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Since 1994, this is the 1165th issue of Randy Cassingham’s...

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9 October 2016: Not Every Story is Meant to Be Funny Copyright ©2016

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Before the Stories: Two weeks ago I sent the Premium issue to everyone since the Patreon campaign to make True sustainable was so far along to the first goal level (where I would remove all ads other than Patreon-related from True’s web site). I even stopped adding the new ads to the web site. Perhaps that was a mistake: pledges came to a screeching halt. So I’m back to adding ads again — though doing it in a way that I can turn them off instantly when the goal is hit. (Details: my announcement of the campaign, and True’s Patreon page.)

Risk-Taking, Louisiana Style: Gideon Hodge, 35, was at work when his fiancée called to say his Broadmoor, La., apartment building was on fire; it had spread from the house next door. Hodge rushed home, ran past the firefighters yelling at him to stop, and dashed inside. An aspiring actor and writer, Hodge had two completed novels on his laptop — and only on his laptop. “Anybody that’s ever created art, there’s no replacing that,” Hodge said after successfully retrieving his computer. “It’s got pretty much my life’s work.” (RC/Baton Rouge Advocate) ...Seems reasonable: if you can’t save it and were dumb enough not to have a backup, you may as well die with it.

Risk-Taking, Florida Style: Steven Brown, 24, was home in Port Richey, Fla., when the place caught fire. Brown “and other accomplices,” says the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, were making butane hash oil — extracting the oleoresin of marijuana using butane gas — when it exploded and set the house on fire. Brown had limited time to get out, and had to choose what to save. One of his accomplices grabbed a 1-year-old child, but Brown chose his drugs, which meant he left his two dogs behind — who were in a cage. “I heard them burn up alive,” said neighbor Harold Cope. “They cried and then they stopped. It was sickening.” (RC/WTSP St. Petersburg) ...And so are Brown’s priorities.

One for the Books: Adrian Greenwood was an author and historian in Oxford, England, but a prosecutor says it was his wealth and his dealings in rare books that led to his murder: Michael Danaher, they say, was particularly interested in Greenwood’s 50,000 pound (US$62,000), first-edition copy of Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s book, Wind in the Willows. Danaher claims self-defense, and an ex-girlfriend said Greenwood had attacked a postman and held a washing-machine installer hostage. But a prosecutor said Danaher had a list of targets whose assets he was after, which the prosecutor said exuded resentment. “It is almost as if these are people who, because of their wealth, and his lack of it, deserved to be subjected to what he has planned.” Greenwood was stabbed 33 times. (AC/BBC, Oxford Mail, London Independent) ...Sounds like they both needed more time with the right books.

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Provoking More Thought: There were eight more stories in this week’s full edition, including: Cop arrests woman after she swipes french fries from his dinner. Man turns minor traffic stop into felony charges when he.... Man stalks and harasses couple because.... Man’s real estate empire funded by unconventional business. Man swaps girlfriend’s car for a better one ...during a liquor store dash? Another study on the “Five Second Rule” is completed, with bad news. Man stands up to robber in a fairly bold way, and police give him the thumbs up. Man not only gets out of police car’s “cage,” he manages to drive off in the vehicle, even though his hands are handcuffed behind his back. Plus the results of the October Reader Tagline Challenge. It’s not too late: you can still read all of these stories. Ask for your upgrade to start with the 9 October issue as part of your full year of expanded issues. Easy! See your upgrade options here.

Just Chillin’: Plainfield, Conn., police were called to a convenience store, where employees said a man had spent 40 minutes attempting to make a milkshake. Officers found Gina Mineau, 47, slumped against a wall outside, and Randy Valade, 37, nodded off in the store’s “Chill Zone” — a frozen drink still in his hand. Police searched both of them, and say they found “numerous” bags of heroin. Both were arrested on drug charges and released on bond. (MS/Norwich Bulletin) ...After their trial, they’ll be spending more time in the cooler.

