Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sign we're definitely in a recession

Remember that corner spot of my property where my sloppy neighbors' garbage collects and the wind blew a $50 bill a few months ago?

The other morning, I found another bill there: $1.

C'mon, people. We need to spend our way out of this recession. I want to see at least a Ben Franklin there by tomorrow.

Best of

Jon Swift's best-of-the-year post is up, and hey ... there's The Velvet Blog! (Oh, OK--he asks everyone on his blogroll.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Please put this coupon down and back slowly out of the room. Do not gaze at the coupon. Do not touch the coupon. Do not think of using the coupon.

The fine print at the bottom of the coupon I received the other day from Borders (verbatim--really):
Valid with Borders Rewards membership only. Certain exclusions apply. Coupon cannot be combined with any other offer, including but not limited to "3 for 2," "Buy 4, Get 5th Free" or "Buy 1, Get 1 Half Price" offers. Excludes previous purchases, non-stock special orders, gift cards, newspapers, magazines, comics, coupon books, eBooks, digital downloads, self-publishing programs, Smartbox, Rosetta Stone® software, shipping, and all electronics, including but not limited to the Sony® Reader and the ZuneTM. May not be combined with other coupons, sale pricing, or corporate, classroom, or other group discounts. Original coupon must be relinquished at time of purchase. Single-use coupon. One coupon per customer during the valid period. Void if copied, transferred, and where prohibited by law. Any other use constitutes fraud. Cash value .01¢. Not redeemable for cash. Valid only in U.S. stores and at Borders.com through 12/28/08 midnight EST.

I am tempted to add: Garnish with Fluffernutter. But that really wouldn't make any sense.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Irregular posting, if that, the next week or two. Happy holidays, all. (And this photo is a rerun.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh, and don't touch the jellyfish

Part of an occasional series in which try to soften the sting of particularly harsh reviews by appending the phrase: "Garnish with Fluffernutter." This particular example comes from the review of Seven Pounds in The New York Times :
Frankly, though, I don't see how any review could really spoil what may be among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made. I would tell you to go out and see it for yourself, but you might take that as a recommendation rather than a plea for corroboration. Did I really see what I thought I saw? Garnish with Fluffernutter.

Hmmm. Not sure if that helped this time.

I have no desire to see this movie. But I'm dying to know what the stupid twist is anyway. Yes, that makes no sense whatsoever.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It all becomes clear

I was so puzzled why that Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at President Bush.

Could it mean he has a mistaken impression of Christmas traditions and was merely wishing W. a happy holiday season? Or likes not having electricity or clean running water? Or is upset that Battlestar Galactica is heading into its final season?

Fortunately, Arab news service Al Jazeera weighs in with a helpful translation:
In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt.

Ooooooohhhh. Never would have guessed that.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Correction of the day

From the Arts & Leisure section of today's Times:
An article last Sunday about the film adaptation of the novel "The Reader" misspelled the German expression that means coming to terms with the past. It is Vergangenheitsbewältigung, not Vergangenheitsbewaltigung.

Do Germans play Scrabble? If so, do they get 20 letters instead of the usual 7?

UPDATE: The answer to the first question is yes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Back to work on the Christmas gift list

First, imagine what it would be like if your face could do sit-ups.

This may take a while. I'll wait. Doot doot doot doot dee dooot ... OK, you caught up yet? Great!

Now, imagine what it would be like if a state-of-the-art device would do those facial sit-ups for you!

Well, imagine no more. Presenting Rejuvenique, perfect for the tough-to-please aging ex-Dynasty star on your holiday shopping list:

Mom, I hope you're not reading this, because otherwise the surprise will be spoiled.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I, for one, would like to know the names of his four children

For years, a friend and I have been sending each other instant messages when we come across funny names. Yes, we're fully aware this is juvenile.

But all that is over, because we've found the funniest name in the world, and there is nothing else we can find that will even come close. Any other funny name we find from here on in will just seem lackluster.

And I'm about to share it with you.

OK, are you sitting down?

You are? OK. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to ... Murdaya Poo!

Of course, as he is the 13th richest man in Indonesia, he could buy and sell me, and that probably takes the sting out of it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Smackdown!: El Santo vs. Santa Claus vs. Claus von Bulow

Woo-hoo! A rerun from Oct. 11, 2006. Why? Because a) it mentions Santa, so it's topical; b) I'm lazy; and c) TVB has gotten in the neighborhood of 5,000 hits over the last two days from people seeking pictures of von Bulow, in the wake of Sunny's death. No, I don't get it either.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting El Santo

WHO?: Beefy Mexican wrestler/crime fighter, and star of hundreds of very cheap movies.

PROS: Fights evildoers. Brings joy to Spanish-speaking children and wrestling fans. Gives hope to the full-figured that they, too, can fight crime. Impressively fills out a Speedo.

CONS: Poor fashion sense. His films are boring and poorly made. What is he hiding with that mask, anyway?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Santa Claus

WHO?: Jolly old elf and commercializer of Christmas. Subject of dozens of films, including Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

PROS: Delivers presents. Brings joy to children. Gives hope to the full-figured that they, too, can look good in bright colors.

CONS: Nagging rumors about those creepy elves. Presents often turn out to be underwear. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians marked film debut of Pia Zadora. What is he hiding with that beard, anyway?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingClaus von Bulow

WHO?: Husband of socialite Sunny von Bulow. Subject of film, Reversal of Fortune.

PROS: Generous in giving sweets to his wife. Role of von Bulow earned Jeremy Irons an Oscar. Gives hope to the psychopathologically social-climbing.

CONS: Wife was diabetic and went into a coma. Whatever happened to Jeremy Irons? Why did Irons believe starring in a film of Dungeons & Dragons was a good career move? Also, do you think Irons has had some work done? Last time I saw him, he looked a little weird. I mean, not Kenny Rogers weird or Burt Reynolds weird, but still.

WINNER: Claus von Bulow. I love getting candy.*

*I realize he was actually accused of giving his wife an overdose of insulin, but that's just not funny. Sickos.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I don't usually do this, but ...

You should really read this post.

The Velvet Blog continues in its quest to help you with your holiday shopping

Well, apparently, not everyone sees the value in fish agility courses. That's astounding, but The Velvet Blog is nothing if not flexible (at least after a couple of Extra-Strength Tylenol).

In the case, how about the Snuggie?

It's perfect for former Heaven's Gate members, people who already own the Ronco In-Egg Scrambler, and celibates. (Note: Some crossover there.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I've just solved all of your holiday gift-giving dilemmas

Presenting the Hammacher Schlemmer Fish Agility Training Set:
This complete set of underwater activities allows you to train your pet fish to perform a series of agility maneuvers, including swimming through hoops, pushing a soccer ball, navigating a slalom course, and more.

God help us--there's more. And pictures!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tall order

Went to see Black Watch last weekend (thanks, Bert!). The play, about a Scottish regiment in Iraq, closes in Brooklyn Dec. 21, then it's going on tour. If it comes to your neck o' the woods, go. Dramatic, funny, compelling, unique ... well, just go see it.

