Thursday, July 31, 2008

We can't help it if we're stinking rich

This just in from the Associated Press:

HOUSTON (AP) — Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, the biggest profit from operations ever by any U.S. corporation.

And thanks to our new high-tech wire service here at the newspaper that is so fast it actually delivers tomorrow's news today, here's this soon-to-be breaking news item from Friday:

HOUSTON (AP) — Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally and GM CEO Rick Wagoner were arrested Friday after hiding in shrubbery outside Exxon Mobil's corporate offices and then ambushing and beating the ever-loving crap out of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yes, I know Obama's not a Muslim

Thought I'd share this e-mail exchange with a reader over my most recent column:

To: Johnson, Chris - Columbus
Subject: Senator Barack Obama is not a Muslim terrorist

While I'm sure the inherent humor in telling patent falsehoods about a man who stands a very good chance of being the next President of the United States of America is readily apparent to you, it has to this point eluded me. In your (admittedly facetiously-toned) article titled "Andy for President", you referred to John McCain as "a foul-mouthed dude with a bad temper" and Barack Obama as "a Muslim terrorist". While not putting names to either remark, the purpose is clear to even the casual reader.

The problem with these statements is that while McCain can, objectively, be foul-mouthed and possessive of a bad temper, to be a Muslim one must self-identify as such, something that Barack Obama denies. Indeed, if you were to ask Senator Obama what his religious affiliation was, he would respond that he is a Christian. Further, to be a terrorist is to be someone who spreads and uses fear, generally (though not always) in the form of violent action to further a set of goals, generally a political agenda that is not in keeping with the mainstream politics of the area. Barack Obama has never done this, has never been accused of this, and indeed there are no reasons to believe that he may have done so in the past or will do so in the future.

In the future, perhaps basic fact-checking, or a personal desire to avoid the pitfalls of yellow journalism in an otherwise humorous article would befit you. I recommend it highly.

Columbus, GA

On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 9:43 PM, Johnson, Chris - Columbus wrote:
Thanks for the clarification, but I assure you it's sarcasm with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Any folks who actually believe Obama is a Muslim or terror conspirator are too stupid to vote. Granted, that's a high number. But I like to poke fun at the ignorant and feed them at the same time.

The misconception is being spread broadly enough that it's getting hard to tell who's been sarcastic and who's being serious. I'm glad to hear that at least my hometown paper is safe. Take care.
- -------

Dear ------
Well, if there weren’t a misconception, there wouldn’t be much of a race. Obama would run away with it. You know, I once ran a farcical column that terrorists had created a bomb that didn’t explode but could knock out service to restaurants in Columbus, causing everyone here to starve to death because no one in this town seems to cook. Some folks believed it. I once had Satan take over my column for the week and explain that he wasn’t nearly as bad as he’s been made out to be and that a lot of stuff blamed on him over the years was not his fault. Some folks believed that, too. As for Obama, right-wingers will keep spreading that propaganda until, indeed, folks have heard it enough that they begin to believe there’s truth in it. I think they call it politics. For further clarification of my views on it, here was my blog reaction to the recent New Yorker cover.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Listen to Larry

Last week my former boss Larry Foley, the news editor here at the Ledger-Enquirer, called me aside to talk. This is something he does about once every, well, never. Larry may be the most private man in the entire newsroom. So I couldn't imagine what he had to say, but I couldn't have imagined anything much worse. He wrote a column for today's paper about what he told me. Here's the opening:

"You have cancer."

Those were the worst words I thought I would ever hear from the doctor exploring my prostate problems. But a week later, after X-ray bone scans and a CT scan at a hospital, he told me nine words that were much worse, terribly worse, and devastating: "Your cancer has spread. You have an incurable condition."

You can read Larry's entire column here, and if you're a man, pay attention. It's a powerful and an important column. Keep him in your thoughts. And, if nothing else, learn from him.

Photo of Larry Foley by Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer

TitleTown, USA

If you watch ESPN's SportsCenter at 6 p.m. tonight, you'll see Valdosta being handed the title of TitleTown, USA. Having lived there for a couple years in the early ’90s, I can vouch for the championship atmosphere of the town. With Wild Adventures and family still there, including a second cousin who is a senior quarterback for the Valdosta High Wildcats, the winningest high school football team in the nation, I still get there fairly often.

