Pode people: Nobody NoZe …

Some journalists really enjoy writing in first-person voice. I am not one of them.

Yes, I know that the previous sentence began with the word “I.” We are almost seven-years into the life of GetReligion and, obviously, I have had to get a lot more comfortable with first-person work.

Blogging does not have to be first-person, all-commentary based work, but much of it is. When I say that I have never been all that comfortable with first-person writing, I am mainly talking about first-person news coverage, as opposed to what we do here at GetReligion, which is first-person news criticism.

In other words, I find it much easier to quote other people than to quote myself, especially when it comes time to trust my own memories of news events. It was especially hard, this past week, to try to quote the 20-year-old version of myself, flashing back to events that I witnessed as an undergraduate reporter at The Lariat at Baylor University.

The subject this week: The mind-blowing role that the NoZe Brotherhood has played, and continues to play, in the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky.

There is no need to go into all of the crazy details again. You can, after all, read one or both of the GetReligion posts that I have written on the topic, so far.

I finally decided to try to turn out a Scripps Howard News Service piece on the topic, which required the use of first-person voice. That was the subject of this week’s GetReligion “Crossroads” podcast. Click here to listen to that on your computer or download it to play on a mobile device.

The hard part was when my mind started playing tricks on me. You see, I was not a NoZe Brother, but I have known a few. I also attended quite a few events involving national-level news makers that were crashed by the NoZe crew. I mean, there are some very famous Ornery members of the NoZe Brothers. The Wikipedia page for this secret society of misfits names quite a few. Check it out.

My personal favorites are:

* Bill Cosby — “Bro. J-E-L-L-NoZe.”

* Billy Graham — “Bro. Cracker NoZe Graham.”

* Bob Hope — “Bro. SkiNoZe Hope.”

* Dan Rather — “Bro. CBS Evening NoZe.”

The one that threw me off was “Bro. Water NoZe Jaworski,” the title given to the final special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal.

Jaworski was a prominent Baylor alum. One of the funniest NoZe events that I witnessed was the Homecoming parade in which Jaworski was Grand Marshall, only days after the Saturday Night legal massacre that led to his appointment. With national television crews on hand to capture remarks from Jaworski, a NoZe Brother (complete with the classic fake nose, glasses, big wig and trench coat that implied indecent exposure could happen at any moment) walked silently in front of the new Beltway big gun’s limousine carrying a sign that said, “Clap if you think he is guilty.”

“He,” of course, was President Richard Nixon.

Baylor was already far into its transition from being a largely middle-class campus from old-fashioned Southern Democrat homes into a richer campus packed with suburban Republicans. Obviously, most of the parents and alumni felt that they needed to clap for Jaworski, but how could they do that without being filmed clapping to impeach Nixon?

It was a classic NoZe moment. Jaworski gamely played along, as he later became on honorary NoZe. Was he already a NoZe from his college days? Nobody NoZe or, at least, no one has spoken out.

In my memory, I was pretty sure that the NoZe had pinned the “Water Noze” title on Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, who lectured on campus (In the Q&A time I asked him to rank his favorite “Deep Throat” theories, since he could not ID the source on his own, of course) as part of the hubbub before and after the release of “All the President’s Men” (the book, at that stage). However, in my column research I found that there are multiple references online that pinned that title on Jaworski. Thus, I can only assume that some similar title went to Woodward, when the brothers “honored” him that night in Waco Hall.

What was that title? Is there anyone out there in post-Baylor land who remembers? Help this aging scribe out, please.

By the time I wrote the final version of the Scripps Howard piece to post on my own home page, I had decided to go with this more careful wording for the key sentence:

I was present when Woodward was made an honorary member — Brother Water NoZe, or a variation on that theme — when the NoZe crashed his lecture, presenting him with his own plunger, while seated on a rolling commode.

Sigh. Enjoy the podcast, I guess. I really don’t feel comfortable with my own first-person writing, when it comes time to try to write about news events.

