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?