How To Tell If You’re Right for Florida: Robert Hugh Sherer, 70, of Dayton, Ohio, decided to move to The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in Florida. He packed up a truck with his belongings and had a friend from church drive it to Florida, with his wife in the passenger seat while Sherer rode his motorcycle, following along. On Interstate 75 near Lake Panasoffkee, Sherer couldn’t keep up with the truck and got upset. He called his wife from his cell phone and demanded they stop, which they did at a convenience store. There, Sherer and his church friend argued, and Sherer allegedly shot out a tire on the truck. A store clerk called 911. Sherer was arrested on charges of improperly firing a weapon, improperly exhibiting a firearm, and criminal mischief. When the investigating sheriff’s deputy confiscated Sherer’s Colt 1911 pistol, he told him the procedure for getting it back. “Ya,” Sherer replied — “last time it took seven years to get it back.” (RC/Villages News) ...Yep: he’ll fit right in.

So, the Answer is “No”
Police: Tampa Man Killed in Attempt to See If Bullet-Resistant Vest Worked
Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times headline

Did You Find an Error? Check the Errata Page for updates.

This Week’s Contributors: MS-Mike Straw, AC-Alexander Cohen, RC-Randy Cassingham.

I Was Curious about Lake Panasoffkee, where the guy moving to Florida was arrested. Wikipedia says it’s “a census-designated place” in Sumter County, with a population of 3,551 in the 2010 census. (A CDP is a community that’s not been incorporated into a city or town.) OK, I can grok 3,500: my own county is 4,600, and also has a reservoir that attracts recreation. So, I wondered, what size area do those 3,500 occupy? Wikipedia had the answer: 4 sq mi (10.4 sq km), or a population density of 853/sq mi. Oh. Our 4,691 (in 2010) are spread among 542 sq mi (1,404 sq km), or about 8 people per sq mi: that recreational area in Florida is 100x denser than my area. But then, that’s one reason why I’m in my area....

Which Brings Us To the Gut Punch of the second story. Yes, it’s a bit horrifying, but I think it’s important to bring such stories to light from time to time, and clearly express outrage or disgust over them — which I think the story does well. Yet one of the volunteer editors objected to the “really, really graphic description of those poor dogs dying,” and another agreed it was over the top. Both suggested I pull it. Before that, I made it a point to listen to my wife’s reaction when I read the story to her. As I expected, she reacted strongly to it — but didn’t express any reservation about publishing it.

Indeed the mental picture you get is unsettling, and it has to be: that’s the entire point. Make no mistake: the story isn’t really about things Floridians do, it’s about what people do, especially when their moral compass is overwhelmed by their choice to alter their own minds. When I get an amazing example, I’m not going to hold back on showing the repercussions of their terrible decisions. Though I disagree that the description is “graphic” — it’s even left unclear (because the source story was unclear) whether the dogs died by being burned or asphyxiated.

True has always had a mix of comedy and tragedy, and this one isn’t even in the Top 10 of tragic. Indeed, one thing I was sure to do in this issue is to also include a murder story: a guy trying to claim it was “self defense” to stab someone else ...33 times! (Oh, and by the way, to steal something from him in the process.) It was a clue that I positioned it immediately after the story in question. That mental picture is much more horrifying to me, yet there was no objection to that story (though my wife gasped at that when I read it, which I had hoped she would): color me silly, but a human slowly murdered seems a lot worse — and a lot more horrific — than dogs being killed. But hey, it happens every day, so we’re numb to it: Yawn! just another murder with a lame excuse! So much so that there is almost never an objection to a story in True about a human being murdered.

You’re horrified by the dogs? Good: you aren’t as jaded as you might be.

Comments? This is on my blog, complete with the two stories discussed and an update about what happened to Brown: Die Like a Dog. (Short URL, if you’d like to share it: )

Ten Years Ago in True: He was so competent, he rose to the level of school principal: Seemed Like a Good Idea II.

This Week’s Honorary Unsubscribe goes to Bertrand Bell. A New York City medical doctor, Bell had an opportunity to change the way interns and residents were trained — and made things better and safer for everyone.

  • Read his story in the Archive: Bertrand Bell (OK to share link)
  • And So Long to automotive journalist Brock Yates, who created the the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, which Yates then fictionalized in a script for the 1981 Burt Reynolds movie, The Cannonball Run. Yates died October 5 from Alzheimer’s disease, at 82.
  • Honorary Unsubscribe Archive

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