July 31, 2004

The leash is sort of ambiguous

Spotted by Rose on Red Lipstick, it's Dog Toy or Marital Aid? (I know marital aids may be reclassified as dog toys once the dog has chewed on them. That doesn't count.)

Posted by Francis at 11:34 AM

July 30, 2004

Mo' blogging, mo' problems

Yes, we had some new and exciting technical problems, but they are fixed now, thanks to people who understand this crazy interinfowebnet whatsit. Apparently some of our "permissions" got "reset", which "fucked shit up". Back to our regularly scheduled ranting about things most people probably wonder why I care so much about.

Posted by Francis at 04:03 PM

July 28, 2004

I think you ought to know I'm not feeling very depressed

Drew tipped me off that the first teaser for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie is now available to make your (and my) fannish heart go pit-a-pat in anticipation. Actually, I've already been getting psyched, because Rose and I have been watching The Office, and Martin Freeman is going to make a terrific Arthur Dent.

Posted by Francis at 07:05 AM | Comments (1)

Sleeves go with record albums, not MP3s, people

I know that every time I find myself listening to MP3, I'm wearing the same jacket. At home, on the subway, in winter or summer, whatever color my outfit is -- always the exact same jacket. So it seems practically inevitable that someone would invent a combination jacket-and-MP3-player. With a generous storage capacity of [cough, cough] 128 MB, you can't afford not to own one! Oh, wait...I meant you can't afford to own one. Because it costs $730.

Posted by Francis at 01:30 AM

The dog ate my server. Now if I could only get him to eat Ann Coulter as well.

Let's just imagine we had one of those "Experiencing Technical Difficulties" signs up yesterday afternoon, shall we? Now let's see if I can remember the things I wanted to blog about.

Oh, well, there was that whole Ann Coulter thing. She was supposed to be writing a series of columns for USA Today, covering the Democratic National Convention. After she turned in her first column, they cut her loose.

"It was just differences over editing of a fairly ordinary kind," USA Today Editorial Page Editor Brian Gallagher told Editor & Publisher. "We had some different conceptions of what the column should be, we tried to work them out and when we couldn't, we decided the best course of action was for us to go our own ways."

Whereas I imagine that, in fact, they simply weren't expecting the level of crazy ranting that Coulter was about to dump in their laps. Here's an excerpt from her column:

My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie-chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention.

Christ. Talk about your trenchant political commentary. You can read the rest of that column at Coulter's website. Here's another quote that really defines the rabid conservative rhetorical style for me:

Looking at the line-up of speakers at the Convention, I have developed the 7-11 challenge: I will quit making fun of, for example, Dennis Kucinich, if he can prove he can run a 7-11 properly for 8 hours. We'll even let him have an hour or so of preparation before we open up. Within 8 hours, the money will be gone, the store will be empty, and he'll be explaining how three 11-year olds came in and asked for the money and he gave it to them.

Let me see if I've got this. Dennis Kucinich is risible to Ann Coulter because, in her mind, he would do a poor job working retail. And this proves what, exactly? That has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with Ann Coulter's biases. I can point to lots of things George W. Bush has done since he's been in office that I believe make him a piss-poor president, and perhaps you will disagree with me if you are not fond of your personal freedoms, but at least I am basing my opinions on fact. To say I feel George W. Bush wouldn't make a good president because, say, I don't think he could figure out how to do a hanging indent in Microsoft Word -- that's meaningless.

Anyway, we all know that if Bush ran that 7-11, it would also be empty, because he would have given away all the merchandise to rich people in order to stimulate the economy.

UPDATE: Tahnan thoroughly deconstructs the crazy Coulter essay (which I fantasized about doing, but was too lazy to follow through on). Rebuttals abound.

Posted by Francis at 01:11 AM

July 27, 2004

Outline for the day

Another cartoon from my sketchbook.


Posted by Francis at 06:29 AM

Operation Desert Spa

I'm pretty vehemently anti-plastic surgery (except for, you know, actual reconstructive surgery -- I ain't that militant), so this news makes me sad:

The New Yorker magazine reports in its July 26th edition that members of all four branches of the U.S. military can get face-lifts, breast enlargements, liposuction and nose jobs for free -- something the military says helps surgeons practice their skills.

Yes, that ought to help doctors treat crooked noses on the battlefield. I can only imagine the military is expecting Iraqi soldiers to say, "You know, I was planning on killing those soldiers...but they're just too handsome."

