Saturday, September 27, 2008

The gas shortage

In case you have been asleep or out of town for the past week, you realize we have had a severe gas shortage. On Wednesday, the 24th, it was reported that no station in Waynesville had gas by late afternoon.

Such a shortage does create hardships for many people, especially those who have to commute a distance, or shuffle the kids to school and activities, etc.

But, some good can come out of even really bad things. Maybe some people learned to consolidate their trips, or to realize they really didn't need to use the car so much.

The shortage proved to be a true blessing to me. On Thursday, I was planning to mow my yard, which was in dire need of some TLC. I realized I had no gas for the lawnmower, and there was probably no place in town to get some. Oh, golly gee! What am I to do?

This was the only time I have been able to use that excuse to not mow the lawn. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Monday, September 15, 2008

OOPS! Wrong word

Writers for newspapers should be especially careful in their word selection, because their work is out in the open for the public to see and criticize.

A recent story in the Waynesville, NC Mountaineer illustrates the point. The headline reads: "Grower rift leads to duel markets." This writer needed to check his dictionary, for he has a problem here with “homophones:” words like “duel” and “dual” that sound alike but have very different meanings.

Duel is a noun, defined as “A prearranged combat between two persons…” Markets cannot have a “duel,” nor can you have a noun modifying another noun, as in this case.

However, you could certainly have “dual” markets.

The writer could have used the present participle “dueling” which would have been correct, for that is a verbal adjective which can modify a noun. But he didn’t, so his error is on the front page for everyone to see.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Vulture culture

My wife came up with this phrase, but it aptly describes the behavior of some of the national media.

Think about a flock of vultures, circling round and round, awaiting something bad to happen. In the case of birds, they are waiting for something to die, so they can have a meal. Vultures are very patient. After they have identified their potential meal, they are content to wait.

During this election year, some of the national media truly resemble a flock of vultures. They too are waiting for something bad to happen. In their case, they are waiting for, hoping for, almost desperately searching for a scandal or a controversy they can milk for two or three stories they can write without having to work hard. So they circle round and round the candidates, the conventions and meetings, like omens of doom, waiting for their chance.

It is almost comical to watch the media vultures as they look, search, probe and dig for a little nugget, something no other reporter has.

If there is nothing hard and fast, then maybe an insinuation, an unsupported assumption, a clever little offhand remark, or a misquote will be enough to create a nugget. Media vultures are usually not too concerned about the veracity of their stories. What is important is that they have a story to help fill those hundreds of newspapers columns and those thousand hours of television time. So what if their story is not exactly true? By the time someone questions it, the reporter is off on another story, perhaps equally untrue.

Do you remember an old cartoon showing two vultures perched in a dead tree? One says, “Patience, hell! I’m going out and kill something.” Media vultures also have been known to kick-start a scandal or controversy, just to their own advantage.