Sunday, December 31, 2006

On the Shelf at the Synagogue:
Happy New Year!

This is why I like hanging out at the synagogue when my wife has stuff to do -- so much interesting stuff to see!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Celebrating the Death of a Dictator

If there’s one thing you can say
About Mankind
There’s nothing kind about man
Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan, song writers, from the song "Misery is the River of the World"

I find all the delectation people are exhibiting and the news media’s breathless repetition of Saddam Hussein’s death as well as the eagerness to show the corpse leaves me with a sense of unease.

The Iraqis celebrating in Illinois and those brave enough to go outside in Iraq all seems rather barbaric. The hundreds killed by Hussein, his sons or his lynch men are not brought back, the suffering felt by the families is not lessened, there is not even closure because the pain will always be there.

The celebration of a death penalty executed shows humanity at its most abject.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Non-Decisional Meeting with Dire Results

Every decision is liberating, even if it leads to disaster. Otherwise, why do so many people walk upright and with open eyes into their misfortune?
Elias Canetti (1905–94), novelist

From the nightly Wall Street Journal e-mail I receive.

Bush: 'Making Progress'
In what was billed as a "non-decisional" meeting, President Bush today discussed ways to change the administration's Iraq strategy with the entire National Security Council at his home in Crawford, Texas. "We're making good progress," Mr. Bush told reporters, without fielding questions. The president isn't expected to announce his new course in Iraq until sometime next month…

Tell me, how can you make progress in a “non-decisional” meeting when the Decider in chief is there? Why are they spending taxpayer money to hold a meeting to solve nothing?

The newspaper reported that December was the second-deadliest month for U.S. troops. There have been 3,238 coalition deaths -- 2,989 Americans, two Australians, 126 Britons, 13 Bulgarians, six Danes, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Fijian, one Hungarian, 32 Italians, one Kazakh, three Latvian, 18 Poles, two Romanians, five Salvadoran, four Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians -- in the war in Iraq as of December 28, 2006, according to a CNN count.

And the Bush gang is in a non-decisional meeting trying to come up with a strategy. Something is very, very wrong!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Death of a President

Waxy has a great links page that we check all the time -- and he's got a link to the famous Dana-Carvey-as-Tom-Brokaw sketch, in which he eulogizes Gerald Ford... ten years ago! If you haven't seen it, check it out now.
(I think you can just lick that "play" button above.)

Presidential Words Have No Integrity

The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.
William Safire, columnist

George W. Bush, our president (unfortunately), said regarding Gerald Ford’s passing, “During his time in office, the American people came to know President Ford as a man of complete integrity who led our country with common sense and kind instincts.”

All traits our current leader has never exhibited. It may just be me, but these words coming from the Decider-in-Chief mean less than nothing, it’s akin to Tom DeLay saying that lobbyist Jack Abramoff was honest or Kenny-boy Lay was a great CEO, or that administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Michael Brownie is doing a heck of a job, or better yet, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would remain in his administration until the end of his presidency.

This country would be better served and national dignitaries better remembered if our embarrassment of a leader kept his mouth shut.

I accidently stumbled upon this and it's hysterical. Wait a second the sound will come up.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Original Mash-up

I was going through the garage this week and came upon my box of 45s,* which collection includes some classics, including work by the duo known as Buchanan and Goodman. Growing up I listened to them constantly, having cadged them from my dad, who got them when he was a kid, I guess..

Buchanan and Goodman were the first mash-up artists, taking bits and pieces of various pop songs and splicing them together into larger pieces -- their most famous being "The Flyer Saucer," recorded in 1956. Their samples were, in many cases, my first exposure to some of these classic songs (and I was confused for years by the fake attributions given in the mash-up).

Click here for an mp3 of The Flying Saucer uploaded for your listening pleasure. It's interesting to note (especially to us Creative Commons folks) that Goodman wound up in court for infringement of copyright -- that is, he didn't get anyone's permission for his sampling. The lawsuits were later settled out of court when the judge ruled that the records were parodies, and were original creations in and among themselves (Gray Album, anyone?).