Posted by Francis at 06:24 AM | Comments (2)

July 26, 2004

Featuring the Not-Ready-for-Metropolitan-Diary Players

Fellow riders of the F train may be familiar with the shambling black man who walks from car to car with an electric guitar and a tiny portable amp, who generally always plays "Redemption Song" (or sometimes "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"). Recently I saw him get into a shouting match with a subway panhandler. The guitarist crossed paths with the panhandler as he entered the car, there was some interaction I couldn't interpret, and then the panhandler started shouting, "Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!" to Redemption Song Man at the top of his lungs (making everyone who had given him money on his pass through our car start questioning their decision, clearly).

R.S.M. loudly replied -- from the other end of the car -- that if Fuck You Panhandler wanted to start something, R.S.M. was ready for him. A lot of "What is your problem?" and "Yeah, you're quiet now! You better not mess with me!" ensued. (The F.Y.P.'s half of the argument consisted pretty much of nothing but "Fuck you!" until he petered out.) Finally a conductor appeared and said, in a placating tone, "Hey, Bob Marley. You know I love you. But you need to let the birds fly. You know what I mean? Let the birds fly." R.S.M. thought he was asking for a request, and said he didn't know that one, and the conductor leaned over and whispered in his ear something apparently to the effect of how R.S.M. should not get into screaming arguments with people and to just let it go, man, let it go. R.S.M. thanked him sincerely and moved on.

Posted by Francis at 12:41 PM | Comments (1)

July 25, 2004

One fine day

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists gave a swell free concert this afternoon (well, yesterday, I guess, now that it's 2 AM) at the East River Amphitheater. I showed up at 5:10 or so, in time for the end of the previous band's set (they were the Natural History; I liked what I heard); Ted Leo ended up going on at about 5:30.

Today's show contrasted dramatically with my unpleasant experience at the Siren festival, which was painfully overcrowded and featured crappy sound. The crowd was small enough that even though I arrived (as I did at the Siren festival) just before the last band was about to start, I ended up standing about 10 feet from the stage. I could also have sat in any number of seats in the amphitheater, but I wanted a close-up view of the guitar fingerings, because I am a dork. And despite some technical woes (Ted's effects box died early in the show), the sound mix was excellent. And the band rocked. Ted is one of those guitarists who gets all twitchy and hyper when he solos; he looks like he is constantly in danger of twisting an ankle. Three new songs got played (all winners), and a cover of "Suspect Device" by Stiff Little Fingers. For an encore, three enthusiastic young audience members got invited up on stage to sing along with "Ballad of the Sin Eater". Fun.

I'm just glad the show happened at all, since there seems to be a curse involved whenever Ted Leo tries to play a free show. Last month he played at South Street Seaport and got rained out halfway through the set, and the previous year his concert coincided with the big blackout (although he managed to play anyway, by plugging in the amps in a Starbucks truck). After all that, overcast skies and a busted effects box seem like pretty minor problems.

(Treat yourself to a download of "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone" here. Or just take my word for it and buy his latest CD.)

Posted by Francis at 02:16 AM

July 23, 2004

Cheney is still convinced Saddam is hiding scissors somewhere

Rock, Paper, Saddam is not a variation of Rock, Paper, Anything (scroll down), but it does have some of the same freeform style. Skip the flash version, which is just the photos from the web page flipping by at speeds which are not always optimized for comic timing.

(Thanks, Debby!)

Posted by Francis at 12:38 PM | Comments (2)

July 22, 2004

He meant "suppress" in the good way

A Republican State Representative in Michigan, John Pappageorge, was recently quoted as saying, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election."

"I'm extremely disappointed in my colleague," state Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit, told reporters Wednesday during a conference call. "That's quite clearly code that they don't want black people to vote in this election."

Blacks comprise 83 percent of Detroit's population, and the city routinely gives Democratic candidates a substantial majority of its votes.

The amusing part is watching Pappageorge trying to spin the whole thing.

Pappageorge said he had not read the remark attributed to him but did not deny making it.

"In the context that we were talking about, I said we've got to get the vote up in Oakland (County) and the vote down in Detroit. You get it down with a good message. I don't know how we got them from there to "racist,"' Pappageorge said. "If I have given offense in any way to my colleagues in Detroit or anywhere, I apologize."

So let me get this straight. You get the vote down...with a good message? I am open to suggestions as to what positive message would prevent people from voting in a presidential election. Here are some possibilities.

"Voting is beneath you, Detroit!"

"Treat yourself to a fancy dinner at home this Election Day!"