The locale, St. Ann's Warehouse, is the site of a lot of experimental theater. One of the problems with experimental theater is that it's difficult to read about without giggling. (For me, anyway.) Take this writeup from St. Ann's calendar:
Mabou Mines DollHouse will return to New York, completing a 30-city world tour that began five years ago with its award-winning premiere at St. Ann's Warehouse. With their adaptation of A Doll's House, Obie Award Winners Lee Breuer (Best Direction) and Maude Mitchell (Best Actress) transform Ibsen's bourgeois tragedy into high comedy with a deep bite. ... Breuer turns Ibsen's mythic feminist anthem on its head by physicalizing the equation of Power and Scale. The male characters are played by actors whose heights range from 40 to 53 inches, and the women by actors almost 6 feet tall. Nothing dramatizes Ibsen's patriarchal point more clearly than the image of these little men dominating and commanding women one and a half times their size.

That's right--nothing.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

They make great Christmas gifts, and you don't even have to deal with the hordes at Wal-mart

Part of an occasional series in which we improve depressing or odd descriptions of vanity press books advertised in The New York Times Book Review by adding the phrase "Wacky high jinks ensue" at the end of them. All ad copy verbatim (except for the high jinks) from the Nov. 30 issue:

The 13th Zodiac (Ophiuchus) and the Galactic Solar System Unveiled. This visionary new book proposes that there are 13 zodiac signs, 13 lunar months with Septem(7)ber as the seventh month and A DISCOVERED GALACTIC SOLAR SYSTEM which explains why we have 2000 year NEW AGES. [The author] presents "atronomically and cosmographically verifiable facts" supporting these claims. Wacky high jinks ensue.

The Sacred and the Profane. Presented as a true story, [the author] gives an unexpected twist to the well-known saga of the Raelian Movement, offering up new alien communication to clarify the story of "Elohim, Extra-Terrestrials, Angels, Fallen Angels, and God" and the origin of the human race. Wacky high jinks ensue.

I'm thinking of writing a novel called The Sacred and the Propane, about a holy propane and propane-accessories salesman. It will be filled with "verifiable facts," and a few unverifiable ones for good measure.

Nikki Nicely has that holiday spirit

At a Wal-Mart store in Columbus, Ohio, Nikki Nicely, 19, jumped onto a man’s back and pounded his shoulders when he tried to take a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen television to which she had laid claim. "That's my TV!" Ms. Nicely shouted. "That's my TV!"

A police officer and security guard intervened, but not before Ms. Nicely took an elbow in the face. In the end, she was the one with the $798 television, marked down from $1,000. "That's right," she cried as her adversary walked away. "This here is my TV!"
--The New York Times

Friday, November 28, 2008

But ... but ... Blu-ray players were only $128!!!

Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down

NEW YORK – A worker died after being trampled by a throng of unruly shoppers when a suburban Wal-Mart opened for the holiday sales rush Friday, authorities said.

At least three other people were injured.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in Bentonville, Ark., would not confirm the reports of a stampede but said a "medical emergency" had caused the company to close the store, which is in Valley Stream on Long Island.

Nassau County police said the 34-year-old worker was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 6 a.m., an hour after the store opened. The cause of death was not immediately known.

A police statement said shortly after 5 a.m., a throng of shoppers "physically broke down the doors, knocking (the worker) to the ground." Police also said a 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to a hospital for observation and three other shoppers suffered minor injuries and were also taken to hospitals.
--The Associated Press

I think everyone who goes to Wal-mart at 5 in the morning to buy cheap crap should be taken to a hospital for observation.

The end result

Pie crust is not my strong suit. Still, it was tasty and everyone seemed to like it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I'm planning to make for Thanksgiving

I made the pie below for Christmas last year. Then, as I approached my parents' house, I suddenly realized I had left the pie at home in the fridge.

Should I go back and get it? Doing so would have delayed my arrival almost two hours, and in the end, I decided that I simply couldn't deprive my family of my presence on Christmas for that long, just for a pie.

Then I went home and ate the entire pie by myself.*

The recipe's a wee bit labor-intensive, but the results are worth it. The twist in it is that you cook the apples in the microwave beforehand. I got the recipe from Cook's Illustrated, and the folks behind that organization (they also do the PBS show America's Test Kitchen) say it preserves the texture of the apples better than cooking on the stove top.

I will admit to using a boxed pie-crust mix. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Apple-Cranberry Pie

2 cups frozen or fresh cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar plus 1 tbsp. for top of pie
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. cornstarch
3-1/2 lbs. sweet apples (6-7 med.), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
pie crust
1 egg white, beaten lightly

1) Bring cranberries, juice, 1/2-cup sugar, 1/4-tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4-tsp. salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, and pressing berries until berries have broken down and thickened to jam-like consistency -- 10-12 min. Remove from heat, stir in water, and cool to room temp., about 30 min.

2) Meanwhile, mix 1/2-cup sugar, 1/4-tsp. cinnamon, 1/4-tsp. salt, and cornstarch -- add apples and toss to combine. Microwave on high stirring every 3 min. until apples start to get transluscent around edges and liquid is thick and glossy -- 10 to 14 min. Cool to room temp., about 30 min.

3) Place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack and heat to 425 degrees. Remove 1 disk of dough from fridge and roll out on generously floured -- up to 1/4-cup flour -- work surface to 12-inch circle 1/8-inch thick. Roll dough onto pie plate leaving at least 1-inch overhang. Refrigerate until dough is firm -- about 30 minutes.

4) Transfer cooled cranberry mixture to dough-lined pieplate and spread into even layer. Place apple mixture on top, mounding slightly in center, and push down any sharp apple edges.

5) Roll out second disk of dough (as above) and unroll loosely over pie, leaving 1-inch overhang.

6) Using kitchen shears, cut through both layers leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold edges under and flute. Brush top and edges with egg white and sprinkle 1 tbsp. of sugar. Cut four 1-1/2-inch slits in top of dough in X pattern.

7) Place pie on preheated baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce oven temp. to 375 degrees, rotate baking sheet, and bake till deep golden brown, 25 to 30 min. longer. Cool at least 2 hours on rack.

*Not really.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Not-entirely-unconnected thoughts

--It is rather difficult to find dog poop in the yard when there are brown leaves on the ground.

--It is rather difficult to rake leaves when there is dog poop in the yard.

Thanksgiving wishes from Sarah Palin

Yeah, yeah, yeah--everyone and his brother is already linking to this.

But, wow! I have never seen anything so funny and completely appalling at the same time.

Let me say one more time: Wow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Answering the world's queries, one at a time

Recent search queries that have stranded visitors on The Velvet Blog, with commentary:

sexy only blog
Oh, you know me too, too well.

unicorn self serve
That's the problem with unicorns. They're such loners.

lawrence of arabia bamboo shoots under fingernails
It's tad long, but, ouch, that's harsh. For true torture, you can't beat Manos: The Hands of Fate.

does yogurt make you poop
I'm not sure how to answer that. Perhaps another TVB visitor would like to reply?

sometimes it's better not to ask
I knew you'd come through.

how to leave people guessing

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's almost Thanksgiving ...