*A 45 is a type of record -- an analogue sound recording medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed modulated spiral groove starting near the periphery and ending near the center of the disc. "45" indicates it is spun at 45 revolutions per minute. They really exist.


Can someone help me out here? My in-laws have a dishwashing soap called "Non-Ultra Joy"... what's up with that? Is there an "Ultra Joy"? Is there some reason I wouldn't want the ultra power?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Murray Saved Christmas--
Now we know who to blame

From a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.
Katharine Whitehorn, journalist

Twas the night before Christmas and at the North Pole,
Santa was rockin’ and ready to roll.
His seat belt was buckled, his reindeer were fed,
And Five billion toys were stuffed into his sled.

There were dolls that said “Mama and dolls that said “goo,”
Dolls that made music and dolls that made poo (B2, take note)
There were dolls that grew tall at the push of a button,
And a doll, best of all, that didn’t do nuttin’.

The above is the opening page from the book "How Murray Saved Christmas" written by Mike Reiss and illustrated by David Catrow.

From the cover leaf, we learn that when Santa is knocked out cold by a Jack-in-the-Boxer, deli-owner Murray Klieiner reluctantly agrees to take his place. He may not understand the subtleties of the job, or agree with Santa’s opinions on who deserves toys, and he definitely cannot remember the names of all those reindeer. But with the help of a pushy elf and an eager-to-believe young boy, Murray finds that even though he’s not big enough to fill Santa’s suit, he’s go more than enough heart to get the job done.

And how, you might wonder, did Santa get fat?
Just thank Murray’s chocolate-chip cheesecake for that!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Hopper Continues to Roll Over in His Grave

Back in March 2005 I shared with the readers of Toner Mishap an assortment of parodies of (and tributes to) Edward Hopper's painting, "Nighthawks" (you can check it out here.) It was one of my most popular posts, and continues to get hits -- in fact, if you Google "hopper nighthawks parody" Toner Mishap comes up at the top of the list!

It's almost Christmas (or so my gentile friends tell me), and I just saw this...

... so I figured a few more were called for.

[Stephan Pastis is a cartoonist you may have seen in the funny pages lately]

[A patriotic version from the Atlantic Monthly]

[A post-apocalyptic version for fans of the whole SubGenius thing]

[This one is popular with people who are fans of both fine art and Doom]

[From a production of a play based on the painting]

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Just read a colleciton of stories by Kelly Link, called "Magic for Beginners" -- she's the sort of author that makes you wish her stories were longer, because when they end you just want more, especially if you like zombies. My favorite line from the book:

"Art is for people who aren't worried about zombies."

P.S. And of course, there's a shirt.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pinata Travesty

BoingBoing posted the other day about a military-themed pinata filled with soliders... I thought I'd share these shots of a pinata made by a co-worker designed to look like the birthday grl... right down to the outfit.

Are you really supposed to hit this with a stick? (Answer: yes!)

Misanthropic Thoughts

Publicity is the life of this culture—in so far as without publicity capitalism could not survive—and at the same time publicity is its dream.
John Berger, critic

Miss USA --The Donald was not being charitable at all by granting Tara Conner the ability to retain her Miss USA title. The publicity that will accompany Ms. Conner wherever she shows up will only help to build ratings for the pageant next year. Trump was being a smart businessman. End of story.

Time Magazine --Apparently the entire United States was aware of Time Magazine’s person of the year except me. Frankly, I don’t care about the award, but now that it was given to me, I want no part of it. It doesn’t have anything to do with Groucho and his famous quote, I don’t agree with it (the award has absolutely nothing to do with news). However, it is good publicity and that is what it's all about.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Won -- Sort of

Letters are useful as a means of expressing the ideal self; and no other method of communication is quite so good for this purpose.…
Elizabeth Hardwick, author

This is the actual letter I sent to the CEO of the parent company that manages the apartment complex I stayed in for a few months, before moving into the new house. I left the names out for my privacy. They just sent me a notice stating that I did not have to pay.

