May 31, 2004

Ralph Nader: shitbag or fuckwad?

Columbine pointed me to this Village Voice article which reveals what we've all suspected for a while -- the real goal of that fuckheaded pimple on Satan's ass Ralph Nader in 2000 was to make Al Gore lose the election, and his goal in 2004 is to make John Kerry lose the election. Well, it's nice that Nader's life is so comfortable that if the rest of the country gets fucked up for decades it won't bother him too much. But I think we can all agree that, more than our votes, what Nader needs is to have his head stuck up an elephant's rectum while being prodded with tasers.

Posted by Francis at 02:21 PM | Comments (8)

May 30, 2004

Shots in the dark

Suddenly I've got a photoblog. Oh, well, such is the mercurial nature of this site. These are two pictures I took way back at the opening of the Brooklyn Museum's new facade, as we were leaving. I took advantage of the dimness to randomly take a lot of longer-exposure pictures in hopes that some would turn out interesting; these two did, I think.

The new fountain:
fountain.jpg

Cherry blossoms:
cherry_blossom_blur.jpg

Posted by Francis at 03:47 PM | Comments (1)

May 29, 2004

The cat who loved music

Our CD player has a particular trait: it gets pretty warm right on top of the CD tray. Therefore, because I figure my CDs should probably be exposed to as little extraneous heat as possible, I no longer pile CDs there. Put these two details together (warm spot, nothing piled on it), and you get this:

twyla_and_cds_01.jpg

The remarkable thing is that Twyla's been taking advantage of this spot between the precarious stacks of CDs for a while, and hasn't yet knocked any CDs down, despite the fact that she often turns around in place, and the area isn't quite as wide as might be ideal.

twyla_and_cds_02.jpg

Every so often I get nervous and relocate her. It is damn cute, though.

twyla_and_cds_03.jpg

twyla_and_cds_04.jpg

Posted by Francis at 11:55 PM | Comments (2)

May 28, 2004

Area Man Links to Something Someone Else Wrote, Somehow Believes He Is Thereby Providing Content

Mad magazine taking down The Onion seems, on the face of it, like Buddy Hackett critiquing Chris Rock. But it's actually pretty damn funny.

(Via A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago.)

Posted by Francis at 02:30 PM

Daniel in the interviewer's den

Daniel gets interviewed by Gothamist. And if he really wants absinthe, I know someone who can hook him up.

Posted by Francis at 01:50 PM

Value added, sort of

I swear to god, why do I ever buy CDs? Obviously I should just wait a few years (or less) until the inevitable rerelease. Hey, music industry! Could you take a few moments from your busy schedule of hassling the underprivileged to take some advice? It's nice that people who've never owned Jeff Buckley's "Grace" now have the opportunity to buy a souped-up version. But would it be so hard to release the bonus material as a separate CD?

Posted by Francis at 05:52 AM

Is that a telephone in your pocket, or is your hip just grotesquely swollen for some reason?

You know, this 1940s manual on proper telephone use is still surprisingly relevant today, although instead of "How to Make Friends by Telephone", a little editing could turn it into the much more useful "How Not to Make Enemies With Your Cell Phone". In particular, "Use a normal tone of voice" seems to be beyond most people.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Posted by Francis at 05:43 AM | Comments (1)

Referral log search query of the day

I sympathize with you tremendously, sir, whoever you are, but I cannot actually help you with your quest for relevant hits for "kate bush naked".

Posted by Francis at 04:12 AM

May 27, 2004

Thank goodness they're sugar-free

Here's a list of "the top 25 weirdest items you can purchase through Amazon". Such lists are always subjective, but surely we can all agree that sugar-free chocolate-dipped pork rinds are pretty damn weird.

(From Debby, via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

Posted by Francis at 03:49 PM

This is a joke, right?

If not, I know some marketing genius who deserves to get fired over the fact that there is apparently an actual drug named Soma. I swear, does no one take English classes any more?

Posted by Francis at 03:38 PM | Comments (4)

More stories of the aptly named

We here at Heaneyland hate the phrases "aptly named" and "aptly titled" (although when I say "we" I could be overstating the interest of my cats in the subject). Mind you, I have no problem with the phrase when something is aptly named for an unexpected reason, but when, for instance, the name of a chicken and mushroom pie is "chicken and mushroom pie", surely this does not require special comment, as if it were a quite remarkable thing to have a dish so named. It's perhaps even more delectable when the phrase appears in the headline, as in this article, whose headline can be paraphrased as "Award is named after the person it was named after". Here are some more recent instances of reportage of the unsurprisingly apt:

A horse disease called "strangles" (predictable etymology here):

Strangles is aptly-named because it causes lumps in a horse's throat, which then spread, in the form of abscesses, to the local nymph nodes thereby impairing a horse's breathing.

People still can't stop talking about how freakin' apt the song "Horn Intro" is on the new Modest Mouse album (also see the customer reviews here):

[The new album] is amazing, from the horn blasts of the aptly titled "Horn Intro," to the last song, "The Good Times Are Killing Me."

But wait -- the name of this triathlon doesn't mention anything about the fact that it's the newest area triathlon series! You call that apt?

TriStar Health Systems, parent company of Summit Medical Center, River Park Hospital and Hendersonville Medical Center, which are located in each race community, joined Team Magic as title sponsor of the area's newest triathlon series, aptly titled the TriStar Health System Triathlon Series.

I may be willing to forgive this one:

Covered in Bolshevik red carpeting, the aptly titled Communist Fuzzy LovBot battles the black-clad Iron Fist.

With that title, wouldn't it be better as an audiobook?

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's memoir, to be aptly titled Speaker, will be published this August -- timed to catch a bounce off the Democratic and Republican conventions.

Is the upcoming "Friends" spin-off, "Joey", aptly titled? I wish reporters would help me decide.

When the finale started at 9 p.m., the room went silent and all heads snapped toward the television to see if the predictions would come true. Would Ross and Rachel end up together? Would Monica and Chandler have their baby? Would Joey be able to set the scene for his upcoming spinoff, aptly titled "Joey?"

Actually, I'm pretty sure there's no question mark in the title of his sitcom, you copyeditors at the Newark Advocate, although that might imply a more interesting show, one in which Joey is constantly questioning his identity and is forever going on deep spiritual quests from which wacky hijinks ensue. (That final episode was aptly titled "The Last One", incidentally.) Anyway.

Then there are the instances of a phrase I'm going to put in quotation marks to make it seem more authoritative, "dubious aptness". My opinion is that almost every album title in the world falls into this category. Unless your album is titled "Live at [place in which I performed live]" or "My New CD", any aptness can generally be considered peripheral at best, or nonexistent at worst. Sorry, reviewers of Ben Kweller ("On My Way"), 8Ball & MJG ("Living Legends"), Peter DiStefano ("Gratitude"), and Ben Kweller again ("Sha Sha"? Seriously, what the fuck?).

This is only a tiny, tiny sampling of the many aptly named things in the world. More are being discovered every day. If you think you are aptly titled, please seek treatment.

Posted by Francis at 07:59 AM | Comments (10)

The Brood X files

If you don't have any cicadas in your neck of the woods, and would like to experience a little of that Brood X magic, here's a huge picture of a cicada (from Andrew Kantor) to haunt your dreams.

More important cicada information.

Posted by Francis at 05:25 AM

Eroica vs. erotica

Ah, the difficult lives of beautiful musicians. When will classical music learn to embrace its hot performers? Puccini would certainly be better with some Britney-style unison dancing, for instance.

Posted by Francis at 05:21 AM

May 26, 2004

Acrostics? More like acrapstics! (rimshot)

In case you missed it, The Book of Ratings recently featured two week's worth of reviews of pencil puzzles. Lore has some harsh words for mazes ("like word finds without the literacy requirement"), which probably means he's never tried these.

Posted by Francis at 04:37 PM

Strength of Your Nature

Here's a small gallery of works by Andy Goldsworthy, who makes transient sculptures out of found objects and photographs them. Very cool. (More here and here.)

Posted by Francis at 03:42 AM

If I've destroyed your evening's plans, my work here is done

If you liked Samarost and want more self-contained Flash games, you should also check out Tork and Chasm. If full-length computer adventure games are dying a slow death (witness the cancelled Sam & Max game), then short-story length mini-adventures are having a renaissance. If only computer game companies could learn something from this: 3-D graphics do not make your game better. Cartoons are fun. Puzzles are better than dialogue.

As corroborating evidence for my first point: Does anyone really think this looks better than this?

(Via Little Fluffy.)

Posted by Francis at 02:33 AM | Comments (2)

May 25, 2004

An unfortunate choice of name, too

Great, like clowns weren't scary enough already.

