Vintage Brickbats


Endangered feces: For the last nine months the National Park Service has been trying "to put out a fire in a 25,000 year accumulation of giant Shasta sloth dung in a remote Grand Canyon cave." The deposit, five feet thick, is one of "only ten known caves of sloth dung in the world," according to the Washington Post, and is considered a "treasure trove" for scientists. By February 1977 the cost of fighting the blaze had passed $50,000.
May 1977

According to the Knight news service, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on that burning issue: "When people flush their toilets in one state and the product winds up in another, is that interstate commerce?"
February 1978

Great Moments in Political Philosophy: "Persons who rely on the Supreme Court test that something is obscene only if it has no redeeming value are 'depraved, mentally-deficient, mind-warped queers,' the Utah Supreme Court said in upholding a Salt Lake City obscenity ordinance" (Los Angeles Times).
April 1978

—Bill Birmingham

Teachers on the public school payroll are incensed by a growing reliance on competency tests for instructors. Little wonder the panic. During a recent teachers' strike in New Orleans, one gifted public school professor proudly paraded a picket: "We are striking for descent wages." A printed study guide for Virginia's third-graders asks, "What did the sculpture told the archologists?" But the prize for this semester must go to the conscientious civil servant in the Mobile, Alabama, learning institution who wrote a letter to the parents of a youngster in trouble: "Scott is dropping in his studies he acts as if he don't care. Scott want pass in his assignment at all, he had a poem to learn and he fell to do it." Poor Scott.
August 1979

Tom and Jane Fonda-Hayden are really getting screwed. I mean, they've got this nice little piece of property up in Santa Barbara, and they paid good money for it—500,000 big ones—back in 1977. And now they want to put a magnificent children's theater up there so as to entertain all the swell youngsters who will be going to their super summer camp in years to come. It's their land, and they own it, and they aren't hurting anyone else, and why can't they do what they want. Right?

Wrong, Tom and Jane. You can't. Tough taco. No way. See ya later. It's just like this: There are these things called "land-use controls." And they give local politicians the right to decide what people can do with the land they own.

Now, Tom and Jane, y'all thought it was pretty nifty when scummy developers and low-income people were bounced right out of those really pretty suburban hideaways you $500,000 ranch people like to hang out in. But the same scoundrels you gave the power to decide land use then, they've got it now—right when you need a permit just to let kids have a theater. And these politicians, neighbors of yours, they don't like you. They think you're Reds! They think you're gonna "brainwash" those kiddies! And so they can stop you from putting that theater in. They are The People, and they have The Power. Thank you, Tom and Jane!
March 1981

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has scored still another blow for the dignity of man. In the Christmas just past, merry proletarians celebrated the Joy of Marx with a blissful new holiday gift sensation: toilet paper subscriptions. Due to the responsibilities of international leadership, the USSR's resources are a bit strained lately (like the past 64 years, approximately), and the traditional T.P. is rather tough to come by. This is a small sacrifice that socialist workers for brotherhood and justice are happy and honored to make so as to advance the cause (and Red tanks in Kabul). Yet, a nice wipe would be a great gift idea. And so…voila! Sovietland's "toilet paper futures" now grant the bearer of such card to be the first in line whenever any store actually has a supply. "My mother enrolled for a subscription," proclaimed one Russian revolutionary, "and she thinks it's wonderful. She called me all excited and said, 'I hope for the day that you too can buy toilet paper this way.'" Oh, just give 'em time. What's the rush? There's always Pravda.
March 1981
—Thomas W. Hazlett

From the city that gave us Frank Sinatra and On the Waterfront, we now have real fireworks at city hall. Hoboken, New Jersey, Mayor Steve Cappiello thinks Councilman Thomas Vezzetti is a disgracefully sloppy dresser. So during a council meeting the mayor tossed a lighted firecracker in Vezzetti's direction. "I wasn't trying to hurt him," Cappiello says. "I threw it so he would become more alert and realize that the seam on his orange pants was torn." Vezzetti was outraged. The mayor "is an idiot," the councilman says. "Can you imagine a grown man throwing firecrackers? And where did he get them anyway? Firecrackers are illegal in Hoboken."
October 1984

Ice cream lovers beware! Your local malt shop may be finking for the Selective Service. Seven years ago, brothers Eric and Greg Hentzel invented a fictitious friend named "Johnny Klomberg," gave him their own Palo Alto, California, address, and signed him up for a birthday club at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor so that they and their "friend" could get free ice cream. The parlor didn't fall for the scam, but Uncle Sam did. "Johnny" just received notice reminding him to register for the draft. Col. Will Ebel, assistant director of the Selective Service System, says his agency has a computerized list from the ice cream parlor with the names and addresses of young boys from 12 western states. Think about that the next time you enjoy your tutti-frutti.
November 1984

Ah, glorious Sweden, where all a citizen's needs are capably handled by the state from cradle to grave. Social welfare authorities want to take three-year-old Mikael Johansson away from his mother and put him in a foster home. Does the mother beat or neglect the child? Not exactly—it's just that she's too overweight to care for him properly, say the slim folks at social welfare. They contend that Inger Johansson's appearance would have an adverse effect on the child. In the brave new world of the welfare state, only the thin and beautiful will be allowed to have children.
February 1985

Your tax dollars at work: What exactly does the U.S. Government Office of Oversight do? A San Francisco man spotted the number for the agency in his phone book and decided to find out. After about a dozen rings, a government clerk answered. "Actually, we don't do anything," she honestly confessed. "There has been an oversight in the Department of Oversight. We've been abolished."
May 1986
—Mark Edward Crane