Friday, September 30, 2005

Winnie-the-Pooh Eaten in Bizarre Toy-Related Accident

I didn't buy it -- but I totally should have.

You know toy machines at the front of certain stores? At the local Chinese restaurant they had one with a weird Winnie-the-Pooh toy, in which the Winnie part goes into various animal costumes -- through their mouths. As you can see in this picture, it looks more like he's being eaten than putting on a costume.

Guerilla Gorilla:
Stupid Humans

[It's Friday, and that's means it's time for Guerilla Gorilla. This week, GG addresses the differences between humans and apes.]

Do you humans know how you wound up at the top of the biological ladder? It's not your opposable thumbs; plenty of other animals have those, including opposums. I'll give you a hint: the Greeks had a story about Prometheus stealing some from the Gods to give to man...

Yes, that's right -- fire; control of fire is the key to your species' success. So what seems to be the problem? (Human race, I'm talking to you.)

First, you let tidal waves and hurricanes wash away major cities around the world, in what has got to be the most ridiculous regression ever -- haven't human civilizations prided themselves on their ability to protect their citizenry from storms? Since the beginning of human civilization?

Then you have these fires, which always start out small and then wind up engulfing entire neighborhoods, hundreds and thousands of acres. Can't you guys plan for this? Don't you know how to get rid of extraneous dry brush? We apes do. Don't you know how to put out a fire? We apes thought that's what you humans prided yourselves on. And flying a helicopter over a fire and dropping a lot of water may look cool on television, but it's about time you humans harnessed your superior technology to come up with something more effective.

A big simian grunt of thanks go to the emergency workers and firefighters who are attempting to save your sorry human asses.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Cheney’s Chief of Staff Also Outed CIA Agent

Leaders must have that sense of trusteeship, that they are only temporarily in charge of the destinies of their people and that their duty is not only to discharge that trust but also to pass it on to equally trustworthy and competent hands.
Kuan Yew Lee, Singaporean statesman

New York Times reporter Judith Miller revealed her source after spending three months in jail. Her source was Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Miller said her source voluntarily and personally released her from her promise. I suppose since nothing has happened to Turd Blossom, Bush pet name for Karl Rove, he figured why not let her off the hook.

I have a hard time believing Bush and Cheney knew nothing of this since their closest advisors where behind the revealing of a covert CIA agent. This is truly has to be the most corrupt and inept (when it comes to helping people who are not “Friends of Bush”) administration in the history of the United States.

On The Mark -- The Digital Camera's Dirty Little Secret

While I was shooting some photos with my digital camera in Moscow recently, I suddenly got a message on my camera that said I must re-format my disk in order to proceed. However, if I re-formatted my disk I would lose all my previous shots. When I returned home I brought the disk into my local professional camera store where I buy all my film for 35 mm and digital cameras.

The owner's response was surprising (at least to me): "Yeah, that's the digital camera industry's dirty little secret. It's a glitch they haven't been able to fix yet. I can't tell you how many times professional photographers come into my store in a panic because they've experienced the same thing."

I had to send my disk to the manufacturer to attempt to restore the photos onto a CD. I had to sign a release form stating that I realize that all photos may be lost as they attempt to retrieve them.

Has anyone else experienced this problem? Make sure you transfer your shots to your PC sooner than later.

Airwolf: The Adjective

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tom DeLay Indicted

Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russian writer

Eventually justice is served and today we are on our way to seeing Rep. Tom DeLay pay for his lack of ethics and possibly for criminal involvement. A Texas grand jury on charged DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, the indictment has forced him to step down as House majority leader.

According to the New York Times, GOP congressional officials said Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., will recommend that Rep. David Dreier of California step into those duties. Some of the duties may go to the GOP whip, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. The Republican rank and file may meet as early as Wednesday night to act on Hastert's recommendation.

"The president's view is to let the legal process work," Mr. McClellan said. "There's a legal process and we're going to let it work."

Our president who surrounds himself with greedy dishonest former corporate executives continues to support DeLay. Of course, he still lets Turd Blossom (Karl Rove) run amuck.

Maybe we’ve heard the last of DeLay, who thought there was little wrong with Terri Schiavo, and most recently said that there is no waste in the federal budget. He is also known for punishing his preceived enemies, who are generally people doing honest work.

Criminal conspiracy is a state felony punishable by six months to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The potential two-year sentence forces DeLay to step down under House Republican rules.

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Angels!

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
George F. Will, political columnist

The Angels are the American League West Division Champions.

Meanwhile the Dodgers are literally fighting rats at the stadium.

Real Reality Television

I feel about airplanes the way I feel about diets. It seems to me that they are wonderful things for other people to go on.
Jean Kerr, author, playwright

The flight of JetBlue with the malfunctioning landing gear last week brings up a new question for travelers: should the televisions remain on during a crisis or should they be turned off? Jetblue has opted to keep its TVs on for full disclosure but Frontier Airlines, WestJet Airlines, Song airlines have decided that in emergency situations the boob tube is immediately turned off.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, among the reasons for during the TVs off include the possibly of lawyers seeking additional pain and suffering claims if passengers watch themselves explode into a fireball.

