Writing in restaurants.

One of the miracles of the age is this: I’m sitting in a bar, writing on my stupid blog. Do I look like a yuppie douche? Probably. But I’m having a nice Czech lager, the day is done, and there’s very likely a shwarma in my future. Which is to say: Who cares?

Wednesdays are becoming my second-favorite night of the week. I drop Kate off at the Max for three and a half hours of music instruction, and I claim the evening for myself. I could go home and catch up on “Top Chef,” wherever it is in its cycle, but I think I prefer the bar.

So, I read this today, about Patch, the hyperlocal AOL experiment that’s sweepin’ the nation, or swept it for a while. We have one here. GrossePointeToday.com competes with it, to the extent we can, with students and volunteers. Our local Patcher does a good job, which I tell anyone who will listen. Our brand is different, and I tell people that, too. But I really, really don’t want to see this:

Patch has implemented a new “One Team One Goal” strategy, with a budget that effectively eliminates anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of freelance dollars, depending on the Patch region and how the supervising editor and regional ad director choose to allocate dollars.

The editorial emphasis is now on “easy, quick-hitting, cookie-cutter copy,” including mandatory “Best Of” features (i.e., best coffeeshop, best burgers, etc.) that compel businesses and readers to visit and participate in the Patch directories. (Each Patch has a directory of local businesses, organizations, churches, etc.)

I’ve noticed that here — a few months back, the local Patch stopped working quite so hard to cover the news and instead started demanding we weigh in on who has the best pizza/hamburger/bar food in eastern Wayne/Macomb counties. Why is it so hard to sell people what they need, and so easy to give them what they want? And I’m not even sure they want it. Who would?

On a lighter note, Romenesko also had more of a give-’em-what-they-want feature — words only journalists use. Such as? “Fled on foot,” for one. I love that one. Everyone should flee on foot more often.

Have we already skipped to the bloggage? Perhaps. How about this, which is by far the most interesting angle on the Pete Hoekstra spot yet: The creator of that ad is the evil genius behind the infamous Carly Fiorina demon sheep spot. Well, that explains a lot.

Via Hank, the answer to the question: What would Thomas Kincaid paint if he were locked in Room 101 for a year and force-fed Glenn Beck recordings, “Clockwork Orange”-style? This.


A final note: Some of you who’ve been reading here for a while know I have a little cyber-friendship with Amy Welborn, formerly of Fort Wayne, now of Birmingham, Ala. You might also know that Amy had a tragedy three years ago, when her husband, Michael Dubruiel, died unexpectedly, a few months after they made their move.

Amy has published a book about the experience and its aftermath, a sort of “Year of Magical Thinking” with more religion and a trip to Sicily. I downloaded “Wish You Were Here” for my iPad, and have been reading in it over the past couple of days and enjoying it very much. Maybe you will, too, and if you do, you order it via the Kickback Lounge.

With that, let’s start the coast downhill to the weekend, shall we?

Posted at 6:31 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

39 responses to “Writing in restaurants.”

  1. Connie said on February 9, 2012 at 7:21 am

    OK got the Goldberg thing, sorry Caliban. And Brian, pics on Facebook. Commerce Township Community Library.

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 9, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Re: “Why is it so hard to sell people what they need, and so easy to give them what they want?” — I think many would enjoy this blast from 1920, but still a really fun read:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Haunted-Bookshop-ebook/dp/B004K6M6GG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1328791727&sr=1-1 (That’s the Kindle version, 95 cents.) The bookseller is speaking as World War One ends, over and over decrying the selling to readers of what they want; he’s always up-selling his customers in terms of value and meaning, even when it doesn’t help him make more money. I stumbled on this book in high school, and it has stuck with me.

    And may I offer a hearty additional endorsement of Amy’s “Wish You Were Here.” My reaction is up on the Amazon page as a review.

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  3. coozledad said on February 9, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Jon McNaughton has a little trouble with iconography. The constitution should be farther back in the picture plane, dangling in shreds from Dick Nixon’s ass.

    I suspect these guys fall asleep every night and dream Obama is humping their wives. The display of sexual insecurity is stunning.

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  4. alex said on February 9, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Patch sounds just like what the News-Sentinel has become. Sans the infernally stupid opinion pieces, of course.