Time to rerun my grandmother's oatmeal stuffing recipe:

Saute a chopped medium onion (or, if you're feeling fancy, a big shallot) and rib of celery in oil. Add salt and pepper and two cups of rolled oats or quick-cooking oats and continue sauteing until the oats get toasty. Then stuff the turkey. (Obviously, you can cut this in half for a chicken. Or bake it in a covered dish alongside the bird with some chicken stock to keep it moist.)

That's it.

(Look for Punkinsmom to dispute my grandmother's stuffing supremacy in comments in three, two, one ...)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Highlight of Deborah Solomon's interview with Karl Rove

From tomorrow's New York Times:
Solomon: Do you think you're negative?

Rove: No.

There's just no good way to answer that question, is there? Say "yes," and you're negative. Say "no," and you're still negative.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Exchange it? Thanks, I'll just keep the one I have.

The magazine that pays me to copyedit also employs writers to, well, write. And while I realize they've been hired for their technical expertise, not to be slaves to grammar and spelling, must sentences like the follwing following be so freaking commonplace in their blog postings?
Quantum is being threatened with delisting by the New York Stork Exchange.

It hurts.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Vacation postcard of the day

I post this card to point out one important fact: The changing of the guard in Quebec City involves the use of a goat.

11 PM, 29 VII, 1962


Have spent an exciting day here sightseeing. Really a big treat. Marvelous sightseeing weather. See you soon.

Capt. Jim, Nancy, Jimmy

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Yes, because we need the eggs: A one-act documentary play

Older guy sitting at restaurant bar: My wife will have a margarita, and I'll have a sea breeze.

Bartender: Yes, sir.

[Bartender makes drinks, and serves them.]

Bartender: Do you want a chicken?

Older guy: Uh ... what?

Bartender: Do you want that shaken?

Everyone else sitting nearby [silently]: Oh ... "shaken."


Friday, November 07, 2008

Things I'd rather Austin Smith would get for Christmas: A bike. A chemistry set. A complete set of Harry Potters. Warm socks.

News story #1:

Fears of a Dem crackdown lead to boom in gun sales

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – When 10-year-old Austin Smith heard Barack Obama had been elected president, he had one question: Does this mean I won't get a new gun for Christmas?

That brought his mother, the camouflage-clad Rachel Smith, to Bob Moates Sports Shop on Thursday, where she was picking out that special 20-gauge shotgun — one of at least five weapons she plans to buy before Obama takes office in January. ...

News story #2:

Boy Killed Firing Submachine Gun At Firearms Expo

Eight-year-old Christopher Bizilj died after accidentally shooting himself in the head in what was supposed to be among the safest possible settings for youngsters to handle firearms.

The third-grader from Ashford, a well-liked "all-American boy," was attending a "Machine Gun Shoot & Firearms Expo" on Sunday at the long-established Westfield Sportsman's Club in Massachusetts. While shooting, he was supervised by a trained professional and within sight of his father, Dr. Charles Bizilj, the medical director of emergency and critical care at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford.

Yet something went horribly wrong.

What some, including a longtime club member and retired gun designer, found most startling was that the boy was firing a 9mm, Micro Uzi submachine gun, a weapon that weighs about 5 pounds and can fire 1,200 rounds a minute. ...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Photo of the day

No comment. Really--I have nothing to add to this. (Taken around the corner from where I live.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Pros and cons of robocalls

Pro: In the last few days, I've received phone calls from Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Alec Baldwin. (Hey, Alec, you totally deserved that 30 Rock Emmy!)

Con: I also received a call that went something like this: "We're happy to announce that Gay City News has endorsed Mark Brian Foley for State Senate. Foley is in favor of gay marriage and the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender agenda."

But here's the thing: It's a lie. Foley, a Democrat running against an entrenched Republican, Caesar Trunzo (age: approximately 105) isn't in favor of gay marriage and has pretty much not said anything on gay issues, and gay political groups are pointedly not endorsing him. What does that mean? Well, obviously, Republicans are making that call to scare the bejezus out of rubes.

Here's a tip, rubes: Gays, lesbians, etc., do not use the phrase the "gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender agenda." Fearmongers do.

Oh, and Caesar Trunzo is a scumbag.

Photo of the day

Looking toward the St. Lawrence.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Don't miss me too much

Leaving for vacation on Friday. Kinda swamped at work at the moment, so probably no posting till I get back the end of the following week. If you're good, I'll post some photos of Quebec City.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Does that make Nader the vegetarian plate? Barr the bag of nuts?

To put [undecided voters] in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. "Can I interest you in the chicken?" she asks. "Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?"

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
--David Sedaris

(Via Sullivan)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Photo of the day

Taken under low lighting conditions, and with a rather basic point-and-shoot, hence the grain. Maybe one day I'll buy a nice camera.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Great moments in disconnect

Senator Obama is measuring the drapes, and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise taxes, increase spending, take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labor elections, and concede defeat in Iraq. But they forgot to let you decide. My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them. --Sen. John McCain's current stump speech

The ABC News/Washington Post poll has Mr. Obama up by 10 points, with Mr. McCain losing ground on some key issues among likely voters. --New York Times Political Blog

My friends, I'm starting to see a fairly basic flaw in Sen. McCain's campaign strategy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

If sock monkeys gave fireside chats in the midst of a banana crisis

sock monkeyI want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking bananas -- with the comparatively few who understand the mechanics of banking bananas but more particularly with the overwhelming majority who use banking bananas for the making of deposits and the drawing of checks. ...

First of all, let me state the simple fact that when you deposit money in a bank banana, the bank banana does not put the money into a safe deposit vault. It invests your money in many different forms of credit-bonds, commercial paper, mortgages, and many other kinds of loans. In other words, the bank banana puts your money to work to keep the wheels of industry and of agriculture turning around. A comparatively small part of the money you put into the bank banana is kept in currency -- an amount which in normal times is wholly sufficient to cover the cash needs of the average citizen. In other words, the total amount of all the currency in the country is only a small fraction of the total deposits in all of the banks bananas.

(For the record, here are FDR's fireside chats.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The more things change, the more they, um, change

Just to depress me, WashingtonPost.com's Dan Froomkin quoted today from Pres. Clinton's final State of the Union address:
We are fortunate to be alive at this moment in history. Never before has our Nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity and social progress with so little internal crisis and so few external threats. Never before have we had such a blessed opportunity and, therefore, such a profound obligation to build the more perfect Union of our Founders' dreams.

We begin the new century with over 20 million new jobs; the fastest economic growth in more than 30 years; the lowest unemployment rates in 30 years; the lowest poverty rates in 20 years; the lowest African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates on record; the first back-to-back surpluses in 42 years; and next month, America will achieve the longest period of economic growth in our entire history. We have built a new economy.

And our economic revolution has been matched by a revival of the American spirit: crime down by 20 percent, to its lowest level in 25 years; teen births down 7 years in a row; adoptions up by 30 percent; welfare rolls cut in half, to their lowest levels in 30 years.

My fellow Americans, the state of our Union is the strongest it has ever been.

That was given in January 2000. Seems like a million years ago, doesn't it?

(I ran this once before, in 2006, but when I read it in Froomkin's column, I thought it was worth repeating. You can read all of the State of the Union addresses here .)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Leave it to California--it's just so progressive

From a badly worded news story on my magazine's site:
As more states like California implement hands-free driving laws, ...