No longer do you have to rely on the captain or the crew to inform you of a pending tragedy, just wait for the power to flicker on the television sets and assume the crash position, because the end could be just minutes away.

Glo Balls

These are, hands down, the most disgusting looking dessert ever.

Bright orange, spherical, and fuzzy? And named "Glo Balls," for crying out loud?

And of course, my kids want them.

A Tax Break for a Wealthy Monopoly

The waste of plenty is the resource of scarcity.
Thomas Love Peacock (1785–1866), English author

President Bush has asked the American people to conserve gasoline. The shortage is caused primarily because there are not enough refineries to transform the oil into gasoline. By not building refineries, the oil companies where able to create a shortage scenario thus driving prices upward with no end in sight. Also, they can use this self-created shortage to say they need access into protected wilderness areas.

So far this year the oil companies have made billions in profits, but that is still not enough. No sir/madam, Bush now wants to give his extraordinarily wealthy friends a tax break to encourage refinery construction and expansion.

Maybe Putin’s idea of having the government control the oil companies is not a bad idea, unless of course the Bush gang is in office.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Check it out; you'll thank me.

"Homeless" Movie Set Creates False Sense of Hope

I started writing this post with the intention of drawing attention to the faux homeless encampment erected in downtown Los Angeles last week for the filming of a new movie. I was going to show pictures of the fake homeless set side-by-side with photos of what it usually looks like -- comparing the relative opulence of the movie set with a true portrait of how bad it is for these people.

I was going to point out the props: clean clothes on a clothesline, unused boxes artfully arranged as shelters, tents with no stains or rips, bottles collected that had been assiduously scrubbed.

But the post didn't do justice to the difference between on-screen portrayals of homelessness and the harsh reality. so I scrapped it. There was no way I was able to write that these sanitized portrayals of homeless people in movies contributes to our neglect of the homeless problem, and homeless people themselves.

The homeless that usually loiter in this area do not have tents or boxes to sleep in. The blankets that some have are not clean, not whole, and not sanitary. They don't have tables and chairs set up as eating and chatting areas. The homeless are not doing fine; pretending that they lives lives "outside the grid" but with enough food and shelter to make them relatively happy is completely false, and contributes to our abiliy to ignore them all the more.

Following are photos of the "set." First, an example comparing real trash to fake trash:

Real trash is rotten and disgusting and you wouldn't want to touch it becuase flies have laid eggs in it. Fake trash is clean and fresh, just ordered from the mattress store.

Homeless people are not living in little communities, complete with living rooms and cafes. They eat whatever they can find, wherever and whenever they can.

They do not have clotheslines, replete with clean clothes from which they select their daily wardrobe.

The homeless do not have clean, new tents in which to sleep. They don't even have unused boxes. In the movie set, the tents and boxes are free of rips, tears and stains, and are clearly new and untouched.

And if they have sheets or blankets, they aren't clean and fresh, right out of the packaging from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

And they don't have time for elaborate home decoration such as this.

Look inside this faux trash receptacle, which the prop guys set up as a homeless person's shelter. See how dirty the container itself is? But the goods inside are clean and fresh? If you're living in anything downtown, it's filthy, you're filthy, and all of the stuff you have is filthy.

Many of the city's homeless do push shopping carts around, loaded up with all kinds of stuff. But not brand-new trendy shoes. And when someone is going around collecting used plastic and glass bottles in a garbage bag, the garbage bag is dirty, and the bottles are not clean and pristine, as they are in this prop.

And the homeless can't leave their shopping carts and possessions lying around, with a security guard to watch over them -- if they leave their stuff, it'll be gone, which is why you see so many unfortunates carrying all of their belongings with them.

This isn't just a way to poke fun at the movie industry "getting it wrong" again -- because we're not talking about the wrong typeface used in a period piece or a continuity error; we're talking about marginalizing people and not allowing ourselves to see what's really going on.

Homeless people are not living it up on the streets -- they don't have even the basic necessities for life, such as food and reliable shelter. Pretending that they don't have it so bad, and presenting them in such a state in movies, hurts our ability to help them. And I don't care if you're not sympathetic to individual homeless people you may or may not see -- a society that allows this to happen to human beings needs to be fixed, and we can not let the whitewashing of the problem continue. Ignoring it will only make it worse.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Don Adams, Dead at 82

A sad farewell to someone who gave me a lot of laughs growing up: Don Adams. As the title character of television's "Get Smart," Adams sent up the James Bond franchise and all manner of spy standards -- he was the most incredible comedic actor of his time. Would you believe, "a very funny actor"? Would you believe, "moderately funny?"

Seriously -- he was great at what he did, and I enjoyed him immensely.

Barbie Photo A Little Unnerving

It's been four years, but still... this "photo" of Barbie the business executive in a book titled What Will I Be? just gives me the creeps. Why? Look behind her.

