Sunday, December 23, 2012

What's the deal with having an underdeveloped sense of irony?

From the New York Times profile of Jerry Seinfeld (emphasis mine):
One Friday in early October, Seinfeld took a private plane from New York to Kansas City, Mo., told jokes onstage for 75 minutes, then flew to Milwaukee, where he was booked at the Riverside Theater the next night. On Saturday morning he wanted to see “Argo,” so he rented an entire theater at the local movie palace, the Oriental, and watched it with his opening act, Mark Schiff, and his tour producer. “I liked it,” Seinfeld said later on, over coffee at his hotel, “but the ending was a little Hollywood.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fisking "Winter Wonderland"

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We're happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland.
OK, so far, I'm with you. Bells, snow, happiness: Check, check, and check.
Gone away is the bluebird,
Here to stay is a new bird
He sings a love song,
As we go along,
Walking in a winter wonderland.
What do you have against bluebirds? They're a traditional symbol of happiness. So the "love" bird has chased away happiness? That seems rather cynical.
In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say: Are you married?
We'll say: No man,
But you can do the job
When you're in town.
If you're walking through a meadow and a snowman asks if you're married, you should probably knock off the eggnog.
Later on, we'll conspire,
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid,
The plans that we've made,
Walking in a winter wonderland.
This is so weirdly conspiratorial, I can only assume that you're planning on robbing a bank. I've already notified the authorities.
In the meadow we can build a snowman,
And pretend that he's a circus clown
We'll have lots of fun with mister snowman,
Until the other kids knock him down.
Odd--I don't remember this verse. First of all, this is the second snowman you're building in the course of a fairly short song. Face it: You're stuck in a rut. Second, no one likes clowns. Third, those children need to be punished. Otherwise, this is just a glorification of bullying.
When it snows, ain't it thrilling,
Though your nose gets a chilling
We'll frolic and play, the Eskimo way,
Walking in a winter wonderland.
Ethnic stereotyping: Check. Why don't you just build a third snowman?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A very Dragnet Christmas

Warning: This is surprisingly dark. I can't argue with the last line, though, that's for sure.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

This gift is from Jackie/Oh golly, oh shucks/I hope that you like it/It cost 40 bucks

Outstanding Christmas episode of The Jack Benny Program, with a surprisingly dark punchline.

That's Bugs Bunny himself as the harried clerk.

Spam email I didn't finish reading

Have a nice day to you.

I received your contact information from a mold friend of mine.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Lazy phrase I'm getting really tired of seeing in news stories, especially headlines. From a cursory search in Google News:

Rihanna sparks outrage after cuddly photo with Chris Brown

Kirkliston bus cuts spark outrage

Power profits spark outrage

London Fans Spark Outrage Over 'Free Palestine' Chants

Caffeinated Cracker Jacks spark outrage from health group

White women in Black face spark nation-wide outrage

Fuel price hikes spark outrage

Facebook arrests spark nationwide outrage

A coyote killing contest in New Mexico is sparking outrage

Paris Hilton sparks outrage as she opens store in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Hidden California state parks funds spark outrage

Dutch Architects Spark Outrage with Design Resembling Twin Towers

'Jihad' ads on CTA buses spark outrage

'Sandy Supermodel' Nana Gouvea Sparks Outrage for Photo Shoot

Hundreds Of Pardons, Some For Killers, Spark Outrage In Mississippi

India's 'Hitler' stores spark outrage

US Olympic athletes' uniforms spark outrage

Military moms spark outrage by breastfeeding in uniform

Claims that Jesus had a wife spark outrage

Sen. Reid's comments on Romney, Mormonism spark outrage

TV Bosses Spark Outrage As Soap's Omnibus Is Moved To Five Minutes Past Midnight On Saturdays*

My personal favorite:
Pre-Peeled Bananas Spark Outrage

(But at least that's supposed to be funny.)

From now, I beg of you, replace "spark outrage" with "provoke peevishness"--you get the bonus of alliteration!

*No, I don't know what this means, either.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The British are coming

Jan. 12, 1905

Paul Revere was signaled from this tower.

G.W. Johnson

Click to embiggen. Hit the "postcards" label for more.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What would Jesus shoot?

I kept getting this sponsored ad all weekend on Facebook:
Our Black Friday and weekend special, purchase any firearm and be entered into a drawing for an annual individual range membership. a $499 value. Also all firearm purchases this weekend receive a range T-shirt. This offer excludes layaways.
Gotta be armed for the War on Christmas, I guess.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sooner or later, this blogging thing is really going to take off for me

For some reason, Technorati sent me a survey on blogging. It asked how many subscribers I have. First choice: "Less than 10,000."

