Balls of steel

July 22, 2006 at 12:15 am (Uncategorized)


The B section is driving me crazy. It’s not the B team in itself. Those guys are lunatics. It’s the editors who have final say over things. They want daring. They want edgy. But they don’t want to blush while editing the copy.

The latest issue is this. I was asked to walk around in dorkified orange crocs to see how I’d be treated. I wandered Lisbon Street. I roamed Kennedy Park and the neighborhoods around it. I got jeered, ridiculed and quizzed at every corner. Great fun. One woman said this: “Boy, you got balls of steel to walk around here in those things.”

Great line and I used it. The B team quickly approved and so did the editors who typically take first glances at my stuff. No one getting huffy, no one blushing. Until an editor named Mark came along with a puritan blue pencil. He took it to the top dogs and said he found it offensive. In particular, the word balls.

steel.jpgI and the B team as well as sturdier editors disagree. Balls of steel provokes an image of a brave, if foolish man. It doesn’t conjure thoughts about the male anatomy. Unless you’re already thinking of that stuff, of course. Which makes you wonder.

So, I figured I’d do what I always do. I put it to you people. Does the term “balls of steel” make you gasp and fling the newspaper away? Or can you handle it?



  1. Miles Standish said,

    Of course this doesn’t bother me. However you’re mixing the readership of the SJ with those in your blog. They are much more conservative and definitely more religious. Plus they actually pay for the paper, instead of blogging for free. They pay your salary, you must pander to them.

  2. LaFlamme said,

    It’s tough. I got a letter from a school teacher in her late 60’s the other day. She loves the new section, loves the edginess and thinks we should keep pushing the boundaries. Then you hear from a 20-something who’s appalled at the language. Ya just can’t pigeon hole anybody by age or anything else.

  3. Cynthia said,

    The blush-factor of this phrase is very outdated.

    “Balls of steel” is a very obvious metaphor for something that’s become, bottom line, common language. So even if a 5 year old was reading that line he or she’d know what it means whether or not he or she really, *ahem*, “knows what it means”.

    If you know what I mean…

  4. Cynthia said,

    You know what’s really weird? I thought that balls of steel pic in the lower right hand corner was of a foot balled up, as it were, around balls of steel.

    I figured it out.

  5. LaFlamme said,

    Hey, I can see it! In my defense, there is really a dirth of steel balls pictures out there for the taking.

  6. Mainetarr said,

    You have got to be kidding, right? Balls of steel is offensive? Gimme a break. Tell that tight assed editor to get with the program. There is nothing wrong with Balls of Steel. The whoel point of the b section is to be edgier. If they are going to start being ridiculous over “balls of steel”, the b section will b headed in the wrong direction.

  7. jarheaddoc said,

    A little history of the phrase ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”

    Back in the days of wooden sailing ships and cannons that fired steel balls, the cannon balls used to be stacked in a pyramid. The device that held them in place, at the bottom of the pyramid, was called a monkey and made of brass. The brass would contract in the very cold weather and the cannon balls would roll about.

    I would have to surmise that some landlubbing POS heard a sailor say that and latched onto it, thinking it was a reference to male anatomy, and things spiraled out of control after that.

    Hide the Puritan’s blue pencil, print the letter from the school teacher, and circular file the other one, Mark.

  8. AO said,

    I think that editor needs a pair of steel balls.

  9. jarheaddoc said,

    How about just a pair, AO? He can have Milo’s

  10. Bobbie said,

    I’m sure that Milo would be happy to donate them since he no longer has any use for them.

  11. LaFlamme said,

    An update: after I was forced to paraphrase the balls comment (“one woman suggested that part of my anatomy must be constructed of fortified metal, so daring was I to wander around downtown Lewiston with such fugly footware…”) the word “fugly” came under fire. We lost that battle, too.

  12. jarheaddoc said,

    Maybe the veet who cut Milo can remove the stick in that editor’s ass

  13. Mainetarr said,

    Geezzz I should have asked Dr. Frechette to keep them. WTF is wrong with fugly? You have got to be kidding me, they won’t let you use that word either? And what exactly was the point of the new B section? I thought it was the SJ’s attempt to let it’s hair down a bit and relax. This is bullshit. I can’t believe they censored the word fugly. It’s bullshit, I say, Bullshit!!

  14. Mainetarr said,

    Time for you to back out of the B section Mark.

  15. LaFlamme said,

    You may be right, MT. I tried to back out once but… they keep pulling me back in!

  16. Cynthia said,

    Yeah, ok, Silvio.

  17. LaFlamme said,

    Wow. A Godfather buff. A horse head to you!

  18. Cynthia said,

    Not as much a Godfather buff as a Sopranos buff. But I’ve seen all the Godfather films regardless. All my ex-boyfriends made sure of that.

  19. Mainetarr said,

    Holy shit, it’s quiet in here today. What do I have to do to rile you guys up a little???

  20. Mainetarr said,

    An afternoon haiku

    Why is it quiet
    in the blog this afternoon
    is everyone gone?

    i feel all alone
    like a ship at sea drifting
    with no place to go

  21. Martha said,

    I”m at work.. heading into my 2 busiest hours of the shift. I might get back later, but don’t know. I hope I ‘m going to get acclimated to this new shift so I can participate a little more consistantly again.

  22. Linda said,

    I have more computer trouble than anyone in town. That’s why I haven’t been here.

    Mark, your editors are VERY odd. Very conservative. Much too cautious. Blow them off!! Oh wait, you’d need another job, but how hard could that be?