"We care about what you have to say. And that's why, if you simply lean out your window and yell the name of the candidate you wish to vote for, we will make a note of it."

Posted by Francis at 10:49 PM | Comments (2)

Also, he attacked a bunch of Lutherans before someone corrected him on the spelling

TMFTML comes up with the best headline in quite some time.

Posted by Francis at 12:06 PM

Hip hip hooray

I am not sure how Target got so hip that Maggie Gyllenhaal would attend the opening of one of its stores, but it happened.

Gawker's article also features a long, unattributed quote from Laura Gilbert, a fellow former Modern Humorista (now apparently working at Maxim). Why no attribution? Is she too hip to publicly admit she's unhip enough to shop where all the hip people are shopping for hip unhip things? I'm sorry, I think I broke myself with that last sentence.

Posted by Francis at 11:05 AM | Comments (2)

July 21, 2004

You want to go where everybody knows how to knit

Rose, who's been on the lookout for a place to open a yarn store for a while, has finally found a location. It could be open for business within a month!

My job, of course, is to make the store's mix CDs. If anyone has any other skills to volunteer, I'm sure Rose would be only too delighted to have you chime in.

Posted by Francis at 05:39 PM

Each molecule of the shake is covered with a microscopic sugar glaze

Debby points out that Krispy Kreme will soon be offering a glazed doughnut-flavored frozen beverage. Let's see...730 calories for a large? That's about an hour on the treadmill...that could work.

Posted by Francis at 12:08 PM | Comments (1)

Classic mock

The thing about songs you've had memorized pretty much since you learned how to talk is that they predate your critical faculties. Anyway, for some reason, a complaint about "Yesterday" popped into my head today, after years and years of this lyric getting a free pass:

Why she had to go, I don't know, she wouldn't say
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday

Hmmm. Perhaps the reason she had to go had something to do with the fact that you...said something wrong? Just a theory.

Posted by Francis at 02:53 AM | Comments (12)

Second-hand music

Sometimes it seems like everyone I know has ADD. (Probably the actual amount is only 90 percent.) Anyway, if songs longer than 40 seconds really try your patience, this is the CD for you. Perhaps I can get "Five Fat Guys" (a mere 27 seconds!) onto Volume 2.

(Via Songs to Wear Pants To.)

Posted by Francis at 02:51 AM

July 20, 2004

Ability to Write Internal Rhymes, 10, Menacing Looks, 3

I would surely love to win a Les Paul guitar, but I doubt my ability to make a "guitar face".

The term might not be familiar, but the image definitely is — that look guitarists get when trying to nail a high note or power chord.

Now a new contest will determine who has the best “guitar face” — and the winner could be someone who has never held a six-string.

“You can hold up a tennis racket, pretend it’s a guitar and still enter,” said Jesse Raiford, director of programming for the on-demand television service Mag Rack, which is sponsoring the contest. The prize is a Les Paul “Black Beauty” electric guitar and case.

I would like to think that a guitar that swank would at least go to someone who, oh, knew how to play guitar, but hopefully the percentage of people who enter the contest merely because they own heavy metal T-shirts and are good at squinting will be low.

Next: a contest which will award a free piano to the pianist who does the most egregious job of humming the music while they play.

Posted by Francis at 04:23 AM | Comments (2)

Why don't you come to your senses?

Linda Ronstadt made the mistake of saying nice things about Michael Moore at a concert in Las Vegas last night, during her encore.

Ronstadt's comments drew loud boos, and some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air.

"It was a very ugly scene,'' Aladdin President Bill Timmins told The Associated Press. "She praised him and all of a sudden all bedlam broke loose.''

Timmins, who is British and was watching the show, said he didn't allow Ronstadt back in her luxury suite afterward and she was escorted off the property.

He didn't allow her back in her suite? What the fuck? Didn't she have luggage?

While Timmins has said he refuses to let Ronstadt play at the Aladdin again, this isn't quite as dramatic as it first sounds, since she wasn't contracted to play there regularly; this was a one-shot concert.

The thing that ticks me off the most about this story is actually a specific line from the AP article:

Ronstadt's antics "spoiled a wonderful evening for our guests and we had to do something about it,'' Timmins said.

Antics? Antics? Antics are when Mark E. Smith drunkenly knocks an amp into the audience, or when Courtney Love...well, when Courtney Love does pretty much anything. Expressing political views does not constitute "antics".