Let's see ... 12 is fewer than 10,000, right?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012


States With Most Signatures to Secede Took Millions in Federal Money

All the states petitioning to secede from the United States that obtained enough signatures to elicit a response from the White House — with the exception of Alabama — were some of the largest recipients of federal funding in 2010.

Census records show that six of the seven states that amassed more than 25,000 signatures on their petitions to form independent nations in the past week took more than $10 million in revenue from the federal government that year.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Greetings from Olive and Ed

Aug. 31, 1926
2 PM

Having a wonderful trip through the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mts.

Olive and Ed

As always, click to embiggen. Hit the "postcards" label for more.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Quelle surprise!

A friend on Facebook--an Obama voter--posted a query of libertarian friends. I'm paraphrasing, but, basically: "What country with limited government would you point to as a place you'd want to live? Because when I look at countries with truly limited government, I only see failed states." The answer that came back from two people: They like the good old USA, after abolition of slavery up to (but not including) President Johnson.

They are both A) white, B) male, and C) straight.

I guess I should be glad that at least they didn't approve of slavery.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

It's election day at last!

Surely the Interwebs will be abuzz with searches on all sorts of election-related matters!

What's that, Yahoo? First election-related trend comes in at 9, two notches under "Octomom's son restraining order" at 7?

I stand corrected.

UPDATE: It's now sunk to 10, after "Christina Aguilera braid" at 9.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The end of a season means the beginning of a new one. Or something.

Issue #17 of Cashiers du Cinemart, featuring my article on After Last Season, is now available in a number of formats.

Here's a link to the Kindle version, a bargain at $3.99. The print version is available here. (The issue also features articles on Bloodsucking Freaks and the Findlays' Flesh trilogy, so it makes a great Christmas gift.) The print version is $8 and features illustrations not in the Kindle version. I have to say, it really looks great.

The article features much material never used on this blog, including interviews with three of the actors. One of them really dished on the weirdness of making the film. And one of them either thinks it's a good movie or is surprisingly discreet.

(Also, just to refresh your memory, here's a link to a past post on the strangely positive reviews the movie has gotten on Amazon.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

A windy day

April 19, 1908

Better late than never.

Fine place down here.


That's the Flatiron Building in the background, previously seen here. As always, click image to embiggen.

(A rerun, but it seemed appropriate.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hercules and the mermaids

No message, and the back of the card is kind of messed up, so I didn't scan. But the description reads:

[Missing word] beautiful mermaids with a replica of Dynastes Hercules, the world's largest beetle towering over them at the entrance to the May Museum of the Tropics, Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida. 60 miles north of St. Petersburg on [?] S. Highway at Florida 50.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Library is wonderful

Washington, D.C.
Dec. 31, 1914

Have visited nearly all places of interest, think library is wonderful. Best wishes for Happy New Year.

I. Beck Leiner [?]

As usual, click to embiggen. And click on the "postcards" label below for more.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


A multiple rerun originally from October 2009, now with two extra ridiculous Halloween balloons that I never posted before because I couldn't come up with captions I found amusing. Yay, lower standards!

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMommy, why is the kitty #&$@ing a pumpkin?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMommy, the patients from the burn unit at the hospital are here.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMommy, there's something about the shape of the tombstone that's making me extremely uncomfortable.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingGive me a D! Give me an E! Give me an A! Give me another D!

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThis is so undignified. Please put a stake through my heart and let me rest in peace.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Some cookies that I made this forenoon."

Williston, VT.
May 28

I am sending Harold a little pkg. Some cookies that I made this forenoon. I thought it would please him to received something. Just read in Telegram of A. Moore's death by Automobile accident on front page. You know that is Mrs.[?]'s Nephew, I think. Some more about him on second page. Was glad to get your and Ma's letter. Got a long letter from Kate's sister.

As always, click to embiggen.

I love the use of the word "forenoon" and the phrase "death by Automobile accident."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Quantum Romney

Schrödinger's Cat Romney: A cat Mitt Romney, a flask of poison a news camera, and a radioactive source an undecided voter are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor detects radioactivity movement by the undecided voter, the flask is shattered the camera is turned on, releasing the poison that kills the cat causing Romney to state either a severely conservative or moderate position for the undecided voter. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat Romney is simultaneously alive and dead conservative and moderate. Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat Romney either alive or dead, not both alive and dead conservative or moderate, not both conservative and moderate.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Postcard of the day

July 28

Some trip. A long way from home. Uncle is having a fine time and goes wherever we go.
Mrs. Waldman

Click to embiggen.

