The Burrower

IMG_1907There must be something about beagles and burrowing. Unlike Penny, who prefers to just plop down wherever and snooze, Kasey will find the nearest blanket or comforter and use her head and paws to burrow down deep and wrap herself up, until she’s as snug as a bug in a rug — even if she ends up hanging off the chair, with head and legs akimbo.

She snores like a longshoreman, too.

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When Should Newspapers Use Profanity?

Recently the New York Times carried an interesting opinion piece about when the news media should print profanities, vulgarities, and other offensive terms — the actual words, unmistakably spelled out in black and white, and not euphemisms like the “f-word” or “a racial epithet.”

The writer argues that in modern society the use of profanities has become increasingly commonplace, whether it’s in a diplomatic faux pas or on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and often the use of the word itself is what makes the story newsworthy. Why run the risk that the reader might not actually understand what the word is? In addition, because cuss words have even invaded the titles of books and plays and other literary works, what are newspapers supposed to do when they review those pieces? And the writer also notes that journals in other countries, like England and Australia, are not shy about publishing offensive words in full.

Sorry, but I’m not convinced. We’re exposed to more than enough vulgarity in our daily lives — and so are our kids. Why shouldn’t newspapers strive to maintain a semblance of decorum? The fact that powerful people use profanities may be a news story, but that doesn’t mean we need to have a full frontal exposure to the obscenity itself. I don’t buy that there is a risk of confusion about precisely what the offensive word is, either. When people see the “f-word,” they’re not going to think that the article is talking about fracking. And in response to the argument that Aussies and Brits publish offensive words, my mother would ask me if I would jump off a cliff just because all my friends were doing so. I never came up with a good response to her argument.

I’m sure this makes me seem like a fuddy-duddy, an out-of-touch codger who is arguing for a senseless fig leaf that has no place in our hip, wide-open modern world. But I’ve seen how our culture has grown coarser, and coarser, and coarser as my adult years roll by, whether it is shock jocks on radio or sex- and violence-saturated TV programming or stand up comics who routinely use the “seven forbidden words” without the wit of George Carlin. I don’t like the direction we’ve taken, and each little modification seems to open the door to more coarseness to come.

So, I’m willing to draw a line. In my view, newspapers should aspire to a higher standard, and should draw the line to preserve a small enclave of decency and taste in an otherwise obscene world. Leave the profanities for the internet.

Impulse Buying And Gun Sale Billboards

Highway billboards are the prototypical form of impulse purchase advertising. You’re traveling down the road, you see a billboard for a restaurant at the next exit, and you decide in a split-second that it’s time to pull off to get a cheeseburger.

IMG_1902That’s why it’s jarring and unnerving to see gun sale billboards sprouting up on the stretch of I-71 between Columbus to Cincinnati. Are drivers really making spur of the moment decisions to buy firearms when they see a brightly colored “Guns” billboard? Unlike the vast majority of highway billboards, which advertise the availability of fast food, gasoline, or a place for the weary traveler to stay for the night, guns don’t seem to have any connection to the routine needs of a highway driver — unless the guns sales are motivated by the aggressive driving of their fellow motorists. If that’s the case, I need to be a lot more worried about the jerk who has been tailgating me for the last five miles.

According to statistics maintained by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which give you a rough sense of gun ownership in American states, Ohio isn’t one of the biggest gun purchasing states in the country. In 2012, there were 45.65 NICS checks for every 1000 Ohio residents; the highest NICS check state, Kentucky, had 535.78 (!) checks for every 1000 people. Still, I’d like to think that Ohioans who are buying firearms are being thoughtful about what seems like a very significant decision, and not impulsively buying a gun because a passing billboard put the idea in their head.