November 22, 2006

Property company
President & Chief Executive Officer
Chicago, Illinois 60606

Dear Mr. President & CEO:

I am writing to you because I paid one month and a half rent to get out of my lease early as my stay at [your property] was unpleasant almost from the start. Now I am being harassed for a cleaning deposit, when I left the place in excellent condition. I would very much like not to pay this unnecessary and punitive penalty of $224.75.

I signed a lease to stay in [your property] for one year. The situation and the management were absolutely incompetent and intolerable. I have attached a copy of the letter I sent to the property manager that lists all of the incidents I had to endure (I sent several letters, but the attached is a summary). I did leave one off, which was the neighbor whose son attempted to burn the place down -- intentionally. Thankfully he only succeeded in destroying his unit.

I would greatly appreciate if you could dismiss this fee.

The Misanthrope
cc: the pissant subsidary who sent me the bill

This is part of the letter that was attached:
Let’s review my five months here:
  • Water pressure mysteriously reduced after two weeks and never returned to its proper volume (your offer to reimburse me for a showerhead would not make a difference, since it used to work with the current showerhead),
  • Neighbors who played music at 3 a.m. that I finally had to confront myself,
  • Fireplace gas pipe rotted and significant hole on pipe reducing the effectiveness of gas starter. It’s still bad, but now it’s summer and I’m dealing with your antiquated air conditioning,
  • An apartment full of dead bees upon my return from one day away (did not report, my housekeeper took care of it),
  • Dishwasher that is worthless as far as cleaning goes. (Have not officially reported, yet. Now please consider it officially reported),
  • Piles of bird waste outside my garage from multiple nests of birds located on the eves above (Have not officially reported, yet. It was half-heartedly cleaned up once. Now please consider it officially reported),
  • No one mentioned that this complex did not upgrade its cable system, thereby rendering it worthless for televisions or computers, and of course,
  • The outdated dilapidated air conditioning unit that was never checked prior to moving in that has caused me nothing but grief and aggravation all weekend, while we have had record heat.

Maybe now you’ll understand my less than warm feelings for this place and how it is managed.

Sometimes it pays to write letters. I should have asked for my month and a half back.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Blessed are the Ophans

“Marry an orphan: you'll never have to spend boring holidays with the in-laws (at most an occasional visit to the cemetery)”
George Carlin, comedian

The Ruminator

Tis the season! This is the time of the year when we’re supposed to count our blessings and remember those who are less fortunate than we – which is politically correct speak for anyone whose house, car, wardrobe, or 401K is less than ours. But the most commonly voiced and applied yardstick to determine the degree of one’s “fortune” is whether or not they have family. In other words, according to the common wisdom, the least fortunate among us have no one with whom to celebrate the holidays. It is the opinion of this writer that the analysis is completely backward.

Orphan Asylum, n.d.
The orphan asylum was owned and operated by the Benevolent Irish Society

Pity the orphans who are now a fashion accessory for the well-to-do; this is the time of the year when they could have been rejoicing. The fortunate ones are those who have no one with whom to mark the season – i.e., the true measure of one’s blessing at Christmas is inversely proportional to the number of relatives with whom he must interact. Or, as a true misanthrope’s first beatitude states: “Blessed are the orphans, because the lucky bastards don’t have to deal with parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, or in-laws who view Christmas as a god-given time when they are free to foist their hyper-dysfunctionality on their hapless relations.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Doll That Poops In Her Pants

My wife and I rejoiced this year when our youngest made it out of diapers -- rejoiced, I say! But the joke was on us, because for Hanukkah my mother-in-law bought for her the Hasbro Baby Alive Doll -- the doll that poops in her pants. For full disclosure, I should point out that she only poops if you feed her first, which we are swearing never to do.