    I’m still chuckling over the whack job who thinks there’s a liberal conspiracy by the Indiana bench and bar to deny him a license to practice law. If you go around announcing your intentions to misuse the legal system in furtherance of a political agenda how can you possibly complain?

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  5. nancy said on February 9, 2012 at 8:26 am


    I’ve seen so much in my alma mater about that idiot that I posted something on Facebook about it. Someone replied with this nine-year-old alt-weekly article about him, which has more information in it than 25 Kevin Leininger columns. Worth a read.

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  6. beb said on February 9, 2012 at 8:32 am

    I had not even heard of “Patch” before this, which, I suspect, goes a long way to explaining their lack of profitability. People need to know you exist before they will consume your product. But this explain Nancy’s comment some day ago in her “Five Minutes With Nancy” blog when she said an interview went to “The Patcher.” I had no idea what she meant by that. Now I do. Not paying for content seems to be the HuffingtonPost way so I guess I’m not surprised that it’s being exported to AOL as well. I suppose there will always be people willing to write for free, either for the egotism of being published or in hopes that it will lead to a paying position. Of course if publishers all adopt the HuffingtonWay there will be no paid positions for anything.

    One of the things that makes Charlie Pierce so fun to read is that he makes a point of calling a money-grubbing granny-killer a money-grubbing granny-killer instead of a “senior Republican Adviser.” But it’s only fun when most people don’t write that way. Romenesko’s list of journalistic words seems a sort of reverse pedantry. One expects a certain amount of formalism to a news report. I perfer reading about an “intoxicated suspect” rather than a “drunken asshole” even though the latter is probably more accurate than the former.

    Stoopid headlines. I saw this on the Detroit News’ web page this morning and it just ticked me off:
    Chicago — High mileage trumped the environment at this year’s Chicago Auto Show.

    High-mileage means you burn less gas going a certain distance. Burning less gas is good for the environment so how do high-mileage cars “trump” the environment. And what do they mean by “trump?” The words they use, I do not think mean what they think they mean.

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  7. adrianne said on February 9, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Please, let me weigh in on words that only journalists use with my pet peeve: “altercation.” What’s wrong with fight, yo? You can distinguish between a verbal smackdown and fisticuffs and gunplay easily! Out with altercation! Out, I say!

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  8. Peter said on February 9, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Boy, I don’t know what’s scarier – Crazy Reactionary Lawyer or Crazy Reactionary Artist. Although I must admit that if I had the cash laying around, I would buy one of those portraits for the office conference room – just for shits and giggles.

    Over in my neck of the woods we have the interesting story of the teen artist who won a contest, only to have the bureaucrats find out it was gang related: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-city-sticker-artwork-shows-gang-signs-20120207,0,2869526.story Nobody’s looking good on this one – the more you read about it the better it gets. If I may brag, I think this is better than an OID.

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  9. nancy said on February 9, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Adrianne, I will NEVER forget the day one of the more obnoxious copy-desk meddlers made a big to-do out of changing “argument” to “quarrel” in a story about a shooting. He claimed that arguments are based on logical disagreements, while quarrels were more emotional and heated. He explained this to whoever the metro editor on duty was, and then sat back, waiting for his call from the McArthur Foundation, and the notification he was, officially a genius.

    That nose-picking little shit has risen high in the world, and every time I see his name, I think of that story.

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  10. JWfromNJ said on February 9, 2012 at 9:57 am

    The article on Bryan Brown was an interesting read and proof that the more things change, the more they remain the same. He’s delusional though and I would guess he truly believes he’s being persecuted and his take on ignoring a fine imposed by Judge William Lee is vastly different than the truth. That’s why he can’t get admitted to the Indiana bar and he’s lucky he hasn’t been arrested on contempt charges. He exited Fort Wayne for Kansas in what the article describes as a scorched earth approach but apparently he’s never heard the lyrics, “Indiana wants me so I can’t go back.”
    My pet peeve journalist term – which at some point was foisted upon the media by police – is “meth lab.” I don’t have a better term to suggest although I usually opt for “improvised meth production device” in some form, but as the one-pot or shake and bake method (thanks to the policy of browbeating people with a legitimate use for cold medicines) became the norm, and not a sophisticated “Breaking Bad,” style setup, meth lab seems to be a huge leap. Laboratory implies a scientific approach and I picture Beaker and Dr. Bunson Honeydew or my H.S. chemistry teacher, not some dope-addled idiot(s) with a bunch of old 2-liter bottles and duct tape in the woods near their trailer park – or a woman walking through Walmart shaking said bottle as she pretends to shop. lab=place, not device. Rant over.

