Readers are sometimes critical of me because just about everything I write is an irresponsible lie. So today I'm going to write a column in which everything is true. See how you like it.
Our first true item comes from a news release from the J.I. Case Co. For the benefit of those of you who have real jobs and are therefore not involved in the news business, I should first explain that a "news release" is an article that has been typed up by a public relations professional hired by a client who wants to get certain information published, which is then mailed out to several thousand newspapers, almost all of which throw it away without reading it. If you ever commit a really horrible crime and you want to keep it out of the papers, you should have a public relations professional issue a news release about it.
You ask: "Wouldn't it be more efficient if the public relations professionals simply threw the releases away themselves?" Frankly, that is the kind of ignorant question that makes us journalists want to forget about trying to inform the publics and instead just sit around awarding journalism prizes to each other. But I'll tell you the answer: Because this is America. Because 200 years ago, a band of brave men got extremely cold at Valley Forge so that the press would have the freedom to throw away its own releases without prior censorship, that's why.
Anyway, this release from the J.I. Case Co. opens with this statement: "J.I. Case and Burlington, Iowa, the loader-backhoe capital of the world, today jointly celebrated the production of the 175,000th Case loader-backhoe." The release said they had a nice ceremony attended by the mayor of Burlington, a person named Wayne W. Hogberg, so I called him up to confirm the story. He works at the post office.
"Does Burlington really call itself the loader-backhoe capital of the world?" I asked. Newsmen are paid to ask the hard questions. "Oh, yes," replied Mayor Hogberg. "We definitely lay claim to that. We use it whenever we have the opportunity. As a mayor, I sort of rub it in with any other mayors I have occasion to meet with." I bet that really steams the other mayors, don't you? I bet they are consumed with jealousy when mayors get together.
Our second completely true news item was sent to me by Mr. H. Boyce Connell Jr. of Atlanta, where he is involved in a law firm. One thing I like about the South is, folks there care about tradition. If somebody gets handed a name like "H. Boyce," he hangs on to it, puts it on his legal stationery, even passes it to his son, rather than do what a lesser person would do, such as get it changed or kill himself.sk,2
What H. Boyce sent was a copy of a decision handed down by the Georgia Court of Appeals in the case of Apostol-Athanasiou vs. White. It seems the former had hired the latter to mow her lawn. What happened next, in the words of the court, is that " . . . White allegedly slipped on some dog feces concealed in the tall grass, and his left foot was severely cut as it slid under the lawn mower." I am not going to tell you how this case came out, because you'll want to find out for yourself in the event that it is released as a major motion picture, but I will say, by way of a hint, that in the court's opinion " . . . neither party had actual knowledge of the specific deposit of dog feces on which White apparently slipped."
Our next item comes from a release sent out by the Vodka Information Bureau in New York City. The Vodka Information Bureau has learned that a whopping 42 percent of the women surveyed consider themselves "primary decision makers" in deciding what brand of vodka to buy. This raises in my mind, as I'm sure it does in yours, a number of questions, primarily: What, exactly, do we mean by the verb "to whop"? So I looked it up in the Oxford English Dictionary, and there I found -- remember, this is the column where we are not making things up -- these helpful examples:
"In less time than you can think, whop comes a big black thing down, as big as the stone of a cheese press."
"Mother would whop me if I came home without the basket."
So I called my mother, who said, and I quote, "I always make my vodka-buying decision as follows: the largest bottle for the smallest amount of money." So I called the Vodka Information Bureau and told them what my mother said, and they said, sure, you can buy the cheapest vodka if you don't mind getting a lot of impurities, but if you want a nice, clean vodka, you want a brand such as is manufactured by the company that sponsors the Vodka Information Bureau.
Finally, and sadly, we have received word of the death, at age 85, of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who, of course, was governor general of the island nation of Mauritius from 1968 to 1982. Mauritius has an area of 720 square miles and was once the home of the dodo bird, which is now extinct. It is hard, at a time of such tragedy -- I refer here to the demise of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam -- to find words to express our feelings, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that a cheese press is "an apparatus for pressing the curds in cheese-making."