HOT OFF THE PRESS sept.19.1999
In this issue: JFK Junior named Man Of The Century; Students share their views on returning to Columbine; Scented candles can be dangerous.

JFK Junior to be named Time Magazine's Man Of The Century
divisiontwo staff writer

It's finally official. In a press conference held earlier today, editors of the popular conservative rag Time Magazine, often mistakenly referred to as Newsweek, informed reporters in attendance that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. would grace the cover of the December 1999 issue under the headline of "Time Magazine's Man Of The Century." The announcement comes little more than one month after the Crown Prince of America's Royal Family heroically sacrificed his life in a plane crash off Martha's Vineyard. The crash also claimed the lives of JFK Jr.'s beautiful wife, Jacqueline Bisset-Kennedy, and an unimportant woman.

"We think it's only appropriate in this time of National MourningTM that John F. Kennedy, Jr. be remembered and honored for his numerous achievements," explained Time Magazine Editor in Chief Sloan Blakely. "He made immeasurable contributions American Society in the 20th century." After some giggles and nervous titters from the real journalists assembled for the announcement, he went on to add that, "This unprecedented outpouring of sympathy and support for America's Favorite SonTM is unlike anything this country has seen since the death of Sonny Bono in 1997." Asked why Time Magazine has devoted more than a month's worth of issues to coverage of the July plane crash and retrospectives on the Kennedy Family, Blakely responded, "America just can't get over this tragedy. The public is walking around in a state of constant shock. They may put on a brave face at work or in the mall, but inside, they're all torn up. All over the country, people are bursting into tears at funerals and in movie theaters. Children are taking out their anger and aggression on one another. Babies are crying in the park. It's a terrible, terrible thing. We can only hope that someday, long into the future, Americans will start to get on with their lives. But it won't be easy, and Time will be there to cover the story every step of the way. We have lost, perhaps, the greatest American who ever lived."

The King and Queen of the Kennedy family expressed "approval" at the choice of one of their own to be Man Of The Century. But the announcement didn't come without its share of objections. Lanceton Longly, Chief Content Editor for The New Yorker, expressed concern. "Yes, JFK Jr. made many great contributions to American society, like saluting his father's coffin and starting George magazine," he conceded, "but when you look at those contributions in perspective against an entire century of invention, exploration and heroism, JFK Jr. is about as important as Alf." Longly isn't alone. Esquire Magazine columnist Trevor Pruitt said in a phone interview with divisiontwo, "JFK Jr. didn't do anything for America. He was just a pretty face with over-styled hair who happened to be the son of a very popular President. The only selfless thing he ever did was feed the sharks off Martha's Vineyard his bloated carcass."

But Blakely dismisses those and similar comments. "They're in denial," he explains. "Saying they don't care is how some people are dealing with their tremendous grief." But is it grief? Or is it, as Pruitt claims, a morbid fascination with celebrity death?

New York City-based First Tours National is now offering $100 submarine trips to the exact location Kennedy's plane was found. Tourists from all over the world, mostly Japan, lined up hours in advance for the first ride. "This is so exciting," said Osakana Makakawa, grasping a digital camera slung around her neck, "I hope we get to see a finger or a toe." The company is also selling bottles of water from the site of the Kennedy plane crash for $19.95 over the Internet. According to the President of First Tours National, Ken Maddings, "They're selling like hotcakes. Everybody in the country has slowed down to gawk at this tragedy. This is the mother of all freeway pile-ups."

Time Magazine's December issue is expected to be so popular that advanced copies are already being printed to meet the anticipated demand. The magazine's five-to-ten pages devoted to non-Kennedy news are being filled in with some generic stories on vague overseas wars, several of Joel Stein's columns for angry white males, and plenty of interesting facts and figures for the margins. Look for the December issue on newsstands in early October.

Students Share Their Views on Returning to Columbine High School

As soon as seventeen-year-old Jenny Winters woke up this morning, she knew it wasn't just going to be any ordinary school day she was facing. She was facing her 16th day back at Columbine High School, site of the bloody rampage that took the lives of ten of her friends, including Rachel Scott, and one girl she really hated last April. As she slipped into her new jeans, strapped on her training bra and put on her pink sweater and Reebok tennis shoes, she confided to me, "I don't know if I can do this. I'm really scared. I don't know if I'm ready to go back there for the sixteenth time."

