Monday, February 28, 2005

The Secret Life of Moody Cows

Once they were a byword for mindless docility. But cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become excited over intellectual challenges, scientists have found.

I just couldn't resist excerpting this article from Britain's Sunday Times.

Star Wars Fans That Try Too Hard... Or Not Hard Enough?

Here's a tip, Boba Fett: tomorrow when you wake up, look yourself in the mirror and repeat this phrase: "Today is the day I move out of my mother's house."

Check out more Star Wars fans, blissfully unaware that their photos would later be the cause of merciless teasing and perhaps some ass-kicking.

[With thanks to Byzantium's Shores.]

Notes on the Academy Awards

Movies are an inherently stupid art form that often relies on scams, tricks, stunts, gambits, ploys, ruses, or gags that are logically or physically impossible, and often both.
Joe Queenan, journalist and writer

In Las Vegas I would have most lightly would have lost since the contest would have been a parlay, which means you have to pick all the right categories. I was only five out of eight. Now we know why I don’t make a living gambling.

  • The tribute to Johnny Carson almost made me want to stand and applaud.
  • I loved Chris Rock’s opening monologue. I loved his intro of Tim Robbins, “When he is not making movies he bores us with his politics.”
  • Scarlett Johansen said that she enjoyed meeting the greatest minds behind the movies. I have no doubt she ever met a head she didn’t like.
  • I missed Chuck Workman for his collage of films, those who know me will understand for obvious reasons.
  • Why did Carlos Santana have to take off his sunglasses to hug Antonio Banderas?
  • The Oscars seemed very rushed to me, which also limited or neutralized Chris Rock’s humor.
  • While I did not believe Million Dollar Baby was all that great, I was glad to see Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman win.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

On The Mark -- Random Thoughts

  • Watch how fast we see policies and government oversight change now that it appears that sensitive financial data on over a thousand government employees, including some senators, was stolen by baggage handlers. When our brand-new sweaters and other items were being stolen in this new era of luggage transparency they didn't blink.
  • It was nice, for once, to see a newspaper following television news. A couple nights ago Nightline did a story on the tipping point in the Middle East. I watched it, and it was interesting, although I've never really bought into that philosophy and thought that book was highly overrated. Anyway, Tom Friedman (who was a guest on the program) took it another step in his column today in the New York Times.
  • S&M Marketing: What's up with some of these brand-name companies (e.g., Kraft) that name their products something like "road-kill candy." Are they really that stupid, or just pretending?
  • Wouldn't it be something to have something from the stone age come back and kill us during this time of advanced technology? Scientists claim they have discovered a bacterium from 32,000 years ago that had been frozen in ice in Alaska.
  • Wouldn't it be something if it turns out that Michael Jackson was being railroaded all along? A former paralegal who worked for the firm that is representing the key prosecution witness is said to have given a deposition this weekend stating that the mother of the witness lied and forced her son (the prosecution witness) to lie in another case against J.C. Penney, which included allegations of sexual abuse. Although he's whacky, I was one of the few (who isn't a die-hard fan) who said at the beginning that he may not be getting a fair shake.
  • If Martha Stewart walks out of prison and goes on to more riches and fame -- more power to her. She paid her dues and was publicly humiliated. I don't care about her, but she definitely got taken for a ride because of her celebrity. I'm sure there are tens of thousands of others who have done the same thing as her, and probably for a lot more money.
  • Further proof that rhetoric continues to win out over substance in the current White House administration. A 9-year-old whiz kid, who has been on several television programs to show off his knowledge of the history of the U.S. presidency, has been hired by the administration to go on a multi-city tour touting Bush's social security plan. I hope I don't have to explain why this is so utterly stupid. If I hear one adult say "that kid has a point, maybe Bush is right," then I'm going to just shoot myself and be done with it.

Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

Our awards are the best-kept secret in America, with the possible exception of what George W. Bush did in the '70s.
Billy Crystal, comedian

Hollywood – The following are my Oscar picks if I were betting in Las Vegas. Those in parentheses are who I think should win:
Best Picture – Million Dollar Baby (Sideways )
Best Director – Martin Scorsese (Alexander Payne)
Best Actor – Jamie Foxx (Don Cheadle)
Best Actress – Imelda Staunton
Best Supporting Actor – Morgan Freeman (Thomas Haden Church)
Best Supporting Actress – Cate Blanchett
Best Adapted Screenplay – Sideways
Best Original Screenplay – Vera Drake

Jazz – On The Mark and I went to The Vic, an intimate jazz club located in the heart of Santa Monica to see Tierney Sutton and we were very pleased. Sutton, I would say, is a jazz traditionalist in the style of a Carmen McRae or Sarah Vaughn. Sutton and her trio were simply outstanding. I was extremely tired (my alarm goes off at 4:30 every morning), but I love seeing late night jazz shows because that is how jazz should be enjoyed. I was very much energized afterward and not too tired the following Friday. If you like solid traditional, quality jazz, I highly recommend Tierney Sutton’s “Dancing in the Dark” CD.

Grocery Shopping – Have you ever noticed that people push their shopping carts similar to how they drive? They pull out of aisles without looking, peruse in the middle of the aisle blocking anyone else from passing. I found myself wanting to push my cart in front of the idiot just because I could and to let him know he was a jerk, but he’d probably miss the point.

Apples – Wife went to grocery store and picked up apples for me, which I usually do because I am rather fussy about my apples. I like the small Fuji apples; wife came home with Fuji apples the size of small baby heads. Unless you have the special jaw of a boa constrictor, how can one really eat such a large sized apple? I went out and picked out my favorites.

Downtown L.A. – For more than a month developers converting old office buildings to condominiums and lofts have been promoting a tour of their buildings. What a bust. The buildings were not finished. The best they could do was allow people to go up to one of the floors and see the view, as if the people going there didn’t already work downtown. I can tell you rather confidently that we will not be moving downtown anytime soon.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo.

[Click to enlarge]

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo. To my knowledge, this is the longest grammatically-correct one-word sentence in the English language (though, in the interest of full disclosure, I add that the sentence can theoretically be infinitely lengthened through the sequential addition of three buffalo at a time).

From whence comes this mouthful of buffalo? Its origins are murky, but many a hypothesis has been suggested:
1. Wasted liberal arts majors with time to kill.

2. The incoherent ramblings of a besotted politico, later explained by his press liaison in an effort to bring order to chaos.

3. A random string of eleven words from Webster's Unabridged -- the beauty of this random sequence being found in the truth that there is no way to distinguish between a truly random coincidence and planned subterfuge by the anti-mathematics organization known as Enemies of Mandelbrot.
But I digress.

The mouthful of buffalo, as it has been coined precisely ninety-nine words ago, is grammatically correct, if difficult to parse. Clicking on the thumbnail at top will launch a view of the entire sentence diagram including parts of speech and a loose translation -- but let me not force such hyperlinking on my fine readers; here is the translation:
New York bison New York bison fool fool New York bison New York bison fool.
Not clear yet? Perhaps another example of similar structure; imagine a group of mean dogs that are hated by men, and who then turn upon themselves:
Mean dogs men hate hate mean dogs men hate.
Very simple, right?

I have taken the liberty of creating a shop from which can be purchased many fine items featuring the unadorned and diagrammed sentences; please visit, won't you? It's called BuffaloBuffalo. Impress your language geek friends, make a good impression on your professor, or win over that liberal arts cutie upon whom you've had your eye lately.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Freedom of Expression in the Copyright Era

Check out this short Flash film by Adriana de Barros called Freedom of Expression in the Copyright Era; it addresses all of that borrowing / swiping / stealing we designers and artists are always talking about. (And it's sweet!)

[From The Designers' Lunchbox]

Super Friends vs Office Space

The ultimate mash-up: Super Friends vs Office Space! I don't need to say anything else, I'm sure. View it. Now.

Thanks, BeaucoupKevin!

Music Videos For Graphics Aficianados

This guy Ruben Fleischer makes great videos; check out his video for DJ Format's The Hit Song; you won't be disappointed. It's a mix of baroque line art, typographic layering, and humor.

Also check out the videos for Gold Chains' Nada and Electric Six's Dance Commander. Oh, just check them all out.

On The Mark -- Bush/Putin Summit II

It looks like Bush decided to take the bullying, daddy-figure route (the wrong one) with Putin. That press conference yesterday will not sit well with Putin, and he, like any other world leader, doesn't appreciate being called by his first name or as "fella" in front of the world's press (and probably not even in private).

Bush could have made his point more diplomatically and without arrogance that he achieved (in words anyway) what he wanted in his private meetings with Putin. Sure, we want Russia to continue on the path to democracy, but we shouldn't make public comments about it as if we're playing cop to make sure it happens. We're not talking about Iraq, Iran or Syria here.