It would be really cool if you could, say, just think yourself to work.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Quotation of the day

In Raleigh, executives at RBC Bank canceled the parachuters that were supposed to appear at the grand opening of its new headquarters, saying it was not an appropriate time to have people jumping off a bank building. --The New York Times

Yes, children, once--just a few short weeks ago--there was a time when hiring people to jump off your bank was entirely appropriate business behavior.

Good times.

Friday, October 03, 2008

VP debate by the numbers

Number of times Sarah Palin used the word "maverick" to refer to either herself or John McCain: Six

Number of times Sarah Palin used the phrase "I believe cavemen and dinosaurs romped together in peace 6,000 years ago": Zero

Three questions I'd like to ask "undecided" voters

--What's wrong with you?
--Seriously, what the hell?
--Really? Really???

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Product review you won't be reading on The Velvet Blog

This pitch was in my in-box this morning:


I'm the webmaster of [redacted].

I wanted to know if by any chance you would be interested in doing an unbiased review of our site [redacted] on your blog.

If you agree you can choose between receiving a product sample or receiving a payment.

Cool! I can take this blog in a whole different direction! Reports on products that wise consumers need to know about!
If you choose the product sample instead of the payment the sample is yours to keep and you don't need to send it back.

Oh, I'm sure anything you send will be just fine. I love to get free stuff!
The product sample that you can get is [redacted] - a penis enhancer and you can see it there:[redacted]

Please let me know if you are interested.

Thank you

Well, at least they're polite.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Overheard in my eye doctor's office, 11:30 a.m.: A one-act documentary play


The office manager -- Male, 50s.

The 20-something office assistant -- Female, 20-something.

Me -- Me.

The play:

Office manager: Did you hear? Paul Newman died.

20-something office assistant: Paul Newman ... was he in the Beatles?

Me: [Stunned silence]


(P.S.: I need new glasses.)

(P.P.S: I should point out that we walked her through some of Newman's biggest titles, and none of them rang a bell -- or, at least, she hadn't seen them. She was, however, familiar with his salad dressing.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An arsenal of flavor, if you will

A concerned TVB reader passes along this disturbing promotional copy for Wrigley gum:
Bite into a Strawberry Gush Glop and a sudden burst of liquid strawberry flavor gushes into your mouth from all directions. Drench your mouth with butt-loads of intense strawberry flavor.

That can't be hygienic, can it? (Wait ... could this just be a really dumb mistake for "boatloads"??? I did, in fact, know someone who thought that the phrase "nip it in the bud" was "nip it in the butt." Really.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Guess the real Yahoo headline

--Lions offer advice to antelope
--Bill Clinton offers advice to Todd Palin
--Cheddar cheese offers advice to mice

Monday, September 22, 2008

Boy, this bailout thing is really getting out of hand

Now I'm hearing the federal goverment is taking over Morgan Freeman.

Thank you! I'll be appearing nightly through the weekend. Drive home safely, and don't forget to tip your waitress.

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money

It's a few months old, but the This American Life episode "The Giant Pool of Money" is still well worth listening to. It explains how the housing/mortgage crisis came about, and how that caused the turbulence on Wall Street we're now weathering. And puts it all in understandable, if mind-boggling, terms. The free podcast download is long gone, but you can either stream it or read a transcript for free, or download it for around a buck.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Photos of the day

I love peaches.
But something about peach skin makes my skin crawl.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Photo of the day

The color here doesn't quite do justice to the electric shade of blue that shines down when making coffee on my office's single-cup machine.

I feel like I'm making the coffee ... of the future!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Like a good game, a good conversation can be pleasant for everyone

Hey, it's been ages since we've enjoyed an educational film together at The Velvet Blog.

Here's "Ways To Better Conversation," starring Meryl Streep and Dakota Fanning.

Online Videos by Veoh.com

Sorry, did I say Meryl Streep and Dakota Fanning? I meant, "Starring nobody."

(From the AV Geeks collection.)

A unicorn? A Laz-E-Boy made entirely of quarks? An entire field-dressed moose? A monkey (finally)?

I see via the Blogger interface that yesterday's post was The Velvet Blog's 1,300th. I'm really not sure what the traditional gift is for that, but I'm sure it will be very special. You'll think of something.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh, and the rest of SNL sucked

I know this is posted in a gazillion places, but, hey, it made me laugh.

We already knew Tina Fey looked like Sarah Palin, but, wow, she really has the vocal inflections down. (Amy Poehler ... eh, not so much.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Still, the cafeteria is supposed to be outstanding

From a story I just edited:
The Google model involves having employees use 20% of their time for innovation. They test and grow projects. Some are nurtured and provide the company with revenue. Others are killed off.

"Do no evil" my ass.

You can can give an Earl Scheib paint job to a '76 Gremlin, but it's still a '76 Gremlin

On behalf of the magazine where I am copy chief, I'd like to retroactively apologize for this cover image, which ran in July 2006. Obviously, if we had known that two years into the future the Republican party would trademark the concept of lipstick, we would not have used it.

(Yes, it's a tech magazine. ERP = enterprise resource planning. It's ... it's ... um ... software that helps you plan resources for your enterprise.)

(Punkinsmom has some lipstick info here.)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

It's enough to make you plotz

Quotation of the day, regarding Asif Ali Zardari's controversial run for the presidency in Pakistan:
It's very common in Pakistani court systems that to avoid appearances in courts you produce medical certificates that are not really kosher. --Pakistani political analyst Shepcap Mahmoud on NPR's Morning Edition, Sept. 5

That's just meshuggeneh.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Worse than Manos, the Hands of Fate?

Entry in an occasional series in which we try to soften the sting of vituperative movie reviews by the addition of the phrase "Garnish with Fluffernutter." Why? Because.

Today's entry is the dire Disaster Movie, which has a 0% approval rating, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Let's string together a few of the reviews and see what happens.
This carpet-fouling mongrel of a movie no more deserves release than do anthrax spores. ... Embarrassment. It's a feeling you should get used to, [writers] Freidberg and Seltzer. May you never befoul another cinema with your grotesque comic abortions. ... It's quite frankly stultifying that Friedberg are Seltzer are ever let anywhere near a studio boardroom after having defecated out their previous movies, much less this one. ... None of it is amusing, so there's probably enough suicide-inducing material here to make a send-up of The Happening redundant. ... No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! ... As depressing and empty a cinematic experience as any other picture this year or last (or maybe the whole decade). To label it as simply unfunny or vacuous or ugly or boring would be a compliment. ... I'm not sure if Disaster is the worst movie the boys have churned out, but, at this point, that's like asking if a bullet hurts more than a knife. ... Garnish with Fluffernutter.

See? Much better.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Just wondering

If the Fu Yu in East Rockaway, L.I., merged with the nearby Hoo King in Oceanside, would they rename it Hoo Yu Fu King?

Yes, The Velvet Blog is working blue today.

Note: I'm a little short of time to actually think of new blog posts--work is crazy and I'm having trouble stringing two coherent thoughts together. I noticed I had saved this post as a draft nearly two years ago and never triggered it, probably for reasons of taste. Obviously, my standards have lowered.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An Associated Press news story ... from the future!

