Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's spring!

I just got back from Target, and the pool and garden supplies and patio furniture are out, which can mean only one thing: It's time for me to work on fitting into my Speedo.

And now a word from our sponsor ...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Photo of the Day

My friend Denise just sent me this photo, with permission to post. It's her uncle Paul in Vietnam, with his pet monkey.

She writes:

... One of the photos I found is attached. It is my uncle Paul in Vietnam, with his friend Judy. He claims pets like Judy are not great pets, and they get especially violent when drunk. He did, however, have a duck named, imaginatively, Duck-Duck, that he rescued from the handlebars of a Vietnamese boy's bike, where it was tied, and presumably about to become dinner. He said the duck followed him everywhere, even in the helicopter where it flapped its wings as if to fly (he thinks the wings were damaged in preparation for that dinner, so he never actually flew). Said that duck was the best pet he ever had.

Let this be a lesson to us all: Don't let your monkey get into the liquor cabinet.

(There is a photo of Paul with Duck-Duck here, in the lower left-hand corner.)

Happy, happy, joy, joy

European Union citizens are overwhelmingly happy with life -- and that's official.

A pan-European opinion poll conducted for the European Commission and published on Monday showed that 87 percent of EU citizens considered themselves happy, with a record 97 percent in Denmark.

Only in Bulgaria, which joined the bloc in January, did a majority of people (55 percent) say they were unhappy.

Of course Bulgarians are unhappy. They're in Bulgaria.

So, what's up with the Danish? Are they drunk all the time? Is that it?

Monday, February 26, 2007

A peek into the future

I have absolutely nothing to say today, so please enjoy this Bell System promo film from the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

Friday, February 23, 2007

TVB Book Club

A spate of recent books and movies about magic has sent me back to Ricky Jay's fascinating Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women (and oh, honestly, how can you resist a book with a title like that?). It's a compendium of info on the magicians, charlatans, and just plain oddballs who entertained the world in a different era.

I wish I'd been around when there were performers like LaRoche, who crammed himself into a sphere and then somehow worked himself up an inclined spiral. (You can plug his name into the "search inside this book" function within the Amazon page linked to above to see what I'm talking about--and that's his act in the lower left corner of the book cover.)

Amazing stuff, and really well written, too.

The book is out of print, but there are plenty of used copies available online.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Follow-up gifts that Hugh Grant will be giving to Liz Hurley

British actor Hugh Grant will not only be a guest at the wedding of his former girlfriend of 13 years Elizabeth Hurley to Indian millionaire businessman Arun Nayar but present her with an odd gift--a monkey. --Times of India

--Monkey diapers and monkey-diaper covers
--Monkey chow
--A really great recipe for banana waffles

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Handy Visual GuideTM for distinguishing among two completely useless things and a really great place you can bury stuff

Image hosted by Photobucket.comTree stump

Image hosted by Photobucket.comPresident Bush

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA hole in the ground

Well, The Velvet Blog has given me the day off in honor of Presidents Day. Or is it Presidents' Day? George Washington's Birthday? Well, whatever.

The above is a rerun from from Nov. 17, 2005, that still seems relevant.

Now, back to 2007. There are two articles from The Washington Post here and here that really ought to be read in their entirety.

Oh, and I'm veeeerrrrry slowly adding label tags to older posts, so there's a bunch of other Handy Visual Guides, which used to be regular feature here at TVB, at the other end of the link below.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Three things Abraham Lincoln never said

--"Mama mia, that's a spicy-a meatball!"

--"What you gonna do with all that junk? All that junk inside that trunk? I'm a get, get, get, get, you drunk. Get you love drunk off my hump. What you gon' do with all that ass? All that ass inside them jeans? I'm a make, make, make, make you scream. Make you scream, make you scream. 'Cause of my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps, check it out!"

--"Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged."

UPDATE: Bonus spicy meatball. Note that Abe Lincoln is not in this commericial.

Photo of the Day

An oldie, but I like it. Underneath the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The number 24

I never watched 24 before this year. But I finally gave in and was pretty much hooked from the first episode.

Then I read this profile of the show's creator in the new issue of The New Yorker*, and I may never watch the show again.


*Yes, The New Yorker.

UPDATE: Joel Surnow, the 24 creator referenced above, has a news-spoof show on Fox, a (cough, cough) conservative answer to The Daily Show.

Watch a clip on YouTube, if you dare.

