The Reliable Source
28. It's the media's fault? Check.
"Vietnam II, you are cleared for takeoff."
Blair's Story: They're Not Buying It
• Nationwide, few people are buying "Burning Down My Masters' House," Jayson Blair's account of his stint at the New York Times, where he lied his way to prominence. In its first nine days, it sold only 1,386 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which registers about 70 percent of sales. But about 50 locals turned out at Karibu Books in Hyattsville on Thursday night to hear Blair speak contritely and brand himself a "journalistic war criminal" who put ambition ahead of integrity. The crowd included Blair's parents, Frances and Thomas Blair of Centreville, Va., and eight other relatives and family friends.
"I don't think he should be let off the hook for what he's done," Obren Barnes, a Lanham lawyer, told The Post's Lonnae O'Neal Parker. "But that doesn't mean he can't learn from his mistakes and go forth and do better and be a better person." Barnes didn't buy the $24.95 book, but 24 copies were sold. Beltsville homemaker Nina Newell bought two for her children. She said she'd seen Blair on C-SPAN and thought "he just seemed a little lost. . . . And he could have been either of my kids." Blair gave her a third copy.
He said he came closest to publicly breaking down during an earlier visit to the University of Maryland, where he attended J-school. "I saw an old friend and I told her, 'You look beautiful.' " Her reply: "I'm being told I'm beautiful by the biggest liar in journalism."
(Of course, now he has competition: USA Today's Jack Kelley.)
In Iraq, Galloping to Kids' Aid
• "The nice thing about this program is, whether you support the war or not, you can support the kids in Iraq," says Laura Hillenbrand, the District resident famed for writing "Seabiscuit." She has teamed with actor GarySinise, a staunch USO supporter who has twice visited Iraq, to win hearts and minds there with a school-supply donation program.
When the first box of supplies arrived last week with the help of U.S. troops, an Iraqi e-mailed Hillenbrand to say, "Some of the girls and boys were dancing because they were very happy, and some of them singing."
Twenty-five boxes of pencils, crayons, paper, notebooks and soccer balls were donated by families whose children attend the same school as Sinise's in Southern California. Billions of dollars have been spent on reconstruction, including school repairs, but many Iraqi kids and teachers still lack basics. Hillenbrand and Sinise have set up OperationIraqiChildren.org, with details on how Americans can help.
Copies of "Seabiscuit" are also being donated -- thanks to Hillenbrand, her Arabic-language publisher and Thoroughbred Charities of America. (She will receive no royalties.)
"Horse racing has an ancient tradition in the Arab world," she said, "and horse racing is coming back in Iraq because Uday and Qusay are dead and they fixed all the races."
From a friend who served in Iraq, Army Lt. Col. Sherman McGrew -- great-grandson of Seabiscuit's owner -- she learned that the book's themes of hope and persistence seemed to resonate. "These are the things the Iraqis need to draw on as they emerge from tyranny," she says.
Sinise said the USO trips motivated him to help: "I saw the interaction of the kids with the troops and how grateful they were and how loving they were. There are small victories happening every single day."
Annals of Puffery
An Occasional Verbatim Press Release
"BETHESDA, Md. -- The legalization of same-sex marriages may prepare the way for even more radical unions in the future, according to Canadian professor Stephen Bertman. Bertman foresees the possibility of marriage between humans and their household pets or even inanimate objects such as a beloved car or computer.
" 'Many an individual has formed an intimate relationship with his or her computer, spending long hours in its close company, often to the exclusion of human contact,' writes Bertman. 'Why should not this bond of tactile intimacy be validated by more than an owner's manual?' Bertman offers his views on the evolution of matrimony in the March-April 2004 issue of The Futurist magazine."
With Anne Schroeder
© 2004 The Washington Post Company