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How are you coping with winter's cold?

January 29, 2003|by BOB MAGINNIS

So much for global warming, eh?

The long-term trend may be for a toastier planet but for now the Tri-State area is on ice, making a walk to the mail box a life-threatening event, or least darned uncomfortable.

How are you coping? Is there anything you're doing that might make it easier for your neighbors to endure this beastly weather? Tell me, in 100 words or less, your best survival tip for winter. It can be anything from how to beat the winter blues to how to make that ice scraper work better on an ice-encrusted windshield.

I'll send the winner - or his or her favorite charity - a check for $25.

Let's make the deadline Monday. Feb. 3, with the tips published that week. Send entries to Winter Survival Tips, in c/o Editorial Page Editor, The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md., 21741.


The current controversy over some of the language in Williamsport High School's production of the Broadway musical Les Miserables may seem quaint to some, given that the offending b-words can be overheard in conversation just about anywhere.

But this is not an objection the growing coarseness of American society, but to the school's apparent endorsement of students' use of these words in an officially sanctioned production. Now someone, as yet unnamed, has filed a written complaint, which has triggered a review process.

Is this a bad thing? No, because it will teach students something they might not have learned otherwise about what happens when two cultural viewpoints clash, and how such disputes are resolved in a civil society.

The heart of the matter is whether those words are essential to telling the story, because, under copyright law, the school production must use the script as-is, or not at all.

It's the same argument that takes place periodically when someone argues that Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn should be removed from a library because it contains the "n word." I haven't seen Les Miserables, but to dismiss Twain's book based on its use of an objectionable word by a fictional character is to miss that character's awakening to the evils of slavery.

Ironically, the hubbub about the musical's language may only serve to increase interest in it. When Martin Scorsese's movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, was released in 1988, nationally syndicated columnist James J. Kilpatrick went to see it.

The staunch conservative did so despite calls by many ministers to boycott the film, because, he said, said it is a peculiarly American trait to go against the grain, to touch the paint under the wet paint sign to see if it's really wet.

Even the defenders of Les Miserables will have to admit that there are some movies in which the foul language seems to be there only to get the movie an "R" rating, and presumably, an adult audience.

One adult who got tired of not being able to take his children to movies that were only offensive because of their language decided to do something about it.

Using the closed-caption feature that's programmed into almost every movie or television show today, Rick Bray created TVGuardian. The device identifies offensive words in a programmed dictionary, mutes them on the screen, then prints substitute work in closed caption on the screen.

The device originally cost $250, but now Sanyo and Fisher DVD players and Sanyo VCRs are available with the device built in. Check out Mary Lou Retton's testimonial at

If you're a telemarketer who calls my house in the evening, chances are the conversation will go something like this:

Me: Hello

Caller: Is Robert Majeenis there?

Me: This is Buddy.

Caller: Is Robert there?

Me: That's my dad.

Caller: Is he available?

Me: He's at work, but you can talk to me. But Buddy can't buy anything over the telephone, or he'll get in bad trouble. Really bad trouble. Do you want to talk to Buddy?

Caller: We'll call back later.

Some callers are more persistent and one national charity, which shall remain nameless since I threw all their junk away, actually sent Buddy a donation solicitation kit.

So if you call me at night and hear what sounds like a gabby juvenile, it just might be me.

On a more serious note, at the risk of seeming less than patriotic, President Bush is asking him to take us at his word when he says that the U.S. has intelligence that Iraq really has weapons of mass destruction.

Trust us, he says. I'd like to, but I feel that if I agree that the president can plunge the nation into war without making a good case for it, then the door is open for future presidents to attack any nation they choose to, whether they have good reasons or not. As someone who loved through the Nixon years, it's too much to ask me to believe that America will always have a president we can trust.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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