.The Scoop

Neck Line

By Bob Harris

BETTER PAY close attention, folks. Unlikely as this sounds, if you accept the faulty reasoning of two New York Times writers, I might be sending secret signals to Monica Lewinsky.

This just in: Tabloid journalism is now completely mainstream.

If you’ll remember, this space predicted six months ago that coverage of this whole Fornigate thing was gonna get desperate. Last week, no less than the New York Times finally put a complete impossibility on their front page, which means pretty much everybody else joined in the tabloid nonsense as well.

Obviously, it’s a lot simpler to report what the New York Times said, even if it’s goofy, than it is to come up with something on your own.

Vicarious journalism is much easier and gets better ratings than the real thing anyway.

Everybody, therefore, wrote that Bill Clinton might have worn a jazzy gold necktie on the morning of Aug. 6 as some sort of secret message to Monica Lewinsky on the date of her grand jury testimony.

Yeah, right–and if you play his speech that day backwards, it sounds just like “The Walrus Was Paul.”

Oh, well.

Unfortunately, the article (which, if you look closely, was based mostly on hearsay and unnamed sources in the prosecutor’s office) managed to de-emphasize an obvious, gaping flaw in the theory. Notably, Lewinsky couldn’t possibly have received any such signal after she went into the grand jury at 8:30 in the morning, and Clinton didn’t wear the tie until more than two hours later.

End of theory.

Which the reporters knew, since they mentioned it in the article–but only as if it was some sort of failure on Bill and Monica’s part, not the actual planned schedule of events.

Too bad.

Hey, so did you catch my secret signal to Monica Lewinsky? If you take the first letter of the first 11 sentences in this piece … they spell out, “But I Love You.” Which obviously I couldn’t possibly be saying, not that reality matters much anymore.

Even if you think I really am sneaking a hidden message in here, keep going and take the first letters of the first 15 sentences in this piece … and they spell out “But I Love You, Newt.”

Not exactly likely either.

Doesn’t mean I’m not expecting a subpoena any minute now.

You might not be hearing from me again for a while. …

ARE YOU WORRIED because you can’t remember things?

Your worry is probably part of why you can’t remember things.

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine have recently proven that there’s a direct link between stress and the inability to remember stuff.

Which I’ve been reminded of a lot lately.

As you’re surely sick of hearing, I once got all the way to the final of the Jeopardy! Tourney o’ Champs, and then got creamed by a professor from Berkeley. I only mention it because they rebroadcast the shows a couple of weeks ago. Which means once again I can’t buy a box of cereal without somebody in line saying, “Hey, you’re that Jeopardy! guy. … Boy, did you get creamed!”

Yeah, thanks for reminding me.

The new study makes sense to me now, however. Stress was one of the main reasons I lost. Stress, and a bunch of categories like:

Things Bob Doesn’t Know. Things Bob Used To Know, but Forgot. Things Bob Never Heard Of. Things Only One Person on Earth Knows, and He Lives in Cambodia. Restaurants in Berkeley.

I’m not even bothering with the buzzer at this point; I’m searching the podium for an Eject button.

Anyway. Stress. It makes you forget things.

Stress makes your body secrete a bunch of hormones called glucocorticoids, which are great for speeding your reflexes–just in case you need to fight off a sharp-toothed predator, for example–but don’t do squat for your memory.

In fact, glucocorticoids pretty much block the whole memory process entirely. Which makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint: You don’t really need to remember John Quincy Adams while you’re wrestling with a puma.

Which means that the more you struggle to remember something–which causes stress–the less chance you have of actually remembering anything.

Take it from one who knows.

But I bet I could still kick a puma’s ass on a Daily Double.

From the September 3-9, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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