Thursday, April 28, 2005

Technology (and time) marches backward

President Bush on Wednesday signed legislation aimed at helping parents keep their children from seeing sex scenes, violence and foul language in movie DVDs.

The bill gives legal protections to the fledgling filtering technology that helps parents automatically skip or mute sections of commercial movie DVDs. Mr. Bush signed it privately and without comment, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
--The Associated Press, as picked up by CBS News

How much longer before they come up with something that does something similar for books? Oh, yeah, they have that already--bonfires.

Meanwhile, when they come up with a gadget that adds nudity to movies, let me know.

I wasn't kidding about the bonfires, by the way:

A college production tells the story of Matthew Sheppard, a student beaten to death because he was gay.

And soon, it could be banned in Alabama.

Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.
--CBS News

That's so stunningly stupid I don't even have a snarky comment to make.

Oh, wait a sec, I do: "I don't know how to define 'classic,' but I know it when I see it--and it doesn't have any perverts in it."


(That second story via Americablog.)


Hello. My name is Jim, and I'm addicted to checking my SiteMeter reports.

That's it. I'm not checking hits again until Sunday.

But I'm telling you, it's not going to be easy.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A handy visual guide for distinguishing among eggs Benedict, Pope Benedict, and Benedict Arnold

Image hosted by Photobucket.comEggs Benedict
Distinguishing characteristic: People love to have it with a Bloody Mary at Sunday brunch.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comPope Benedict XVI
Distinguishing characteristic: Loves to mention Virgin Mary at Sunday mass.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comBenedict Arnold
Distinguishing characteristic: Got a bloody nose in Virginia after making merry one Sunday.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Search me XVI

Recent odd search results that have resulted in visitors getting stranded on TVB:

--boy falls into a hat: I have no idea what they were looking for, but they found the Lidsville post.
--cute baby monkeys: Awwwwwwwwwww.
--feline rejection litter box: My post on Catwoman was probably a disappointment.
--jim donahue winnipeg: For the record, I've never been to Winnipeg, though I'm sure it's a delightful city.
--zoolander blue ice: For the last time, people, Zoolander's patented look is blue steel--blue steel!
--shiet on toast: I prefer ham and cheese, but to each his own.
--what is opus dey?: You mean Opie Dey? That's Susan Dey's brother.
--the velvet blog: Talk about useless searches!


Write your own caption

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Just keep it clean.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Yes, it's that time of year again

Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!

--Edgar Allan Poe

Yes, the bells are ringing again, from about noon till the sun goes down. Just slightly quieter than the SST. Just slightly less incessant than a thousand cicadas. Just slightly less annoying than a migraine.

Yes, of course I speak of the ice-cream truck.

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Look, I like ice cream--no, I love ice cream. But, honestly, if I hear those bells one more time, followed by a blaring rendition of "Pop Goes the Weasel," well, there's no telling what I might do.

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On the other hand, the second song the truck plays--"Music-Box Dancer"--absolutely rocks.


Saturday, April 23, 2005

Saturday news roundup

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, faulted by some for leadership failures in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, has been cleared by the Army of all allegations of wrongdoing and will not be punished, officials said. Three officers who were among Sanchez's top deputies during the period of the prisoner abuse in the fall of 2003 also have been cleared. --The Associated Press

Whew--what a relief. Apparently, Abu Ghraib never happened, and it was all just a collective hallucination. Remember that sick feeling you got in the pit of your stomach when you thought you saw all those photos? Well, don't you just feel silly now?

Elsewhere in the headlines...
Common infections can lead to leukaemia

That's terrible! What else?
Childhood Infections Protect Against Leukaemia

Oh, well, good. But a little confusing.

Anything else?
Colds give kids leukaemia --The Sun (UK)

OK, now you're starting to piss me off. Any other news on this topic?
Early exposure to infection reduces child leukaemia --Times Online (UK)

Head spinning... Must sit down...
Common infections blamed for childhood leukaemia

And what do we learn from this? That's right: The British spell leukemia funny. And the writing of headlines is a true art form.