Have lost the will to blog. Expect lots of postcards for the time being.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Breaking! Must credit The Velvet Blog!

Mr. Romney's team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August. --The New York Times

Through tough journalistic tactics the lamestream media gave up long ago, The Velvet Blog has uncovered Romney's zingers for the first debate:

How proud you were when they named you America's best ... then you found out they meant America's beast!

I always wanted to write a book about you Cynthia Mr. President, but somebody beat me to it. He wrote "The Hounds of the Baskervilles."

I don't mind personal insults, but when you insult the jokes that I tell you're insulting Fred Allen, Bob Hope, Burns and Allen, Trevor McGee, and Molly Picon.

I have a brother who is afraid to go to sleep. He dreams he's working.

I listened to Jack Benny on the radio last night. He was so funny I dropped my pad and pencil.

Poverty is not a disgrace, but it's terribly inconvenient.

That's a vicious rumor! A rumor started by a few million people.

If evolution works, why do mothers only have two hands?

That's your little joke? Don't worry! We'll mop it up later.

(My Deep Throat source. Shhhh.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Search hit of the day

The Velvet Blog just got a Google hit for the query: "do plumbers charge for travel time?" But I misread it as "do plumbers charge for time travel?" which is much more interesting, and would make a great title for a Philip K. Dick novel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Shorter Mitt Romney

"Now, give me that banana."

'Cause when you boil the Romney video (do I even need to link to it?) down to its essentials, that's what it's about. He's entitled to the banana, and anyone standing in his way is a moocher.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Too good? Well, too bad.

Running up to last night's speech by Bill Clinton, the line the Professional Pundit Class was taking was: "Oooooooooo! Clinton's speech isn't vetted! He could say ANYTHING! Obama should be very, very worried! Clinton still has a grudge, you know!"

In between "Hey, that was a solid speech" headlines this morning, there's also:
Bill Clinton: A tough act for Obama to follow

Clinton's political brilliance a mixed blessing

Clinton reminded us that Obama is no Clinton

There's really no pleasing some people.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The stag party's anxiety in diorama form, as executed by Salvador Dali

Since discovering Good Housekeeping's 10 P.M Cook Book on the Gallery of Regrettable Food page, I've been determined to discover the secret of the beans--and I recently tracked down a copy of the book, from 1958, on eBay. But I get ahead of myself. (Don't worry, we'll get to those beans.)

First things first. What is a 10 P.M. cookbook? Judging from the photography therein, it's a deviously clever method of getting your guests to leave the house, tout de suite.

(Click to embiggen the photos--but beware, they are truly hideous.)
Nothing says "sophisticated" quite like serving punch the same exact shade as your skin.
And now the beans, pictured in the book's "When It's Strictly Stag" section (though the recipe appears in the "Teen-age Triumphs" chapter--and the imagery does remind me of a recurring dream I had during adolescence).

How are they able to stand up like that--probably for longer than four hours, and, really, shouldn't they call a physician?
And here comes the ultimate letdown: The recipe calls for dumping three cans of beans in a pan with a few other exotic ingredients (like "catchup"), sticking in your wienies (hee hee), and placing in the oven. There are no secrets for their seeming Viagra-inspired tumescence!

This is worse than the worst M. Night Shyamalan twist ending.
I'll be posting more from this lost masterpiece, but I leave off today with the back cover photo.

Anyone care to venture any guesses as to what this is?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Coming attraction

Sorry for the light posting, all you five people who still read this blog. Busy, busy.

Coming up, though, we have highlights from a 1958 Good Housekeeping cookbook that must be seen to be disbelieved.

I leave you with this question: It's 10 p.m--do you know where your wiener is?

PS: For you few hardy souls still left here: I'm not above groveling. If you like a post, it would be very much appreciated if you'd share it on Facebook or Twitter. You'll notice I've added buttons at bottoms of posts to make that easy. [/grovel]

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Half full

Is it just me or has this summer had an unusual number of deaths of public figures?

