October 29, 2005

Alternate-universe Doonesbury

Garry Trudeau had planned to run six days' worth of strips about Harriet Miers next week, but since she withdrew her nomination, he's withdrawing the strips as well. But you can still read them!

(Thanks to Jon for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 09:51 AM | Comments (3)

October 28, 2005

Sell-bent for leather

You can no longer buy these pants, but odds are it's just as well.

(Via Stereogum, and someone else before that.)

Posted by Francis at 12:01 AM | Comments (4)

October 27, 2005

Cross, part 2

And now for Chapter Two of Crossworld, "Enter the Crossword". This one might take a while.

Arthur Wynne was born in Liverpool, England, in 1862, and as a young man emigrated to the United States, where he hoped to make his fortune in the newspaper business. As it turned out...his contribution to American journalism was, in the conventional sense, utterly negligible. But among his baggage on the packet boat that brought him across the Atlantic Ocean in the 1880s were the metaphorical seeds of what, in December 1913, would become the most singularly popular word game in history....

And so begins a good deal of speculation about the genesis of the crossword. What are the metaphorical seeds we're talking about? Extra brain cells that he kept in his luggage?

The ancestors that begat the crossword puzzle have a long, long history. When, many millennia ago, one human uttered to another a word with a definite and specific meaning, some wag in the clan likely used it the following day in some unexpected manner that had all his caveman friends scratching their heads and wondering at the perverse nature of this new means of communication.

In the actual book, the words "day" and "in" are transposed. But anyway, I don't so much see the benefit of this unscientific daydreaming. How do idle, utterly unverifiable theories of the origin of language have anything to do with crosswords, exactly?

I can imagine some well-rattled cavewoman 50,000 years ago postcoitally whispering ["tiger"] to her swain, only to have the poor fellow leap off the straw and reach, panic in his eyes, for the nearest sharp stick.

And I can imagine bunnies that fly!

From the day [words] were developed...they've been used to confound, befuddle, and amuse their hearers....

Yes, from the very day. Science has proved it. Why do you hate science so much, you doubters?

In the same way that some people don't have a head for mathematics or an ear for music, there are others who lack an affinity for, or ability to do, wordplay -- such as the troglodyte mentioned above, who probably spent the rest of the night at watch against an imaginary tiger, when a more word-disposed individual might have enjoyed a second go at his witty and logophiliac bedmate.

Taking something you made up and citing it as an example of your thesis is very weak indeed. But let us move on.

Apart from Greek stelae squares, the earliest example of a diagrammed and structured word puzzle is a mysterious thing called the Phaistis Disk, which was discovered on the island of Crete...in 1908. ...[S]ome think the disk is a representation of a complex mathematical calculation, others say it's a prayer wheel, still others think it might be a property record of landholdings in a Mycenaean mountain town. Like people who speculate about the location of Atlantis or the oracular meaning of the Mayan calendar, though, you can be pretty sure that anyone expressive a definitive view about the disk is both deeply passionate and supremely clueless, and so hardly a scientist.

Well, in that case, why do you state so definitely at the start of the paragraph that this disk is a word puzzle? How is there any more evidence for this than any other potential interpretation of the object?

[T]he crossword constructor has ancient cognates, at least in terms of the anxiety imposed on his by his profession. Think of the nervous soul who had to make sure a phrase -- let's say "Senatus Populusque Romanum," SPQR, "The Senate and People of Rome" -- would fit onto the pediment of a building erected in the City of Seven Hills.... He's being asked to provide what a crossword constructor would call a "fill," or in other words the letters that fit perfectly into the spaces left for the answers....

This is so much of a stretch, one hardly knows where to begin. By such loose standards, what profession is not an antecedent of the cruciverbalist? Livery cab drivers navigated grids. Assassins had to be good at misdirection. Flying bunnies had to keep many items of trivia in their minds at all times, to defend themselves against their natural predator, the sphinx.

Also among Arthur Wynne's baggage were a number of crosswordish predecessors that may have served, at least partially, as inspiration for that magical creation of December 1913. First among these, I conjecture, were Yuletide ecclesiastical banners.

Well, if we're conjecturing, I'd conjecture that word squares were a somewhat more likely inspiration. But let's see where this is going.

