Thursday, March 31, 2005

On The Mark -- An Unscientific Study

I've noticed an interesting phenomenon over the past few weeks. I don't think it's my imagination, although The Misanthrope might disagree with me if he remembers our high school days, so long ago, when we would be sitting in the stands at a basketball game and I would say that a particular cheerleader is checking me out, and he would just chuckle at my fantasy world.

Anyway, I have a fairly easy drive to work, mostly through local neighborhoods and a canyon road. Lately, if I don't have a client meeting, I've been driving my pickup truck to my office.

What I've noticed is that when I drive my truck, women walking or jogging in the neighborhoods have a tendency to check out who's driving the truck. Granted, it's only a glance, and then that's enough for them. But when I drive my Infiniti Q45 I rarely see any ladies checking to see who's driving.

So it just me, or does seeing a pickup truck invite curiosity?

Just curious.


DualDisc is making me happy. It solves, to my mind, two major problems:

#1: How can we get better content from the entertainment industry?

#2: How can we get #1 without spending a lot of money upgrading our equipment?

DualDisc is a nice shiny disc that looks a lot like a CD or a DVD... but it has two sides -- a CD side and a DVD side. Both, on one disc. A typical offering would be a full-length audio album on the CD side and other extras on the DVD side.

But what about #2? How cheap could the new hardware be to convince me to start buying all this new stuff? Answer: no new boxes required; the CD side plays in a CD player, the DVD side plays in a DVD player, and you can flip back and forth if you have a drive that reads both types of disc.

THis is the sort of thing that will get me to buy more content the old-fashioned way, instead of just download it (or freeloading it, for that matter).

If You Don’t Make Mistakes, There is Nothing to Learn From

… The learned are mere literary drudges.
William Hazlitt (1778–1830), English essayist. “On the Ignorance of the Learned”

A Tucson, Arizona ad hoc civilian patrol was about to begin roving patrols to spot illegal border-crossers coming from Mexico, because the Bush administration wanted to look the other way in order to help business use cheap labor.

This “minuteman” group appears to have been a successful threat since the administration announced it would deploy more than 500 additional Border Patrol agents to Arizona to deter illegal immigrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Last year approximately 1.1 million illegal immigrants were apprehended entering the United States.

However, the president is not pleased. How dare they want something contrary to what the president would like? He has called the Minuteman Project a bunch of vigilantes.

With this administration, the protection of business comes before the protection of citizens. You would have thought the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission would allow the Bush administration to see the error of its ways – of course that is impossible for a president who does not make mistakes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

On The Mark -- Chaos Theory

Where's Paul Krugman when you need him? United Airlines is setting an entirely new definition of bankruptcy. The same UAL where, every time I fly, the plane is packed, shoulder to shoulder, with a long standby list. Since filing Chapter 11 in December 2002 the airline has lost $4.5 billion. That's right, $4.5 billion while restructuring. And UAL isn't the only airline suffering.

So what do they do? They take away pillows. They take away meals. They pack you three across on smaller planes. Now they're increasing the price of tickets and reducing domestic flight patterns because of rising fuel costs. The consumer and business traveler gets squeezed and squeezed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the law firm handling UAL's bankruptcy has billed $54 million. That's right, $54 million. Senior partners are billing at $950 an hour. One attorney billed what averaged out to be 9.6 hours a day, seven days a week, at $540 an hour , for an entire year! I wonder what kind of car he or she is driving? Or what one of the vacation homes looks like? Or better yet, I wonder how much this person gives to charity?

It's no wonder Southwest and Jet Blue are doing so well. Somehow they've managed to remember that the customer is king...not the lawyers.

Irony, Thy Name is Pope

The Pope may be getting a feeding tube. Surprise!

Seriously, it's not just the irony that gets me -- it's the realization that this is our last Pope ever. Once John Paul II (fill in your Beatles joke) gets those feeding tubes and life support machines hooked up, he can hang out indefinitely, coma or no coma. And then the guys that work for him get to be in charge, while Johnny still takes the flak for harsh edicts. Picture it: the Vatican says, "Back to Latin! The Pope awoke from his coma long enough to tell us he wants the masses in Latin again! And you have to kill an abortion-providing doctor to get communion!" You can't check with the Pope, and his "advisors" claim to just be fulfilling his wishes.

More to come, as Florida Governor Jeb Bush mulls over plans to take the Pope into protective custody.

Rockin' Out on White Trash Wednesday!

Sadly, I find myself ill at the moment, and my liniments and poultices are without effect. So I recommend you visit the other WTW participants (listed on the right), and in the meantime enjoy this lovely redneck rocker photee-graph.

More Search Strings

How do you people find us? By searching Google, apparently -- for things like this:
underwear outside the pants
kevin toner u.s. army
batman gets pissed off
Edward Hopper Nighthawks
gas nine-tenths history
Marvel superheroes Visa commercial
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The Art of Demotivation
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Bush and monkeys

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

On The Mark -- Speaking of Emergency Sessions

Harvard University recently released a report that found that fewer than three-fourths of California's high school students graduated with their class in 2002. Even worse, the numbers for the Los Angeles Unified School district were uglier. Less than half the population graduated on time.

When I was in Russia recently, I was amazed to see the number of youth standing on street corners or in doorways smoking and doing nothing. Unemployment is a real issue there. Well, in California, it's obviously no different. I just haven't been looking at the right street corners and doorways.

These kinds of statistics lead to nowhere but crime. During the steroid hearings recently I kept asking the question, "why aren't we going after those who are supplying the juice to these 500,000 high school athletes? Why is this not being talked about?"

Now I can't help but ask, How could this dropout issue get this bad? And how come, to this day, nothing is being done about it? Is it because most of these kids are Latino and African-American students? If Caucasian kids were dropping out in droves would there be an uproar?

What is it going to take to wake "us" up? Why does it take a tsunami, or something of that nature, for people to react, to care?

Why is it that hundreds of millions of dollars can be raised for political campaigns? That tens of millions can be raised overnight for tsumani victims? But we don't flinch when we see that our students aren't getting books, being challenged or excited about learning?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Regarding Schiavo: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

With what shift and pains we come into the World we remember not; but 'tis commonly found no easy matter to get out of it.
Thomas Browne (1605 - 1682), physician and writer

It appears that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay could be one of the most hypocritical and low life politicians American has seen since Boss Tweed. DeLay was among the first in Congress to push for sticking its nose into the Terri Schiavo case because of its right to life issues.

DeLay was among the strongest advocates of keeping Schiavo, who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay denounced Schiavo's husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls "an act of barbarism" in removing the tube.

Yet, according the Los Angeles Times story in Sunday’s newspaper, when it came time to pull the plug on his father, DeLay had no issues about the right to life. But then DeLay was not trying to distract attention away from his alleged illegal lapses of taking gifts and accepting contributions.

DeLay’s father and Schiavo were and are severely brain-damaged patients. Both were incapable of surviving without medical assistance. Both were said to have expressed a desire to be spared from being kept alive by artificial means. And neither of them had a living will. Still, DeLay ended his father’s life without government intervention, but denied Schiavo’s husband the same right.

We can only hope that further investigations of DeLay continue and quickly find him guilty forcing him out of the House – the country will be better served.

"Satisfaction" in Outline Format

This could be the most exciting thing to happen to music ever: song lyrics in outline format! (Thanks, qwantz!)

A. Places that I come across that man
1. When I'm driving my car
2. When he comes on the radio (in the car)
3. When I'm watching TV
B. Things that man tells me
1. Useless information
2. How much whiter my shirts could be
3. That he doesn't feel manly
a. Because he smokes a different brand of cigarettes
C. Things I can't get
1. No girl with action
a. She said come back later next week
2. No satisfaction

Sunday, March 27, 2005

It's a fricking residential street!

Not to overload you all with too much Misanthrope-style ranting, but my neighbor must be stopped.

It's Sunday afternoon on my nice, pleasant, residential street in my nice, quiet, residential neighborhood. Except for my neighbor across the street who, every Sunday without fail, washes his motorcycles, dirtbikes, and trucks in his driveway. With a power washer that you can hear across the entire valley. Oh wait -- now he's revving the engines again, in preparation for a re-washing. Here he is, as glimpsed from my front door (with face conveniently shielded to protect our anonymity):

He is an unsympathetic, thoughtless moron with more attention paid to his recreational vee-hicles than his wife and kids (I've seen him shoo his son away from his dirtbikes), and does he not have any place better to do this? Like the place where he rides them? Or at the car wash?!?

Sunday afternoon is nap-time for my three kids, and they need it -- especially today, when Eldest Daughter is sick, Middle Daughter is cranky because she is probably about to be sick, and Baby Daughter is a baby, for crying out loud (which is what she has been doing).