Usually, the deaths of the famous don't really affect me that much. Oh, if it's someone I was a fan of, I'll be sad for a little while, but that's it. But every once in a while, the passing of a writer or musician or artist of some sort hits me hard. About a decade ago, it was singer/songwriter Elliott Smith. I'm not even sure why. I mean, I liked him--but I only had one album of his, and I wasn't exactly an Elliott Smith Super Fan. Still, something about his music had burrowed deeply enough into my psyche to make his untimely death feel like it had happened to someone I knew well.

And, this summer, I find myself shaken by the death of writer David Rakoff. Perhaps it's the intimate nature of radio, where I first encountered him, on This American Life. I often listen to that show, on which he was a frequent guest, in my car--and now, on my iPod--where it can feel as if the person speaking is talking directly to me. Whatever the cause, his work has been on my mind a lot lately.

The most recent episode of This American Life is embedded below. It gives an overview of his work for that show, and includes a short excerpt of him reading from his last book, to be published this fall. He was very ill by the time it was recorded--he has to strain to speak--and as the piece deals with the death of one of the main characters of the novel ... well, I was listening to it while eating dinner out, by myself, and I found myself getting weepy. Tearing up while eating a salad at Fairway is not something I was expecting to do last night.

I recommend that you listen to the whole program, but if you just have time to listen to a part of the show, make it the excerpt of the novel, 41 minutes in, if only so that I'm not the only one with tears in his eyes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Postcard of the day

Nashville, TN
09 Aug. 2012

Hey Jim--

This is a deadstock postcard from the long-gone wax museum that used to be on Music Row. The figures were discovered recently in storage and surprisingly were of great historical value. Turns out the real stars had donated their original stage clothes to dress up the wax dummies! --Bill

Bill DeMain is in the pop duo Swan Dive and also gives tours in Nashville (see: Walkin' Nashville), which sound like a lot of fun.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Smackdown!: J. Fred Muggs vs. J. Fred Coots

J. Fred Muggs (right)

Who: First simian host of the Today show. (Second: film critic Gene Shalit.)

Pros: A broadcast pioneer, breaking the notorious banana ceiling. If he were still working, his commentary for the recent Olympics broadcast would have been much better than that of Bob Costas. Painted cover of Mad magazine. Contrary to rumor, didn't bite Martha Raye.

Cons: Did, however, bite Al Feldstein, editor of Mad magazine. Per Wikipedia (whence all info in this post comes), a Russian newspaper described Muggs as "a symbol of the American way of life. … Muggs is necessary in order that the average American should not look into reports on rising taxes, and decreasing pay, but rather laugh at the funny mug of a chimpanzee." In that way, he served the same function that Keeping Up With the Kardashians does today.


J. Fred Coots

Who: Songwriter.

Pros: Wrote or co-wrote the standards "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "You Go to My Head," "Love Letters in the Sand," and "For All We Know."

Cons: Not the "For All We Know" that the Carpenters did. That was Fred Karlin, Robb Royer, and Jimmy Griffin. May have bitten Martha Raye (although I just made that up.)

Winner: Are you kidding? J. Fred Muggs, of course. He was a chimp who co-hosted the Today show!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

There are twists, and then there are twists

From a restaurant review in the Times:
The New American menu at First and South, featuring salads and local fish, is typical Hamptons-style fare, but with a twist. Few, if any, other Long Island menus offer crispy duck tongues, for instance.
I'd rather have a good old-fashioned M. Night Shyamalan twist than a crispy duck tongue.

The duck tongue was dead the whole time!!!

Or, perhaps: The duck tongue is calling from inside the house!!!

See? Isn't that better?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Song of the day

Insanely catchy. And I'm not just saying that because my photo goes by at around the 19-second mark. Co-written by Bill DeMain (of Swan Dive, much plugged here) and David Mead, who's on vocals.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Coming soon from Hollywood: Dark reimaginings of third-tier childhood favorites

Little Lulu: Step Up 2 Reform School: When a prank on Tubby Tompkins goes sour (leading to face transplant for Tubby), Lulu is sent to for-profit reform school, where she is tormented by one of the owners, a nephew of the Koch brothers.

Top Cat: The Cat Who Shagged Me: After it's pointed out that he's a total ripoff of The Phil Silvers Show, Top Cat isolates himself in his apartment and slowly goes insane. After it's pointed out that this, in turn, is a ripoff of Roman Polanski's Repulsion, Top Cat enters into a spiral of degradation, which ends when he becomes male prostitute aimed at the cosplay market.

Richie Rich: Get Rich or Die Trying: Richie meddles with the Cali drug cartel and dies.

