Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Non parlo Italiano

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Getting ready for vacation (yes, Italy--if plans don't completely fall apart between now and Saturday) and things are kind of hectic, so don't expect any updates till Aug. 7 or so.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Smackdown!: Chaos vs. Inertia


What is it?: The state of utter confusion.

Pros: Can be strangely exciting.

Cons: Really gave Maxwell Smart a hard time. Form of the word was the title of the Britney Spears/K-Fed "reality" show. Exhausting.


What is it?: Indisposition to motion, exertion, or change.

Pros: Rather like taking a nice, long nap, and who doesn't like naps?

Cons: Like when you had mono, after this nap, you don't feel like getting out of bed.

The winner: Inertia. Man, I could really use a nap right now.

Hm. Now that I think about it, isn't the W. administration a strange combination of chaos and inertia? Think about it: The White House keeps doing things that cause utter chaos, but then it digs in its heels and won't change. Odd.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Quotes of the day

A Scrunt would do anything to kill a Madam Narf--even fight his fear of the Tartutic. --The Lady in the Water

It was just around the time when the giant eagle swooped out of the greater Philadelphia night to rescue a creature called a narf, shivering and nearly naked next to a swimming pool shaped like a collapsed heart, that I realized M. Night Shyamalan had lost his creative marbles. --
Manohla Dargis on The Lady in the Water

In case you're trying to keep this straight:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Narf

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Narf!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

If sock monkeys explained the Internet

There’s one company now you can sign up and you can get a movie delivered to your house daily by delivery service. Okay. And currently it comes to your house, it gets put in the mailbox when you get home, and you change your order, but you pay for that, right?

But this service isn’t going to go through the interent, and what you do is you just go to a place on the internet and you order your movie and, guess what, you can order ten of them delivered to you, and the delivery charge is free.

Ten of them streaming across that internet, and what happens to your own personal internet?

I just the other day got ... an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck.

It’s a series of tubes.

And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled, and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

Now, give me that banana.

Malan, we hardly knew ye

I admit it. I'm completely obsessed with Project Runway.

Oh, forget the gay stereotypes. I haven't bought myself a single item of clothing in the last year and I don't give a rat's ass about fashion. And reality shows usually bore me to tears.

But for some reason, this program just entertains me no end--probably because when you boil it down, the show isn't so much about fashion as it is creativity under the gun. For those who haven't seen Project Runway (and since Bravo reruns the hell out of it, you really have no excuse), it's a fashion-design competition. Contestants are assigned a design challenge (say, create an outfit from items found at the supermarket, or based on photographs you've taken on the street) and have to come up with something very quickly--I think it's 48 hours from sketch to the runway, where the results are judged by a panel of experts. No one has to eat a bug or sing the collected works of Barry Manilow, just a) have a great idea and b) the skills to pull it off.

And the contestants! They're ... they're ... well, they're completely crazy, for the most part. But crazy in interesting ways. Even if you want to strangle them.

The only thing that could possible make this show better is if they found a polar bear in the workroom and a hidden hatch under the floor.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Postcards from the edge

Presenting a new occasional feature on The Velvet Blog: selections from my collection of vintage postcards. It'll be like PostSecret, only not so godawfully depressing!

First up: The Big Duck.

TBD is a Long Island landmark. Originally built during the Depression in Riverhead, where I grew up, it served as a store on a duck farm on Main Street. Later, it moved to Flanders, and now it's in Hampton Bays (or on the way there, anyway). These days, it's a store for the Suffolk County Parks Dept. (I have a nifty Big Duck t-shirt, too.)

You've gotta love buildings that look like big animals.

More on the Big Duck at Roadside America.

(Click on the image for a bigger view.)

So, what are you getting Pam Anderson and Kid Rock as an engagement present?

I'm thinking of penicillin.

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Hmm. Maybe that's too practical.

Suddenly, the world seems a little more drab

The nametag on the woman who often waits on me at Dunkin' Donuts, which for weeks has read STIFFANY, now says TIFFANY.

How incredibly disappointing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Forward into the past

Went to the American Museum of Natural History yesterday. A few pics:

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This looks like some abstract sculpture, doesn't it?

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The Darwin exhibit is there till sometime next month, then it's touring. It's a must-see.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Sweet Mary, mother of God, I just paid $3.25 for a gallon of gas

Hey, wait a minute ... haven't I posted this before?

Oh, yeah, right.

