Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Photo of the Day

Taken a couple of weeks ago, at dusk. I really like the colors and the shallow focus.

(No, I didn't grow them--they're from the supermarket, and I'm holding them up in the air, my hand just out of frame.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Short story

A friend (hi, Miriam) recommended Brandi Carlisle's album The Story last week, and I've been playing it over and over since I got it.

Here's the title track:

Her voice is an unusual mix of strength and vulnerability. When her voice cracks going into the chorus about two-thirds of he way through, it just kills me.

(Album was produced by the always-dependable T-Bone Burnett, by the way.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

I hope this doesn't make you think any less of me, but ...

I find it impossible to read headlines like this one and not think of ... well, you know.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(What's that you say? You couldn't possibly think any less of me? Thanks!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Letter to the Editor

From today's New York Times letters section:
To the Editor:

It was evening of the third day of fires whipped by the infamous Santa Ana winds. It felt like sunset on another planet as I saw a truck drive slowly by with a driver staring up at the palm tree in our front yard.

Later, there was a knock on the door. I answered. It was the truck driver. He offered to buy the palm tree in our front yard.

There was an eerie silence as I stood there in the orange smoky haze, ashes falling like snow on Mercury, and blinked two or maybe three times.

By motivation, this had absolutely nothing to do with the fire -- it just seemed like something that would happen in Southern California.

As I quietly closed the door, I thought about Joan Didion; she would understand this.

Tom Impelluso

Good for Joan, because I certainly don't. Anyone here have a clue?

Is this an actual letter to the editor or an entry in the Raymond Carver lookalike contest?

Style revision

I've decided to change every instance of the word "senior" to "señor." Henceforward, all uses of "senior VP," "senior editor," etc., will be "señor VP," "señor editor," and so on.

Please mark your stylebook. Thank you for your cooperation.

Random Thought for the Day

All of the good animal names for cars have been taken already, and there will never by a Chevy Lemur.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Also, throwing things helps

According to an AFP story, swearing at work is a good thing:
LONDON (AFP) - Regular swearing at work can help boost team spirit among staff, allowing them to express better their feelings as well as develop social relationships, according to a study by researchers.

I know I have a tendency to say the word @#$*# at work when I get frustrated. Sometimes, &#@!!. Also, %!*$@, but not often.
Yehuda Baruch, a professor of management at the University of East Anglia, and graduate Stuart Jenkins studied the use of profanity in the workplace and assessed its implications for managers.

But I would never say ^!($@!* while at the office. That would be inappropriate.
They assessed that swearing would become more common as traditional taboos are broken down, but the key appeared to be knowing when such language was appropriate and when to turn to blind eye.

Taboos breaking down in the office? You mean like #*%&@ing a +!$*@% while @*$#ing a )!#*@#? I walked in on that in the coffee-break room the other day. Things are really going to !($*@($ ... er, I mean heck.
The pair said swearing in front of senior staff or customers should be seriously discouraged or banned, but in other circumstances it helped foster solidarity among employees and express frustration, stress or other feelings.

But what about @*)#_!ing a ^&#*!%(? Call me old fashioned, but I think that will always remain inappropriate at the office.
"Employees use swearing on a continuous basis, but not necessarily in a negative, abusive manner," said Baruch, who works in the university's business school in Norwich.

Banning swear words and reprimanding staff might represent strong leadership, but could remove key links between staff and impact on morale and motivation, he said.

Oh, go @#$*#* a &($*@($, you @#*$%@.
"We hope that this study will serve not only to acknowledge the part that swearing plays in our work and our lives, but also to indicate that leaders sometimes need to 'think differently' and be open to intriguing ideas.

This is starting to sound like academic #$*#&@ to me. So %@&#@ that #$*#&@. In fact, @#$&%& a @#*%(! you !@*$%$s.

Wow. Actually, that does feel good.
"Managers need to understand how their staff feel about swearing. The challenge is to master the 'art' of knowing when to turn a blind eye to communication that does not meet their own standards."