I find the tense of this AP story, posted online about half an hour ago, deeply odd:
Former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton closed out her history-making 2008 quest for the White House Tuesday with a prime-time appearance at the Democratic National Convention, ... Clinton paid an advance visit to the convention hall in late morning with her daughter, Chelsea. While her appearance was the main event of the night, it was far from the role she envisioned more than a year ago ... --The Associated Press

I'm glad the reporter didn't go on to review the speech. Still, I'd have gone with "will close out" and "will be the main event" for online copy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I, for one, welcome our new robot rat overlords.

(Trivia points to the reader who identifies the source of the "I, for one, welcome our new [adjective] overlords" setup -- which, yes, I admit to overusing. Sue me.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Top chef secret

So, Julia Child was a spy. Or was she?

One thing's for sure: She was a one-of-a-kind TV presence.

Pretty busy the next few weeks. Expect posts to be even more half-assed than usual.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Demystification of the Olympics opening ceremony that I really didn't need to know

They faked some of the fireworks? Oh, fine, for the sake of TV spectacularity.* The little girl who sang was lip-synching because the vocalist wasn't cute enough? Well, no one wants to see an ugly kid, especially in high-def. The adult performers were wearing Depends disposable undergarments? Ummm ... what?
"You wanna know a secret?" an International Olympic Committee member from Las Vegas asked me in the lobby of the Shangri-La's Kerry Centre Hotel in Beijing. "The performers are wearing diapers during rehearsals so they don't have to take bathroom breaks." --Huffington Post

*Warning: Not an actual word.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Yet another sign of the coming apocalypse (which really can't come too soon)

Were you aware that there is cable-TV game show called Hurl? It goes like this: 1) Two young men eat. 2) They are then attached to contraptions that twirl them up, down, and sideways. 3) The person to throw up first is the loser.

Although one might argue that civilization is the bigger loser.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Death by the numbers

Number of Google News hits for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who died last week: 297

Number of Google News hits for Bernie Mac, who also died last week: 5,333

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dear Subconscious:

Frankly, Subconscious, you puzzle me. I realize you have things to work out when I'm sleeping. I'm not sure why you continue to torment me with dreams about celebs I don't care about in real life. You know: Screech. Ryan Seacrest. Etc., etc. But I'm just going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure you're doing very important work, and, well, if I don't understand, I must just be a dope.

But I really need to complain about that dream you sent my way the other night. You know, the one in which former Attorney General John Ashcroft appeared on TV with the Singing Senators to perform a version of the god-awful Black Eyed Peas' hit, "My Humps." Do I need to remind you that the song contained two of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television? (Yes, @#(%@! and ^&@#*.) And that as the dream closed, I wrote a letter of complaint about this to the Federal Communications Commission, hoping to get Ashcroft into trouble?

That's playing dirty, Subconscious. There's simply no reason for behaving this way. This sort of thing must stop.

In retaliation, I'm going to force you to watch this YouTube video of Ashcroft warbling a song of his own composition, "Let the Eagle Soar."

There--how'd you like that? I can play dirty, too.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tired ... so very tired

A few days ago, Sen. Obama remarked in a speech that doing little things, like making sure your car's tires are properly inflated, can make a difference in the amount of gas you use. The Republicans have decided to thoroughly mock this as the most ridiculous thing ever.

Can I give you a little firsthand experience? In the past, my 2002 Saturn generally got to the three-quarters-full mark on the gas gauge around the time my trip odometer hit 100 miles (that is, after I reset the odometer to 0 when I fill the tank). Since gas prices have risen, I've made a few changes to way I drive. I speed up at a slower rate from full stops (thereby avoiding "jackrabbit starts," which waste gas). I try to coast into stops at lights and stop signs rather than keeping my foot on the accelerator to the last moment and then braking. On the highway, I've been keeping to around 56-57 miles per hour rather than the 63 or so I used to do.

And guess what? I'm getting to around 120 miles on the trip odometer at the three-quarters-full mark. That's with my AC on in the hot weather.

Can you imagine if everyone did this?

Republicans are handing out tire gauges with "Obama's energy plan" on them as a form of ridicule. Remember when they handed out "purple heart" Band-Aids on the floor of the Republican Convention four years ago to mock Sen. Kerry's service during the Vietnam War? That was a slap in the face of every veteran who earned that distinction. And this seems like slap at every American who'd like to save a few bucks at the pump.

I haven't been checking my tire pressure, by the way. But I'm going to start.

UPDATE: "It's like they take pride in being ignorant."

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sometimes, it's better to leave people guessing

A co-worker sent me a link to this Associated Press story a little while ago. I assume it will be fixed shortly, but, for the record, the item first was sent out as:
Conservative political commentator Robert Novak has announced his immediate retirement after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. ...

Novak has been a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for decades. He announced late last month he has a brain. The revelation came less than a week after he struck a pedestrian with his Corvette and drove away.
--The Associated Press

It's already getting fixed on most sites. Link above was still wrong when I made this post.

Meanwhile, newspapers are laying off copy editors. Coincidence?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The dark side

I found this New York Times Magazine story about online "trolls" to be downright disturbing.

There are some sick folks out there. It's also made me question (again) the wisdom of using my real-world name here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Deerly unbeloved

A couple of hours ago, this headline graced the front page of the Yahoo portal:
Exploding deer population causing billions in damage

Yes, you would expect exploding deer to cause damage, but still.

Now, this just went up:
Menacing deer invasions push homeowners to the limit

I'm predicting that the headline Bambi's mom deserved it will be there by day's end.

Google search that recently stranded a visitor on The Velvet Blog, with commentary

ben stiller satan worshiper

Well, that explains The Cable Guy. And Envy. And Meet the Fockers. And Duplex. And Along Came Polly. And the remake of The Heartbreak Kid. And School for Scoundrels. And Dodgeball. And ...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Random 10--now with actual audio!

SeeqPod - Playable Search

OK, not 100% random. I set my iPod on shuffle, and those songs I could find via SeeqPod are here. But some I hoped to find were not posted anywhere, and I have no way to host music on my own. Still, SeeqPod is awfully nifty.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quotation of the Day

"He's got a great sense of humor, he really does. You can say 'enema' to him a million times, and he'll laugh every time." --Teri Garr

For the record, Teri Garr is completely adorable.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Outrage fatigue

So there's an article that went up on Salon today, "Exposing Bush's historic abuse of power," that sounds as if it might be important. The description: "Salon has uncovered new evidence of post-9/11 spying on Americans. Obtained documents point to a potential investigation of the White House that could rival Watergate."

But I just can't read it. I can't. I'm tired of being outraged all the time at this administration. It's exhausting. I start to read this and my eyes glaze over.

Maybe someone could just summarize it for me, and give me bullet points on the most egregious acts? That way, I can save time in working up to a high dudgeon.


IMMEDIATE UPDATE: The Onion weighs in on this phenomenon.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Beet it

Although I'm the son of a (former) farmer, I pretty much refused to eat vegetables until I was well into my twenties. Somehow, I managed to survive on meat, potatoes, canned Campbell's beans, and the occasional Flintstones vitamin.