Someone help me out here -- what do I do? I've approached him about it before, trying to be nice, but it has had no effect. Any suggestions?

The Misanthrope’s – Sunday’s Lighter Side

Let me sum it up for you. Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best.
Frank Zappa (1940 - 1993), U.S. rock musician and composer.

Soundtrack to Daily Life. I walked over to my parents house the other day and I passed people playing pool in their garage with the door open and the music blasting. I was very happy not to be their neighbor. I have no doubt they are happy I am not their neighbor. As I continued on my 1.3 mile journey no matter the activity someone had to be serenaded by music. Do they ever just stop and enjoy the quiet?

On The Beach. Wife and I did our good deed Saturday morning and made a delivery of computer monitors for Inside Out Community Arts. They are located in Venice, so we opted to go early and then hang out at the beach. We had breakfast in a nice cafĂ© and then we walked along the pedestrian path a couple of miles. On the way back, I even took off my shoes and socks and walked across the sand looking for shards of glass. Once we reached the water’s edge, we rolled up our pants walked along the wet sand with an occasional wave sending water up to our ankles. However, I was mindful of an aftershock to the Manhattan Beach earthquake a few days ago, you can’t be too careful about tsunamis these days.

Concerts. I have thinking over the past few days what performers I have seen in concert over the years. I have decided to list them:

He took my music. But he gave me my name.
Muddy Waters (1915 - 1983), U.S. blues musician, Referring to Mick Jagger

Frank Zappa* (three times, my first concert ever. Tom Waits was the opening act. This was at the Santa Monica Civic)
Beach Boys and Chicago (Anaheim Stadium)
David Bowie (Diamond Dogs tour, Anaheim Convention Center)
Jethro Tull (Los Angeles Forum)
ELO (Santa Monica Civic)
Tom Waits* (Ivar Theater in Hollywood and at the Pantages Theater)
Leon Redbone (opened for Tom Waits)
Arlo Guthrie (Santa Monica Civic)
Pete Seeger (Cal. State Long Beach)
The Kinks (three times)
The Rolling Stones* (10 times: LA Forum 2xs ’75; LA Coliseum ’81; Anaheim Stadium ’84 not sure of the year, Rose Bowl 2xs one of those was Daughter’s first Stones concert, of course she wanted to go to the bathroom during the encore, but we were back without missing a song; Seattle Dome; Staples Center Halloween night three years ago; Madison Square Garden with Daughter and On The Mark.
Joe Cocker (Santa Monica Civic & UCLA)
Bob Dylan (Universal Amphitheatre)
Paul McCartney* (his first tour after the Beatles)
Elton John* (Hollywood Bowl)
Guns & Roses (opened for the Stones)
Sheryl Crow (opened for the Stones)
J. Geils Band (opened for the Stones)
Prince* (2xs, once opened for the Stones and was pummeled with shoes and just recently at Staples Center)
Bruce Springsteen (two times, LA Sports Arena, I don’t recall the 2nd time)
Red Hot Chile Peppers (Opened for the Stones)
The Grateful Dead (Santa Monica Civic)

Jazz concerts

I usually don't buy jazz records. They make me tired and depressed.
Miles Davis (1926 - 1991), jazz musician, composer, and trumpeter.

Frank Sinatra* (Four times. three at the Universal Amphitheater, once at the LA Forum with Liza and Sammy)*
Tony Bennett (Hollywood Bowl)
Ella Fitzgerald (Hollywood Bowl)
Sarah Vaughn (Blue Note in NY)
Mel Torme (Two or three times at the Hollywood Bowl)
Carmen McRae* (four times local jazz clubs)
Brandford Marsalis* (local jazz club)
Terence Blanchard* (Hollywood Bowl)
Ray Brown (local jazz club)
Benny Green* (local jazz club)
Jane Monheit* (three times at local jazz clubs)
Tierney Sutton* (twice at local jazz clubs)
Karrin Allyson* (Three times at local jazz clubs)
Dee Dee Bridgewater*** (Twice at local jazz clubs, proposed to Wife** because of one of the shows)
Diana Krall* (once at the Hollywood Bowl)
Regina Carter* (local jazz club)

*concerts I have seen with On The Mark

On The Mark -- Hypocrisy Decade: Goldberg Says It Best

Hypocrisy without principles is the worst kind of all

I read a column by Jonah Goldberg in USA Today last Wednesday and thought it said it all. There's really nothing else I could add. Here's the opening paragraph.

"Let's do something crazy. Let's assume that everyone involved in the Terri Schiavo controversy has operated in good faith. In other words, let's imagine that Michael Schiavo isn't a homicidal money-grubber; that the Republicans aren't political opportunists performing a Kabuki dance for the right-to-lifers; that the so-called evangelicals really do care deeply about Terri Schiavo and are not fighting a cynical proxy war against abortion; and that the Democrats siding with the Florida courts' decision to starve Terri to death are not doing so out of a reflexive petulance toward anti-abortion and conservative forces."


The LA Times reports today that in 1988 Tom DeLay faced a similar situation with his own father. Tom, his mother, and the rest of their family decided that "Do Not Resuscitate" was the best approach, because that's what his father said he wanted, and when machines were an option to keep him alive the family agreed to not use them and to let him die.

Sad...yet, still hypocrisy.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Ending Overseas Outsourcing

The atomic bomb...made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.
J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904 - 1967), U.S. nuclear physicist

I am not usually a supporter of anything the Bush administration does, but I think they may have stumbled upon an idea to stem the tide of companies outsourcing jobs overseas to India.

The administration’s rewarding Pakistan for allowing Osama bin Laden to slip through by agreeing to sell F-16 fighter planes to India’s longtime adversary. A few well placed bombing runs by Pakistan and runaway labor to India is a thing of the past. It might be the first thing Bush has done right.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Finally, A Post Deriding Johnny Hart

Thanks for finding this go out to one of my regular reads, The Comics Curmudgeon, who reads and reviews the daily comic strips so you don't have to. I have always had a problem with Hart's constant prosletyzing throutgh his comic strip, B.C., and this gives him his come-uppance. So read it, won't you?

Peer-to-Peer Music Sharing Isn't Harming CD Sales

According to the RIAA, CD sales are increasing. Now, the RIAA has been saying that P2P destroys music sales, so it follows that if they're selling more CDs there must be less P2P, right? Uh, no -- file-sharing is up, too (so CD sales should be falling right?).
The number of CDs and other music products shipped from record labels to retail merchants rose 2 percent last year, to 814 million units, the first annual increase in five years, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
Check out the full story here.

[Thanks, BoingBoing!]

Thursday, March 24, 2005

On The Mark -- Making that Final Life or Death Decision

I know this is difficult for your family, but because of your father’s condition, we don’t even have to ask your permission to take him off life support. We’ve kept him on life support as a courtesy until your whole family arrives.” That was what the neurosurgeon told me after I had peppered him with a series of questions.

When my father suffered a massive stroke a few months ago, all the tests showed that he was completely brain dead and that his brain was floating in blood. My mother asked me to speak to the neurosurgeon to get his opinion on my father’s condition. It was to be the last medical discussion before we made our final decision, and she had already heard from a battery of doctors throughout the night. She was confident I would ask a lot of questions but, at the same time, she already knew the answer and that the discussion was a formality.

My days as a reporter and former editor of a medical journal came back to me and I asked a lot of questions, to the point where the doctor started to get perturbed. I informed my mother of what the doctor said and she said, “OK, then, this is the right thing to do. He’ll be happy to know that we were all here when he left us.” I asked her point blank – “Are you absolutely sure? You have no doubts? A month from now you’re not going to call me and say, ‘did you ask the doctor about this procedure that was just reported on CNN?’” I had just arrived after an all-night drive and hadn’t reached finality yet, but she had. She said, “Absolutely not -- I know this is the right thing to do. And furthermore, it’s what he always said he wanted.” Even at this moment, my mother was still as solid as a rock.

My father had said many times at family gatherings that he never wanted to be kept alive by a machine. He made it clear that we should not hesitate to make this decision. (Thank you, dad, for making it easier for us at this time. You always were good at looking ahead.)

The doctors removed the life support. My father died (officially) almost instantaneously, without any movement on any part of his body, not even a flinch, staring blankly into space.

I remember asking before life support was removed – how long will it take? My older sister, though convinced it would happen fast, said, “Who knows? It could take days, and sometimes it takes a week.” I was shocked. But the doctors, without giving assurances, predicted it would happen very quickly.

The final decision has to come down to the family, but doctors play a critical and important role in these situations. In the news coverage regarding Schiavo, it appears that the doctors have been left out of the debate and discussion, which is a shame.