You've probably heard of this doll, as it's not actually new -- they've just made a new version. But the best part of Hanukkah last night was the dramatic reading of the instructions, which I will now share in excerpted form. As with many great works of literature, it's what goes unsaid that is the most fascinating.



- Always give your doll a bottle of water after she eats, or food may become stuck inside.

- Do not feed doll more than one packet of food and one bottle of water between diaper changes.


- To clean doll after feeding, give the doll several bottles of water until any remaining food has been rinsed away and the water runs clear (it's best to do this over the sink). Tilt bottle from side to side to make sure you've rinsed away any food build-up in the corners of the doll's mouth.

- Clean doll's face and body by wiping gently with a soft, damp cloth. Do not rub.


And one final instruction that just makes me cringe:

- Do not place any foreign objects in doll's mouth or any other opening.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Woo Who?!

A legend is an old man with a cane known for what he used to do. I’m still doing it.
Miles Davis (1926–91), musician

I predict that we will reach 200,000 page hits today. Honestly, you can minus maybe a hundred or so from me not being vigilant about blocking my cookies. Not bad, getting another hundred thousand hits after we said good-bye in October 2005 here, here and here.

It seems B2 and I have found it difficult to stay away for too long. On The Mark pops in from time to time. He has a very interesting story to tell, but I have a feeling he is going to keep it to himself. I could not stop visiting a lot of the blog sites, even if we have not been diligent with deleting old ones or adding new ones, that’s because B2 left it up to me and you see it I let the blogroll go to seed. For example, I for no apparent reason tried to update Lone Sophist and now we have two, one you click on and Toner Mishap disappears.

Since we said good-bye we have been recognized in public by regular readers. B2 by Cory Doctorow from Boing Boing, and I, once I was pointed out by B2, by a market guru, which pleased me.

Dear readers old and new -- you're awesome!

Even you Darrell, you lurker.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Automatic Whoopee Cushion

It's been years in the making.

Many of the readers of this fine blog are, no doubt, fans of practical jokes, and we proud few have sat patiently for years waiting for the next wave of technological innovation in this important industry.

Comrades, the wait is over.

I am pleased to announce the latest prank gadget to hit the stores, something so marvelous I compare it to the original snakes-in-a-can or disappearing-ink-pen: the automatic whoopee cushion. It solves the age-old problem: how do you effectively and quickly reset your whoopee cushion for maximum fun potential? Watch my demo (filmed in a local party supply store).

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hulk Smash Christmas!

You've gotta click on this pic to see it larger! I don't know if it's the expression on Hulk's face, the fact that he's sneaking down the chimney instead of busting in through a wall, or that cute little hat on his gamma-irradiated head... but this is priceless! (Actually, it costs about ten bucks.)


Here's one where Hulk is, as expected, breaking through a wall. [Source]

And a third one, shown together with my original find... [Source]

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Kids Love the Taste of Santa's Sack

Other slogans for this candy my wife and I discussed on our date this weekend (we spent quite a bit of time in hysterics over this product from the candy display at Toys R Us):

Everyone Wants a Lick of Santa's Sack
Kids Love to Suck on Santa's Sack

And so on.

Sunday Miscellany

I look upon every day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance.
Samuel Johnson (1709–84), author

Saturday I met Bitch Ph.D. She had a barbeque that turned out very nice even as we stood under the eves drinking fizzy pink wine (which was very good), to avoid the rain, we eventually moved in doors and in the background heard the pouring rain. I felt very comfortable around her and Mr. B. as well as her other blogging friends including Kathleen from Planned Obsolescence. It was an interesting and nice evening and just as the conversation was getting even better, I had to return home, since wife and I had different schedules all day Saturday and we wanted to share a bit of the evening together. A public thank you to Dr. and Mr. B.