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  11. Bitter Scribe said on February 9, 2012 at 10:12 am

    James Madison in that painting looks like he’s about to take a snap from the shotgun.

    “Blaze” is on that list of words only journalists use. A.J. Liebling noted that there are only three synonyms for fire: “Flames, blaze and conflagration. And conflagration is lousy.”

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  12. Julie Robinson said on February 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

    My technique for reading the N-S is to ignore all the right wing crap and only read the articles that are impartial/haven’t already been updated by the time I get the paper. This pretty much leaves me with the comics page.

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  13. Bitter Scribe said on February 9, 2012 at 10:25 am

    P.S. I agree with beb that this Romanesko’s list is reverse pedantry. Or, to put it in the colloqualism that he seems to think should prevail in journalism, a cheap shot.

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  14. Kirk said on February 9, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Haven’t read Romenesko’s thing yet, but “fled on foot” and numerous other expressions (including all manner of talk that includes “at the scene”) aren’t used only by journalists; they’re used by cops in reports and then regurgitated by journalists too lazy to turn them into everyday English by doing some actual writing, minimal though it might be. I change such crap into everyday English every time I work. (“At the scene” usually can just be deleted.)

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  15. Sue said on February 9, 2012 at 11:08 am

    That painting is a blast. Make sure you scroll over the presidents, dollar bills, legislation etc. Even the poor common man doesn’t get off easy – will he ever wake up to what’s going on around him? Oh, and the other painting placing Adolph Hitler and Modern Christian Man at Christ’s journey of the cross – awesome!
    So, I might as well ask this bunch a question: should I support my local big paper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel? My gods their editorial board makes me so angry, showing very little depth in their editorials and viewpoints. The paper is part of a larger media group that includes a large emphasis on right wing talk radio. But… they are doing and have done some excellent general investigative journalism and while the editorial board spouts vague pro-Walker bullshit the paper itself is quickly coming up to speed on all the unbelievable stuff that’s been happening the last couple of months (most of which I saw first in WI lefty blogs, but still). I buy the Sunday paper for the coupons, but maybe I should show my love for Dan Bice & co. by getting a subscription, in spite of how much I dislike the quality and direction of the rest of the corporation. What do you think?

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  16. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 9, 2012 at 11:22 am

    To be fair to cop-speak (if not to reporters who are transcribing more than reporting), lots of it comes from the fact that you know you are generating step one in the “legal record,” and any tinged, shaded, emotive, or judgmental comment can get read back to you in court by a defense lawyer with blood in their eyes and a fee in their heart. “Subject stated,” “left the scene,” “after an exchange” and so on are like diplospeak: we all know what “a frank exchange of views” means, but you know the journalists aren’t going to ask “so was there table pounding?” because it both signals what did happen, and that you won’t let yourself be dragged into commenting on what happened.

    Reading police reports can often be a nice humorous fringe benefit of my day job, except when it’s horrible.

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  17. Deborah said on February 9, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Connie, love the funky furniture in the center of the room (or what looks like the center from the photos).

    I can’t imagine who would buy a painting like that. Where in the world would you put it? Weird.

    Peter, OIC.

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  18. caliban said on February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Nancy, perhaps the little shit was just a Monty Python fan. In Athens GA Banner Herald, every crime story has “suspects” “disappearing” “into Rock Springs Homes”. I think it’s in their style book. Cops always find “green, leafy substances” when they pull drivers over for making “suspicious left turns into Rock Springs Homes”, and the idiot drivers always give the cops consent to search their cars, despite being fully aware that they are carrying a bag of pot and an unregistered Glock. Rock Springs is public housing.

    And Godamighty, I wish the blathering pundit class of Journos would agree to put the kibosh on “kerfuffle”. That just ain’t cute any more. Walter White and Gustavo Fring had a meth lab, for sure. And how did Romenesko miss “senseless murder” (as opposed to the sensible kind)?

    Nice roseate spoonbills on that talking animals/all caps link.