A Sucker Born Every Minute

My rackets are run on strictly American lines and they’re going to stay that way.
Al Capone (1899–1947), U.S. gangster

They surely have Mr. Capone. I received this offer from MBNA, the credit card company, in the mail telling me I qualified for a CleanSweep(R) line of credit. I can receive up to $50,000 and pay a mere $783 a month for 84 months (7 years). The interest rate for this bag of cash is 6.99% (it’s similar to the oil companies charging $3.05.9/10). However, should I fall on hard times and miss a payment, my reasonable 6.99% escalates to earth shattering 27.99%, which would increase the $783 a month payment to more than $1,000 a month when one can least afford to pay it, thus multiplying one's problems.

How convenient that this offer should arrive just prior to the new bankruptcy rules that kick in a just a few short days. No longer can one erase debts and start, unless you have fallen below the poverty level.

At one time, the Bonanno or Genovese families only did this type of predatory loan sharking; just another example of government looking out for its citizens against corporate greed.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.
John Lennon (1940–80), musician

Drive Will You. In the last week, I passed a moron shaving on his way to work. I passed around him and cut it a bit short hoping that maybe he would press his electric razor a bit too hard against his throat. A couple of days later, I lost my patience with the woman driver in front of me who could not handle the multi-tasking of driving and plucking her eyebrows. I laid on the horn and scared the daylights out of her. I can only hope that she now has a bald spot on her eyebrow.

Weeds. I was surprised that others too loved the Showtime show “Weeds,” which is just wonderful. The show has not received a lot of promotion compared to other cable shows Tonight another favorite returns “Curb your Enthusiasm” with Larry David. On the Mark told me about this show because he said it reminded him of me. Wife and I started watching it and she concurred. I see no similarities.

Staying Busy. While wife was away I decided to see the play “Dead End” at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. The play was written in 1935, and dramatized the personal and economic devastation of the Depression. Sidney Kingsley, who wrote the play incorporated elements of days’ current events – notably the criminal career of gangster “Baby Face” Nelson and the construction of River House, a high-rise luxury apartment building set amidst the tenements of East 52nd street. The idea came to Kingsley while he sat on the wharf and watched the kids swimming in the filthy East River next to the posh River Club, then he recalled the quote from Thomas Paine: The contrast of affluence and wretchedness is like dead and living bodies chained together. The set was spectacular and I am not over stating it. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt saw the production three times and it was the first play to be presented in a command performance for the White House. The play was excellent.

The next evening I went to the library downtown to see Jane Smiley talk about her latest novel “13 Ways of Looking at the Novel.” Smiley talked about some of the lessons learned from her reading of 100 novels and how that experience changed her views on writing and reading. The discussion was rather interesting.

Accidents Happen. Daughter severely sprained her ankle playing basketball with her fellow interns. Monday she begins her internship in Washington D.C. She is toughing it out. Wife didn’t notice the uneven sidewalk while in the Bronx and fell hard on her face and right side. She now has black eye that looks like she was a member of the Fight Club and she terrifically bruised the right side of her body. I am staying indoors in my reading chair I want no part of what is going around.

Getting Soft. My week alone was nice, but when all is said and done, I missed Wife. I miss Daughter too, but she is growing up, moving on and I have to get used to that. Wife and I are just growing old and comfortable together, so when either one of us are gone it’s a break from the routine that makes us both comfortable and crazy from time to time. Wife comes home this afternoon and I for one am very excited about it.

How Geese Survive a Hurricane

From Pat Sullivan of the Associated Press: two geese and a hen wait out Hurricane Rita in a men's restroom at the Houston Zoo.

[Thanks, BoingBoing!]

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Be your own David Carson!

This guy Brendard Dawes has built an interface that creates randomly-generated David Carson-esque layouts.

It's odd, because us graphic designers have been having conversations recently about "layout in a box" -- software that will enable aesthetics-free non-designers to create good-looking design without needing our services; imagine a software app that takes your content and builds a layout for it based on what you select in a pull-down menu: Carson, Jan Tschichold, Paula Scher... it's a little frightening, because I can totally imagine it being possible.

Of course, the software programmers still need us designers around. After all, they still have to copy somebody, right? And if nothing else, my ambition is to be the guy that gets copied a lot. As in, "I can't afford B2! Can we hire someone who can make it look like this was designed by B2?"

How Christian of You

How clever you are, my dear! You never mean a single word you say.
Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author. Lady Hunstanton to Mrs. Allonby, in A Woman of No Importance, act 2.

This story shows the absolute hypocrisy of religion and particularly in this case the Christian religion. This is what we can expect if the school voucher program were ever to become a reality:

A 14-year-old student was expelled from a Christian school because her parents are lesbians, the school's superintendent said in a letter.

Shay Clark was expelled from Ontario Christian School on Thursday.

"Your family does not meet the policies of admission," Superintendent Leonard Stob wrote to Tina Clark, the girl's biological mother.