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Religious voices: Beck, Colbert & Leibowitz

This morning, I received my annual email from The Jewish Daily Forward, announcing the “Forward 50,” the newspaper’s list of the year’s 50 women and men who have made a “significant impact on the Jewish story in the past year.”

Sure enough, there was the smiling face of the man of the hour here in the desperate city of Washington, D.C., a city in which the ruling Democrats are crying out for a symbol of sanity, humor, hope and chutzpah, a man who is brave enough to serve as a voice of moderation, which, of course, means criticizing President Barack Obama from the cultural and political left.

That man, of course, is Jonathan Stewart Leibowitz.

To tell you the truth, I was stunned that he was not listed in the Forward Top 5, overall. His Forward 50 biography states the case this way:

A Democrat in the White House has hardly tempered the irreverent and distinctly Jewish voice of the liberal-leaning fake news anchor Jon Stewart. The 47-year-old funnyman has entered his 11th year as host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” which has grown into a popular nightly platform to skewer politics and government. …

Stewart is quick to play the Jewish card, drop a Zabar’s reference or cozy up to bubbes and zaydes at the 92nd Street Y. Young Jews identify with Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz (his given name) and admired his tact after former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez made anti-Semitic comments about him and then was fired. Stewart recently came out with a new book, “Earth: A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race,” which is filled with squishy science and funny one-liners. …

The problem, of course, can we stated in a simple, yet eternal, question: What does the word “Jewish” mean?

This is an important, yet ultimately almost meaningless question, in this postmodern age. As the Hollywood Jew weblog puts it:

For some Jews it’s perplexing that Jon Stewart, an American Jewish icon, isn’t religious. How could the Jew who makes Jewish “cool” be so indifferent to Judaism?

Buried beneath the laughter from his jokes — that he ritually delights in Big Macs with bacon on Yom Kippur or mocks Israel’s leaders for skipping a U.N. meeting on Sukkot “you mean, the holiday with the huts?” — is a deep and hidden disappointment that he isn’t really doing what we’re doing.

Earlier this week, The Berman Jewish Policy Archive, a research and analysis outfit at NYU, offered their findings on the state of Jewish journalism in the aftermath of a controversy at The Jewish Standard in New Jersey. One critique, from Andrew Silow-Carroll, expressed a wish “that journalists would move beyond their serial habit of assessing the ‘Jewishness’ of various public figures.”

However, in this case, journalists really do not need to pull back from asking some variation on that question as they trek to the National Mall to cover our nation’s latest festival of semi-political hero worship.

However, that is exactly what the principalities and powers at the Washington Post did the other day in the massive Style section look at Stewart and that thing that he keeps doing. This is the opening salvo of “Just who does Jon Stewart think he is?“, which captures the spirit of the whole:

These days, he can claim to be many things: political satirist, pseudo-anchorman, media critic, author, successful businessman, philanthropist, Emmy Award magnet. On Monday he arrives in Washington in a new, self-anointed role: as our national voice of reason, moderation and rationality — a uniter, you might say, not a divider.

Jon Stewart’s Saturday afternoon “Rally to Restore Sanity” (merged with partner-in-satire Stephen Colbert’s concurrent “March to Keep Fear Alive”) may become the largest “nonpartisan” event to hit the national Mall since … well, since a couple of months ago, when another basic-cable TV star, Glenn Beck, hosted his “Restoring Honor” rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Beck claimed his event was nonpartisan, too.

With less than a week to go, it’s still not exactly clear how Stewart will be using this new platform. No guests or musical acts have been announced, Stewart has done only a couple media interviews, and he’s offered few details about the rally on his nightly program.

Nevertheless, the similarities to Beck’s rally are just the sort of thing Stewart himself would satirize on his show if, of course, it weren’t his rally and his TV show in the first place. In his few pre-rally comments, Stewart has reached for some of the broad values and high-minded themes that Beck’s did — civility, decency, making America better — though admittedly with fewer religious allusions and more comic panache.