In retrospect ... well, God love her, but my mother overcooks most food. (It's not till I was around 10 that I realized hamburgers weren't supposed to be crunchy on the outside. This was a revelation.) I think it's mainly a generational thing; people in her age group seem to like to cook vegetables till they're pale and limp. (The vegetables, not the people.)

Although I've grown in my appreciation of veggies since childhood, I sometimes have to remind myself to eat them. It's easy for me to fall into a meat-and-potatoes rut. And some vegetables have continued to pretty much spook me. Like beets.

Until I found the following recipe for gingered beet slaw. It comes from the newsletter of a CSA to which we belonged for a time; it originally appeared in the Terrific Pacific Cookbook, by Anya Van Bremzen.

Even inveterate beet haters (and new beet lovers, like Bix) will like this.

Gingered Beet Slaw

2 lbs. beets, trimmed, leaving 2 inches of stem attached
1/2 cup minced shallots
1-1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup slivered fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
2-1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup canola or peanut oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine beets with cold water to cover in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered until beets are tender, 30-45 minutes. Drain beets and place in a bowl of cold water until cool. Slip off the skins, and pat dry with paper towels.

Grate or shred the beets, and toss with the shallots, ginger, basil, and orange zest.

In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, and sugar. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified. Add the dressing to the beets and toss well. Season with salt and pepper and chill.

(Oh, and yellow beets are milder than the red ones. And a less scary looking.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"In dreams/I walk with you/In dreams/I beat you off with a stick"

As mentioned before, I often dream of celebrities. Frequently, down-market, B-, C-, and D-list celebrities.

Last night, however, I dreamed I was being attacked by an angry, possibly rabid raccoon.

Still, that's better than, say, a dream about D-list comedian/actor Andy Dick. (WARNING: SCARY PHOTO OF D-LIST COMEDIAN/ACTOR ANDY DICK.)

Now, in order to wash that image out of your head, enjoy this video of the late, great Roy Orbison singing "In Dreams."

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Garnish with Fluffernutter."

If you've been reading The Velvet Blog for a while (and really--if not, why not?), you know that we have an occasional series in which we improve depressing (or odd) descriptions of vanity press books by adding the phrase "wacky high jinks ensue."

Today, at the suggestion of concerned reader God Is My Codependent, we begin a new series, in which we lighten the blow of negative film reviews by the addition of the phrase "Garnish with Fluffernutter." Let's see how this works.

We set out on this brave experiment by using today's review in The New York Times of Mamma Mia! It's not exactly the worst review in the world, but, rather, the very definition of the "mixed review":
If you insist on folding your arms, looking at your watch and defending yourself against this mindless, hedonistic assault on coherence, you are unlikely to survive until the end credits (which may, by themselves, kill you all over again). Surrender, on the other hand, is easy and painless. It’s Greece! It’s bellybuttons! It’s Meryl Streep! It’s Abba! Garnish with Fluffernutter.


(Oh, and in case you're unfamiliar with the Fluffernutter, you obviously weren't a part of The Velvet Blog's childhood.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Bugle

I was poking around iTunes last night and discovered that The Daily Show's John Oliver does a podcast for a British newspaper, with Andy Zaltzman. It's very funny (Zaltzman's comment about the "real" plasma TV cracked me up). You can stream or download here.

Kinda busy at work, so you're probably on your own the rest of the week.

Monday, July 14, 2008

There may also be formaldehyde, sawdust, and the tears of small children involved

Breaking news:
Doctors reported Saturday that Vice President Dick Cheney’s heartbeat was normal for ...

For someone who had his heart replaced with a device that pumps venom, paranoia, and bile?
... a 67-year-old man who has a history of heart problems. --The Associated Press


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't move--I'm about to take your picture

Some photos I took at the Metropolitan Museum of Art the other day.

Wish I could arrange these better, but uploading via Blogger always results in a bit of a mess.

Click to embiggen.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The new-fangled potato chip

This Associated Press story made me laugh out loud:
Britain's High Court has ruled that Pringles are not a potato snack, and thus are not subject to value-added tax.

Friday's ruling by Justice Nicholas Warren is expected to save millions for the manufacturer, Procter & Gamble Co.

Warren overruled a VAT Tribunal decision that Pringles should be subject to the 17.5-percent tax because it met the definition of "potato crisps, potato sticks, potato puffs and similar products made from the potato, or from potato flour, or from potato starch."

The judge found that Pringles were only 42 percent potato, and thus exempt.

P&G spokeswoman Marina Barker says the company is pleased with the ruling.

Yes, the company escaped the dread VAT tarriff, and everyone knows the chip is only loosely potato-ish. Potato-esque, if you will. Potato-reminiscent. How very pleasing!

One does wonder what the other 58% consists of, no?

Oh, and reduced blog posting for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Because nothing says "bon appetit" like clones. And war.

For the first time in the history of the “Star Wars” franchise, McDonald’s is coming along for the ride. Starting Aug. 15, the fast food chain will be offering Clone Wars Happy Meals. Each will come with a specially designed box and one of 18 exclusive toys. --The New York Times

I still treasure my Schindler's List Happy Meal toy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What about the right to arm bears?

Huh? What about that?

(This rundown of the Supreme Court's decision is worth reading.)

The angels wanna wear my red shoes

The devil may wear Prada -- but the pope does not. According to the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the bright red loafers that Pope Benedict XVI wears are not designed by the Milanese fashion house, as has long been rumored. ...

L'Osservatore Romano said the pope's interest in clothes has nothing to do with fashion and everything to do with liturgy -- what symbolism traditional garments can bring to the Christian liturgy.

"The pope, therefore, does not wear Prada, but Christ," L'Osservatore said.
--The Associated Press (Warning: Photo may sear retinas or frighten small, Christmas-loving children.)

I was raised Catholic, so I understand the concept of transubstantiation. But I don't recall J.C. saying "Wear me."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I guess it could be worse. It could be Fox News.

There's a widescreen, flat-panel TV in my employer's lobby. The receptionist has MSNBC on the entire workday, every day.

That much cable news sounds like some sort of diabolical mind-control experiment to me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Slam of the Day

Which might sum up “The Love Guru” in its entirety but only at the risk of grievously understating the movie’s awfulness. A whole new vocabulary seems to be required. To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. ... No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.

And this is, come to think of it, something of an achievement. What is the opposite of a belly laugh? An interesting question, in a way, and to hear lines like “I think I just made a happy wee-wee” or “I’m making diarrhea noises in my cup” or to watch apprentice gurus attack one another with urine-soaked mops is to grasp the answer. --
The New York Times


I think Mike Myers' first Austin Powers is inspired silliness. It makes me laugh, and yes, I have the DVD. But the second AP was so unfunny I didn't even see the third.

BONUS SLAM UPDATE: From Slate's review:
There are good movies. There are bad movies. There are movies so bad they're good (though, strangely, not the reverse). And once in a while there is a movie so bad that it takes you to a place beyond good and evil and abandons you there, shivering and alone.

Boy, they're really sharpening their knives for this one.

Monday, June 16, 2008

You know you want it

I got an e-mail today with the subject line: Vicodin: you know you want it.

And I thought, brother, you don't know the half of it.