But, in the end, if a patient has a living will, then they should be allowed to die peacefully if doctors deem there’s no chance of the person recovering from a comatose or vegetative state.

Peacefully, however, is the operative word. In my opinion, in a living will case, the patient should be given a shot to be put to rest. If doctors and other health care providers don’t want to be a part of that, they should simply prepare the dose and give it to a family member to inject into the catheter leading into the patient’s vein.

I’ve never discussed this with anyone in my family. It’s too painful, but I think I might be alone in this opinion. I’m sure they would say that only God has a right to give and take life. I’m not even sure what my dad’s opinion would have been, but I think he would have chosen to die naturally.

I’ve learned several important points during this Schiavo issue:

  • One must make sure they have a living will so there is no doubt what the patient wants. This living will should be explicit in saying whether they want to die naturally or be assisted (should that option be available). If and when the “assisted” option is available, the decision shouldn’t be left in the hands of surviving family. That’s unfair to them because of what their religious beliefs may be.
  • There should be a more humane way to do this – we are living in the 21st Century after all.
  • The government should keep its big nose out of it…they should be ashamed about how they’re conducting themselves right now (thank you, Supreme Court, for refusing to take the case).

The decision my family made that morning in September was the hardest one I’ll ever make, yet, at the same time, thanks to my dad’s foresight, it was the easiest.

Wendy's Chili is Finger Food

Tuesday night in Santa Clara, California a patron at a local Wendy's, enjoying a bowl of chili, was shocked to find herself with a mouthful that included a human finger (source).

Health inspectors said the restaurant appeared to be generally clean and well-maintained, with only one minor health violation having to do with a leaky vent.

Oh yeah -- and that finger in the chili. I guess that makes two violations.

CEO Pay Watch – A Continuing Crime

How they love money, thought Wilhelm. They adore money! Holy money! Beautiful money! It was getting so that people were feeble-minded about everything except money.
Saul Bellow, writer. Quote from "Seize the Day"

Wells Fargo & Co, the fifth largest U.S. bank, which charges customers plenty in ATM fees and cashes in on other penalties assessed upon its valued clients, paid its CEO a $995,000 salary, a$7.5 million bonus as well as other compensation totaling $768,376. He also received stock options worth $20.4 million.

Maybe if he received $100,000 less we could get a few extra tellers during lunch.

Possibly Going to Offend You

My wife tells me that she enjoys my blogging more when I have something interesting to say. I'm fairly sure she doesn't mean that most of the time I'm not interesting. But just in case, this should attract some interest, which will mean I am interesting, thereby guaranteeing her continued admiration of me. Or perhaps not; I'll report back on this topic at a later time.

So here it is: my opinion of the busybodies who have nothing better to do than lie about Terry Schiavo in order to preserve her existence, such as it is. Hmm... I guess that is my opinion, now that I read that last sentence back. The latest I've read (here)says that Florida Governor Jeb "George got the brains, but I got the looks" Bush is trying to gain custody of Schiavo so that he can decide what's best for her. Cuz he knows better than her husband, I guess. Apparently he also claims she is not in a persistent vegetative state. Then why did he support that Congressional action which would have (had it succeeded) made it illegal topull feeding tubes from people in persistent vegetative states? It sounds to me like he's trying just about everything -- regardles of whether it's true or even logical.

Jeb -- she is not a family pet, to be preserved by any means necessary as a testament to your love for her. Stay out of this, and while you're at it get rid of the freeze-dried terrier you keep in your living room -- she's dead; buy a new dog.


House of Representatives Majority Tom DeLay (about whom the Misanthrope has blogged numerous times) has just thanked God for Schiavo's persistent vegetative state, because it elevates the visibility of the Conservatve Christian cause. Leave it to Tom to make it so obvious that he is willing to us others' misfortunes for his own benefit. [Source]

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On The Mark -- Child Predators

When I first heard the story about the 9-year-old abducted (now murdered) girl (Jessica) in Florida, my first reaction was, "You should have been home, dad." Even today, I don't blame him but, still, he should have been home.

What's become more obvious, though, is that the situation with child predators who have been released from prison is out of control. The problem in Florida is only a microcosm of what's happening across the country. While I casually paid attention to news reports of neighborhoods that were up in arms when a convicted child predator had moved in after being released from prison, it never really affected me, probably because I don't have kids (yet).

But this offender in Florida had been arrested 23 times and released several times for good behavior or because the jails were too full. Good behavior! How can that be possible from someone who had been arrested 23 times? Even more serious, though, is how parole officers and others lost track of him, most likely due to budget issues.

I wish Congress would convene in emergency sessions, that the President would fly in from his ranch on a Sunday, to create and sign legislation to get this problem under control. How many kids need to be sexually molested and killed?

Jessica was only one of thousands of kids who have disappeared. Let's figure out a way to reduce the odds of these acts of violence against our children -- start with known predators.

Purim in the Trailer Park

Myrtle slowly turned the rusty crank to open up the back window of her double-wide. From outside, the hot wind carried the voices of her neighbors into the small trailer that was, she hated to admit, as close to a castle as she would ever get. Her afternoon reverie was interrupted by one of those voices, right outside her window.

“It’s all the fault of those damned kikes.” She recognized it at once: the scratchy, goat-roper twang of Houston Andrew Mahn, assistant manager of the trailer park and, as he was fond of pointing out, second in charge only to Myrtle’s husband. Mahn didn’t know his boss had married a Jew, but why should he? Myrtle had never told her husband, not even on their wedding day. And she wasn’t fixing to cozy up to Mahn and confide in him anytime soon; if there was one thing her cousin Mort had taught her, it was to stay the hell away from anti-Semites.

She cranked the window closed again, and wondered just where her hubbie had wandered off to, anyway. It seemed like if he wasn’t putting away the Pabst Blue Ribbon with Mahn or hiding out from his ex-wife’s lawyer, he was nowhere to be found. She’d have to figure out a way to get his attention – and let’s face it, she thought to herself: the only thing that keeps him coming back is my cooking… that and my girlish charm. At that thought, she laughed aloud. Sure, he might disappear now and then, but when it came down to it she knew she could count on him. And if Mahn ever worked his way up from insult to injury, it just might come to that.

White Trash Wednesday

As usual, I humbly suggest that if you like white trash, you check out the other denizens of the White Trash Wednesday trailer park -- they're all listed in the sidebar.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

CEO Pay Watch

The idea that to make a man work you’ve got to hold gold in front of his eyes is a growth, not an axiom. We’ve done that for so long that we’ve forgotten there’s any other way.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), author

This is a first in a periodic highlighting of executive salaries in the country’s sad saga of further dividing the haves and have-nots. In a reversal of Newton’s Laws, money may trickle down, but it shoots up to a privilege few like cocaine going up a celebrity’s nose.

While we sweat watching the dollars add up and the gallons on the gas pump stand seemly stationary, the CEO at Chevron watched his compensation increase to $9.98 million.

If you wonder why your cell phone bill is outrageous, besides chatting while on the freeway, it might have something to do with the fact that Verizon Communications Inc. is paying its chief executive/chairman $17.3 million in cash, equity and perks.

I wonder what the rank and file get in the way of perks, retirement or even job security?

Caveat Lector

M.C. Escher, "Drawing Hands" (1948)

What is impartiality, and where can this wily creature be found? Are newspapers impartial in their reporting? Network television? Cable television [shudder]?

And what about bloggers?

The latest flap I keep reading about is the danger of unregulated blogging. The gist is that people may read lies in blogs but assume that they are true, the end result being a misinformed public that doesn’t understand the world around them and votes for the most convincing liars. Which isn’t so different from the way the world has always been.

Blogs are, almost by definition, personal assertions about the world we live in. Most blogs, including Toner Mishap, are for entertainment only, and not for internal use. Avoid contact with the eyes and open wounds. If redness or irritation occurs, discontinue use. Seriously – bloggers yell and scream to get your attention, and they rant and complain to keep your attention. (Or is it the other way around?) Or they talk about the evidence of their kids’ genius, or what their cats did...

What’s my beef? I think it’s crazy to talk about regulating blogs to help out those who can’t distinguish between fact and fiction. It’s similar to the Vatican’s uproar over The Da VInci Code; the Pope and his cronies are concerned that this novel (fiction, for those of you who have forgotten) is lying to people about Catholicism, and that the humble flock who encounter the book may lose their faith. People encounter both fact and fiction in their lives, and should learn to tell the difference. (And if your faith is so tenuous as to be damaged by a novel, then I can’t help you out.) So let’s get over this need to have Big Brother tell us what to read and what to believe.