And, of course, he has chosen to work with those notable moderates Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey. There are no political, or religious, overtones in the work of that dynamic duo. Nope.

Thus, I think it is very strange that if one reads the rest of the Style piece, one finds absolutely zero references to how the religious or not-so religious worldview of this Leibowitz fellow — OK, Stewart — affects his work or how he views words such as “sanity,” “reason,” “civility,” “moderation” and even “patriotism.” On this front the article is completely silent or, one might even say, haunted.

Yet do the following equation in your mind.

Beck equals, what? The mainstream media coverage stressed that he is a Mormon, yet with a large (and most journalists incorrectly assume united) conservative Christian base. That was part of the story, no way around it.

Colbert equals, what? The media is beginning to catch on (RNS here, my Scripps piece here) that he is a Catholic who is quite progressive on basic political issues, yet has done a good job of offering a mixture of statements on social issues that take the doctrines of his church quite seriously. He tries to show respect for Catholicism, in other words. It’s his faith and it is the faith that he is teaching to his children and to others. That is part of the Colbert story, no way around it.

Leibowitz (that would be Stewart) equals, what? Is he a cultural-secular Jew, a worldview that would shape how he views a wide variety of religious traditionalists, from Orthodox Jews to orthodox (small “o”) Christians to who knows who? A cultural-vaguely religious Jew, not secular, but with dashes of postmodern “spirituality” that blends with all of those snickers and smirks? A secret religious Jew who is pretending to be a secular Jew?

None of this matters, as long as he’s funny?

Yet, that Style piece accurately noted that, “Stewart has reached for some of the broad values and high-minded themes that Beck’s did — civility, decency, making America better — though admittedly with fewer religious allusions and more comic panache.”

The key word? That would be “fewer.” After all, his worldview — whatever it is — is shaping his humor on issues that are clearly touched by debates about religion, culture, ethics and morality.

The faith element should be in the story, since it is in Stewart’s humor and his public image. On top of that, religion was a major part of the Beck rally that Stewart will be dissecting, if not mocking.

That is part of the Leibowitz (that would be Stewart) story, no way around it.

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A dog who prays, no really

My husband is a cat person, which means that he grumbles whenever the dogs in our neighborhood howl over every siren or bark at every squirrel. So when we watched the video of a dog who says grace, I expected him to barf or maybe roll his eyes. Nope, the video generated a good chuckle before we read the rest of the story on CNN.

We could all whine about how a story about a dog praying doesn’t deserve 1,300 words, how the piece could have been organized better, maybe it could have included fewer cliches, but let’s look at the story’s good parts for a minute. Instead of just posting a video to generate clicks, CNN actually found a touching story behind Steven Boyd and his prayerful dog.

What began as a post on Boyd’s Facebook page was passed on and shared. It’s popped up all over YouTube, appeared on numerous other sites, and it even got play on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

But the story behind Djaingo the praying dog is deeper than it is cute.

Boyd found his way to the dog just when they needed each other most.

The man was sick – had been for more than a year and a half – when he strolled into an animal shelter looking for a temporary escape. It was September 10, 2003, the day before the second anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the memories of that day weighed heavily on him.

For 12 years, Boyd says, he served in the U.S. Army. He says he was, among other things, a sniper, a paratrooper and, subsequently, a counter narcotics operator. He’d been fearless professionally and personally. He’d jumped out of planes, rappelled down cliffs and mountain biked his way across dangerous terrains.

Now, though, he was losing everything. The hospitalizations kept happening. His career was shot. The relationship with the woman he thought he’d marry had ended. The medical questions loomed large. He was dying.

Yes, Boyd found the dog, but it wasn’t pure bliss after that.

After several days of vomiting four years ago, he thought he’d end it all. He’d had a friend who years ago had committed suicide by drinking Clorox, and from the bathtub’s floor, where he was curled up, Boyd eyed the nearby bleach bottle. With the cap off, he prepared to drink.