The study, "Swearing at work and permissive leadership culture: when anti-social becomes social and incivility is acceptable", is published in the latest issue of the Leadership and Organisational Development Journal.

In conclusion, #@%*#@/.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Humor is where you find it

Bringing the funny is fickle.

For me, this line from Alessandra Stanley's Mad Men review in the Times the other day falls with a big thud because it just tries too hard:
"Mad Men," a drama about the advertising business in 1960, is a period piece in the style of "Masterpiece Theater," only the pivotal setting isn't a genteel drawing room in the heyday of the British Empire; it's the booze-spiked office water cooler at the beginning of the end of the American Century. (Not "Brideshead Revisited," but "Brylcreem Revisited.")

It's like she's saying to her readers: "Get it? Huh? Get it?" Not that it would have been a great gag anyway, but she might have gotten a smile out of me if she'd simply written, "... at the end of the American Century. Think 'Brylcreem Revisited.'"

Likewise, I couldn't even read the first few paragraphs of today's Maureen Dowd column without my eyes glazing over. Truly: Ugh.

On the other hand, the Times's perfume reviews? Comedy gold!:
Use civet or a synthetic facsimile up front, and you get Yves Saint Laurent’s Kouros. ... The problem is that this strength, clarity, persistence and depth are applied to the hot, ripe smell of a French trucker’s Jockey shorts after a muggy day on the A51. Which illustrates the difference between being great and being wearable. This perfume is fecal. Technical excellence must count: thus two stars, for solid construction. But an era’s aesthetic must count as well, and despite its molecular wizardry, Kouros is as wearable in the 21st century as 19th-century spats. ...

Civet can also act as a support for another material. In the case of Rose Poivrée (introduced in 2000), that would be rose absolute, never a lovely scent and certainly not by today’s standards. ... Here, Jean-Claude Ellena uses civet to amend rose absolute, and the overall effect is akin to breathing in the warm, slightly fetid breath of some immense, fur-covered animal. It is that moment in an Indian spice market when a surge of sweltering, humid air, as if from the lungs of some morose god, drowns you in spice and car exhaust. But if you have the skin for it, this perfume is mesmerizing, even today.

But that's just the setup. Then comes the punchline: The perfume that smells like a furry animal's fetid breath, morose god exhalations, and car exhaust gets five out of five stars. And to smell that way will set you back about $140 for three ounces.

Now, that, ladies and gentlemen of the comedy jury, is funny!

PS: Oh, that and the fact that "civet" is the secretion of the civet cat's anal gland.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

One way to get me to watch a TV show in which I otherwise would have had no interest

I had no intention to watch Viva Laughlin, the new musical drama-comedy on CBS tonight.

But then I read the New York Times review:
"Viva Laughlin" on CBS may well be the worst new show of the season, but is it the worst show in the history of television? ...

"Viva Laughlin" is not even in the same league as "Cop Rock," a 1990 experimental series created by Steven Bochco that leavened a gritty police drama with Broadway musical moments: cops and criminals breaking into song and dance. "Viva Laughlin" also features musical outbursts and is far worse. ...

Hugh Jackman's in it. He's a Broadway musical song-and-dance veteran. Surely he's good, right?
Ripley's nemesis, Nicky Fontana, is played by Hugh Jackman, who is also an executive producer, and his signature song is the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil," which Mr. Jackman lip-syncs, even though he is a successful Broadway singer and dancer. Actually it's not quite lip-synching: the actors sing, softly, along with the original performer, a little like commuters mumbling along with oldie hits on the car radio.

Isn't that the basis for that other new show, Carpoolers?
There has never been a better time for offbeat manipulations of music on television dramas, yet "Viva Laughlin" isn't even a near miss.

I should say at this point that I watched Cop Rock on its original airing--well, at least the first episode or two--and while it was not great, you had to give it points for trying. And, hey, the music was by Randy Newman (for the first ep, anyway.) And the actors actually sang.