A rerun of the very first The Velvet Blog post, from June 14, 2004. The traditional gift for a fourth anniversary is either flowers or fruit; the modern equivalent is an appliance. TVB will leave it up to you. TVB has had a hankering from ripe pineapple lately. And does a Prius count as an appliance? Because, if so, The Velvet Blog thinks the Prius looks great in green.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Three rejected titles for Denise Richards: It's Complicated

--Denise Richards: You Can Actually Feel Your Brain Cells Dying
--Denise Richards: The Horror ... the Horror ...
--Denise Richards: Smarter Than the Average Bear Mongoose Doorknob Oh, Forget It

Friday, June 13, 2008


The last line of this story works as a perfectly delivered punchline.

I don't know why M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening is getting such bad reviews

The trailer looks great, and Mark Wahlberg really stretches here:

(I apologize for this post, but every time I see the commercial for that movie, I think of this.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

On the downside, the Eagles are touring again; on the upside, we're all going to live to be 120

"Long Road Out of Eden" is, in its way, an honest album. Reclaiming, sometimes imitating, the sound of the 1970s Eagles, the album is the wistful and bilious work of middle-aged songwriters -- [Glenn] Frey is 59 and Don Henley is 60 -- who are thinking about fading possibilities and angry at the state of the world. --The New York Times

Monday, June 09, 2008

Create-an-animated-film Mad Libs

In [location, preferably exotic], during [time period], a motherless [animal, preferably one that would look good in the form of a plush toy or on the side of a Happy Meal box] goes on a journey in order to connect with his or her his indifferent father. The main character, voiced by [trendy male star], is accompanied by a [different animal], voiced by [another trendy male star, preferably a comedian]. Main character is notable for his ability to excel at [leisure activity, preferably one thought of as an "extreme" sport]. This comes in handy when the villain, a [scary or unpleasant animal] voiced by [a slumming A-list star, male or female], attacks using a mob made up of [small animals, generally not considered scary or unpleasant]. Indifferent father witnesses attack and comes to realize his son was right all along.

If any of you use this formula to write and sell an animated film, by reading this post you hereby agree to give The Velvet Blog 20% of the net proceeds.

Friday, June 06, 2008

And I hear he wore a cobra snake for necktie

Where would popular music be without the Bo Diddley beat?

WFUV played a long set of songs the other night in honor of the late Mr. Diddley -- a mix of his originals and tracks done in his style by other performers -- and it was remarkable just how many people have (cough, cough) borrowed his signature sound.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Pros and cons of flying a kite in the park

--Today's kites are easier to fly than the ones you remember from childhood

--Surprisingly easy to let go for a moment
--Running after kite, trying to grab for the string as it dangles just out of reach, turns the whole endeavor suddenly much less relaxing
--Noting that kite flies itself for a good 20 minutes while string is caught in a tall tree is rather humbling

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Velvet Blog's ATFAQs (answers to frequently asked questions)

--An isosceles triangle.
--Wow. I'm pretty sure that's not physically possible. Have you tried "Savage Love"?
--Monkey pox.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Velvet Blog's Movie-Length Rules

According to the review in today's Times, the Sex and the City movie is 137 minutes. I've only seen the edited-for-basic-cable version of the series that TBS airs, and it never grabbed me. But even if you love the show ... 137 minutes of shoes and gossip and weird outfits? Thanks, but I'll be busy having bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails that night. You go without me. We can meet for cosmos later.

I say light comedies should aim for 90 minutes and go as long as 105 if need be. (Could someone please let Judd Apatow know this was good enough for Preston Sturges, a better writer/director of comedies than he is? 135 minutes for movies like the director's cut of The 40-Year-Old Virgin is crazy. On the other hand, I could watch Sturges' The Lady Eve, a brisk 94 minutes, 100 times and not get tired of it.) Meatier comedies could go up to two hours, and not one second longer. Non-epic dramas really ought to be able to be told in 120 minutes, too, though I'll allow a cushion of 10 extra minutes. Popcorn flicks like Indiana Jones and the X-Men movies should keep it to two hours, too. (Last year's Transformers, based on a line of toys--a line of toys!!--clocked in at 144 minutes. I didn't see it, but for me, that sounds about 140 minutes too long, give or take.)

Epics ... well, once you go over two and half hours, my attention begins to flag, no matter how good the movie is. Lawrence of Arabia starts trying my patience around that point. Can we say two hours, 45 minutes? Oh, if you're David Lean, OK, OK, you can have three hours. But that is it, sir. (The only way I got through Bertolucci's The Last Emperor was with the help of an extra-large Coke and extra-large popcorn. That was the theatrical version, at 160 minutes. The DVD director's cut? 219. There isn't enough Coke in the world for that.)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a special case. The theatrical versions bored me a bit, to be honest (especially the second one). The DVD versions are longer ... yet somehow seem shorter. They flow better. But I could never watch any of them in one night--they must be split in two. Fortunately, all are divided over two disks. And yes, I get a lump in my throat at the end of The Return of the King.

The upcoming Steven Soderbergh movie about Che Guevara is four hours. Ugh. No way. It may get divided into two separate features, which sounds like a good idea.

Not that I'm dying to see two movies about Che. Cher, maybe.

GREAT-MINDS-THINK-ALIKE UPDATE: The New Yorker's Anthony Lane on the Sex and the City movie:
What followed was not strictly a movie. It was more like a TV show on steroids. The televised episodes, which ran from 1998 to 2004, lasted for no more than half an hour each. So, spare a thought for the director of the film, Michael Patrick King, who also wrote the screenplay. Faced with the flimsiest of concepts, he had to take it by both ends and pull until he stretched it out to two and a quarter hours. Two and a quarter! When Garbo made “Anna Karenina,” in 1935, she got happy, unhappy, loved, left, and under the train in less than a hundred minutes, so how the hell are her successors supposed to fill the time?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

WWOD (What Would Oprah Do?)

I was flipping channels a few days ago and happened to alight on what looked like a new episode of Family Feud. Did you know it's now hosted by Seinfeld's Mr. Peterman? I didn't.

Anyway, the response to the survey question was rather odd. The question was something along the lines of "What person has most affected the world for good?"

When I tuned in, the only answer on the board was Ben Franklin--I wouldn't have thought of him--with something like 7 votes.

Given, perhaps, my Catholic upbringing and the current religious influence on the public discourse, the first name that popped into my head was Jesus. It seemed like a gimme.

The family in control of the board guessed Mother Theresa. Nope, not up there. And a couple more names that I can't remember, and they weren't on the board either.

The game switched to the rival family, and they said Martin Luther King Jr.--who was the #1 response, with something like 28 people in the survey giving that answer.

The rival family won, so Mr. Peterman started to reveal the other names.

As well as I can remember--and I think I might be missing one name--the results were in the neighborhood of:

Martin Luther King Jr.: 28
Oprah: 8
Bill Clinton: 8
Ben Franklin: 7
Jesus: 6

Oh, sure, getting beaten by Oprah is understandable, but Ben Franklin? That's really gotta rankle.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Oh, thinking is always optional

Part of an occasional series in which we improve depressing or odd descriptions of vanity press books advertised in The New York Times Book Review by adding the phrase "Wacky high jinks ensue" at the end of them. All ad copy verbatim (except for the high jinks) from the May 25 issue.

