Watercooler Stories

By PAT NASON, United Press International  |  March 26, 2002 at 4:11 AM
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Once again, critics are piling on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for putting on a marathon Oscars telecast.

At four hours, 16 minutes the 74th Academy Awards set a new record for staying power and posed an unprecedented challenge to viewer stamina -- forcing folks on the East Coast to stay up until close to 1:00 a.m., or wonder what they missed by going to bed early.

Even Monday Night Football doesn't run that far into the night.

Of course, a lot happened on the show. There was Halle Berry's emotional acceptance speech for best actress, the surprise appearance of Woody Allen at his first Academy Awards, the awesome presence of Sidney Poitier receiving an honorary Academy Award and the higher-than-usual suspense about the outcome of the best picture race.

But apart from the historic presentation of top acting Oscars to two black performers on the same night, Monday morning quarterbacking dwelt on the show's running time.

It's a condition the academy has more or less brought upon itself. The Oscars telecast has become so notorious for running long that it no longer makes any difference whether it runs over or ends on time -- either way, it's news.


While various states work out legal challenges to laws against criminals profiting from their crimes, there are entrepreneurs out there making a few dollars off of other people's trespasses -- including some who specialize in selling action figures of serial killers.

According to a report on ABCNews.com, for example, Denver sculptor David Johnson pumped new life into his career when he started selling action figures of such infamous serial killers as Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy.

Johnson at least admits he's not entirely proud that he's a purveyor of what has come to be called "murderabilia."

"Yeah, it's a pretty shameful thing to do," he said. "I'm making money off these grisly murders. But these guys were shameful long before I got ahold of them."

Johnson said he doesn't see much difference between himself and TV shows or published authors who make money by exploiting the notoriety of serial killers. Business seems to be brisk.

Johnson said he recently had to post a message to customers on his Web site to expect deliveries to take four or five weeks.

There are some things he won't do for money. For example, he doesn't offer action figures of the students behind the massacre at Columbine High School.

"People ask me about Klebold and Harris," he said, "but that's too close to home for me.

"It wouldn't be too safe for me if I did ... people take exception enough as it is with what I do," said Johnson. "Besides, I knew people who were affected by Columbine."


Gasoline prices, you've probably noticed, are going up again -- more than 14 cents per gallon in the past two weeks, according to the latest Lundberg Survey of pump prices across the nation.

Nationally, the average price for self-serve regular unleaded is $1.35 per gallon. However, if you're in Atlanta, the average price is $1.22 per gallon -- and if you're in San Diego, it's $1.58.

Analysts said the higher prices are the result of a combination of factors -- including higher prices for crude oil, rising demand for gasoline in springtime and the general economic recovery in the United States.


Businesses in Silicon Valley are concerned that there are not enough young people in the area interested in taking technical jobs to meet the anticipated demands of the labor market, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Palo Alto High School senior Max Butin told the paper he still wants to be an automotive design engineer. But fewer of his classmates have been showing up lately at a lab where they're building robots for a national competition in Florida, because many students have lost interest in the field due to the dot.com bust.

Businesses in the region say their prosperity depends largely on developing a larger group of local prospects for technical jobs, but a recent survey suggests they're looking at a shortage of local candidates.

The Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network and the consulting firm A.T. Kearney published the study this month, indicating that -- even before Silicon Valley firms began to lay off people -- two-thirds of students in the area said they have no plans to go into tech or computer-related careers.

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