Friday, April 22, 2005

Bad ideas for ice-cream flavors

Donald Rumsfeld Raisin
Cherry Springer
Cherry Springer Spaniel
Dulce de Lecher
Chunky Monkey Pox
Condoleezza Rice and Beans

This is a rerun from June 24, 2004. Why? Because I'm busy. But instead of considering it a mere rerun, think of it like the return of an old friend you haven't seen in a while. Go ahead--give this entry a great big hug.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Is it possible to listen to too much Nick Drake?

Probably, but who cares? "River Man" is one of the five best recordings ever--just don't ask me to name the other four. I've been a Drake fan since the mid-1970s, shortly after his way-premature death, when the late lamented WWYZ in Connecticut used to play his music. He's had a bit of a renaissance in the last few years, after VW used the song "Pink Moon," more than a bit incongruously, in a TV ad. And it doesn't hurt that he looked like a noninsane version of Jim Morrison.

There's a snippet of a music video here for "River Man."

There are a few places to download from pay sites here.

And some background is here.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Smackdown: Lidsville vs. The Bugaloos

In this corner: Lidsville

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Premise: Boy falls into a hat and is transported to a land inhabited by oversized talking hats and ruled over by a malevolent, remarkably fey green-skinned magician.

Remarkably fey green-skinned magician

Pros: Always suspected hats have lives of their own. Charles Nelson Reilly isn't forced to make double entendres about bosoms while sitting next to Fannie Flagg.

Cons: Having suspicions about living hats confirmed isn't necessarily a good thing. Charles Nelson Reilly is actually less annoying while he's making double entendres about bosoms while sitting next to Fannie Flagg. A character is named "Weenie."

And in that corner: The Bugaloos

Would you buy a pop song by this woman?

Premise: Four British 20-something "teenagers" who are both insects and pop stars (just like Clay Aiken) clash with Benita Bizarre, a crone who lives inside a jukebox and also craves pop stardom, despite the fact that she's being played by a woman old enough to hawk denture adhesive.

Pros: Keeps Martha Raye in Polident.

Cons: The Bugaloos are now living in my attic and Raid isn't working. Image of Martha Raye's overly made-up face seared into my brain cells forever. Now that I'm running photo, image of Martha Raye's overly made-up face now seared into your brain cells forever.

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On balance: Both are (fairly) harmless substitutes for mind-altering drugs.

And the winner is...: Lidsville.

Deciding factor: The concept of The Bugaloos just isn't believable.


Well, better "Road Warrior" than "The Passion of the Christ," perhaps

Stupid Quote of the Day:
Eleven fans of the Mad Max movies were arrested this weekend after their convoy of motorcycles and other vehicles surrounding a tanker truck frightened other motorists on Interstate 10 and Loop 410.

Some of the people in the convoy were carrying fake machine guns. Dispatchers received several calls about a "militia" moving toward the city, according to a police report.

... The organizer, Chris Fenner, said he didn't know why anyone would confuse the costumed crew re-creating a scene from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior -- set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland -- with a real threat.

"I honestly don't know how that could be, because Road Warrior was so over the top," he said.
--The Associated Press

(Via Grammarian. Visit his streaming music site, Theme Scheme Radio, on my list of links at left.)


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pop quiz: Which is a praying mantis and which is Ann Coulter?

Image hosted by Photobucket.comChoice A

Image hosted by Photobucket.comChoice B

Hint: One is a bizarre, frightening creature and the other's a bug.

Hmm. I can't tell, either.


Monday, April 18, 2005

The readership responds

The business-tech magazine where I'm copy chief received this letter from a reader:

subject: Please proof-read your articles

I will if you'll proofread your E-mail. "Proofread" isn't hyphenated.

Dear Sirs

Doesn't that call out for some punctuation? A colon? A comma? Something?

And isn't it a little rude to assume the person opening your note will be male? One of my female staff members read it first.

