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The Observer July 14

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The Observer was driving along Cantrell Road on a Saturday morning when we saw a group of young, attractive and not over-dressed young ladies, evidently from a local high school, waving signs and yelling at us. Well, not only at The Observer, to be truthful, but at everybody who drove by. They were selling carwashes, it turned out, and the placards they flourished bore a great come-on: CHEERLEADERS IN SWIMSUITS! And yet, they didn’t seem to be doing a lot of business, and in the end, even The Observer didn’t stop. The reason was that a few yards behind the girls, not yelling or waving signs but just kind of hanging out and looking surly, were a bunch of what appeared to be football players in swimsuits. Evidently their job was to do the actual washing after the girls lured the customers in, but their presence had a chilling effect on The Observer’s desire for a clean car. The Observer says, leave the guys at home next time, CIS. You’ll make more money if you wash the cars yourselves. The Observer is a supporter of the Little Rock Zoo, and as such receives the Zoo newsletter, the Jungle Express. We learned from the latest issue that on July 23, the Zoo is sponsoring a program called “The Wonders of Watersheds.” It’s described as “an interactive and educational event about the importance of water to humans and wildlife. ... The Zoo has partnered with Central Arkansas Water to provide a fun-filled day complete with interactive exhibits, free promotional items, hands-on learning programs, and special guest speakers. The Water Wizard will discuss how water from watersheds becomes our drinking water, and master gardener Beth Phelps will teach children how to plant in soil. Zoo staff and volunteers will also discuss how watersheds are critical to Arkansas wildlife.” The Observer has a dream. (A second dream, actually. We were already dreaming about CHEERLEADERS IN SWIMSUITS!) In this new dream, officials and allies of Deltic Timber Co., the very people who most need to hear of the wonders of watersheds, come to the Zoo program and are converted from their plans to build a subdivision in the Lake Maumelle watershed. At the conclusion of the program, Deltic spokesman Craig Douglass bursts into tears. “I didn’t know,” he sobs. “I didn’t know.” Deltic president Ray Dillon says that the money that would have been spent on the subdivision will instead be donated to Central Arkansas Water to buy land to protect Lake Maumelle from less enlightened developers. And Deltic Sen. Bob Johnson announces, to cheers, that he’ll sponsor no more legislation harmful to Lake Maumelle. The Observer wishes Johnson would promise to sponsor no more bad legislation of any sort, but even dreams have their limits. A sign observed (and appreciated) over the weekend as we attempted to cool off in the oppressive summer heat: Welcome to our ool Notice there is no “p” Let’s keep it that way Maybe we should put one just like it at Lake Maumelle? A Washington Post feature writer, hunting for the ivory-billed woodpecker, came up with “primordial ooze” to describe the Big Woods of Arkansas. Ooze happens to be one of The Observer’s favorite words. It has almost a tactile quality, the feeling equivalent of onomatopoeia. We also felt like we’d heard the phrase several times before. So we turned to LexisNexis and found the phrase had been used 137 times in U.S. newspapers within the last year, once in an article about the Tennessee legislature. We posted this miscellaneous fact on the Arkansas Daily Blog. That brought an inquiry from a reader. He wanted to know how many times the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page had employed the phrase “shocked, shocked.” This, you probably know, is from Capt. Renault, in the movie “Casablanca.” He tells casino operator Rick, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” LexiNexis shows that “shocked, shocked” has appeared in the Democrat-Gazette 118 times since 1995, most often in editorials. In 2005, the count stands at six, four times in editorials and twice in columns. Though its use apparently seemed like more to our reader, that’s an average of only once a month. Play it again, Paul.

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