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Accept No Imitations 

Ask BWA: Special plagiarism-free edition!

Dear BWA: Two writing-related questions. First, was Observer parenting columnist John Rosemond really at fault for handing in old columns without informing readers that they had been published earlier? And what's up with all the plagiarism these days in newspapers and the book industry? Are all writers just a bunch of crooks and liars? -- Repulsed Reader

Dear Repulsed: I fervently believe in upholding the highest journalistic standards, no matter the cost, and so forth, blah blah blah blah. So, yeah, I guess Rosemond was probably wrong not to inform readers that he was in reruns. But who cares? Come on, it's a parental advice column, not some big deal. What baffles me is how anyone realized Rosemond was repeating himself, since his answers are pretty much the same every week: The child is at fault and you should punish him/her/it to within an inch of having a neighbor call Social Services on you. As for your other questions, some writers are indeed crooks and liars, but they're so completely surpassed in that department by politicians and CEOs, it's hardly noticeable. Rest assured, however, that I personally pledge to all our fine readers -- as well as to the losers who just scan CL during their lunch break -- that I will never use someone else's writing and claim it as my own.

Dear BWA: Did the Duke lacrosse players sexually assault that stripper or is she just trying to make a lot of money? -- Dying to Know

Dear Dying: I can't really give you an authoritative answer, not having been there at the time, but one thing is certain about that night: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. I just hope that whoever is guilty, be it the players or their accuser, will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Either way, people will be talking about the case for years to come -- and so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Dear BWA: Should I be worried about the NSA collecting everyone's phone records? -- Lily-Livered

Dear Lily: I was worried at first, but now that we know Big Brother is just Elmer Fudd in a military uniform, not so much. Like I've always said, lighten up while you still can, don't even try to understand, just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy.

Dear BWA: I'm wondering why Neil Young would risk his singing career to record an anti-war, anti-Bush album like Living With War? -- Rockin' Banker

Dear Rockin': I think it's called "principles." Note, though, that it's hardly risky for a singer with more money than God to criticize a president, especially one whose approval ratings are only slightly higher than those for "raccoons going through my garbage." Neil Young says he got tired of waiting for younger musicians to hit the mainstream with anti-war sentiment. And with fellow boomer Bruce Springsteen busy these days singing campfire songs we've all heard a thousand times as if they're something he just discovered in his attic, Young took the lead. War supporters are criticizing Young, but they remind me of something I wrote a few years ago: Some folks inherit star spangled eyes, they send you down to war; and when you ask them "How much should we give," they only answer, "More, more, more."

Dear BWA: Why do some Southern communities still not celebrate Memorial Day? -- Curious Northerner

Dear Curious: It's because Memorial Day was begun as a remembrance of Union soldiers in the Civil War. Naturally, when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, some will win and others will get their asses kicked and the kickees will hold a grudge for a lot longer than is probably healthy.

Dear BWA: A friend told me --

Hold it right there. Call me Ishmael.

Dear Ishmael: A friend told me there are parts of The Da Vinci Code that are not true! Does Oprah know about this? Once and for all, are the theories in that book for real or not? I feel betrayed and I'm having a hard time figuring out what's factual and what's fabricated. -- James Frey

Dear James: I understand your confusion, especially since the author, publisher, filmmaker, producer, actors, gaffers and key grips have only explained a mere 3 million times that the story is fictional. Don't worry, though -- who can remember such things? I know I can't. As I was telling someone the other day, "My memory these days is in a million little pieces." As for Oprah, even if she knew about the controversy, I don't think she would blame Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown. She seems to live by a maxim I came up with years ago -- so long ago, in fact, I should probably get it copyrighted -- He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.

Although Grooms and his lawyers deny it, portions of this article may have been shamelessly lifted from (in order of appearance) Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Eagles, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Declaration of Independence, Herman Melville and the Bible.

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