Friday, August 03, 2012

You don't have to put on the redress

First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Assholes who think this means they can't be criticized for being assholes when they act like assholes--yes, even in those times when their critics are assholes--are assholes.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Smackdown!: Tater Mitts vs. Mitt Romney

A rerun from 2007. I'm busy, and it's still topical.

Tater Mitts

What: An amazing solution to potato-peeling drudgery.

Pros: Cheap. Unlikely to ruin the country.

Cons: Doesn't, you know, do what it's advertised to do (i.e.: peel potatoes). Surprisingly, has never renounced polygamy.


Mitt Romney

Who: Republican presidential hopeful.

Pros: Give me a minute.

Nope, I've got nothin'.

Cons: Full name, Willard Mitt Romney, is an anagram for Malted Twirly Minor, Treadmill Nit Wormy, and Maimed Wintry Troll, none of which make sense and all of which are vaguely disturbing for reasons that are hard to pin down. Though he was an English major in college, has named L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth as his favorite novel (really!). The fact that now you can't get that image of John Travolta as a Psychlo out of your head. Unable to do what he's advertised to do (i.e.: lead country without making it even worse). Grudging conclusion that Maimed Wintry Troll isn't a bad name for band. But what kind of music? Emo? You hate emo, although you do admire Emo Phillips. Realize that you've wasted the whole afternoon Googling Emo Phillips to find out what he's doing lately. Discover that Emo most recently did a voice on the animated show Slacker Cats, which, sadly, sounds awful.

Winner: Tater Mitts. At least, if elected president, the worst it would do is leave potato preparation to old-fashioned peeler.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Link dump, etc.

Sorry for lack of posting. Busy, busy, busy at work for the foreseeable future.

Odds and ends from my Facebook posts:

--A child judges books by their covers. Hilarity results.

--Paul McCartney has the hair of a much younger man. He should really return it.

--Headline of the day: Fla. Man Who Lost Hand Charged With Feeding Gator. The alligator has not been charged because of "stand your ground" laws.

--About 19 minutes into this episode of Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me, there's an interview with Norton Juster, author of my favorite childhood book, The Phantom Tollbooth. Which, like me, recently turned 50.

--About 26 minutes into this episode of This American Life, there's a piece on Journatic, which outsources the reporting of news. It is a very, very, very bad idea.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kitties Galore

I bring you this New York Times story, "Punk Band Feels Wrath of a Sterner Kremlin," for two reasons.

First, this:
When four young women in balaclavas performed a crude anti-Putin song on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February, it seemed like just one more episode in a season of audacious, absurdist and occasionally offensive protest.

Instead, the case of the young punk rockers, whose group is called Pussy Riot, is becoming a bellwether event in the Russian capital ....
As Daily Show writer Daniel Radosh pointed out on Facebook the other day, "Given the NY Times' notoriously idiotic self-censorship policy, I'm dying to know how Pussy Riot slipped through. Did some editor think maybe the band is named for a mob of violent cats?"

And indeed, the self-censorship crusade at the Times is pretty crazy. In the Arts & Leisure section on Sunday, in an interview with Rain Pryor, daughter of Richard Pryor, we have this truncated quote: "I dyed my hair pink when I was 13, and my dad threatened to kick me out of the house. He was like, 'There will be no punk rockers here.' I was like, 'You just snorted coke off a [prostitute’s chest].'" OK, fine, the Times doesn't want to print "tits." But the other word? Pryor has confirmed it's "whore's." Yes, the Times needs to shield its readers from the word "whore." Seriously, "prostitute's chest"???

Anyway, the other reason I wanted to point out this story was this passage:
Both of them were active in Voina, a radical art collective that gained widespread popularity recently with a series of politically tinged actions, like a punk-rock performance in a Moscow courtroom, or a 210-foot penis painted, guerrilla-style, on a St. Petersburg drawbridge, so that it rose up pointing at the offices of the F.S.B., the state security service. But the penalties had turned out to be mild; the penis project actually won a contemporary art prize sponsored by the Ministry of Culture.
Gotta love the arts.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Can we talk?