Posted by Francis at 08:32 PM

Rabbits and robots: update

Boing Boing pointed me to this collection of 1960s-70s ads for rabbit meat, all featuring the same doughy cartoon moppet mascot. In February 1970, the inevitable pun appears (scroll down to third item).

Posted by Francis at 04:48 PM

Killer ties

As a collector of neckties (although apparently not as motivated a collector as the fucker who outbid me for those two Rooster ties on eBay -- damn that lack of personal wealth!), it disturbs me to know that they can be little gardens of death, the Guardian reports.

Researchers found that nearly half of the ties worn by medical workers harboured bacteria which could cause disease.

Clinicians were eight times more likely to wear a tie carrying bacteria than by hospital security staff.

The Toronto Star gives more details, noting that the problem is twofold: doctors don't always wash their hands before adjusting their ties (and then they may touch their tie after washing their hands, potentially recontaminating them), and people rarely send out their ties to be dry cleaned.

In an interview, Nurkin said he began wondering about the possibility of contamination when he noticed swinging ties coming in contact with patient bedding, even patients themselves.

After all, earlier research had shown items doctors routinely carry ? pens, pagers, cell phones and stethoscopes ? are often teeming with all sorts of bugs. And cloth is known to harbour pathogens, which is why surgical staff change gowns between patients.

But whereas doctors now know to clean their phones and pagers, "the necktie, you don't," Nurkin said.

[snip]

No one is suggesting ties are modern-day Typhoid Marys in hospital settings. But they may be contributing, in a small way, to the spread of hospital-acquired infections, said McGeer, head of infectious diseases at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital.

"It's an indication of absence of handwashing and it probably is associated with some risk," she said, noting the last thing a tie-wearing doctor probably does before bending over to examine a patient is to tuck his tie into his shirt.

Sounds like good news for the tie clip industry, at least. Seriously, why does anyone think it's a good idea to wear a tie without a clip? I remember when I used to temp on Wall Street, and I'd see businessmen walking to lunch on windy days with their ties blowing over their shoulders. Here's the message that sends: "I like to pretend to be a grown-up, but I don't actually know how to dress myself."

(Via Boing Boing and Collision Detection.)

Posted by Francis at 03:07 PM in Ties | Comments (3)

Codex Larson

I really like it when people pander to my completist impulses. (I think I'll pass on the $800 leather-bound version, though. It just seems so disrespectful to the cows that have served Gary Larson so well over the years.)

Posted by Francis at 06:45 AM

I take yesterday's comments back. This cheese is proof god exists.

As you've probably noticed, I consume a lot of entertainment, and so I tend to be brimming over with recommendations for CDs, DVDs, that sort of thing. Today I wish to tell you all that you need to find yourself some ginger Stilton, because it is the greatest thing on the planet. To paraphrase The Road to Bliss: "It's my favorite." "Your favorite cheese?" "My favorite arrangement of molecules."

If you live in Brooklyn, they usually carry some at Sahadi's on Atlantic Avenue. The rest of you will have to fend for yourselves.

Posted by Francis at 04:02 AM | Comments (1)

May 24, 2004

Prepare to get in touch with your inner 4th-grader

This article about a baby monkey should provide some cheap, juvenile chuckles.

(Via Monkeywire.)

Posted by Francis at 02:18 PM

Francis fixes the universe, part 8

So although I'm an atheist, I think I have a fine idea for a new religious sect. Your average Western religion takes the entire Bible as the word of god, which leads to situations where you can't really get people into a discussion about their incredible homophobia because they have nothing against homosexuals, they love everybody, it's just that these people are sinning against the lord, you know.

Anyway, I think it would be useful if we (and by we, I don't mean me, because I think the Bible is generally a bunch of hooey, although that Christ fellow did say a few incisive things about how we should all not be such pricks to each other) could all start viewing the Bible as having been written not by a whole bunch of prophets who had a direct line of communication with god, but by a whole bunch of people who thought they had a direct line of communication with god. Perhaps they were correct...or perhaps they were just nuts. Lots of people think they talk to god. But we don't generally take their calls to arms against the TV anchormen that are spying on their thoughts seriously.

The mere fact that someone who thought god was talking to him thousands of years ago managed to convince other people of his opinion has no bearing on whether god was actually talking to him. I think if religious people had to actually stop and think about each part of the Bible and seriously ask themselves, "Word of god or crazy rant?", the world would be much improved.

Posted by Francis at 01:14 PM

And thus another 10 minutes was added to my schedule of goofing off

Another friend of mine, Jim Hanas, has succumbed to the blogging temptation. This is great news, because his blog already cracks my shit up. In barely a week, he's started a wiki to rewrite a Nathaniel Hawthorne story, and set up a moblog featuring pictures of people taking pictures of the Chrysler building.

Posted by Francis at 12:09 PM

Disc inferno

I believe this is exactly what appears in the "Worst-Case Scenario" book on the "accidentally bought a CD by any 'American Idol' contestant" page.

Posted by Francis at 03:50 AM

Why do so few utility belts come equipped with a spell-check ray?

Hey, this is like the comic book version of "How Weblogs Are Ruining My Life":

How to Make Your Own Journal, Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Also worth reading, from the same site: the worst review of Van Helsing yet, which is saying a lot.

Posted by Francis at 03:46 AM

May 23, 2004

Also, it would be an interesting experiment to see what would happen if you dissolved Bush in a saline solution

I wanted to comment on this on Friday, but then I left town for the weekend:

[Nancy Pelosi said,] "I believe that the president's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers."

[snip]

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay blasted Pelosi, casting her comments as detrimental to U.S. troops.

"Nancy Pelosi should apologize for her irresponsible, dangerous rhetoric," DeLay, R-Texas, said. "She apparently is so caught up in partisan hatred for President Bush that her words are putting American lives at risk."

Let me get this straight. Calling Bush incompetent puts American lives at risk? Well, looking at it logically...the Republicans have been claiming that Bush is competent for quite a while now, and that didn't make American lives be any less at risk. So since that didn't work, I say it's time to try something new. Let's get lots of politicians calling him incompetent for a while and see what happens. It's the scientific method!

Posted by Francis at 10:09 PM

May 22, 2004

For full Holmesian immersiveness, shoot up with heroin right before you play

I'm in Boston at the moment, where Cally has put me onto a game that is potentially very addictive, and one which I will therefore put off downloading for a while, because I got deadlines. But if you don't have such concerns, and you like logic puzzles, you may wish to consider giving Sherlock a try.

Posted by Francis at 02:40 AM | Comments (4)

May 21, 2004

Ongoing Development

If you were walking near my apartment and heard a sigh of relief, that would be because "Arrested Development" was renewed. I didn't have such high hopes, since, in my experience, shows I love don't last very long; or if they do last more than one season, they get jerked around by the network; or it may be that the reason they lasted so long was because I didn't start watching until the fifth season was in production, but after that, things went all to hell.

Posted by Francis at 06:06 AM | Comments (3)

How about a cat on stilts trying to cross a river by only stepping on turtles, except the turtles sometimes explode, and a little boy keeps throwing Frisbees at the cat? Does it need more?

Remember the cat-on-a-stick game? Turns out there are a bazillion other games (okay, ten) by the same people, featuring many cats or parts of cats in situations one would generally not expect to find cats or cat parts. Such as:

    Cat in a bouncing trolley
    Cat dangling from a balloon
    Decapitated cat head held by robot arms
    Cat in a slingshot
    Cat with a firehose, attempting to save life of other cat who is tied to several sticks of dynamite
    Cat scuba diving
    Cat on a seesaw which is, in turn, balanced on a fish

And more. I can't get the last game to work (although I don't know if its the game's fault or if I need a newer version of Shockwave or what), but it seems to feature a cat swinging on a rope.

The game with the cat dangling from the balloon is interesting; in each level you try to get your balloon to a goal area. Getting there with your cat alive earns you a 2000 point "cat safety bonus"; otherwise you receive the terse message, "cat died".

The most conceptually appealing game for me featured giant blocks tumbling across the screen, which kitty tries to avoid while picking up gems. Since kitty is stuck in a two-dimensional world, though, it cannot simply go around the giant blocks -- it must place itself, Buster Keaton-like, in a spot where the block will fall around it. The blocks are not perfectly rectangular, you see. I'm not especially good at this, but it's very cool.

These are weird, weird games. Of the rest, I enjoyed the bouncing trolley game (which I made it to the end of), but I can't really recommend the rest. They're certainly interesting to play once, for science, but that's about it. And the game with the cat tied to sticks of dynamite is just kind of sad and disturbing. Japan is a strange place.