As for Timmins's stated reason for his decision to give Ronstadt the bum's rush, would he also have had her escorted off the premises if she had been totally off key during her performance of "Desperado"? "Her sloppy interpretation of the Eagles' 1973 classic spoiled a wonderful evening for our guests and we had to do something about it." Come on, man. Have the strength of your convictions, at least.

Posted by Francis at 04:11 AM | Comments (2)

July 19, 2004

Get your pause off me

Charles has a theory about why Bush speaks like someone from a Pinter play, except without the British accent.

Posted by Francis at 04:05 PM | Comments (1)

Pencil me in

Couldn't think of any text-based content this morning, so you get a cartoon instead.


Posted by Francis at 06:39 AM | Comments (1)

July 18, 2004

If music be the food of blogs

Rose and I tried to go see Death Cab for Cutie last night at the Siren festival in Coney Island, but the sound was for crap. After about a minute of thinking, well, we can't see over the heads of all the tall guys in front of us, it's a little claustrophobic, and the speakers just sound muddy, we bailed. Since I only had time to see one band out of the zillions that were playing, it might have been smarter for me to come earlier in the day in hopes that the crowd would be smaller (I would also have been happy to see TV on the Radio, for instance), since presumably the sound was better closer to the stage.

Next week there's Pere Ubu on Thursday, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists on Saturday, both of which I am very psyched about. Unfortunately, Ted Leo's scheduled on the same day as our Shakespeare reading group, but Twelfth Night is a quick read. And then They Might Be Giants are playing on Friday the 30th. I'll be camped out early for that one.

(What's that? You wish to buy CDs by Death Cab, TV on the Radio, Pere Ubu, Ted Leo, and They Might Be Giants? I am here to help.)

Speaking of music, lately I have been trying to complete the following analogy:

The Cure:2004::______:1989

By which I mean, you know -- the Cure is a band that was making incredible music in 1989, but that was also the year they totally peaked. Since then it's been a slow decline, with a series of pretty good to not so pretty good albums featuring a few tracks that made you remember what a fine band they used to be (I really like "End" from Wish and "The 13th" from Wild Mood Swings, for instance).

So...in 1989, what band (or singer) had been in a slow decline for 15 years or so, but was still cranking out albums for a dedicated fan base that clearly didn't want to admit that they'd mostly lost it, despite their ability to still write a memorable song now and then? My best answer is...Jethro Tull. Jethro Tull kicked ass in 1972 and then failed to reliably kick ass thenceforward. Well, except for 1977-1978, when they surprisingly released two terrific albums (Songs from the Wood and Heavy Horses) after a series of albums featuring, respectively, three minutes worth of hooks stretched out to one pretentious album-length song (A Passion Play), ambitiously baroque prog-folk that could not possibly be less catchy (Minstrel in the Gallery), a dippy concept and weak lyrics (War Child -- still the best of the batch, though), and embarrassing posturing (Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die). After Heavy Horses, it pretty much all went to shit, and by 1989, they were treading more water than Jesus Christ out for a jog. So there you have it. I say The Cure is to 2004 as Jethro Tull is to 1989. Any other theories?

(Actually, although I haven't tracked a copy down yet, I am told that the Jethro Tull Christmas Album from 2003 is quite good, so perhaps the Cure will surprise us all in 2018 with a big comeback. Maybe a Halloween album.)

Posted by Francis at 11:23 AM | Comments (8)

July 16, 2004

Bummer of '39

Another cheerful game from the Cokesbury Game Book.


The players sit in a circle and the leader, also seated in the circle, starts the game. The whole atmosphere must be that of tragedy and horror. Any player who "laughs, grins, or shows his teeth" must retire from the game. The object is to see how many players can remain for as many as four rounds. When players have been retired from the circle, there is nothing to prevent them from trying to upset the decorum of other players in the circle with humorous antics.

The leader begins the game by handing some object, a book or a beanbag, for example, to the player on his right. This player says, "What is this?" The leader answers, "A bomb," and shudders. Number two now passes the "bomb" on to the next player who in turn says, "What is this?" Number two does not answer immediately, however, but turns to the leader and says, "What is this?" The leader replies again, "A bomb," and shudders. Number two then says to number three, "A bomb," and shudders. Number three now passes the object to number four who puts the same question as the others. Number three passes the question back to number two, and number two to the leader, and again each one in turn must reply, "A bomb," and visibly shudder. So the bomb goes around the circle for the first round.

For the other rounds the following dialogue may take place:

Q: How many did it kill? (Shudder.)
A: An unknown number were blown to bits. (Shudder.)

