Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Touch of Grey

The silver lining on this whole Katrina thing, which I will admit is looking a little tarnished, is that the quoted and quoting classes are pulling out all the stops to see who can say the silliest thing.

For example. The New York Times editorialized,
But this seems like the wrong moment to dwell on fault-finding, or even to point out that it took what may become the worst natural disaster in American history to pry President Bush out of his vacation.
Oh, you sneaky Times! You thought you could use that reverse psychology stuff on us naive readers and we'd never notice your fault-finding and pointing out. Well, you can't get by us that easily!

And on Fox News there's this:
"We are gravely concerned about the potential for cholera, typhoid and dehydrating diseases that could come as a result of the stagnant water and the conditions," said [Health and Human Services Secretary Michael] Leavitt.

However, officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts said cholera and typhoid are not considered to be high risks in the area.
Nice. Way to make up stuff, man. And can you say, inappropriate use of the word "gravely"?

Biloxi, MS mayor A.J. Holloway called the disaster "our tsunami," and I don't mean to be all on this guy's case, I know he's had a rough couple of days, but he's totally shooting himself in the foot. Because the hurricane is like the tsunami in that they both involved large amounts of water, but it's not like the tsunami in that 300,000 people died there, and it seems likely that the death toll from Katrina, while tragic, will be at least 100x smaller. "Our tsunami but a hundred times less terrible" - I don't think that's really the point he's going for.

Self-referential reference

Ooh, look, it's me! Rockin' the Black List at the Black Table! I feel all funny inside.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

I was going to be my usual hilarious self today, I was, but then I read these New Orleans Craigslist links on craigblog. My heart goes out to everyone suffering in this catastrophe.

American Red Cross
Will Bunch: "When the Levee Breaks"
Hurricane News Links

Monday, August 29, 2005

Curiouser and Bicuriouser

I think we all know what today's big story is. Well, yes, there's Hurricane Katrina. And of course, that ongoing Iraqi constitution business. But the big news, the really big news, is this: gay sheep.

That's right, folks. There are gay sheep. Even more gay sheep than gay people. I'm not exactly sure what to say about this, except that compared to walking, breathing fish and murderous praying mantises (manti?), I'd rather be locked in a dark closet with a gay sheep than either one of those. Especially if it was a boy gay sheep.

Link (via Kottke)

Photo by Jared Nunemacher.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunday Confidential

I'm very, very close to finishing the first draft of my first novella. I find myself slowing down as I get to the end, perhaps because I'm afraid to finish it - because then comes the hard part: the second draft. It's the second draft that will determine whether this thing is going to work out. Right now my novella is like a two year old - cute and full of potential, but also garbled, erratic, and undeveloped. If I can fast forward this sucker into a painful adolesence, then it will be worth the nights waiting up, the fears of it falling in with the wrong crowd, the surliness and rebellion. If it insists on progressing at normal developmental rates, well, I don't have that kind of patience. So I'm crossing my fingers for a growth spurt.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Metafilter Asks. I answer.

In this new feature, which may or may not recur on a wholly random and sporadic basis, I will help out Metafilter's lonely questioners, as long as they asked something I can make fun of. Check back often to see if I've completely negated the value of Metafilter by answering your question in my own personal space.

Dhammala asks:
My friend in NYC really really really wants to go to a lot of these shows but money is really tight. Do you have any ideas on how he can go?
Yes, Dhammala, I do have an idea how your "friend" can go to these shows. It involves Vaseline, a mouth like a Hoover, and knee pads.

BradNelson says:
Help me fix the vertical blinds in my apartment before I move out.
Brad, sorry, but no. If you'd been more gracious when I asked you to help me carry my 200 lb. desk up three flights of stairs when I was moving in, it might be a different story. What goes around comes around.

Escabeche says:
We just moved to Madison, Wisconsin -- now what?
Well, Escabeche, it's still August, so it hasn't started snowing yet. Here's what you do: go down to your car. Carry nothing but your wallet and a block of Wisconsin cheddar. Get in. Turn it on. Drive in any cardinal direction except north. Don't stop till you can smell the water.