Posted by Francis at 03:21 AM

May 20, 2004

And yet there is still no mechanism in place to prosecute the many crappy ripoffs of "The Far Side"

Christ almighty, it's "Seduction of the Innocent" all over again. There's been a new law proposed which would allow parents to sue anyone responsible for publishing something "harmful to minors" if it's marketed in a way that "a reasonable person can expect a substantial number of minors to be exposed to the material".

Obviously the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is nervous about this, since most people who don't read graphic novels have no idea that there is even a difference between children's comics and grown-up comics. Equally worrisome, "[The bill] appears to allow for civil actions against any, or every, member of the dissemination food chain, from the retailer to the distributor to the publisher, of work that an individual parent may object to." As if running a profitable business isn't difficult enough already.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Posted by Francis at 02:45 PM

And after she tried drying her dog in the microwave, she tried to cook a frozen veggie burger with her hair dryer

Debby points out that Of Charm and Strange currently has a very amusing ongoing dissection of urban legends, which starts here and continues haphazardly in recent entries here. It all reminded me of Modern Humorist's "Fright Bites", which also deconstructed urban legends. Two of the stories are by me, and one is Daniel's. The other authors do not have blogs and hence are invisible. Sorry, Tim.

Posted by Francis at 02:29 PM

My e-mail address is vast, it contains multitudes

Got some more spamments today. Most spamments include some unlikely-looking e-mail address; today's were particularly farcical. The address was:

nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info

Posted by Francis at 01:33 PM

All Hat Jazz

Not much new material to be had here this morning. Why not enjoy the comedic stylings of Men in Hats, an odd little comic pointed out to me a while ago by my friend Tarl. I didn't love it right away, but I went back to it later and suddenly found it much funnier. Perhaps you will also find it entertaining a month from now.

Posted by Francis at 07:13 AM

Waiting for the End of the Auction

Oh...it ended already. And no bids. I guess this means an Elvis Costello action figure isn't a great idea either. (But you could make him get into fights with the Bruce Thomas doll!)

Alternate titles for this post: This Year's Modeling Clay; Sculpted from Memory.

(Via CostelloNews.)

Posted by Francis at 03:27 AM

May 19, 2004

Let the MP3s in

If you have a high-speed internet connection and enjoy the music of the man who always makes Rose say, "Hmm...sounds like Bryan Ferry but I don't recognize it...is this David Sylvian?", here are two complete Sylvian shows, as well as his old band Japan's final concert.

Japan (Budokan, 1982)
David Sylvian (Toronto, 1995)
David Sylvian (Vredenburg, 2001)

(Via Largehearted Boy.)

Posted by Francis at 04:13 PM

Don't throw away your "Smile" bootlegs yet

A date has been announced for Brian Wilson's at-long-last release of "Smile": September 28th. Except it's not going to be a sifting of the existing takes with new bits worked in; it's all new bits. He's re-recording the whole thing. I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing (especially if he's still working with the Wondermints)...but it is true his voice isn't what it used to be. Still, I've got my bootleg Smile, and although I'm sure a Brian-compiled album would be slightly different, I think I'm actually more interested in hearing a clean, new recording.

Posted by Francis at 01:55 PM

I thought I was just going to play a quick game before I went to bed, but...

...then I got in the zone. (Note: this entry is mostly for Trip's benefit. Apologies to anyone out there who is not also a Tontie addict.)

tontie.jpg

Level 19. Whoo. I might be done for a while.

Posted by Francis at 07:01 AM | Comments (15)

Jesus must be turning over in his grave. (If you believe in the divinity of Christ, assume he has returned to his grave for the sole purpose of rolling over in it.)

I was going to blog about how the Bush administration is a theocracy, and Texas doesn't think Unitarianism is a religion, but Columbine's already got running discussions on both those topics, so why not head on over and join the conversation?

Posted by Francis at 05:16 AM

Hit me with your rhythm stick

In case you've been wondering what erstwhile Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford has been up to lately, there's a terrific article that'll bring you up to speed. In a nutshell: he's still playing jazz. He's still good at it. He has a new album which I'm looking forward to hearing, but if you want one CD to convince you that former prog drummers can put out great jazz albums, I recommend 1997's "If Summer Had Its Ghosts", a collaboration with Eddie Gomez and Ralph Towner which will fail to bliss out only the most callous of listeners. Of his Earthworks material, I'm particularly fond of "All Heaven Broke Loose", which you should also pick up if you trust me implicitly in all music-related matters -- as who does not?

Posted by Francis at 05:10 AM

If Schwarzenegger ever runs for president, I say we nominate Jon Stewart to be his opponent

Jon Stewart recently gave a commencement address at his alma mater (William and Mary), where he received an honorary doctorate:

I am honored to be here and to receive this honorary doctorate. When I think back to the people that have been in this position before me from Benjamin Franklin to Queen Noor of Jordan, I canít help but wonder what has happened to this place. Seriously, it saddens me. As a person, I am honored to get it; as an alumnus, I have to say I believe we can do better.

Read the full text here. (It should be noted that "terror" is, in fact, a noun, despite Jon Stewart's statement to the contrary. I guess he really wasn't that good a student.)

(Via Stereogum.)

Posted by Francis at 02:19 AM | Comments (1)

Have you noticed that this scandal is so serious, no one has even tried to attach the word "gate" to it?

As the Army, CIA, and Senate all start acting like they're willing to hang Bush out to dry, we're also starting to hear the first use of that magic word that brought Nixon down: "cover-up".

I wonder if Republican senators are starting to wonder if Bush is a lost cause (see item 5 on that page), and if perhaps, for once, the right thing to do and the career-preserving thing to do are one and the same.

Posted by Francis at 02:09 AM

May 18, 2004

Make Way for Packets

Rose pointed me to this page, written by the man who created the "ping" command for UNIX. It tells the story of the command, but more importantly (or more amusingly, anyway), it also features a great Amazon customer review of the children's book "The Story of Ping" (about halfway down the page), which reviews the book as if it is an allegory for the ping command. Brilliant.

Posted by Francis at 04:57 PM | Comments (1)

The Compassion of the Bush

If anyone ever asks George W. Bush what he's done for the black community, he can honestly say, "I stood next to them."

(Via Monkey Disaster.)

Posted by Francis at 05:54 AM

Have you heard...the most offensive joke in the world?

South Park is always funnier when the obscenities aren't bleeped. Here's a short segment (not from the TV show) in which Cartman tells the filthiest joke ever. (The link is safe for work. The video is not safe anywhere.)

(Via TMFTML.)

Posted by Francis at 05:46 AM

They're fairies, they're married, get used to it

Diesel Sweeties solves the problem of all those religious zealots who can't stand the idea of homosexuals getting married -- we just need to get a better god. Meanwhile, John Scalzi hasn't noticed his marriage failing, although he has noticed some lame-o comments.

Posted by Francis at 05:00 AM

"What a lovely ring!" "Thank you, it's my great-aunt."

Here's a company that can create diamonds from carbon gleaned from the cremated remains of your loved ones. It sounds so much like a hoax, but if it is a hoax, it's one that's been reported as fact in multiple news sources. Here are some quotes from the site:

To create your LifeGem, we now place this graphite in one of our unique diamond presses replicating the awesome forces of nature - heat and pressure. The longer the press time, the larger the rough diamond crystal that results.

"The awesome forces of nature" is a little hyperbolic, but at least they don't describe the process by saying "it's just like a great big hug that lasts for eighteen weeks."

You can also immortalize your pet.

Why choose a beloved pet LifeGem?
Because I?ll always remember...
how you preferred a milk jug to an expensive toy.

And the only way for me to remember that is with an expensive diamond.

As noted by the Cremation Association of North America, the U.S. cremation rate is on the rise from its current position of 26% to a forecasted rate of 36% by the year 2010.

And we believe we have just found a way to solve the problem of cremation not being so profitable to the funeral industry.

Oh, it's all just so gruesome. Why not just wear their teeth around your neck? Anyway, I don't need to be turned into jewelry. Just preserve my brain in a jar and I'll be fine.

(Via New Yorkish.)

Posted by Francis at 01:24 AM

May 17, 2004

We are the tiny, adorable champions

Have you seen plasticine Queen figurines? Keen!

Posted by Francis at 04:02 AM

A painful admission

You know what? Maybe "The Simpsons" really is just getting worse every year.

I've been a staunch defender of the Simpsons franchise; my arguments tend to be along the lines of: oh, maybe it's not quite the same show it was in its heyday, but it's still damn funny, and it has such a rich tapestry of supporting characters that there's always some new and interesting character interaction to be had.