“I heard it as distinctive as I hear your voice right now,” Boyd, his own voice shaking, says by phone to CNN. “I heard, ‘Don’t do this.’ It was my father God, and I broke down. I get teary-eyed now talking about it.”

He’d grown up in a Christian home, “a proverbial ‘Leave It to Beaver’ family,” he says. His dad had been the deacon of their church. His mother is a Sunday school and Bible study teacher. And though Boyd always considered himself Christian, up until that moment he realized he’d been living the Christian life, as an adult, on his own terms.

I don’t want to be Debbie Downer, but maybe I’d like to know what kind of church that CNN says he’s “involved in” and attends Bible studies. Back to the dog, he created the video as a Christmas gift to his mother.

The response has overwhelmed Boyd. He’s received more than 5,000 messages from around the globe – including Australia, Russia, Thailand. The friend requests on Facebook have poured in by the hundreds. Djaingo, now with his own Facebook page, is racking up new friends, too.

Boyd has gotten marriage proposals. A grandmother who is going through chemotherapy and lives alone says she watches the video every morning to help her face a new day. A mother whose son has lost faith is hoping that by teaching the dog to pray, her son will feel the connection again, too. Pastors are using the video in sermons.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed this story. Yes, there are much more important news stories happening in the world. But it works for me on a Friday where people are unwinding from the week.

Besides, let’s consider the story’s fluffy competition. Last I checked, the other headlines at cnn.com were: “Tattooed man squirts ink into his eyeballs,” “HAPPY CAPS LOCK DAY” and “Cheerleader out after Facebook pic.”

So if you’re going to do a heart-warming story for the weekend, might as well include a dog, military wounds and prayer. Animals, health, and religion create a pretty good combination.

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Rockin’ with the Aqua Buddha

As you would imagine, the whole Rand Paul affair is a pretty big deal at the Louisville Courier-Journal. In fact, the newspaper’s lengthy profile of the candidate — paralleling a Jack Conway profile of similar length — began like this:

As a leader of the Young Conservatives of Texas in the early 1980s, Rand Paul railed against the Equal Rights Amendment and the notion of equal pay for equal work.

“Since when have any two people been equal?” he asked in a letter to the editor of Baylor University’s campus newspaper.

At the same time, Paul cavorted with a Baylor secret society known as the NoZe Brotherhood, which had been kicked off campus a few years earlier for conduct the school’s president called “lewd, crude and grossly sacrilegious.”

“We aspired to blasphemy,” said John Green, one of two alumni who confirmed Paul’s membership, “and he flourished in it.”

A few sentences later, the profile quotes the satirist Stephen Colbert on another issue linked to Paul. The profile, however, does not attempt to quote Colbert in a literal fashion — since Colbert is, duh, a satirist. When you are dealing with someone who specializes in satire, you have to take what they are saying with an ton of salt. In satire, up is down and black is often white.

Raise your hands, GetReligion readers, if you grasp the fact that Colbert is not actually a clone of Bill “Where’s my spin zone?” O’Reilly? You know that he is saying the opposite of what he means (most of the time)?

The Noze Brotherhood was and is a satirical society.

That is what the NoZe crew does. While I was at Baylor, the NoZe mocked Dan Rather, Richard Nixon, Bob Woodward, Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski (a powerful Baylor graduate, by the way) and anyone else who came within mocking range. And, of course, the NoZe mocked Southern Baptists and Baptist life in general, as I stressed in a post the other day.

Oh, and it is true that the NoZe had been kicked off campus back in the mid-to-late 1970s. Then they came back. Then they were kicked off again. Then they came back. Do you get the picture? The NoZe is in the Baylor archives. They have been on and off campus since World War I, or thereabouts.

