News of the News 
The news, as we know it, is a never ending thing. We can turn on the TV or look at our mobile devices and find a constant stream of text and talk about what is happening in the world around us. All too often, however, it's the same news we took in ten minutes before. All too rarely, is it news of substance, with news organizations favoring the latest gyrations of pop stars over the happenings that shape humanity on the other side of the globe. At other times we are regaled with the latest accomplishments of sports teams, while problems close to home are ignored.

It is a shameful state of affairs. We now have the ability to hear more of what's happening in the world, to experience more of life's breadth, but instead we recycle the same minutia for hours at a stretch. We don't ever get depth from the limited number of events that repeat before our eyes. We don't experience the width or depth of the ocean of information that is out there; instead, we're limited to splashing around in a puddle.

There was a time when "news" wasn't pushed at us all day long. Once upon a time, one-hour news shows were a novelty. For the longest time, the major broadcast networks took 30 minutes each day to acquaint us with what was happening in the world and around the country. The knowledge we gained from those half-hours was concise and informative. We learned about injustice and fought for civil rights. We learned about the war in Vietnam and demanded an end to it. We learned about the death of a president and mourned as one. We learned important things, for the most part, and tried to make good use of the information.

Before that, evening news programs were even shorter. It was fifty years ago today that the CBS Evening News expanded from 15 minutes to 30 and became the USA's first half-hour weeknight news show. News programming gave us the who, what, when, where, and why for the day, then moved on to other news on another day. Today, we settle for less news and it's spread as thinly as technology will all.

And that's the way it is.

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That Voice 
In a world where "In a world ..." has been used to introduce thousands of movie trailers, one man stood out from the crowd. A man whose voice was cut from stone and whose intonations carried the certainty of doom or glory. Don LaFontaine didn't set out to be "that guy from the movie commercials"; he started out as a production assistant writing copy for the promotional clips, recording the music, recording the voice-over artist, and mastering the final version that would be sent to a studio's advertising office for release to the public.

A one-man army of audio-visual production, all of that was to change when the voice talent his studio had engaged failed to show up for a recording session. LaFontaine, with little other choice available, read the copy himself. It wasn't the voice that was supposed to be on the trailer for "Gunfighters Of Casa Grande", but it was a placeholder so that the people at Columbia Pictures could get a feel for how it was going to sound. They liked it; they didn't want it changed and released it to the waiting public. LaFontaine pocketed the voice-over fee and decided it might be fun to do more of this.

He took his work seriously, but didn't take himself too seriously. For years, until he became extremely famous, he would often record outgoing messages for people's answer machines for free, as long as they let him do what ever he pleased. He also had few reservations when it came to parodying himself, as he did for one of his numerous guest voice actor roles -- "In a world . . . there, I said it. Happy?"

He inspired, and continues to inspire, voice-over artists. However, since he left this celestial orb five years ago today, movie trailers don't sparkle quite the way they used to.

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Beneath the Sheltering Pines 
As Michigan's camping season winds down, European industrialist Johann Borlase finds time to go camping on the shore of Lake Huron. Arriving mid-day this past Thursday, he found a well-ordered encampment organized to his exacting specifications.

"The park only allows us two tents per camp site," explained William Phillip, aide to Mr. Borlase. "We manage to get a block of six sites that allows us to place Mr. Borlase's tent in the center and those of his entourage around the periphery. We're entitle to put up six tents, but we only set up nine. It's all quite subdued."

Not all campers are happy with having one of the world's richest men sharing a campground. "When [Borlase] goes to the men's room or the shower," complains Billy Barker, who comes here every year, "he has eight or nine guys going with him. And he's the only one allowed in the showers while he's in there. It fouls things up for the rest of us. You know, couldn't he just get a motor home instead? Then he'd have his own facilities. Instead, he's got that eye-sore of a circus tent and a who little village of tents around it. It's ridiculous."

When asked for comment, Phillip pointed out, "Mr. Borlase is on vacation and prefers to break away from the luxuries of his day-to-day life. Sleeping in a tend in a state forest campground helps him to connect with everyday people."

It is rumored that Johann Borlase's humble tent has a wet bar, a hot tub, and a small theatre, but attempts to confirm this have only resulted in a mild tasering.


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Stopping and Smelling the Coffee 
Owing to a closure on the only divided, limited-access, four-lane highway around here, most area traffic was forced to detour on a less traveled, scenic highway. Motorists who stopped at a local coffee shop were divided in their reactions.

"This has been fun," exclaimed Janine Thomson. "I'd have never found this place if I'd stayed on the interstate. Plus, the trees and stuff -- it's way pretty." When asked if she would consider taking this route again, her face lit up. "Of course I'll take it again. Why would I miss this, now that I know it's here?"

Arthur Burgess was less enthusiastic about the experience. "There's nothing here! There's no Bob Evans, no Cracker Barrel ... there's not even a Starbucks. I mean, the coffee here is okay, but it's not as ... I don't know ... intense? ... as what Starbucks brews. I heard what that lady said about the trees and things, but come on -- driving on this little 'highway' has to be add serious time to my drive. Five minutes? Ten minutes, maybe?"

Despite the sudden influx of customers, the staff at the coffee shop remains calm. "This happens every now and then, when things are messed up over on the main highway," stated Chip Brasser, owner of The Chipped Mug. "50 years ago, this was the main highway, even though it's only two lanes. There are still businesses that manage to get by on the travelers who prefer this route. And when the interstate is messed, we get all these new people. Some of them, the grumpy ones, won't be back. Ones like that lady over there, she's really nice," Brasser commented, pointing to Ms. Thomson, "she'll be back."


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Everybody's A Critic 
Konstantin Altunin's controversial painting of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev has divided critics of modern art. "Look at it! The artist cannot decide if he is an impressionist or a social realist," complains Valsily Renko of Pravda. "The way that slip hangs on Putin is all wrong. You have seen photos of Putin with his shirt off -- we all have. I ask you, would a slip -- even a cotton one -- drape off of a chest like Putin's in such a way? Feh!"

Mikhail Kandinsky of Moscow's famed Tretyakov Gallery politely differs, stating, "Renko is a pig -- he couldn't tell art from spilled borscht. Altunin's pairing of Putin and Medvedev is brilliant! The interplay of their postures, the expressions of repressed desire, the shadows that hint at a subtleness of motion ... he has captured a moment and preserved it for the ages."

It is currently unclear as to whether the ages will have the opportunity to appreciate this painting which has sparked so much debate, as the work has not been well received by the Russian President. "Look at that face," exclaimed Putin, "it looks more like Lenin than like me!" Altunin's depiction of Prime Minister Medvedev did not escape Putin's critical eye, drawing the comment, "And look at Dmitry -- his breasts are not at all like that. They are more ... well ... you know."

After showing briefly at St. Petersburg's Museum of Power art gallery, the work is now "off exhibit." No one is certain as to where the painting has been moved, but several people have mentioned, after assurances of anonymity, that no one has been invited to Prime Minister Medvedev's private art gallery recently.

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