Much to my disadvantage, I had never read Planned Obsolescence prior to meeting Kathleen last night, and the first post that I read in memoriam literati was about a piece about Gore Vidal’s new book, “Point to Point Navigation, A Memoir,” which I purchased about a month ago specifically to blog about, but I didn’t. I encourage you to visit P.O. to read a rebuttal to Vidal’s essay "…My Backstory.”

My Gore Vidal story is that when I worked at a public relations agency, I had a client who was looking for financial backers for an online music site, prior to iTunes. He was staying at a high-end hotel in Santa Monica, maybe it was Shutters, I don’t honestly remember. The client and his friend were from Texas, I would not be exaggerating to say they were racist. One time I had to take them off the speakerphone and tell him he could not talk that way and we'd have to drop them as a client if it continued, but that is another story. We were meeting them for a game of golf and they asked if I knew who Gore Vidal was. I said yes, but didn’t offer anything more.

*He doesn’t believe in God, the client said in horror. The client continued, we didn’t know who he was and we were telling him about our site and thinking he might be a potential investor. We closed the bar and he suggested we go to our room to continue the discussion. The client felt like they were propositioned by the author and they immediately asked him to leave. Once I was finished laughing, I explained to them who the author was and that I had recently paid to hear him speak because I enjoyed reading his essays and hearing him talk. They couldn't believe anyone would pay to hear him speak. I can't believe they never heard of him.

*I don't use quote marks because this is not vebatim, just memory now.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Blazing Saddles in the Air

I love the smell of napalm in the morning
From the movie "Apocalypse Now "

I had visions of the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles where all the cowboys are sitting around the campfire eating beans and loud inharmonious farting ensued, when I saw the headline:


Apparently some passenger with the IQ of a hoe handle decided to light a match on the plane to cover her malodorous stench.

Meanwhile, 99 passengers had an unscheduled visit to Nashville early Monday morning.

American Flight 1053, from Washington Reagan National Airport and bound for Dallas/Fort Worth, made an emergency landing here after passengers reported smelling struck matches, said Lynne Lowrance, a spokeswoman for the Nashville International Airport Authority.

Finally after bomb-sniffing dogs and FBI passenger interviews the guilty one admitted to what she had done. Everyone reboarded except stinky, who now climbs there is a medical condition. I didn't realize stupidity had such a classification.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Have Another Drink, It Will Make You Feel Better

Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough.
Mark Twain (1835-1910), writer

Seventy-three years ago today Prohibition was lifted. The headline in the New York Times that day read:


1,000 Licensed Places to Keep Radios Tuned In for the Repeal Proclamation


Countless Parties to Drown 'Old Man Prohibition' as the Night Wears On.

Now red wine is a recommended drink. We’ve come a long way…

Closing Time*

There is no logical explanation for despair. You can no more reason yourself into cheerfulness than you can reason yourself an extra six inches in height. You can only be better prepared.
Stephen Fry, comic actor

It sucks to feel less than hopeful. I wonder if the wind we have around here for what seems like two months is finally making me batty or battier.

A little music by Tom Waits helps to sustain the mood:
Everything Goes to Hell
Make it Rain
Little Drop of Poison
Misery is the River of the World
God’s Away on Business
Step Right Up
Starving in the Belly of the Beast
What Keeps Mankind Alive
World Keeps Turning
Down There by the Train
Road to Peace
Walk Away
The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)
Rains on Me
I Don’t Want to Grow UP
Lie to Me
It’s Over

*name of Tom Waits CD

Friday, December 01, 2006

W’s Kiss of Death

It only takes a politician believing in what he says for the others to stop believing him.
Jean Baudrillard, French semiologist

At the news conference afterward, Mr. Bush stood at Iraq Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s side and showered him with praise, saying, “He’s the right guy for Iraq.”

Is this akin to doing one heck of a job? If so, Maliki’s end is near.