But at least in the year since then, the Middle East has calmed down, people have stopped driving gas-guzzling SUVs to commute to work, the Big Oil companies have ceased making all-time record-breaking profits, the levees in New Orleans have been reinforced to withstand a category 5 storm, and the White House has formed a thoughtful energy policy, so what on Earth can the problem be now?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

There are no tigers in Scotland

A letter in the New York Times today:
It seems a shame that President Bush is forced to step back from his aggressive prosecution of the war on terror simply because he's done such a good job of protecting us.

Oh, my. Where does one even begin? I mean ... I mean ... really? He's done such a good job? Really? Just because there hasn't been another attack--yet--on the scale of 9/11 doesn't mean he's done a good job. The 2001 attacks happened on his watch, despite numerous warnings. There's been virtually no attempt at securing ports since then. Airport security is a joke. Homeland security money is going toward nowheresvilles instead of New York and Washington. There's just too much ineptitude to list.

And yet the fact there's been no additional large-scale attack means he's doing a bang-up job? I'm reminded of this old gag:
Two Scotsmen are riding in a train. One asks the other what is contained in a package in the overhead luggage compartment.

"It's a MacGuffin."

"What's a MacGuffin?"

"A device for hunting tigers in Scotland."

"But there are no tigers in Scotland."

"Well, then, it's not a MacGuffin, is it?"

No, it's not. And Bush isn't, either.

Everybody's a critic

A rare Shakespeare volume went up for auction in England today. Sotheby's was expecting more than $7 million, but got a mere $4.6 million.

Of course, some 17th centry wit wrote comments throughout, including this gem at the end of Hamlet:
But I desire
the reader's mouth
to kiss the writer's ass.

Cheeky monkey!

NPR's story is here, though it's from before the auction took place.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Activia: Yogurt that makes you poop

I think I'm sensing the beginnings of an advertising trend.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting First, Charmin started advertising with bears. I can only assume this was meant to answer the age-old question, "Do bears poop in the woods?" Yes, they do, and they use Charmin. Who knew?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Now there's Activia, a new yogurt from Dannon (or, as it's known in the rest of the world, Danone). Oh, the reference in the ads is a bit veiled. Two young women--college, perhaps?--debate whether to go out for the night or stay in because, it seems, one is "bloated," apparently a code word for constipated. But the other has good news: She's been eating Activia for two weeks and, um, she's not bloated at all, because the yogurt speeds up "slow intestinal transit" and "helps regulate the digestive system."

The problem is, the approach is so oblique that it takes a couple of viewings to even get the point of the ad.

So, c'mon, Activia, just be up-front about it, like Charmin, and feel free to use the subject line of this post as your new slogan. I won't even charge you much.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What the hell?

Nothing specific--I mean, in general.

Yahoo headline of the day

Ivanka Trump's favorite spots in Dubai
Posh hotels, fine dining, and world-class shopping are great reasons to visit Dubai. »See Ivanka's picks

If you intentionally tried to come up with a headline designed to make me not want to click on it, the result would be pretty much the example above.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Friday, July 07, 2006


Hmm. What's with the one-word titles all of a sudden? It's very Talking Heads.

Anyway, I'm putting the answer to the New Yorker dance-review quiz from yesterday in the comments section of this post.


In the last five days, I have:

--Slammed the third finger on my right hand in a door (fingernail black and blue)
--Pinched second finger on my left hand in a folding chair
--Dropped a heavy glass on the kitchen floor, shattering it into a gazillion pieces
--Set off the house alarm, and, in my rush to get to the control panel to turn it off, ran into a wall, giving myself a cut on the forehead

If you see me, cross the street.


As you enter my office from the parking garage, there's a bright yellow caution sign propped open. The word "WET" has been deliberately blocked out with duct tape, so it now reads "CAUTION: FLOOR."

I do not know what this means, but it sounds ominous.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Why I don't like modern dance

Five of these excerpts of dance reviews come from the new issue of The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker). One's a fake. Which one?

No Googling allowed.

1) ... "Primate," danced to a score by Philip Hamilton inspired by Indonesian monkey chants, delivers high-wattage jolts with convulsions, crashes, and mimed cannibalism.

2) ... "Streb vs. Gravity" ... involves a motorized winch, a springboard, a waxed floor, a teeter-totter, swinging cinder blocks, a high-tension truck strap used as a tightrope, and a thirty-five-hundred-pound metal hamster wheel.

