December 30, 2003

The Old Terrorist's Almanac

Geez, here's another thing for me to keep in mind when I'm selecting reference books to bring with me to the MIT Mystery Hunt: whether my choices will seem suspicious to the FBI.

Posted by Francis at 02:36 PM | Comments (1)

December 29, 2003

Q and A

A cheap little joke for you.

Q: What are little boys who want to be girls made of?

See the comments for the answer.

Posted by Francis at 12:50 PM | Comments (1)

December 24, 2003

Brutal youth

I was listening to the Cocteau Twins' version of "Winter Wonderland" today, and heard a lyric I had never noticed before. I was, of course, familiar with the thing where they dress a snowman up as Parson Brown, but then there was this bit:

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 children knock him down.

Dude! Those poor kids! I mean, I was a scrawny geek as a child, and no one ever knocked my snowmen down.

Posted by Francis at 12:00 AM

December 23, 2003

Get down tonight, briefly

It's MP3 time here at Heaneyland, featuring a track that will probably be of interest mainly to those who have seen my musical -- so tough luck for the rest of you losers. It's an extended dance mix of one of Creon's numbers from Oedipus Rocks, "The Gods Must Be Lazy". (Of course, "extended" in this case means 1:04 instead of 54 seconds.)

Posted by Francis at 02:02 AM | Comments (2)

Hello Kitty has no mouth and she must scream

What's freakier than Hello Kitty? A Hello Kitty whose component parts can be rearranged, of course.

Posted by Francis at 01:55 AM | Comments (2)

December 21, 2003

Tourists, yes. Journalists, no.

The harrowing tale of an Australian journalist's brave attempt -- despite the American government doing everything it could to prevent her -- to interview Olivia Newton-John. I know some people might think that the act of expressing that much interest in Olivia Newton-John's career merits being locked in a detention cell and not being fed anything but a stale roll for ten hours -- but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's a little extreme.

Note that, had the reporter lied about the intent of her trip and claimed to be a tourist, she would have been cleared for entry into the country, no problem. Apparently freedom of the press is good enough for us, but not for those filthy Australians.

Posted by Francis at 11:06 PM

December 20, 2003

Not a laugh riot, exactly...more like a peaceful laugh demonstration

The webcomic Cat and Girl is reliably either hysterically surreal or blindingly obtuse. Here's one that particularly cracks me up.

Posted by Francis at 12:00 PM

December 19, 2003

The perfect gift for your hipster friends

I refer of course, to, custom-made safety signs. (Sure, you probably won't get them by Christmas, but hipsters don't care about holidays. Tell them it's an Epiphany present or something.)

Even if you don't actually purchase any custom signs, it is unreasonably entertaining to sit around playing with the applet and making snarky signs like these:




Posted by Francis at 01:36 AM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2003

They are, however, totally behind gay marriage when it's between a gay man and a lesbian

Daniel Radosh points out that the American Family Association is hosting a poll, which they intend to send to Congress, on homosexual marriage. Of course, a poll that consisted merely of the people who actually visit their website on a regular basis might be just a tad skewed (what with the way they think Bush might actually be too soft on his support for a constitutional amendment making it illegal for gays to marry), so Daniel suggests that if we spread the word, they might get a more accurate result. Let's help out, shall we?

Posted by Francis at 06:05 PM | Comments (1)

This Christmas, give the gift that keeps on increasing the likelihood of being sued

Here's an entertaining piece of file-sharing related satire, that has a somewhat painful sting, as all the best satire does. So why not download the new Britney CD instead of buying it (that is, if you enjoy listening to crap, of course), take it out of your shared folder before the RIAA sees it, and send your $18 to the Peer-to-Peer Legal Defense Fund?

(Thanks to Columbine for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 09:37 AM

December 17, 2003

Grammy's getting senile

Of course it's always surprising to me when an artist I actually like gets nominated for a Grammy, since most Grammy nominees are either acts who hit their peaks over a decade earlier or top 40 acts who will never have a peak to hit. So it's pretty cool that Fountains of Wayne is up for two Grammys this's just sort of dumb that one of those awards is for Best New Artist. (For those of you who haven't been following the career of this fine band, a quick glance at their entry will reveal that they released their debut album in 1996, and another album in 1999.)

This is apparently a sense of the word "new" of which I was previously unaware. The Grammy site's explanation of the category sheds a little light, but gets itself into a little logical loop: "For a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist."

Well, "Stacy's Mom" (the source of their other nomination, for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal) may be Fountains of Wayne's first big hit, but to say that song's the first thing that established their public identity is kind of condescending. And that definition still includes the phrase "new artist", which they're not.