Though I worked for an incredibly stingy newspaper company at the time, I enjoyed living there, and if I could have survived economically, I would have stayed. They sold all their U.S. papers after I left, but the top-tier newspaper companies surprisingly let the Valdosta Daily Times slip through their fingers. It's a great town and, yet, every time I go back I'm stunned by how nice everyone is there from the strangers on the street to all the waitresses with the sugary-sweet Southern drawls.

And if you've never been to a Valdosta High School or Lowndes High football game, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Congrats to all those folks in my old stomping grounds.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Boys will be boys

Click here to read this story about a 5-year-old boy in Texas who wandered out of his daycare and wound up a half-mile away at a Hooters.

I bet this is the kind of kid I would have hung out with in kindergarten. We had a hot kindergarten teacher, Miss Hunt, who had a paddle called "Hot Stick Hunt." Let's just say that being paddled by a hot, young, blonde teacher wasn't exactly a deterrent for my cousin and me. Heck, if there had been a Hooters in Macon County, I'd have never gone to school.

This story just shows that boys' minds are pretty much in the same place from ages 5 to 95, whether they admit it or not. And if America were serious about educating its boys and young men, it would pay Hooters girls to wear multiplication tables on their tight shirts and vocabulary words on their short shorts.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The next president?

I've got an idea of who should be the next president, and the man has never been mentioned before as a possible candidate. He's got integrity. He's got common sense, perhaps because he's from a small town. A very small town. And best of all, he talks like me. I'll write all about it in this Sunday's column. But if you're just chomping at the bit, click here for a hint.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Smokin' oakin'

Want some help getting your kid out of bed for school? Want Hannah Montana's help?

Apparently the girl is really struggling financially because she's willing to call your kid and shake them out of their slumber in the morning. Although, it could be a mere recording. I'll ask her when she calls to wake up my 8-year-old Hannah fan.

It's available through Sept. 15, and it's free. You can get up to five calls per number. Click here for more information.

I wonder who could have called to get me out of bed for school. My parents would likely claim no one could have accomplished that. But in the ’70s, a call from Cheryl Ladd or Farrah Fawcett might have done it. In the ’80s, maybe Catherine Bach or Lisa Bonet. Heck, I'd have settled for a phone call from one of those Macon County High School cheerleaders.

I wonder if I can get Norah Jones to call and sing me awake. Sure would beat the alarm clock.

Who would you want to call to wake you up?

Monday, July 21, 2008

A victory for non-prudes

From the Associated Press:

A federal appeals court on Monday threw out a $550,000 indecency fine against CBS Corp. for the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show that ended with Janet Jackson’s breast-baring ‘‘wardrobe malfunction.’’

The three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Federal Communications Commission ‘‘acted arbitrarily and capriciously’’ in issuing the fine for the fleeting image of nudity.
The court found that the FCC deviated from its nearly 30-year practice of fining indecent broadcast programming only when it was so ‘‘pervasive as to amount to ’shock treatment’ for the audience.’’

‘‘The Commission’s determination that CBS’s broadcast of a nine-sixteenths of one second glimpse of a bare female breast was actionably indecent evidenced the agency’s departure from its prior policy,’’ the court found.

But Tim Winter of the watchdog organization Parents Television Council said the court’s decision ‘‘borders on judicial stupidity.’’ ‘‘If a striptease during the Super Bowl in front of 90 million people — including millions of children — doesn’t fit the parameters of broadcast indecency, then what does?’’ Winter said in a statement.

Nine-sixteenths of a second qualifies as a striptease? I think I'd be asking for my dollar back!

Janet Jackson caricature by Chris Ware/McClatchy Newspapers

Friday, July 18, 2008

Droppin' in on the band

Interesting video clip here of a civilian parachutist crash landing into a military band during a ceremony at Fort Riley, Kan. My Army-employed friend Jenny Peaster pointed it out to me. A couple of people were hurt, including the skydiver. My favorite part of the video is the end, classic TV journalist stuff: "The skydiver was traveling about 50 mph before crash landing and also destroyed two tubas." That sounds like something straight out of Will Ferrell's "Anchorman."

Also, I need to say congratulations to Jenny, who has accepted a new Army job where she'll be able to help make a real difference in people's lives, something she's apparently been pretty good at in other Army-related positions.