Stob wrote that school policy requires that at least one parent may not engage in practices "immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian life style, such as cohabitating without marriage or in a homosexual relationship," The Los Angeles Times reported in Friday's edition.

Stob could not be reached for comment by the newspaper. Shay and her parents said they won't fight the ruling.

School administrators learned of the parents' relationship this week after Shay was reprimanded for talking to the crowd during a football game, Tina Clark said.

Clark and her partner have been together 22 years and have two other daughters, ages 9 and 19.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Guerilla Gorilla:
Tired of hating Bush

[It's Friday, and that's means it's time for Guerilla Gorilla. He's tired.]

I'm tired of hating President George W. Bush. Why am I tired? Well, firstly, in the interest of full disclosure, I didn't vote for him. Of course, that's because gorillas in this country are still denied even the most basic of rights, such as the right not to be cooped up in a stinking zoo in a "simulated ape habitat" where the only fun to be had is picking ticks off of each other for the amusement of the most obese humans to ever walk the planet. We are also denied the right to drive, which is just damned crazy because I've seen how you humans drive, and I wouldn't be any less safe -- in fact, given my superior foot coordination, I would probably be a little faster getting to the brake than you can be. In addition, since I have no job (because of blatant ape discrimnation in the workforce, also known as the "grass ceiling") I have no where I have to be, so I certainly wouldn't be speeding. Unless I was following a banana truck. But I digress. [grunt]

As I was writing, I am tired of hating Bush. Tired of criticizing his lack of crisis management skills, tired of witnessing the antics of the worst commander-in-chief ever (and I remember the Vietnam War, which was not exactly the most well-handled altercation ever), tired of complaining about his pandering to the religious right, tired of wondering if he thinks I'm going to hell because I don't believe in Jesus so "fuck GG," right? Tired of waiting for him to leave. [grunt]

But I'm also tired from happiness. Tired from jumping up with excitement every time Cheney has a new procedure (Guerilla Gorilla not want him to die, just get sick enough to resign.. wow, so emotional right now forgetting to write good English). Tired from laughing hysterically when Bush misspeaks or mispronounces a foreign leader's name. Tired of smiling so broadly when I read that his approval rate is falling faster than a big bunch of bananas. And tired from the anticipation of a November not too far away when the people will rise up and bring revolution to the streets, and oust this poor excuse for a leader from his post, and finally elect someone who can do the job.

Maybe even a gorilla. [grunt]

A Couple of Bad Ideas

I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn’t like it.
Samuel Goldwyn (1882–1974), film producer

These stories struck me as just rather cheesy gimmicks:

The Associated Press article that Ed McMahon is taking to the road to pay tribute to longtime TV partner Johnny Carson, stopping in the late-night king's home state to reflect on the pair's friendship, seems like a way for McMahon to keep his name out there.

McMahon is not hosting any Star Search shows that I am aware of, he is not delivering envelopes for some sleazy publishing clearing house, so now he is going to travel talking about Carson and the tonight show. Hmmm. Carson most certainly would not like the idea.

This idea seems so bad that it could have come from the Swift Boat Campaign liars:

A new line of Chinese condom is attracting attention for using the name Clinton and Lewinsky. The condoms are sold in boxes of 12 with one product named after former President Bill Clinton priced at $3.70 and the other after White House intern Monica Lewinsky at $2.95.

It’s too bad there is not some way we can be protected from such ridiculousness.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Beit Jala: A View of the Wall

Bright Tal is a great Israeli photographer with two sets of Flickr pix.

Just a Lucky Guess

If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such scoundrels.
Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), Anglo-Irish satirist

I doubt he’ll be doing any time in the penitentiary soon, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, selling all of his HCA Inc. hospital stock two weeks before it issued a disappointing earnings report causing its price to fall 9% seems rather curious.

You could say it was just blind luck since his holdings are in a blind trust, but all his family sold their shares too. I suppose it was just lucky for them as well.

Frist revealed earlier this year that his blind trusts are valued between $7 million to $35 million. The former was the size of Vice President Dick Cheney’s last bonus check from Halliburton as he started the 2000 campaign.

Is there any wonder why this administration provides tax breaks to the rich or wants to eliminate the estate tax?

Update: 9/23/05, The Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors are investigating Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's sale of stock in HCA Inc., the hospital operating company founded by his family.

Music video made on an Apple ][+

An incredible (and unsolicited) music video for the band Grandaddy's song "Jed's Other Poem," programmed in Applesoft II on a 1979 Apple ][+ with 48K of RAM. Seriously.

[Thanks, Waxy!]

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

In Memory of Simon Wiesenthal

A good man had left us. Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who helped track down Nazi war criminals following World War II, then spent the later decades of his life fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice against all people, died today. Wiesenthal, who helped find one-time SS leader Adolf Eichmann and the policeman who arrested Anne Frank, died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles; he was 96.