In other Grammy news, Prince's worst album yet was nominated for "Best Pop Instrumental Album", I guess because there aren't that many prominent pop instrumental albums released in a year. I'm only familiar with one of the other nominees in that category (the extremely entertaining "Mambo Sinuendo" by Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban), but the others sound just as crappy as Prince's. I mean, how good can any Kenny G album be? And George Winston playing the music of the Doors? That's so very wrong.

Posted by Francis at 09:53 PM | Comments (3)

Think of me as your personal shopper

In my ongoing role as a freelance cultural arbiter, I'd like to take a moment to direct your attention to one of the most amazing modern classical vocal groups around, Toby Twining Music. I was worried they had vanished off the planet after their astonishing debut album, "Shaman", appeared in 1994, but apparently they did finally put out a new CD last June.

But maybe you don't want to lay out $15+postage on spec for some crazy experimental a cappella music. Maybe those MP3 samples have you curious but not convinced. Well, you should quit your shilly-shallying, because you can buy their out-of-print debut right here for two bucks. That's where I got my replacement copy when my cassette got chewed up. It is a fairly hard-to-find title, which makes it surprising that they have nine copies on hand...until you realize that they have misfiled it in their system, swapping the artist name and album title in their search database. So even if anyone is searching for it there, odds are they're not finding it. Well, their loss is your gain.

Posted by Francis at 06:45 AM


So Time Out New York may not have deigned to review my musical, but they love me at Time Out London. You see, I've been writing a monthly puzzle for a new magazine, Zembla, available in the UK -- and, theoretically, at some of the more highfalutin' US newsstands, though I haven't checked. The puzzle is one I unsuccessfully pitched to various venues, including Playboy, to wit: the Crassword, which was favorably mentioned in Time Out London's review of the magazine.

"Delightfully obscene"! Now, why couldn't the reviewer (not the one from Time Out, a different one) who came to "We're All Dead" but left at intermission because he was depressed that we were squandering our talents on a musical with so much profanity in it have had that kind of attitude?

Posted by Francis at 02:15 AM

December 16, 2003

And over here is Our Lady of Perpetual Great Deals on Shoes

So today I was walking on 40th Street near Times Square and I noticed an awning that read "Garment District Synagogue", which struck me as very odd. I mean, how many places of worship are named after nearby businesses?

Posted by Francis at 12:07 AM | Comments (2)

December 14, 2003

Hey, we caught Saddam Hussein, so now how do you feel about letting us steal your civil rights for four more years?

So now that Saddam Hussein is in custody (I give you a link since I know you all read my blog before you look at the news), does this mean we can finally redistribute a little manpower towards looking for the people who have actually threatened to kill us?

Posted by Francis at 10:06 AM | Comments (1)

December 13, 2003

Working for the Canuck dollar

Just got my copy of the new Sloan CD ("Action Pact"), and I'm happy to report that their slightly lame last album ("Pretty Together") was a statistical aberration, and that all the hooks they forgot to put in that album have found their way to this one. It's not as jaw-droppingly good as "Between the Bridges" was, but it's still a fine return to form. Too bad you can't buy "Action Pact" in the United States!

Not to worry. You have a couple options. You can either pay over $30 for it at Amazon...or you could (if you wanted to) do what I did and order it from Canada for about $12 American (which includes shipping costs). Sure, I feel bad not supporting Amazon's mom and pop operation, but that's a decision I'm just going to have to live with.

Posted by Francis at 05:23 PM

The van is vast, it contains multitudes

The title of this website delights me so much, I can't even tell you. (Read more here, if you are desirous of more to read.)

But how did they get that tiny replica of the world's largest pecan to look so realistic?

Posted by Francis at 02:43 AM

December 12, 2003

Together, we can change the dictionary

We in the puzzle world -- especially those of us who have ever spent more than 5 minutes reading the rec.puzzles newsgroup -- loathe the "gry" puzzle. So a bunch of us (John Chaneski, Peter Gordon, Kevin West, and myself, if I recall correctly) decided that we should make up a word, so that if anyone ever asked us the goddamn -gry riddle, we could just shrug and say, "Oh, don't you know? It's [the word we made up]. I thought everybody knew that."

We did feel that whatever word we invented should be a useful one, so we tried to come up with a concept that didn't really have an adequate word to describe it. Our word: igry [adj]. (That's pronounced with a short "i".)

"Igry" basically means "painfully embarrassed for or uncomfortable about someone else's incredibly poor social behavior, or descriptive of such poor social behavior". Like, say you're at a restaurant, and one of the people at your table summons the waiter by snapping their fingers. Watching this makes you die a little inside. You feel igry. (Or you might think, "What an igry thing to do.") The noun form is "igriness".

