Friday, December 31, 2010

You get the government you deserve, part MMXI

From The New York Times:
To warm up the Florida crowds for his inauguration as governor, Rick Scott has been flying around the state this week on a seven-city “appreciation” tour. For the main event on Tuesday, he will lead a parade featuring 26 marching bands, followed by a black-tie dinner for 2,100 people, with oysters Rockefeller and fried calamari served in mini-martini glasses. “Real classy,” said Christy Noftz, who is overseeing the catering.

"Real classy." Somehow when I replay the phrase in my mind, I can only hear it in the voice of, say, a cast member of Jersey Shore in reference a state-of-the-art tanning bed. I find that, in general, people who refer to their work as "real classy" are to be believed about as often as people who refer to themselves as "mavericks."
After their election night victory speeches, the nation’s 26 new governors have had to wrestle with a symbolically rich decision that could set the tone for their time in office: how big a party to give for themselves.

It is always a tricky call. ...

In Nevada, Brian Sandoval, a Republican, will host back-to-back $1,000-a-head V.I.P. receptions, one of them at the Wynn Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. ...

Others are embracing conspicuous frugality. In New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, is having a small preinauguration dinner for close friends at the governor’s mansion, and has parceled out so few invitations to his no-frills swearing-in ceremony that even some top aides have not made the cut. ...

Oh, please, please, please, please let Cuomo's girlfriend Sandra Lee make a cake and cocktails. Please, please, please, please, please, please, please.*
Mark Dayton, the Democratic governor-elect in Minnesota, said he considered canceling his party, which is scheduled for Jan. 8. Instead, he has authorized a “Blue Jeans to Black Tie” ball with a loose dress code and a flexible ticket price. He plans to show up in jeans and an old hockey jersey.

Dude, we get it, we get it. But why not show up in t-shirt and sweat pants while holding a can of Miller High Life and really make a point?
Then there is Mr. Scott in Florida, whose multiday, multicity inauguration has become known wryly in political circles here as the “coronation.”

Preparations began shortly after Election Day with a prodigious fund-raising drive. Mr. Scott, a wealthy former health-care executive who dug into his own pocket to finance his campaign, received donations of $25,000 each from dozens of major state employers like Disney, Office Depot and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, collecting nearly $3 million. ...

Yeah, I see no possible conflict of interest there.
On Tuesday, for his official inauguration, Mr. Scott will hold a two-hour prayer breakfast with no fewer than 10 speakers; an afternoon concert featuring the country singers Lee Greenwood and Rockie Lynne; and a parade befitting Disney World’s home state. ...

Democrats, especially, detected hypocrisy, and pounced. Mr. Scott, after all, campaigned on a platform of fiscal restraint and small government. Businessmen like himself, he declared shortly after the election, “accept austerity as the price for dramatic turnarounds.”

Pressed about the scale of the festivities, Mr. Scott said: “It absolutely is fitting for these times. We need to celebrate how we are going to change this state.”

'Cause nothing says "we need to tighten our belts" quite like loosening your belt so far that your pants fall off.

Congrats, Florida voters!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oddly, I feel as if I need a cigarette, and I don't even smoke

Stumbled over a great book on Barnes & Noble's remainder table the other day, Bizarre Books: A Compendium of Classic Oddities by Russell Ash and Brian Lake. If you're in need of a stocking stuffer for a book lover, see if you can find it. It's an illustrated list of odd books published over the years, and those with weird titles (Handbook for the Limbless) or strangely appropriate authors (Raymond W. Dull's Mathematics for Engineers).

I, for one, will be searching out Christie's Old Organ by Mrs. O.F. Walton (Religious Tract Society, 1882):
But when he had eaten his cake, and had taken some tea which he had warmed over again, old Treffy felt rather better, and he turned as usual to his old organ to cheer his fainting spirits. For old Treffy knew nothing of a better Comforter. ...

"Shall I take the organ out?"

Old Treffy did not answer; a great struggle was going on in his mind. Could he let any one but himself touch his dear old organ? It would be hard to see it go out, and have to stay behind--very hard indeed.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mushrooms: Not always magic

It's been ages since we've explored the recipe files of Jeanne Metzger Feinberg. Let's see what's for dinner.