Wiesenthal was often asked why he had become a searcher of Nazi criminals instead of resuming a profitable career in architecture. He gave one questioner this response: “You’re a religious man. You believe in God and life after death. I also believe. When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, ‘What have you done?’ there will be many answers. You will say, ‘I became a jeweler.’ Another will say, ‘I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.’ Still another will say, ‘I built houses,’ but I will say, ‘I didn’t forget you.’ ”

[More on Simon Wiesenthal]

w00t w00t!

You may have lately noticed the ever-increasing prevalance of leetspeak as you surf the highways and by-ways of the infobahn. (It's also known as 1337, and is a short form of "elite"). The difference between this new jargon and the standard English they used to teach in school is more than just a few numbers or a few oddly-spelled words; it's a difference in the way we define what language is, how it grows, and how we -- as users -- grow with it. It's why you may start seeing the word "teh" a lot more.

But first, let's address the origins of leet. One probable explanation of its origin is from bulletin board systems 80s. It started with people trying to talk about illegal or otherwise questionable activities, such as software piracy, that some BBS operators did not want to be discussed or carried out via their systems. The operators would filter out certain words or ban people who used them. Most notably the word "hacker" was a common banned word. To get around this ban, some users would substitute characters; for example, "hacker" could be replaced by "hack0r," "h4cker" or even "h4x0r." This phenomenon has now grown to encompass a variety of language alternatives. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

So what happened to "teh"? Hang on a sec.

Your dictionary is prescriptive -- it teaches you the correct way to spell words, the correct way to pronounce them, and the correct way to use them. Leet, on the other hand is more descriptive; it is not a guide to writing in the 21st century, but rather a snapshot of how we are already communicating.

Our age is one of finger-driven communcations, usually quick and usually error-prone. Whether it's due to those tiny keys on your Trio, or a failure of the word-guessing software in your cameraphone, or just some geeks screwing with each other, there are a variety of new, common, and accepted mots d'argot that have crept into our written communications. I take as my primary example the word "teh."

You've seen it, I'm sure; it's a common typo for "the" and, when you're sending a quick message to a buddy from a concert or your local java shop, it's more than likely you've sent this mangled spelling instead of the proper Queen's English. But leet doesn't correct you -- leet embraces this. With millions of people typing "teh" instead of "the," the former is now considered, among the technorati elite, as an acceptable alternative.

Purists will chafe at this last statement. For what use are the rules of grammar or correct spelling if they can be so easily usurped? Thank heavens, they proclaim, that Webster has not yet tread down this primrose path.

And I have, at times, been accused of being a member of this crowd. An English major in college, and still one to the core, I'm the guy who criticizes your use of "torturous" instead of "tortuous" and loudly wonders why you can't learn to use adverbs. And finds this funny.

But I'm liking this "teh" hubbub, bub. Why should we be trapped within the confines of a dictionary that can no longer keep up with the rapid pace of language change? Why should we deny ourselves the more meaningful ways of expression that seem so apropos to our new methods of communication? Sure, we all got real tired of emoticons real quickly, but they're dying the death they deserve -- spoken language takes care of itself.

"Teh" and "evar" and "n00b" (and the rest) will survive only if they have value. Don't worry that you'll find yourself unable to understand the tax return forms next year -- I assure you, they won't be quick to change. But the slang that proves useful will stick with us, and will one day be found in the hallowed, yellowing pages of your tree-based dictionary.

You won't find me typing "teh" anytime soon (except in the case of typographical errors), but I hereby declare my approval -- screw with my mother tongue, please; just keep it alive and relevant, and I'll do my best to keep up.

A Crime Against Humanity in the U.S. Receives Praise from Residents

Mankind, when left to themselves, are unfit for their own government.
George Washington (1732–99), U.S. president.

The next time you think that Los Angeles or New York is a tough battle-hardened city think about Gretna, Louisiana. This is a city that won’t make it to anyone’s or any magazines’ best of anything list.

The city of Gretna is the parish seat of Jefferson Parish, in the state of Louisiana. Gretna is on the west bank of the Mississippi River, across from uptown New Orleans. It is part of the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan area. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 17,423.

Flooded out of their homes, seeking help, and human kindness the confused and desperate residents of New Orleans walked in mass by the thousands toward a bridge that could take them away from the rising flood waters that drowned New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. These people who had lost everything were welcomed by-- a sight that would make an thinking individual ashamed to be apart of the same species -- Armed police shooting over the group's heads and used dogs and shotguns to control the on coming crowd. They were turned back by men with rifles and dogs.

Let’s take a closer look at this quaint town that will only serve as a breeding ground for extras in the remake of Deliverance:

As of the 2000 census, there are 17,423 people, 6,958 households, and 4,286 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city is 56.32% White, 35.53% African American, 0.60% Native American, 3.12% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 2.63% from other races, and 1.75% from two or more races. 6.34% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race, according to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.