Anyway, I have found this to be a darn useful word. It comes up a surprising amount. (Sample: "Oh, I just can't watch 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', it makes me feel too igry.") It's enriched my clique's vocabulary and now it can start enriching yours. Use it with abandon -- especially in print -- and maybe we can get it in the dictionary in our lifetime. Go, "igry"!

Posted by Francis at 10:55 AM | Comments (10)

Heaney vs. Heaney

This is pretty old news -- even older than the last item -- but today seems like it's turning into a bit of a clearinghouse, so:

Heaney has turned to Beowulf, and the result is magnificent, breathtaking....

Alas, they're not talking about me. They're talking about Seamus. Well, judge for yourself. Me or him? I mean, the jokes in his version are so incredibly telegraphed, honestly.

Posted by Francis at 02:57 AM

Words and music

As you all probably know, I have a serious CD buying habit. I'm also a puzzle buff. So it was with some amusement that I realized I had bought two CDs in the same order that both included wordplay-related material. (I actually bought them a while ago, back when I was still getting the hang of updating my blog regularly, but I am reminded of them because I'm listening to one now.)

One is Menomena's "I Am the Fun Blame Monster". The title is an anagram of the phrase "the first Menomena album". As if that wasn't already amusing enough for me, the CD package is an enormous flip book which includes moving pictures of the band, as well as a little cartoon of the letters in "I Am the Fun Blame Monster" rearranging themselves to spell "the first Menomena album". Very cool. (You can visit Menomena's website if you wish, but be prepared for some extremely aggressively bad website design. Deliberate, of course, but still painful.)

The other is a collection of chamber music by Charles Knox which includes the piece "Semordnilap Number 2". The piece is a big palindrome in three movements. The first and third movements are reversals of each other, and the middle section is palindromic all by itself. And a very pleasant piece it is, I must say. Another amusing thing about "Semordnilap Number 2" is that it is called "a trio for ___, cello and piano". There's a blank there because Knox says he will write a part for whoever the cellist and pianist wish to perform the piece with. (This version is performed with a French horn.) I have to love someone so simultaneously serious and goofy.

Posted by Francis at 02:47 AM

December 11, 2003

Font abuse

My nutritive intake lately has consisted largely of the fast food available within a block of the theatre my musical is playing at. One of those food sources is a Fresco Tortilla, one of those Mexican fast food joints that is actually run by Chinese people, and which features in its logo perhaps the most gratuitous overuse of fonts ever. Enjoy.

Posted by Francis at 10:38 AM

From the surreal spam files

I guess this spammer is just counting on people's natural curiosity when faced with something completely inexplicable. The subject of the spam is typical: "Penis Stretching". What was unusual about it was that it landed in my inbox instead of my spam folder. So, when I opened it so I could report it to Yahoo, this was what it read:

I'm so sorry! :)

Monthly newsletter from buymore

Today we feature thiscreative product Read your own compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

Remember You must play boldly to win. voice

like savings

[link to website deleted]

Mbae mi lukem yufala

Keep out of the suction caused by those who drift backwards.

I'm just waiting for TV commercials to reach this level of obscurity. I mean, sure, it's fun to watch ten seconds of someone sniffing a flower or whatever and play the "car commercial or not?" game, but I think Madison Avenue could take it to the next level.

Posted by Francis at 10:33 AM

December 10, 2003

Work is a grind

This is a job interview you do not want to go to.

Posted by Francis at 05:26 AM

Another brief misunderstanding

I'm still working on that same book of children's crosswords, and today the clue that stopped me short was 1-Across: "The answer to an addiction problem", 3 letters. Uh, rehab? No, that's too long. Not to mention inappropriate. I moved on to the crossing letters.

Soon I realized the answer was SUM, and that the actual clue was "The answer to an addition problem". I am still enjoying the mental image of kids needing to go to rehab for sugar addiction, though. "I think you've had enough pop rocks for today, kid." "I'll tell you when I've had enough pop rocks! Just keep 'em coming, or I'll take my loose change elsewhere."

Posted by Francis at 03:37 AM

December 09, 2003

More news about peanuts (uncapitalized this time)

A Wisconsin company is recalling 11,000 cheesecakes because their ingredients don't mention that they may contain peanuts. (Peanut allergies can be very serious, as all fans of "Freaks and Geeks" know.) However, given that these are candy bar cheesecakes, one might expect anyone who bought, say, a peanut butter cup cheesecake to figure out that it might -- just might -- contain peanuts.

Anyway, if they're just going to throw all those cheesecakes out, I'd be happy to take a few off their hands. Anyone who lives in Wisconsin want to check the curb in front of the Wisconsin Cheesecake Co. for me? It's cold up there, I'm sure they'll still be good.