From time to time, NoZe guys do brilliant work. One Noze friend of mine went on to become a speechwriter for the president of the United States. No, I won’t say which president, since the NoZe is a — say it together — a SECRET SOCIETY.

But most of the NoZe drippings fell way short of brilliance and often veered into rude stupidity. Welcome to college life.

It’s satire. As the old saying goes: Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.

So why are we reading stuff like this in the Washington Post (this is a Chris Cillizza blog post, not the missing version that ran in the print edition) about that campaign advertisement?

“Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a ‘hoax’,” asks the ad’s narrator. “Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his god was ‘Aqua Buddha’.”

The ad’s charges both can be traced back to Paul’s collegiate years. In the “Aqua Buddha” incident — and, no, we never thought we would write those words (at least not together) in this blog — Paul vehemently denied being involved in any kidnapping, saying only that he went along with a college prank. (The woman involved told Greg Sargent, who writes the “Plum Line” blog, that the “whole thing has been blown out of proportion.”)

The “anti-Christian” charge comes from Paul’s membership in a secret society while at Baylor University that published mocking statements regarding the Bible in newsletters.

“This is an ad about things he did,” said Conway campaign manager John Collins of the allegations in the ad. “He has failed to deny any of these charges.”

It would really help if someone talked to someone at Baylor who understands what the NoZe guys are all about. Call the Texas Collection. Call the library’s reference desk. Do some basic journalism.

Meanwhile, at the New York Times we read:

The Conway ad that helped spark the debate dustup focuses on reports that, during Mr. Paul’s time at Baylor University, he and a friend tied up a woman and told her to worship a god they called “Aqua Buddha” and that he was part of a group in college that ridiculed Christianity. (Mr. Paul has dismissed the reports.)

That’s that. No NoZe information. (Cue: stifled scream)

Somebody, please, get a freakin’ clue.

Wait! I see that hand! Thank you, Andrew Sullivan.

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Only the NoZe knows, you know?

All together now, let’s say the words of wisdom that I learned as a Baylor University undergraduate: No non-NoZe knows the no-nonsense, non-NoZe news that the NoZe knows.

Let me stress that I was not a member of the NoZe Brotherhood during my years at Jerusalem on the Brazos. I definitely was not cool enough and there was a good chance that my GPA was not high enough (my stab at taking Hebrew was a disaster) — or both.

But I had friends in the slightly secret society that was the NoZe and some of them were even capable of clever, non-profane humor on occasion. However, when you are a satirical society at the world’s largest Baptist university, you simply have to make fun of the sacred cows that are grazing everywhere on campus. And when young, loud and often crude college males start making fun of religion the results can get ugly.

So what happens when a NoZe brother ends up, as an adult, becoming a political gadfly who needs the votes of millions of people in church pews? Obviously, ink will be spilled after tips from those on the other side of the political asile. The Politico headline proclaimed: “Paul’s college group mocked Christians.” Here’s the top of the story:

Rand Paul’s Kentucky Senate campaign drew a round of startled media attention this summer, after GQ reported that he’d played hair-raising pranks as an undergraduate at Baylor University in the early 1980s.

Issues of the newsletter published by Paul’s secret society, the NoZe Brotherhood, during his time at Baylor reveal a more specific political problem for the Kentucky Republican: The group’s work often had a specifically anti-Christian tone, as it made fun of the Baptist college’s faith-based orientation.

Paul, the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, beat back charges in the Republican primary that his libertarian views put him outside the GOP mainstream. A practicing Christian, he has backed away from some of his father’s more radical views on cutting government programs and withdrawing the American military from conflicts abroad. But Paul’s Democratic rival, Jack Conway, has sought repeatedly to cast Paul as out of sync with “Kentucky values,” and the NoZe newsletter may provide more fodder.

The NoZe Brotherhood, as the group was called, was formally banned by Baylor two years before Paul arrived on the grounds of “sacrilege,” the university president said at the time. “They had ‘made fun of not only the Baptist religion, but Christianity and Christ,’ ” President Herbert Reynolds told the student newspaper, The Lariat.