Jenny isn't alone. This morning, many of her friends are likely experiencing the same emotions she is; nervousness, dread, uncertainty, anxiousness, cotton mouth, and doubt. Are they really ready for their sixteenth day back at the school where, not five moths earlier, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold made a bloody birdbath from hell and forced their classmates, including Rachel Scott, to swim in it?

Tenth grader Tommy Warback thinks so. "I don't see what the big deal is about the sixteenth day," he commented with a shrug, "It's not scary like it was on the first day. Now we'd just like to get on with our lives and not have reporters forcing us to dwell on what happened all the time." Indeed, he looked tough, but the second I hit him with a rock he burst into tears, no doubt over all the dead kids who were gunned down in a deadly shooting spree that left 13 people dead, including Rachel Scott, last April in a psychotic game of "Shoots" and Ladders. No pun intended.

So what's going on at Columbine today? Class as usual, says teacher Kristin Brown. "We're just treating the sixteenth day like we would any other day," she said. When asked if there were any special long-term projects or programs in the works to repair the social problems that tore Columbine apart last April, Kristin mentioned several. New security cameras have been installed in every hallway, a security station has been set up at every entrance and exit, all the first-floor windows were fitted with iron riot bars, and the students this year are forced to wear thin, pocketless jumpsuits and submit to both random strip searches and what the school calls "Q&A Periods," which are meant to flush out potential atheists and Marilyn Manson fans. As for the constant harassment, bullying and teasing that students say led Harris and Klebold to shoot up the building real good, Brown said the administration is trying to downplay that. "That really wasn't a problem," she stated. "Bullying and teasing aren't dangerous. The problem with Dylan and Eric was the video games and the Internet."

In a special display of remembrance on this sixteenth day, the Columbine football team bravely painted the face of beloved slain Sophomore Rachel Scott, the only victim worth mentioning because she was pretty and popular, in the end zone. The principal also dedicated the "Rachel Scott Auditorium" and posted a plaque dedicated to her memory in the main office. "It's the only appropriate thing to do," he explained, "she was very pretty."

Safety Experts Warn: Scented Candles Can Be Dangerous

When Molly Hanson's sister gave her a candle for her 30th birthday last March, she was very pleased and said a warm thank you. Molly loved scented candles, and had a collection of twenty or more in various rooms of her house. But five months later, she's not pleased anymore, and now she's saying, "See you in court, Sis...and bring your checkbook."

It was two months after her birthday that Molly finally lit the gift candle and put her face in it to smell the delightful aroma. The next thing she remembers is waking up in the hospital with third-degree burns over much of the upper part of her body, including the breastal region. Doctors say Molly's hairspray was ignited by the flame and quickly spread out over her "curiously oily" skin. Now, after three surgeries and countless visits to the courthouse, Molly is suing her sister for $300,000.56 in damages, lost wages and anguish.

Molly's case is sadly far from unique. Since 1997 alone, over 300 stupid people nationwide have been treated for serious burns resulting form smelling lit scented candles. And the problem isn't just confined to children and the retarded as you might think; Molly Hanson is an arson investigator for the San Francisco PD.

"She was always pretty dim," said one of her disgruntled former colleagues, Max Mason. "Sometimes her reports would simply state 'Fire' as the cause of the blaze, and then just show her first name written several times in front of the last names of celebrities she'd like to marry. I'm not surprised she would put her face in a candle." But her husband tells it differently. "My wife wasn't warned at the time the gift was given that the flame it emitted could be transferred to other things, including hair," he said in a press conference earlier this week. "This is my shoe. Watch me tie it good," Molly added.

The recent media attention lavished on high-profile cases such as these have prompted large discount chains such at Wal-mart and Hallmark to discontinue sales of scented candles. A spokesman for Wal-mart told divisiontwo, "A lot of our customers are in some way mentally deficient, and selling this product to them is something this company cannot do in good conscience." A Hallmark spokesman echoes similar reasoning. "We can't sell scented candles in our American stores any longer; it's like giving a baby a grenade with razor blades taped to it. It's not pretty; believe me. I lost two kids and a good TV that way."

The scented candle industry is expected to take a hit from the recent publicity, but remains confident it will pull through in the long haul. Many candle makers cite statistics that less that one-tenth of one half percent of all scented candles sold in a decade are involved in house fires or personal injuries. As for those affected by this rare tragedy, scented candle maker DakinCo said in a letter to divisiontwo, "It's natural selection. If anyone gets hurt or killed by putting his or her face into a lighted scented candle, it's probably for the good of the gene pool."

A good point, but tell that to Molly Hanson, who now has to comb her hair with a wig on.

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