Salon adds for good measure:
Tea time. Plaid skirts on grown men. Bangers and mash. There are just some things that Brits can pull off that we Americans can't, and now we can safely add made-for-TV musicals to that list. The BBC's "Viva Blackpool" was a reasonably amusing tribute to the far more breathtaking "Singing Detective" miniseries. Does that mean it belongs on American TV? Hell, no, but if you don't see it with your own eyes, you won't believe it.

Oddly, the last sentence of Salon piece is like a paraphrase of the Times:
What in the world were they thinking? Don't get us wrong: Nothing could be better than a fun, imaginative, well-produced musical comedy on TV. Sadly, "Viva Laughlin" doesn't even come close.

I am so there.

Oh, and if you've never The Singing Detective, starring the current Prof. Dumbledore, do rent it. It's bloody brilliant. (But very dark, so consider yourself warned. And don't rent the American movie remake with Robert Downey by mistake.)

This mysterious and faraway world

Concerned reader Will sends me this news story:

Suspended Vatican Official Insists He Was Only Pretending to Be Gay

A Vatican official suspended after being caught on hidden camera making advances to a young man says he is not gay and was only pretending to be gay as part of his work.

Well, at least he doesn't claim he has a "wide stance" and was picking up some toilet paper. At least there's that.
In an interview published Sunday, Monsignor Tommaso Stenico told La Repubblica daily he frequented online gay chat rooms and met with gay men as part of his work as a psychoanalyst. He said he pretended to be gay in order to gather information about "those who damage the image of the church with homosexual activity."

Vatican teaching holds that gays and lesbians should be treated with compassion and dignity but that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."

Seriously, you should see my office--talk about intrinsically disordered!

God, I crack myself up.
The Vatican said Saturday it was suspending Stenico after he was secretly filmed making advances to a young man and asserting that gay sex is not sinful during a television program on gay priests broadcast October 1 on La7, a private Italian television network.

While Stenico's face was blurred in the footage, church officials recognized his Vatican office in the background and suspended him pending a church investigation.

What was the tipoff? The "Judy At Carnegie Hall" poster?
There have long been reports that there are gays in the Roman Catholic priesthood...

Really? Really?
... but the Stenico case is unusual because he is a relatively high-ranking Vatican official. He heads an office in the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy -- the main office overseeing all the world's priests. ...

"It's all false; it was a trap. I was a victim of my own attempts to contribute to cleaning up the church with my psychoanalyst work," La Repubblica quoted Stenico as saying.

It was just another long, hard, throbbing day at the orifice. I mean office! Office!! A long, hard ... ah, screw it.
Stenico said he had met with the young man and pretended to talk about homosexuality "to better understand this mysterious and faraway world ...

Are there flying ponies? Please say there are flying ponies!
... which, by the fault of a few people -- among them some priests -- is doing so much harm to the church," La Repubblica quoted him as saying.

Italy's Sky TG24 said Stenico had written a letter to his superiors with a similar defense.

Calls placed to Stenico's home and office went unanswered Sunday.

In 2006 the Vatican denied Italian newspaper reports that an official in the office of the Secretary of State had been involved in a fight with police after he was stopped in a neighborhood frequented by transvestites and male prostitutes.

Wait ... Eddie Murphy works for the Vatican?
In 2002 a former official in the papal household, Archbishop Juliusz Paetz, resigned as archbishop of the Polish city of Poznan over accusations that he had made sexual advances toward young clerics. He denied the accusations. (Nicole Winfield, AP)

Oh, just spend a couple days in rehab. That can cure anything these days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Please shoot me

I went to Target at lunchtime to buy a few necessities. When I passed by the doggie Halloween costumes ... well, for a few seconds there, I seriously considered buying one.

Sorry, Freddie. (But you would look adorable, though unnatural this is).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Random Thought for the Day

Conspiracy theorists are out to get me.

Name of the Day

Pamela Balls Organista

Not to be a putz about this, but it takes a lot of huevos to go around with a name like Balls Organista.