I am loving the recent series of "what are you reading?" Q&As the Sunday New York Times Book Review has been running lately. From tomorrow's edition, with Joan Rivers:
Every Saturday night for years my husband and I would end up at the old Doubleday store on Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets. We would take Melissa, and the deal was, you could buy any book you wanted (don’t look at the price) as long as you promised to read it. Other people went home loaded with drugs and booze. We went home loaded with shopping bags filled with books.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stupid Internet comment of the day

I know, I know, it's hard to pick, right? Still, I nominate this comment, on a story about a fake documentary on mermaids that aired on TV recently, and the fact that it fooled some people, leading to a denial in the existence of mermaids by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Interesting...IF NONE if its real, why do they go to sooooo much trouble to try to call it a hoax? When our Government is confronted about UFO's and aliens, they say the same thing...yet people all over the world have strange video and documentation to say otherwise. I am on the fence with the Mermain thing...but now it makes me beleive it a little bit more and its NOT so far fetched to think that there could have been some kind of breeding with aquatic life...if that's the only companion a human had. I personally would rather go without...but not all people are that way. I say anything is possible....
Congrats, Susie Kay--you're our winner!

UPDATE: Do read JohnnyB's ode to fish f@*#ing in comments.

UPDATE UPDATE: You want evidence, Susie Kay? Fine.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Your host: Another update

A short essay I wrote for the North American Review runs on the last page of the just-released, and somewhat tardy, spring 2012 issue. It's available for sale here.

The idea was to take a previously published piece from the NAR (which goes back to around 1815, I believe) and "bring it up to date," in the words of the editor. I chose as my jumping-off point an essay by William B. Merriam called "The Census of 1900," from the January 1900 issue. If you're interested, Merriam's essay is here.

My essay won't be posted online, and, honestly, I don't really expect you to buy the issue. Perhaps your local library carries it.

I will post the first few sentences here, though:
As I write this, the 2012 presidential election is still many months away, and I’m already having trouble focusing on it. Oh, I know it’s important and I promise to be as well informed about the issues as it’s possible to be. The clattering background noise of TV news and its relentless 24-hour news cycle, however, is making it difficult to determine what’s truly important and what isn’t.

I guess it’s my election-season ennui that makes “The Census of 1900”--a January 1900 essay by William R. Merriam, the Republican former governor of Minnesota and the director of the 12th national U.S. census, then in progress--so interesting, both inspiring and depressing in almost equal measure.
You're running to the library right now, aren't you?

An article I wrote on After Last Season--the oddball film I've posted about a few times here--will be in the upcoming issue of Cashiers du Cinemart. It features never-blogged-about interviews I conducted via email with three cast members.

Here's a quote from ALS star Jason Kulas on the much-remarked-upon MRI machine made out of a cardboard box (seen in the trailer here):
The sets struck me as like from a middle school play. When I saw the cardboard and paper MRI, with moving parts and lights, I will say it was the best cardboard MRI anyone could make. ... It seemed surreal that with all the money, time, and energy going into it that it was really going to be shot this way.
But it was, people. It was.

Further info on that TK. I think it will be published in August.

Bad Santa

From The Velvet Blog's hit counter info:

I know it gets lonely up there, Santa, but try to think of setting a good example for the elves.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Perhaps the best description of a self-published book I have run across (so far)

In addition to loving the ads for self-pubbed oddities in the New York Times Book Review, I'm also fascinated by the free downloads on Amazon.

This description for something called Shades of Gray (no relation to, ugh, Fifty Shades of Grey--just a happy accident, I'm sure) made me laugh out loud:
(Combine "Breaking Bad" and "Cops" with a disturbing, dark remake of "The Love Boat" and you have all the flavors of SHADES OF GRAY)
Here's hoping Charo stars in the inevitable TV movie.

Wacky high jinks ensue, no doubt.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Chicken update

In northwestern Montana, as in much of the country, more people are keeping chickens. And bears of all kinds are developing a taste for poultry that lures them into populated areas, presenting a dangerous situation for both people and, especially, for bears. --The New York Times

Really? Especially dangerous for the bears? Try telling that to the chickens.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Postcard of the day

Aug. 26, 1910

Would not this be an ideal place to spend a honeymoon? We are trying to arrange it. M.E.G.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Velvet Blog has won the Nobel Prize for Blogging, but it cannot sell you the Brooklyn Bridge

Story one:
Criminalizing speech is a tricky business, but Congress seemed to think it had found the right balance in 2006 when it overwhelmingly enacted the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime simply to lie about having received a military medal or service badge.

But the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit begs to differ. In a decision released on Tuesday, the three-judge panel, based in San Francisco, declared the law unconstitutional because it infringed on the defendant’s freedom of speech, even if it was false. That defendant, Xavier Alvarez, had claimed to be a Marine and a winner of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. He was neither. ...