I recently attempted to pick up and actually read your magazine, despite having a (free) subscription for some time. Two issues in a row I've been pulled up short whilst reading an article, trying to fathom the meaning of some bizarre typographical errors.

You're actually reading! How very, very brave! And you used the word "whilst"! Does that mean you're British? Or just pedantic?

Also, it makes very little sense to say that you "attempted" to pick up the magazine and "actually" read. Maybe you "actually" picked it up and "attempted" to read?

To whit:

Um, you mean "to wit," twit. Look it up.

April 4, 2005 issue, bottom of page 33:

"For someone of Siebel’s size to move so fast was stunning" says, Soni, who's more than doubling the number of seats--to 22--that Izmocars licenses"

Where do I begin? I've checked the electronic file, the online version, and hard copies. Every version has the comma in the correct place, i.e., "'...stunning,' says Soni." Perhaps a fly pooped on your copy and you mistook it for a comma? Or perhaps you drooled on it?

Also, you've punctuated your extract incorrectly. You've got a dangling quotation mark at the end. Did you mean to put the whole thing within quotation marks? Oh, and there should be a comma after 2005.

March 28th, 2005 issue, bottom of page 24:

"That puts a challenge's labor and bandwidth burdens only on those marked as spammers"

My time is short, and my attention span is challenged by these idiotic sentences. I need accurate and reliable news or comment on the IT industry, not a mental challenge's labor to Izmocar.

Your attention span is even shorter than your time, it seems. How clever to take a sentence out of context! When you read the sentence in the context of the paragraph, the meaning seems quite clear. (A company's E-mail network gets a suspected piece of spam. The network issues a "challenge" to the sender. The sender's network carries the burden of handling these automatically issued challenges.) Perhaps you stumbled over the fact that "burdens" is a plural noun here and you thought it was a verb? Did you know some words can work as both verbs and nouns? Amazing, but true! Instead of reading technology magazines, maybe you should try something easier. Have you seen Highlights for Children? Also, you got the name of the company wrong. It's Izmocars, not Izmocar. And why do you have "April 4" but "March 28th"? Shouldn't it be "April 4th" and "March 28th" or "April 4" and "March 28"? Let's pick one style and stick with it.

Your advertisers deserve better, as do your readers.

Hm. Or we deserve better readers. And your concern for our advertisers seems, well, strange.


S--- M----
Director, [a tech department]
Warner Bros.

What's the matter, S.? Someone turn down your script? That one you've been writing during every free moment for the last decade? How sad.

There. I feel better now.


Saturday, April 16, 2005

With friends like these...

But [White House press secretary Scott] McClellan suggested that the relationship between Mr. Bush and Mr. DeLay, a fellow Texan, was more business than social. "Sure," Mr. McClellan said, when asked if the president considered Mr. DeLay a friend. He went on, "I think there are different levels of friendship with anybody." --The New York Times, April 14

"He was, what's the word I want?" Mr. DeLay said in an interview with The New York Times in 1999. "Passionate is too feminine, but he was gung-ho for his daddy. He was kind of oil-field trash--that's an endearing term, by the way..." --The New York Times, April 15


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Perhaps my favorite Google search that resulted in someone finding The Velvet Blog

Search terms: Vegas odds on next Pope

Domain name of person doing the search:


Keep it to yourself

Lyric of the day:

You say you'd like to kill the man who broke my heart
You don't think he should be allowed to live
You say you want to shoot the dude who screwed me up
Me, I'm trying so hard to forgive

But here's his address, here's his picture
Here's the make and model of his car
He works until 4:30
Then he hangs out at the topless bar
With a girl on each arm
If he should come to harm...
Just keep it to yourself

Remember how he cheated and he lied to me
You told me that it makes you lose your head
I see they're pouring concrete on Route 33
I don't believe you'd do those things you said

But here's his address, here's his picture
Here's his pager number and his cell
He works out at the health club
And he really likes to watch himself
Flexing in the mirror
If he should disappear...
Just keep it to yourself

--Amy Rigby, co-written with Bill DeMain of Swan Dive

What makes the song work is that the music accompanying these lyrics about offing an ex is a gentle bossa nova with almost-whispered vocals. Very amusing. Click on "Amy Rigby" to go to her site. Then click on "Listen" to go to some snippets of songs, including "Keep It to Yourself."