That said, blogs can become as reputable as traditional media. There are, to my mind, a number of ways in which we, the people, can learn to trust the words of any writer or publicatoin, be it in ink or pixels:

1. If you do something long enough, people will view you as a reliable source. Example: The Gray Lady. Of course, it is still to be determined whether you are a reliable source of truth or lies.

2. If you lie, you are liable. Libel laws apply to everyone, and anyone who gets sued a lot and loses such cases a lot will not be trusted. Example: tabloids.

3. If you blog in the forest and no one hears, does it matter? Get readership, get links, and get referrals. The more people read you, the more people will read you.

So what about regulating blogs so that people know whom they can trust? We don’t do that for traditional media, and nonetheless people seem to catch on. When a cable news station claims to be fair and balanced but proves otherwise, people understand that a bias is at work. The same will prove out with blogs.

Let’s sum this up. If you want people to believe you, tell the truth, and keep telling it; eventually people will trust you, and then you’re on you’re on your way to Woodward and Bernstein-style fame and fortune. Unless you’re just trying to pick a fight – you can get started on that right now.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Memo from God

To: People of Earth
From: God
Date: March 21, 2005
Subject: Stop

Knock it off, all of you.

Seriously; what the hell?

-- God

[With thanks for the idea to Spamusement.]

More Thoughts on the Schiavo Case

The only thing worse than a liar is a liar that's also a hypocrite!
Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), playwright

The battle between Terry Schiavo’s husband and her parents is a very sad and cruel story. I wonder if somewhere money is at the issue for Mr. Schiavo. The New York Times said the dispute started over a million-dollar malpractice suite, but it didn’t elaborate. I also wonder if there is a life insurance policy looming somewhere, otherwise why wouldn’t the husband divorce her and let the parents administer care if they want to?

Just as odious on another level are House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and the sycophants who want the money he raises and Republicans who cater to the overzealous religious fringe.

DeLay should remind people of the crooked evangelist who rants only louder of the evils of Satan as the authorities are about arrest him. DeLay is doing his best to draw attention away from inquiries into fund-raising improprieties in Texas and potential violations of House travel rules in Washington. Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) is simply a Gumby doll for the White House, and as a physician should know that Schiavo will never recover.

If the Republicans were really trying to save lives, they might consider legislation to curb gun sales. One American young person is killed by gunfire every hour, making firearms the second leading killer of youths, after accidents.

Here is another thought. Why is Florida always having its court battles taken to the federal level? There was the Elian Gonzalez case, the Bush presidency, and now the Schiavo matter. Is this what happens when your brother is president?

Additional sites that have interesting comments:
The dogs breakfast

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

If you feel a bit under the weather,
If you feel a little bit peeved,
Take granny's stand-by potion
For any old cough or wheeze.
It's a cure for hepatitis, it's a cure for chronic insomnia,
It's a cure for tonsillitis and for water on the knee.
Have a cuppa tea, it will make you feel better,
Have a cuppa tea, have a cuppa tea
Ray Davies, The Kinks “Have a Cup of Tea”

Cowboys, Lesbians and Housewives. That is our TV viewing on Sunday night. We eat around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. and tune into Deadwood on HBO, followed by The L Word on Showtime, take a hour break and then watch Desperate Housewives, when it is on. I love Sunday night TV. The only reason we have what seems like every premium channel is that it’s all tied into a big package that includes cable modem. Breaking up the package would save barely $10 or $15. This package deal is not unlike what the movie theaters offer for just 25 cents more you can get a soda so big it has its own undertow.

The Kinks*. I renewed my interest in the Kinks a couple of weeks ago when I purchased a greatest hits package. I was a big fan for many years beginning in the mid-1970s. They are probably the most underrated band from the British Invasion back in the 1960s. You have most likely heard them and don’t even realize it. The HP commercial about printing your pictures is a Kinks tune called “Picture Book.” A favorite Kink’s song of Daughter’s is “Apeman.” The nice thing about going to see the Kinks was they played the college circuit. I watched them at California State University, Northridge, University of California, Irvine, and once at the Universal Amphitheatre before they put a roof on the place. I just picked up a couple more Kinks CDs, I am in heaven. I will have to write an entire post on this band. *Note to B2, I found “When I Turn Off of the Living Room Lights.”

Another Dreary Day. It’s rainy and a bit chilly, of course it’s nothing compared to the weather our readers in Canada and in the mid-west and east coast have to endure. I love rainy cold days. I start the morning off with combining the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, so I can go through and read the front page of the LATimes followed by the front page of the NYTimes. I do this with all the sections. I stop for breakfast and the morning political shows. All the time the fire is crackling. By noon we are contemplating a nap or if the workout schedule falls on a Sunday it’s off to the gym. Sunday’s are a day when I avoid leaving the house at all costs, because the next day starts the rat race all over again.

Bungee Jumping. Daughter may not do bungee jumping after all, since her mother read the post and forbid her from doing it, as I suspected would happen. I admitted to Daughter that I wasn’t crazy about the idea, but I wouldn’t stop her. I also mentioned last week that her mother reads the site for typos. Daughter’s mother said, tell your father, I don’t read his blog for typos, I read it for On The Mark.

Happy Spring

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Creative Commies and You

No doubt even those who thought they had no interest in copyright law have begun to realize that it does, in fact, affect all of us. Whether the topic at hand is "freeloading" (downloading without paying) music, buying cheap knock-offs of Louis Vuitton wallets (hi, Terina!), or rebroadcasting baseball games without the express written consent of Major League Baseball, our lives are becoming inundated with questions of rights and ownership. The latest phrase is "free culture," which refers to public common ownership of various intellectual properties.

Recently Bill Gates described free culture advocates as "modern-day sort of communists" (source); that sparked the Creative Commies movement, which has resulted in a lot of permission-free remixing of words and images related to copyleft (a copyleft license uses copyright law in order to ensure that every person who receives a copy or derived version of a work can use, modify, and also redistribute both the work, and derived versions of the work -- source).

So --

You know how everything good winds up in the public domain? That's why you can listen to, play, and record Beethoven whenever you want. That's why you enjoy Van Gogh paintings on t-shirts, mugs, and greeting cards (just as they were meant to be enjoyed). OK, so it's not always great -- but it's the way things should be. Creative property should extend only so far, and not to the point of depriving society of the fruits of creative labor. We at Toner Mishap, for instance, operate under a Creative Commons license, which allows others to reproduce our work (should they be so inclined) as long as they attribute it to us. But there are many who are opposed to such freedom, notably the Walt Disney Company. The mouse-eared folks have been very successful in changing copyright law to keep a tighter and longer-lasting rein on their property:
Back in 1998, representatives of the Walt Disney Company came to Washington looking for help. Disney's copyright on Mickey Mouse, who made his screen debut in the 1928 cartoon short "Steamboat Willie," was due to expire in 2003, and Disney's rights to Pluto, Goofy and Donald Duck were to expire a few years later.

Rather than allow Mickey and friends to enter the public domain, Disney and its friends - a group of Hollywood studios, music labels, and PACs representing content owners - told Congress that they wanted an extension bill passed.

Prompted perhaps by the Disney group's lavish donations of campaign cash - more than $6.3 million in 1997-98, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics - Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.

There's a movement out here in cyberspace creating mash-ups and remixes (pick your term; it doesn't seem to be set in stone yet) related to this controversy, incorporating some of the populist-adoped Creative Commies logos; Bill Gates is a popular target. Here's my contribution:


More bad news, courtesy of
Loony old Orrin Hatch has been named the head of the new Senate subcommittee on Intellectual Property -- I guess that Genghis Kahn wasn't available to fill the position.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), once nicknamed "Terminator" for his 2003 comment that the recording industry should be allowed to remotely destroy the computers of file-sharers, was named today to head a new Senate subcommittee on intellectual property. While Hatch backed down slightly from that comment the next day, saying, "I do not favor extreme remedies -- unless no moderate remedies can be found," he has remained a staunch ally of the entertainment industry. [Link]

Friday, March 18, 2005

On The Mark -- Here's To Your Health

Several years ago there were a number of studies published on the effectiveness of vitamin E supplements in helping to reduce heart disease and heart attacks. Since my father had had two heart attacks and two bypass surgeries, I put my typical skepticism aside and hurried to the local drugstore to buy large supplies, making sure to read the label correctly to get the right type of vitamin E at 400 international units since there are different versions (natural and manufactured). I was diligent in taking my daily supplement for a couple years, but eventually got lazy and relied strictly on my daily multi.

This week there was a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealing that, in a seven-year case study, not only did vitamin E NOT reduce the rate of cardiovascular and cancer disease in patients, it actually created INCREASED rates of heart failures among the patients who participated in the study.

