Dine and Dashboard

Illustration by Bob AulThe American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study on March 16 that found nearly 20 percent of car crashes are caused by drivers being distracted by something outside the vehicle, such as billboards, people or other car accidents. But 19 percent are prompted by something far more sinister inside the car: food. "Dashboard diners" are indeed a menace to society. As we were rushing back to the computer keyboard to bang this puppy out, we nearly rear-ended an El Camino driven by a guy pulling out of the In-N-Out driveway onto busy Bristol Street in Santa Ana. What distracted him? The Double-Double he was pushing into his piehole. Other distractions cited in the report were stereos (11 percent); other occupants, including crying children (9.4 percent); cell phones (1.5 percent); and such gadgets as global-positioning systems (1.4 percent). We assume the remaining 37.7 percent were high-speed solo crashes prompted by the presidential-election outcome.

FOR WHOM THE DUMBBELL TOLLS Eric Bechler, whose wife-murdering tale was chronicled in Nan Platto's March 9 cover story, "Dumbbell: Eric Bechler committed the perfect murder and then bragged about it," was sentenced on March 16 to life in prison without parole. The 33-year-old Newport Beach resident admits he tried to impress a bikini model by bragging about how he bludgeoned his wife with a dumbbell and dumped her weighted body into the ocean. Now he can try that line on the inmate who chooses Bechler as his bitch.

BAN ON THE RUN Technically, what the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) got from the Anaheim Union High School District on March 15 was a "settlement." But in truth, it was a major civil-rights victory. As Steve Lowery reported in his Jan. 19 cover story, "Censorship With a Happy Face: How Anaheim bans books without banning them," one teacher's negative remark to Orangeview Junior High School librarian Christine Enterline concerning books about gay achievers led to a censorship fight in Anaheim. With some publicity, the skirmish quickly evolved into an all-out war pitting the ACLU against the district's conservative board of trustees. The ACLU sought to prevent an old-fashioned book banning, but what it won was far more significant. Because issues were raised about the reading level of some books in question, they may end up in a district high school library. But under the terms of the settlement, the space they were going to take on junior high shelves must be filled with more accessible books about noteworthy gays (The Golden Book of Gay People?). Further, books can no longer be unilaterally banned; they can only be removed if there is a written challenge, which must include proof the complainant actually read the works in question. (The teacher who inadvertently started the mess hadn't read the books and apparently never made a formal complaint.) The district was also ordered to formally encourage librarians to make their collections as diverse as their student populations when it comes to race, religion and sexual orientation. The entire brouhaha "just proves how much books like these are really needed," Enterline told us.

BURN, FOXY, BURN At least one person at the March 13 Fullerton Downtown Business Association meeting didn't like the answer Mayor Richard Jones gave when he was asked what is happening with the historic but disintegrating Fox Theater. Association member Judith A. Kaluzny tells us she was shocked to hear Jones respond, "Nothing, unless you people start a fire and burn it down." Nodding at the city's fire chief, Jones added, "And youbetter have a flat tire on the way there. We need to start over from scratch." The city's top elected official advocating arson? Put that man behind the wheel and give him a pizza!


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