Elkerette has a timely question:
Help make a Canadian Understand America-filter. Is burning actually one of the preferred ways of disposing of old American flag?
Elkerette, allow me to refer you to your cousin, Wonkette, who will clarify the ins and outs of flag burning. The general rule of thumb: if you're not a Republican, bury it.

That's all for today, folks. Check back again on Sunday for the latest Sunday Confidential: If You Can't See Them They Can't See You Edition.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Oil and the argonauts

My evening's post has been delayed by yet more cleaning. You'd think I live in a mansion, all the cleaning I do. But the funny thing is, I live in a closet. A dirty, dirty closet.

You may scoff at USA Today, you may consider their colorful weather map a diversionary tactic; you may mistrust their folksy, soft news angles; you may be disappointed when the state briefing for your state, like a bad horoscope, leaves you wanting. But nevertheless, USA Today is a real and actual news outlet, that not only doesn't make you register but also reports actual news, sometimes ahead of the highfalutin' papers of record.

For example. Since it's getting late, I'm basically onto tomorrow's news cycle. And who but USA Today has yet pointed out that oil prices have hit a new high at $67 a barrel? No one, I tell you, no one. At least no one who wrote it in such big letters that I would notice it in my speed-skimming.

About those oil prices: while I think there are some benefits to higher gas prices, like perhaps a swing back to smaller cars or a stronger commitment to alternative fuels, there's something disturbing about the constant upward spiral of the price of a basic commodity like oil. Stock brokers, whether we actually care what they think or not (I vote for not), both reflect and create the sense of economic stability for the entire country. So when the prices of oil go ever higher, hitting new records almost every day, it both reflects uneasiness and creates it. And I'm against that. Because hey, you fearmongers, what's there to worry about?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I'm Fat Because of Chunky Monkey!

I'm glad so many bloggers (like Xeni on BoingBoing and Claire Zulkey) have been keeping on eye on the "real women" ads by Dove and Nike. Because while I suppose it's not outside the realm of possibility that, on some distant planet, marketing plans are driven by a desire to improve the public's self-image and sense of personal worth, on Earth, it usually has more to do with selling stuff. So I wouldn't waste too much time singing the praises of Nike, Inc. or the Unilever Corp. Let's see them use fat (oh, excuse me, "real") people to market another brand they own, Ben and Jerry's, and then we'll see.

Monday, August 22, 2005


The Iraqi Constitution is, well, it's not finished, exactly, or even remotely, but, hey who cares, really. What matters is that the parliament has decided not to dissolve itself before clearing everything up. See, it's just like the American Revolution! The New York Times says that
The potentially intractable problem in the process was the disaffection of Sunni leaders, who had been largely excluded from the deliberations during the past week. The constitution has been written almost entirely by Shiite and Kurdish leaders, who said they had decided to leave the Sunnis out because they were being too inflexible.
Later in the article, they write,
On Sunday negotiators said they had agreed on a formula to share Iraq's oil wealth, which had been one of the most difficult issues. The agreement was being shepherded with the help of American officials, and especially Mr. Khalilzad. After more than 12 hours of talks on Sunday, an American official said a deal was almost in hand.
So I don't know about you, but I think things are looking pret-ty good. Keep Sunnis out of the picture, let the Americans decide how to divide up the oil, and what do you get?

Oops, sorry, don't know how that got in there! Here, that's more like it!

Photo by WenDee

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sunday Confidential

Wow. My roommate and I just cleaned our kitchen for close to three hours. I'll admit it, I'm pretty damn proud. I'm not much one for cleaning, and I don't think I've ever spent so long scouring a single room. But we've enacted a miraculous transformation. The appliances sparkle, the floor glows, the counters gleam -- you know, in the way that green matte linoleum gleams. I've never lived in a Nice Apartment before, they've always been sort of dingy student-like places that have never had a good washing, and I'm sort of excited at the prospect of making this place Nice. I must be getting old.

I've survived Family Week, barely, so I'll be back to regular posting this week.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Well, it's family week in New York City, in which I reunite with long lost relatives for an orgy of self examination, mutual congratulations, passive recriminations, and comparative study of nose and chin characteristics. As you can imagine all that will be keeping me quite busy, so my posts will tend toward the erratic, but who knows, perhaps I'll blog furiously throughout. Next week we'll resume with our normal programming.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sunday Confidential

I have a coworker of perfectly normal proportions who hails from Texas (I'm not sure if this has anything to do with it, but I feel like it might). She told me recently that when she was growing up, her family had a practice called "breakfast dessert," which, as you might imagine, involved eating breakfast and then having a "dessert" like a Ding Dong or some cookies.

