Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Why I Need Newspapers"

The caption below the photograph of a story I read a few days back reminded me the reason I like, and more importantly, need, especially as I get older,


The story involved a federal court appeal hearing involving the California ballot initiative (read: referendum) concerning gay marriage. The caption under the accompanying photograph read as follows:

Charles Cooper, attorney…argues that appeals court should invalidate ruling that threw out the measure.

What the newspaper is offering, along with information, is a tongue twister for the brain. How many reversing negatives are mentioned or referred to in the above caption? If I’m not mistaken, four. They want to “invalidate” the ruling that “threw out” the measure, the measure being against gay marriage, which the court had ruled in favor of in an earlier decision.

The court said “Yes.” The initiative said “No.” The court invalidated the initiative. Now lawyers want to invalidate the decision.

I don’t know about you, but for me, getting up in the morning and being confronted by an intellectual challenge generously provided by my morning paper is positively exhilarating. It’s a thought puzzle. As we get older, the medical wisdom tells us, we need such stimulants to our gray matter to keep our brains from devolving into Silly Putty. And here’s a free one, right in the paper.

So there’s that – the cerebral workout offered by whiplashing headlines and photo captions. You decipher this mental maze and you feel like a winner.

“Look at that! My mind still works!”

Though you may need a little nap afterwards.

There’s another type of stimulation that newspapers provide. I’m not talking about the stimulation of the ideas in, say, the op-ed section. I actually, you may not be surprised to hear, prefer my own ideas.

The stimulation I am referring to is the welcome stimulation of my imagination, triggered by certain stories that appear in the paper.

For example, this one, printed the same day as the above caption:

“Judge must rule in Santa Clarita slaying and dismemberment case after a witness recants her testimony.”

This one really got me thinking. Apparently, a female witness who, as a teenager in 1995 had testified that she had been an eyewitness to a slaying and dismemberment, returned to the court,

And she took it back.

The defendant, who had been convicted as a result of her testimony, had already served fifteen years in jail. Now she’s saying, “Sorry. Got that wrong.”

Fifteen years later, the woman does a complete “one-eighty” on having eye- witnessed a slaying and dismemberment. This is where, thanks to this story that appeared in the newspaper, my imagination kicks in.

How exactly could this unusual occurrence have taken place?

Did the girl make the whole thing up? (“My life is too humdrum and routine. I think I’ll testify in court that I saw a slaying and dismemberment.”)

Was she looking into her neighbor’s window, and while thinking she was witnessing a slaying and dismemberment, she was instead watching her neighbor’s TV?”

Did she do it on a dare? (“It was either say I saw a slaying and dismemberment, or stick a lit firecracker up my friend’s dog’s butt. I was trying to help the dog!”)

Had her recently prescribed eye drops caused her to start seeing things?

Did she reverse her testimony, because she looked up “dismemberment”, and it said that “member” was a euphemism for penis, and although the body had been seriously chopped up, the penis remained attached, so, literally, it was not a “dismemberment” after all?

Was she just in a trouble-making mood?

Had she, in fact, had her eyes closed, and only heard later that someone before her tightly closed eyes had been slain and dismembered, leading to her incriminating evidence being stricken from the record as “hearsay”, and the defendant set free?

Was she just nervous in the courtroom, and when she was asked if she had witnessed a slaying and dismemberment, an anxiety-induced slip of the tongue led to a “Yes” response rather than the truth?

Did she confess to having seen a slaying and dismemberment, because the investigator who interrogated her was “really cute”? (“And I was hungry. I couldn’t wait to get out of there!”)

Was she simply getting back at the defendant for his unwillingnes to slay and dismember her?

Does she have a rare type if learning disability that forces her to say the exact opposite of what she actually means?

Did she misunderstand the question, thinking she was being asked if she wanted to see a slaying and dismemberment. (“Geez, I mean, who wouldn’t!”)

Did she accidentally enter the wrong courtroom, her “Yes” answer memorized and rehearsed, but it was for a trial down the hall where the question was, “Did you see the defendant steal a kazoo?”

Did she just think she witnessed a slaying and dismemberment, but upon further consideration, she realized they were just fooling around?

Had she been paid off to testify she witnessed a slaying and dismemberment, and now somebody else was paying her off to say she didn’t?

Does she, like me, simply have an active imagination?

The judge hearing the appeal for a new trial seemed to be enjoying this as much as I was reading about it. You could tell, because his response to the witness’s unexpected flip-flopping on having seen a slaying and dismemberment, was,

“Something unusual is going on here.”

I can imagine the judge biting his lip real hard, to keep himself from laughing.

Reading this story took, maybe, five minutes. But imagining the possibilities behind the story – hours of entertainment!

Provided by my morning newspaper.

Okay, you say. But couldn’t you get the same mental stimulation and imaginational enjoyment reading an online version of these stories on your computer? Undoubtedly, I could. There’s just one flaw in that argument.

I am never going to read newspapers on my computer. How do I know that? Because I’m me. End of story. And, more importantly, when newspapers go away, end of stories.

I need what newspapers provide. So as long as they stick around, you can count on my never abstaining from refusing not to read them.



There was another one in the paper this morning. This one was on the front page:

“Rash Of Tuba Thefts In L.A.-area Schools.”

“All they took was the tubas.”

I wonder what the piccolos thought about that?


Frank said...

The piccolos are laughing as the tuba thefts were an inside job arranged and orchestrated by the tin whistles.

Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; when I see a weird one like the "theft of tuba rashes" I use my imagination to try to figure out a logical reason. In this case I'd guess the tubas are being sold as scrape metal - there's a lot more metal in one tuba than an armful of flutes.

Of course, silly reasons are more fun.


GRayR said...

I just saw this Headline in the NYT.

"Oakland’s Reins Blister a Mayor Raised on Protest"

I thought this was one of the better oblique Times Headlines.

I pictured Oakland's Mayor with blisters, from some kind of mis-spelled storm. Or something.

If coffee makes you this productive, drink more Peets. We like it.

Thanks for your writing.