How many times have we seen this where the front pages and broadcast news lead-ins reveal these new medical magic bullets, only to learn a few years later that the wonder drug or supplement actually had no effect or caused worse damages? Too many to count, I believe.

As I get closer to that magical age of 50, I find myself taking less and less medications of any kind. I let colds and viruses run their course, for example, or I take only natural remedies. My nephew is in med school right now to become a naturopathic doctor (he just went through the "white coat" ceremony), and I think he's really on to something.

I still think the best advice I ever got was from a client, Dr. Rene Favalaro, who standardized the heart bypass procedure at the Cleveland Clinic in the '60s. Sitting next to him on an airplane 20 years ago he told me to ignore everything I read about heart remedies and drink at least one glass of red wine every night -- that the natural ingredients in the skin of the red grape would keep my veins clean and clear. This was about 5 years before what's become known as the French Paradox, as first reported on "60 Minutes" in 1989.

That's when I started enjoying red wine, collecting and drinking, and I've been doing it ever since. So far, my heart is ticking just fine, thank you.


Sometimes the best solution to morale problems is just to fire all the unhappy people. Have fun over at

Now get to work; you aren't being paid to believe in the power of your dreams.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Suicide is Painless*

Human life consists in mutual service. No grief, pain, misfortune, or “broken heart,” is excuse for cutting off one’s life while any power of service remains. But when all usefulness is over, when one is assured of an unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935), writer

The House of Representatives is a joke. They have nothing more pressing to consider than sticking their collective noses into Schiavo's family issues regarding whether Terri’s feeding tube should be removed.

A Florida court has already granted her husband’s wishes to remove the feeding tube. Schiavo, 41, suffered severe brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped temporarily, and court-appointed doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, says she told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially.

In this case the husband’s wishes outweigh those of the parents’ and those of the government. The husband said that his wife would not want to be kept alive. That should be the end of the story.

Why the hell is Congress getting involved except for the fact that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has sided with the parents. Washington is becoming a kangaroo court or is it really just another phase of the Scopes Monkey trial with all the religious issues going on lately?

*Just using a song title for a headline. Suicide is anything but painless for the survivors.

Sorry, Nietzche -- you were wrong.

One of my favorite movie lines, by the way, is from "A Fish Called Wanda," after Wanda (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) calls Otto (played by Kevin Kline) an ape:
Otto: “Apes don't read Nietzche!”
Wanda: “Yes they do; they just don't understand it.”
Oh yeah -- here's more good news for the Creator:

Check out these covers and other great ones at The World's Worst Record Covers.

On The Mark -- Numbing Our Senses

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed the systematic and planned release of reports about war prisoner abuses -- ranging from torture to murder -- committed by the United States? It seems like a well-thought-out strategy to release this bad information. One report effectively numbs the next report, so that when the military announces, as it did yesterday, that 26 prisoner deaths in Iraq may have been homicides, it barely causes a blink.

It seems the government wants all these reports to have the same effect as reading or hearing about gang murders and drive-by shootings in the inner cities: "shit happens in bad places." It's all the same so why bother reading yet another story about another gang killing?

The Bush administration has demonstrated over and over again that they are expert at staying on message. They know Americans are lazy and have extremely short attention spans so that if they've heard it once that's enough for them, they don't need to pay attention to further notices, nor will they absorb them anyway.

This is very clever -- this dumbing down, numbing down strategy.

Why is there not a commission to investigate this prisoner abuse problem in its entirety, along the lines of the 9/11 Commission? Certainly, it's warranted.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

No Matter the Length of Punishment it’s not Enough

From a single crime know the nation.
Virgil (70–19 BC), Roman poet.

Bernard Ebbers, the former chief executive of Worldcom, was found guilty in federal court of orchestrating a record $11 billion fraud. I certainly hope he is sent away for the rest of his natural days. Additionally, it would be nice to repossess some of his ill-gotten gains.

To many of the tens of thousands of WorldCom workers who lost their jobs and savings when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2002, the verdict might bring some satisfaction, but no relief.

From the article in the New York Times, "The verdict represents justice, but not restitution," said Stephen Vivien, a WorldCom employee from San Carlos, Calif., who lost $250,000 in his 401(k) account when the company went bankrupt. "Great, he's going up the river. But the way pensions are treated in America, employees and their pensions are still vulnerable."

Crime is terribly revealing. Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions.
Agatha Christie (1891–1976), mystery writer

Taking Premium Fees to New Extremes

Greed is all right, by the way … I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.
Ivan F. Boesky, financier

Unless you are okay with the following, you need to send an e-mail to your representatives in the House and Senate. It is rather easy. Go to Google, write in the name of your congress man or woman and go to his or her site and leave a message. I have done it numerous times.

The latest favoritism to resurface from the Bush administration is Halliburton, again. The Pentagon's audit of Halliburton views their charges as illogical. The auditors said Dick Cheney’s old company might have overcharged the government by more than $100 million on a contract to deliver fuel to Iraq.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency said Halliburton had charged $27.5 million to deliver $82,100 worth of liquefied petroleum gas. The DCAA called the price "illogical." Halliburton’s defense is that it was in a war zone.

Okay, a high premium is understandable, but not to the tune of $27.4 million! The good news is that this kind of mark up may encourage numerous new competitors.

Oh, I forgot, this was a non-competitive bid. In other words, it was handed to Halliburton and they could charge whatever they wanted. Obviously they did.

Cease and Desist

To whom it may concern:

Please stop putting fruit in your Jell-O. I have three reasons why:
Nutritional: It's dessert, not food; Jell-O is not supposed to contribute to your RDA of any vitamins or minerals.

Religious: It is written, "thou shalt not create a Jell-O dessert after the manner of fruit; it is an abomination."

Aesthetic: It looks creepy.

A concerned eater

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

Patronize the rest of the crew of White Trash Wednesday, listed on the right. No, your other right.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hopper Rolls Over In His Grave

Have you all gotten this in the mail yet? AOL's embarassing (mis)appropriation of Edward Hopper's 1942 painting, "Nighthawks"?

I received the advertisement from AOL a few months ago, and put it aside, thinking I would one day use it as an example of the crass and inappropriate commericaliziation of a great work of art.

Mind you, I have no problem with the use of art to sell things -- make money while you can, I say (even if you're dead and your estate gets all the cash). But to so dramatically change the painting gives me the shivers (not to mention the fact that the loneliness of Hopper's original work runs counter to the idea of the constant connectedness that AOL represents).

Anyway, I have since been accumulating examples of similar parodies of "Nighthawks." and I decided to share; aren't I generous? Below you'll see some small reproductions of the parodies; just click them to see the larger images.

The original parody, with which many people are already familiar (the case has been made that more people know this version than the original), is a painting by Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein. He substituted James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley for Hopper's isolated diner patrons.

Andreas von Baudissin is a German freelance graphic designer, and he created this barnyard interpretation of "Nighthawks" as part of his "Joe Haflinger & Chickenduck" series.

What Hopper enthusiast wouldn't be pleased to see the Dark Knight incorporated into "Nighthawks"? None that I know! This parody is from Fanzing, and is called "Knighthawks."

What is Cowboy Bebop? I don't know. Some cartoon, maybe? I don't even have enough interest to Google it.

Another fine find from Flickr; this parody turns the diner into a McDonald's. Obviously.

Steve Martin's movie "Pennies from Heaven" (which, incidentally, is awesome and you should go rent it) includes a number of scenes built on paintings and photographs from the Depression and post-war eras. This scene features Steve Martin (in the fedora) and Bernadette Peters (with her trademark hair).

Alexander Rinesch painted his "Nighthawks" with an elephant. To each his own, I suppose.

D'oh! Homer Simpson is eating donuts in "Yummy's Donuts" in this modern take on Hopper, while Chief Wiggum and Edna Crabapple munch nearby.

The "Nighthawks" diner becomes a truck stop in this obviously-named "Nighthawks at the Truck Stop." Note the butt cleavage on the trucker.

Michael Bedard painted this parody, with more animals. The recurring theme in his work is "sitting ducks," and I think the crocodile is supposed to be checkin out his next meal... hence the title, "Window Shopping."

Again, corporate giants take over the world of Edward Hopper (again, courtesy of Flickr); this one changes the diner into a Starbuck's, but to be more accurate it should probably have another Starbucks across the street.

I found more more Hopper homages and posted them here.

Monday, March 14, 2005

On The Mark -- Steroids in Baseball Hearings

I have very mixed feelings about these hearings. Something needs to be done, there's no doubt about that. I heard a report over the weekend that it is estimated that as many as 500,000 youth are using steroids. There have been reports of suicides among some young athletes who stopped using cold turkey.