A Rose Petal Taking the Heat. These pages are petals sculpted in notes of polarizing love, passionate lust, and political logic. Thinking is optional. Feel the moving thoughts of this exquisite collection of poetry. Wacky high jinks ensue.

The Lost Parable of Christ. What if Jesus came not as a man of peace, but a man of war? Join Jesus, His original disciples, and a chosen army of 300 in spiritual warfare as they defeat Caesar, conquer Rome, and establish a world government of the One True God in Jerusalem. Wacky high jinks ensue.

To make sure that the high jinks are indeed wacky, what if he traveled with His capuchin monkey, Fernando? I mean, as long as we're playing "what if?" here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sweet Mary, Mother of God, I just passed an Exxon station charging $4.19 for a gallon of regular gas

I can only go back to one of my favorite stupid news quotes, from an April issue of BusinessWeek last year (article not currently online):
"Everyone likes to hype $4 gasoline because it's sexy," says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, an energy consulting firm. "The reality is that we're nearing the highs of the year, and within 30 days there will be more gasoline on the market. You might see $4 in tony places such as Beacon Hill or Beverly Hills, where they wear the price as a badge of honor."

Remember, people, if an erection lasts longer than four hours, call your doctor local oil vendor immediately.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pick the real news story

One of these is real. Really.

A) A couple in a suburb of Chicago have been charged with child abuse for deliberately speaking only Klingon in front of their child, in an attempt to make that Star Trek language his first. "We were going to teach him English later," the father has protested. "What's the big deal?"

B) A man dressed up as Darth Vader, wearing a garbage bag for a cape, was charged with assaulting the founders of a Welsh group calling itself the Jedi church and was given a suspended sentence last week. The group, which claims about 30 members, says on its Web site that it uses "insight and knowledge" from the films as "a guide to living a better and more worthwhile life." The accused assailent claimed he couldn't remember the incident, having drunk the better part of a 2-1/2-gallon (10-liter) box of wine beforehand.

C) A man in rural New Zealand has legally changed his name to Bilbo Baggins and has built an exact replica of the fictional Baggins' home, as seen in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. About half of the home's furnishings are actual props used in the films. The newly monikered Mr. Baggins has approached several doctors about the possibilty of having his legs surgically shortened, but has been turned down by all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things I have given up during the Bush administration because they seemed "inappropriate"

--My formerly sunny disposition

UPDATE: In retrospect, I should have linked to this interview with Bush for context, in which he tells of his decision to give up golf:
"I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf," he said. "I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

Yes, it's golf that's sending the wrong signal.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

One more thing, then I need to disappear for a few days

Remember when we were better than this?

Boy, do I miss those days.

UPDATE: To clarify, I didn't mean the subject line of this post to imply that I was about to be drugged and kidnapped by the government and taken to a secret prison, just that I won't be posting again till the weekend, at the earliest.

I'm sure you're all relieved.

Cablevision sucks

Let me say that again, for emphasis: Cablevision sucks.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Velvet Blog hereby declares this the Song of the Summer

I think the Santogold track "L.E.S. Artistes" (scroll down to where it says "key track," and you can stream it) has been floating around blogs for a few months, but it just got a proper release. And I've been playing it nonstop lately. Is it just me, or is this an amazing single?

(I was originally going to link to the video on YouTube, but it's kind of disturbing. You can easily search for it, but consider yourself warned.)

Friday, May 09, 2008

William Carlos Williams Mad-Libs

I have [past-tense transitive verb]
the [plural noun]
that were in
the [noun]

and which
you were probably
for [noun]

[Transitive verb] me
they were [adjective]
so [adjective]
and so [adjective]

(For background, go to Act II of this This American Life episode. But, as usual, the whole thing is worth listening to.)

UPDATE: For punkinsmom. Also, this. But, seriously, the TAL link above will clear this up.

UPDATE UPDATE: Read comments for concerned reader Qaro's kids' response.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Drudge, eat your heart out

About a month ago, I broke the news that Hillary Clinton is a mentally sick man from Calgary, Alberta.

But the conspiracy doesn't end there, my friends. Oh, no. Concerned reader God Is My Codependent, citizen journalist, has uncovered evidence that Laura Bush -- yes, the first lady of our nation! -- is also a nefarious Canadian dude:
Robert Gauthier is known to be Laura Bush by every Jewish rabbi to the world, and every mayor and leader of the world… and Robert Gauthier being Laura Bush proves to the world our Canada’s criminal record… you do not have a President in Washington, D.C. unless you truly are a mentally sick American news broadcaster.

Hard to argue with logic like that.

Developing ...

(Note to stephanieandjohn in case you end up back here: I wanted to drop you a line that your loony correspondent has reached out elsewhere, but I couldn't find a link to your e-mail.)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Fashion victim

There's a woman who works in my office whose haircut is a dead ringer for MC Hammer's 'do circa 1990.

It is not flattering.

Photo of the Day

From the ongoing Office Life series.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sign that you're old--really, really old

Foreigner, a band popular when you were in high school, is having its current tour sponsored by AARP.

Could be worse, I guess. "Sponsored by Depend Adult Incontinence Products," say.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I have a bad case of spring fever

How about you?

The guy in this film, however, seems to have had a bad case of magic mushrooms.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quotation of the Day

First daughter Jenna Bush isn't as committed to Republican candidate John McCain as her parents are, who are firmly behind the party's expected presidential nominee. ...

"I don't know," Jenna Bush said. "I mean, who isn't open to learning about the candidates? But, I mean, and I'm sure everybody is like that. But I really -- I honestly have been too busy with books to really pay that much attention."
--The Associated Press

If by "books" you mean "keggers."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Are you turned on yet?

God Is My Codependent reminded me this morning of this quote, which ran in a post here last April:
"Everyone likes to hype $4 gasoline because it's sexy," says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, an energy consulting firm. "The reality is that we're nearing the highs of the year, and within 30 days there will be more gasoline on the market. You might see $4 in tony places such as Beacon Hill or Beverly Hills, where they wear the price as a badge of honor."

Several of the stations around my home went up to $3.75 a gallon this weekend. But I'm just not feeling the passion.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Handy Visual Guide for distinguishing among eggs Benedict, Pope Benedict, and Benedict Arnold

A semitopical rerun from April 25, 2005:

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.

Monday, April 14, 2008

One more thing before I go into semihibernation

A couple of posts ago, I noted that John McCain includes himself among those who "will not ... abide justice." While that use of "abide" strikes me as wrong according to the way we use language today--that is, "tolerate" -- it's acceptable according to a definition in the dictionary, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

But on McCain's Web site, the quote has been changed (fourth paragraph):
These are often the terms applied to men and women of conscience who will not endure cruelty, nor abide injustice.

Thanks to commenter andbehold for pointing that out.

In praise of Al Jaffee

Yes, I spent much of my youth wasting time reading Mad. Big surprise, right?

Check out this New York Times interactive thingee that replicates online the experiece of the Al Jaffee back-cover fold-in.

The Internet has come of age, folks (if you consider "of age" anything that makes me feel like I'm 10).

Also, reduced posting for the next few weeks. Special issue coming out, blah, blah, blah.