News Quiz

No. 227: “Vile”

Fox TV is planning to fill hundreds of plastic vials. With what? Why?

by noon ET Tuesday to e-mail your answer to

Thursday’s Question–(No. 226) “It Depends”:

“This is quite controversial,” said Kevin Sparkman of Pennsylvania. “Until now, we have always depended strictly on altruism.” What is he talking about?

“Sparkman, head of the area chapter of panhandlers, is discussing the group’s decision to go from simple requests for change to armed assault. ‘Frankly,’ he noted, ‘the can-you-spare-a-dime thing has got worn out, and it only works about 5 percent of the time. Our studies have confirmed that “can you spare a dime, and by the way, I have a gun” has a response rate in the mid-70s, and you just can’t ignore numbers like that.’ “–Tim Carvell (Tim Liebler, William Considine, Dianne Carter, Mac Thomason, and Dwight Lemke had similar answers.)

“The recent bids for mouth-to-mouth resuscitations on eBay. Sparkman, a pool guard in Scranton, was asked his opinion.”–Ross Levatter

“Lancaster drug dealers’ recent decision to start charging the Amish for their rumschpringes* methamphetamines.”–Gina “Gaining No Benefits of Nepotism” Duclayan

“Following the designation of ‘ugly’ as a diagnosable sexual dysfunction, Pennsylvania Blue Cross has agreed to cover prescriptions for Rohypnol.”–Charles Star

“Sparkman is the executive director of a Philadelphia nonprofit that places discarded church organs with poor schools’ neglected music departments. He is troubled over whether to accept donations from the professional kirkbuzzers’* guild.”–Jeff Hoover

Click for more answers.

Daniel’s Wrap-Up

The South has rednecks, the Midwest has rubes, Los Angeles has vapidity, New York has violence, and foreign countries have foreigners. News Quiz has affirmed these truths time and time again. But Pennsylvania? Well, there’s a heroic fictional boxer and a couple of less heroic nonfictional baseball teams. But mostly there are the Amish, a source of amusement not only because they eschew modern conveniences (with the exception of Rollerblades and hard drugs, if I have that right) but also because they are so unfathomably beneficent, at least among themselves. Real Americans, of course–whether from the South, the Midwest or, especially, New York or L.A.–would rather be dead than altruistic. And even dead, the most we can promise is we’ll consider it.

Organic Answer

Under a new program, families of Pennsylvania organ donors will be eligible to receive $300 toward the donors’ funeral expenses. Last year, 394 altruistic Pennsylvanians donated organs; 4,500 patients needed them. Three hundred dollars pays for one-ninth of a hardwood casket with your choice of wheat, cross, praying hands, Masonic, or U.S. flag panels from the John W. Keffer Funeral Home in York, Pa.

As Kevin Sparkman of the Delaware Valley Transplant Program notes, the plan is controversial, but perhaps less so than the one it replaces. You see, I once knew a guy who had a friend whose cousin picked up a girl on a business trip to Lancaster. The next morning he woke up in a bathtub full of ice with a crude surgical scar in his side. Written in lipstick on the mirror was the message, “Welcome to the world of Pennsylvania. Now go home.” It was signed, “The Amish.”

*Fifty-Cent Word Extra

Rumschpringes (noun): Pennsylvania Dutch meaning, literally, running around; an Amish rite of passage during which teen-agers are temporarily freed from the community rules.

Kirkbuzzer (noun): A person who robs churches; from the archaic Scotch.

Two Evils Extra

Recently, the MSNBC Web site hosted one live chat with Dilbert creator Scott Adams and another one with (alleged) Serbian war criminal Arkan. In one of those glitches we’ve come to expect from Microsoft sites, the two chat sessions got hopelessly jumbled. Or at least they might have. Here are actual questions posed to Adams, paired with genuine answers to different questions by Arkan. Both have been edited, but syntax is preserved.

Q: Is Dilbert based on a real person?

A: I think he’s the president of Serbia.

Q: Do you recommend working in a corporation?

A: I personally will not make a deal with any devil.

Q: Are you trying to insult persons who toil in workstations?

A: We don’t have nothing against Albanians.

Q: What do you think of business casual?

A: I think it’s pure propaganda, I don’t believe in that.

Q: What about the tie?

A: It’s part of our souls.

Q: Will Dilbert find love?

A: He’s the most popular man in Yugoslavia.

Q: Is Dogbert and Catbert male or female?

A: They produce 9-15 children.

Q: What’s with the feud between you and Griffith, the creator of Zippy?

A: We are fighting for peace and love, we are not fighting for war.

Q: Is Dilbert idea evolving with time and where is it heading now? I mean what is the next move you think?

A: Well, I don’t know what he’s thinking, which move he’s going to make.

Q: Is Dilbert (the strip) ever going to get old and dull a la Doonesbury?

A: There is still a chance to stop it and not be a war criminal.

Q: Are you married? :)

A: I don’t have a relationship with President Milosevic.

Q: I wish you’d remove the animal characters and replace them with people, I could relate much easier.

A: I really don’t give a damn.

Common Denominator

The Amish … incongruously riding A Streetcar Named Desire.