As I predicted in my last post, Putin wanted to address world issues (such as terrorism) in a world forum. Bush had the opportunity to publicly get reassurance on the democracy issue from Putin, then give him the chance to be a world leader (addressing issues that a Blair or Chirac would discuss in this type of situation). He could have done a better job positioning Putin as our partner, rather than one of our "followers." Bush couldn't resist his Texas-style arrogance and bullying. It was subtle, but obvious. Putin undoubtedly faces some humiliation in his own circles.

Let us not forget that Putin was the top guy at the KGB. He will get his revenge, but it will be served cold.

As Russia became friend, it can become enemy again. Fast. Anyone who thinks this is hyperbole, and who believes that Russia is no longer a threat, should read some history books.

That includes our President.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

On The Mark -- Enough Is Enough

I've already started an "Hypocrisy Decade" running column, so it made sense to start another one: Enough Is Enough.

The first entry is from an article I read in today's Wall Street Journal. You think satellite radio is the hip thing? Forget about it. Today's article featured how SUVs will be equipped with satellite dishes so that one can watch television programming or movies. I'm all for new technology, and bless all those early adopters, but enough is enough. We're dumbing down our kids enough right now as it is. Heck, we're dumbing down everybody.

Let your kids sit in the back seat and gaze out the window and use their imaginations. Let them ignite their creative juices vs. having creativity constantly shoved in their faces so they don't have to think.

I still think about the days when my family took long car trips and I got completely lost in the back seat reading a book or a comic book. And I had two feisty sisters sitting next to me, so the excuse that a satellite (or DVD for that matter) is the only way to keep the rowdy kids under control is not legitimate. The three of us kids knew the consequences as a result of fighting in the car.

Plus, it's hard enough trying to figure out how to use the remote while sitting in an arm chair, let alone a moving vehicle. Then you have the fights because one kid wants to watch cartoons and the other wants to watch the Gilmore Girls, so you're really getting duped.

Awarding the Rings

No more tears now; I will think upon revenge.
Mary Stuart (1542–87), Queen of Scotland

I love baseball. It’s simultaneously nostalgic and current while the action takes place between the lines. Last year was a storybook finish for all the baseball fans who tire of the New York Yankees being the dominate team. As you recall, the Boston Red Sox came back from three games down to beat the hated Yankees.

However, if the Red Sox’s continue to bask in their glory, they may be sorry. The plan is to award the World Series rings in front of the all-star Yankees, since their home opener is against the Bronx Bombers. One of the rules of competition in all sports is not to say anything the opposition can hang on the locker to inspire them. This ceremony will only serve to motivate the Yankees throughout the year.

Here is my first prediction of the coming baseball season: look for the Yankees to have the best record in baseball this year, I’d say ever, but their pitching will have to hold up all season.

Thank You Nephew

I am against government by crony.
Harold L. Ickes (1874 - 1952), lawyer and government official

When a defense company stock soars another George W. Bush relative or friend prospers. This time it’s William H.T. "Bucky" Bush, uncle of the president and youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush, cashed in ESSI stock options last month with a net value of nearly half a million dollars.

"Uncle Bucky," as he is known to the president, is on the board of the company that supplies armor and other materials to U.S. troops. The company's stock prices have soared to record heights since before the invasion, benefiting in part from contracts to rapidly refit fleets of military vehicles with extra armor.

William Bush, 66, a onetime St. Louis bank executive and head of an investment firm, joined the board in 2000, eight months before his nephew won the White House.

Apparently, there is no end to the cronyism that this administration fosters.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

On The Mark -- Bush-Putin "Summit"

There have been many journalistic perspectives written and spoken regarding tomorrow's meeting between Presidents Bush and Putin. Here's a generalized perspective based on two recent trips I made to numerous cities in Russia that included conversations with a number of comrades, young and old.

Putin very much wants to be viewed as a leading world figure -- a man (and country) who has influence on important world issues. He wants to have the same voice as Bush on the world stage, but will settle for that of Chirac and Blair. While it appears that he is taking Russia back to its Soviet ways, it's really the opposite of what he envisions. The majority of the people of this vast country prefer Westernization (this is backed up by numerous polls) and want to "be a part of the world," which they feel is passing them by.

The irony is that these same people wish Putin would spend more time taking care of and worrying about his own people, rather than what's going on outside its borders. Many believe that Putin, once very popular, has turned his back on the people in favor of trying to have a stronger world posture.

The irony is that Putin's recent un-democratic actions are isolating him and Russia from the Western world. So he's losing a two-front battle. Most of the people I spoke to believe that he doesn't realize this is happening yet (although that may be starting to change with the public protests that have been occurring since my last visit). The people I spoke to were forceful in their opinion that in order to be a power on the world stage, they must be strong internally and fundamentally. However, many people are living on $150 a month, finding that their housing fuel and water are rationed, and many cities are rife with corruption. Putin has dug himself a hole, internally and externally.

In public, Putin and Bush will smile, shake hands and be friends. In private, Bush will tell Putin that Russia must change its ways if it wants to be accepted in the European world. In private, Putin will say enough to appease Bush, but he also will pull no punches and say, "You should talk" (Abu Ghraib, 2000 election, etc.).

From my perspective, Putin is in a very similar position that Khrushchev was in during the Cuban missile crisis. Kennedy recognized that Khrushchev needed the opportunity to save face with his own people so that it didn't look like Russia backed down. Kennedy gave it to him. I believe Putin is in the same position now. He needs the opportunity to look strong to his own people, while slowly gaining more of a voice on the world stage. If not, then Russia very well may feel like a cornered cat and, well, raise hell. We should know by now, through centuries of Russian history, that it's a country of great pride, and one that we don't want as an enemy under any cirumstances. It will never be conquered, and it always has the potential to create tremendous tension in the world.

That's what Bush should be offering tomorrow; done in such a way that Putin doesn't recognize it for what it really is. Let's see how smart Rove really is.

Wild Animal Update

It was just pointed out that the tiger roaming the hills of east Ventura County has been shot and killed. Thank you Sotosoroto for the update, which is listed and linked in the comments section of the post titled "Lions, Tigers and Ligers, Oh Brother!"

Sotosoroto said... The feds bagged a tiger! No mythical ligers on the loose after all...

Oh God!

God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos: He will set them above their betters.
H. L. Mencken (1880–1956), journalist

For Christ's sake, will these people ever give up? Now, according to the New York Times, Christian groups in India are demanding a ban on a Bollywood movie depicting a sexual relationship between a priest and a woman half his age. Forget that any number of Hollywood movies show the lopsided-age relationship, but this is a cloth of a different cut. The General Secretary of Catholic Secular Forum Joseph Dias said that Religion needs to be a personal affair and should not be a subject for entertainment or for commercial use.

I wonder how many times Mr. Dias watched “Passion of the Christ”? Let’s hope that they continue to protest and call attention to this movie called “Sins” and it becomes a huge hit.

Another problem with this movie, right off the bat, we see that there is a lack of verisimilitude in because the priest is interested in a woman and not a helpless innocent child that he could molest for years. I suspect the myriad Catholic groups will protest such a movie when it too eventually gets made.

Welcome to White Trash Wednesdays

My wife and I lived in Kentucky for two years. We were always very careful to explain to our friends and relatives in far-away places that it wasn’t really Kentucky; we were just over the river from Cincinnati, where I worked and she went to school, and really Northern Kentucky is like Cincinnati’s San Fernando Valley. So it’s not really Kentucky. Really.

Not that living in Kentucky was bad. It was cheaper than “the city,” and the commute was so easy as to be virtually non-existent. We had friendly neighbors, electricity, and plenty of chickens. See? Little jokes like that kept us sheltered from the reality of actually living in Kentucky.

What brings this up? I'm taking part in Hector Vex’s White Trash Wednesdays (see the links on the right side of this page for other participants), and I've decided to have my first WTW post be in memory of my time in KY. And so, without further adieu (for you Kentuckians, that’s “ado”), here’s we go:

I recall going to Wal-Mart one fine day in Northern Kentucky, with my best girl at my side. (Again, for you Kentuckians, I should point out that my best girl is not a blood relative.) The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the banjos were playing. “Why Wal-Mart?” you may ask. Wal-Mart, I respond, is the epitome of all things Kentucky. It is paying the least you can for the most pickled pigs’ feet you can stuff in a five-gallon jug. It is housecoats and overalls, alcohol and ammunition. It’s what America is all about, to the nth power. Which brings me to the first of my points (and, perhaps, my only point) in this rambling narrative: being white trash is just being too American. Here we go:
Americans like a good deal.
White trash like Wal-Mart closeout sales.

Americans like hot dogs.
White trash like Ballpark Franks, cuz they plump when you cook ‘em. Cuz they’re filled with lungs.

Americans like being casual.
White trash attire is based on three easy pieces: the halter top, the wifebeater, and sandals.

Americans like the Bill of Rights.
White trash focus mostly on the second amendment.

Americans like doing things for themselves.
White trash like moonshine instead of that fancy, overpriced Thunderbird wine.

