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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

Hazard alert!

Avoid licking door knobs, stained glass windows and other accouterments at the pit of heavy metals known as Disneyland!

That’s the message of the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation, which infiltrated the Anaheim amusement park with “wipe testers.” These volunteers from the Eureka-based foundation found high levels of lead through the agency of moist towelettes.

First, they would wipe their hands with “a laboratory version” of the towelettes, then they would go around palpating various objects. After this, they would rewipe with another towelette These second towelettes were subjected to laboratory analysis that allegedly disclosed unsafe levels of lead. The scientific validity of the procedure could not be independently confirmed.

News reports don’t say whether the operatives rubbed objects hard or merely gave them a passing grab. It really doesn’t matter. The foundation has filed for an injunction ordering the park to post signs warning of the alleged hazard.

The Disney people say the allegations are pure Fantasyland. And as for the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation: We’ve searched the web and found next to nothing about it. Even the International Business Times couldn’t nail it down, reporting, “An Internet search could not turn up a website for Mateel itself.”

And there is nothing to explain how the foundation decided Disneyland was a good place to prospect for lead. However, we do know that Eureka, in the heart of California’s prime marijuana growing territory, is one of the Golden State’s “lands that time forgot.” It’s a place where tie-die still reigns and old hippies beget young hippies and a big yearly event is the Humboldt County Hemp Fest.

Which brings us to the question of the moist towelettes: Were they unscented, or did they smell like a certain sugary breakfast cereal – like the towelettes you get at Kentucky Fried Chicken? It seems appropriate that wipe-testers from the state’s far-north La-La Land should be stalking Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, reeking of Froot Loops.

Anyway, to be on the safe side, if you take your kids to Disneyland, tell them not to lick the doorknobs.


Just asking: Let us agree that Libya’s Moammar Ghadafi was a bad guy, and that Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was a bad guy, as well as Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and the tottering Bashar al Asad of Syria and Ali Abdullah of Yemen.

But why is it that every time our president advocates the overthrow of an African or Middle East strongman, a militant Islamic government is waiting in the wings? Why is it that the one Middle Eastern democracy movement our president failed to encourage – in Iran – was suppressed by a militant Islamic government?

I’m sure beleaguered Christians in Egypt would like to know the answer.


Putting my foot down: A reader asks why I wrote that broadcaster Anderson Cooper’s should have used the term “lectern” instead of “podium” to designate the stands set up for Republican presidential debaters. He cites both the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, which say the latter may be used as a substitute for the former.

The problem with dictionaries is the lexicographers eventually surrender to popular bad usages, because “that’s how everybody says it.” A good example of this is “epicenter,” which, with its Greek-root prefix, means near, by or over the center. Journalists, however, for years have been too lazy to look up the word and understand it. They have so frequently employed it as meaning “really, really central,” you’ll find that misuse in the dictionary, too.

As for “podium,” it derives from the Latin word for foot. (Similarly: gastropod, arthropod and, for that matter, pedestrian and pedal.) It’s the raised platform a speaker stands upon, and I won’t stand for any other definition.


Your tax dollars at work: Kudos to Seattle’s Group Health Research Institute, which has determined that actually doing yoga or conventional stretching is better for lower back pain than just reading a book about it.

The institute cautions, however, that while “exercise is good for chronic low back pain,” “more high-quality studies are needed” to determine which treatments are best.

Yep. More high-quality, government-funded studies are needed, like the one just completed by Dr. Howard Bashford and his research associate, Jill Poke. Their study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, determined that subjects who lifted drinking vessels to their lips developed more arm strength than those who imbibed through a straw.

“Next,” said Dr. Bashford, “we will study whether more leg strength is developed by subjects who climb three flights of stairs than those who take the elevator.”

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