  23. Mainetarr said,

    Good luk with your new shift Martha. Are you working from 5pm to 1am?

    What the hell did you do to your computer Linda?

  24. AO said,

    Well, I’ve been at a bridal shower all day. My back is killing me…so many little babies to hold! So, MT, can you spare a “vike”, buddy?

    Linda, I’m glad to see that you’re back on line. How is your company? Got enough wine?

  25. Linda said,

    Oh MT, it’s never me. I am planning to get my own, but haven’t yet.

    My husband loads too many things and it (computer) gets confused. What’ll it be today? Netscape? MSN? Internet Explorer? Google Desktop? Mozilla? weather, analog clock, binary clock, stock ticker, news headlines, Google Talk, Instant Messenger, you get the picture. Plus we change ISPs about every 3 months. It’s not as if our computer is all that high powered, but there is no amount of RAM that would be enough so why buy a “bigger” one? I’m just going to get my own

    The funny thing is, he doesn’ t seem to mind spending two half days a month, or whatever, recovering from the most recent devastating crash.. Only he minds it more now that I’m standing behind him wild eyed, is it working yet? is it working yet?

  26. Linda said,

    AO you would NOT believe it — I went to get out a few bottles of chard or sauv blanc or something, and what did I find? I freakin bottle of white wine! Hip deep in red, so that will have to do.

    Actually I may switch to Jamesons.

    Company is fine. Am I the rudest hostess or what? needed a blog fix but have to go. They look more tired than me, so maybe I’ll get to come back later.

  27. Linda said,

    That was “one freakin bottle” BTW …

  28. AO said,

    I understood you the first time, Linda. Ha. Well, at least there was ONE!

  29. Martha said,

    MT Thank you.. actually I’m working 1:30 – 9:30 Tues. – Fri and 3- 11 on Sat.. and thats pm now. Complete shift… at least I don’t have to get up early in the morning still.

  30. Mainetarr said,

    Sounds like a good shift, Martha. And Linda, you bad hostess, you. How dare you blog whilst you have company? Tsk tsk…I’m just being a smartass. I was over reading the shopping bags blog. Man, they suck, huh? WTF? The act like stuffed shirts with no sense of style at all. All uppity. We need to go give them some shit. Talking about a stuffed cow. Who gives a crap about stuffed cows? I wanna hear about bargains, not $6.99 Italian leather men’s shoes. They STILL haven’t mentioned the Worumbo Mill. I am just ranting. And AO, I haven’t touched the vicodin, haven’t even needed an ibuprophen, either.

  31. Linda said,

    Well my visitors were not all that tired, apparently. they are just going to bed now, after (stop reading here if you are easily bored) a marathon Trivial Pursuit game. We had two easy yes-or-no questions: Was Toulouse-Lautrec a dwarf? and, Did the Beatles’ movie “A Hard Day’s Night” make the list of the top five movies in 1964?

  32. Linda said,

    I was just checking out the two b team blogs over on the SJ. I’ve had a range of feelings about those blogs, mostly pretty negative. But tonight I’m thinking along different lines.

    I guess when somebody starts a blog, its usually for one of two reasons — either there’s a subject he (or she) feels the need to write about, or else there’s a group of people he feels the need to communicate with. Does anyone get either of those vibes from those blogs?

    Presumably those blogs were a management decision. Hard to be new in town and be told, now blog, and be sure you are really entertaining. Write about whatever you want and we’ll just see who reads your stuff.

    On another blog I sometimes read, by a woman who makes a living writing books, the topic yesterday was “people think writing is a wicked easy job; if it’s your job, it’s work and it causes you as much stress as anyone else’s job causes them.” Mark, you have a real gift for it: whether it’s reporting a crime, reeling off stories by the bucketful, or dreaming up the ragtime stuff you feed us here, you make it look easy and fun. That’s pretty special, obviously.

  33. LaFlamme said,

    I somewhat disagree with the blog lady. Writing has it’s stresses, but ultimately it serves as a sort or hatch out of witch you can hurl all of your psychic clutter. If I had to get a real job and stopped writing altogether, I’d be picking off people with a high powered rifle in no time.

  34. Linda said,

    Well let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, Mark!

    Yes, I thought she protested too much. Actually it’s clear that she really loves writing and she turns out a hilariously funny blog (or a very moving one) 4 or 5 times a week, and regularly gets 400+ comments even though it’s not interactive like this one. She was about to leave on a book tour, and I think she chose that topic to persuade herself that she’s really a writer and her work counts, and it’s OK to leave her husband and three kids home “alone” while she goes “shilling her book” as she calls it.

  35. brenda said,

    I want to SEE a picture of the crocs!!??? Please?

  36. AO said,

    Check out the “B” section of the Sun Journal on line, Brenda.

  37. brenda said,

    why? did they add a picture since this afternoon? there were 3 articles but I didn’t see any pix. ok, I’ll check, thanx AO

  38. brenda said,

    I still don’t see any pictures.

  39. AO said,

    Sorry, Brenda. I saw the pic in the paper. Sorry there wasn’t a pic on the on-line version.

  40. brenda said,

    ok, I’ll check the paper version later, thanks.

  41. hedonistic said,

    A few thoughts:

    If the next woman you write about is fierce, fearless, strong, proud and authoritative, will you say she has “ovaries of steel?” I would not ordinarily object to the balls-of-steel label except that it reinforces a gender stereotype; i.e., fierce, proud strength is something guys possess, but women don’t.

    If only we could choose a non-gendered body part, such as “Wow, s/he’s got a spleen of steel, doesn’t s/he?”

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