    That Bryan Brown guy? Non compos mentis. What IS the matter with Kansas? And how the devil did Indiana end up with all of those raging Marxists in its judicial system.

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  19. Casey said on February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Re words journalists use. Current pet peeve: iconic. Iconic moments, people, events, moments in history. Nothing is typical, ordinary, expected. Every Hollywood actor, fashion designer, trend-setter, popular electronic product, car models and makers, historic event, is iconic. I’ve yet to see it used to describe the latest crime (of the century, natch) but wouldn’t that be fun!

    Falling out of popularity, but inevitably present in hurricane and tornado reports: “packing winds of xxx miles per hour”. Must be a big suitcase.

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  20. adrianne said on February 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Nance, I think I know your meddlesome copy editor, but I won’t call him out…thought of you (and Tarek Hamada) the other day when I went through an exhaustive “explanation du texte” with one of the dimmer members of our copy desk. Fifteen minutes of my life I’ll never get back…

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  21. Jakash said on February 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I don’t know anything about the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and, alas, I’m not one of the many journalists that comment on this blog. We subscribe to the Chicago Tribune, though, not because we agree with it’s general editorial slant (though they did manage to endorse Obama in 2008). Not because it’s the World’s Greatest Newspaper (which it certainly never was and which it hasn’t even claimed to be for many years). I think it’s mainly because, when one stops taking it for granted, it is unbelieveable to me that this artifact still exists in this form. Whatever else are its merits and deficiencies, it’s like getting a postcard from a previous generation. The fact that, in today’s hyper-everything marketplace, this large compendium of information is actually written, edited, printed and delivered to our door every day for under a buck is mind-boggling to me, when I stop to think about it. I can’t imagine that this particular format can survive very long into the future and I feel like we ought to appreciate it while it’s still available.

    Well, I don’t imagine “like getting a postcard from a previous generation” is quite the validation they’d be looking for, or is a compelling argument in any case, and this comment pretty well indicates that I’m outside of any demographic that is likely to be taken seriously by anybody, but, now that Andy Rooney’s gone, isn’t there a dearth of trite commentary to be filled?

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  22. Kirk said on February 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Sue @ 15: My advice is to not even read the editorials. At good newspapers, editorials don’t reflect how the paper covers the news. The people covering the news and the editorial writers are completely separate. I don’t read editorials; I don’t want to know what the editorial page’s stand is. It doesn’t affect how I do my job.

    Jeff @ 16: You’re right. Cops are trained to write that way for the reasons you state. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect more from reporters.

    Casey @ 19: Yep, “iconic” is one word I never use because suddenly it was everywhere, most especially in places it didn’t belong. It’s a bad example of supposedly “hip” language being adopted and beaten to death by the herd.

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  23. Bitter Scribe said on February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Jakash–I find the Trib’s editorials increasingly annoying. And one thing I really hate is the huge, poster-size, and often utterly inane graphics they plaster on the front page of every section, presumably so they’ll need to write fewer stories.

    OTOH, they are doing some good investigative work. (Although a disproportionate amount of that seems to focus on the evils of public employees and their unions.)

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  24. Jakash said on February 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Bitter Scribe,
    I did find it noteworthy yesterday that the larger headline and article on the front page of the Tribune (under the heading “Campaign 2012”) was “Obama reverses on big money”, while, in much smaller type beneath the fold it said “Santorum slows Romney’s momentum with sweep”, referencing a story on Page 12. I felt that the juxtaposition and relative prominence and wording of those headlines were like an editorial for Romney in themselves.

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  25. Deborah said on February 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I think the Trib is horribly slanted, almost as much as Fox news is. They use terms in their reporting that refer to the conservative mindset even when in an article that has nothing to do with politics. I can’t think of an example right now but it exasperates me when I read it. So I rarely read it.

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  26. coozledad said on February 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    The editorial boards of the NYT and the Wapo need to be herded into a conference room and forced to watch this about half a dozen times:
    One begins to get the impression the Catholic church is a little too proud of being incompatible with the laws and standards of a democratic republic.

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  27. paddyo' said on February 9, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    adrianne @ 7 — although I must say that the video link from the last item in Nancy’s post yesterday, about “WorldStar” (sorta YouTube-for-thugs), was quite the altercation . . .