Americans like freedom and mobility, but they also cherish their stability.
White trash live in trailers permanently anchored to the ground.

Americans love their cousins.
White trash love their cousins.

Americans like democracy.
White trash like mobs.
Thank you so much; I’ll be here all week.

P.S. White Trash Jews will like this Shalom Y'all trucker hat.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Israel Releases Prisoners, Immediately Regrets It

Palestinian Man Celebrates His Brother's Release from Israeli Jail by Shooting Bystanders

According to a preliminary investigation conducted by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the incident occurred when Eyad Tawfiq, 30, arrived at his house in the village after he had been released from jail.

His brother-in-law, 28-year-old Haibat Taha, welcomed him by firing into the air from his M16 rifle. When he put the rifle back on his shoulder, a number of live bullets hit four men standing nearby.

[Thanks, Jawa Report, for pointing us toward this article!]

Lion, Tigers and Ligers, Oh Brother!

The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won't get much sleep.
Woody Allen, writer, director, actor

I have tried to ignore this story, because I really didn’t think it was much of a story. Simi Valley (an area that I call home, similar to George Bailey in Bedford Falls, meaning I will never get the hell out of here, despite my best efforts) is surrounded by hills, lots of them, hence the Valley half of the name, so to hear that a large, carnivorous, feline mammal such as a mountain lion is roaming around comes as no big surprise.

When I lived in an apartment in the hills of Topanga (not the famed canyon area, the northern hills), the wife and I walked around the mansions hidden in the hills and there were signs aplenty warning people to be cautious of mountain lions when walking around at sunset. One day, on our way out for a walk, this older woman stops us and asks if I know anything about guns. She had a loaded Colt 45 with the hammer pulled back and asked if I could release it without firing the gun, it seems there was a rattle snake slithering about that she was going to blow away, if not a neighbor or herself first.

So wild life in Simi is nothing new or newsworthy. But, I just heard on NPR that this mountain lion may now be a lion or a “liger,” you guessed it, a cross between the two. Wildlife officials are guessing that the cat weights between 400 to 600 pounds based on a hubcap-size paw print.

The rains have helped the large cat cover its tracks for the past week or two, but now there is a Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid style posse going after it, so it’s probably just a matter of time, before some potbellied ranger all excited about a big game hunt using the latest high-technology gadgets captures or kills this animal and brags about it.

You can probably guess that I am rooting for the lion or liger to elude authorities and go on a rampage feasting on every available barking dog. I'll keep you posted on the hunt.

On The Mark -- Hypocrisy Decade - You Have to Love this Guy

You have to love this guy...(As reported on CNN)

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table," Bush said.

A very successful businessman told me recently that the reason he likes Bush so much is because he acts like a CEO. He'll probably like him even more after reading this quote. How many of you have walked out of a manager's office after hearing the same message (in a different context)? Most likely you felt that the "ridiculous" option wasn't so ridiculous.

I once had a manager tell me (long ago) that the (ridiculous) option wasn't viable "unless, of course, you step on your dick."

Meanwhile, at the Joker's hideout...

Noted without comment, but with much guffawing.

[Thanks, Accordion Guy!]

My wife asked me to point out that this is an original, unaltered panel, from the days when "boner" meant something other than it commonly does now. (She also asked me why I have so many penis-related jokes here.)

Scott Saavedra has a link to even more panels from the boner issue -- click here to see them all!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Who Wants to Marry a Two-Year-Old?

A tribal council in Pakistan has ordered the betrothal of a two-year-old girl to a man forty years older to punish her uncle for an alleged affair with the man's wife, police said Monday.

Sure, she doesn't have to marry the guy until she's eighteen. But treating women like property is just plain wrong, and to do so in settlement of a lawsuit that has nothing to do with the girl in question is an atrocious miscarriage of true justice.

It pains me to ponder the fact that the United States considers Pakistan an ally in the quest to bring freedom to the world.


Farewell, Hunter S. Thompson

My prejudice is pretty general, far too broad and sweeping for any racial limitations. It’s clear to me – and has been since the age of 10 or so – that most people are bastards, thieves and yes – even pigfuckers.
Hunter S. Thompson (1937 – 2005), journalist

My introduction to Hunter S. Thompson came via a gift package from a cousin’s girlfriend who worked for Rolling Stone magazine. In my package, I received two albums: “Leon Russell and The Shelter People,” “Cat Steven’s Tea for the Tillerman” albums and the current issue of Rolling Stone, which happened to feature the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas article.

My enthusiasm for Thompson ebbed and flowed over the years, but whenever I would re-read something of his it immediately renewed my appreciation for his work and style. Once I heard the news of his suicide, I pulled out my copy of “The Gonzo Letters, Volume II” to look for some excerpts that highlight his pioneering style and his low tolerance for bullshit.

I thought I had an original idea that bloggers all owe a debt of gratitude to Thompson for his personal prose, but B2 informs me that many other bloggers have mentioned that – it’s so hard to be original.

Was Thompson was ahead of the curve railing against the establishment, I don’t think he was. No, unfortunately, it goes back to the sad fact that mankind has been slow to evolve. Power is a drug stronger than anything Thompson ingested and those in such positions whether in government or through finance or behind the pulpit are very predictable in that they always want more, which makes Thompson’s work timeless.

The following is an excerpt from the forward by David Halberstam from “The Gonzo Letters, Volume II”:

For America these days print journalism is in sharp decline, significantly more anemic than it was thirty-five years ago, and television journalism, more often than not, is a mockery of itself. We live in a communications society where image is more important than truth and spinning is our great new growth industry; even television reporters now have their own personal public relations people, the better, if not to spin their viewers and the ever admiring celebrity magazine, then at least to spin themselves on the value of what they do. Therefore in a culture like ours Hunter’s truths seem like laser beams cutting through the fog of lies and obfuscations, an industrialized manmade fog that is now as easily manufactured, brought, and paid for in the wealth of contemporary America. Hunter is fog immune. Or at least manmade fog immune.

Hunter S. Thompson will be missed most by those who do not have the propinquity to power or financial riches.

So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here—not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.

[Contributed by The Misanthrope]

Why My In-Laws Should Not Be Allowed Near A Pharmacy

Time for another installment of "Blogging About the In-Laws." Brought to you by the pharmaceutical companies of America, who remind you to check with your doctor before starting any new prescription; certain combinations of medications are contraindicated and may cause unintended side effects.

Yes, this is my in-laws' medicine cabinet. And, to be fair, it isn't all prescription medication -- some of the bottles contain herbal supplements, which are really just as effective as prescription medicine, but the government doesn't want you to know about them (so my mother-in-law tells me). Again, for those of you who missed the last installments -- there are only two people living in this house, taking all of this medication. And here's the really amusing part: the photo above is not the entirety of their collection. They have pills throughout the house:

I dread to think what will happen if my mother-in-law goes through with her plan for procuring cheaper meds -- going down to Mexico, where you can get all of this great stuff over-the-counter, at discount prices! Hypochondriacs rejoice!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

On The Mark -- Random Thoughts

  • Newspaper photographs showed Bill Clinton and Bush 41 visiting tsunami victims. Predictably, Clinton was wearing a blue shirt and Bush a red shirt. Wouldn't it have been nice to see them switch colors for this event? All of the victims were wearing red hats, which told me that Rove's PR team was hard at work.
  • I try to be open-minded about all things, including religion. But I just don't get this Islamic atonement tradition of slicing and beating your body with knives. And how come it's only men who do it?
  • I found it disturbing that a former president, Jimmy Carter, who has worked so hard for peace in the world, had the latest and most sophisticated U.S. attack submarine named after him. He had a big smile on his face at the ceremony. I guess ego overpowers everything.
  • There are some op-ed writers (including a former senior adviser to Pres. Clinton) who are already saying that Secretary Rice could win the Nobel Peace Prize and could go down as the best Secretary of State ever. After less than a month. Also that Europe is again beginning to see America as the persuader, not the enforcer. Rhetoric over substance yet again. Let's see Israel and the Palestinians at peace for 4 years. Let's see the troops come home from Iraq and the people there vote without guns protecting them. Let's see Iran and Syria give up terrorism and nuclear ambitions. Let's see North Korea give up its nuclear weapons and Stalinist ways. Let's see...I mean, come on already. Enough is enough. A big smile and carefully crafted words are just that, a big smile and carefully crafted words. Nothing more. Like the little kid who finally got his way, until the next time...
  • How ironic would it be to see Chalabi become the Prime Minister of Iraq. Talk about revenge best served cold...

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of.
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.
Ray Davies, Kinks lead singer, from the song "Celluloid Heroes "

The Movies. We watched "Ray" last night and it was even better than I expected. However, On The Mark mentioned during lunch that it would be interesting if Jamie Foxx didn’t win and see how Chris Rock reacted.

