Thursday, March 25, 2010

Death at a funeral

It all started after a really bad breakup. I moved to Minneapolis to get away and clear my head and, by a total fluke, got a job as an associate news producer at a local TV station. My boss was a lovable lug and the anchorman a blowhard and my upstairs neighbor a weight-obsessed Brooklynite and ... well, here I am blathering on and getting away from my point.

So, there was this clown, Knuckles, who hosted a children's show at the station, and, during a public appearance at a circus while dressed as a peanut, a rogue elephant tried to shell him. I know, crazy, right? Anyway, he was totally killed, and it was really sad, and I got mad at my co-workers when they started giggling at the absurdity of it. It was super inappropriate.

Then, at the funeral, the strangest thing happened--during the eulogy, I couldn't stop laughing. Uncontrollably. Seriously, I was shaking. And when the minister pointed out that Knuckles would have wanted it that way, well, then I couldn't stop sobbing, because Knuckles was dead, struck down by an elephant who thought that poor clown was a huge, mutant legume, and, man, that's just so sad.

And speaking of dead, it's been kind of creeping up on me that, after going on six years, The Velvet Blog is dressed as a peanut and there's a rogue elephant here. Oh, it could be worse. The blog could be dressed as a banana and be peeled by a gorilla--that would be worse. Still, though, this blog is dead. And I'd like to think that somewhere up there tonight, behind those pearly gates ... in the Great Beyond, where someday all must go ... somewhere up there tonight, in honor of The Velvet Blog, a celestial choir of angels is sitting on whoopie cushions.

P.S.: I assume that at some point I'll get the urge to do something online, but it will be in some form other than The Velvet Blog. If that happens, I'll post a link here.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to stay in touch, my e-mail address is on my profile page. I'm also on Facebook--go on and friend me, why don't you? (I mostly just post links to music and news stories there. I guarantee you will never get updates on Farmville or Mafia Wars.)

Now, won't you join me in a chorus of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary"?


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Keep looking--I'm sure it's in there somewhere

From The Colbert Report last week, with the Bush administration's Mary Matalin as guest:
Colbert: First question: Why are you wearing a cross? You know Jesus preached social justice. Makes you look like a commie.

Matalin: Yes, he did. He also preached, teach them how to fish. Not give them a fish, right? You don't work, you don't eat.

Colbert: He said, "I will make you fishers of men." I don't think Jesus said, "If you don't work, you don't eat." I think that was Cool Hand Luke.

Rather than Cool Hand Luke, methinks the crazy lady with the huge cross is getting Jesus mixed up with Confucius--though the old adage "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime" is more likely a generic proverb than anything Confucius said.

Poking around the Net leads me to conclude that lots of people think it comes from the New Testament, though that saying is pretty darned un-Jesusy.

Take this Yahoo query:
What verse in the bible says this:?

Give a man to fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime

I know its in there. I need it for my bible study group.

Likewise here. And a bunch of people arguing over it here. And a few people here.

As the Bible says, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Or, wait ... was it Samuel Butler? Albert Einstein? Ben Franklin? George Carlin? Pogo?

Oh, never mind--someone said it, and that's what counts.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cablevision Sucks, Part 382: Based on the Novel "Cablevision Sucks" by Sapphire

As noted earlier, Cablevision sucks.

A few weeks ago, the area's cable monopoly was warring with the also-sucky ABC. The upshot was that we lost the network the day of the Oscars. (And despite the fact that service was restored about 15 minutes into the Oscar telecast, there were no messages that, hey, service got turned on again, so I missed it anyway.)

As a form of apology, I guess, Cablevision sent subscribers an e-mail the day of the Oscars offering a free pay-per-view movie that evening. I tried several times to watch something--anything--and got an error message each time.

I e-mailed the company, asking for a credit, and finally heard back today. Let's take a look at the response (bolding mine):

Dear Valued Customer,

It would be easy enough to insert your name into form letter boilerplate, but, really, we couldn't be bothered.
Thank you for contacting Cablevision. We’re pleased to have reached an agreement allowing for the return of ABC programming to the three million New York area homes. We are very grateful to our customers for their support and your patience is appreciated.

Um. Your welcome? But that's not what I asked about.
In 2009, many new channels and services were added to our lineup, including MSG Varsity, ...

I don't watch sports.
News 12 HD, ...

Local news? Well, OK. But I don't really need to see it in high def.
Fox Business network, ...

You're just taunting me now, right?
CBS College Sports, ...

Did I mention that don't-give-a-crap-about-sports thing? So if you're making me pay for this, and you are, that's not winning me over.

OK, that I might watch, though oddly I don't remember seeing this in my channel lineup.
Style, Boomerang, Big Ten Network HD and MSNBC HD.

No, what?, don't give a crap, meh.

OK, now let's get to the part where you tell me I get a credit for the movie you offered and then didn't have the infrastructure to actually provide:
Just as your monthly fees are not adjusted upward each time a new channel is introduced,...

Every other?
we are not issuing credits for the short period we were not carrying ABC or for the outage experienced during the free Video On Demand promotional offer.

