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August 1999
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October 1999

Missing A Week: The Nature Of A Personal Column


I am an avid consumer of personal columns. When Stanton Delaplane and Charles McCabe were alive, I read their columns in the San Francisco Chronicle. Now I read Jon Carroll and Adair Lara in that generated and veneered journal, and the woman whose boyfriend broke his back rock climbing and the woman with the triplet girls in diapers.

At one time or another, most of them (especially Adair Lara) have struggled with the question of privacy. How much can you say about your children in such a column, with or without their permission?

Case in point: Marlow e-mailed something to me last week that I consider quite sweet. Of course, it might have been ironic or sarcastic, but I choose to believe it was unconsciously sweet and rather innocent for a woman of 18 on her own in New York City. I await her permission to share the anecdote with you. In the meantime, I feel constrained from using it, and even a little awkward mentioning it in this vague way here.

Of course, there is no requirement for candor. I could be an unreliable narrator. I could (and might, and maybe have already) embellish my life for dramatic purposes. I don't even have to write about my wife, my children or my cats. Not to mention my job (which I don't, much).

But then there is the matter of there being no column, and not even so much as an e-mail apology for the lack of a column.

This is how it begins. I have seen it happen to others, to Dan Rosenbaum and to Robert Seidman. First you miss a column or two, then you go a month, and pretty soon a weekly appointment becomes an occasional appointment, and then it becomes no appointment at all.

It's not even as if I was out of town, or swamped last weekend. If Vicki were writing this column, she'd have had a good excuse; she was at the Russian River Jazz festival with her old friend Linda Lawless. I was home with Rae. We spent Saturday running errands, buying paint, and hanging around the Metreon, where Rae saw Miracle Men for the first time and I saw it for the second.

Sunday, I spent a couple of hours arranging a new bill-paying and accounting system. I took Rae out to breakfast and then to her first Drivers' Ed class (a month of Sundays--literally). I could have gotten in there and written this column. I didn't.

I've got all the usual excuses--my job is harder, so I need to relax harder on the weekends, I didn't have much to say, the dog ate my homework--wait, we don't have a dog. OK, both cats are now climbing up on Vicki's lap. They never do that for me. But I'm not bitter.

I am going to rededicate myself to finding the time to write this weekly missive. Because it is about the only writing left in my life now that I am a double-barreled editor, because writing has always defined me, and because many of you keep reading it and I appreciate that.

Gun Control Reaction


I expected reaction. I got it. This from Jim Forbes, a serious gun owner and long-time friend and colleague:

I found your discussion on gun ownership thought provoking. I have ambivalent feelings about the 2nd Amendment. But, ultimately, progunners raise a couple of points that are extremely interesting.

1. Why punish millions of law-abiding citizens who own firearms because criminals use them? Let's enforce existing laws before enact more legislation.

2. The average gun owner doesn't have an arsenal of measured in "tens" or more.

3. One of the odd arguments for firearms familiarity comes from Viet Nam, after McNamara's 100,000 levy (which resulted in a disproportionate numbe of inner city youths being drafted). Despite the best efforts of the DOD, many of the 100,000 conscripts who ended up in line units (infantry, tanks and artillery) did poorly in firefights. The reason for this: They had no prior exposure to firearms. As a result of this, in 1968, the DOD ran Army and Marines through a program developed by Daisy (of B.B. gun fame) called to improve their firearms skills and improve their survivability in combat.

4. Another element in the firearms discussion that gets overlooked, is the rural versus metropolitan make up of the anti and pro-gun discussion.

5. Virtually every firearm sold today (except single and double barrel shotguns and autoloading shotguns) has its roots in the military. This includes bolt action hunting rifles, which are descended from the German Mauser patent. Assault is a tactic, not a description of a rifle. And, I have yet to hear of a robbery, home invasion or other criminal act, committed recently by someone with a bayonet on the end of a surplus rifle.

6. The US populace seems obsessed by fear. The gun argument plays into this at its most elemental level. Don't believe me? Then why does "antigun" DiFi own a gun and have a carry permit?

I was a little surprised to hear Jim has ambivalent feelings about the second amendment, but I shouldn't have been. He is thoughtful about most issues, as is Jerry Pournelle, a gun owner who didn't weigh in with a response to my Sept. 6 comments, probably because he was in Tokyo at the time.

From the other side of the political spectrum, two notes from Ross Snyder:

My attorney once told me the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that the Second Amendment confers the right to bear arms to any citizens except "a well-regulated militia," whatever that is. Laws restricting gun ownership have never been overturned on the basis of that Amendment, he says.