Hmm. Is that a bowl of eyes? Because I'm pretty sure it's staring at me.

I also give you one illustration of the fact that mushrooms go with everything, just for the halibut.


I'm not a big fan of fish, but is halibut really supposed to be that color?

Concerned reader Grammarian points me toward this article on "the doyenne of food writers" Elizabeth David. Her comments are quite funny, but, seriously, if she thought Italian Salad is the "most revolting dish ever devised," I beg to differ, and offer as evidence bologna wedgies, supper sandwiches, and meatza. If you have a favorite revolting dish, do share.

UPDATE: Punkinsmom offers a Scandinavian treat.

UPDATE UPDATE: I see your ancestors' jellied fish in tomato juice and raise you my Scottish grandmother's potted head. Um, not actually her potted head. But, still. (For the record, she hated haggis and was otherwise a marvelous cook.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

So, how's that War on Christmas going?


Yeah, that's what I thought.

More uses of "Merry Christmas" than ever. Tiny uptick of "Happy Holidays," bringing it to 1950s levels. "Season's Greetings" is out of the running.

Note that the Ngram Viewer has its oddities--seems to make a difference whether you use capital letters or not. And "Season's Greetings," with apostrophe, wasn't coming up at all. Make of this what you will.

(Go to Friday's TVB entry for more on the Ngram Viewer, the fad that's sweeping the nation. I hope it gives the nation a thorough dusting, too.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Velvet Blog's influence on the national discourse, 1985-2008

Yes, it's the fad that's sweeping the globe: using Google's Ngram Viewer to chart the use of words or phrases over time. The New York Times story is here, and the tool itself is here.

I decided to track four stock TVB phrases--give me that banana, wacky high jinks ensue, garnish with fluffernutter, and barry manilow puts a sock in his pants--to see how they've made inroads into popular culture. Let's take a look:


Hmmm. Not so much, then.

Well, I take minor solace in noting that The Velvet Blog is the #1 Google hit for "wacky high jinks ensue," but it has dropped to #2 for "barry manilow puts a sock in his pants," (though the #1 hit is me complaining that I'm not the #1 hit on another site). You know, I should probably get some new hobbies.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Seriously? Seriously??? This is the argument???

The Marine Corps' top general suggested Tuesday that allowing gays to serve openly in the military could result in more casualties because their presence on the battlefield would pose "a distraction."

"When your life hangs on the line," said Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, "you don't want anything distracting. . . . Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines' lives."
--Washington Post

I didn't realize Marines are such pussies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Satan ... Santa ... oh, whatever

Another repurposed post from last year. Woo-hoo!

This excerpt from a 1959 Mexican documentary reveals that Satan and his imps really know how to cut a rug:

It may be true, as the saying goes, that the devil has all the best tunes. Now we know that he's also a Bob Fosse wannabe. (Jazz hands!)

There's a Mystery Science Theater 3000 version -- part 1 is here -- but if you want to see all of the original, it's on TCM at 2:00 a.m. (That is, early Saturday morning.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I predict these plucky kids will one day be bright and shining lights of the Republican party

Found this over at Regret the Error, which compiles news corrections:
Julie Bailey was featured in a Nov. 25 Crossroads story and photo about a T-shirt drive at Glasgow High School organized by her friend Ashley Green to support her. Contrary to the story, her parents, Kirk and Peggy Bailey, said their daughter does not have a brain tumor and has not been admitted to Alfred I. du Pont Hospital for Children during the past year.

Well, that's odd, I thought, so I tried to read the original story, only to find it had been deleted from its source, a site called Delaware Online. But I managed to find a cached version with a little inventive Googling.

(I'll pause now while you click the link above and read that bogus story in amazement. And, really, read the whole thing--there's a break in the middle, so scroll down.)

So many unanswered questions! Were the girls pranking the reporter, or did they scam the school? How did the reporter--oh, I don't know--decide not to interview Julie's parents?

I smell a TV movie.

And how has this not gone viral yet? This story seems to be an exclusive of The Velvet Blog, previously best known for posts about how Activia helps you poop.