The majority also found that there was no malice intended or harm done, since Mr. Alvarez uttered his fabrication during introductory remarks before the Three Valley Water District board of directors in California, of which he was a new member. (Mr. Alvarez, the judges noted, had also at various times claimed to have played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings and to have rescued the American ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis.)

“We have no doubt that society would be better off if Mr. Alvarez would stop spreading worthless, ridiculous and offensive untruths,” the ruling said. “But, given our historical skepticism of permitting the government to police the line between truth and falsity, and between valuable speech and drivel, we presumptively protect all speech, including false statements.”
--The New York Times
Story two:
The offer was extraordinary: A baseball mitt once owned by Babe Ruth was being offered by a memorabilia broker in Nevada. But the mitt had an even richer history, its owner wrote; in 1944, the Babe had given the glove to his close friend Robert Young, the Hollywood star, who had kept it in his private collection for more than 68 years.

Ruth told the actor that he so prized the glove that “he slept with it under his pillow at the orphanage,” St. Mary’s, where he had been placed as a child, the mitt’s owner said.

The broker was offering the mitt for sale on behalf of the owner — the husband of a granddaughter of Mr. Young, the complaint says.

And that, the document suggests, was the only part of the story that was true.

The husband, Irving Scheib, 50, of Bonsall, Calif., appeared on Thursday in Federal District Court in Manhattan and pleaded guilty to a wire fraud charge for what prosecutors say was his scheme to sell the glove for $200,000 as a genuine Ruth artifact. In fact he had bought the mitt on eBay in January for about $750.

“I sold a baseball glove falsely claiming it was a Babe Ruth glove, and it was not, your honor,” Mr. Scheib told Judge Robert P. Patterson Jr. “I feel horrible about it, but those are the facts.”
--The New York Times
I'm curious where allowable lies leave off and where fraud kicks in. If you lie about your background in order to get elected to public office, is that fraud or free speech?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Seven pictures that will restore your faith in chimps sitting at typewriters

This Slate piece by Farhad Manjoo on creating a viral hit has inspired me to do make my own lazy viral hit.

I have stolen seven pictures of chimps sitting at typewriters, because really, everyone likes pictures of chimps sitting at typewriters. Just to make sure I've put in the minimum of effort, I'm not resizing, or bothering to credit.


Monday, June 25, 2012

It would be funny if, during the middle of the show, she suddenly started doing a Nixon impression

Rather odd editorial lapse in The New York Times the other day, in an article about actress Debra Jo Rupp and her portrayal of Dr. Ruth in a new play:
But Ms. Rupp was also wary of getting hemmed in by the famous voice. “At first I was worried that people would just want me to do a rich little imitation,” she said. “I can’t live and breathe the person then. It has to come from me and my heart and who I think she is.”
I suspect it would be tough to do a Rich Little imitation. Who the hell know what he sounds like anyway?
I sent a note to the Times. Perhaps I'll spur a correction. Won't that be exciting?

No? Oh.

UPDATE: The Times has appended a correction, which features another mistake:

Correction: June 25, 2012

An earlier version of this article misstated the actress Debra Jo Rupp’s trepidation in doing Dr. Ruth’s voice. She said she was afraid that people would want her to do “a Rich Little imitation,” referring to the comic impressionist, not “a rich little limitation.”

The original said "rich little imitation," not "limitation."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Death at a funeral

In honor of The Velvet Blog's eighth year, a rerun of my farewell blog post, when I killed TVB on March 25, 2010. (OK, it recovered. The blog was dark for about six months.)

So, the gag is, I appropriated the story of the classic "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of
Mary Tyler Moore and presented it as if it had actually happened to me. As I had posted a YouTube video of the entire Chuckles episode not long before, and linked to both a clip of the farewell MTM episode's goodbye hug and a copy of David Lloyd's Chuckles script in the post itself, I thought the joke wasn't exactly obscure. Still, a few people took it literally, and one stranger accused me of plagiarism, pointing out the parallels to an MTM episode. You know--the one I explicitly referenced and linked to. Sigh. Anyway, I've always thought this was a great post to go out on, even if it turned out to be a premature burial.

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.