Naturally, my first reaction was one of extreme shock and mild disgust, but then I thought, You know what? Breakfast dessert sounds like a darn delicious idea! I'm thinking of incorporating it into my own eating habits.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Flaming Pile of Poo

I know, I know! That drawing from yesterday's post makes no sense!

Anyway, a disgrunted former Yale architecture student is permitted to sue David Childs for plagiarizing his work in a 2003 design for the Freedom Tower, which currently looks like this:

You know, I sympathize with Thomas Shine, the aging architecture grad, because I, too, have been the victim of superior design concept theivery by a famous architect. I was a lowly firm associate working my tail off designing handicap accessible rampways for public buildings when, lo and behold, my very own design magically materialized as the Flaming Pile of Poo Center in Linkletter, Arkansas. At first, I wanted to sue the bastard architect who had ganked my magisterial elevations, but then an ancient blind woman gave me some wise advice: "Don't associate yourself with hideous, graceless monstrosities that embody distasteful personal characteristics like pointless oneupsmanship, hubris, and embarrassing lack of forethought." That was some pretty good advice.

Photo courtesy Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, LLP

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


*I Spit on Your Stupid Walk

Ho hum, I thought, on what deserving victim shall I unleash my scathing wit? But it was no contest once I saw this, the America Supports You Freedom Walk. A commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, ASYFW will start at the Pentagon and conclude at the National Mall with a concert by country singer Clint Black; it inspires me to shriek with horror for a number of reasons.
--First of all, the name of this so-called walk is a syntactical nightmare. Many "news outlets" (ie blogs) have misnamed it as the America Supports Your Freedom Walk.
--So how are we to interpret all these "yous" and "yours"? Should it read, "America Supports You, Freedom. Walk!" or "America Supports. You--Freedom--Walk!" or "America Supports You (Soldiers) Freedom Walk" or "America Supports Your (Iraqis') Freedom Walk"? But what does walking have to do with Iraqis?
--For that matter, what do Iraq and the soldiers fighting there have to do with September 11? I'm sure you don't need to be reminded that the answer to that equation is, exactly nothing. For further clarification, please see the below drawing, by an anonymous yet obviously massively talented artist. It is sure to clear everything up.
--And, oh yeah, the ASYFW is jingoistic boosterism trading on the names of the innocent dead. Maybe we should rename it the "I Took My Helicopter Here So I Wouldn't Have to Talk to Cindy Sheehan" Walk, ITMHHSIWHTCHW.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Save yourselves!

You know those pictures of the evolutionary process where a fish walks out of the water on its fins and eventually becomes a human? Well, say hello to Grandpa Joe!

Aaah! It's got my leg!!

That's right, this sucker may not walk, exactly, but it can "wriggle" on land with the help of its fins. And, um, it can breathe. And survive out of water for five days. And it's living in Queens. This little bugger looks pretty small, but they grow to about forty inches. That's like a golden retriever, but a vicious predator.

I don't mean to alarm anyone, but THIS FISH WANTS TO KILL YOU. Its relative, the giant snakehead fish, has killed people to protect its young. So if you have the feeling you're being watched, or sense someone following you, or hear strange thumping, flopping sounds on your stairs late at night, ask yourself: am I safe from the snakehead fish?

Photo by U.S. Geological Survey

Monday, August 08, 2005

The River Poo

So, it's official, Italians and cocaine go together like the river Po and a literal shitload of raw sewage. In case you missed it, it was widely reported that Italians do a lot more coke than originally estimated. And BoingBoing prominently points out what most other news reports relegate to backstory: that the amazing new method scientists have discovered for measuring cocaine usage involves chemical analysis of poo in the water. Actually it's pee but it sounds grosser if I say poo.

That's the beautiful Po. If you look closely, you can see the chunks of floating turds. I, for one, have already booked my river cruise.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Sunday Confidential

New feature - Sunday Confidential, in which I talk about something from my real and actual life, possibly of significance, most likely not. So here's today's.