The median income for a household in the city is $28,065, and the median income for a family is $31,881. Males have a median income of $28,259 versus $21,019 for females. The per capita income for the city is $15,735. 24.2% of the population and 20.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 34.7% of those under the age of 18 and 20.2% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

"We did right. We protected our citizens," said Gretna police Chief Arthur Lawson

According to the St. Petersburg Times there are many signs throughout the caring town that read, "Thank you and God Bless Chief LAWSON & Gretna PD." Many residents, black and white, support the chief.

Maple Malone, a 39-year-old black woman who has lived in Gretna since 1974, said she appreciates what Lawson did. "The question you needed to ask those people on that bridge is, are you really coming here for comfort, or are you coming here for trouble?" Malone said.

Robbie Mundell, 33, said he chose to live in Gretna because the police keep him safe. "I can leave for the weekend and keep my door open and not get robbed," said Mundell, who is white. "It's the last peaceful town around New Orleans."

I keep my doors unlocked most the time where I live in Southern California, too. It’s a rather simple premise, there is nothing for them to take.

As one blogger posted (the article did not provide a name, which is rather cheesy), what Gretna and its police did was a crime against humanity. I couldn’t agree more and they should be prosecuted for it.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ahoy -- pirates rejoice at new phone tech!

A new cellphone in development by NEC is able to take snapshots of text and convert to text, using a rudimentary optical character recognition (OCR) software. Wave your camera in front of a page for three seconds or so, and the software takes dozens of still images of the page and effectively merges them together using the outline of the page as a reference guide. The software can also detect the curvature of the page and correct any distortion so caused, enabling even the areas near the binding to be scanned clearly.

“The goal of our research is to enable mobile phones to be used as portable faxes or scanners that can be used any time,” an NEC spokesman said.

Says the scurvy blog BoingBoing, from whence we hijacked this information, "This is abominably cool, so of course there are a couple of alarmist Luddite publishing types who are predicting that this will napsterize the printed page and cause gigantic copyright headaches."

Avast, me hearties, and full speed ahead!


Blog Like a Pirate!

Arrr, matey! Avast, and shiver me timbers!

This here blog be takin' part in "Talk Like a Pirate Day," so swab the decks and grab your mizzenmast!

Arr... I have no more piratical phrases at hand, you landlubbers. Off with ye -- or I'll make you walk the plank and pay a visit to Davy Jones' locker!

P.S. Funny pirate humor.

Hopper Still Rolling Over

Back in March I shared with you a collection of images that all pay homage to Edward Hopper's Nighthawks; now I present three more to add to the set.

For those of who don't remember this iconic image:

For those of you who missed my original post of the parodies, check it out here.

Now here are two version from Batman: Year One, drawn by David Mazzucchelli (click 'em to see 'em bigger):

And here's the latest one -- Sunday's ad for the new season of the television program "CSI":

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side
On My Own

It is a folly to expect men to do all that they may reasonably be expected to do.
Richard Whately (1787 - 1863), British theologian and logician

On My Own. Wife is on a business trip to Toronto this week and Daughter is in training for her internship at the House of Representatives, so I have the place to myself. I decided to flex my independence and order our traditional Friday pizza from a different place. I Goggled the name of the pizza parlor; I placed my order. I drove over to pick up the pizza, but they couldn't find my order. I told him the woman said it would be ready in 30 minutes. He looked at me and said that no woman worked there. Oh. I went to the wrong place. I knew where I wanted to order the pizza from, but I didn’t know their name. He kindly directed me to the place where I DID place my order. Meanwhile, the woman waiting for her pizza in front of me had a good laugh at my expense.

Encouragement. I had fun writing the Advance Look at Bush’s Katrina speech earlier this week. My mother enjoyed it too. She sent me a note: That was very good Son, Didn't think you wrote that until I saw your name at end of it... So, I called her and wanted an explanation. She told me, “I thought B52 Bomber (her nickname for B2) wrote it, he has a sense of humor.” And, tell On The Mark, that I like his Russian stories.

Cleaning Lady. I told the Wife that I was going to call the cleaning lady to come over on Saturday, so the place would be perfectly clean during the week she was gone. Wife had a fit. “Do it yourself. I cleaned the place up a couple of days ago,” etc. Then, she relents and says that’s fine, just have her come the day before I get back instead.

Writing. My goal this week is to get a lot of reading and writing done. And, to watch the baseball games as the Angels are in a tight race with Oakland for the division lead. I also get to watch movies with the headphones on and I don’t have to worry about the bejabers being scared out of me by someone I don’t see tapping me on the shoulder or have Daughter purposely scaring me.

Favorite Show. I have been meaning to write about this for a few weeks now; the TV show “Weeds” on Showtime is so very good. I love that show. Every week, I have a good laugh, but at the same time, the poignancy of the show hits me at the end. It’s only 30 minutes and it goes by much too fast.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Under Cheney's Thumb

Thanks, BartCop Entertainment, for introducing us to TBH Politoon!