But...there's still this feeling that instead of deconstructing the history of cartoons (and pop culture in general) and commenting subtly on the real world, the show is now concerned mainly with deconstructing itself and using real world issues as touchstones for one-liners.

Perhaps its inevitable that the former is going to happen in a show with such a long history, especially in a show as dense as "The Simpsons". But what's the excuse for the recent episode that featured a subplot about an activist who believed that childless people shouldn't have to shoulder so much of the tax burden of people with children (by paying for public school upkeep and such). The show made her so over-the-top in her opinions -- such an obviously misguided villain -- that the issue itself was rendered practically null as a source of comedy.

I mean, it's a complex issue. Obviously everyone benefits from having children educated, so they're less likely to become miscreants and more likely to become productive members of society, but does that everyone should contribute an equal amount of money to the cause? I feel pretty sure that the Simpsons of 7 years ago, in addition to tweaking the activist for being selfish (albeit not right away, by making the activists proposals start out reasonable and become more and more ridiculous, instead of kicking in immediately with the absurdities), would have made Marge or some other parent the butt of some jokes, having them called out for assuming that they're just entitled to have other people paying for part of their kids' upkeep.

MARGE: But it benefits everyone to contribute to the schools! You don't want children to grow up to be delinquents, do you?

BART: Ix-nay on the elinquent-day, mom.

Or whatever. The point is, the episodes just aren't very deep nowadays. This is probably due to the fact that Simpsons episodes are almost never about a single thing anymore. (Although, to be fair, when they do stick to one thing -- like the Evita episode -- they usually work very well.) The one-dimensional activist character couldn't really have been any more complex because she wasn't introduced early enough.

It's true I haven't felt this pessimistic about the Simpsons for the whole season, so perhaps I've just happened to watch all the weakest episodes of the year in a row. But I think anyone would be pessimistic after seeing an episode (not the same as the one I've been harping on) which makes a running gag out of a kiss between Homer and Milhouse. [Shudder]

Posted by Francis at 02:28 AM | Comments (3)

I cannot make a judgment on that unless you send me a photo

Dubious Referral Log Search Query of the Day:

sex with cousin bad?

Posted by Francis at 01:46 AM

May 16, 2004

Trix Nix Clix

Boy, Variety really knows how to get people to subscribe to their website: lure them in with a compelling lede.

Posted by Francis at 12:42 PM

Who says there's a lack of communication in the Bush administration?

A Google news screen shot from yesterday. Well, I guess a lot can change in 11 hours.

(From ztbb.)

Posted by Francis at 11:23 AM

Trivial matters

Sorry for the dearth of blogging this weekend, but I left town Friday afternoon to attend the Williams trivia competition, a twice-yearly event that runs from midnight Friday to 8 AM Saturday. Since I normally stay up until all hours of the morning, this was practically a regular evening for me.

The Williams event is similar in spirit to the MIT Mystery Hunt, although much shorter, much less rigorously themed, and faster-paced. The core of the event involves listening to the college radio station, where the DJ reads a trivia question (and, in the case of our event, mispronounces half of the words; I shall always remember "salmon mousse" coming out as "Solomon Mouse") which is then followed by a song. You get one point for answering the question and another point for identifying the song. The answer and song are usually thematically related somehow, so getting one of them will often help with figuring out the other. For instance, one question we had was, "In 1996, who was the heaviest chess grandmaster?" The song was Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine", and the answer was...Deep Blue, weighing in at 1.4 tons. (Previous competitions' questions are archived here. The questions from Winter 2003 are particularly good.)

There are also lots of other things going on simultaneously with the radio trivia. Bonus puzzles are released hourly, and there is also "action trivia", where team members run over to the radio station and perform silly skits upon a given theme. The most entertaining moment of the night for me was putting together "next week's Strong Bad e-mail". I got to trot out my Strong Bad impersonation and led Strong Mad, Strong Sad, and the Cheat in a trivia contest. Strong Mad prevailed, because Strong Bad happened to ask two questions that could both be correctly answered by Strong Mad yelling "Douglas!!!" (running gag from the cartoon).

The most surprising thing about the evening was that it turned out the beloved-by-Pitchfork Wrens were playing a free concert on the Williams college campus that Friday night. We didn't find out about it until the show was almost over, but we made it in time to catch one great song and one tedious we've-been-playing-awhile-and-now-we-just-want-to-fuck-around-and-make-sloppy-noise song which obviously didn't do much for us. The first song was good enough to make me interested in following Pitchfork's advice and buying their latest album, though. We were also amused by the lead singer's (paraphrased) comment that "We've been a band for a long time...We used to think we were going to be bigger than U2, and obviously that's never going to happen, but this is ten times better than that could ever be!" The lead singer doth protest too much, we thought.

Posted by Francis at 10:38 AM | Comments (3)

May 14, 2004

Don't you want me (to tell your fortune), baby?

If you don't follow all my comment threads, you might have missed this link to the 80s tarot. (If there was a tarot card called "The Cannibal", I'm sure Roland Gift would have made the cut.)

Rose, of course, has been following the progress of the knitting tarot with great interest.

Since Amber has already covered two of our household's fandom niches, may I also suggest the Babylon 5 tarot?

Posted by Francis at 02:41 PM | Comments (3)

More toilet humor

It's an origami pile of crap!

(Of course, Joseph Wu's origami is generally much more impressive. And freaking hard to fold. I took a class to learn how to fold the head of this elephant and it nearly melted my brain. Still not as hard as this swan, though.)

Posted by Francis at 05:50 AM

The many titles of my book

Japan thinks it is called Holy Tango: Literary Parody in Anagrams.

Amazon thinks it is called The Holy Tango of Verse.

As it happens, the actual title is either "Many Many Line Drawings of Kate Bush Naked" or "Holy Tango of Literature", one or the other. I'm also jazzed to point out that Richard Thompson will be contributing illustrations (either of Kate Bush naked or of various poets and playwrights); no, not that Richard Thompson, this Richard Thompson.

In other book news, my toilet-shaped puzzle book is also viewable at Amazon. It is perhaps worth noting that the cover of "Holy Tango" may feature T.S. Eliot holding a roll of toilet paper, and that I was also a contributor to the upcoming second volume of the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader puzzle book series. This all makes me feel that the next project I work on should really be completely unrelated to toilets.

Posted by Francis at 05:38 AM | Comments (1)

I'm turning "political issues" into a personal issue

From an AP story:

Presidential candidate John Kerry said Wednesday the war in Iraq is a failure and that a shake-up is needed to end the Bush administration's mistakes and incompetence, a sharp critique that sparked more Republican criticism that the Democrat is making the war a political issue.

Uh...what? Could we finally start calling bullshit on people complaining about "making (something) a political issue"? Because it seems to me that just about anything the government decides to do...(pause for full weight of contempt to sink in)...is a political issue.

We've demonstrably fucked things up in Iraq. The question of whether Bush is up to the job of fixing the fucked-uppedness that he helped cause is a valid one. When the Republicans plug their ears and go LA-LA-LA-LA-LA instead of attempt to argue the point, they just look like they already know they can't win the argument. Are people really taken in by that?

Posted by Francis at 02:02 AM

May 13, 2004

Damn the inadvertent neologisms, full speed ahead

This is perhaps already an old chestnut to many people, but today marked the first time I heard this quote from George W. Bush. It is truly the Holy Grail of weird Dubya malapropisms:

It's in the interest of -- uhh -- uhh, long-term peace in the world that we -- uhh -- work for a free and secure and peaceful Iraq. A peeance, freeance secure Iraq in the midst of the Middle East will have enormous historical impact.

Can't believe Bush actually said the nonsense words "peeance" and "freeance"? There's an MP3 of it here (scroll down a bit or just do a text search for "peeance"; it's not a word that comes up so often).

The thing that makes this quote so very special is that I kind of have no idea what he was actually trying to say. "Peaceful, free, secure Iraq," maybe? Still, that is so far from what he actually said...it's inexplicable. Maybe he's just inventing street slang on the fly, like Snoop Dogg.

Posted by Francis at 06:10 PM | Comments (2)

He makes a good Viking, but a crappy adverb

Another entry in the "what could they have been searching for?" files, from my referral log:

Hagar the Horrible adverb

Posted by Francis at 06:02 PM

Wait...are you telling me the RIAA might not be being completely straight with me? Go on with you.

Turns out the RIAA's claims of dropping sales only hold up if you measure "sales" in an ass-backward fashion:

There is only one logical integration of all these statistics with the recent Soundscan data: even though actual point-of-purchase sales are up by about 9% in the US - and the industry sold over 13,000,000 more units in 2004 (1st quarter) than in 2003 (1st quarter) - the Industry is still claiming a loss of 7% because RIAA members shipped 7% fewer records than in 2003.