I have now seen all the contenders and that has not happened in a number of years; primarily because I have become so disgusted with the price of movies, the rudeness of the people in the theater and the ads before the show. However, while on vacation the week after Thanksgiving, I discovered the ArcLight Cinemas and loved it despite its hefty $11 matinee ticket prices, but there are no ads and I liked the reserved seating.

So in honor of my seeing all the nominees for Best Picture this year (and I can’t think of anything else to write about) here is my Oscar pick for Best Picture. The winner is:

Ray. Outstanding story. Good acting. I felt as though I was watching the real Ray Charles’ life. My pick for Best Picture and Best Actor.

The Aviator. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and I especially like the Senator hearings segments. I was not crazy about the Kate Hepburn stuff.

Finding Neverland. Daughter and I loved this movie. It was just a wonderfully entertaining movie.

Million Dollar Baby. I had no interest in seeing this movie, but wife wanted to. I like Morgan Freeman, but this is not an Oscar worthy movie for him or for Eastwood. Hilary Swank was very good. I have mixed to negative feelings about this movie and not for any moral reasons. This movie does not make my top 10 list.

Sideways. Excellent story. I think anyone who has ever dated has run into these people or heard stories about them. I really like Thomas Haden Church for Best Supporting Actor.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Can You Say That With A Straight Face?

Diplomacy is a game of chess in which the [people]* are checkmated.
Karl Kraus (1874 - 1936), writer

This just stopped me dead in my reading tracks. I was reading the Los Angeles Times this morning about President Bush’s plans to refresh his bond with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bush told a Slovak journalist that "...I want to him to be able to have a chance to say he’s a done it for this reason…so I can explain to him as best I can, in a friendly way, of course, that Western values are … based upon transparency and rule of law, the right for the people to express themselves, checks and balances in government.”

What! Transparency. Hmmm. I wonder who did Vice President Dick Cheney meet with regarding his energy commission?

Say What! The right for the people to express themselves. How many were arrested at Bush rallies for simply wearing a t-shirt that the Bush people did not like? What happened to that mother who spoke out against the war after her son died at Laura Bush’s speech?

Come Again! Checks and balances in government. The Republican Senate is preparing to use the nuclear option to stop the Democrats from using the filibuster to stop religious, right-wing judges from being appointed.

I only hope Putin reminds him of these items. Additionally, I have no doubt the invasion of Iraq will come up, how we went in for one reason and then came up with five other excuses when the intelligence proved wrong.

*the original quote said nations instead of people

McSweeney's Is My New Best Friend

Why do I love McSweeney's? Why have I moved it to the "must-read" section of our links, promoted from its spot on our BlogRoll? Here are five reasons:
1. Rejected York Peppermint Pattie Commerical Blurbs
"When I bite into a York Peppermint Pattie, I feel the sensation of the Lord's righteous anger as He reveals His plan to use me as His holy instrument of judgment! It's all right there between the lines of the ingredients list!"

2. Ways in Which She Could Have Blinded Me With Science
"She removed all traces of vitamin A from my diet."

3. Reading-Too-Much-Into-Things Comprehension
Paragraph A: Her leg brushed up against yours.

1. Did she do that on purpose?
a) Yes.
b) No.
c) Maybe.
d) Don't know.
4. Four Ways in Which My Life is Like Pac-Man's
I won't spoil it for you; hit the link and laugh out loud.

5. Names of Cheeses Inspired By Star Wars Characters
Boba Feta
Take a look, won't you? McSweeney's rocks!

Friday, February 18, 2005

On The Mark -- Hypocrisy Decade -- Extraordinary Rendition

A few days ago I wrote about how this decade will come to be known as the Hypocrisy Decade. From time to time, I will cite various new examples that support this prediction.

Extraordinary Rendition. There's a nice legal term for you. Legal in that it allows our government to do illegal things. Like send a terrorism suspect to Syria to be tortured properly -- you know, toe nails pulled, electric shocks to the groin. Not this Abu Ghraib kind of stuff.

Isn't a bit hypocritical for our government to chastise the Syrian government and call it a state sponsor of terrorism, yet at the same time, ship off terrorism suspects to that country so they can use torture techniques that are illegal here?

Yeah, let's rid the world of regimes that sponsor state terrorism. But let's not let them do our dirty work while they're still around.

It's not dead; it's pining for Mt. Hermon.

An indignant Israeli is suing a pet shop that he says sold him a dying parrot, reports the Ma'ariv newspaper.

Itzik Simowitz of Be'ersheva contends the shop cheated him because the cockatoo not only failed to utter a word when he got it home, but was also extremely ill. Simowitz adds that the shop owner assured him the parrot was not ill but merely needed time to adjust to its new environment.

[Thanks again, BoingBoing!]

I Believe, I Believe!

There is no arguing with the pretenders to a divine knowledge and to a divine mission. They are possessed with the sin of pride, they have yielded to the perennial temptation.
Walter Lippmann (1889–1974), journalist

I believe it is time for religious leaders who are involved in politics to pay taxes just as any non-religious person is suppose to do. In order to receive their tax deduction, they cannot advocate a political position from the pulpit.

Evangelist Pat Robertson continues to vent politically without paying his share of taxes. The other day he basically threatened Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to get Bush’s judges confirmed or the religious-right support would not be there.

According to the report, Robertson said to the evangelicals, the number one consideration is unelected judges who are largely responsible for laws on abortion, gay marriage and Internet pornography.

Of course Robertson let his threats fly while at the National Press Club, but let’s face facts, this man of God appears to be a charlatan. He is entitled to his free speech, but I believe he has crossed the line from non-profit to profitable speech.

My wife bought eleven bottles of seltzer this week.

My wife is not, I should say, a carbonation junkie on a bender. Nor is she a freak about coupons, buying only what is on sale and thereby creating a maelstrom of random food purchases that result in weeks on end where the only meal is beef jerky and Spaghetti-Os served on commemorative dog breed china. She doesn't own stock in the seltzer-producing company, and neither does she need the bottles for an arts-and-crafts project with the kids.

She doesn't even drink seltzer.

My wife knows, however, that I like seltzer. She knows that I add it to any and all juices (and she knows about my pathological fear of orange juice). She knows that sometimes I get a late-night craving for an egg cream. And she knows that our local grocery store often runs out of seltzer, and that I am therefore often forced to subsist on non-spritzy beverages for weeks at a time.

So her special trip to the further-away grocery store to purchase eleven bottles of seltzer was, I believe, and act of pure love.

I hope she knows how much I appreciate such efforts on her part to make me happy -- and this is really the least of such efforts. And I hope she knows I try to do the same for her.

And I hope she understands that I have only just now thought to thank her properly and tell her I love her. And I hope she doesn't hold it against me that I am doing so on my blog.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

On The Mark -- Bush Administration's PR Rope a Dope Strategy

As much as I want to do otherwise, it's so difficult to believe anything that comes out of the White House today. The latest fiasco in a long line of falsehoods and propaganda is the pseudo-reporter the White House planted during its briefings. This "reporter's" sole job was to ask softball questions during press conferences and plant stories that can now be seen as nothing other than propaganda. Combine that with Karl Rove's genius in strategic communications, and it's a scary situation.

So, on the face of it, when one sees this headline in a newspaper, "5 Units of Military Reserve Miss Recruiting Goals," accompanied by a photo of the military's top officer and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one would probably think, "that makes sense," and flip the page without another thought.

But, if you're really paying attention, one can't do that anymore. Are they really missing their targets? Or is the administration setting the stage for a future request? Will we see these same two gentlemen in a year's time stating that we need a draft because recruitment is failing?

You see, Rove looks at the big picture, and he's the master of PR Rope a Dope. Take some punches now in order to fool your opponent and then come out swinging while your opponent quickly slides into a daze. It's better to get a thought in everyone's head now so they don't have to waste valuable time convincing everyone when they want to quickly reinstate the draft.

I know this probably sounds like leftwing conspiracy theories. But it's not. I'm in the middle. Throughout all elections I've voted for the person I thought was right for the job -- Blue, Red or Green. I've read Irving Kristol and others as much as I've read liberal authors.

But I know how PR campaigns work. I've been there when hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to establish a medical need or awareness in the months leading up to the introduction of a new drug. It's no different than what the Bush Administration does day in and day out.

And like the pharmaceutical industry, the Bush Administration remedies have side effects.

Bugs Bunny, R.I.P.

And so I bid a fond farewell to my favorite Warner Brothers cartoon characters, as they are "reimagined" for a new WB show. For if the new Bugs (now named "Buzz," and shown above next to his downsized precursor) is any indicator, I will not be amused nor entertained.

The new show, "Loonatics," is set 700 years in the future. Bugs, Daffy, et al are given superpowers and tight-fitting, slenderizing space gear. The New York Post was clearly as upset as I: "Apparently, falling anvils and exploding cigars are no longer enough to keep kids 6 to 11 years old entertained."