[A]ttend a Christmas mass at Canterbury Cathedral or a Californian mission and you'll see what I mean. Strung along the central aisle will be a series of banners, all in Latin, expressing some traditional epithet of the Lord Savior. For "O, King of the Gentiles," you'll see something like this:

rex.png

...You'll discover a darn interesting phenomenon in that...arrangement...with the "e" in REX and the "e" in GENTILUM intersecting so intriguingly. You will if you're into crosswords today; you certainly would have were it the late fall of 1913, you were Arthur Wynne, and the prospect of having to come up with an entirely new form of puzzle entertainment in time for the Christmas season lay before you like the pitiless chasm of hell itself.

Well, I stand corrected. Since I have never been Arthur Wynne in 1913, I can't argue with that. Marc Romano does allow that word squares may have been a contributing inspiration, although clearly liturgical banners had to be the original impetus. He describes the word square somewhat confusingly:

[It] involves the creation of a grid in which an initial word is written out both horizontally and vertically, as is the terminal word as determined by the last letter of the initial one.

Which makes it sound like there are two words in a word square, which is, to put it more straightforwardly, a square of words that reads the same across and down. There are also more crosswordlike ones that read differently across and down, which predate the Wynne crossword by a few decades (and thanks to Will Shortz for checking dates for me). Anyway:

In every case, each word appears precisely twice in the square, in the mirror inverse of its original position.

I guess this is true if you hold the mirror along the main diagonal of the square.

It may seem like child's play to construct such a thing, which, granted, it is -- if you limit yourself to squares made up of three- or four-letter words.

Even with the conditional, it's an odd thing to say that word squares seem like child's play precisely one paragraph after saying, also about word squares, "It sounds complicated -- and it is, if you want to try creating one...."

A square made up of five-letter words should take the averagely talented smith about an hour or so to construct....

I don't know where he's getting that estimate; this one took me less than ten seconds to make:

word_square.png

A six-letter-word square would take, if you're lucky, a rainy afternoon.

Maybe these times are for people who don't generally construct puzzles (although he claims he's talking about the "averagely talented smith"). This one took me about two minutes, not that I claim it's a classic:

word_square_2.png

Admittedly the difficulty levels do start getting precipitously higher the further you go above a six-letter square.

Word-squaring is a constructor's activity, mainly, since the possibility exists -- faintly, of course -- that the seed word ... could yield more than one possible fill, which means that squares aren't reliably a one-possible-answer-only sort of puzzle you'd want to print in a newspaper without risking a torrent of eccentric mail coming in every day (puzzle editors don't like angry letters).

Do what now? You're saying that word squares didn't have clues? Come on now. Let's take a closer look at that Straight Dope column I linked to earlier:

Wynne said he based the first crossword on word puzzles he had seen in magazines as a youth in Liverpool. In these puzzles, which were supplied without diagrams, you were asked to construct some sort of symmetrical word array (usually a square or a diamond, but sometimes a star or other shape) on the basis of various clues.

As Will confirmed for me, word squares were perfectly popular with solvers, and almost invariably had their entries clued. (He said clueless ones with some words filled in to start with may have appeared once or twice as a variation, but certainly weren't the norm.) Dude, you interviewed Will at his house. How did you manage to not acquire this information?

Arthur Wynne died in 1945 and, being by all reports a reserved and rather retiring individual, did not leave behind memoirs or notes or much of a hint about how he came up with the concept of the crossword.

So why are you so sure it was church banners?

Whew, that was ten pages' worth of notes, with twenty more pages to go in the chapter. I think I'll take a break. (Don't worry, my notes get a lot sparser once we get to the actual tournament.)

Posted by Francis at 02:52 PM | Comments (11)

Cross

As promised, today I begin my review of Marc Romano's Crossworld -- although it's less of a review than a series of notes I would have given if I had been the editor.

The very first sentence of the introduction put me on my guard:

This is a book about my yearlong journey into the world of competitive crossword solving -- although saying that is a little like saying "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is a song about a girl or The Scream is a painting of a guy standing on a bridge.

I think what he was probably trying to say was that there's more to the world of crosswords than one might see on the surface, but it comes off much more like "My book is a fucking masterpiece. Welcome."

From pages 9-10, discussing Will Shortz's ascent to his position as the New York Times crossword editor:

When Eugene T. Maleska sloughed his mortal coil in late 1993, the list the New York Times Corporation's headhunters came up with as potential replacements probably numbered only one.

Probably? Well, heaven forbid you actually try to find out.

From page 15, the sentence that made me get out my pencil and start writing directly on the pages of the book:

What is it about crosswords that made them an instant public sensation, and keeps them a sensation today, pretty much all over the globe? One reason might be that they act as a sort of barometer of one's own acculturation; if you can do the crossword in your nation's newspaper of record, it means you're smart and mentally agile and hip (to use a word that has never to my knowledge appeared in the Times puzzle) enough to say "I belong here"....

