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The guy with the tarantula

My first editor, Wes Izzard of the Amarillo Daily News, absolutely refused to allow us to publish photos of rattlesnakes or any kind of snake at all.

This became an issue because our sports editor was from Sweetwater, home of a long-running rattlesnake hunt in West Texas, and he would always go to participate and come back with photos (and one time, several actual, live snakes).

Izzard's concern was that the photo of a snake in your morning paper would frighten you for no good reason. His general mantra was that he wanted nothing published in the morning paper that would upset a pregnant woman.

I always thought that was a good rule, although over the years I did allow a lot of snake pictures to be published in the morning papers I edited.

I think Izzard's rule would have extended to big spiders, although we never had that discussion.

I put spiders and rattlesnakes in the same general category of icky things I want to avoid, even on the pages of a newspaper.

So, I find it particularly off-putting to have a TV commercial pop up during the evening news featuring an obviously nutty guy with a huge tarantula on his forehead, reaching down to touch his eyelid.

It makes me cringe every time. And my wife and I both vow we will never, ever use this character's services, whatever they may be.

Another oughtta read list

University of Texas professors have compiled 50 books they recommend incoming freshmen read this summer.

To encourage the new students, the UT profs will sit down with the kids at summer's end and have a book discussion.

It's a great list, and includes some heavy hitters, like Daniel Kaneman, the Nobel economist. His book may be the weightiest, in fact. And it also may be the most important in terms of BIG ideas the students should understand.

I guess you could quibble about some of the entries, but I wouldn't. I have read a lot of them, and there's not a stinker on there.

Not full disclosure

A movement is afoot to try to persuade news media gatekeepers to close the door on information about mass murderers like the kid out in California.

The logic goes like this: Many of these killers are copy cats, so let's not tell them anything they can copy.

Sounds reasonable enough, until you consider the advantages to society as a whole of having a complete story in hand, so as to forestall rumor and gossip and unvarnished, downright lies. If you completely, 100 percent trust law enforcers and others in the criminal justice system (think Dist. Atty. Anderson late of Williamson County, for example) then let them hide all the facts they want.

But, if you're a little bit wary of that, maybe we should not go down that trail.

I sure hate citing that old slippery slope idea, but what's next? Let's get all violent crime out of movies and games, because that kind of thing can inspire copy cats.

OK, I will back off enough to say that I think Margaret Sullivan of The New York Times may have something right when she writes that it might be worth considering to hold off on publshing or otherwise provide a platform for killers with manifestos on a case-by-case basis.

Read ... and win!

Our summer reading programs are all now under way.

That's "programs," plural, because we sponsor more than just a program for kids. (For them, we actually have three ways to participate. One is for pre-readers, one is for younger readers and one is for grade-schoolers.)

This year we have a reading program for teens and another for adults. For each, the patron must fill out a form with titles of books they have read, and then turn them in. We are putting the names of teens in a basket, and we will draw one name from the basket at the end of summer. The winner will get a Kindle Fire HD. Likewise for the adults who participate.

So, come on by and pick up your form and start turning those pages.

Another way to learn

I love YouTube.

I'm in the Halftime Band at church, and many of the songs we sing I am not familiar with. So, I have to try to get up to speed on them very quickly.

To do so, I go to YouTube, enter the song name, and listen and/or play along. This certainly helps me develop an ear for the music, even if what we finally do with a tune is not exactly what you would find on the video.

Just recently, I bought a ukelele, and, again, I am turning to YouTube for help. I've already learned several songs by watching Ukelenny over and over again.

So, I can vouch for the fact that if you're trying to learn some music, YouTube can be your friend.

Just this week, the library added Mango language instruction to our website. Our hope is that our patrons can go to Mango and, as with YouTube videos, learn another language over time.

This kind of instructional approach certainly can't hurt.