Reach Out and Touch Someone

He really needs to telephone, but he's too embarrassed to say so.
Dorothy Parker (1893 - 1967), writer; When a man asked to go to the men's room

According to a story in the New York Times, the pornography industry is eyeing cellphones. New cell phones have video capability. This is apparently already popular in Europe. The article doesn’t say whether it is old Europe or New Europe.

So here is the argument:
At present, sales of pornography over mobile phones in this country amount to virtually nothing. But cellphone commerce is on the rise, with sales of ring tones alone expected to reach $453 million this year, according to the Yankee Group, a research firm. The company estimates that by 2009, sales of pornography for phones will hit $196 million, still meager compared with a projected $1.2 billion for ring tones.

This couldn’t be the small business and entrepreneurs Bush was referring to who will help bring New Orleans back, could it?

Had enough of Bush yet?

I sure have.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Guerilla Gorilla:
Kids in Cages

[It's Friday, and that's means it's time for Guerilla Gorilla. This week, GG is commenting on this.]

I'm going to have to give up on the entire human race, I'm afraid. You've been wonderful at times -- teaching my fellow simians sign language, making movies about Dian Fosse, and letting Peter Jackson remake "King Kong" into what it should be: a love story between an ape and his lady. And I don't want to dismiss you all just because some of you happen to be capable of pure evil, but when I read about something like this it makes me wonder why you are the dominant species and we gorillas are still picking ticks off of each other out in the mist. [grunt]

Fuck you, Sharen and Mike Gravelle.

You had eleven kids you were supposed to be taking care of, ages 1 to 14, some adopted and some as foster kids. And you put them in cages like animals. Nine cages built into the walls of your house in Wakeman, Ohio. Cages only 40 inches high. No blankets and no pillows, and the cages were rigged with alarms that sounded if opened. [shiver]

Gorillas are a lot stronger than humans, you know. And Wakeman isn't a very big town. Certainly not so big that a gorilla couldn't find you and punish you. Repeatedly. [growl]

Thursday, September 15, 2005

On The Mark -- Travels in Russia, Series III: May I Help You?

These are not words you’ll hear very often in Russia, especially in the provinces. I’m not even sure “customer service” translates into the Russian language. It’s quite amazing, really. In the provinces, in the bigger cities that is, you’ll find maybe one (what we call) supermarket, about half the size of your local Vons or Ralphs. Most people shop in smaller markets.

In these markets all of the food items are separated into different sections of the store. So, when you want to buy milk and eggs you have to indicate that to the sales clerk, then go to a cashier, pay, and come back with a receipt that allows you to get your designated items. Then, if you need chicken or fish, you must go to another counter, tell the clerk what you want, go pay for it at the cashier, get a receipt, and go back to the counter to get your items. And so on. It’s quite a ritual.

What makes it harrowing is that the clerks act like you (“you” refers to Russians in this case) just murdered their mothers. They ignore you even though they’re about three feet away over the counter. When they do finally acknowledge you, they give you a “stop bothering me” look. Sometimes they acknowledge you, listen to your order, then walk away like you don’t exist. Then you have to start all over again. Other times they just simply start yelling at you. “How dare you ask me to do anything,” is their attitude. You’ll never see a smile (more on this subject in a later post). You can forget about hearing “thank you.” If you get your products, it’s been a good day, and you should count your blessings.

Russian consumers take all of this in stride. They don’t get frustrated or angry. They don’t yell back (except one male customer that I observed after listening to the female clerk yelling at him for a good five minutes). They simply patiently wait until the bad mood has passed and hope to get their purchase so they don’t have to walk to another store.

The problem, of course, is that the clerks have no incentive to be kind. They make less than 100 USD per month and couldn’t care less if customers come back to their stores (although they also know consumers have few choices) because they have no allegiance to the place where they work.

Forget about shopping on the Internet. Some of the New Russians may be taking baby steps into this area, but the bulk of the population – if they even have telephones, yet alone computers – don’t have credit cards to complete a purchase anyway.

At various times I’ve tried to purchase Coca-Cola Light or bottled water at kiosks that litter the streets. I practice my Russian – shaking in my boots – and try not to return their stares. During my first trips, I took it personally, but now I realize I’m just one among the victims.

One variation – the young (16-20 years of age), female personnel will sometimes smile and present a friendly attitude. They’re at the age where they still have hope for a better life..

The Simpsons -- with "Audio Description"

Last Sunday, while I put my kids to bed, Fox showed the season premiere of one of my favorite television shows, "The Simpsons." So I taped it.

What I didn't know, since I use the VCR so infrequently, was that my children had somehow reconfigured it to tape with the audio "blind-assist" function on. So the entire episode is narrated, in DVD commentary style, by a mellow voice which describes the action taking place on-screen.

Since I first posted this story, bandwidth issues forced me to remove the QuickTime files from my server... but maybe one day we'll put them back up.

When I first flipped on the tape, the familiar clouds parted and the words "The Simpsons" appeared... and I heard the voiceover: "In a cartoon, words appear through clouds." Hmm, I thought; could this be a humorous parody of the opening sequence for "Law & Order"? It wasn't.

