Static: Wednesday May 23, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Good Guy, Good Luck

Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Mitchell Schnurman handled with grace the recent discovery of a golf-ball sized lesion on his brain. The normally straightforward business columnist crafted a gripping first-person account of the days leading up to his May 14 brain surgery. He finished the column 10 hours before undergoing surgery, and his words rang with honest vulnerability. Describing a two-hour and 18-minute MRI exam, he wrote, “There was no way to distract myself from what I was facing, both in the tube and the hours ahead. I couldn’t look out the window, check out the TV, rub my itchy nose, wipe away the tears that I couldn’t hold back. For two hours, it was just me and my most haunting thoughts.” Pathology tests later determined the brain mass was a cavernoma, or abnormal collection of blood vessels, and not a tumor. Much luck and speedy recovery to an able writer and a good guy.

Unintentional humor

“Ponder” means to reflect or think about something. Apparently, little pondering occurs in or around the little town of Ponder, or even in its county seat of Denton, at least not in some official offices. In 1999, Denton County Judge Darlene Whitten sent a Ponder seventh-grader to a juvenile facility for five days for an extra-credit Halloween book report that contained references to drugs and violence.

Dallas Observer reporter Rose Farley used an age-old literary device — satire — to lampoon the judge’s decision. Farley imagined the jailing of a first-grader in similar circumstances and quoted Whitten as saying that any suggestion of violence at school, even in a book report, “is reason enough for panic and overreaction.” Denton County District Attorney Bruce Isaacks was quoted as wondering whether the fictional tot should be tried as an adult.

The story was an obvious spoof but Whitten and Isaacks sued for libel. Farley told Static, “Whitten and Isaacks sent a heated letter demanding that we print a retraction and, I think, pull newspapers from the stands ... which we didn’t do. In the next week’s Buzz column [similar to Static], we told them to fuck off, although a little more kindly than that, and told everybody who didn’t get the joke that it was just a satire and not real. I think that is the thing that triggered the lawsuit.” Whitten’s original (real) decision to jail the (real) seventh-grader was ridiculed all around, and her subsequent lawsuit is earning more sniggers. The New York Times reported the story on May 19. Now, Farley is pondering interview requests from t.v. newsies Connie Chung and Greta Van Susteren, among others.


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