I can fully understand why these kids would be tempted. They want to get scholarships and/or make it to the pros and they know that if they don't take steroids then, for many of them, they are at a competitive disadvantage with those who are using the stuff.

There's no doubt Major League Baseball should have acted sooner and more aggressively. Even the plan it has in place now is too lax. If MLB had done the right thing, it probably would not be a Congressional issue.

What I want to know is how all these kids are getting steroids? Who's supplying the stuff? Why isn't this being investigated? Why are so many amateur coaches and parents obviously closing their eyes to this problem? It has to be obvious when a kid looks like a 25-year-old.

If all the commission does is to ask questions of these designated athletes -- and the list does not include Barry Bonds -- then I have to believe the hearings are being conducted for political reasons and for show. And I can understand why some are reminded of McCarthyism.

If the commissioners are truly trying to get to the bottom of the issue, then as "celebrity" as these athletes are, it's only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is that these pro and amateur athletes have taken steroids. The issue that needs to be resolved is how and where it came from. That would really shake things up.

Son of "The Son of Man"

I love the Internet. Here's the Flickr site of the prankster, and here's the original Magritte painting.

Let’s Make a Deal – Pick Your Level of Poison

The poor tread lightest on the earth. The higher our income, the more resources we control and the more havoc we wreak.
Paul Harrison, playwright

The Bush administration does not believe the environment is an important consideration, so this week it will allow companies to trade mercury pollution allowances. If you know something is bad and you know that companies are making strides in meeting pollution controls why would you lessen the rules?

According to the New York Times, Mercury, a commonplace of everyday life a generation ago found in home thermometers and school science labs, has in the past two decades been found to cause direct harm to the development of nervous systems in infants and young children. Infants have been exposed before birth to mercury consumed by their mothers, studies have shown.

The most common form of exposure is believed to be the consumption of fish - including tuna and swordfish - in which the metal has accumulated. From 1990 to 1999, total airborne emissions of mercury in the United States dropped from 209.6 tons to 113.2 tons, roughly 5 percent of worldwide manmade emissions. Mercury emissions from power plants are responsible for about 48 of the 113 tons. Even though large reductions in mercury emissions from municipal and medical waste incinerators and chemical factories have been achieved over the past decade, at least 44 states have issued advisories calling for limited consumption of fish from mercury-contaminated streams.

Felice Stadler, a mercury policy specialist at the National Wildlife Federation, was sharply critical when told on Sunday of the thrust of the new rule, saying that it was "the weakest air-toxics rule ever written for a major industry" by the E.P.A.

"This rule gives big energy companies an extra 10 years before being required to reduce their mercury air pollution," Ms. Stadler said. "To say we are disappointed is an understatement. This is an ill-conceived plan that puts the future of our children and natural places at risk."

I don’t understand how you can compromise on a known toxic substance. The only thing I can figure is that Texas, which is the highest polluting state, is having favors returned or called in. Either way will mean people will continue to suffer, and of course, this president has only disdain for the working class, so it all makes sense.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

When we attend the funerals of our friends we grieve for them, but when we go to those of other people it is chiefly our own deaths that we mourn for.
Gerald Brenan (1894 - 1987), writer and novelist

Funeral Services. I have decided that I do not like funeral services. I preferred that age in my life when friends were getting married or having babies. Now, I am approaching the age when people are passing away unexpectedly. I have been to two Catholic services and two Jewish services and the pain of losing a friend, loved ones or acquaintances is never easy. Religion attempts to lessen the blow, but all it seems to do is prolong the mourning.

Phone Bills. I received the first phone bill for chatting with Daughter and I thought I was making a car payment. I really wondered why I paid $60 a month for a European plan to end up with an unacceptably high bill. I called SBC, argued for several minutes, and was able to reduce the bill by $40. I told Daughter we are communicating via e-mail until she returns.

Bungee Jumping. Daughter told me she was planning on Bungee Jumping in Switzerland once her “vacation” starts. She asked me not to tell her mother, but I didn’t make that promise, because I generally prefer not to talk with her mother. However, I do know from time to time, she reads this looking for typos, but I am not going to say anything. I won’t even mention how I am absolutely against her jumping. I asked, what if it is not hooked up correctly? She'll splat like a bug on a windshield in some foreign country. I just want Daughter home already. I miss kissing her goodnight and good morning as I leave for work.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Taxing Toilet Paper?

“People who complain about taxes can be divided into two classes: men and women.”
— Unknown

I thought for sure this was another Republican ownership fee/tax. When I looked into it, it was an absurd Florida state Democrat idea. Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, has filed a bill to tax toilet paper at two cents a roll. The tax would raise about $30-million a year for new sewer systems.

Have we squatted so low as to promote a toilet paper tax movement? Stop with the fees already. This is what happens when you stop taxing the rich; the poor will barely be able to wipe their rear ends.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Lawson admitted, "It's a funny bill, but it's serious." Lawson says he wants to protect Florida's underground water supply and help small towns pay for sewers.

The “witty” Republican House Speaker Allan Bense said, "Sounds like a pretty crappy bill to me."

Friday, March 11, 2005

Branding and Character (and Judaism)

Neil Kleid has a great piece at Scryptic Studios this week on branding as a component of writing; he posits that a successful character is defined by the brand created by his author (I'm ignoring the his/her convention that I find so distracting, so feel free to assume or mis-assume regarding sex as you deem appropriate):
Every character, no matter how small or bit, is an individual brand. Even if you have no plans for that character beyond the story you’re trying to tell, that character must be branded with emotions and motivations that makes the reader CARE. Otherwise said reader will tell your character to fuck off and go look for ducks with Holden Caulfield.
It made me wonder -- are we branded as well? And not by an author, but by God or the religion or culture that we subscribe to?

The Jewish "brand" is a set of traditions and customs, complete with suggested foods (challah, matzoh, latkes), colors (blue and white), visual identity system (six-pointed star, seven-branched menorah, flag of Israel), and brand language (Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, are all acceptable counterparts to a local vernacular). We are branded with this by birth or choice, by parents or society, and then we do what every graphic designer must do at some point in her career: create a sub-brand.

There are the obvious sub-brands: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and so on... and there are less obvious ones: living the life of a rabbi or other professional Jew, taking Tikkun Olam as one's watchword, participating only culturally in Judaism, humanist religious observance, etc.

I think I may need to create a style guide for this... oh wait, we've got it already: Torah.

That's just totally not what I wanted to do with this, but I in retrospect I see why great musings aren't written down in mere minutes; I may delve further into this topic at a later time.

On The Mark -- Poisoning Our Society

For all the professional athletes who downplay steriods and say something like, "I don't want to talk about steroids. It's in the past, and it's my body anyway."

This is what 19-year-old Efrain Marrero, a college football player, said to his mother and father after they discovered he was using steroids and they asked him to stop, citing that they're dangerous.

"But Barry Bonds does it."

His father responded, "That doesn't make it right." Efrain said many athletes at his college were taking steroids and illegal supplements.

Efrain agreed to stop, which he did cold turkey. He committed suicide three and a half weeks later. He left no note. He had no history of depression or mental illness.

And, by the way, Barry Bonds hasn't been called to testify before Congress along with other professional baseball players because it would create too much of a circus and take away from the purpose of the hearing.

Huh? It seems to me you would want him there precisely because he's a role model to youth (another rant for another time).

These athletes may have been injecting this stuff into their own bodies, but they were poisoning our society.

They just don't make prophets like they used to.

What would I do without the Internet? How could I possibly make sense of my heritage without insightful comic-strip adaptations of the bible? (Oh yeah -- I could ask my wife.) But in the meantime, I'll just enjoy Jay Pinkerton's take on the Book of Hosea. (Tip: if you just want to see the rest of the comic strip, click the panel above to launch the rest of it.) For a more scholarly take on Hosea, check out this. Oh wait -- did I say scholarly? I meant schoolboyish.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

On The Mark -- How Deep Is Deep Throat's Throat?

The business section of the Los Angeles Times is starting to look like a blog. Last week, a columnist challenged the claim in the documentary, "Inside Deep Throat," that the movie has grossed $600 million worldwide. Last weekend, the producers of the documentary published a long letter to the editor explaining their calculations, practically down to the last penny.

In today's Los Angeles Times, on the front page of the business section, the same columnist has written another article responding to the letter. Enough already! Who cares! Is this affecting shareholder value? No. Does it have any impact on the movie industry? No. Is there any wrongdoing, besides fuzzy math on someone's part? No.

Only in Los Angeles...Where (until this year) television weather forecasters would travel 60 miles north to Santa Barbara and stand amidst scattered sprinkles while wearing heavy rain gear to say a major rain storm had struck Southern California. Where an entire evening news broadcast -- all 35 minutes without commercials -- has been dedicated to car chases while there is a war going on in Iraq and other important stories.