I know from personal experience that the late President Reynolds had a very thin skin, but that quote is simply a riot. By the way, who is Reynolds quoting in this quote inside of a quote?

What about many of the charges leveled in this article? Please understand what Baylor alumni understand. It’s hard to take seriously anything that a NoZe says when discussing the affairs of the NoZe. But the whole point of the society was to make fun of Baylor and, especially, the top administrators. Obviously, that meant making fun of Baptist culture.

Some NoZe scribes were better at this than others. Were many of these satirical scribbles crass? You betcha.

However, Baylor knows the NoZe. Check out this detail in this laugher of a story.

The newsletters were retrieved from the Baylor University Library by Democrats opposing Paul. In response to the initial GQ report, he dismissed “National Enquirer-type stories about [Paul's] teenage years,” while Paul denied the most extreme allegation: That he’d “kidnapped” a fellow classmate, attempted to make her smoke marijuana, and then forced her to “worship” a god called the “Aqua Buddha.” The undisclosed fellow student also later told a reporter that she’d gone along with the prank.

The NoZe Brotherhood was founded in 1926, according to an account in Baylor’s magazine, a social club for smart, irreverent young men at the Baptist school whose irreverence may naturally have targeted the religious university authorities.

As for the newsletter, “In the 1970s, its format and content changed, carrying more topical and controversial, stories,” according to another Baylor Magazine account, to which a university spokeswoman referred POLITICO. That official history avoids detailing the group’s irreligious tendencies, but they were front and center in Paul’s time, and the newsletters offer the context for the strange, high-profile campaign flap. At a Christian school, the group focused explicitly and repeatedly on religious targets; the Aqua Buddha was just one jab in that direction.

Yes, they store The Rope in the Baylor library.

That does not surprise me. I am surprised that I was at Baylor from 1972-78 (including graduate school) and I do not remember the Aqua Buddha. That sounds like rather mild NoZe material, to me.

Oh well, what a flashback. I hope Paul’s enemy’s political opponents realize what a joke this is.

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Mother Teresa, pray for the copy desk

Hey working journalists! What we have here is a laugh-to-keep-from-crying correction classic.

First, a bit of context. Back when I was one of the senior reporters at the Rocky Mountain News (RIP), all of the beat reporters had to take turns doing general assignment work on the weekends. One of the Saturday stories that happened year after year, of course, was the regional finals for the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

One year, I drew that assignment (which was actually a lot of fun, including a nice religion angle). Before I went out to cover the event, a veteran editor pulled me aside and gave me a great and timely warning. DO NOT DARE, she said, misspell a word in a story about the spelling bee. If you do, your telephone will melt down. You will hear about that mistake for the rest of your life. I avoided that trap.

So, does anyone remember that post the other day (it’s still getting comments) about the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, from the folks at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life?

It goes without saying that the New York Times joined legions of other newspapers in covering the story, including the following paragraph:

Among the topics covered in the survey were: Where was Jesus born? What is Ramadan? Whose writings inspired the Protestant Reformation? Which Biblical figure led the exodus from Egypt? What religion is the Dalai Lama? Joseph Smith? Mother Theresa? In most cases, the format was multiple choice.

Well, over at The Atlantic, Erik Hayden noticed that the online version of this story has been revised to include this addition at the end:

Correction: September 29, 2010

An article on Tuesday about a poll in which Americans fared poorly in answering questions about religion misspelled the name of a beatified Roman Catholic nun and Nobel Peace Prize winner. She was Mother Teresa, not Theresa.

As Hayden noted, in a very low-key way:

Unfortunately for the Times editors, the article misspelled the renowned Catholic nun Mother Teresa’s name as Mother “Theresa.” That the error ironically occurred on an article touting religious literacy will no doubt leave some of the Time‘s detractors gleefully passing along the correction. …

Consider it done, even though your GetReligionistas do not enjoy knocking the Times, in part because the newspaper has such an excellent history of printing corrections (attention Washington Post editors).