UPDATE: My friend Denise points out the resemblance to the plot of Ferris Beuller's Day Off. So, just big John Hughes fans with a misguided tribute to the late director? If it turns out the girls also crashed the Von Steuben Day Parade and lip synced "Twist and Shout," that will settle the matter.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Note to self: Dolls must have heads and bodies

Kind of busy the next few weeks, so new posts will be minimal. Pardon me while I rerun a bunch of Christmas-themed posts from past years.

Time for a low-rent Christmas classic, "A Visit to Santa."

I think Santa's been nipping at the Wild Turkey. (Magic Helicopter? Please. No such thing.)

Weirdly, the narrator sounds like David Sedaris doing his excited elf voice in "Santaland Diaries" (albeit in a slightly lower key).

Oh my God ... I just had a Christmas flashback.

When I was four or five-ish, my parents brought me to the parking lot of Billy Blake's department store (a now-long-defunct '60s discount chain) for the arrival of Santa -- in his decidedly unmagic helicopter. He began climbing down the rope ladder when ... the pillow under his coat fell out.

Cries of bafflement were heard from the wilds of suburban Long Island to the North Pole. Mom, thinking quickly, explained that it was not actually Santa, but one of his many helpers.

Confused, I went on believing until the year* I noticed the remnants of a price tag on the box of a board game. Santa, if he existed -- I reasoned -- would have his elf indentured servants make toys. He would not buy retail.

*2005, give or take.

PARENTHETICAL ADDENDUM: I'm not kidding about the price tag on the board game -- that's really how I figured out I'd been the object of what amounts to a years-long practical joke (somewhat before 2005).

Flying reindeer? Fine! Fat man comes down the chimney? No problem!

Remnant of a price tag on supposedly elf-made game? Now hold on one darn minute there, mister!!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Quotations of the day

Nothing had been so hateful in the sight of these mobs as the man of learning, at first because they had served the princes, but then later because they refused to join in the bloodletting and tried to oppose the mobs, calling the crowds "bloodthirsty simpletons."

Joyfully the mobs accepted the name, took up the cry: Simpletons! Yes, yes! I'm a simpleton! Are you a simpleton? We'll build a town and we'll name it Simple Town, because by then all the smart bastards that caused all this, they'll be dead! Simpletons! Let's go! This ought to show 'em! Anybody here not a simpleton? Get the bastard, if there is!
--Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

I hope [the committees] will reconsider funding [of the Smithsonian Institution]. After all, why should the working class pay for the leisure, e.g., going to museums, of the upper class? We don't subsidize professional wrestling, yet the working class has to pay for the leisure of the rich. --William Donohue, Catholic League president

Donohue (no relation!) pushed the point further in an NPR interview that I'm trying to find a transcript of, in which he states baldly that only "elites" visit museums. "Regular" people simply prefer professional wrestling and shun museums. He himself never visits them, he says.

That may come as surprise to my father, who grew up on a farm, and my mother, who worked part-time in the local town hall and was otherwise a full-time mom. Neither attended college, though my mom went to secretarial school. (Does that make her an elite? I'm not sure where the lines are drawn these days.) They drove me down to Washington, D.C., and we saw the Capitol, the U.S. Mint, and, yes, the Smithsonian. I loved, loved, loved the Air and Space Museum, and that trip was one of the highlights of my youth. I remember it vividly, decades later.

Does Donohue even believe the crap he spouts? Does he really think schoolkids don't get inspired by seeing Betsy Ross' flag or the lunar module and would be better off seeing an exhibit of Randy Savage's singlets? I suspect it's just condescending bullshit to get donations from the rubes, but what do I know? (I do believe him, though, when he says he never visits museums.)

I despair. Truly.

UPDATE: Here is the quote from NPR:
"Why should the working class pay for the leisure of the elite when in fact one of the things the working class likes to do for leisure is to go to professional wrestling? And if I suggested we should have federal funds for professional wrestling to lower the cost of the ticket, people would think I'm insane. I don't go to museums any more than any Americans do," Donohue said. --NPR

Emphasis mine. (Way to recycle a quote, Bill.)

UPDATE UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan on the exhibit in question. He describes the item that offended Donohue toward the bottom.