Opinion » Street Talk

Don't mark my words


Picasso, or someone like Picasso, is reputed to have said "Good artists copy, but great artists steal." Really great artists use words like "reputed" to prove how really great they are, but enough about me.

I'm pretty sure that Picasso's point was that most people aren't great artists, so most people shouldn't steal. After all, if they're not great enough, they won't get away with it, right?

Take Rebecca Laman, for example - if that is her real name. Cal Poly's been tight-lipped when it comes to confirming the identity of the writer who's been accused of plagiarism in her work for Cal Poly's Mustang Daily. For that matter, Journalism Department Head George Ramos has said mum's the name as well, but he's a Pulitzer Prize winner, as he'll undoubtedly let you know when you meet him, so he must know what he's doing.

Despite everyone's push for anonymity, the Tribune, in a bold move toward journalistic ethics, sussed out the culprit's identity, saying, "Hey, news is news. And this girl is news."

As much as I hate to give kudos to Silas Lyons and his posse, I hate plagiarism more. Heck, if I have to work this hard to write, everyone should.

The story on the street is that Rebecca's been punished appropriately, but short of her head being stuck on a pica pole in the middle of the Daily office, I'm betting it's not severe enough to keep the Mustang Daily from having to deal with plagiarism again. I seem to recall an incident involving a Cal Poly writer printing Garrison Keillor's words as his own a few years back, but that didn't make too many waves, so maybe the next problem won't either.

Young journalists, take a tip from Moses and his tablets: Don't steal. And look, I'll make a deal with you: If you stop stealing, I'll stop coveting my neighbor's wife.


Speaking of stealing

Hallelujah and saints be praised, that kidnapped Pomeranian made its four-legged little way home the other day. In case you hate tiny dogs and haven't been following the story - and I wouldn't blame you -someone stole "Roxy" from downtown SLO a week or two ago. There was no ransom demand, but owner Connie Jacobson did plaster several blocks and at least one car with posters pleading for her baby's return.

Honestly, if you're just learning about this from me, you need to get out more. This little dog's face got more exposure than do some missing kids. We were about a day away from seeing it on milk cartons here.

If you stop stealing, I'll stop coveting my neighbor's wife.

Anyway, I don't have much to say about the whole affair except that someone who steals a Pomeranian and locks it up in a closet needs serious help. However, I might also say the same thing about someone who spends $3,000 to find something that's going to develop crusty eye boogers and craps on the floor.


Ooh, sparkly

I'm don't trust Rotarians. They're suspicious do-gooders whose secret society predates the Da Vinci code.

And I'm not alone. Just ask around in Los Osos. Mention the words "electronic billboard" and see who lights up and starts jabbering about years of talk, debate, and Rotary craziness.

I've learned enough about the near-cult to know that they get together and brainstorm 100-year-anniversary projects and such. The group in SLO built a bandstand for its big bash, I guess. I must not have been paying attention that day, but now I know where to go if I ever want to organize an ice-cream social.

The group in Los Osos, not satisfied with mere wood and nails, wants to join the Information Age and put up a sign that can flash the community.

See, Los Osos residents have this quaint and charming and annoying tradition of plastering street corners with birthday messages and other signs of goodwill. It's tacky and distracting and could easily be cleared up with a cold, functional LCD billboard display. That's the idea anyway. Or just some people's idea.

The whole billboard project gets a bit hazy when you talk to more than one person about it, which is unfortunate since I hear the club bought the thing already and is just waiting to put it up.

It seems that a few early supporters have since voiced concerns over a project that no longer looks like the one they started supporting years ago. Enough of them got together, in fact, to appeal the sign's design and location, but the board of supervisors denied everything, saying that it was all fine as it stood, or will stand.

I hear that Supervisor Katcho Achadjian even did everyone a favor and looked up whether it would be a conflict of interest for him to vote, considering he's a Rotarian himself. His research didn't turn up any red flags, he said, so he's for it, just like the other four supervisors.

The other confusing side to this story is apparently nobody knows who's going to run the sign once it's in place. Is it a public gift or a private billboard? And since I'm asking questions that most of you can't answer, who's allowed to post messages on it? The people in the know seem to be saying that the sign will both be open to the community at large and available only to nonprofits.

What if the Rotarians start acting like contrarians and don't allow messages they don't approve of? Maybe I'll use the sign to wish everyone a happy "Here's a Crappy Sign that Ultimately Didn't Turn out the Way Anyone Wanted it" day.

Supervisor Jerry Lenthall sort of said that the sign represents a First Amendment issue, implying that the billboard will usher in an unprecedented era of free speech for the community of Los Osos - which, in my opinion, hasn't exactly been suffering from a rash of people holding their tongues lately. Anyway, if that's the case, maybe local activist Joey Racano can start a nonprofit and save himself the trouble of having to wave those damn protest signs at everyone.

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