Shorter form letter: "Dear Customer: Fuck you."


Shared Services

Sincerely, Cablevision, you suck.

Oh, stop crying and get back to work, you big baby

From Google News:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"If irritation develops, reduce frequency or discontinue use"? That also goes for Lady Gaga.

This Ralph Lauren cologne writeup on Amazon has a surprising product description--and given the product description, an equally surprising safety warning:
Product Description
Inara George and Greg Kurstin, a.k.a. the bird and the bee, have collected fans and critical accolades since the release of their self titled debut in January '07. The band has been busy ever since with non-stop touring and promotion all over the globe. All the while the band continued to write and record wherever they found themselves. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Safety Information
For external use only. Avoid contact with eyes. Keep away from naked flame or direct heat sources. Do not apply to sensitive skin. Do not apply to broken or inflamed skin. If irritation develops, reduce frequency or discontinue use.

Meanwhile, I eagerly await Ralph Lauren's upcoming album of Hall & Oates covers.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'll have that on a nice poppy seed bagel, perhaps with a schmear

From an Associated Press story on David Beckham's injuries:
The former England captain was injured in the closing minutes of AC Milan's 1-0 win over Chievo Verona on Sunday. He was on his second loan to the Italian club from Major League Soccer's Lox Angeles Galaxy.

Must have gone out wrong in AP's feed--it's "Lox" everywhere.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A public service

Concerned reader God Is My Codependent, a medical editor, shared with me his displeasure with the less-than-mellifluous abbreviation HAFSATB, which stands for Health Assessment for the Symptoms of Active Tuberculosis. I took this into the TVB Labs in order to improve it, and came up with HATRED: Health Assessment for Tuberculosis. Ready, Everybody? Die! I'm happy to report that God is already putting this into practice.

I've decided that I may try to branch out into abbreviation/acronym improvement in other areas. If you have one in your field of expertise that you'd like reworked, do let me know.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dogs: I love 'em, but they're still a mystery

Leafing through the latest catalog from pet suppliers Drs. Foster & Smith, I happened upon a product called Dis-Taste. What does it do? Well, I best quote the catalog:
Improved formulas created by our veterinarians help break the disturbing habit of stool eating.

I know a Great Dane that ate most of an ottoman. Wonder if it works for that, too.
Dis-Taste helps by making feces taste awful to your dog.

Ooooooo. Wrong stools. Sorry.
Formulas pass through the intestines and react with stools to make them unpalatable.

Exactly what makes poop taste worse than poop? Because, I have to say, that's pretty high on the list of unpalatable. I'm assuming they used dog focus groups to find this out. The catalog, however, gives not a hint.

The online description of Dis-Taste, however, spills the beans:
Our veterinarians created this formula to halt this habit with monosodium glutamate PLUS oleoresin capsicum, the active ingredient in chili peppers.

Oh, great. Now I have to wonder what the MSG in cheap fast food is covering up.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quotations of the day

Where to begin? The Glenn Beck/Eric Massa cage match has scads of quotables:
MASSA: Let me show you something.

BECK: You’re going to show me tickle fights?

MASSA: I’m going to show you more than tickle fights.

Massa on his halcyon Navy days (warning: Fox News link--couldn't find it elsewhere):
If you were to take this out of context today ... Can you imagine transporting back to this today? It looks like an orgy in Caligula. And anybody who's been in the Navy knows it.

Massa in reaction to the groping charge:
Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe and four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday. It was kill the old guy.

Beck attempts to, er, help:
BECK: Somebody says I groped male staffers, female staffers. You know, I was fondling a cat—whatever it is, I don’t resign. I stand up and I say —

MASSA: Yes, you do.


I'm going to assume pussy had nothing to do with it, Glenn.

Beck closed with this declaration to viewers:
America, I’ve got to shoot straight with you: I think I’ve wasted your time. I think this is the first time I have wasted an hour of your time. And I apologize for that.

Not the first time, but, hey, it's a start.

Also, gotta love this refreshingly honest quote from neocon Bill Kristol:
We shouldn't get into the business of being pro-Massa just because we are anti–health care.

Notice: Not against health care reform--against health care itself.

Good to know, am I right?

PS: So much good stuff otherwise, I'm not even pointing out Massa's recounting of a confrontation with a nekkid Rahm Emanuel in the Congressional showers!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Forward, into the past

When the Internet began to gain traction, long-established newspapers wondered how to make money using it.

A number of them charged for access to articles. This proved pretty much a bust. As far as I'm aware, only The Wall Street Journal has made any money this way. The New York Times failed rather miserably at charging for reading its columnists and gave up a few years ago. (It plans to start charging for access after a certain number of page views next year. Really, NYT? The barn door is open, and the free-news horse is long gone.)

Several months ago, Long Island's Newsday--owned by Cablevision, which, in case you haven't heard, sucks--spent a reported $4 million to revamp its Web site in preparation for a return to the old for-pay model, charging $5 a week for it. Now, granted, access to the site is free if you subscribe to the physical paper, or get Cablevision's TV services. But, seriously, you don't spend $4 million without expecting something in return, right?