I have a friend, who will here go by the name of Berthold, who says, "When people on the street hand you flyers for their businesses, it's like they're saying, 'Here, you throw this away.'"

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Alien Nation

It hasn't been such a good week to be an immigrant in the good ol' U.S. of A. I should start by saying these news items aren't funny, because they are horrible. But there's something about them, about imagining these uniformed authorities befuddled by their difficulty in predicting their targets' behavior, that WOULD be funny, if it weren't ruining so many people's lives.

The New York Times and everyone else reports that a drug sting in Georgia, designed to catch convenience store owners selling products for making methamphetamine, has been complicated by cultural confusion between the authorities and the Indian immigrants they arrested. The idea was for informants to drop hints about their intended use of the suspicious products (cold medicine, kitty litter, tin foil), and if the convenience store owner didn't report them, they were busted. You can imagine the problems a language barrier could cause here: "finishing up a cook" might not set off alarm bells in a non-native speaker's head. Not to mention my head, where it would set off great big alarm bells, but relating more to a lack of command of standard syntax rather than a suspicion of drug manufacturing. Anyway, the really tricky thing about this case, besides that they've arrested at least one innocent person because all those dang furrners look alike, is that 32 of the 44 people arrested have the same last name - Patel. It reminds me of the scene in the Pierce Brosnan version of the Thomas Crown Affair where all the people dress as Magritte's Man with a Bowler Hat and the authorities can't figure out who's who.

In this story, the Associated Press reports that 30 children were left stranded when 119 people were rounded up in an immigration raid in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. When a poultry plant there was raided, some of the people arrested were able to call relatives to arrange for care for their kids, but thirty children were left with no parents. The Immigration spokesperson's defense was that they had asked every person they arrested whether they had children, and every one of them said no. What surprises me is that Immigration didn't stop the presses right there and call the AP themselves - 119 people working in a poultry plant for what I can only guess are chickenshit wages, and NOT A SINGLE ONE of them has a child. That's got to be a scientific aberration right there. And, uh, if you deport people for a living, aren't you familiar with the possibility that deportees might not want to tell you about their kids out of fear that they will get deported too? Call me crazy, but it sort of jumps right out at you.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Phony Sony

That Sony, they just keep getting in trouble, don't they? Over the last few weeks they have been monetarily reprimanded for paying dj's to play their songs and making up fake movie critics to compliment their crap-ass films. The total bill for such shenanigans? A piddling $11.5m. Judging from the startling brilliance of Sony's latest offering, I'm guessing they took it all out of the creative budget for their upcoming film Stealth - this gripping movie is about a devious plane with a mind of its own!

So we know Sony lies; we know they cheat; do they also steal? Hmmm... Fathers, hide your daughters, Sony's coming to town! Just don't try to get them to answer to the law in front of Judge Hatchett - Sony owns her too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Oh golly. It may make me a luddite, but I'm beginning to think we should just stay on the ground.

I'm happy about the plans for a new shuttle design, though. I have my doubts about whether a crew escape hatch that takes you right to the front of a plummeting missile is such a bright idea, but other than that, I say hooray for resurrecting old ideas! But does the new design remind anyone of something else? Besides that. That's right, the Bomb Pop! I have not at all fond memories of turning into a sugary patriotic mess after attempting to eat one of those suckers at Disney World when I was ten. Ah, the good old days.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I hear duct tape is quite versatile

The New York Times reports that the latest concerns around the space shuttle Discovery revolve around some protruding pieces of cloth that could cause uneven heating on reentry and so on. Again, I am astounded by the materials used to build this marvel of modern engineering: the Times describes this cloth as a "feltlike" material. So here's what we have so far:

1) Felt cloth
2) Foam
3) Tile

I'd like to recommend these additional materials, all available at your local craft shop:

1) Popsicle sticks
2) Scrapbooking paper
3) Lanyard plastic
4) Those little puffballs with the feet and googly eyes. You could stick these to the outside of the shuttle portholes during a spacewalk and then say, "Look! Martians!" That would be a surefire, inexpensive way to give the space program a boost.