November 30, 2003

This spam contains 100% of your RDA of surrealism

Below, in its entirely, the header of a piece of spam I just received:

malfeasant trichinella

I am apprised of what's going on here, of course. Spammers have lately taken to filling their e-mails with random words in an attempt to get around the way spam filters look for particular words that tend to appear in spam and nowhere else. But it makes me worry that a spam like this will cause someone to think that "malfeasant trichinella" means "penis enlargement", and not "a wrongdoing genus of parasitic nematodes that causes trichinosis in man and carnivores, especially a wrongdoing genus of parasitic nematodes that has been elected to public office".

Posted by Francis at 01:40 PM

November 26, 2003

Those wacky, lazy liberals

Boy, people just love to take Dr. Seuss and have their way with him, don't they? If it's not Mike Myers, it's John J. Miller in the National Review.

One thing Dr. Seuss and I have in common (besides our rakishly good-looking beards) is a deep-seated liberalism. But Miller believes he has found a secret conservative message hidden in the liberal thickets of the Seuss oeuvre, in the lesser-known I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew:

The unnamed narrator -- one of Seuss's typical cat-like creatures -- joins an odd fellow on his way to the City of Solla Sollew, which is

On the banks of the beautiful River Wah-Hoo,
Where they never have troubles! At least, very few.

It is, in short, Utopia. ... Ultimately, he arrives at the outskirts of Solla Sollew � but he can't get inside. It seems that a key has been lost. Everybody's locked out. Frustrated, the city's gatekeeper declares that he's had enough:

And I'm off to the city of Boola Boo Ball
On the banks of the beautiful River Woo-Wall,
Where they never have troubles! No troubles at all!

Ah, yes: a place that's even better than Utopia. By this time, of course, the narrator has caught on. He goes back home to confront his troubles rather than avoid them.

It's a wonderful book with a beautiful message -- and in Seuss's liberal universe, perhaps even a subversive one.

Ah, I see. Liberals never confront problems and try to solve them, is that what you're trying to say, Mr. Miller? Way to be patronizing. Liberalism is, at heart, an activist political philosophy; it's not passive. Whether or not you agree with its goals, you can't seriously argue that liberalism doesn't entail working for change.

I mean, instead of Seuss having written a conservative book, maybe Mr. Miller is secretly a liberal? Hmm, I guess not.

Posted by Francis at 03:28 AM

November 25, 2003

Times capsule

Hey! We're All Dead got a very nice, if brief, review in today's New York Times. In my daydreams, of course, the review was a little more extensive and also went on at great length about the brilliant songwriting, but I'm not complaining!

Posted by Francis at 03:19 AM | Comments (5)

November 24, 2003

Spoilers revisited

Okay, I thought I was obsessive about spoilers until I heard about the guy who reads every issue of the New York Times...in order...and is about a year and a half behind:

"He keeps up with current events by listening to the radio while he drives to work. If he thinks he might be about to learn the ending to a particular story hes following, he will turn it off. He doesnt want to spoil the suspense."

(Pointed out by Jon Delfin, who saw it on Romenesko.)

Posted by Francis at 02:26 PM | Comments (1)

November 22, 2003

Not spoiled, but still rotten

I enjoy movie reviews, but I almost never read reviews of movies I'm intending to see. I always feel, well, I'm already convinced it's a movie I want to see, I don't want to have any surprises spoiled for me. I mean, yes, most reviewers will avoid giving away major surprises, but they'll still pretty much tell you the whole plot, and honestly, I just don't want to know. I read those reviews after I see the movie, to see how my opinions match up with reviewers'.

But if there's a movie that I never plan to see, come hell or high water, because it looks terrible, and I see that there is what's clearly a terrible review of that movie, well, I have to read that. How can I resist a review that calls The Cat in the Hat (a movie which I constantly worry I will be forced to sit through another preview of) "a vulgar, uninspired lump of poisoned eye candy"?