We are glad Chuck Jones is not alive to see this.


Batman Gets Pissed Off

National Lampoon (yes, it still exists; yes, it's still mostly not funny) has a few gems this week, including "Superman is a dick." But just as good is an excerpt from an unpublished Batman story, which I will excerpt further here. The Batman has just heard from Commissioner Gordon that the Joker has escaped again:
BATMAN: [lighting up a cigarette] "How did it happen this time? Fake moustache? Did he tell you he had to step out for smokes or something?"

GORDON: "Actually, he disguised himself in janitor’s clothes... well, just walked out the front door, to be honest."

BATMAN: [taking long haul on cigarette] "Here’s an idea. No, I’ve got an idea, for real here, listen up. How about you don’t let any janitorial staff leave the building..." [he pauses to see if he still has the Commissioner’s full attention] "...who have BRIGHT GREEN FUCKING HAIR AND CHALK WHITE SKIN!"
Check it out here.

How History Will Remember President Bush

A country losing touch with its own history is like an old man losing his glasses, a distressing sight, at once vulnerable, unsure, and easily disoriented.
George Walden, British Conservative politician

If you want to know history will treat Bush, I suspect all we have to do is read this passage from the book "Grant and Twain" by Mark Perry. Thanks to B2 who pointed this out to me.

I have no doubt when or if Colin Powell or Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and the myriad other generals publish their notes they too will admit to the lies and shames perpetrated to get us into Iraq. Unless, of course, you are Marine Corps Lt Gen James Mattis, who said, “Actually, it's quite a lot of fun to fight; you know, it's a hell of a hoot. I like brawling; it's fun to shoot some people."

The following is from the book "Grant and Twain":
He [Grant] wrote bluntly and plainly about the fighting his role in the fighting, and his own political misgivings on America’s policy toward Mexico. He called the conflict a political war carried out by a particular political party for its own profit. He stated, again plainly and bluntly, that the United States sent its troops to the border of Mexico to provoke a fight, and while he made it clear that he opposed the war, it was also clear why he would never have made this opposition public.

"Experience provides that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong occupies no enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate war, pestilence, and famine, than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun.” Grant’s writing is emotional but reasoned, and he relies on principle and common sense. But there is no doubt, and Grant left no doubt, of where he stood.

In private, his views on the war with Mexico were more outspoken and more controversial. As he once told a friend: “I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not moral courage enough to resign: I had taken an oath to serve eight years, unless sooner discharged, and I considered my supreme duty was to my flag. I had a horror of the Mexican War, and I always believed it was on our part most unjust.

Every time history repeats itself the price goes up.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Axis of Evil

I don't want to jump on the war bandwagon -- not yet, anyway -- but Yahoo is reporting that Syria and Iran have announced intentions to "build a common front." And though I lean left (as you all know), I have always acknowledged that these two countries are bad news. This was important enough to me that I am leaching time away from my lunch hour to post this.


On The Mark -- Lesser of Two Evils

If you've been following the international press for the past year or so, you probably noticed that the Neo-Nazi movement is getting stronger every month in many places in the world. We mostly see its ugly head as a response to immigration issues. There have been constant reports of skinhead beatings and killings of "dark-skinned immigrants" (mostly Muslim) from Russia to Holland. We all know about the terrorist acts of the Al Qaeda-type, from the killing of filmmaker Van Gogh in The Netherlands to the forced closure of a play in Birmingham, England.

In Belgium's Dutch-speaking region of Flanders we're seeing a microcosm of what is happening in the world. The Muslim and Neo-Nazi factions are becoming bigger, more vocal and violent. Caught in the middle is the Jewish community in this region. I don't have to tell you where they stand in the eyes of the Muslims and Neo-Nazis. During recent elections where Neo-Nazis and Muslims dominated the ballot, the Jews were forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. For the most part they chose the Neo-Nazis.

As reported in the New York Times:

Fear of Islam's transforming presence is so strong that even many members of Antwerp's sizable Jewish community now support Mr. Dewinter's party, even though its founders included men who sympathized and collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. Many of those supporters are Jews who feel threatened by a new wave of anti-Semitism emanating from Europe's growing Muslim communities. The friction is acutely felt in central Antwerp, where the Jewish quarter abuts the newer Muslim neighborhood of Borgerhout.

Why My In-laws Should Not Have a Toilet

This photo is real and undoctored, taken in my in-laws' house. And my in-laws are two adults, and they live by themselves.

Is this marker-written notice really necessary? Apparently, yes. Because this is how I found the toilet -- seat up and "instructions" exposed for all to see.

There is an explanation (and I know you're all dying to read it). Apparently the in-laws' new puppy has taken to drinking from the toilet in my father-in-law's bathroom (my mother-in-law is very protective of her bathroom, and so my father-in-law walks out of their bedroom, down the hallway, and into his own tiny bathroom instead of using the one in their suite).

At first my mother-in-law was campaigning for my father-in-law to close his bathroom door to prevent such unauthorized drinking -- this was, you'll have to pardon the term, a wash-out. So her new tack is the note you see scrawled across the toilet seat. And, as mentioned above, it's not working. Of course, when you are so far gone as to be unable to handle the technology of a toilet seat without additional written instructions, is it any surprise that those instructions would go unheeded?

What Our President Does for the Poor and to Promote Safety

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
John Kennedy, U.S. President

From Time magazine. It is really worth it to check it out just to see how the Bush administration is trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Here are two examples:

Boldest Clinton Rollback
Community policing was one of the central tenets of Clintonism. Even in the face of heated opposition from local law enforcement, Bush aims to cut $635 million out of the Justice Department program, handing more money to the FBI and Homeland Security to pay for such things as modernized equipment for the Coast Guard and additional intelligence analysts and border patrols.

Sneakiest Tax Hike (we wrote about this a couple of weeks ago)
To make consumers pay for a bigger share of airline security, Bush wants to raise taxes from $2.50 to $5.50 on one-way flights. But in the tortured jargon of budgets, this hike will be labeled a "fee." Whatever you call it, you can be sure that the ailing airline industry will fight hard to keep this from getting off the ground.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Superman is a dick.

So say the folks over at National Lampoon; check it out and decide for yourself, with the help of a gallery of covers showing Supes at his worst.

[Thanks, Trusty Sidekicks!]

On The Mark -- Beyond Peace

I don’t have to file a freedom-of-information act to know what Karl Rove’s public relations plan is for 2005.


Convince the American public that President Bush is smart


Periodically reveal the current book on the President’s nightstand. Occasionally have the President provide his insights on his current readings. Start with Tom Wolfe’s “I Am Charlotte Simmons” and Natan Sharansky’s “The Case for Democracy.”


The following dinner table scenario is the desired end result:

Brother: Bush is a dimwit. He’s not very smart.
Sister: He’s smart. He reads books.

I wonder how close this is to reality. I’m betting it’s not too far off. But the book Bush should really be reading is “Beyond Peace” by Richard Nixon. I’m not a Nixon fan, but I was impressed with his accomplishments in foreign relations so I bought and read this book 11 years ago when it was first published. I browsed through it again this weekend.

I recommend that Bush read a fellow Republican’s writings (besides Wolfe) because they apply today. I cite for example Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972. At the time, for the past two decades, we had been indirectly fighting China in Korea and Vietnam. There also was tremendous concern about China’s nuclear ambitions. It would have been easy for Nixon to take a stand-off position similar to the approach the Bush administration is currently taking with North Korea and Iran. But Nixon knew that, if successful, not only could he reduce tensions with China, he also would accomplish a significant, non-military battle in the Cold War with Russia, then a bitter enemy with China, its neighbor. Certainly, the Kremlin could not have been happy to know that two of its biggest enemies were sipping tea together in Beijing.

Since Bush is now a man of words, perhaps he should use some instead of bombs.

Consumers be Damned – A Misanthropic Rant

I've come to the belief that banks are not in the business of banking. They're in the business of collecting fees.
Patrick C. Kelly, sales executive

From the Washington Post: Republican leaders in Congress began clearing the way yesterday for swift passage of legislation backed by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups that would make it harder for consumers to wipe out debt through bankruptcy.

What I despise about this administration and narrow-minded politicians is that they truly don’t give a second thought about their follow human being unless they are bent over in a prone position – meaning that there is someway to pick the consumers’ pockets.

The bankruptcy bill that is before Congress is absolutely bad news for consumers. However, it is good news and more profits for the banks. Credit card companies now have the right to raise their rates to a mafia-style vig if someone is late on their payment, not just to the credit card company, but to even to a utility service. They can raise the rate up to 21 percent or higher without notice. This is after they have done all they can to get you to sign up.

The money-people have found a friend in the White House. Congress has tried repeatedly in recent years to pass similar legislation in what would be the most significant change in bankruptcy law in more than a quarter of a century. Twice in the last seven years, bankruptcy bills have passed both the House and Senate, only to face ultimate defeat. In one case, President Bill Clinton refused to sign the legislation, saying it was unfair to consumers.