If, as they say, dying is easy and comedy is hard, well, they took the easy route.

(h/t: Comedy Central.)

... They've never heard of love

Happy V-Day, everyone.

(h/t: Idolator)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Do you know the way to San Quentin?

A bookkeeper pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling $6.9 million to pay for such things as a ranch in Vermont, a life-size statue of Al Capone and a private performance by singer Burt Bacharach, federal authorities said. --The Associated Press

Look, I'm as big a pop-music fan as anyone. But if you love the songs of Bacharach/David, you use your ill-gotten gains to hire Dionne Warwick, not Burt. Have you heard him sing?

(BTW, I love the word "bookkeeper." I can't think of another--well, other than "bookkeeping"--with three repeated letters in a row.)

Smackdown!: Ed Norton vs. Ed Norton

Ed Norton
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WHO?: Sanitation engineer; upstairs neighbor of short-tempered bus driver Ralph Kramden; member of Raccoon Lodge; husband of Trixie.

PROS: Extremely affable; can put up with short-tempered bus-driver neighbors; really knows how to address a golf ball.

CONS: Not the brightest bulb in the box of low-wattage bulbs; often unintentionally sets off short-tempered bus-driver neighbors.

Ed Norton
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WHO?: Actor; writer; director.

PROS: Nominated for an Oscar for first-ever film role (Primal Fear); usually worth watching, even in lesser films.

CONS: Lesser films include Death to Smoochy; has feuded with directors; cast the irritating Jenna Elfman in his directorial debut, the fairly lame Keeping the Faith.

WINNER: That's easy--Ed Norton.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Llama mmama

The neighbor of a friend from church has three llamas--mom, dad, and son, who was born around Christmas.

Are they not completely adorable?

Katie (mom)

Noel (baby)

Darby (dad)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Better wear something washable

From a restaurant review in tomorrow's New York Times:
An intermezzo of fromage blanc sorbet with macerated strawberries practically jumped off the table...

Um, I'll have the rice pudding, if it promises to stay where it belongs.

And now, back to The Velvet Blog Awards

Winner for Best Film Review:
As many of you know, I am an avid moviegoer and an astute judge of film quality. This old lady goes back to Charlie Chaplin, Zasu Pitts and Fatty Arbuckle. That should let you know of my experience and expertise. I recently reviewed "Dreamgirls" and commented on the comeback of Eddie Murphy. Now we get the old Eddie with all of his fat suits and silly makeup in a film with the dreadful title "Norbit". Why, oh why Eddie? Why resort to this lowbrow nonsense again? As I sat there at the free preview, I was dumbfounded. Do I complain to the ushers? Do I cause a stink? No, I wait patiently to fill out the comment card. Although afflicted with crippling artritis that makes typing and writing difficult, I gave the producers of this mess a piece of my mind. I then marched over to an usher to furthur complain and was treated rudely. I was humiliated and reminded that I got in for free and should "count my blessings"! This young man was talking down to me and I resented it. He had an earpiece in his ear and I asked him what he was listening to. His reply, "snoopy dog". That says it all.

I stumbled over this gem on Yahoo. I'm torn as to whether it's "real"* or not. The details seem a little too on-the-nose (Crippling arthritis? Snoopy Dog? Zasu Pitts??). Fake or otherwise, it made me laugh out loud.

And the next time I don't like a movie, I'm going to yell at the ushers, as we all know they're responsible.

*Quotation marks on purpose. The Net has blurred the boundary lines so much, I'm no longer sure that "reality" is even real anymore.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Audition I won't be attending

Open auditions for "Saddam: The Musical," A screwball comedy...


Random 10, with links

"The Newlyweds," Chris Stamey: "And I ask him how he feels/And he says, 'Nothing much'/Do you ever think of her?/'No, hardly never'"

"Smoke and Mirrors," The Magnetic Fields: "Smoke and mirrors/Special effects/A little fear, a little sex/That's all love is/Behind the tears/Smoke and mirrors"

"Walk Away Renee," The Left Banke: "Just walk away Renee/You won't see me follow you back home"

"This Is Not a Love Song," Nouvelle Vague: "This is not a love song/This is not a love song/This is not a love song/This is not a love song"

"Float Away," David Garza: "Now you're the storm inside the wave/When you touch me, I float away"

"Ring of Fire," Johnny Cash: "I fell in to a burning ring of fire/I went down, down, down/And the flames went higher"