Forget the confusing percentages, here's an oversimplified example: I shipped 1000 units last year and sold 700 of them. This year I sold 770 units but shipped only 930 units. I shipped 10% less units this year. And this is what the RIAA wants the public to accept as "a loss."

So the RIAA is counting units shipped to stores and acting like what they're counting is actual sales. Meh? Seems to me that not only are they making more money from sales, they're losing less of their profits than they normally would because they're printing less CDs that don't sell!

(Via New Media Musings)

Posted by Francis at 05:56 PM

I kind of thought Andre was already a cartoon

Also from Pitchfork comes this report that Andre from OutKast is developing a series for Cartoon Network. Maybe he can use his new cartoon influence to get the Peanuts people to lay off "Hey Ya, Charlie Brown" (although this site still knows a few places you can find it -- though who knows for how long).

Posted by Francis at 04:49 PM

Perhaps I'll have my first album released 30 years from now

Holy crap, there's a new album by Rocket from the Tombs! This fact will probably not excite most of you without any context, of course. RFTT was David Thomas's pre-Pere Ubu band (the part of the band that didn't become Pere Ubu became the Dead Boys). They never put together a proper studio recording, so...they decided to fix that, re-recording their old material with a reconstituted lineup. Original guitarist Peter Laughner is dead, but his replacement is one of the best rock guitarists around, Television's Richard Lloyd, so there's probably no drop-off in quality there. This is damn exciting.

(Not to be confused with Rocket from the Crypt.)

Posted by Francis at 04:36 PM

Not the kind that want to eat your brains

Hey, there's a new Zombies album! Mind you, it doesn't sound like it'd be all that different from the Rod Argent/Colin Blunstone album from a few years back (is it really the Zombies if Chris White isn't there?), but I liked that album and I'm glad there's another. Now if only they'd release those suckers domestically. Using Amazon's typically ridiculous import pricing system, you can either buy the new one as an import for FORTY DOLLARS!!!, or get it directly from the UK for about $15 plus shipping. It's like they're preying on people who aren't clever enough to realize that other countries also have stores.

Posted by Francis at 02:36 PM

Lemurs are not stupid

Well, I never said they were! Still, good to know.

(Via Monkeywire.)

Posted by Francis at 01:44 PM | Comments (1)

Three out of four doctors recommended something, I forget what it was

Lots of spamments today about medications. Some of them appeal directly to their potential customers' baser instincts, like these two:

If you like generic firoicet you will love this drug. Its called butalbital and its sweeping the pill popper inner sanctum like wild fire.

You know sleeping pills can be addictive right? Did you know Ambien gets you high?

Reprehensible as those are, they do at least make some ham-handed attempt to sell the drugs they advertise. But who in the world would ever be convinced by this?

I love tramadol even though I have no idea what it is. And this sentence is just filler for the drug.

Posted by Francis at 01:50 AM

More on Peanuts

Here's an article about Schulz's widow and her decision to reprint the strip despite her husband's ambivalence/antipathy toward such a project.

Posted by Francis at 01:41 AM

May 12, 2004

Rumsfeld: from the youngest Secretary of Defense to the oldest Secretary of Defense to the suckiest Secretary of Defense

Trip informs me that a San Francisco composer has set some of Donald Rumsfeld's remarks to music.

"What we show in the songs is that we believe that Rumsfeld is telling a story that doesn't hold up ó that he is trying to sell a war that is not justified," Kong said. "These classically based forms are a great way of doing that."

Well, that's fine. But you what what? This is funny and all, but I honestly think I have had enough ironic responses to Rumsfeld. I am more interested in seeing him run out of town on a rail than in laughing at his incoherence and slipperiness.

Posted by Francis at 07:01 PM

Peanuts, get your Peanuts

As I mentioned here a while ago, the complete Peanuts is being released (against Charles Schulz's wishes...but if ever a dead man's wish was meant to be ignored, it's this one), two years at a time. As soon as I'm done with the new Get Fuzzy, I'm ready to start reimmersing myself in Peanuts. Anyone know when the second volume is actually scheduled for release? Amazon has it available as a preorder, but doesn't give a release date.

Then there's this box set, which seems odd...a box set for two volumes of a series that spans decades? It is, however, cheaper than buying both volumes separately, so one could order it and discard the box.

Posted by Francis at 05:13 PM

The Republicans are such pills sometimes

Columbine alerted me to this cartoon depicting the well-thought-out process by which the FDA decided not to approve the morning after pill.

Posted by Francis at 03:15 PM

I know, you know, we all know for Eno

Brian Eno -- the man whose job it is to take a band and change their sound -- is turning his attention to a band that is in serious need of innovation, New Order. Eno's also cowriting songs with David Byrne again, according to this article in the Sunday Herald -- which can only be a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. Makes me want to go listen to Remain in Light right now. Too bad I'm about to go to sleep.

(Via EnoWeb.)

Posted by Francis at 06:20 AM | Comments (1)

Van Lear Quotes

A lot of people come to shows wearing Loretta Lynn T-shirts. The last generation, someone told me, is the first to like the same music as their parents.

Jack White and Loretta Lynn talk about her new album. I can kind of take or leave the White Stripes, honestly -- I like them fine, but I don't find them nearly as innovative as the rest of the world does -- but thank god for Jack White as a producer. This is the first country album I've fully enjoyed since "Absolute Torch and Twang". (The later k.d. lang albums are fine, too...they just stop being country albums from "Ingenue" onward.)

Posted by Francis at 05:53 AM | Comments (1)

Escapism

Just finished reading the Amazing Adventures of the Escapist (even though Amazon thinks it hasn't been released yet), and...it's okay. Michael Chabon contributes one story, an introduction, and a pseudonymous essay to this little Kavalier and Clay souvenir (for those unfamiliar with the book: the Escapist is the superhero created by the title characters), and Glen David Gold (author of the terrific Carter Beats the Devil) also writes one tale. Glen's is the best in the book, but is still a little half-baked.

The problem is, although Kavalier and Clay was excellent, and featured complex, believable characters, the Escapist is not a very deep creation. There's not that much a writer can really do with him, and we never get emotionally invested in his story. He's kind of a cipher. This didn't matter in the novel; there, of course, it was basically received wisdom that the Escapist was a classic comic and a wildly popular one. It's hard for an actual comic to live up to that. This problem arises in just about any story -- movie, book, whatever -- about a genius; it's always much better if we can avoid having to see the ostensible evidence of their talent. "Mr. Holland's Opus" comes to mind.

The book does have a certain freewheeling charm, with its attempts to touch on genre stories from different eras, but that's the whole M.O. of Alan Moore's Tomorrow Stories, and honestly, Moore does it much better. It's still not high art all the way through (I could do without the First American stories), but there's just more joy in Moore's deconstruction than there is in the Escapist. Greyshirt, Moore's homage to Will Eisner's Spirit, is particularly enjoyable.

The Escapist book also reminds me of McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales (edited by Michael Chabon), an attempt to revitalize the world of genre stories. It also has its weak moments (Harlan Ellison doesn't hold up very well in this company, alas), but with more authors working in a format that suits them better, it kind of can't help but be better than the Escapist collection.

(Of course, I also highly recommend both Carter Beats the Devil and Kavalier and Clay...although I suggest that if you read them both, that you not read them one after the other, because they cover similar eras and subject matters. I kind of had to get past the deja vu I felt upon starting the second of the two before I could really enjoy it.)

Posted by Francis at 12:37 AM

May 11, 2004

Geez, another trend I managed to get in on just as it was going mainstream

Some people scoff at bloggers because they're not presenting "real" news. But I'd be willing to bet that someone who reads nothing but newsy blogs is better informed than someone who gets their information from local newscasts. Especially local newscasts about blogging.

(Thanks, Debby!)

Posted by Francis at 01:42 PM | Comments (1)

Everybody who's ever been in the joint knows you don't want to drop the cat

Just when you think you've seen pretty much every possible video game mechanic, someone comes along with something like this: a game where you grab gems while balancing a cat on a stick...hovering above the ocean...while trying to avoid electrified barbed wire fences...as a bird tries to drop eggs on your cat. Really, though, it's the cat on a stick thing that sets it apart.

Not a great game by any stretch, and certainly too frustrating to be especially addictive...but interesting. Definitely interesting.

(Via Little Fluffy.)

Posted by Francis at 12:57 PM | Comments (1)

May 10, 2004

No, I can't explain why I decided to blog about this

Rabbits and robots. Robots and rabbits. Yes. Here we go:

Robot bunny and non-robot bunny.