I am not ranting about this for me. I have an 800 credit score despite some rather steep financial hardships I have overcome. I have sympathy for people who are down on their luck. This economy is not one that provides a lot of confidence in job security. If you do lose your job, don’t expect to make the same wages when another opportunity comes around – it will most likely be less, if you can find a job.

If the Senate allows this bill to pass, they should also start to rein in the credit card companies and the banks to make far more restrictive laws to curb the predatory marketing habits of these financial behemoths. They are getting their proverbial cake and eating it too – suckering people into debt and then making them pay an outlandishly high interest rate that ensures the principal will never be paid off.

Every month I receive a sleeve of blank checks from the credit card company despite my phone calls asking them not to send it. I am afraid someone might steal my mail or that the mail carrier will deliver it to the wrong address, which is how I meet most of my neighbors as we deliver each other’s mail.

Kind and decent, hard-working people may find themselves pulled under by credit card debt. No problem, the bank will give them a home equity line of credit. What happens when they can’t pay this euphemistically named second mortgage? I will tell you, the house will be sold out from under them. But who cares, right? They did it to themselves. Wrong! This should not be a a war of all against all, powered by individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power to just live a simple life, but the Republicans who want no government protections will simply let the people lose their homes. It is a shame and a crime.

According the Washington Post, consumer advocates say it would allow some rich debtors to continue to hide wealth through homeownership while bankruptcy relief would be denied to many people with low or moderate incomes who have fallen on hard times because of illness, job loss or divorce. They say credit card companies must share the blame for increased bankruptcies because they aggressively market products and inadequately disclose how interest rates and penalty fees mount up. For example, eliminating a $1,000 credit card balance paid off at a rate of 2 percent a month and carrying an interest rate of 17 percent would take 88 months, or more than seven years.

"Our overall concern is that this isn't a balanced bill," said Travis Plunkett, spokesman for the Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit consumer research and advocacy group. "There isn't a single curb on abusive lending practices by credit card companies in these bills."

He said he finds the industry's claim it needs bankruptcy reform puzzling because credit card issuers "continue to offer credit to Americans in record amounts" and have reported, as a group, one of their most profitable years in more than a decade.

I contend that this and other bills that favor corporations pass because people have no sense of history and forget how greedy corporations had to be reined in by government controls (and still need to) in order to protect consumers from monopolistic and predatory practices.

Why My In-Laws Should Not Have a Computer – Part 1

My wife told me about a conversation she had with her mother the other day; I’m pleased to share it with you, written in the conceit of direct quotes (though, of course, I’m merely paraphrasing what I barely remember).
Mother-in-Law: [Telephoning my wife] Hi, it’s me.

Wife: Hi, Mom. What’s up?

Mother-in-Law: I need your advice. I’m checking my email...

Wife: [Trying not to groan] Uh-huh.

Mother-in-Law: ...and I keep getting all these emails about deals on prescription drugs. Every day, and I get so many!

Wife: Yeah, I know.

Mother-in-Law: So how do I know which one to pick?

Wife: [Incredulously] Um, mom, you know that’s spam, right? Like the emails you get telling you how to get a larger [expletive deleted] and a cheaper mortgage?

Mother-in-Law: [After a pause] I can get a cheaper mortgage?

Monday, February 14, 2005

More Fun with Google

More search strings by virtue of which we at Toner Mishap have attracted additional readers:
Dan Rather mishap
Chewbacca mp3
Emanuel Godwin
brian dilkes blog
The Misanthrope
tabasco bikini
roly poly fish head
jibjab second term
neil kleid
tabasco super bowl
songs from Star Wars
paul femforce
hostess twinkies
hammering hank
i am chewbacca
batman origin jay pinkerton
nuclear threat exaggerated
canadian car brill
Zach Braff interview
the hamas representative
And, perhaps the longest search string yet used to find us: "boogeyman when you see him count to five pray that you will stay alive." I don't know what to make of that.

On The Mark -- Travel on Valentine's Day

If I can follow in The Misanthrope's footsteps for a day:

I suppose that I could love you
Though my mind tells me no way
It says screw it
You've been through it
It' s not worth the price you pay

(Loudan Wainwright III)

I'm not broke but you can see the cracks
You can make me perfect again

( U2: "All Because of You [I Am])

After many years of buying roses and jewelry and cards, last year I finally found a good reason for why we should celebrate Valentine's Day -- traveling. I had to travel from a conference in Indianapolis, connecting through Chicago in the evening. The airports were empty. The plane was nearly empty. The traffic back to my home once I arrived was free and easy.

Love was in the air, and it was heaven.

Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

Love: A grave mental disease.
Plato, philosopher, 330? BC

I read where Hallmark says, 60 percent of customers buy their Valentine cards several days in advance. I can tell you that the other 40 percent where in my local Hallmark store. The line snaked throughout the little store.

Something completely out of character for me, I walked over to the Sees candy store to get a small box of chocolates. I didn’t even open the store door. It looked like an old college game of seeing how many people could fit into a telephone booth.

I told the wife readership numbers have been low this weekend. “Of course,” she responded, “everyone is out kissing butt.” She might be right both figuratively and literally.

Here are some apropos quotes on LOVE on this day when people are kissing butt:

Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.
H.L. Mencken, journalist

Love: A mutual misunderstanding
Oscar Wilde, playwright

Love: A narcissism shared by two
Rita Mae Brown, author and social activist

Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties
Jules Renard, writer

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Because you can't go around telling people how large your penis is.

This just in -- for all you guys who want to draw attention to the enormity of your package but are concerned that saying things like "my junk is huge" sounds a little obnoxious -- now you can let your truck do the talking.

The Bad Boy Heavy Muscle Truck can drive through 10 feet of water and climb a 60-degree grade, and with one look the biker chicks will know you've got a full load in your pants. The good kind, that is. The Bad Boy also features infrared cameras that peer through darkness, and just screams, "The guys who drives me has both length and girth. And his dick can see in the dark."

Daniel Ayres, president and CEO of Homeland Defense Vehicles LLC and its Bad Boy Trucks division, probably wanted to say (but didn't), "This truck is perfect for guys like me, who have enormous love organs but don't know how to tell the chicks at the local truck stop without sounding like they're bragging. Becuase it's just plain massive, you know? The truck, I mean. And my little friend. And by little, I mean big." (Again -- he didn't say it, but we're sure he wanted to.)

What's the market for a penis-substitute such as this? Civilians with disposable cash and a hankering for more protection from the outside world. And a need to subtly tell that same world about the Louisville Slugger in their pants.

The base price of $225,000, which gets you six tons of towing strength and the ability to keep rolling even with a quarter-sized hole in the tire's sidewall. Much like your wang, we're sure. For $750,000, buyers can get the fully loaded version that can, Ayres said, detect and block out fallout from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons by over-pressurizing the cab with filtered, clean air. Keeping your unit safe for the ladies.


The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.
Arthur Miller (1915 - 2005), playwright

Notes on Arthur Miller. I read the entire news obituary/biography of Arthur Miller and a couple of items struck me. His line a few weeks after the opening of his play “Death of a Salesman,” when he said, “I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were.” The other line was from a critic from the Saturday Review, when he described the character of Willy Loman as “a little man sentenced to discover his smallness rather than a big man undone by his greatness.”

The lines make me think that so many Republicans who seem heartless and condemn those who have fallen upon hard times as people who are too lazy or simply trying to milk the system without working, may one day find out just how small and vulnerable they are.

More on Miller. As writers, I suspect we are interesting in how the greats accomplish their work. Miller would get up every morning and write. During the writing of "Death of a Salesman," he worked all day and night. When he went to sleep he found himself crying for Willie Loman. When I heard Pam Houston speak last week, she said that her writing style was to write while the idea was strong, but she did not write everyday on a schedule. She said that it might be a few weeks between writing, and one time it was a three month stretch that she did not write and that scared her.

Traffic. I saw a California Highway Patrol (CHP) use his loud speaker to tell a driver to move into the far right lane if they wanted to drive slowly. I would like to see a CHP simply tell a speeder to slow down. Driving slower than the speed limit and impeding the flow of traffic is just as dangerous as speeding, so the jerk should have received a ticket just as any speeder would have.

Daughter. Daughter is in Ireland. I have not heard from her since Thursday, briefly.

Stage plays are sinfull, heathenish, lewde, ungodly Spectacles, and most pernicious Corruptions, condemned in all ages, as intolerable Mischiefs to Churches, to Republickes, to the manners, mindes and soules of men.

William Prynne (1600 - 1669), English pamphleteer and early forbearer to the current Republican Party

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Freedom of Speech?

We must no longer be afraid of the multifarious views and opinions expressed by the people.
Suharto, Indonesian statesman

What is the difference between Ward Churchill and Eason Jordan?

Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder -- has compared American policy in Iraq to that of Nazi Germany. He also referred to Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the plan to exterminate the Jews, when he called the trade center victims ''little Eichmanns.''

Jordan, a senior executive at CNN who was responsible for coordinating the cable network's Iraq coverage, resigned abruptly last night, citing a journalistic tempest he touched off during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, late last month in which he appeared to suggest that United States troops had deliberately aimed at journalists, killing some.

One keeps his job, the other resigns, but we suspect he was asked to resign. In the corporate world, free speech does not exist, and for professors it is certainly at risk. Since when is having an opinion that on its surface appears outrageous and upon further inspection may have a kernel of truth, which allows the writer or speaker to formulate an attention-grabbing headline an objectionable offense worthy of dismissal or discipline? What happened to just ignoring someone?

Friday, February 11, 2005

On The Mark -- Hypocrisy Decade

Talk about dumbing down, it's gotten so bad that governmental officials, from all points across the world, now think that the public (of any nationality) will buy anything that's said.

Our "good friend and ally," Saudi Arabia, held its first "nationwide" elections for municipal councils this week. It was nationwide in geography only because women were not allowed to run for office. In fact, they were banned from voting, too.

When a Saudi official was asked why women were not allowed to vote, his response was that THERE WERE NOT ENOUGH VOTING BOOTHS FOR WOMEN.

When historians looked back on this period, it will be known as the "Hypocrisy Decade."

(Anybody know a good handyman? Have him/her call Saudi Arabia to see if they want any help getting some voting booths built.)

On The Mark -- Speaking of Traffic...Attention All Calif. Drivers

You may not be aware of a new law that took effect Jan. 1. While operating your car, if you turn on your windshield wipers -- even at the intermitten level -- you must also turn on your headlights. If your headlights are not on at the same time, you face a $45 fine (first offense) if caught, you scofflaw, you.

New traffic laws for the CHP are like getting new toys at Christmas. One can't wait to try them out.

Traffic-- A Misanthropic Rant

Rush hour: that hour when traffic is almost at a standstill.
J. C. Morton (1893 - 1979), journalist

The following are three traffic incidents that incurred this workweek.

Incident #3. Traffic in Southern California is absolutely abominable. B2 and I decided to carpool as a way to beat the congestion to a meeting on Thursday. Hah. We had to take the San Diego Freeway. The carpool lane was as backed up as a bad septic tank and virtually stationary. On the return trip, we encountered the same constipated movement, which inspired B2 to say, he couldn’t light a strike-anywhere style match, based on the speed we are traveling. We did encountered one short stretch of carpool line openness and we were howling with joy, sounding like Howard Dean after losing a primary.

Incident #2. The other morning, the driver of the car in the lane to my right neglected to turn his flab-filled head to notice that my car occupied the space where he placed his car. I had to maneuver onto the shoulder of the road while blasting my car horn. He refused to acknowledge his mistake, so I politely pulled along side this 300-pound, ponytail wearing, goatee driver and told him to pay attention. Then, politely screamed into his half rolled-up window (please note the positive outlook here, the window was half up as opposed to half down) to pay attention, then civilly pointed out he was overweight using the vulgar vernacular term for fornication as a noun.

Incident #1. The capper to a horrifying week of traffic was the driver of an older model white Ford van, who was unhappy that I had to squeeze in front of him in order to get on the transition bridge from the 405 to the 118. I had planned to apologize (the courtesy thank you wave to the rearview mirror type of thing), but he was already riding my bumper, so I chose to ignore him. Apparently he wanted more from me, probably my life. He decided to try and run me off the bridge. I was very cool on the outside. I held my ground, because what the hell else could I do, and only held the wheel with one hand. Inside, I was sweating bullets, wishing I had a shoulder-held missile launcher to fire into the cab of his van. He eventually cut me at the bottom of the bridge, but I picked up my cell phone and pretended to describe what just occurred with hand signals and he believed that I was calling the police and giving his license number, because he backed off rather quickly and angrily gestured to me with his hand. I just lifted my arm in an “oh well” manner to further infuriate him and drove on.

That so far has been my driving week, but other than the bridge incident, it is all rather common out here. It’s no wonder I want to be in Canada in front of the fireplace.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Thank you, American Airlines.

Thank you, American Airlines.

Thank you for reminding me that we Americans are too complacent, and too comfortable with the status quo. Thank you for reminding me that change is necessary, change is inevitable, and change is good.

Thank you for reminding me that physical pleasure is transitory and, in the long run, unsatisfying. Thank you for reminding me that pursuits of the intellect are not helped, and are often hindered, by indulgences of the flesh.

Thank you, American Airlines, for reminding me that true enlightenment can only come when I free myself of an unhealthy reliance on the crutch of comfort. Thank you for reminding me that satori is a state of mind, a mental state -- not a physical one.

[Source: American Airlines eliminates pillows on domestic flights.]

On The Mark -- Broken Heart Syndrome

I heard on the radio yesterday (it may be in the papers today, which I haven't read yet) that doctors have discovered a new heart disease, which for the public they're calling Broken Heart Syndrome.

Researchers have found that there have been cases where patients have been misdiagnosed as having had a heart attack or congestive heart failure. When Broken Heart Syndrome strikes, the patient loses consciousness and the heart stops beating, much like a heart attack. But in these cases there is no heart muscle damage and the occurrence was not the result of artery blockage.

In all the cases (although later in the story the reporter said "in almost all cases"), the patient was revived and it was later discovered that the episode was caused by the heart being attacked violently by hormones that were released when the patient experienced something suddenly that was sad or alarming, thus its name. Some examples cited were hearing about the death of a loved one, or finding out your spouse is cheating on you.

The report also said that all the known cases involved women only. One researcher said he believes this is the case because women have a more sophisticated and intricate connection between the brain and the heart.

Resurfaced from The Misanthrope’s Desk – Orville Replies

I live for meeting with the Suits. I love them because I know they had a really boring week and I walk in there with my orange-velvet leggings and drop popcorn in my cleavage and then fish it out and eat it.
Madonna, pop singer

Hunt-Wesson Foods, Inc.
1645 West Valencia Drive
Fullerton, California 92634-5003

C.W. Blodgett
Director, Corporate Relations

March 18, 1985

Mr. Misanthrope (name has been changed):

We have received your letter of March 12, 1985 addressed to Mr. Orville Redenbacher which follows up on your initial correspondence of January 2, 1985. We apologize for any inconvenience on your part, but we have no record of receiving your January 2nd correspondence.

We are enclosing a copy of the “Orville Redenbacher’s Popcorn Book” which is filled with historical information, along with a wide range of data bout Mr. Redenbacher and his famous popping corn. He is indeed a real person and his actual name is Orville Redenbacher. We hope you enjoy reading this. We are also enclosing an autographed picture of Orville, along with a coupon for our Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn for your use and enjoyment.

Thank you for letting us hear from you again. We apologize for the delay in responding.

Very truly yours,
C.W. Blodgett
Director, Corporate Relations

Post Script: I misplaced the photo and the history or they were a casualty of the’94 earthquake. As I recall, the photo was cheap and mechanically signed, probably similar to how Donald Rumsfeld signs letters to families of dead soldiers.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Here We Go Again

Military glory—the attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood.
Abraham Lincoln (1809–65), U.S. president

In today’s Washington Post, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that Iran must live up to international obligations aimed at curbing the spread of nuclear weapons "or next steps are in the offing.

"I believe that everyone is telling the Iranians that they're going to have to live up to their international obligations, or next steps are in the offing," Rice said in response to a question on whether the Europeans have delivered the nonproliferation message strongly enough. "And I think everyone understands what next steps mean." She added that under International Atomic Energy Agency statutes, Iran "has to be referred to the U.N. Security Council" if it does not meet its obligations.

"The Iranians should take the opportunity that the Europeans are giving them," Rice said. "I think the message is there. The Iranians need to get that message. And we can certainly always remind them that there are other steps that the international community has at its disposal should they not be prepared to live up to these obligations."

Resurfaced from The Misanthrope’s Desk – Orville Part II

Clarity is the politeness of the man of letters.
Jules Renard (1864 - 1910), writer

March 12, 1985

Hunt-Wesson Foods, Inc.
c/o Orville Redenbacher
Fullerton, California 92634

Dear Mr. Redenbacher or Whomever:

Why have I not received an answer to my letter that was sent January 2, 1985?

Who cares if there is an Orville Redenbacher or not? I would just like the courtesy of an answer!

The Misanthrope
Former Orville Redenbacher Popping Corn Eater!

P.S. I have enclosed a copy of my original letter, just in case it was lost in the mail.

Spam Ditty

Deirdre Flint is a talented singer-songwriter that my friend Matt turned us on to -- her "Bridesmaid Dress" song is, in fact, on my eldest daughter's latest mix CD.