However, let me take this opportunity to issue a challenge. I am still reading reports on this latest wave of Pew data and I hope others out in GetReligion-reader-land are doing the same. If you find other interesting corrections in stories about the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, by all means share them.

Now, let’s see. Are their any of the usual horrible tmatt typos in this post?

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Achtung! Bad journalism ahead!

Anyone who is part of the GetReligion community likely has a few pet peeves about media coverage. We joke about the need for a GetScience, GetMath and GetStatistics to complement GetReligion.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing more painful than watching some math-challenged beat reporters try to write stories about budgets, for instance. Now, most of the reporters we are privileged to cover do very good work under unbelievably trying circumstances.

And yet something tells me that readers here might enjoy these warning labels developed by geek comedian Tom Scott. He might be better known as the British head of International Talk Like a Pirate Day:

It seems a bit strange to me that the media carefully warn about and label any content that involves sex, violence or strong language — but there’s no similar labelling system for, say, sloppy journalism and other questionable content.

I figured it was time to fix that, so I made some stickers. I’ve been putting them on copies of the free papers that I find on the London Underground. You might want to as well.

Some of my favorites include “Warning: To ensure future interviews with subject, important questions were not asked,” “Warning: Journalist hiding their own opinions by using phrases like ‘some people claim’,” and “Warning: Statistics, survey results and/or equations in this article were sponsored by a PR company.”

OK, you know what to do — give us your best ideas for additional warning labels. Winner gets nothing save bragging rights — but have fun anyway!

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‘The Painter of Pancakes’ transformation

I’m a big fan of brinner: breakfast for dinner. When I found out about this addictive website called Jim’s panckes, I lost a good 15 minutes of productivity. Let’s just say pancakes could be categorized under “a few of my favorite things.”

So I was excited to read more about Dan Lacey, “The Painter of Pancakes,” even though I might not display his art in our family room. Lacey is well-known for creating portraits politicians with pancakes, including ones of the Obama naked on a unicorn.

Jon Tevlin of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune profiled Lacey in one of his recent columns, focusing on Lacey’s battle with Orly Taitz, a woman who is attempting to prove that President Obama was not born in the United States.

There’s one section, though, that made me pause because of its lack of clarity.

Before his pancake paintings gave him notoriety, Lacey was a conservative evangelical Christian who drew an online cartoon called “Faithmouse,” which promoted conservative ideas that often angered liberals.

Not anymore. “I quit,” said Lacey of his political leanings. “I sent in my notice and no longer belong to the Christian right.”

I have all sorts of questions about this. Did Lacey leave his faith, and/or did he stop being a conservative? Did his “Faithmouse” cartoon have anything to do with faith?

I looked around Lacey’s website a little bit and found some more details.

Faithmouse is the name of a Christian cartoon I began drawing about a decade ago. A few years ago I had something of a mental and spiritual breakdown, decided to make the cartoon Catholic, and then I decided to paint instead. I still draw the cartoon a little. My paintings sometimes horrify my family.

So is Lacey Catholic now? He links to a quote in about some of his old cartoons.

I like his Faithmouse comics a lot, especially after Dan started to expand beyond his original conservative mission and explored themes like the sexual fantasies of gay Catholic clergy, Faithmouse’s naughty sister, etc. Dan doesn’t do much Faithmouse now; his pop culture paintings (pancakes, naked Obama, etc.) are so popular, I guess he doesn’t have much time for the comic.

So what contributed to his mental and spiritual breakdown; is he religious now? What’s with the (seemingly respectful) portraits of Billy Graham and Mother Theresa? Does his religious affiliations still motivate him at all, even if he’s left the “religious right”? I know this is a column, but I would expect something reported to give a little bit more explanation if Tevlin feels its relevant to the story. Otherwise, it’s more confusing than revealing.

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