The Rabot.

Download Mechabunny for free. (Scroll down.)

This one will water your lawn as it slowly drives you insane.

A story about a robot who loses his robot rabbit (second-to-last item).

Dude -- RoboBunny will kick your ass.

This Robo Rabbit only exists in a show-within-a-show. It's a meta-mecha-rabbit! (Towards the bottom of the page.)

Here's a supervillainess who built a Rabbit-Robot (no pictures of the robot, though -- anyone have any?).

Rocket Rabbit, hero of San Fiasco.

Everyone remembers the Muppet Show's Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his faithful sidekick, Beak--um, I mean, his robot rabbit, right? Right?

(Here is a close-up of Bunsen's rabbitbot.)

This bunny is not a robot himself, but a robot teaches him a valuable lesson, or something.

Build your own mechanical rabbit (hopping type). Or just watch the video.

Well...I guess $825 isn't such a crazy price for a gazebo filled with animatronic bunnies. Oh, wait -- that's just for the piano player? Is the gazebo even included? Fuck you, Hamberger displays. Fuck you.

If you do not think mechanical bunnies are important, Simo will change your mind.

Tokli, the 3-D virtual dancing robot bunny (geez, I feel like there must be more modifiers I could add to that), and how he came to be.

"A crazed fabric robot bunny with a dick is spraying it out while a soda ejaculates too." (It's a t-shirt. Sorry. I know it would be much better if it were a working robot.)

And, of course, this entry would not be complete without the Robo Bunny sex toy.

This has been...robots and rabbits. Thank you. Enjoy your day.

Posted by Francis at 07:29 AM | Comments (3)

This Might Be Helpful

...to all the people coming to my blog via Google searches about They Might Be Giants' upcoming album "The Spine": a full track listing has been posted, apparently leaked by "a reliable source". I'm looking forward (hell, I'm looking fast-forward) to having copies of "Experimental Film", "It's Kickin' In" and "Stalk of Wheat" that I can listen to at my convenience. I'm a little sad to see that "No Plan B" and "Renew My Subscription" didn't make the cut, but maybe they'll show up on the companion EP. And I used to not be such a big fan of "Museum of Idiots", but it finally came together for me at the last Joe's Pub concert, so I guess I've seen the light on that one.

Download a remix of "Am I Awake" (original version on "Indestructible Object") and a live version of "Museum of Idiots" here (after you read through their downloading policy).

Posted by Francis at 04:45 AM

May 09, 2004

Save a prayer for the morning after pill

In further news of the Bush administrations contempt for individual freedoms, the FDA did not approve the morning after pill, going against the recommendations of their own science advisors. Why?

The FDA cited concern about young teenagers' use of emergency contraception without a doctor's guidance...

Warned in February of that concern, Barr offered a last-minute proposal to allow nonprescription sales to anyone 16 and older ó and make drugstores check ages and demand a prescription from younger teens.

In its decision late Thursday, FDA said the company didn't provide necessary details on how such a program, never before tried, would work. It urged Barr to either provide more information to determine if the program would be legal and doable ó or provide data showing younger teens could handle nonprescription use.

Ah, I see. We'd rather have more teen pregnancy rather than allow teens to prevent unwanted pregnancy without having to tell people about it. I also see "the FDA came under months of intense political pressure from conservatives who argued that unfettered access could encourage more teen sex." Well...if that's the case, why aren't condoms illegal? Don't they just encourage teens to have sex?

Come to think of it, what about cigarettes? We don't want teens to have those, and they're not illegal. And don't stores that sell cigarettes check your ID if you look young? Checking ages hardly sounds like something "never before tried". And you can't tell me that cigarettes are less harmful or more necessary than contraceptives.

Another bit that made me squint: The FDA "urged Barr to...provide more information to determine if the program would be legal and doable". Why is the burden on Barr to determine what's legal? Doesn't the FDA have the ability to make that determination itself?

But perhaps I shouldn't get so overwrought. I see that "the agency stressed Friday that it will reconsider [its] decision if given more data." Well, in that case, here is some data they should consider:

YOU PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS.

Posted by Francis at 03:35 PM

Bring the fried foods to me

This lucky bastard lives around the corner from a Chinese restaurant that sells a cheese steak roll. I am filled with a powerful envy.

Posted by Francis at 02:55 PM

Adverb trouble

I got an amusing spamment today:

hi all! thanx for this topic - it's quitely indeed..

I absolutely love the phrase "quitely indeed". The redundancy and meaninglessness of combining "quite" and "indeed", the delightful decision to append the adverbial ending -ly to a word that is already an adverb -- it has everything.

Unrelated to that, but also in the realm of "things that have only come up as subject to write about because I have a blog", today marks the second time someone has found my blog via a Google search for "Johnny Depp" + "facial feminization surgery". Do they think he's had work done? Honestly, people, he's just pretty! Deal with it!

Posted by Francis at 02:06 PM

War and yeesh

I've been sort of avoiding blogging about the whole business of U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi detainees, because it just fills me with such fury I can hardly think straight.

Of course, that's not the only emotion it fills me with. Sure, when I hear that people in the military have known about the abuse for months, I'm livid that they did nothing to stop it...but I'm also baffled. Like, I tend to assume that Rumsfeld et al. are all Machiavellians -- so wouldn't it be obvious to everyone that if abuses were occurring in Iraq, they needed to be stopped immediately to avoid the sort of PR disaster they're experiencing now? Even if they care nothing for human rights (which they're not doing a very good job of disproving), how could they be so short of enlightened self-interest to let this sit so long?

And also on the enlightened self-interest tip, how boneheaded is it for Bush not to ask for Rumsfeld's resignation? To say, well, mistakes were made, but Rummy's doing a great job -- if there's anyone alive for whom the current administration didn't already seem like a crony system where the only thing rewarded is loyalty, well, this has probably helped them start to see things that way. Or so I can hope.

The New York Times' strongly-worded editorials have been somewhat cathartic, but then I learn something new and I get aggravated all over again.

Torin Nelson, who served as a military intelligence officer at GuantŠnamo Bay before moving to Abu Ghraib as a private contractor last year, blamed the abuses on a failure of command in US military intelligence and an over-reliance on private firms. He alleged that those companies were so anxious to meet the demand for their services that they sent "cooks and truck drivers" to work as interrogators.

[snip]

"A unit goes out on a raid and they have a target and the target is not available; they just grab anybody because that was their job," Mr Nelson said, referring to counter-insurgency operations in Iraq. "The troops are under a lot of stress and they don't know one guy from the next. They're not cultural experts. All they want is to count down the days and hopefully go home. They take it out on the nearest person they can't understand."

"I've read reports from capturing units where the capturing unit wrote, "the target was not at home. The neighbour came out to see what was going on and we grabbed him," he said.

According to Mr Nelson's account, the victims' very innocence made them more likely to be abused, because interrogators refused to believe they could have been picked up on such arbitrary grounds.

For lots, lots more on these matters, I second Columbine's recommendation that you check out Respectful of Otters, who makes this excellent point, among others:

Which brings me to the Stanford Prison Experiment, which my brother, among others, has urged me to write about here. In the 1970s, a social psychologist named Phil Zimbardo converted the basement of a Stanford building into a makeshift prison and randomly assigned psychologically healthy young men to play "prisoners" and "guards." Within days, a sick and abusive "guard" culture had developed, and "prisoners" had become cowed and submissive. Zimbardo actually had to stop the study after six days because the abusive behavior of the "guards" had gotten so far out of control. (I'm not going to discuss his repellent lack of experimental ethics, except to say that no one would be allowed to do this study today.)

What does the Stanford experiment tell us about Abu Ghraib? I don't think it absolves the low-level MPs from moral responsibility, but it should steer us away from explanations which depend on their moral exceptionality. The Stanford experiment tells us that there needn't have been anything psychologically or morally deficient about these MPs at the outset of the war, just as the "guards" in Zimbardo's experiment were psychologically indistinguishable from "prisoners" when the study began.

If anything, the Stanford study damns the leadership of the 800th MP Brigade even further than they've already been damned. We know that, in the absence of continuous training, supervision, and strict controls, people given absolute power over others will tend to become vicious. No one in that chain of command has any business acting surprised that their failures of leadership led to exactly what anyone who's taken Psych 101 at any time since the mid-1970s could have predicted.

Indeed. If we harbored any honest hopes of bringing democracy to Iraq, we had a responsibility not to abdicate our responsibility to treat Iraqis as fellow human beings; the lack of oversight is appalling.