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Wednesday meme

These things are only fun if a lot of people get involved, so E-mail this to all of your friends!

--Go to your nearest bookshelf. Now go to the second book on the second shelf. What is it?

--Go to page 22. What is the second full sentence on the page?

--What is your checking account number?

--Can the words in the sentence be rearranged to form a double entendre?

--What is your bank's routing number?

--Call up your local deli. Tell the guy behind the counter your double entendre. What does he say? If he doesn't react, ask if he has Prince Albert in a can. Giggle and hang up.

--What's your PIN? Is your password your mother's maiden name? If so, what is your mother's maiden name? Why? Um. I think she and I went to high school together. How's she doing? Really? Oh, that's too bad. Give her my regards.

--Now go to page 222 in the book. On average, is $222 more or less than the amount you usually leave in your checking account? Do you have overdraft protection? How much?

--Put book back on shelf. Do the hokey-pokey. Turn yourself around.

--Seriously, what's your PIN? I don't know why you're being so weird about this.

Well, that's about it. Instead of posting this on your blog, could you just E-mail me your answers?


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Cute baby monkey

Cute baby monkey

Going through my archives last night, I realized it's been ages since I ran any monkey pictures. I hate to stray from The Velvet Blog's original mission ("Bringing you pictures of cute baby monkeys since June 2004"), so here you go. It's from the Bristol Zoo, and there are other animal photos here.


Monday, April 11, 2005

Finish your glass of Raid, or no dessert

Stephen L. Johnson, the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said on Friday that he was canceling a study of the effects of pesticides on infants and babies, a day after two Democratic senators said they would block his confirmation if the research continued. ...

A recruiting flier for the program, called the Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study, or Cheers, offered $970, a free camcorder, a bib and a T-shirt to parents whose infants or babies were exposed to pesticides if the parents completed the two-year study. The requirements for participation were living in Duval County, Fla., having a baby under 3 months old or 9 to 12 months old, and "spraying pesticides inside your home routinely."

The study was being paid for in part by the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that includes pesticide makers.
--The New York Times

OK, this sounds really bad at first, but this story left out the fact that they were planning on throwing in a $10 gift card from Blockbuster if the baby grew a second head. That's two rentals, people.

Cheers? Cheers?!?!?


Sunday, April 10, 2005

[Blank]* David Brooks

I have a problem reading New York Times op-ed conservative writer David Brooks. His columns are filled with arguments that start with a faulty foundation and then circle around themselves to "prove" the writer's point. It makes my head spin.

But I've figured out how to read him without having to go lie down.

Take yesterday's column, for instance.

It's become increasingly clear that the Republicans are bumping into some limits.

First, there's the Terri Schiavo case. Republicans charged boldly forth to preserve her life and were surprised by how few Americans charged along behind them. Fewer than a third of the American people opposed removing her feeding tube.

Ah, I know where he's going with this. The Republican party has gotten too big for its collective britches and a lot of people are scared we're going to turn into a pseudo-Christian version of the Taliban?

Being conservative, most Americans believe that decisions should be made at the local level, where people understand the texture of the case. Even many evangelicals, who otherwise embrace the culture of life, grow queasy when politicians in Washington start imposing solutions from afar, based on abstract principles rather than concrete particulars.

Oh. Not where I would have taken this.

Then there is Social Security reform. Republicans set forth with a plan to give people some control over their own retirement accounts. Here, too, Republicans have been surprised by the tepid public support.

Oo, oo! I know! They sense that the Republicans have sold them out to Big Business and don't give a crap about old people dying in poverty, right?

Being conservative, many Americans are suspicious of bold government initiatives, especially ones that seem complicated and involve borrowing. Being conservative, they prefer the old and familiar over the new and untried.