The dialogue for round number three might be:

Q: Were the dead identified? (Shudder.)
A: They were too mangled for identification. (Shudder.)

The dialogue for round number four might be:

Q: Is the bomb harmless now? (Shudder.)
A: No, it may go off any minute. (Shudder.)

Posted by Francis at 06:40 PM | Comments (1)

Hey, I was a social outcast before you were born, bucko

Happily, the person who recently commented on my goth entry has an IP address from the UK, far far away from me.

Posted by Francis at 05:50 PM

I just called...to say...I'm encased in concrete

Jason Shiga (a cartoonist my friend Martha introduced me to, when she gave me a copy of his swell -- but brain-melting -- interactive comic book, "Meanwhile") created a weekly comic strip for "Asian Week" called "Fleep", which was set in a phone booth. A phone booth encased in concrete.

This was not a joke strip. It had an ongoing storyline...that took place in a phone booth encased in concrete. Every week.

"Asian Week", you may be unsurprised to learn, cancelled the strip before the end of its storyline. I mean, I really love Jason Shiga's willingness to experiment, but I think even arty ol' me could have predicted that this strip wouldn't end up beloved by his editors or the reading public in general.

Anyway, the complete strip is online now, if you want to check it out. Not as good as "Meanwhile", but certainly interesting.

(Via Incoming Signals.)

Posted by Francis at 06:41 AM | Comments (1)

Follies of 1939

Here's a game from "The Cokesbury Game Book: 600 Games for Fun and Fellowship", published in 1939. I appreciate the description of this game for its unblinking honesty.


Players are seated in a circle. The leader opens the game by turning to the one on his left and saying, "Did you know Uncle Ben?" The person addressed replies, "Which one of your uncles was that?" The leader replies, "The one that went like this." The leader then starts pounding on his right knee. The next player on the leader's left then turns to his left and says, "Did you know Uncle Ben?" The same dialogue takes place until all are imitating the same action. When the question has gone around the circle and has come back to the leader, he adds an action, as for example, striking the left knee with the fist. Each time the game goes around the circle an action is added, such as patting the right foot, the left foot, nodding the head, etc. Do not play this game too long as it soon ceases to be amusing.

Posted by Francis at 03:16 AM | Comments (1)

July 15, 2004

The more gay marriages, the more hot girl-on-girl action. How is this not a win-win situation?

Nice to see that the stupid anti-gay-marriage amendment didn't get anywhere near passing in the Senate. But we still get statements like this from our propagandist-in-chief:

"What they do in the privacy of their house, consenting adults should be able to do," Mr. Bush said during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania on Friday, seeking to distinguish between private behavior and giving legal sanction to same-sex marriages. "This is America. It's a free society. But it doesn't mean we have to redefine traditional marriage."

Well, okay. If you want to define traditional marriage as "a marriage between one man and one woman", fine. Go wild. But "legal" and "traditional" ain't the same thing. Here's another quote from the same article:

It's a net loss for Republicans politically," said one prominent Republican in Washington who works closely with the White House. "It does nothing for our base, because they're grumpy about not having it, and it energized a significant portion of their base. I guarantee you that the gay community will give twice as much money and work harder for Kerry now, not so much because they care about marriage per se, but because this effort plays to their fears that we're homophobic."

Yeah, I just don't know why the gay community would think that. He went on to explain, "We're not afraid of homosexuals. We're grossed out by them. That's totally different."

Posted by Francis at 05:48 AM

I thought that meant he would really want it

I recently received one of those pieces of spam that lists multiple addresses in the "to" field. Although I guess I shouldn't expect marketing savvy from someone who sends a spam which includes no actual content in the body of the e-mail, it does seem like there's no point in sending one's spam to someone whose e-mail address is "spamgoeshere@yahoo.com".

Posted by Francis at 05:24 AM

July 13, 2004

With a great chorus comes great responsibility

Check out the Homestar Runner video for the rousing new They Might Be Giants song, "Experimental Film". It'll have you shouting "Yeah!" and "Film!"

Posted by Francis at 10:19 PM | Comments (1)

What do the puzzle people do?

Rose and I are back from nine days in Boston, where we attended the yearly National Puzzlers' League convention, the largest in NPL history. Some of you will no doubt wonder, what do a bunch of puzzlers do when they get together?