Arrrrrgh. Enough of that. We return you to our regularly scheduled obsessive discussion of pop music arcana.

Posted by Francis at 12:26 AM

May 08, 2004

It's stylized Japanese theater, Charlie Brown

Hey, I'd watch kabuki theater if Vince Guaraldi wrote the music.

(Via Making Light.)

Posted by Francis at 02:13 PM | Comments (1)

Talkin' about my generation's personal computers

If you grew up in the 70s, this animated ode to the computers of yesteryear and the games children played on them will warm your heart. Doubly so if you're British and recognize, like, any of the games the song mentions. It's called "Hey, Hey, 16K".

The link comes from Collision Detection, and it's worth following the link back to read his entry about it, which includes some interesting commentary about how the world back then was collectively deluding itself that the main attraction of computers for most people was something other than playing games on them.

Posted by Francis at 04:49 AM

Fast Friends

Many people in the blogosphere are wondering why NBC started and ended the finale of Friends at crazy times (8:59 to 10:03). My theory is that this would increase the possibility that people would miss the beginning and/or the end of the show, and thus increase their temptation to buy the Friends finale DVD that NBC is releasing on Tuesday. I do wish that TV series would get released on DVD quicker than they do, but this is a little ridiculous.

Posted by Francis at 04:39 AM | Comments (6)

May 07, 2004

Found and found

This past weekend I went to the book release party for Found, a book that collects items previously seen in Found magazine, which in turn consists of, as you might expect, found objects. One might even call it an aptly titled book.

Anyway, the day of the party, I happened across a wealth of found objects myself. Perhaps the upcoming event made me more aware than usual of things on the ground; I don't know. But now I can share my bounty with you.

I found this first item just after leaving the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's cherry blossom festival, right at the entrance to Prospect Park. One of the events was a haiku reading, so it's possible this was one of the haikus that was read, or one written by someone attending the event. Or maybe it was just a haiku that fell on the ground -- who can say?

found-haiku.jpg

As I was walking home from the garden through the park, I ran across this item, a girl's kneepad with Disney characters on it. Or, rather, crude unlicensed attempts to reproduce Disney characters, protected by a see-through plastic shell.

found-kneepad.jpg

Later, on my way to the subway as I was heading to the party, I found this card, which I must confess is not all that funny:

found-card-inside.jpg

The thing that amuses me is that this extremely prosaic note was written inside a Monet greeting card, instead of just dashed off on a scrap of paper. I like the formality of that.

found-card-outside.jpg

So the party was fine, although given that it was on a boat, and all the attendees were then stuck on that boat for two hours, I would have made an effort to have snacks available on the boat. Anyway, two days later, I found this note, which I will leave you with.

found-note.jpg

Posted by Francis at 05:29 PM

Scavengers on the loose

I want in on this. It sounds sort of like a Mystery Hunt, except only the really goofy parts (which are generally the highlights). Want to read more? Here are some articles about last year's event.

Posted by Francis at 04:50 PM | Comments (1)

May 06, 2004

This started out as me going on about Los Lobos, and then I got distracted

Damn, this new Los Lobos album kicks ass. The Rolling Stones wish they had put out anything nearly this good back when Mick was turning 50.

This album, of course, features guest spots by many other favorite musicians of mine, including Cafe Tacuba (did I mention you need Cuatro Caminos? because you do), Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson, and Tom Waits. The Tom Waits song is perhaps my favorite track on the album; he co-wrote the song, and it has a loopy experimental charm that hasn't come across so fully on a Los Lobos album since the title song from "Colossal Head". And, of course, I suspect there isn't a song in the world that wouldn't be improved by having Richard Thompson play guitar on it. Actually, if I can just sidetrack completely and trouble you with some Richard Thompson-related recommendations...

David Thomas of Pere Ubu's first solo album featured, somewhat incongruously, Richard Thompson on lead guitar; the result -- a style clash between David Thomas's haywire vocal delivery and Richard Thompson's technical prowess -- is very memorable. It works brilliantly although it clearly should not. The album's out of print by itself but is included on the David Thomas box set -- which might also be out of print, actually, but you can buy used copies on Amazon. Richard Thompson is also featured prominently on the Golden Palominos' superb "Visions of Excess" -- also (criminally!) out of print. Try half.com. Come on: Michael Stipe, Richard Thompson, John Lydon, Syd Straw, and Arto Lindsay? Just buy it and stop arguing. That Golden Palominos album is how I first found out about Moby Grape (via their cover of "Omaha"), but Moby Grape is a whole other story, and perhaps I've digressed enough by now.

Posted by Francis at 01:43 AM

May 05, 2004

I'm sure this whole no-pubic-hair law will come as a surprise to many people I know

TMFTML uncovers the story of a woman who seems to be a magnet for reporters who want to write about pubic hair.

This Straight Dope entry (scroll down to the third question -- contributed, coincidentally, by a friend of mine) seems to simultaneously contradict and corroborate her complaints of how good old English genital hirsuteness is frowned upon here in America: the strip bar only wants unshorn amateur strippers (score one for us), but the woman in the audience was shaved and needed to borrow a house merkin to disrobe (score one for the UK).

Posted by Francis at 01:43 PM

Francis rocks the house

Just a reminder to any Brooklynites out there that I'm playing a 30-minute opening set for Life in a Blender this Thursday -- tomorrow -- at 7:00 sharp at Barbes, in Park Slope. Many MP3s by me can be found in the sidebar to your left; for a sample of Life in a Blender, you can download their song "Mobile Wash Unit" here.

For people who don't like clicking on links, here's the info on how to get to Barbes. It's at 376 9th Street; take the F train (ride in the Manhattanmost car) to 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. Exit at the southwest corner exit, make a U-turn, walk downhill on 9th Street towards 6th Avenue. Barbes is on your left most of the way down the block, a couple of stores in from the corner of 6th Avenue.

There is no cover charge for the show. A hat or hat substitute will be passed around at some point, however.

Posted by Francis at 02:12 AM

May 04, 2004

Also, he keeps changing his name, it's very confusing

Some people have been viewing the RIAA's lawsuits against illegal downloaders with a leery eye, wondering if the recording industry really has the best interests of musicians at heart. Well, this story should put an end to such speculation. By confirming it.

Major recording companies have agreed to return nearly $50 million in unclaimed royalties to Sean Combs, Gloria Estefan, Dolly Parton and thousands of more obscure musicians under a settlement announced Tuesday.

A two-year investigation by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office found that many artists were not being paid royalties because record companies lost contact with the performers and had stopped making required payments.

Here's my question: how hard is it to find Sean Combs, Gloria Estefan or Dolly Parton? These are not hermits. They are celebrities. "Oh, well...we would have paid Mr. Combs his royalties, but...he moved." Come on.

Posted by Francis at 04:00 PM

Words, words, words

Two items from Boing Boing that will be of interest to fellow word geeks:

Someone wrote a script to produce lists of words that are spelled using the same numbers on a telephone keypad, to see how irritating it could potentially be to use a predictive text program which attempts to guess what word you're typing on your cellphone. It gives me an idea for a puzzle type -- the telephonym, two phrases that can both be spelled with the same numbers on a telephone, but in which the two phrases never have the same letter at the same position.

Meanwhile, over here, we have an archive of bad Scrabble racks which aggravated the people who drew them so much that they felt a need to photograph them. (It's unclear how many submitters there are; at least two.)

Posted by Francis at 12:40 PM | Comments (3)

Get Krafty

Kraftwerk, like so many musical acts nowadays, is planning a massive reissue series. My reaction to news like that is generally determined by two factors: (a) Is this a band which I need to own every last bit of material by (and there are quite a few of those, believe me)?, and (b) have I already bought all their freaking albums on CD?

So I'm okay with the Cure's reissues, for instance, because almost all the Cure I own is on cassette, from way back in my high school and college years, when I didn't own a CD player. The Elvis Costello reissues I'm a little irritated by, but I'm sucking it up. But how about Kraftwerk? Well, I don't own any of their albums on CD...but that's because I'm not actually all that interested in Kraftwerk.

Oh, it's shameful, I know. Of course they're very influential. And I do like their "Radio-Activity" album, so I'll probably buy that when it comes along. But I'm pretty much always more willing to listen to a band influenced by Kraftwerk than Kraftwerk themselves. So perhaps I'll spend my money on this collection of Kraftwerk cover songs performed by a salsa band instead.

Posted by Francis at 05:03 AM

And, come to think of it, he would've also been an excellent speechwriter for Nixon

I humbly suggest this man take over when William Safire retires.