3) Developed in consultation with geophysicists, the work draws its structure from the layers of the earth--crust, mantle, core. Performers gather in a suspended orb or dance in the dark, captured by heat-sensitive cameras.

4) "The Rite of Spring" answers Stravinsky's score with salsa dancing, which works surprisingly well.

5) That little dance [is] named for a tiny fungus that can shoot its spores eight feet.

6) The audience takes a while to get used to the sight of a three-hundred-fifty-pound man dancing with a seven-pound chihuahua, but when the piece is over, everyone has the same thought: Why hasn't this been done before?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Name of the day

The woman who served me coffee at Dunkin' Donuts this morning had a nametag that read: Stiffany

Stephen Hawking needs your help

He asks: How will the human race survive the next 100 years?

--After Oprah becomes president, everyone in the entire world finds goody bags under their chairs filled with O's favorite things, and a sense of inner peace envelops the planet like an exquisite comforter filled with the down of organically raised free-range goslings.

--The continued renewal of Law & Order imparts a sense of welcome stability, especially after Sam Waterston is replaced by Robot Sam Waterston in 2024.

--Jet-packs--please let there be jet-packs!

--John Connor, leader of the resistance, is saved by the T800, allowing him to fight against the android rebellion started by Robot Sam Waterston after Law & Order is finally canceled in 2078.

--Cher's "My Final Tour, And This Time I Mean It" tour of 2092 is particularly compelling.

--Aliens arrive in 2106, and their book, "To Serve Man," is a huge success until we realize it's a cookbook, then things turn ugly. Turns out we're surprisingly tasty when served with mango chutney. Who knew? The End.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Mango chutney

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting "To Serve Man"

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Less ha-ha than ho-hum

I stumbled over the last 20 minutes of the TV show Last Comic Standing the other night. It's a (cough cough) reality show surrounding a competition for comedians. Four comics had to give their best shot at impressing an audience--the one with the lowest number of votes would be kicked off the show. Granted, the performances looked edited to death--on the program, they had about four minutes each, but the acts were obviously cut down. So one would think that the network would pick the funniest stuff, right?

Number of times I laughed in 20 minutes: 0
Number of times I smiled, wanly: 2

The first guy was just painful. Not only was he not funny, HE SCREAMED HIS ENTIRE ACT, BELIEVING THAT VOLUME WOULD SOMEHOW MAKE IT FUNNY. It didn't. Another fellow--the winner, as it turned out--depended on drug references to get laughs. Not actual jokes--that I could spot, anyway. Just references. The third guy's act wasn't awful, just tired and overly familiar (he got one of my two smiles). The fourth, a woman, depended on some rather crude physical references to get some laughs. Again, not actual jokes. (OK, she got my other smile.)

Is it really that hard to be funny?

Oh, I shouldn't complain, I guess. I've never done stand-up. It looks frightening. But I like to laugh--I really, really do. And these four professional comedians didn't cut it.

What makes me laugh? This does:

So does this:

This makes me laugh when it's in English, but not in Spanish:

David Sedaris makes me laugh:

Educational films from the '50s make me laugh (the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of this one is great, but I couldn't find it online):

Plan 9 From Outer Space makes me laugh (and the French, too, apparently):

Preston Sturges and Albert Brooks crack me up, too.

So, what makes you laugh?

Oh, and Happy Fourth.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Name of the day

... Christian Pop, a 22-year-old third-year computer science student at the university, ...

For his sake, I hope he's not related to Creed.

A modest proposal

Make the holiday the first Monday in July. Call it, officially, Independence Day, and give everyone a long weekend. None of this "Fourth of July" business.

Yes, I'm working today. Dammit.

Whatever happened to ...

I was listening to Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left while driving to the office last week, and when the CD got to "River Man," that made me think of Katell Keineg, a rather eccentric singer-songwriter who did an amazing cover of that song for a compilation record awhile back.

I hadn't thought of her in years. She was supposed to be the next big thing when Elektra released her first album, but her oddness wasn't exactly the stuff of mass market sales, and when Elektra's administration changed, out she went. I haven't even heard her on WFUV--pretty much the only music station worth listening to in the NY area--in ages.

So I was surprised to open the New York Times magazine section this weekend to find a long piece on Keineg. I really didn't know anything about her, and she sounds like an interesting person.

It's worth a read.

(Update: A day after this article appeared, used copies of the OOP CD Jet were going for $99 on Amazon.)