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


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Popularity contest

Blogger started giving page-view stats, I noticed a couple of months ago, though I didn't really look at them till recently. In honor of The Velvet Blog's eighth blogoversary, here are the Top 10 TVB Posts of All Time, or at Least Since Blogger Started Tracking, Whenever That Was (and, brace yourselves, it's a VERY monkey-centric list):

It's Baby Monkey Monday! (4,515 page views)

Creative headline writing at the NY Post (2,261)

I've decided what the blog needs (2,063)

Cute baby monkey (1,531)

How much does that gorilla weigh, anyway? (1,439)

Activia: Yogurt that makes you poop (1,135)

Happy Mole Day (952)

What's on your mind, America? (882)

A handy visual guide for distinguishing among The Partridge Family's Susan Dey, secretive religious group Opus Dei, and bandleader Otis Day (803)

Smackdown: Lidsville vs. The Bugaloos (613)

As you can see, monkeys are popular, especially cute baby monkeys. Let this be a lesson for unpopular bloggers everywhere. (Also: Poop.)

Obviously, 99.9% of these hits came from random Google users--except I really can't account for the high showing of that New York Post post. That's just a mystery.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Head spinning

You know, I think I'm pretty Web-savvy, but every once in a while something comes along that's just so freaking crazy that I have trouble believing it's true, and then I find out that it's not only true but that it's been around for ages.

Such is the case for "spinning." No, not the exercise kind of spinning, but online spinning.

Jeremy Duns, a novelist--someone I follow on Twitter, a professional who's made it a priority to root out plagiarists--posted a link to something called The Best Spinner. I'll pause for a moment to let you look at that.

So, spinning lets you take language and tweak it just enough so that you can repost it and not get easily busted for copying. This is an actual practice. I'll now point out this Wikipedia article on the subject. An excerpt (and this is a quote, not a spin):
If the original articles are plagiarized from other websites or if the original article was used without the copyright owner's permission, such copyright infringements may result in the writer facing a legal challenge, while writers producing multiple versions of their own original writing need not worry about such things. ...

Article spinning requires "spintax." Spintax (or spin syntax) is the list of text, sentences, or synonyms that are embedded into an article. The spinning software then substitutes your synonym choices into the article to create new, unique variations of the base article.
Now, you might think that people would be sheepish about admitting they use such software. And you might be right when it comes to the general population, but wrong when it comes to a certain class of online quote-unquote writer. Scroll down the Best Spinner page, and get these recommendations from real (?) users:
I've been using this for the past week and it has saved me both time and money. Before, I had 2 choices; either spend hours writing my own articles or pay someone around $30 to write a single mediocre one for me.
Oh, well, boo hoo hoo. Here's a thought, Paul Fletcher, who appears to be a real person: How about you do something useful with your life instead of being proud of your bullshit?

It has so many great features that I just haven't found elsewhere. I particularly like the 'auto rewrite' feature - it's saved me days of writing copy!
You know what feature I like, Rob Hensen? The Ignore Rob Hensen And Everything He's Ever Written feature. It's built in to my life.
What a time saver - my staff love this tool
Hey, Lou Garcia, did you spin that sentence? Because it really sounds like a euphemism for how your genitals love your genitals but want to cut down on the time spent handling them.
I am a professional writer, specializing in SEO articles. This program has sped up the process so much, that it almost doesn't seem right taking money for the jobs, now.
That's Dr. Joel C. Brothers. SEO stands for search engine optimization--that is, picking words that will stand out to Google and the like. To put it another way (hey, I'm spinning free hand!), Dr. Joel C. Brothers writes words that no one actually wants to read but exist in the netherworld of search engine circle jerks.

And, indeed, that's the common link between everyone quoted on that page--they're all involved in an online reach-around while making the Internet a little less pleasant and useful for the rest of us.

So, spin that, fellas.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Guida visiva pratica per la distinzione fra la pancetta affumicata, la pancetta affumicata canadese, ed il prosciutto canadese

A rerun from May 9, 2006, which was itself a rerun of a post from April 29, 2005, only in Italian. The original was, of course, rerun yesterday. Am I blowing your mind? Happy blogoversary, folks. I take no credit or blame for the Italian, BTW, which was translated by Google.

Image hosted by Pancetta affumicata

Image hosted by Pancetta affumicata canadese

Image hosted by Prosciutto canadese

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A handy visual guide for distinguishing between bacon, Canadian bacon, and Canadian ham

A rerun from April 29, 2005--part of The Velvet Blog's eighth anniversary blogstravaganza. Honestly, I wanted to do a book based on this concept, but after doing about a dozen of them, I ran out of ideas. But, c'mon, this is funnier than Poop My Dad Says, and that got turned into a sitcom with you-know-who. Life is unfair.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comBacon

Image hosted by Photobucket.comCanadian bacon

Image hosted by Photobucket.comCanadian ham