But although I am a religious avoider of spoilers of movies I want to see, I sometimes wish reviewers weren't so circumspect about not revealing spoilers of movies they have just spent many paragraphs convincing me not to see. Take Gothika. In the Times, A.O. Scott writes:

And I certainly will not spell out for you what you will, before too long, figure out for yourself, at which point all suspense and intrigue will evaporate. About two-thirds of the way through the screening I attended, the startled gasps were replaced by laughter, as "Gothika" began its headlong descent into incoherence.

No, seriously, spell it out! Let me rewrite that for you, A.O. (boy, "A.O." taken out of context sounds like one of those nonsense noises Sting was always sticking into Police songs, or something one of the Teletubbies would say): "Those of you who, despite all my advice, are still interested in seeing this movie, should stop reading now as I reveal the stupid (and blatantly telegraphed) twist ending to this crappy movie."

And, alas, Gothika hasn't yet been posted to The Movie Spoiler, so no luck there. Ah well. I can wait.

Posted by Francis at 11:38 AM

November 16, 2003

Look on my observational humor, ye mighty, and despair

So I bought a new toothbrush yesterday, and I was resting it upon the thingy above the sink that has a cup holder and six little rectangular holes in it, I wondered: given that the average girth of toothbrushes seems to be steadily increasing, do new bathrooms have bigger holes in those little ledges? Because for probably a decade now, I have never lived anywhere in which my toothbrushes fit in the toothbrush holders. The toothbrushes lay across the cup holder, and the cup sits on the edge of the sink. And then there are six vestigial holes that serve no purpose. I picture many confused conversations with the next generation of children: "Daddy, why are there six holes on the toothbrush ledge?" "Well, Timmy, it's a sad story..."

Won't someone think of the children?

Posted by Francis at 11:48 AM | Comments (3)

November 09, 2003

Color Me Obsessed

That is correct, I have more to say on the subject of crayons. Firstly, I just realized what the relentless overnaming of Crayola colors reminds me of: lipstick and nail polish names. (What can I say, my mom was an Avon lady.) In fact, here's a little quiz. Crayola crayon or Avon nail polish? Go!

1) Mango Tango
2) Cherry Jubilee
3) Desert Sand
4) Vivid Violet
5) Tangerine Dream
6) Juicy Plum
7) Razzle Dazzle Rose
8) Ballerina Pink
9) Cotton Candy
10) Tickle Me Pink

Answers in the comments for this entry.

But mostly what I've been obsessing about this time around is the Crayola store. Did you know you can make your own custom box of 64 crayons? Sounds good, right? I mean, maybe you're the sort of person who just doesn't understand why anyone would want a white crayon, and now you finally have your chance to get yourself a box of crayons without that accursed albino abomination. Well, sorry to be the bearer of tidings that seem good at first but then turn out to be bad after all, but that custom box of 64 crayons? You can only get up to four different colors in it. So if you like to draw one thing over and over again, this is the perfect product for you. You can even just get 64 of the same crayon if that's your bag.

Oh, but what if you want 64 of one of the retired colors? Aren't you then screwed? Well, that shows what you know. Yes, Crayola is offering limited edition boxes of recently retired colors. That's right, boys and girls, Mulberry is no more, so you better get enough crayons of that color to last you the rest of your life. Geez, man, I already had mixed feelings about Crayola retiring colors. Now I'm starting to wonder if they retire colors just to manipulate supply and demand! Like, are they hoping to grab a little corner of the obsessive collector market? I feel all dirty now. Give me my childhood back, Crayola!

Posted by Francis at 10:31 PM | Comments (2)

November 07, 2003

Back in my day, we didn't know what "umber" was, and we didn't care

I just can't stop reading this page about Crayola colors through the years. I suppose everyone has a point at which their knowledge of crayon arcana slows down considerably, but I had no idea just how out of touch I was with the current slate of Crayolas.