I've mentioned Jenny in a couple of columns. When I was a dorky freshman and she was a way-too-cool-for-me sophomore cheerleader in high school, Jenny (then Jenny Jerome) sat in front of me in science class. Thank God for alphabetical seating! Of course, she would torture me by sending notes like, "So, what do freshman boys do on Friday nights?" ... knowing good and well it was to sit at home and dream about pretty cheerleaders.

You can read one of those columns by clicking here and there's a picture of me and Jenny with this post.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mississippi leads the way!

Woo-hoo! The South brings home the bacon once again, literally, when it comes to being fat. Of course, the Centers for Disease Control considers these rates "conservative" according to the Associated Press because "it’s based on what respondents said about their height and weight. Men commonly overstate their height and women often lowball their weight, health experts say." As a 6-foot-8 male myself, I find that type of generalizing offensive.

These are the 10 states with the highest levels of adult obesity, according to a 2007 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
1. Mississippi, 32.0 percent
2. Alabama, 30.3
3. Tennessee, 30.1
4. Louisiana, 29.8
5. West Virginia, 29.5
6. Arkansas, 28.7
7. South Carolina, 28.4
8. Georgia, 28.2
9. Oklahoma, 28.1
10. Texas, 28.1

This illustration, by the way, comes courtesy of my friend and co-worker Don Coker, who also did the cover illustration for my first book.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

If they can't make it, who can?

I'm so bummed that local Smiths Station gal Ambre Lake and Poison frontman Bret Michaels have split. Lake was the "winner" of the TV show "Rock of Love 2." Now that they've split, this paves way for a third season, this one called "Rock of Love Bus Tour with Bret Michaels." "Rock of Love" is a lot like every other reality show in that it's basically a lot of show for the camera, phony tears and fake love. Like most reality TV, it's pure fantasy.

Basically, Michaels puts women through hoops to test their "love" for him and takes a few for a test drive along the way. Any woman who would allow herself to be test-driven and "fall in love" for the sake of being on camera is of no interest to me.

Although, I do think Ambre Lake was just playing the publicity game, and she's played it well. Still is. It's probably not the last you'll hear of the local gal. Still, it's so sad to see the end of true love (the kind that lasts for weeks) found the good old-fashioned way ... via game show.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Do they make G-string Depends?

She's got a name straight out of the Department of Redundancy Department, but Tempest Storm just might be my new hero. Tempest Storm is an 80-year-old exotic dancer in Las Vegas. Yes, kids, Great Grandma sheds her girdle for a dollar.

Seriously, I think it's great. I say if you got it, flaunt it. Americans are way too sexually repressed. Could explain a lot of this nation's problems. I'm also proud that Tempest Storm is a Georgia girl. She was born Annie Blanche Banks in Eastman, Ga., less than an hour away from my hometown. And I know when I'm 80, I'll also be running around naked ... although it probably won't be on purpose and people will throw darts instead of dollars.

You can read more about Tempest Storm here.

Ms. Storm has inspired me to take a night job as a stripper. I figure you've got to explore all options in this economy. I've yet to land an actual gig, but I've got the outfit as you can see from my new publicity photo here. If you're interested, call 1-800-555-EWWW.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kudos to the New Yorker

A whole bunch of folks, including Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama's camp, are upset about the latest cover of the New Yorker. The cover essentially illustrates right-wing nut jobs' unwarranted fears about who Obama really is and what he stands for. I seriously doubt any of these nut jobs have read Obama's actual proposals because more than 90 percent of them would see their taxes cut under Obama's plans. If you make under $250,000 a year, anyway.

But Obama's camp is hyper-sensitive to even satire addressing the myth that he's a closet Muslim. And Republican candidate Sen. John McCain agrees that the cover is inappropriate. I disagree. Thank God for free speech and for the idiots we get to make fun of. The cover is gutsy and brilliant, unlike most politicians. And unlike too many people. And unlike too many publications and media outlets. Click on the image for a larger version.

And click here to visit America's Election Headquarters, Fox News, where the satire is apparently completely lost on the people making comments about the story on their Web site. Their reaction is funnier than the cover itself.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mickey D's

My McDonald's career is over after one 1-hour shift. Man, you steal a few McNuggets and they just go all crazy on you. Like those people needed 10 McNuggets. Eight was plenty for them.

OK, so I was only behind the counter to encourage folks to donate to the Ronald McDonald House, and I'd say at least 4 out of 5 people did. I didn't check folks' W-2 forms, but I'd also venture to guess that the folks who had the least to give gave the most. And a large group of co-workers and my bosses came in and were quite generous, as well.