"Radio Radio," Elvis Costello: "Radio is a sound salvation/Radio is cleaning up the nation"

"Girl Like Me," K.J. Denhert: "Honestly, you don't play hide and seek/When a girl like me comes knocking at your door/Can't you see the obvious before you?/With a girl like me, you know you won't get bored"

"Nothing Has Been Proved," Dusty Springfield: "Stephen's in his dressing-gown now, breakfasting alone/Too sick to eat, he's on his feet and to the telephone/The police inspector soothes him with his sympathetic tone/It may be false, it may be true/But nothing has been proved"

"The Girl's Insane," The Januaries: "The girl's insane not to love you/And I must be crazy too"

Overall, it looks like I had my iPod set on "Depressing."

If sock monkeys made waffles

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil or melted butter
1/2 cup nuts (pecans are nice, or walnuts), toasted in oven and minced
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, separated
1 ripe banana

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl. Add egg yolk, milk, and melted butter to dry ingredients and beat. Mash banana, then beat banana and nuts into batter. Beat egg white till fluffy, stir a quarter of it into batter to lighten, then fold in the rest. Pour into preheated waffle mold.

Devour with warmed (real!) maple syrup. (If I hear that you eat these with Log Cabin, I'm coming to your home to berate you.)

I have no idea where I got this recipe. It's in my handwriting, so I guess I copied it out of a book. Anyway ... yum! (I thought it was from an ancient copy of The Settlement Cook Book, but I just checked and it's not there.)

Original recipe called for regular whole wheat flour, but the Fanatic Cook has turned me on to the joys of whole wheat pastry flour. Much nicer texture. Oh, and truth be told, I don't own a sifter, so I never sift the dry ingredients.

Now, give me that banana waffle.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's aSmallWorld, after all

Yes, I admit it. I check my SiteMeter reports far more often than I should. Really, it's unhealthy, and I should stop, but ... I just can't.

Anyhoo, I see via SiteMeter that The Velvet Blog has a semiregular visitor who keeps up with TVB doings via a service called aSmallWorld. I was curious enough about the refer to check it out. According to the service's Web site:
aSmallWorld is a private online community, which is designed for those who already have strong connections with one another. ...

We have imposed certain criteria in order to keep the network exclusive. To join, you need to be invited by a trusted member.

If you have not received an invitation, you can ask your friends to invite you. If you have no friends who are members yet, please be patient.

Oooooo ... exclusive! It's like a gated community to keep out the riffraff--like me!

What's the old Groucho Marx joke? Something like "I would never join any club that would have me as a member." That's not true in my case. I would totally join any club that would lower its standards to include me.

And who belongs?
Members range from entrepreneurial and business opinion makers to leaders in media, entertainment, fashion, the arts and sports. ...

As an exclusive network of like-minded individuals with an appreciation for quality in life, aSmallWorld offers a rare opportunity to reach and interact with a discriminating global community of opinion makers.

A discriminating global community of opinion makers! That's exactly The Velvet Blog's target audience!

Who are these opinion makers who are checking out TVB? aSmallWorld doesn't dish the dirt, but Wikipedia does:
aSmallWorld is an online social network service similar to Friendster. Dubbed "Snobster" by critics, it is an exclusive invitation-only network with roughly 128,000 members. Founded by Erik Wachtmeister, a former investment banker and the son of a former Swedish ambassador to the United States, the network includes socialites such as Naomi Campbell, James Blunt, Ivanka Trump, Tiger Woods, and Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia.

Uh-oh. James Blunt? James Blunt??? James, if you're reading this, I'm kind of sorry if this post offended you.

No, wait ... I'm not.

And how does aSmallWorld work?
According to Wachtmeister, "members are people with large personal networks, frequent travel and highly active personally." Most aSmallWorld users come from European countries: London, New York and Paris are the top three cities of residence. Wachtmeister has been quoted as stating that only some members have the right to invite others, as determined by a panel that factors in more than a dozen variables for eligibility. According to Wachtmeister, aSmallWorld keeps "track of people's behavior and we actually do kick people out." Members are not allowed to discuss the inner goings-on of aSmallWorld on any outside website, and doing so may result in internal exile to "aBigWorld".

This is starting to sound like Fight Club: The first rule of aSmallWorld is that you never talk about aSmallWorld.