Well, of course, it depends, but I can tell you what we did. On the 3rd, we visited some friends in the Boston outlands (Sharon, to be specific) and watched the local fireworks (which they set off on the 3rd so they don't have to compete with the big show on the 4th). On the 4th we hung out on the Cambridge side of the Charles river with many NPL and MIT cronies and eventually got to goggle at Boston's awesome-as-fuck fireworks show. Boston is apparently very, very into Independence Day. It makes me wonder if Boston played an important part in American history or something. I should look into that.

On the 5th, we joined a like-minded group of fellow NPLers to solve a series of puzzles. Oh, but perhaps I should mention that each puzzle was presented at a different bar, because this was a puzzle pub crawl. We tried many a beer (although by the time we got to Redbones, Rose and I were feeling pretty beered out, and had pecan pie and vanilla custard instead), and even Rose -- who has spent her life not liking beer -- found a few she liked, partly thanks to the careful tutelage of our friend Jenny, who is a both a tireless beer booster and beer brewer. (She brewed two beers especially for the con, both fab.)

On the 6th, Rose mostly hung out and baked goodies for the convention's hospitality suite while I went over the latest set of proofs for my book (which is looking super swell) and read "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", an extremely engrossing book about an autistic child. Then we had dinner and went to a strip club, where a friend of ours was performing. (No, you probably don't know her. But she was very hot.)

Our vacation got slightly less sybaritic after that, though there was still a fair amount of sampling of beers and wines, and gorging ourselves on homemade desserts. And, of course, we played a lot of games.

So, what else...we saw a specially arranged screening of a very good Scrabble documentary, and one of the filmmakers, Eric Chaikin, was on hand for a Q and A...since he was also attending the convention. (His brother Andrew has been a member for a while, and Eric just came aboard recently. Andrew Chaikin, incidentally, may be the coolest person I know. It is a tribute to how much I enjoy his company that he does not fill me with jealousy.)

We also checked out MIT's new Gehry-designed Stata Center. Many MIT students have bitched and moaned about how ugly it is, and how they don't like it, waah waah waah. Rose and I thought it was surpassingly cool (although the trees they planted in the amphitheater-like space in the back are probably too big for the containers they're in). We didn't have our camera on us, so no pictures. Next time.

With everything that was going on, we managed to miss a lot of fun activities, but since we go to Boston all the time, we were savvy enough to pretty much only miss things that we could do on our own later, like a puzzle walking tour of Boston's Freedom Trail (adapted by Eric Albert from a puzzle hunt he had written for the Boston Globe a while back...during the adaptation of which he sadly discovered that many of the sites he had used as landmarks were no longer around, necessitating much rewriting), and an orienteering tour of the Arnold Arboretum.

We had a great time hanging out with friends from all over and solving some remarkable puzzles, and while we're sad the convention is over, we still have our memories.

As well as two beers and a bottle of Pinot Gris.

Posted by Francis at 02:37 AM | Comments (1)

July 11, 2004

Q and A

Spot the stupidity in this lede about that guy who just keeps winning and winning and winning on "Jeopardy!":

LOS ANGELES (AP) - If the answer is Ken Jennings and his record $920,960 so far in "Jeopardy!" winnings, the question must be, how does he do it?

I'm trying to envision the scenario in which this makes sense. Perhaps you are discussing a fabulous new cleaning product distilled from the sweat of Ken Jennings and combined with ground-up dollar bills from his winnings:

"Wow, Dave sure does keep his kitchen floor sparkling clean. How does he do it?"

"Ken Jennings and his record $920,960 so far in 'Jeopardy!' winnings, of course!"

"Wow. I'm switching to Ken Jennings and his record $920,960 so far in 'Jeopardy!' winnings today!"

Posted by Francis at 09:32 PM | Comments (3)

July 08, 2004

They Might Be Everywhere

They Might Be Giants' official website has a sweet deal on their new CD -- for an extra $3, you can also get a copy of the new EP (regular price $10) that's being released simultaneously. Shipping is slightly steep ($5), but it seems to be a flat rate, so why not throw in another CD or two while you're there? (The "Working Undercover for the Man" EP is both cheap and hard to find -- a winning combination -- and I know at least one person in the market for a copy of "Severe Tire Damage"...but there are lots of goodies to be had.)

John F. of They Might Be Giants is also the driving force behind an upcoming compilation disc that will benefit MoveOn.org. R.E.M., Fountains of Wayne, David Byrne, and Death Cab for Cutie are among the impressive lineup of people contributing unreleased material. The CD also comes as a freebie with the soon-to-be-published McSweeney's book, "Future Dictionary of America". Sweet.

Posted by Francis at 01:33 PM

But what does that have to do with Viagra?