Um. OK.
Then there is the Tom DeLay situation. Conversations with House Republicans in the past week leave me with one clear impression: If DeLay falls, it will not be because he took questionable trips or put family members on the payroll. It will be because he is anxiety-producing and may become a political liability.

Getting dizzy... Must lie down...
Being conservative, the American people don't want leaders who perpetually play it close to the ethical edge. They don't want leaders who, under threat, lash out wildly at beloved institutions like the judiciary. They don't want leaders whose instinct is always to go out wildly on the attack. They don't want leaders so reckless that even when they know they are living under a microscope, they continue to act in ways that invite controversy.

Well, sorta. But it's also the questionable trips and half-million-dollar payrolls for family members from a guy who sets himself up as a moral paragon,** handing down pronouncements from above when he wouldn't know an ethic if it bit him on the ass while it screamed, "I'm an ethic! I'm an ethic biting you on the ass!"

So, I finally figured out how to read Brooks without getting vertigo. I simply replace words and phrases that don't make sense with others that do make sense. Let me demonstrate. In yesterday's column, all I had to do was sub the phrase "being repulsed by hypocrisy" for the phrase "being conservative."

Here we go:

Being conservative, most Americans believe that decisions should be made at the local level, where people understand the texture of the case.

This becomes:

Being repulsed by hypocrisy, most Americans believe that decisions should be made at the local level, where people understand the texture of the case.


Being conservative, many Americans are suspicious of bold government initiatives, especially ones that seem complicated and involve borrowing.

Becomes this:
Being repulsed by hypocrisy, many Americans are suspicious of bold government initiatives, especially ones that seem complicated and involve borrowing.

And this:
Being conservative, the American people don't want leaders who perpetually play it close to the ethical edge.

Being repulsed by hypocrisy, the American people don't want leaders who perpetually play it close to the ethical edge.

There. isn't that better?

*I was thinking "parsing" here, but you can use a different -ing word.

**Interesting typo: I orginally wrote "paragoon."


Friday, April 08, 2005

Rest in pieces (quarters and halves, on sale for $1.99 a pound)

All the media hoopla over the Pope has excluded other important deaths from the pages of our newspapers. Last week, one of the most iconic American figures of the late 20th century passed away, with hardly any mention in the press.

I speak, of course, of Frank Perdue.

A tough man

Mr. Perdue was born in 1920, the result of an early eugenics experiment involving humans and poultry. His mother, known as Fritzie (below right), was a Jersey Giant. His father is unknown, but is thought to be a family member of former New York mayor Ed Koch (below left).

A tender chicken, Perdue's mother, Fritzie Ed Koch

He was raised in seclusion, out of the prying eyes of the public, and under the watchful gaze of scientists. He was not told of his parentage until he was in his late teens. Sadly, he despaired at the news and his self-identity curdled. He escaped from the fortified compound where he was kept and moved to Maryland, where, in a perverse twist, he founded a chicken farm.

The business thrived, thanks in part to a popular series of TV commercials that began running in the 1970s. In the most famous of them, he thrust a plate of sizzling chicken at the camera and appealed: "Eat me." The commercials grew increasingly outlandish throughout the decade, ending in an strange bit in which he dressed up like chicken and invited viewers to give him commands. While consumers at the time were turned off by this odd spectacle, Burger King revived the campaign online last year, to great success.

Perdue died after a short fight with avian flu. According to his wishes, he will be breaded and fried in a small, private ceremony.

CORRECTION: Sorry, Fritzie the chicken is on the left, Ed Koch on right.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Hello, Darling--are you working?


Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, said Wednesday that a senior member of his staff had written an unsigned memorandum about the partisan political advantages of intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo that became a controversial footnote to the debate over the wisdom and motives of Congress's actions.

In a statement on Wednesday night, Mr. Martinez said that he had just learned that the memorandum originated in his office and that its author had resigned. He did not name the author, but aides said it was Brian Darling, his counsel. ...