I was going to ask our aSmallWorld visitor to give us the inside scoop, but that warning above sounds ominous. What does it mean?
aSmallWorld is patrolled regularly for suspicious activity or members who are not closely connected enough to its main userbase. Problematic users are immediately exiled to a separate network called aBigWorld without notice; when exiled users log in, they will find that the color scheme of the website has changed from blue to green, and they no longer have access to aSmallWorld profiles or forum posts. aSmallWorld members can see the profiles of exiled users, and have the option to reinvite them with an administrator's permission.

aBigWorld prevents outside groups from breaking into aSmallWorld's network. For example, when hundreds of Swedish teenagers managed to get invited in May 2004, they were quickly discovered by the administrators and kicked out.

In conclusion, I can only say: Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, call me, and let's do lunch.

UPDATE: But wait ... there's more! From Wired:
A former investment banker and the son of a Swedish ambassador to the US, Wachtmeister got the [aSmallWorld] idea during a boar hunt at a friend's estate in Germany. "I was crouched in the leaves, meditating alone, and thought: Relationships are like assets. Why not create a secure network where people can share and develop them? People in the upper echelon have a tremendous need for trusted info. Not from a guidebook, but from their peer group."

My thoughts during similar circumstances would be more along the line of: Why am I crouching here in the leaves waiting for a wild boar to come by? Do I not have anything better to do?

And what do members have to say?
[A]s Cheray Unman, an [aSmallWorld] member and former VC living in Mill Valley, California, puts it, "If I'm trying to find someone to look after my purebred Samoyeds while I'm in St. Tropez, I'm not going to ask some naked Burning Man hula-hooper on"

How true, Cheray. How true. (And I'm assuming here that VC means venture capitalist, not Viet Cong.)

Demystification of the astronaut's job description that I really didn't need to read

There's a tawdry story of an astronaut gone bad here--it's like a big-budget Springer episode--but the sentence that got me was this:
Astronauts wear diapers during launch and re-entry.

Of course, the original astronauts are now at an age where they may be wearing them 24 hours a day.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ways to celebrate Wed., Feb. 7, Charles Dickens Day (Now with Bonus Update)

--Pick a pocket or two
--Spend the rest of your life in a ratty wedding dress
--Send an orphan to live in a debtor's prison

UPDATE: More ways--
--Die before finishing your last novel and watch hopelessly as the "Pina Colada Song" guy turns it into a musical
--Reminisce about Fezziwig, the only decent boss you've ever had
--Spontaneously combust*

*Yes, a character in Bleak House bursts into flames for no explainable reason. I've decided I want to go by spontaneous combustion. I'll be at a fancy dinner party, dressed in a tuxedo, and at some point I'll get up from the table and say: "Is it hot in here, or is it just me?" And burst into flames. Though if it's planned, I guess it's not very spontaneous, is it?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Oddly, I get asked these questions every day at work, too

From the obituary of Bob Carroll Jr., co-writer of every episode of I Love Lucy, in The New York Times:
Happily for the writers, few ideas were off limits. Most weeks, they approached Ms. Ball to ask her some variation on the following:

Can we tie you to a chair? Roll you in a rug? Hang you out the window? Can we fly you through the air? Put you on stilts? Put four dozen eggs down your blouse? Will you bark like a seal? Work with an elephant? Sing to a sheep?

Can we dip you in chocolate? Coat you in clay? Splatter you with mud? Will you fight with a woman in a vat full of grapes? Work on an out-of-control conveyor belt in a candy factory? Can we put you in handcuffs? Blacken your teeth? Set your nose on fire?

Ms. Ball, resilient, agreed to everything.

This is the secret to success: Flexibility.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Can you FEEL the EXCITEMENT?????

The Velvet Blog is only 83 hits away from its 50,000th visit!

Who will it be? What will happen? IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT????

Can you SENSE the ELECTRICITY in the air? Can you STAND the SUSPENSE?

Can you??

CAN YOU??!?!

On an unrelated note, I think I had too much caffeine this morning.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I've thought it over, and...

Thousand-dollar brownies are nouveau riche.

I want a million-dollar brownie.

Now, that just screams class.

UPDATE: This looks like a bargain.

Why does this brownie cost $1,000?

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A) It's made with unicorn blood.
B) It has the image of Mother Theresa on it.
C) It's just nuts.

I can't link to the story directly, so I'll put answer in comments.

Remember when newsmen had impeccable credentials?

Yeah, me neither.

(Via Burro Hall.)