I can get behind many of the colors introduced through the '90s, like "Cranberry", "Dandelion" and "Granny Smith Apple". (Oh, I guess I have a soft spot for representationalism after all.) But some of these things are just the most shoddily stitched-together portmanteaus. I mean, "Mauvelous"? That is a travesty. And why can we not just call the banana-like color "Banana"? Why is it called "Banana Mania"? Are manic bananas a slightly different shade than their more restrained brethren?

And, you know, it always irks me when adults get really patronizing to children, and a color like "Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown" seems like an example of that. I could get behind, say, "Teddy Bear" as a color, but "Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown" feels focus-grouped out the ass. And "Brink Pink"? I mean...that rhymes, yes, but what the hell does it mean? And do not even get me started on "Jazzberry Jam". Oh, I got myself started. "Jazzberry Jam"! AAAAAAAAAAAARRRGHH.

The thing that really makes me feel like a fossil is the twinge I get when I learn one of my favorite colors has been retired (also the fact that I say "Consarn it" at these moments). "Lemon Yellow" is gone? But that was the best yellow! I mean, probably that shade of yellow is mostly covered by one of the replacement yellows (perhaps "Canary"), but still.

According to this site, "Lemon Yellow" was one of eight colors ditched in 1990 for being "too dull to appeal to children today". Among the other seven was "raw umber". So let me get this straight. We can have two different goddamn siennas, but no umber? That's weak.

This all reminds me of a dream I once had in which Crayola had introduced a box of various different flesh tones appropriate to different races (you'll recall that they changed "Flesh" to "Peach" back in 1962). This dream was based in reality, but I think I can safely say Crayola never considered naming their product what I named it in my dream: the "Flesh Box".

Posted by Francis at 03:12 AM

November 06, 2003

They Call Me Mr. Cellophane

Am I the only person who finds the invisible people that model CafePress T-shirts a little creepy? Like, the T-shirts have a shape of a T-shirt being worn by someone, and yet you can see through that person to the little tag on the back of the collar. Weird.

Posted by Francis at 02:27 PM

November 05, 2003

Hey, let's get this blog back on topic

It's all about my ego, remember? So I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who hates the remix of "Superpowers" on the Dismemberment Plan's farewell CD.

I'm not quite unbiased in this discussion since I did my own remix of "Superpowers" which was passed over in favor of the one on the CD, which, to be fair, some reviewers have singled out for praise, even though I like mine better. Nyah.

I'm also fond of my remix of "Following Through", but at least I like the remix of that one which appears on the CD, so I can't get too het up about mine not making the cut in that case.

Posted by Francis at 06:02 PM

November 04, 2003

He Said, Fox Said

So now it seems there's some question as to whether Fox really threatened to sue "The Simpsons" or not. Is Matt Groening finally taking his revenge for the mob-hit-style job Fox did on Futurama?

Posted by Francis at 02:16 PM

November 03, 2003

The Ugliest Stereo in Christendom

This hideous stereo system, according to its blurb on Amazon, "features an aggressive new design that takes its cue from the world of car audio, with fearless hot-rod styling". Because every day I rue the fact that my stereo insufficiently resembles a muscle car.

Posted by Francis at 03:30 AM

November 01, 2003

Fox Chases Its Own Tail

Is there any better argument for the fact that the Fox News Network is biased than that Fox threatened to break out the litigation over an episode of the Simpsons that made fun of it for being biased? A show which, the keen-eyed and the bleary-eyed alike among you will have noticed, airs on its own network.

Fox objected to a fake Fox-news-style ticker which featured headlines like "Do Democrats Cause Cancer?" Matt Groening reports, "Now Fox has a new rule that we can't do those little fake news crawls on the bottom of the screen in a cartoon because it might confuse the viewers into thinking it's real news," he said.

See? Only a super-biased network could think headlines like "Study: 92 per cent of Democrats are gay" are believable enough that people might take them seriously.

Posted by Francis at 11:42 AM