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6/19/2008

Happytown > Happytown

HAPPYTOWN
The good stuff.

 

Hey, Orlando Sentinel readers: Your new newspaper is almost here. And it looks a lot like USA Today did 20 years ago!

A really wonderful blog called Tell Zell (www.tellzell.com), devoted to the big suck going on at all Tribune Co. papers courtesy of new owner/grim reaper Sam Zell, recently put up a sneak peek of the Sentinel redesign set to debut June 22. Bottom line from this esteemed column’s point of view: lipstick on a pig.

If the leaked version is anything close to reality, the Sentinel is about to become louder, flashier, easier to digest and more stupid. In other words, it will be yet another iteration of what has become a standard formula in the desperate halls of daily newspapers: Give ’em less, dumb it down and do it cheaply. It will likely alienate the Sentinel’s remaining loyal readers, while attracting no new ones, hastening the paper’s decline into irrelevance. And that’s hard to watch.

For a brief, shining moment we had hoped Zell would buck the formula and actually invest in his newspapers’ core product: you know, news. Journalism. But that costs money, and the Trib Co. is being crushed by a staggering debt load and declining revenues, so cash producers like the Sentinel – which to this day makes a very handsome profit – are being squeezed until they pop.

Welcome to the future of daily journalism. You may note that it looks a lot like the past, except less interesting.


So now that the painfully long, arduous Democratic primary has finally come to a close, Florida Dems can all come together to defeat the senile warmonger the Republicans want to put in office, right?

Maybe not. Meet Felix Rodriguez, the Florida head of a new group called Democrats Against Obama (www.democrats-against-obama.org). For a litany of reasons – none of which, he swears, have anything to do with Barack Obama’s skin pigmentation – Rodriguez will be supporting Grandpa John McCain this fall, and he thinks you should do the same.

Being the good journalists that we are, we asked him why. His answers were rambling, as often as not grounded in debunked Internet smears and right-wing insinuations – but we report, you decide.

Here’s the gist: Michigan and Florida delegates should not have been given a half-vote, and the fact that they were is somehow Obama’s fault. Also, ex-Weather Underground members Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers held a fund-raiser for Obama a decade ago, which makes Obama a terrorist-lover. And there is something terribly wrong with Obama’s relationship to Tony Rezko, and the truth will come out any day now. And there’s some relationship between someone Obama knew and the Nation of Islam, or something. And there’s the “fact” that Roe v. Wade is unimportant because Obama isn’t really pro-choice. And don’t forget that Obama is bad because of his church, which employs Louis Farrakhan’s “radical Muslim philosophies.”

And right there we stopped caring what Rodriguez has to say. He thinks his group of disgruntled Clintonistas will be large enough to throw the election. We’ll see.


Look, we’ve all had our fun with R&B star R. Kelly and his wacky having-sex-with-minors-and-peeing-on-them antics. From Dave Chappelle’s rendition of Kelly’s hit single “Ignition” (“only thing make my life complete is when I turn your face into a toilet seat”) to 8-year-old Riley Freeman chiding Kelly’s prosecutor as “Mr. I Wanna Lock Niggas Up for Peeing” on The Boondocks, the sex video that circulated years ago of an identical Kelly look-alike having sex with a dead-eyed 13-year-old girl who softly calls him “daddy” and is the recipient of the aforementioned shower has provided endless comedic fodder.

But what about the victim? Somewhere in the morass of parodies and angrily burnt effigies of R. Kelly, we lost sight of the fact that a minor was humiliated, violated and traumatized for life.

So why start caring now! In the grand spirit of glazing over what’s important in life (remember that whole “children are the future” thing? Pshaw!), the singer was found not guilty on June 13 by a mostly white Chicago jury on all 14 counts of videotaping, producing or soliciting child pornography.

The jury deliberated for less than a day and based their decision on the defense’s case that singer Robert Kelly has a large mole on his back, which is not visible on the gritty tape.

Incidentally, we ran an article in defense of the man [“Sane man,” June 21, 2007] exactly one year ago this week. Calls to the prosecutor regarding whether that had anything to do with his release were not immediately returned.


Is it our fault again? Looks likely. On June 10, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. “No Death Wish Here” Bronson issued a release stating that tomatoes from Florida were not linked to the 17-state salmonella outbreak. The presser also said, “the bulk of illnesses have occurred in western states,” implying that the tainted fruit (vegetable?) was grown out there.

Then came a June 12 story in the Los Angeles Times reporting that “federal investigators are focusing on Central Florida and Mexico but are hampered by the absence of bar codes or other ways to trace origin.”

Quoting investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and the federal Food and Drug Administration, the story continued, “Investigators are focusing on tomatoes from central Florida and Mexico – regions that would have supplied the bulk of the fruit on the market in April, when the outbreak started. They also have ruled out all of California and northern Florida.”

It’s possible that the Florida Department of Agriculture was reporting the truth as they knew it at the time (we guess) – or maybe only South Florida and the Panhandle count in state government, and Central Florida is on its own. And it stands to reason that Bronson was just trying to protect Florida from the wrath of the rest of America, again. But it’s good to know the facts first, you know? Happytown™ says grow your own.


From the corrections desk: Orange County Commissioner Bill Segal called Happytown™ HQ last week to set the record straight. Segal says that he does not keep a bottle of Jim Beam in his desk, as this column mentioned last week; he says he long ago switched to Maker’s Mark. We apologize for the error.

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