I get a steady trickle of spamments here, as regular readers are aware. Most of the time it is not worth remarking on them. But sometimes they are little masterpieces of unintentional poetry, as with this lyrical ode to Viagra:

ding ding, look at my thing!

Posted by Francis at 01:21 PM

July 07, 2004

Perhaps he is an australopithecine

Monkeywire has put together a press release declaring that comparing Bush to a chimp is unfair to chimps.

Posted by Francis at 03:38 AM

July 03, 2004

Francis Heaney's Best Rainy Day Book Ever

Rose and I are heading to Boston soon, for both Independence Day and the National Puzzlers' League convention the following week. I'll still be blogging periodically, but not very extensively, I expect. (Especially since I'll still have work to do while I'm gone; a book of math puzzles to test-solve and proofread, and the first round of corrections on Holy Tango of Literature to go over.)

One thing you could do to entertain yourself while I'm gone is get yourself addicted to Wire Hang and Super Headers just like I am, and compete against me remotely by trying to beat my high scores:



Alternately, you could buy yourself some of the CDs I've been obsessively listening to this week, which is probably a better way to find out what it's like to be me than buying the same groceries I buy:

Todd Rundgren, Liars
Sonic Youth, Sonic Nurse
John Wesley Harding, Adam's Apple
A.C. Newman, The Slow Wonder
Sam Phillips, A Boot and a Shoe

These other two CDs are meant specifically to drive Columbine into a buying frenzy:

Don Byron, Bug Music: Music of the Raymond Scott Quintette, John Kirby & His Orchestra, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra
Raymond Scott and the Secret Seven, The Unexpected

You could also go over to Daniel's blog and take over the job of helping to twit Kev. Or, if my pictures of mermaids have only whetted your appetite for more, you could check out other people's pictures.

Posted by Francis at 04:19 AM

July 02, 2004

Mermaid Parade, part two

Before I continue with my series of photos from the mermaid parade, if you would like independent confirmation of my previous postulation that topless woman + monkey head = Creepy McCreeperstein, here is your evidence.

Anyway, if I remember correctly, we left off with a starfish-bepastied mergeisha. Next up was a passel of swing dancers who made me itch a little to get back in practice on my Lindy Hop. Then one of multiple Elvises made an appearance, with pointy ears and a jewelled tail. (In case you can't read the back of his jacket, it says "Elf-Fish Presley: The Return of the King".) And who's that in the background of that photo? Is that a member of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby? Yes, it is! Rose was pleased to get to see them in action, even though they were more handing out pamphlets than elbowing each other.

Then we had more unison dancing from "Eel-ectric", a chipper group who danced the Electric (Eel) Slide with great panache, despite sporting what looked like some pretty warm costumes.

The next group was a delegation from IFAM (the Institute for Aesthetic Modulation), a group I remember from way back when I used to perform regularly at the Gargoyle Mechanique open mike, before the building caught fire and the organizers morphed into Collective:Unconscious. They had a sort of cyberpunk thing going on, with girls wielding whips made of corrugated plastic tubing. They also had a swell giant thingamabob that looked like a floating mine, which I didn't manage to get a decent picture of, but you can find way more pictures of it and the rest of the group here.

At this point, we experienced another slowdown in the parade's progress, but it couldn't have come at a better time, because we ended up with these folks in front of us for two full songs. They were my favorite musical group of the day, and not just because I was crushed out on the accordionist. These guys knew how to stick with a theme; they took the songs "Let My People Go" and "The Israelites" and turned them into two anti-Ratner anthems, "Let My People Stay" and "The Brooklynites". (For non-Brooklyn people, this article covers the high points of why we're not so fond of Bruce Ratner out in these parts.) They also obliged me by being a very photogenic group.






This ornately adorned woman also knew how to play to the audience, staying still for long stretches to make sure people got good pictures of her. Close behind her was this unfortunate girl, who spent the entire time we saw her smiling embarrassedly and clutching her breasts. At first, we assumed she had been talked reluctantly into going topless at the parade and regretted her decision...but after seeing some other people's photos, it seems instead that she had been wearing a flimsy top which she lost at some point.





We all agreed that if we marched in the parade (which we may do next year), we would not design costumes that required us to stoop all the time.

After so many fine modern examples of the only slightly clad female form, it was nice to see some classic-style burlesque girls to remind us of our bawdy heritage.

The Billionaires for Bush also made an appearance, taking corporate piracy to the high seas in style.

