Every headline tells a story

I wrote a lot of headlines during my years in the newspaper business. So it’s not all that unusual that I pay more attention to them than does the average reader. In some ways, to me, the headline is more important than the story – if it’s a good one, it’ll not only lure me to read the story beneath it, it very well may entertain me, intrigue me, even more than it informs me.

A really good newspaper headline is brevity at its best – saying more than enough in as few words as possible. Heck, many times telling the story better than the story. And sometimes, unintentionally, telling an even better story than the story beneath it.

The other day I was surfing the Internet, looking for off-beat news items for blog material. I have a few favorite sites that yield a lot of great weird nuggets of inspiration. But on this day, going from one item to the next, the stories just weren’t living up to their headlines. I was getting frustrated. I wasn’t getting what I needed.

And then I realized I was working far too hard. If the headlines are better than the stories, well dammit, then just go with the headlines.

ROSACEA IS CAUSED BY DEAD MITES POOPING ON YOUR FACE

MTV MAKES THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE, CANCELS “JERSEY SHORE”

STARVING YOURSELF MAY NOT MAKE YOU LIVE LONGER AFTER ALL

MAN ROBBED AT BUS STOP IS GIVEN BUS FARE BY HIS ROBBERS

THIS CHUNK OF WHALE PUKE IS WORTH MORE THAN YOUR CAR

IDIOT NEARLY DIES TRYING TO MAIL HIMSELF IN A BOX TO HIS GIRLFRIEND

TEACHER ACCUSED OF HELPING “DUMB AS HELL” KIDS CHEAT

MAN NAMES STORE “HITLER,” CLAIMS HE DIDN’T KNOW WHO HITLER WAS

VICIOUS SPAT ENDS WITH WOMAN CASTRATING MAN WITH HER BARE HANDS

DROUGHT BRINGS GRIEF TO COW POOP-THROWING COMMUNITY

CHARITY BREAST SQUEEZE PUTS THE FUN BACK INTO FUNDRAISING

Need I say more? I didn’t really think so.

How now, those brows?

The great thing about the Internet is it puts an enormous amount of information at one’s fingertips.

The worst thing about the Internet is it puts an enormous amount of information at my fingertips.

I have a habit of actually paying attention to every silly little “news” item I come across on the Internet, even though they often make no sense whatsoever to me. And it’s not because these stories would ever be mistaken for being newsworthy. The gargantuan Internet audience’s never-sated hunger for stories, pictures and videos killed the idea of only uploading something newsworthy a long, long time ago.

But still I check each one out. I think it’s a form of jealous self-torture, actually. A sort of twisted ex-reporter’s self-destructive jab to look at these and mutter, “They actually pay people to write this drivel? I must have been in the bathroom when they handed out these assignments. Sheesh.”

Take Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, for example.

The duchess certainly has a lot of going for her, more than enough positives to attract the intense attention and interest of not only the Brits, but the world.

She’s beautiful. She’s married to a handsome prince. She can wear a hat that looks like a hubcap wrapped up with a bow and get away with it. And most remarkable of all, she seems to be a genuinely nice person. Just take a look at her and you’ll realize she exudes a unique, wholesome “the-duchess-next-door” quality.

Yet with all that and more about her, it just doesn’t seem to be enough. Who cares who made her dress, who she showed up with at a party, what she seemed to be saying to Prince William as they boarded a plane, the world really needs to know … how did she get those great-looking eyebrows?

You know, this is ironically funny. I was wondering just that the other day. In fact I said to some friends: “Hey, have you seen the Duchess of Cambridge lately? Whoa-ho, nice pair of eyebrows, eh?”

Be honest – you’d love to look over and see these eyebrows staring back at you.

So, if I noticed them, of course they didn’t get past the ever-intrepid Duchess-watchers and reporters across the pond. According to the UK’s Mirror website, “speculation has been rife about whether she has had them threaded, dyed or slightly more bizarrely, tattooed in.”

Good God Save the Queen! “Rife” you say! This is serious stuff. The Duchess inked?!? Could there be a Her Majesty’s Royal Tattoo Parlor in the basement of Buckingham Palace?

Well, it turns out that they’re not threaded (huh?), dyed or inked. Seems it’s just a tricky makeup move, according to the site.

The duchess “uses Bobbi Brown Eye Shadow Powder in Sable and she uses a slanted make-up brush to ‘fill-in’ her brows and frame her face.”

You know, it’s true. Thanks to the Internet, you can learn something new every day. And not only that, it’s news you can use. Blimey!

And now, the news most fowl and furry

I don’t know about you, but I get a little tired of following the news day in and day out, night in and night out, and seeing that it would appear, from the overwhelming bulk of it, that anything newsworthy has something to do with people.

People doing the crime, people making the laws, people breaking the laws, people waging the wars, people making the peace … people, people, people, people.

Bores me to death, to tell you the truth. Motley bunch of attention-mongers, aren’t we?

Having spent some years in the news business, I know that while people may be the root cause of most of each day’s news – few do anything really interesting when they make it.

Take, for example, an event such as … 5,000 people crossing the street. Stop the presses to report it? Interrupt the afternoon talk shows to break the news? Hardly.

On the other hand, say it was 5,000 …

If it walks like 5,000 ducks, if it quacks like 5,000 ducks, it must be …

… ducks, Yes, you read me right – DUCKS. Now THAT’S news.

