It’s long been a truism that civilization is a work in progress. Where slavery, sexism and religious bigotry existed in greater circulation a mere 150 years ago, all should by now be sweetness and light. Correct? It’s also long been a truism that one person’s ceiling is another person’s floor. That is, definitions regarding what’s offensive read differently from household to household. That, no one would dispute. But every once in a while, there are certain real-world tools recalibrating or tweaking our measure of disgust:
& ull; So long, Lonsberry: Salt Lake City radio listeners often wondered why morning talk host Bob Lonsberry would be broadcast into our city via K-NRS 570 AM “Family Values Talk Radio” when, really, he was living and operating in Rochester, N.Y. That annoyance was nothing compared to his recent habit of hinting that Rochester Mayor William Johnson Jr., an African American, was on the same level as “monkeys loose up at the zoo” or an “Orangutan.” Lonsberry even cued up monkey sounds in his radio studio. Lonsberry apologized to Johnson last week, but that didn’t save his job from corporate or listener wrath. He got the ax. Lonsberry defended himself in an online essay. “I walk out the door with my head high and conscience clear,” he said. Perhaps he needs time to evolve into a higher life form.
& ull; Happy Rosh Hashanah: Band director Charles Grissom of Paris High School (100 miles outside of Dallas) was all apologies after the school’s Blue Blazes marching band unfurled a swastika flag and launched into a version of Franz Joseph Haydn’s appropriated tune of “Deutschland Ã¼ber Alles.” The presentation was meant to come across as a historical representation of World War II, but the fact that it was presented on the first day of the Jewish New Year didn’t salve any wounds, or soften boos from the half-time crowd. Grissom told MSNBC News, “We had an error in judgment.”
& ull; Manchurian Mania: Japanese tourists apparently thought it would be a real laugh if they fondled a few prostitutes in the lobby of China’s Zhuhai International Conference Center Hotel. Here, once again, timing counts. Japanese tourists staged this reported hotel orgy over the two-day period of Sept. 16-18, marking the beginning of Japan’s official occupation of Manchuria in 1931.
& ull; The Foie Gras, The Fury: As related in a recent New York Times article by Patricia Leigh Brown, fois gras may become the new Hummer SUV. That is to say, the next big product Americans love to hate, but love anyway. The upscale cuisine made of duck or goose liver retails at $25 per quarter pound. It is produced by force-feeding male ducks and geese via a 10-inch steel pipe jammed down their feathery throats. Still, the food sends gourmands into rapture. Animal-rights activists (surprise!) aren’t salivating. Activists in Sonoma, Calif., have vandalized a local restaurant serving the “delicacy of despair” and have even poured acid over the car of a foie gras chef. Several nations across the world, including Israel and five European countries, have banned the force-feeding of birds for foie gras production. Reporter Brown described the condition of such birds: “The ducks who had been force-fed twice a day for two weeks, their livers swelling from one-third of a pound to one and a half pounds, were so fat, they moved little and panted. ... Weak or injured ducks have their necks broken.”