(Sent in by concerned reader God Is My Codependent.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Word of the Day


Used in a sentence: "A few drops of rain, and everything on the roads goes kerflooey."

(It took me 2-1/2 hours to drive home last night. I live 35 miles away from the office. Ugh.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Warm and fuzzy

Why doesn't Rudy just reuse this ad for his presidential bid?

Oh, right, because he let his wife know he was divorcing her via a press conference and the kids now barely speak to him. I forgot.

(Video via Sadly, No!)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Actual names I have run across over the last few days

--Preserved Fish (pronounced pre ZER ved, and apparently a not uncommon Dutch name a couple of centuries ago; he's buried in an old NYC cemetery)
--Crystal Fish (no relation to the above, as far as I can tell)
--Gabriel De Cunto (you know I don't usually work blue, but ... yikes, high school must have been hell)

News Story of the Day

Via The Associated Press:
Man jailed for trying to pass $1M bill

PITTSBURGH - Change for a million? That's what a man was seeking Saturday when he handed a $1 million bill to a cashier at a Pittsburgh supermarket. But when the Giant Eagle employee refused and a manager confiscated the bogus bill, the man flew into a rage, police said.

Jerk. I bet he just bought a pack of Doublemint, too. If he had tried to buy, say, a house, he probably would have gotten away with it. Be realistic, people!
The man slammed an electronic funds-transfer machine into the counter and reached for a scanner gun, police said.

Not the scanner gun! Everyone, down on the floor--he's got a scanner gun!!
Police arrested the man, who was not carrying identification and has refused to give his name to authorities. He is being held in the Allegheny County Jail.

Hey, has anyone seen Karl Rove lately?
Since 1969, the $100 bill is the largest note in circulation.

I did not know that.
Police believe the $1 million note seized at the supermarket may have originated at a Dallas-based ministry. Last year, the ministry distributed thousands of religious pamphlets with a picture of President Grover Cleveland on a $1 million bill.

That probably should have been a tip-off. I don't think Grover Cleveland would be on the $1 million bill.

But I'm open to suggestions on who should be.

Friday, October 05, 2007

And I suspect Celebrity Garage Sale will be a midseason replacement

In March 2006, I challenged you in a quiz to find the real reality show. One of the fake answers was: "Celebrity Rap-off: Celebs not known for their hustle or their flow are paired with former rap stars in a weekly elimination rap-off. Confirmed so far: Deborah Gibson, Young MC, Rick Springfield, Damon Wibley (from the Fat Boys). Produced by Robert "Vanilla Ice" Van Winkle. On VH1."

It has recently come to my attention that MTV is now broadcasting what is, in essence (albeit with different D-list celebs), that show.

I'm frightened. Hold me.

UPDATE: And Celebrity Garage Sale becomes a reality.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Things The Velvet Blog has secretly endorsed

Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 -- When the Justice Department publicly declared torture "abhorrent" in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations. But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales's arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. ...

It's time for The Velvet Blog to come clean, exposing everything it has secretly endorsed:

--Adorable puppies
--George Clooney
--Sock monkey slippers
--Stirrings Bloody Mary Mix (especially after reading the newspaper)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What does a spinal chord sound like? (Or, why I hate homonyms)

It's inevitable: Mistakes get into print. (Also into blogs, but that's a whole nother ... I mean, that's another story.)

I confessed here some time ago that I read over the phrase "marshal law" (instead of "martial"), which got into my editor-in-chief's column. And that was bad. Very, very bad.

But it's hard not to gloat when the phrase "spinal chord injury" turns up in The New York Times--and, two days later, it remains in the online version, in the third paragraph.

Monday, October 01, 2007

News quiz

Who said this?:
"I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the president of the United States is, 'Will this person carry on in the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?'"

A) Someone so desperate to become president that he'd bit the head off a chicken on live TV if he thought that would do the trick
B) A crazy person who lives on a bus, touring aimlessly, with little money
C) John McCain

The answer is, of course, all of the above.

Analysis here.

("The Islam"??? Wow.)