I hate when people beg me for money, so I appreciate everyone who let me beg them for money. Also, thanks to the staff at the downtown Columbus McDonalds at Veterans Parkway and 14th Street, especially the front counter gals like LaToya here who had to work around me for a while.
I also want to note that this puts me ahead of two co-workers -- nightlife diva Sonya Sorich and my boss Pork Chop, who were once turned down for jobs at Jack in the Box and Wendy's, respectively. I told Pork Chop she should have worn her hair in pigtails for that interview. I'd have done anything to hear the man say, "Sorry, Miss Chop, but you're just not Wendy's material. But, hey, there's always journalism."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

French Fry-day

I knew someday it would come to this, though I didn't think it would happen so soon.

On Friday, July 11, I'll be pulling an 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. shift at McDonald's, downtown at the corner of Veterans Parkway and 13th Street. They probably won't let me play with the fryer or anything, although I vow to steal a McNugget before the day is done.

Actually, it's "Celebrity Day" at McDonald's I'll be raising money (or trying to) for the Ronald McDonald House, a very worthwhile mission. The House provides a place for out-of-town families to stay when their children are hospitalized. This lets the families focus on what's important instead of the hassle and financial implications of dealing with hotels. In Columbus, the House also has a heck of a well-stocked kitchen where families can fix meals, although a slew of local volunteers come regularly to cook huge meals. I pull a volunteer shift at the front desk of the house every couple of weeks or so. You can learn more about the local Ronald McDonald House by clicking here.

So, drop by McDonald's on Friday, say hi, let us have a little spare change, and maybe I'll let you have a french fry or something.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Name game

Actress Nicole Kidman, wife of country music star Keith Urban, gave birth on Monday to a girl named Sunday. To quote my son Saylor's new favorite saying, "That ain't right." So, a few new rules for naming babies:
  • No kids born on Monday may be named Sunday.
  • No kids born in winter may be named Summer.
  • No kids born to heathens may be named Christian.
  • No girl born in May may be named April.
  • No boy born into a family with male pattern baldness may be named Harry.
This world's confusing enough as it is. Saylor, by the way, loves the ocean. The name fits. Now if we could just get him a boat. Of course, as the nurse said after he was born at 9 pounds, 10 ounces: "You shouldn't have named him Saylor. You should have named him Cruise Ship."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy retirements!

Three of my co-workers in the newsroom have headed out the door for early retirement this week — columnist Kaffie Sledge, writer Mick Walsh and copy editor Jerry Gibson, who have over 100 years of experience between them.

Jerry sits right behind me and Mick sits right in front of me. I'm about to have an awful lot of elbow room. They're three of the nicest folks you'll ever meet, and we'll be sending them off in style in about three weeks.

I work closest with Jerry because we're both in features. Jerry hardly ever misses a day of work and is a huge movie buff. He also has an understated sense of humor and is quick to join me in saying things to make my boss Pork Chop yell, "Inappropriate!"

There was a story about Jerry, Mick and Kaffie's retirements in today's Ledger-Enquirer. Part of it deals with when Jerry lost parts of all 10 fingers after being trapped atop a mountain in a freak snowstorm and saving the life of another man. You can read the story by clicking here.

Good luck, guys.

(Photo of Chuck Williams, Tony Adams and Jerry Gibson by Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer)

Ya can't kill him

Many folks have asked about Steve Atkins — my old friend, high school classmate and even one-time co-worker at the C-Mart grocery store in Oglethorpe, Ga. Steve's a tattoo artist in middle Georgia and about a year and a half ago was in a bad motorcycle accident and then recently underwent major heart surgery.

He's improving, but I'm afraid he's gonna have a heart attack when all the medical bills come in. Although, it's apparent Steve can live through anything, which means the bills will have to be paid eventually. When I was in the hospital for two weeks after a car wreck in 2000, I'd get bills for months from every Dr. Tom, Dick and Harry who walked past my room and said "Hi."

If you want to help, they're using PayPal to collect donations for the medical fund. Go to PayPal and use the reference ID

I haven't seen Steve in months -- not since this photo was taken in October at the Angel City Fall Rally. Pictured, from left are my "sister" Laurie, Steve and my friend Mary Ellen.