Now it's bleeding over into the business section of the LA Times.

News Flash – Congress Considers Another Necessity to Make Us Pay For

In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.
Voltaire (1694–1778), philosopher, author

Here they go again. Now, Congress is considering legislation backed by the Bush administration that would let states charge drivers fees to fund new highways or to reduce rush-hour traffic, in addition to allowing gas prices to rise daily. That’s the ticket; make it so expensive so that people who have jobs can no longer afford to go to work. Why are we paying 32 cents on every gallon of gas in California if it is not to repair and build roads?

What else can we attach a fee to in order to make life less affordable? They allow credit card companies to entice and lure people into debt, but don’t allow them any protection from the vultures, and plan to make it too expensive to file for bankruptcy. And, forget about allowing people to earn a living wage, Congress voted that down.

Chimps is Chimps

First of all: very sad... my sympathy to the family... tragic...


If you go near chimpanzees, expect danger. Even if you are visiting some other chimp to wish him a happy birthday, nearby chimps may get jealous and attack you. Chimps are not people. They are animals -- dangerous animals. They may be able to communicate, think, use sign language, wear hats, and paint, but they are not to be blindly trusted.That is tragic and sad, but it is not entirely unexpected.

Here's Jane Goodall, talking about Gombe National Park in Africa (yes, it's out of context for this discussion, but it's nonetheless true): People can get too close. The danger is that chimps are four times stronger than people and they are becoming increasingly tense and more likely to become aggressive.

I await your vitriol at my unsympathetic rant.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Baby Got Book

This is a must-see video -- Southpaw (an apparently sincere Christian entertainer) has made a video of his version of Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back," and it is incredible. Sample verses:
It looks like one of those large ones /
With lots of room in the margins

I like 'em real thick and red-lettered /
You can't find nothing better

My girlfriend's hot /
And her bible's rockin' /
And she's got good doctrine
Seriously -- you must see it.

I've changed the link for all you non-Quicktime folks, now it goes here, where you can choose what kind of file to watch.

On The Mark -- There Are Soccer Moms, and Then There Are Boyfriend Moms

Nicole is 12 years old. She just got out of a three-week coma. No, she didn't fall and hit her head; she didn't get hit by a car. She got kissed on the cheek by a boy. On her birthday. At her party in Baltimore.

For one of the mothers (Monique) at the party, it was the wrong boy. You see, the boy who kissed Nicole was supposed to be the boyfriend of Monique's daughter. At least in the eyes of Monique, anyway. Monique didn't like this.

In fact, she proceeded to beat Nicole, and Nicole's 11-year-old sister who came to her defense. She even convinced two of her friends to help her do the job. By the time they were done, Nicole was in a coma and her sister was severely injured. The three women pleaded guilty. But it's a little too late.

First there were sports dads who came out of the stands to beat on refs and coaches when they felt their kids weren't playing enough or got a bad call against them. Now boyfriend moms can join in on the idiocy of it all.

This seemed like an appropriate story for B2's newly designated Wednesdays on Toner Mishap.

Beef Jerky: Your Questions, Answered

Beef jerky is the very essence of food -- meat at its most basic level. It's tough, stringy, chewy, and delicious -- and I like it. But I have, as most of you no doubt do as well, some unanswered questions about beef jerky.

I have read that "the word jerky comes from the Native American word charqui, meaning jerked beef." But what exactly is jerked beef? Does it sound like something people should talk about in public? In "mixed company"? In therapy?

Question numero dos: what makes Dad's Jerky so good? Their website states it thusly: you can "hold a 24-count case in the palm of your hand." But do I really need 24 pieces of jerky on hand? What sort of unexpected jamboree could spring up, taking me unawares and requiring copius amounts of stringy beef? I'm not sure, but I suppose it's better to be prepared.

What about the need for good jerky PR? This juicy answer is from Tillamook's jerky history webpage: "One day, Crawford's wife, Shirley, predicted that Art's amazing jerky would be a big hit if only more people could taste it." Perhaps they should consider packaging it in 24-count packs.

And how about the astronauts? "What do they think of jerky?" you are no doubt wondering. "How can those poor astronauts survive in space without ready access to jerky -- say, in handy 24-count packs?" Good news:
Final Frontier Jerky is available FREE to anyone flying on Soyuz, Space Shuttle, Shenzhou, or X-Prize spacecraft. Throughout history, jerky has been included on expeditions. We want to see that tradition continued as the Space Age comes of age.

When you are ready to make your flight into space, remember to ask us for your free Final Frontier Jerky supplies. For confirmation, e-mail your flight and crew schedules to:

One pound per person to orbit is complements of Please place your request at least 4 weeks prior to your lift-off.
This post has been brought to you in honor of White Trash Wednesday; please visit the other participants in this weekly drama, listed on the right.

Score Two for the Rich and Powerful

Thinking to get at once all the gold that the goose could give, he killed it, and opened it only to find—nothing.
Aesop (620? - 560 BC), Greek writer

What a shame. The American people lose two rounds in the ring with the Republican Senate. Tuesday was a red-letter day for President Bush as the Senate assured final passage of the first major overhaul of the nation’s bankruptcy law in 27 years, and voted down increases in the minimum wage. President Bush should feel proud that he can kick those who are down.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Update From The Phantom Zone

He's not quite done with it yet, but even so -- Jay Pinkerton's Superman Origin Comics is a treat for all who fancy themselves a fan of the famous son of Krypton.

On The Mark -- Now Boarding: Flight Coincidence

Maybe it's because I had a ticket on Delta 191 that crashed into a field near Dallas that I can't let this story go. I'm still haunted by the image of a business colleague who came up to me at the hotel pool in Ft. Lauderdale to tell me I'd better hurry up and get dressed or I'll miss the plane. I had told him that I decided at the last minute to take some time off and was heading down to the Bahamas. He said, "Lucky dog. Hey, what do you think of this teddy bear I got for my kid?" I didn't realize at the time how lucky I was. He and several other friends and colleagues never made it home.

Last week I wrote a post on the British Airways 747 that lost an engine at take-off in Los Angeles and still continued on its flight to England, although the plane had to land in Manchester because it didn't have enough fuel. This incident generated some press and a lot of second-guessing by U.S. officials and former pilots. BA shrugged it off saying that the plane is designed to make that long flight with three engines, what's all the fuss?

Well, that same BA 747 (with the failed engine replaced) took off from Singapore a few days ago, and again experienced failure with the engine that had just been replaced about 3 hours into the 11-hour flight. BA officials again decided to continue on with the flight, which landed safely in London.

Amazingly, according to the Wall Street Journal, the BA spokesperson's response, "It's perfectly safe to fly with three engines." (Or, so it seemed, we told you so.). Going by the book -- yes it is safe to fly with three engines, although U.S. regulations state that a pilot should land at the nearest airport if this happens (British regulations have more leeway) and most people in the aviation industry say it's risky to continue on because, what happens if another engine dies?

Recently, the European Union adopted new rules that state that a EU airline must compensate passengers for long delays, as much as $788 per passenger. The British pilots' union said that the new regulations could pressure pilots to take more risks to save money. Really? BA denies this, of course.

Maybe it's a coincidence, as BA claims. Same plane, new engine, but still, it was the No. 2 engine that failed both times. Seems to me it's too much of a coincidence (especially within days of each other) to risk 300+ lives.

I bet if they would have taken a vote of the passengers (and informed them of the plane's previous engine failure), the pilots would have had no choice but to land the plane back in Singapore.

In any case, "Flight Coincidence" is not a plane I want to board if I ever fly BA.

Making the Men in Blue Read

Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.
Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626), English philosopher

The Mayor of Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico came up with a good idea that maybe the Los Angeles Chief of Police could institute, which is mandating literature for the officers. The reading list ranges from Don Quixote to the latest crime novels. Maybe if our police officers were a bit more literate they might be a bit slower to club or shoot someone. Heck, they might even care enough to show up in a timely manner.

I don’t pretend that teaching our police officers to read anything beyond the latest NRA magazine will make them less obnoxious, but it could help. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Nezahualcoyotl Mayor Luis Sanchez says, “Reading makes us better people, more sensitive, more able to express ourselves.” I believe the mayor is on to something.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan has a reading group, but it is more for blueblood networking, certainly not for the men in blue. But, they should have a reading group. I recall an officer that came to our house to take the report on my missing grandfather, I mentioned some young people who had befriended my grandfather. The officer had assumed befriended meant become one’s enemy.