Posted by Francis at 04:32 AM | Comments (1)

They don't have the Qwert Iggle in stock either, unfortunately

Do you need a bazooka that fires straitjackets? Are you finding Amazon and Froogle no help in this matter? Look no further than the Acme catalog, my friend.

Tangentially, I think the guy who built this vehicle and dreams of having it crowned the fastest single-wheel vehicle on earth is going to have some stiff competition from Acme's rocket-powered unicycle.

(Via Making Light and Collision Detection, respectively)

Posted by Francis at 04:19 AM

Indolence loves company

Trip has managed to sap my productivity very efficiently by pointing me towards this very addictive, very evil little game, from the same people who brought us Grow. It's called Tontie. I've gotten to level ten...once. Come and feel our pain.

Posted by Francis at 02:53 AM | Comments (11)

May 03, 2004

Speaking of fonts

Check out this story about font designers in the woods. It's Camping With Chank!

Posted by Francis at 05:41 PM

Fear of a Cooper Black Planet

It has the format of something fake, and yet it provides factual information. It makes my head spin, I swear! Anyway, fellow font dorks of the world, please enjoy Behind the Typeface.

(Via Boolean Esperanto.)

Posted by Francis at 05:35 PM

You can put your pants back on now

...because the aforementioned Songs To Wear Pants To archive is back online.

Posted by Francis at 04:14 AM

Rock the vote (but not in the good way)

I'm having a hard time getting up the energy to be witty about the fact that nothing's really been done about that whole expurgating-felons-from-voter-rolls-except-they're-not-necessarily-felons-but-better-safe-than-constitutional, because it's just so infuriating.

Willie Steen was one voter purged from the Florida voter rolls in the 2000 election.

Steen's case was easy. You can't work in a hospital if you have a criminal record. (My copy of [Florida Secretary of State Katherine] Harris's hit list includes an ex-con named O'Steen, close enough to cost Willie Steen his vote.) The NAACP held up Steen's case to the court as a prime example of the voter purge evil.

The state admitted Steen's innocence. But a year after the NAACP won his case, Steen still couldn't register. Why was he still under suspicion? What do we know about this "potential felon," as Jeb called him? Steen, unlike our President, honorably served four years in the US military. There is, admittedly, a suspect mark on his record: Steen remains an African-American.

Still couldn't register? What does one have to do to get back on the voter rolls after being taken off? I would think winning a court case would be sufficient. It's reminiscent of the problems people have had when they found themselves mysteriously added to no-fly lists. I hope to hell we get ourselves an administration that actually gives a shit about voting reform or we're going to end up with a problem to rival terrorism -- a democracy no one has faith in.

Posted by Francis at 02:21 AM

Mea sorta culpa

So there's this author, okay? Micah Ian Wright. No, I hadn't heard of him either. But apparently he put out a book of anti-war posters last year that sold reasonably well, and he described himself in the book as a former Army Ranger. Okay. After being tipped by some actual Army Rangers (and perhaps by my use of the word "actual" you can sense where this is going) as to doubts about whether this fellow had actually served, the Washington Post did some checking and found out he hadn't. The author, when confronted and asked to provide proof of his service, confessed.

"I feel awful about it. It was a lie that just grew and grew and grew," Wright, 34, told us Friday. He said mounting combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, including that of Ranger Pat Tillman, compound his sense of remorse: "I plan to make a public apology on my Web site."

So I checked his website to see if his apology had been posted yet. It had. Oddly, for someone who claims remorse, he spins his apology as if the decision to confess had been his all along:

So why come clean now, you ask? Why shouldn't I continue on, seeing how far I can push it? Well, frankly, I'm sick of it. I'm sick of lying to my friends, to employers, to my fans, to myself. I'm not a Ranger. I've lied to so many people about this that it's made me physically ill. I havenít been able to sleep and Iíve just about given myself an ulcer. It's all become too much. I'm stopping the lies.

Also, if he told the Washington Post on Friday, April 30, that he was planning on posting an apology to his website, implying that he hadn't posted it yet...why is his apology dated April 25? Has this guy learned nothing about getting his story straight?

(Via Tom Tomorrow.)

Posted by Francis at 12:22 AM

May 02, 2004

Unfortunately, Rose was out of town, so we couldn't celebrate properly

I missed it by a day, but it's not too late to download Jonathan Coulton's ode to "The First of May".

Posted by Francis at 02:23 PM

The directrix

Apparently Larry Wachowski is going to get a sex change operation; he's been living as Linda for a while. Good for him. And lucky for him that he's a hugely successful film director, because those sex change operations are expensive. Since he can afford it, he should also probably spring for facial feminization surgery from Dr. Ousterhout or one of his students. Someone pointed me toward the many pages featuring his handiwork last year; I wasn't nearly as impressed with the results from other doctors.

(Wachowski item via Gothamist.)

Posted by Francis at 12:17 PM

If you flee to Vancouver, I recommend the sushi at Tojo's

"I don't know anyone in the executive branch of the government who believes that it would be appropriate or necessary to reinstitute the draft," Rumsfeld said last month.

Of course, since when has the current administration done anything because it was either appropriate or necessary? Exactly. So you can see why I might worry.

Posted by Francis at 01:38 AM

May 01, 2004

Qwert Iggle

I found another nonsense item at Amazon today: the Qwert Iggle. The thing that sets the Qwert Iggle apart from the Qwert Shmarble and other related items is that it provides a link to a product manual.

Posted by Francis at 11:29 AM | Comments (2)

I love the 80s

Behold how much I trust you, my readers, in confessing to you that I have now compiled not one, not two, but eight mixes of songs from the '80s. The goal of these mixes is to give me an 80s fix for those moments when I need to hear synthesizers and affected vocal techniques, but don't want to just hear songs I know by heart. So when I began the project, I started looking for more obscure 80s bands. One-hit wonders, no-hit wonders, or even the odd band-that-was-great-that-I-somehow-managed-to-totally-miss-at-the-time (that would be China Crisis). Of course, even I sometimes like to hear songs I've heard before, so I do throw in the periodic old favorite -- the Human League's "Fascination" or "Change" by Tears for Fears, say.

Anyway, if you wish to plumb the depths of the 80s with me, here's the track list for the most recent mix; you can find the rest of them here.

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

David Byrne stories

So the new David Byrne CD, Grown Backwards, has been getting played a lot here this week, although, honestly, it's not as good as Look Into the Eyeball was. (It does have a surprising connection to another CD I bought this week, the new They Might Be Giants single -- they were both recorded by Pat Dillett; and, yeah, some of the horn sections on the new David Byrne CD sound downright TMBG-ish.)

Part of the reason the new David Byrne just isn't as exciting as the last one is that, well, after you've released a CD that's a stunning return to form, what can you do? You've already had your stunning return to form. Now the best you can do is keep it up. The rest of the problem is that a lot of the melodies on the new CD are incredibly reminiscent of songs from the last one. You can practically sing "The Neighborhood" in unison with the new song "Civilization". It's unfortunate. (And the cover is yet another big close-up of David Byrne's head, but I think that's gone past unoriginal and has turned into a tradition.)

The highlights are worth it, though. I loved the string section he had with him on tour last year, and it's great to have them featured on so many songs. (I wish he had included live versions of "I Want to Dance With Somebody" and the string-section version of "Life During Wartime" as extra tracks, but that's another story.) And his duet with Rufus Wainwright on an aria by Bizet? I honestly think that ought to be the single. It's terrific. If the CD had arrived in time, I might have made that song my selection for Music Club. (My actual selections, if you're curious, were Quruli and the Ukrainians.)

But all this David Byrne action is making me want to drag out some old Talking Heads CDs to listen to, and there are some Talking Heads LPs I have never bothered to repurchase on CD. Admittedly, they're not the most important chapters in the Talking Heads oeuvre, but I am an obsessive completist. I might pick up Naked, which I like better than most people do, but I think I would like the current fad for reissues to catch up with True Stories before I repurchase it. Even David Byrne wishes he hadn't released the album with his vocals replacing the vocals of the actors from the film. Well...it seems like that is fixable. Release the album as a double CD. On CD one, put the original album, then a pause, then follow it up with the film versions of the songs that featured different vocalists. CD two can be "Sounds from True Stories", a charming and completely forgotten collection. I'm not sure it was ever even issued on CD. Come on, music industry. Get it together. (Or at least give me a job compiling reissues.)

For those of you who've stuck it out to the end of this Byrne-a-thon, here's a reward. An old Talking Heads live cover version of 1910 Fruitgum Company's 1-2-3 Red Light". Enjoy it until I cruelly take it away in a few days. (A few days came and went, and I was soft-hearted...but those days are now gone.)

Posted by Francis at 01:37 AM