A few roads in the Chinese city of Taizhou today were jammed when a farmer relocated his enormous flock of ducks to a nearby pond, with help from only a long wooden pole and a couple of assistants. According to local media, the farmer boasted that he didn’t lose a single duck on the three-quarters-of-a-mile journey.

Just him, a few assistants and a stick moved 5,000 ducks? And he didn’t lose one? Amazing. Try that with an entire day-care staff and 5,000 kids and I’ll bet you’ll lose a couple hundred.

And, of course, that story would lead the evening TV news. See what I mean? Sheesh.

Here’s another example. Say, you’re playing softball at the local park. While making a no-seeum throw to the plate, stopping that tying run from scoring and making the last out, you feel the urge to purge.

Game over and you run off the field and straight to a big plastic porta-poo booth – the only one in the park. You reach for the door handle, give it a tug and it’s … locked, a.k.a. in use. And you’re sure it’s the same guy you saw go in, two innings ago. Do you call the local TV news station and get yourself into the 11 p.m. lineup? I doubt it.

But, let’s say you’re a Canadian black bear, sitting outside an occupied outhouse in the forests of Winnipeg? Maybe at a picnic table, calmly waiting your turn, like the well-mannered, sophisticated fellow below …

A picture-perfect picture of patience …

Now, you’ve been patient. Though Gord Shurvell, a 65-year-old Winnipeg man staying with friends in a nearby hunting cabin, has been in there since you arrived. Well, you have to go, but you don’t have to go that bad. You can wait.

Seconds tick to minutes, which clump into many minutes. You gotta go – now. Gord’s got to be finished, for holy Molson’s sake. So why the hell is he still farting around in there?

“I’d already done my business,” Shurvell recalled, when suddenly an angry black bear entered the outhouse, grabbed him and dragged him half-naked into the woods. “All the [defense] I had was a … piece of [toilet] paper in this hand.”

A friend heard the commotion, got his gun and shot the bear. Oh and I’ll bet that’s what those Canadian reporters thought was the news.

People.

Solved: A condiment conundrum

When I was working in the newspaper business, I got to know all kinds of people. From all walks of life, every social strata of the human, and not-so-human, condition. Odd ones, bombastic ones, eyes-a-poppin’-in-their-heads ones. Some heard voices, other seemingly talked in tongues at times, there were just a lot of downright creepy people.

And that was just in the newsroom.

Probably one of the more interesting ones was my boss, head of the paper’s layout desk. It was our job to take all of the stories, photos and other tidbits that make up a daily newspaper – all the news that was fit to print – and somehow get it all to fit into it, in less time than was physically, or mentally, possible.

Every day, three times a day. Then, out the door and come back for more on the next one.

My boss is one of the most intelligent men I’ve known. Attended and graduated from MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And actually belonged there. He could spew about quantum physics with one gesturing hand, while laying out a page on his computer screen with the other one. And never miss a beat, a period or a semi-colon.

Oh yeah, he did have one little problem. Just an itsy-bitsy one, really. He wasn’t exactly what you’d call a shining example of “grace under fire” when the pressure got ramped up, as it always did. The number of minutes before a deadline seemed to disappear far faster than the number of pages still waiting to be done.

He was fine, he was workable. Unless someone came up to him, at the wrong moment.

Once I looked up just a nano-second before a brand-new reporter arrived at his desk. Too late to help him, too little time to stop the apocalypse.

“Excuse me …”

The explosion was just about equal to that of the hydrogen bomb, sans the mushroom cloud.

“WHAT THE F*&&&*^###$%^^*&((*^^ A%^&&^%% F%&^^%&% DO YOU WANT???!?!!?”

Enter one tirade, exit one reporter. Swan-dive, right under my desk.

“Hey Flash, it’s OK, you can come out now,” I said as I was writing my 150th variation of “Man Bites Dog” for the front page. “I think he ran off into the pressroom. What was it you needed?”

“I was just going to ask him to point me to the men’s room,” the cub mumbled as he dusted himself off and left the area muy pronto. “But it’s OK, I don’t need it now.”

“Hey, get back here and wipe that up!”

Other than that little flaw, his only failing in life, that I could see, was working for a newspaper. How the hell a truly-talented and gifted MIT guy ended up toiling in the midst of all this mentally-numbing mayhem was beyond me.

He should have been working on discovering a cure for it.

I think this dark thought of mine was pierced by a small ray of light the other day when I read that a team of MIT engineers had come up with the answer to one of society’s most perplexing and confounding problems.

Anticipation … anticipay-yay-tion.

The cure for cancer?

The secret formula to turn straw into biodegradable and abundant fossil fuel?

Concocting the answers to Man’s two greatest, yet never-yet-answered questions:

What is the meaning of life? and,

How does Donald Trump keep that combed-forward patch of lower back hair glued to the top of his head?

Nope. None of the above.

This group of intrepid, inquistive and inventive MIT intelligensia has created a bottle coating that makes ketchup pour out like lava-on-steroids, all of it out. They say this may save 1 MILLION TONS of perfectly good but inaccessible ketchup and other squirty condiments from being thrown out each year. Oh, and bring an end to our incessant thumping, our valient but vain attempt to free just one more little tomatoey bit that until now, alas, has forever stayed stuck to the bottle’s bottom.

Think of all that ketchup. Think of all the bottle-thumping.

That MIT, it sure is a plenty interesting and smart place. And there’s a whole passel of great minds in there, no doubt about it.

But it’s also home to some really dumb career counselors.