Posted by Francis at 01:53 PM

December 07, 2003

A whale of a controversy...that's...not really all that controversial, when you get right down to it

I was recently reminded of Fudgie the Whale (a beloved Carvel ice cream cake, for those of you not in the know) while listening to Jonathan Coulton's terrific CD which you should all buy, and I thought I would attempt to help spread the word about something I can only describe as "shocking, if you are easily shocked". Or as "cake-related". I speak, of course, of Carvel's clandestine repurposing of Fudgie the Whale. Judge for yourself:

Fudgie.jpg Santa.jpg

Posted by Francis at 08:21 AM | Comments (1)

December 06, 2003

The most important endorsement yet


But it's not just the mouse. Goodness, no.

(Thanks to Eric Berlin for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 10:02 AM

Honoring the dead by not doing what they asked for

Sometimes people make the wrong decisions. Take Charles Schulz. He had gone on record as not wanting to have every single Peanuts strip anthologized. I mean, dude...maybe every single strip wasn't an absolute classic, but we're talking historical value here. It's not like millions of people haven't read those strips at some point. It was a pretty popular strip, after all.

Anyway, my friend Tarl reports that, happily, Schulz's wishes are being ignored! This is great news, especially for pack rat completists like myself.

Now if only the people overseeing the Dr. Seuss legacy were making such good decisions.

Posted by Francis at 12:09 AM

December 05, 2003

Most def

Jon Delfin comes through again, pointing out a swell article in Slate that rates college dictionaries. (An observation: I see that all the dictionaries are "college dictionaries" except for Merriam-Webster's, which is a "collegiate dictionary". Fancy!)

So here's the bit of the article that really hit home for me:

One of the primary differences among dictionaries is the extent to which they try to steer you away from disputed uses (Oxford American's "Frequency of misuse has not changed the fact that the spelling sherbert and the pronunciation/sher'bert are wrong and should not be considered acceptable variants" is at one end of the spectrum, and the laissez-faire attitude of Merriam-Webster's "sherbet/sher'bet/ also sherbert/-bert/" is at the other.)

(Sorry, I don't know how to make a proper schwa in html. But you get the idea.)

I grew up hearing "sherbet" as "sherbert" (although I have never spelled it that way, or, for that matter, ever seen it spelled that way except in dictionary entries like the ones above), and once I learned that it was officially not supposed to be pronounced that way, I became somewhat self-conscious about it, even though pronouncing it "sher-bit" just sounds completely weird to me. This is why I looooove the fact that the snootifying of frozen desserts has given us...sorbet. No controversy there. "Sor-bay". Aaaah. So refreshing.

As for the dictionary ratings, as a member of the National Puzzlers' League, I was, of course, pulling for the Merriam-Webster Collegiate, since that is our official dictionary of record...but you'll have to read the article to see how the competition turns out. Or at least click on the link and scroll down to the bottom.

Posted by Francis at 11:05 AM | Comments (1)

December 04, 2003

Well, kids mature faster than ever nowadays, you know

This week I'm proofreading a book of children's crosswords (after having just finished writing a book of quotation puzzles that will be shaped like a toilet), and I hit the clue "Kind of dancing", for which I happened to have two of the letters in the three-letter answer word already filled in. That word, then, looked like this: _ A P.

After a brief moment of disbelief, followed by another moment to get my mind out of the gutter, I realized the answer was TAP.

Posted by Francis at 01:27 PM | Comments (2)

December 03, 2003

As I always suspected, hot chicks who pose nude love me

Yes, I Google myself every now and then. Don't pretend that you don't do it too. And I Google my various projects old and new, like the Holy Tango of Poetry, which will periodically turn up some blogger who's just run across it for the first time. But dude, this is like the Holy Grail of Googling yourself: finding a nude model praising your work. (Scroll down to the comment with the pink background, about 3/4 of the way down.)

Scylla will also be pleased to know that many of the features that used to live at the Brunching Shuttlecocks website survive, albeit scattered to the winds.

Posted by Francis at 05:34 AM | Comments (2)

Open the doors of perception. Wait, no, the bunny ambulance. Open the doors of the bunny ambulance.

If you don't read Achewood, that is probably the reason you are sad and don't know why. And that will also mean that this link will be somewhat mystifying to you, but I still think that you will be amazed when you see...the Lego rabbit ambulance! It employs the principles of hopping instead of rolling.

What the heck is it I love so much about vehicles that are also animals, especially ones which inspire people to create replicas? Oh, I know. It's because they are awesome.

Posted by Francis at 01:36 AM