I liked this mermaid's sequined corset, but, alas, this group was marching way too fast for me to get a decent photo of the bespectacled silver-haired mermaid on the left, what with my sad, sad camera taking such a long recovery time between shots (I believe it had less than 2 minutes of battery power left at this point). I did get a shot of the only marchers creepier than the Dead Sea mermaids, though.

The end of my battery power and the end of the parade miraculously coincided. I leave you with the photos taken with those batteries' last gasps.





Posted by Francis at 03:34 AM | Comments (2)

July 01, 2004

Mermaid Parade, part one

I have so many photos from the Mermaid Parade that I've decided to post them in installments. Also, to avoid endless page loading time, most pictures are pop-up images. If you've ever been to the Mermaid Parade, you know that some of these pictures aren't safe for work. Any of you who haven't been to the Mermaid Parade have presumably at least read the previous sentence.

The first floats of the parade stayed in front of us for a ridiculously long time. Later we discovered this was because we were at the corner where the floats and marchers entered, but the corner where the classic cars joined the parade was one block further along the parade route, so floats and marchers often stalled on our block. Usually this was fine, giving us more photo opportunities, but sometimes it went horribly wrong, as I will elaborate later.

First up was a blues band, the Tash Brothers. I'm no great fan of the blues -- I doubt anymore with as much of an obsessive need for novelty as I have can really ever get fully behind a musical genre that always uses the same chord progression -- but they were pleasant enough, and featured a cute tambourinist and a xylophone made of mannequin heads, so that was fine.

The next float -- "Earth Mermaids Are Easy" -- was eeeevil. They also spent a long, long time right in front of us, but we hated them with a deep passion the entire time they were there. At first we were only mildly irritated with them for spraying us with super soakers, but then we realized that this shithead and his cronies weren't spraying water. Oh, no. They were spraying beer. Stinky, sticky beer. Our contingent was really, really close to charging their flatbed trailer and trying to steal their water guns. One unarmed mermaid at the back of the float waved a cheerful goodbye to us as it finally drove off; she seemed to have no idea why we were all jeering and flipping them off as they went. If you're reading this, hapless alien mermaid, we're sorry to have made you sad, but next time you're in the Mermaid Parade, don't ride in a float with assholes.

Next was another band, Pretty Suicide. Their cover of Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" was unremarkable (if enthusiastic), but their lead singer shimmied alluringly and we were amused by the bullets draped over the drum kit. Presumably the bullets had something to do with what Rose considered their somewhat dubious choice of band name. She has similar mixed feelings about the Suicide Girls. (Porn, good; implication that suicide is edgy or can at least be taken lightly, not so good.)

Then I have a few photos without accompanying stories:




I don't know if this woman was a marcher who had a camera or a member of the press who dressed up for the occasion, but either way, we all loved the orcas on her bikini top and the shark on her crotch.

Next up was the "Dead Sea" float, which featured this grim, slim apparation from beyond the grave and under the sea.

I loved the design of the Sea Monkeys' float, but the giant papier-mache monkey masks were kind of creepy. I believe it is wrong when one's appreciation of a topless woman is thwarted because her head is covered with a giant papier-mache monkey mask. (Only the male monkey is visible in the picture, but I'm sure you get the idea.)



As this man passed us, the mother of the two annoying children standing next to us warned them not to look at him. I'm pretty sure they looked at him anyway. So much for preventing them from being scarred by seeing his buttocks. Seriously, people, don't bring your kids to the Mermaid Parade if you've got a problem with them seeing some skin. Especially painted skin framed by chaps.




Rose already posted one picture of the next group, but they were so awesome that more pictures are called for. I hope they won the costume contest; hard to imagine that they wouldn't.

I enjoyed the Iron Mermaidens, because, honestly, who doesn't love unison dancing to heavy metal? It did seem a little odd, though, that they weren't actually dancing to Iron Maiden. They (and a devil carrying two boxes of sugar) were shaking their moneymakers to Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me". Note the fishtails on the skirts.

Our fellow parade attendees Amber and Jeff had previously said that the Hungry March Band was perennially one of their favorite acts in the parade, and they didn't disappoint. Besides being one of the best musical acts in the parade they also featured this great repurposing of Metrocards and many cute, scantily-clad marchers I was (a) swooning over, and (b) largely thwarted in my attempts to photograph.

This woman's costume just looked like a sexy dress from the front...but it got even saucier when she turned around.

I think that's enough for the first installment. I'll leave you with three more photos that need no captions; more will follow soon.




Posted by Francis at 07:45 AM | Comments (2)