Ross also checked in with this:

The new Grolier Encyclopedia, no model of high scholarship, but up-to-date and useful delivers this about:

The 2d Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declares: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The intent of this amendment is a matter of intense debate. Some argue that by relating the right to the maintenance of a state militia, the 2d Amendment was intended to protect the right to bear arms as a collective principle for each state. On the other side are those who interpret "the people" to mean individual citizens, thus guaranteeing the right to private ownership of firearms.

Supreme Court rulings in this area have done little to clarify the issue. In Presser v. Illinois (1886), the Court held that "all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserve militia of the United States," which some would see as upholding a prohibition of state interference with private gun ownership. In United States v. Miller (1939), however, the Court upheld a law prohibiting private ownership of a sawed-off shotgun, although the grounds for the decision were narrow. Interpretation of this question is central to the continuing debate over gun control.

Terry Pratchett

I don't know if you know the work of Terry Pratchett, British fantasy/sci-fi writer. Let me share some of it with you.

In his book Maskerade, he has a line I just read, "He dreamed the dream of everyone in the publishing business--to have pockets so filled with gold he'd have to hire two people to hold his trousers up." In a previous work, he wrote of a king, "He never minced words. People, yes, but never words." Pratchett is a very funny man, and if you haven't read his Discworld novels, you really should. Read all of them!

Of course for all around versatility in daily conversation, he has yet to beat Douglas Adam's line, spoken by Arthur Dent, "This must be some new definition of fun with which I wasn't previously familiar." As either of my daughters could tell you, scarcely a week goes by I don't have occasion to use that one.


The Top 13 Differences if Animals Played Professional Sports


Monday August 16, I had the No. 1 item; I don't know why it too me so long to share this list.

13> Team of trainers required to get Charlie Centipede's ankles taped by game time.

12> Dennis Rodman FINALLY fits in.

11> Martina Hingis no longer the only bitch on the pro tennis tour.

10> Only jackasses allowed in professional wrestli... er, never mind.

9> New comedy bit: "What's on first?"

8> Fido's big "touchdown dance" consists of trying in vain to catch his tail.

7> Giraffe outfielders put a serious dent in Mark McGwire's home run production.

6> Mike Tyson put to sleep for biting.

5> No one has yet managed to tackle the team's new running back, Paul Porcupine.

4> Sports bras now available with 8 cups.

3> The Chicago Bears have to forfeit second half of the season when the entire team goes into hibernation.

2> Marge Schott? Still a cow.

and's Number 1 Difference if Animals Played Professional Sports...

1> Only one camera required to cover the hamster marathon.
[ The Top 5 List ]

[ Copyright 1999 by Chris White ]

Selected from 123 submissions from 48 contributors.

Today's Top 5 List authors include:
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 1 (7th #1)

Signs Your Team Won't Make It To The Superbowl


From Sept. 9, 1999:

12> Your quarterback gets sacked more often than a busy hooker.

11> Management's moving of the training camp to Lourdes should have been your first clue.

10> I don't care how much money they paid, it's just impossible to play serious football in Mary Kay Stadium!

9> The backfield refuses to practice on Tuesdays: "It's 'Will & Grace' night!!!"

8> Sportswriters compare your star running back to Sanders --*Colonel* Sanders.

7> New conditioning coach's warm-up drill: A brisk 15-minute Macarena.

6> Your team is now run by the Kansas Board of Education, and they've decided not to allow tackling to be taught.

5> Good news: Nobody tested positive!
Bad news: It was a playbook quiz.

4> Your fastest player's sprinting time is measured in fortnights.

3> "Now starting at running back for the Detroit Lions, number...ah, who gives a shit?"

2> Team refuses to stop holding hands -- even *after* they leave the huddle.

and's Number 1 Sign Your Football Team Won't Get to the Super Bowl...

1> Even though the team shelled out $15 Million a season for "the greatest football player who's ever lived", this Pele guy can't catch worth a crap.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 1999 by Chris White ]

Selected from 125 submissions from 46 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors include:
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 7

Dog Shoots Man

For some reason, several of my correspondents found this item irresistible. Andy Patrizio was first out of the box:

I couldn't make this one up.
Dog shoots man
Updated 11:40 AM ET August 18, 1999
STUTTGART, Germany (Reuters) - A German dog has shot and killed its owner, police said Wednesday. The 51-year-old man, who had been out hunting with his shotgun, was found dead beside his car near the southwestern town of Bad Urach Monday. Police ruled out suicide and foul play and said the gun must have gone off when the dog jumped on top of it on the car seat.