuine styrofoam stage set up with places for all 36 figurines. They weren’t exactly action figures, but I remember rearranging them on the styrofoam steps and reading the small inscriptions on the base of each. There wasn’t much information. I remember the names, the years in office, and whichever number president were on each little statuette, and it wasn’t too long before I had them memorized. I knew them backward and forward. Pick a number and I knew the president. It’s too bad my memory has taken a sabbatical since then. Now when I try to recite the presidents, typically around Tyler, Polk and Taylor, I’ll end up inserting Larry, Moe, and Curly, or maybe Grumpy, Sneezy, Dopey, and Doc. Of course, maybe I’m not too far off. But I digress.
I was reminded of my little presidential figurine set this week when I saw the story about the John Wilkes Booth bobblehead. If you missed it, the gift shop at the Gettysburg National Military Park announced it was pulling the Booth bobblehead from its shelves. Something about bad taste. Most people didn’t realize there was such a thing as a bobblehead of a notorious killer, let alone that it was being sold at a place that is synonymous with the victim. Personally, I wouldn’t have suspected that there was an “assassins” collection in the bobblehead catalog. After all, aren’t bobbleheads supposed to be celebratory or honorary in nature?
Typically, bobbleheads are handed out to encourage attendance at sporting events. If you are one of the first 2,000 fans in the stadium, you’ll receive a free bobblehead of the team hero. You don’t expect to go to a Reds game and get a bobblehead of a Cubs pitcher. It’s an honor, no matter how goofy they look.
I did what I naturally do in these situations -- I pulled up the Internet and looked around. And as I had figured, you can make a bobblehead out of anyone. Mostly, anything with a head can be bobbled. One such company will make a bobblehead of anyone as long as they have a picture to get a likeness. So if you really want a bobblehead of Lee Harvey Oswald or Brutus or Mark David Chapman, you can get one! (Don’t ask me how to get a picture of Brutus to accomplish this one though.)
My mind started to race back to my presidential statuettes, and so I thought, are there presidential bobbleheads too? Silly me. Of course there are! There are bobbleheads of presidents, military heroes, professional and collegiate athletes, broadcasters, cartoon characters, religious figures, movie characters, celebrities, rock stars, superheroes, and most every other category of person you can name. I could not find any other assassins aside from Booth. No John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, etc. either. And I did for a moment, breathe a sign of relief.
Then I thought again. Why couldn’t a bobblehead be made simply to teach about a person. Does a bobblehead truly need to be for honorary people? Some of the subjects I saw “honored” with a bobblehead truly were not all that honorable, if you get what I mean. So, while I understand the Gettysburg Gift Shop pulling the bobbling Booths off the shelves, I don’t think it was necessary. The name John Wilkes Booth is connected as much with Abraham Lincoln as the Gettysburg battlefield. Why deny that? So maybe I should start shopping for a presidential bobblehead collection. Maybe I’ll start with Larry, Moe and Curly.