    What Kirk said @22 about lazy-assed and lame-brained reporters (I hesitate, however, to call cop-shop-news stenographers “reporters”) who don’t or won’t translate policespeak into clear, common, understandable English.
    Many, many such (mis)usages drive me up (against) the wall, but the one that makes me crazy lately is that law enforcement/legal system perp-talk expression of a suspect being wanted “on a warrant out of Toledo” or whatever jurisdiction.

    That kind of patter is meant for squad room briefings (“Let’s be careful out there” — Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues) or radio APBs from central dispatch (“One-Adam-Twelve, see the woman about a barking dog . . . “). But I hear and read it all the time in reporters’ written/spoken news accounts. WTF? OUT OF here with that crap!

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  28. jcburns said on February 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I think the list of j-jargon is a fine makeshift memorial to those wayward turns of phrase. Sorry, just wanted to use “makeshift.”

    So Nancy, are the network TV reporters camped out at your Starbucks covering the murder husband?

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  29. Julie Robinson said on February 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Completely off topic: I’m just home from the library, where I picked up the second season of Downton Abbey. I had to look at the box twice, since it hasn’t finished airing here, but it’s the UK edition. I am excited about this beyond reason, and a little sad that I have a meeting tonight that I must attend.

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  30. nancy said on February 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Not mine, but a different one, I’m sure. Actually, they’re down at the GPPark police station, tweeting about how they’re so glad there’s a public bathroom there. What would Guido Stempel say?

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  31. Judybusy said on February 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Speaking of jargon, someone recently posted this gem on FB: Business jargon which should just go away.

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  32. Deborah said on February 9, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Nancy, I saw a news clip that said the husband was having an affair with a woman who works at Wayne State. Do you know who this person is?

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  33. brian stouder said on February 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    A non-sequitur –

    Has anyone here read about this Facebook Timeline thing? Oh hell – that’s a stupid question. Presumably all y’all have already read about that, on your fb accounts; but I’ve been a lapsed fb congregant for some time now, and this new thing – which I read about in Time Magazine (of all places!) came as BREAKING NEWS to me. This whole ‘two weeks to decide what things over your entire Facebook history you wish to erase….or else have on your Timeline, forever’ really threw me for a loop. What is the up-side for an individual Facebook user? What am I missing?

    Aside from that, I read Alex’s link and then Nancy’s longer link regarding the self-righteous ‘lawyer’ that Indiana doesn’t want.

    Whatever else he is, he should re-read his history if he sincerely believes this:

    Yet views and beliefs were front and center in the processing of my license. I am not licensed to practice law in the Indiana courts this day because I hold to the legal philosophy of our Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., the Catholic bishops and most all Americans.

    One of the commenters at that site dismantles his mis-appropriation of Martin Luther King, pointing out that MLK didn’t run from the law but instead went to jail for what he believed; and I would add that he has zero understanding of Abraham Lincoln, if he thinks AL’s legal philosophy would accommodate flouting the law – or any law with which one disagrees – the way he does.

    And it appears that good ol’ Moe99 has gotten that goat’s goat, as he has answered back one of her (typically incisive) comments, and was particularly pouty about it, too!

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  34. Suzanne said on February 9, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I’ll have to try the Amy Welborn book. Didion’s is one I buy whenever I find it in a used bookstore to pass on to friends because I loved it so much.

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  35. deb said on February 9, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Sue @15: Yes. Please subscribe to your local newspaper. I would say that even if the one in question weren’t a part of my personal co-prosperity sphere.

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  36. Connie said on February 9, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Thanks Deborah, those orange chairs are the one remaining thing from the old teen area, so the color scheme in the new room started with those. Our building is a converted country club, that new teen space is in the original commercial kitchen. We had to remove eleven floor drains. My new office is in what was the pro shop.

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  37. Connie said on February 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    I want to know if these organizations that don’t want to pay for birth control have been paying for Viagra. Just asking.

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  38. Bryan said on February 10, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Wouldn’t a better title for the painting be “The Forgotten White Man?”

    I want to know how long it took the “painter” to complete his “masterpiece.” That’s a lot of sustained hatred.

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  39. Rana said on February 10, 2012 at 2:27 am

    Connie, yes. And they haven’t been paying taxes, either.

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