I was quite disturbed at first but, being the fan that I am, I watched anyway -- and discovered that the voiceover actually enhanced my viewing experience! The often dry humor of "The Simpsons" was given extra depth by the voiceover, and I decided I should share some of the better sequences here at Toner Mishap (not entirely in chronological order, for various reasons). Below are thumbnail images from the show; each thumbnail is followed by comments.



Let's start off slow, with a short, funny clip -- and one of the best, I think. Homer's talking to Moe, eating beef jerky. Hilarity ensues, and the narrator makes sure we don't miss the joke. Sometime the voiceover served as a sort of sweetener for those of us with sight; in case you didn't know it was funny, the narrator describes what's going on to prompt you to laugh.



In the "gambling" sequence, we know that Homer is tuning out Lisa, and we know that he's going to pick up the phone... nonetheless, the voiceover reminds us how funny it is by stating the obvious: "Homer's already on the phone!"


Santa's Village

Frosty the Snowman

Many of the gags on "The Simpsons" involve dragging out a pause to delay the gratification of the punchline that follows. We fans have grown accustomed to these pauses, and relish them -- but the voiceover sometimes came in early and articulated the visual punchline before we saw it! So we get (1) the enjoyment of the delay because we know a joke is coming, (2) the enjoyment of the punchline as delivered by voiceover, (3) the enjoyment of the knowledge that the delay has been spoiled by the early punchline, and (4) the moment of the intended punchline delivery itself. These two clips featuring Santa's Village give us that extra enjoyment.


Fat Tony

The lowbrow sight gags are also enhanced; the only thing better than seeing Homer get hit in the hand by hammer-wielding mafiosa is to have the voiceover proclaim in mock-surprise, "Two thugs hammer Homer's hand!"


Jet Ski

Because nothing is as funny as a manatee getting hit by a jet ski.



I began to wonder why the narrator seemed so interested in talking about the Alec Baldwin-voiced character so much; in this bit, he discusses his muscles and his Speedo bathing suit.



That's one of the great things about this voiceover guy -- he really tries to emote. Such as in the "angry" clip, in which Marge rams her car into Homer's.



It doesn't always work out well for the sighted fan -- the sequence in which Marge recharges her hair with her car's cigarette lighter is ruined by the early reveal. That said, the early announcement that Homer is napping makes this commonplace activity quite funny.



The contrast in the narrators descriptions of two of the three characters in the "phonebooth" clip are striking and hysterical; rather than merely referring to a manatee and a man, the voiceover is rather more... poetic in its descriptions. "A blubbery gray creature" and "the trim newcomer" are not phrases you hear often, and they enhance the visuals.


Suspicious Looks

This voiceover just reeks of something Hitchcockian about to happen...



The "dog-manatee-chicken" clip is incredible -- we get three different animal-related jokes in a row. They proceed so quickly, in fact, that the voiceover spills from one scene to the next, the narrator's voice revealing mild amusement, faux excitement and feigned surprise in rapid succession.



And when the writing and visuals are already enough to be hilarious, the voiceover is unobtrusive and hurts nothing, as in the "dinner" clip.



Some choices betray a wanna-be writer behind the voiceover -- why else would the narrator refer to the jet ski-riding no-goodniks in the "attack" clip as "four slick guys"? It's a pointless fluffy adjective.



The "beating" clip is a particularly violent scene (for a cartoon) and, again, the action is too fast for the voiceover to keep pace.


Homer Barfs

Earlier I mentioned how sight gags hold up even with the added narrative. Has there ever been an episode in which Homer didn't barf? This one is no exception to the rule.



This clip is from earlier in the show -- it's the reason Marge gets so mad at Homer in the first place. The narrator doesn't get to do much, but the sequence is hysterical -- so it wouldn't be fair to keep it from you.


Nuclear Power Plant

And during the last sequence of the episode, in which Mr. Burns and Smithers wash a manatee at the nuclear power plant, the sync is again off, and so the voiceover lets us know what's going to happen before it happens, given us that double-enjoyment cited above. And instead of a brief description -- say, "Smithers and Burns have a sponge fight," instead we have a Vin Scully-like play-by-play. Why did the voiceover writer bother to give us such detailed information? We may never know.


Opening Titles

Here's the last sequence I'll share: the entire opening titles. It's big, but worth watching. The sync of some of the audio is off -- but this is only a problem if, like me, you can see; for the intended blind audience, there would be no disconnect. The title sequence, for instance, is totally out-of-sync through most of it -- the audio's question of "Does any kid still do this anymore?" is unclear until a few seconds later, when we see that Bart is writing this phrase on the chalkboard of his classroom. Again, someone who can't see the show wouldn't notice any problem.


The punchline for this post, not surprisingly, is that I still haven't figured out how to change the VCR back. In fact, the only thing I could do was make it record shows with a Spanish overdub. Which means that by this time next week I'll either be using TiVo or reporting on what "The Family Guy" is like en Espanol.