Deirdre has a new song on her website that is about spam email, and it's funny -- so you should listen to it. Download it here.

Resurfaced From The Misanthrope's Desk

Don't you like writing letters? I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you've done something.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961), writer

Some of you may remember Lazlo Toth. He wrote letters to stars, dignitaries, and chairmen of the country's most powerful organizations. Toth was really Don Novello's alter ego who pestered his victims for photographs, offered outlandish advice, fired off strange inquiries, and more. The strangest part? Practically everyone answered, leaving Toth with a hilarious collection of outlandish correspondence unmatched in the history of American letters.

I was so inspired by his book I wrote a few of my own letters back in the 1980s. I will post them over the next few days and the replies:

January 2, 1985

Hunt-Wesson Foods, Inc.
c/o Orville Redenbacher
Fullerton, California 92634

Dear Mr. Redenbacher:
I have my doubts that you are a real person, but I will write this letter as If I am talking to you.

My concern is you are some figment of an advertising person’s imagination such as Betty Crocker. I enjoy popping corn immensely. It is just utopia to watch a good movie, eat Orville Redenbacher popping corn, and wash it down with a large glass of water.

However, as I was preparing the premium popping corn I asked myself, my friends, my mother and anyone else who I thought might know the answer – is there really an Orville Redenbacher and why does he wear the funny bow tie?

My questions are as follows:

  • Why are you called Orville Redenbacher?
  • Why would you devote your life to experimenting with popcorn?
  • The label says every popping corn is sorted and polished. I find it hard to believe every kernel is individually polished. Does that mean that there is some plant outside the United States hiring cheap labor to was each kernel and ship it back?
  • Also, your slogan: “You’ll like it better or my name isn’t …” I want to know what you will call yourself if someone prefers Jiffy?
  • Lastly, I would like an autographed picture of you to prove this is not some Betty Crocker type of fake.

I am sorry Orville, if you are real, to put you and your claims to the test, but I believe in honesty in advertising.

The Misanthrope (obviously, this is a pseudonym, but I signed the original, now I wished I had not)
Popping Corn Eater

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

On The Mark -- Frozen in Time

It was a small, two-paragraph story tucked away in the back pages of the newspaper, yet has huge implications. The headline, "Infertile Couple Can Sue for Wrongful Death." The Illinois couple had a frozen embryo at a fertility clinic. It was accidentally destroyed. Cook County Judge Jeffrey Lawrence said, "a pre-embryo is a human being...whether or not it is implanted in its mother's womb." The judge said the couple is as entitled to seek compensation as any parents whose child had been killed.

I'm not an attorney, but I'd say it's little cases like this one that set precedent and can create the standard for decisions all over the country. This decision could have major implications in many areas, such as embryonic stem-cell research, for example.

Wasn't it President Bush in his state of the union address who said that judges have a duty to faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench?

Capos and Lieutenants

Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82), essayist

The Republican National Committee operates as the capo for President Bush. Bush goes out in public and vows to be a uniter (which we all heard for four previous years) and this country has never been as divided since the Civil War. Then the RNC sends out a scathing letter attacking Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s record. There is nothing wrong with attacking the opposition’s record, but don’t pretend to be a nice guy as you attempt to wrap the piano wire around his neck. All the while Consigliere General Alberto Gonzales defends the positions.

Bush repeatedly has said he wants to work with Democrats, most recently during his State of the Union speech last week, Reid noted in a speech on the Senate floor.

"Why didn't he stand and tell the American people last Wednesday that one of the first items of business we were going to do in Washington is send out a hit piece on the Democratic leader?" Reid said.

According to the Associated Press report, Reid said, The RNC "is the president's organization." "He can't say one thing to the American people and then ... send out scurrilous letters saying that I'm a bad guy. In great detail. I mean, is President George Bush a man of his word?"

We all know Bush may say what he means, but all the capos and lieutenants hoping to become made men or women of his mafia-oriented administration carry out the acts of destruction and contumelious lies.

Truce in the Middle East

Umm.. Arik? Could you look less excited?

On the other hand, he certainly sounds pleased: "Today, in my meeting with Chairman Abbas, we agreed that all Palestinians will stop all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere, and, at the same time, Israel will cease all its military activity against all Palestinians everywhere."

[You can read about the truce and decide for yourself whether Arik is just a glass-half-empty sort of guy inHaAretz.]


Israelly Cool sheds some light on Arik's expression with this quotation from "the Hamas representative in Lebanon" (I wonder what his office looks like):
The Hamas representative in Lebanon said shortly after the summit that his group will not be bound by the cease-fire declarations.

"The talk about what the leader of the Palestinian Authority called a cessation of acts of violence is not binding on the resistance because this is a unilateral stand and was not the result of the outcome of an intra-Palestinian dialogue as has been agreed previously," Hamdan told The Associated Press.

And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon

I'm a big sci-fi reader (see earlier post about being a geek), and Cory Doctorow is one of my favorite sci-fi writers; I can't say enough about Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Eastern Standard Tribe and A Place So Foreign. But that's not what I'm blogging about today.

Cory co-blogs at, which we proudly link to as "a directory of wonderful things"; I hit it at least once a day, if not twice or even three times. And yesterday he had an excerpt from a great story by Paul Di Filippo called And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon, which is available on-line for you to read, and which I suggest you go read right now. Right here. And here's an excerpt, to get you excited:
Blebs had been around for about twenty years now, almost as long as I had been alive. Their roots could be traced back to several decisions made by manufacturers—decisions which, separately, were completely intelligent, foresighted, and well conceived, but which, synergistically, had caused unintended consequences—and to one insidious hack.

The first decision had been to implant silicon RFID chips into every appliance and product and consumable sold. These first chips, small as a flake of pepper, were simple transceivers that merely aided inventory tracking and retail sales by announcing to any suitable device the product's specs and location. But when new generations of chips using adaptive circuitry had gotten cheaper and more plentiful, industry had decided to install them in place of the simpler tags.

At that point millions of common, everyday objects—your toothbrush, your coffee maker, your shoes, the box of cereal on your shelf—began to exhibit massive processing power and interobject communication. Your wristwatch could monitor your sweat and tell your refrigerator to brew up some electrolyte-replenishing drink. Your bedsheets could inform the clothes-washer of the right settings to get them the cleanest. (The circuitry of the newest chips was built out of undamageable and pliable buckytubes.) So far, so good. Life was made easier for everyone.

Then came the Volition Bug.

What My Five-Year-Old Is Listening To

My five-year-old has her own CD player in her room. No phone, yet, and no TV. And no Nintendo anywhere in the house. But she's gotta have her tunes, right? So here's the playlist on her latest CD (burned by yours truly); incidentally, all of these songs were hand-picked by her.
The Spongebob Squarepants Theme Song
There Is (Boxcar Racer)
Da Da Da (Trio)
Who Woke Snow White Up? (Baha Men)
What I Like About You (The Romantics)
Beep Beep (The Playmates)
YMCA (The Village People)
Kiss Me Deadly (Lita Ford)
Wooly Bully (Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs)
Under the Sea (The Little Mermaid)
Le Banana Split (Sandra Lou)
That's My Name (Bear in the Big Blue House)
Who Let the Dogs Out? (Baha Men)
Lollipop (The Sensations)
The Bridesmaid Dress Song (Deirdre Flint)
What Do I Do? (Jimmie's Chicken Shack)
Pop Music (Devo)
Chantilly Lace (The Big Bopper)
Elvira (The Oak Ridge Boys)
A Whole New World (Aladdin and Jasmine)
The Tide is High (Blondie)
Sk8r Boi (Avril Lavigne)
Robot Parade (They Might Be Giants)
Me Lost Me Cookie at the Disco (Cookie Monster)
You'll note that I've included just a few hyperlinks; I find that it's disheartening to see too many places to visit. Enjoy!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Red Bull, Kabbalah, and Ashton Kutcher

We at Toner Mishap extend a hearty thanks to the gang at JewSchool for the tip on this story. But first, a word to the wise: whenever you read the word "kabbalah" in the following news item, please substitute "commercial venture masquerading as kabbalah"; thanks.
The merchandising-minded spiritualists at the trendy Kabbalah Center are launching a new Kabbalah energy drink, and they’re hoping that Kabbalah devotee Ashton Kutcher will be the face of the new beverage.

“We’re going after the Red Bull market,” said spokesman Darin Ezra. “But Kabbalah Energy Drink tastes better. And it’s infused with Kabbalah water, which is holy water.” So does it have mystical healing powers, like Kabbalah water is supposed to? “I’m not going to comment on that,” said Ezra.
The whole story is part of the gossip pages at MSNBC.

P.S. From the Red Bull website: "Red Bull® energy drink is kosher. This has been certified by the KF FEDERATION OF SYNAGOGUES, Rabbi M.D. Elzas, LONDON. Before issuing this certificate the production site and the origin of the ingredients were inspected and checked by an official of the Federation."