Expanding and opening the minds of those who have chosen to protect and to serve seems like a great idea to me. “There is no doubt that if you open people’s minds to the world of literature, that you also open up a world of sensitivity and of civilization, as any of us who read already know. That seems a worthwhile effort,” said Paco Ignacio Taibo II, one of Mexico’s best-selling crime novelists.

My recommendation is for the police reading list is The Grapes of Wrath. Do you have any suggestions?

Reading—I discovered—comes before writing. A society can exist—many do exist—without writing, but no society can exist without reading.
Alberto Manguel, writer

Monday, March 07, 2005

We don't torture suspected terrorists -- we send them to people who do it for us.

The Bush administration sends suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation that may involve torture. These transfers have been carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency under broad authority that has allowed it to act without case-by-case approval from the White House or the State or Justice Departments, according to current and former government officials. This has been going on since just after the September 11 attacks.

Translation: we may say we don't torture people, but we send them to other countries so they'll do the job for us. No opinion from me at this point on the subject of torture itself (your comments are welcomed, as always) -- but I don't like the government saying one thing and doing another.

[Source: The New York Times]

Just Another Manic Monday

Every week it's the same thing -- people in the elevator bemoaning the appearance of another Monday. I, for one, am sick of it.

Mondays are, to me, filled with a sense of renewal. They are the clean slate upon which we begin each week. Mondays are fresh and clean, with the light wind of the weekend blowing us on toward bigger and better things. Every Monday is a chance to start anew, and to get a jump on the week ahead.

Fridays, on the other hand, are universally welcomed. We have a cliche named for this feeling. Hell, we even have a restaurant chain named in honor of that cliche! But Fridays are, inevitably, the days in which everything comes to a head. All of the stuff we didn't get to during the week finally piles up too high for us to ignore, and we find ourselves at four in the afternoon on Friday, staring down the nose of the evening, waiting for the sky to turn dark with evening's shadow, and realizing that we still have so much to do.

So that's why I welcome the newness of Mondays, and gleefully skip to work when that day comes around. Join me in a cheerful "hurrah for Mondays" -- just stand up, wherever you are, and shout it out. You could even try "hooray" or "huzzah."

On The Mark -- They Think the World Stopped Watching; I Hope Not

You may remember the story in 2002 or maybe you've read some of the recent updates. If you thought it was bad then, it gets worse. And I fear the story will end even more tragically.

She lives in a small village in Pakistan. Her brother was accused and convicted of a crime by the village's tribal council (it was later learned that it was a false accusation). His punishment: that his innocent sister be raped by six members of the jury (who are all neighbors of the brother and sister). They immediately carried out the sentence and gang-raped her.

The world revolted, forcing a trial and the eventual conviction of the six rapists, who were given the death penalty. Last week the convictions were overturned; five of the rapists are free, the other had his sentence reduced to life in prison. The sister, of course, fears retaliation and for her life. You see, after the gang rape, she was supposed to commit suicide in shame. But she refused, she fought back, and even opened schools in the village because she believes that this way of thinking must be stopped when boys are young, before they are brainwashed.

She is fighting the sentence reversal at the Supreme Court of Pakistan. But what she is really fighting for is to avoid a revenge death sentence for her if the Supreme Court allows the reversal to stand.

Now she is really the one on death row. The only chance she has is if the media and rights groups make a lot of noise, as in 2002. Otherwise, in a year or so, we'll be reading about how she mysteriously disappeared or died "accidentally."

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or gazelle - when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."
Inspirational sign

L.A. Marathon. Most likely as you read this I will be pedaling my bike around downtown Los Angeles freezing and cursing my tightening muscles and sore knees. Charity events are not cheap. Getting bike rehabbed, purchasing padded bike shorts, borrowing a bike helmet, paying parking to get registered, having to reciprocate with everyone who donated to my ride will cost me throughout the year. Donating more than $1,000 to Inside Out Community Charity to help setup after school arts programs, and realizing friends and co-workers care enough to donate – PRICELESS.

Odious Practice. The greedy oil companies continue to look for ways to stick it to their customers. Just moments ago, I checked out my bike before loading into the car and discovered the tire was low. A quick drive to the Chevron station (which is rolling in cash from the sky high prices it’s charging), wants 50 cents to use their air compressor and 50 cents if you need water for your car. I suppose I should get used to it, since this is the way society is going under Republican management – everything is a cost center.

On Being Sore. I have been hearing all kinds of warnings about how sore and stiff I will upon completion of this bike ride. I don’t think I will be too worse for the wear. I did this ride about seven or eight years ago and it was a piece of cake. It is all flat most the roads are cleared of traffic. I told one friend that I could ride the marathon and come back, and still whip him in tennis. The alarm will be going off at 3:00 Sunday morning. The race starts at 6 a.m. I expect to finish the race in less than 90 minutes, if I don’t have to wait for anyone. I plan to be home by 11 a.m. at the latest and reading my newspapers by noon.

Note from Daughter. "Well everything seems to be picking up for me in school right now...I have three essays due next week, so I am going to be pretty busy over the next couple of days putting the finishing touches on them. I just received a paper that I wrote in the beginning of the term. I was really excited because I received the highest grade in my seminar!" This weekend she is in Belgium, last weekend was Scotland, in two weeks touring Europe. Oh to be young and carefree.

Update. It’s 9:55 a.m. as I write this. I completed the L.A. Marathon ride in approximately 90 minutes or less. It’s a bit hard to tell because of the massive starting line. We were walking our bikes through the first part of the line because of the number of riders. I was with a couple of friends, both personal and from the charity, and we separated rather quickly. After mile two or three, my competitive juices started to flow and I had a ball swerving in and out of the bikes. Overall, it was a blast and I plan to do it next year too.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

On The Mark -- Finally, Common Sense Prevails

A few days ago there was an article on the front page of the LA Times about how some prosecutors had used the same evidence to convict separate defendants for a crime. In short, if two criminals were involved in a crime where one of the defendants killed somebody with a knife, the prosecutor in one trial would say that the defendant was the one who used the knife for the murder. The defendant was convicted of murder. Then in the trial for the second criminal, the prosecutor said that this defendant had used the knife to kill the same person. Obviously, the prosecutor had lied because only one of the criminals present used the knife to kill the victim. The article quoted ethicists and lawyers who debated from both sides whether the prosecutor was right to present false evidence in the second trial.

What's to debate, I thought. Obviously it's wrong. Prosecutors can't be allowed to shift and create evidence to win. Let's face it, prisoners on death row have been, and will continue to be, released when DNA evidence has proven they weren't involved in the crime for which they were convicted.

I was planning on writing on this subject for my "Enough Is Enough" series for Friday, but lack of time made it impossible. However, I was pleased to read in the papers, which I didn't get to until late Friday night, that the California Supreme Court had ruled 6 to 1 that prosecutors cannot adapt the evidence in separate trials to win their case when two or more perpetrators are involved.

Finally, common sense prevails. But now I'm curious to know who the lone holdout was.

Why it makes sense to bite the hand that feeds you.

1. Preventive bite. Hand is bound to betray you eventually. Get it before it gets you. Remember, every hand is capable of naked aggression.

2. Preemptive bite. Hand is ready to do something. Just look at it. You've got to protect yourself, don't you?

3. Keeps gums healthy.

4. Hand less likely poisoned than food.

5. Tastes good.

[From Errol Morris]

Friday, March 04, 2005

Are bloggers journalists?

A good newspaper is never nearly good enough but a lousy newspaper is a joy forever.
Garrison Keillor, author

The initial courtroom victory that Apple won against bloggers trying to protect their sources who supplied insider information about new products (which we pointed out to BoingBoing does not mean the end of bloggers as journalists.

I don’t see this case as having anything to do with journalism or bloggers as journalists. This case is focused on company secrets being stolen and published. It is more like thievery with lawyers looking for publicity trying to claim protection under the First Amendment.

A blog is a relatively new medium to convey information. As many of you already know, "blog" is a relatively new word formed through the age-old method of combining two already-existing words; in this case, web and log (it is also seen as an abbreviated form of the term weblog).

Blogs that report news and whose contributors work as reporters should be entitled to the protections and risks that journalists face, such as libel lawsuits and First Amendment rights (which are fading fast under the Bush administration). However, I would venture to say most blogs are vox populi for voicing opinions or journal writing of some sort.

Most blogs are structurally distinguished from other websites in that stories, opinion pieces and rants are all stacked atop one another. I would equate blogs to talk radio -- a nice blog feature is the ability of readers to immediately post their opinions to what was written as opposed to sending a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine and hoping that it gets published.

Just to be clear: we at Toner Mishap are not journalists (any longer). Therefore, we don’t protect our sources -- so don’t tell us anything confidential.