According to this NY Observer story I ran across today, Newsday has been able to sign up a grand total of 35 people to subscribe to the Web site as of January, after the firewall had been up for three months. That's not a typo. Thirty five:
That astoundingly low figure was revealed in a newsroom-wide meeting [in January] by publisher Terry Jimenez when a reporter asked how many people had signed up for the site. Mr. Jimenez didn't know the number off the top of his head, so he asked a deputy sitting near him. He replied 35.

Michael Amon, a social services reporter, asked for clarification.

"I heard you say 35 people," he said, from Newsday's auditorium in Melville. "Is that number correct?"

Mr. Jimenez nodded

Oh, but they meant to do that:
Mr. Jimenez was in no mood to apologize. "That's 35 more than I would have thought it would have been," said Mr. Jimenez to the assembled staff, according to five interviews with Newsday staffers.

The decision also resulted in significantly less traffic, too:
In December, the web site had 1.5 million unique visits, a drop from 2.2 million in October, according to Nielsen Media Online.

But, at least, you get what you pay for:
"The view of the newsroom is the web site sucks," said one staffer.

"It's an abomination," said another.

Yes, when the Internet began, people wondered how to make money with it. And they're still wondering.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Mexico and Canada, however, appear to be in the clear

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. Ad copy verbatim (except for the high jinks) from the March 7 issue:
Jeremiah's Prophesy: The End of the United States. Jeremiah's prophecy is simple: repent now or be destroyed. Listen to a straightforward call for repentance in Jeremiah's Prophesy: The End of the United States. Heed God's ultimate call for His church to turn from its wicked ways and pray. Wacky high jinks ensue.

Cablevision sucks, part XXIX

So, ABC is off of Cablevision because of squabbling over money. Yes, the Oscars are on tonight, so I won't be watching.

Just received an e-mail from Cablevision that says in part:
While we work to return WABC-7 to the lineup, you can watch WABC-7 free over the air by obtaining a digital TV antenna from your local consumer electronics store. Or, you can watch almost all of ABC's prime time programming free on the Internet at or

Or, in other words, "We don't do anything worth paying for. We should really stop taking your money while you find out other ways to watch your favorite programs. Truly, we are useless and we suck. Also, we have totally ruined several professional sports teams as well as a formerly respectable newspaper, Newsday, but we won't go into that here."

Meanwhile, anyone need a 6-foot-tall ice sculpture of an Oscar trophy? Because, apparently, I won't be needing it tonight.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Caffeine's effect on an itchy trigger finger also ought to be studied

In the news:
The debate over gun control is heating up at Starbucks.

Yes, the prices there are distressing, but let's be reasonable.
Gun owners bearing arms have been gathering at various Starbucks locations in states where it's legal to do so in public.

What?! People are arming bears at Starbucks?! They are very dangerous animals, people! They can tear your head off without blinking! And actually arming bears is just going to ... oh, wait. Bearing arms. Well, still, that's crazy.
That's sparked protests from gun-control advocates and kudos from pro-gun groups.

And when someone walks up to the counter with an Uzi to deliver kudos, apparently clerks nod their heads in agreement. It's a huge mystery.
The coffee chain says that its stores simply abide by state laws, and it is legal to carry weapons in 43 states. ...

Hmm. That's funny. I believe it's legal in most states to go barefoot, and yet many establishments kick me out for not wearing shoes. And don't get me started on shirts! (Really, don't! They're very confining!) Would anyone care to join me in a class-action lawsuit? Because that's clearly discriminatory.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence then wrote a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, urging Starbucks to enforce a similar policy. On its Web site, the Brady Campaign is soliciting supporters through an online petition that urges Starbucks to offer "espresso shots, not gunshots" and reverse its corporate policy.

On the other side of the debate, gun rights advocates are pleased with Starbucks' decision. Forum members of, a pro-gun Internet community with nearly 28,000 members, are posting that they are "impressed" with Starbucks' stance and will regularly buy the company's coffee to show support

I don't know about you, but I pine for the days when these people held espresso drinkers in disdain, so I knew where to avoid them.

A Swift death

For a long time, one of my favorite bloggers was the pseudonymous Jon Swift, who had a real talent for pointed satire. The outraged comments of people who didn't get the joke were almost as amusing as the posts themselves.

Mr. Swift mysteriously disappeared about a year ago. And now, word comes that he has died unexpectedly.

Here's to your memory, sir. You'll be missed.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A note from the management

I miss posting Random 10 lists, but I stopped doing it after SeeqPod got sued into nonexistence. (Well, it's rumored Microsoft bought the technology, but it's yet to resurface.)

I recently started using an online music service called Lala--and I'm impressed. You can stream the 6 million-plus songs in its catalog for free once. Further unlimited streams only cost 10 cents. You can also upload all the music you have on your computer and then stream it anywhere you are. Cool, right?

You can also post songs from your collection to your blog, so let's see if this works:

Any issues playing?

(Oh, and if you want to sign up, contact me via e-mail and I'll send you an invite--that way I earn some free songs. Yes, it's kind of a Ponzi scheme in that way. My e-mail address is on my profile page.)