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Jackson postmortem starting to look like a Howard Hughes re-run

SEATTLE, Washington - I'm well versed on the details of the life and legacy of Howard Hughes, and I know a re-run when I see one. The whole Michael Jackson situation is starting to sound familiar. The large entourage who depended on Jackson for their daily bread, the drug talk, the personal physicians lawyering up immediately after the death - it's all cut from the same cloth as the aftermath of Hughes's death in 1976.

Yet another parallel has popped up - looks like we're now in for a battle over which will, if any, is the legitimate last executed will of Michael Jackson. Michael's father Joe is allegedly not mentioned in the alleged most recent (2002) will, so of course he's now allegedly saying that that will is not valid.

The Hughes will situation became a total circus (with dozens of fakes and alleged wills popping up) that eventually resulted in an award-winning film but never resulted in finding a binding legal will.


Nevada seems to have a secret

SEATTLE, Washington - I have a laminated map where I've marked with a black marker everywhere I've been. Given my prodigious memory, I think it's close.

Nevada has a bit of a unique look on the map - it looks like it won't let intruders into its interior. I have six entry/exit points, from lonely Jackpot in the north (where the desolate two-lane road generously grows a turning lane to allow for easy access to Jackpot's modest casinos) to several entries near Las Vegas. It looks like I have entered and been steered right back out, like there is some great secret in Ely or Winnemucca that I'm simply not allowed to see.

Compare this with nearby, promiscuous California, which I have crisscrossed with impunity.


A painfully frequent misinterpretation of the First Amendment

SEATTLE, Washington - You see this over and over and over, but in this case it's someone who should know better. The Associated Press has issues some guidelines to its employees regarding their use of Twitter and Facebook. This comes in the aftermath of a comment critical of a newspaper publisher appearing on the Facebook wall of an AP reporter.

The president of the guild representing AP reporters, Tony Winton, responded with this:

“I am unaware of anything else like that... parts of the policy seem to be snuffing out peoples’ First Amendment rights of expression by a company that wraps itself in the First Amendment.”
Grrr. Here is the text of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment speaks to government* restrictions on speech, not restrictions on speech imposed by one private party on another. An employer restricting the speech of employees is out of scope:
The U.S. Supreme Court has never interpreted the First Amendment as having the same power to alter private property rights, or provide any other protection against purely private action. When considering private authority figures (such as a child's parents or an employee's employer), Constitutional free speech provides no protection. A private authority figure may reserve the right to censor their subordinate's speech, or discriminate on the basis of speech, without any legal consequences. For example, per the at will employment doctrine, an employee may be fired from their occupation for speaking out against a politician that the employer likes.
People make this goof all the time, but people should know better, and anyone working in media really really really should know better.

* I'm using the word "Congress" in the amendment to mean government generally; the actual meaning and scope of the word "Congress" here and elsewhere in the Constitution is actually a matter of some debate


Now they tell us

SEATTLE, Washington - West Seattle Golf Course was built in 1940. I'm betting that the current practice green has been in its current location for a long time, if not for the whole history of the course.

So now, in June 2009, they finally decide to warn people that errant drives from the 18th can pepper you while you're working on your putting? We already know this. In fact I launched a ball there once from the 18th tee myself.

I think an especially wild long-hitter could whack you from the 17th tee, too.

I don't know how you're expected to take "due care" while practicing your putting. Someone yells "fore" or they don't.

The sudden appearance of this sign can only mean one thing... someone got their ass crowned recently.


Fall of a once-proud piece of outdoor advertising

NEW YORK, New York - The large outdoor advertising at Madison Square Garden used to be elite advertising space. Usually, high-powered stuff like the latest Harrison Ford movie or the T-Mobile G1 would be on display in these slots.

Now? This is not a Photoshop. Bob's Discount Furniture is peddling their wares in this space. What the hell? We've gone from summer blockbuster films to Bob's Discount Furniture informing us of their new Poughkeepsie location?


Women ruining the manual transmission party - or are they?

NEW YORK, New York - The manual transmission is plummeting in popularity. Last year a paltry 7% of new cars sold had the stick and clutch. The percentage of men expressing a preference for the stick has fallen from 50% in 1985 to 11% today.

Who to blame for this drop in the preferences of men? Women, of course:

One reason is that most women prefer automatics. "I tried a stick shift once, and then I faced a hill, and I never tried again," said Danielle Wilt, 20, a junior at York College in York, Pa.
As Volkswagen salesman Ronald Sowell said of his wife, "I tried to teach her manual, but she didn't want to learn. She said that's why they make automatics."

"Ladies putting on makeup while they're drinking coffee and talking on their cell phone — they don't have time to shift gears," said Scott Parsons, a sales associate at Mantrans, a manual transmission repair shop in Tallahassee, Fla.
But after heaping blame on women for most of the article, the author drops this in at the end:
In fact, while interest in manual transmissions among men declined steadily for a generation, interest among women has grown steadily from 4 percent in 1985 to 15 percent last year.
Hopefully, all of this means that young car thieves will leave my ride alone. Or maybe a carjacker will order me out of my car, then order me back in to drive.


Piece of evidence #43768487 on how much tail Derek Jeter gets

SEATTLE, Washington - Derek Jeter's prolific dating life has kept the gossip columns and blogs abuzz for fifteen years (including vicious, unsubstantiated rumors, that I repeat here purely for informational purposes, that he has given herpes to the likes of Jessica Alba, Scarlett Johansson, and Jessica Biel).

He's so prolific, when confronted with rumors that he had gotten engaged, he couldn't even figure out which woman they could be theorizing he got engaged to:

We caught up with the Yankee shortstop before his team bested the Texas Rangers on Tuesday and asked about the rumors he's set to wed "Friday Night Lights" actress Minka Kelly, with whom he was reportedly caught ring-shopping earlier this year.

"The what?" Jeter asked incredulously. "Engagement rumors with who? I have not heard that."
That's "rumors with whom", Derek, but maybe you were mis-quoted.

If you've observed Jeter for years, you know he's not the sharpest sword on the rack. Hey, that doesn't make him bad or unique. Why do I follow sports? I lost interest in the scores some time ago; now I pay attention simply because it's a bunch of guys with huge egos, vicious competitive streaks, tons of money, and usually not much as far as brains or judgment. Hilarity ensues.