The anonymous memorandum, which was distributed to news organizations by Democratic aides and first reported by ABC News, became widely cited in news reports as evidence that at least some Republicans were applying a political calculus to the case of Ms. Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman. Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, and many other Republican Senators quickly disavowed the document, saying they had never seen it and that they condemned it.

In his statement, Mr. Martinez said that on March 9 he had mistakenly and unknowingly handed the document to Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, on the floor of the Senate. Mr. Martinez said that he had meant to reach for a different document and that he did not know how it had entered his possession.

"Senator Harkin was kind enough today to call me and tell me this afternoon that he believes the memo he received was given to him by me," Mr. Martinez said. "Until this afternoon, I had never seen it and had no idea a copy of it had ever been in my possession."
--The New York Times

In fact, I have never actually seen paper before. What are those strange markings on that flat white surface? Writing? What a strange and wonderful thing! What does it mean?


Wednesday, April 06, 2005


When I started this blog, I said it was solely to amuse myself. But I've come to realize that isn't true.

Actually, I want to be worshipped.

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Oh, not like the capital-G God. Maybe like a demigod, though. You know--like Hercules.

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Yeah--that's it. Like Hercules. Only I'm not cleaning the stables.

Is that asking so much?

Man, I really have to renew my gym membership.


Monday, April 04, 2005

What are the odds?: Las Vegas bookmakers predict who will be the next Pope

Image hosted by Photobucket.comBRAD PITT: 52 to 1
Pro: Adorable; great hair

Con: In the midst of a divorce; dumb as a post

Image hosted by Photobucket.comJENNIFER ANISTON: 107 to 1
Pro: Sympathy factor because of breakup with Brad; featured in cult favorite Office Space

Con: Not enough "flair"; should have gone to Paris and forgotten Ross in last episode of Friends

Image hosted by Photobucket.comANGELINA JOLIE: 235 to 1
Pro: Those lips ... those lips ...

Con: Broke up Brad and Jen; crazier than a loon

Image hosted by Photobucket.comROSEANNE: 1,246 to 1
Pro: Calls 'em as she sees 'em

Con: Not Catholic; lingering resentment over that National Anthem incident; crazier than Angelina Jolie

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMICHAEL JACKSON: 129,203,235,293,198,604,123,362,199,999 to 1
Pro: Good with kids

Con: A little too good with kids

Image hosted by Photobucket.comFATHER GUIDO SARDUCCI: 134 to 1
Pro: Beloved TV priest

Con: Is a fictional character

Image hosted by Photobucket.comJOHN PAUL I: 1,974 to 1
Pro: Experience being Pope, albeit for only two months

Con: Is dead

Image hosted by Photobucket.comCARDINAL JOHN PAUL GEORGE RINGO: 27 to 1
Pro: Has a great name for a Pope

Con: Speaks only pig Latin


Sunday, April 03, 2005

Cover up

EDINBURGH, Ind. Mar 30, 2005 -- The Venus di Milo had better wear a top and Michelangelo's David should put on some pants if they're going to be seen at a yard art business.

Bartholomew County officials told the business near Interstate 65 that it must move cement copies of the classical statues and about 10 others out of public view because they are obscene under Indiana law.

"It's not fair to point out our business, and personally, I don't find them offensive," Ginger Streeval, a co-owner of White River Truck Repair and Yard Art, told the Daily Journal of Franklin for a story Wednesday.

Frank Butler, the county's zoning inspector, disagreed.

"They have nudity … and that should not be in the view of a minor," he said.

Indiana's obscenity law prohibits the display of nudity where children might see it, he said.
--The Associated Press

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Ladies, please throw something over those piano legs!

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Wouldn't some nice frilly paper cuffs over those lamb chops really be the decent way to present them?

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Mr. Washington, are you trying to turn me on? Put that thing away!

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Let's just hurl a sheet over her--stat.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Big Brother is watching

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They've put automatic flushers on the urinals at work. Can't they even trust to do that anymore?

Oh, right. They never could.