The word "hip" has never appeared in the New York Times crossword puzzle? What a...just...crazy thing to say. Because the letters in HIP are so rare, and crosswords have so few three-letter words in them, and the word itself is archaic and obscure, it stands to reason that it would be safe to say that it virtually never appears in crosswords. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Now this next one is just being picky. But it is an inconsistency. First quote is from the rear sleeve of the book jacket, second quote is from page 20.

[Marc Romano] lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he averages four to ten minutes on the New York Times daily puzzle (sixteen on Sunday).
[Jon Delfin] can do the Sunday Times puzzles in less than ten minutes with something approaching 100 percent accuracy, while it takes me an average of twenty-three minutes or so to do the same.

Twenty-three didn't sound sexy enough for the book jacket?

Later on the same page, he discusses New York's particular suitability for puzzle solving (all that time -- generally in approximately crossword-length increments -- spent on subways), and compares it to other cities:

Of all the cities on the planet, maybe only Paris and Moscow offer something similar, and it's perhaps no coincidence that Paris and Moscow happen to be the two other cities worldwide that have active and extremely competent puzzling populations.

The two? The only two? What about London, for god's sake, just to name one? Not to mention that London also has a mass transit system quite a lot like New York's as well. But he goes on:

(Tokyo would seem to fit the bill, but overcrowding is a big problem there; it's hard to do a crossword when you're constantly jostled on the streets or packed sardinelike into a subway car, where all you really can do is grope other people, if that's your particular vice, or be groped, or read a paperback.)

Well, how then does one explain that Tokyo (and Japan in general) is home to tons of puzzle magazines? Not so much crosswords, as Japanese isn't really suited to crosswords, but still -- puzzles. (Also note this early foray into skeeviness, with the groping. There is more to look forward to.)

New Yorkers in the inner subway system tend to read, write, do crosswords, or doze -- though the latter practice can be unwise, given the pickpockets.

This made me roll my eyes. New York is so not as dangerous as it's made out to be, and the joke isn't funny enough to warrant leaning on the stereotype.

Many a first date, I suspect, has been arranged after Party A on the subway asked Party B what his or her take was on the answer to 22-Down...

Yyyyyeah. "Many". It was at this point that I starting feeling that the suspecting-to-reporting ratio was maybe a bit high.

In one 1998 puzzle that has become famous among the solving community, one hopeful suitor even managed to convince Will Shortz to encode a message asking the woman of the young man's dreams -- an avid daily puzzler -- to marry him. Shortz agreed, as did the girl.

Of course this is entirely different than love connections being made on the subway over a particularly impressive performance on a Saturday puzzle. Also, this telling of the wedding proposal anecdote completely ignores the fact that while Will did make it happen (and came up with the theme entries), the crossword itself was constructed by Bob Klahn.

I was lucky enough (or guileful enough) to attend the 2003 [American Crossword Puzzle Tournament] as a reporter and had the chance to witness Crossworld in operation firsthand.

And with that cheesily gratuitous use of the book title, we come to the end of my notes on chapter one. There will be more -- oh so much more -- to come.

Posted by Francis at 12:41 AM | Comments (13)

October 24, 2005

Also, maybe she knows some book reviewers that could help with my sales numbers?

Six things.

therapy.jpg

Posted by Francis at 07:37 PM in Six Things | Comments (6)

Midday mildness

I'm feeling a bit low-key after a busy, busy weekend -- a friend from high school came to town to join me in playing Midnight Madness, a late-night running-around-the-city puzzle event. Scheduled for the same day was another friend's daughter's bat mitzvah, which was being held at the Bronx Zoo. The plan was to meet up in Manhattan and go to the zoo early, so as to have some time to check out the animals before the party started. The trains, however -- oh, yes, it always comes down to the trains -- fucked us over. I caught up with Tarl at the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 2:00, and Rose, coming from Yarnivore, was going to take the 2 to Times Square, meeting us on the platform (or, rather, we would join her in her train car). Instead, she called from a pay phone to say, "Trains all fucked! Taking the 5! It's in the station now gotta go!" Gah. So Tarl and I went to Grand Central and waited for the 5. We didn't see so many 5s. We saw a lot of 2s, though, and so I (so naive) assumed that the 2 track was hosed/under construction and everything was coming over the Lexington line. But then Rose continued to not appear at all, and we started to wonder. It turned out that yes, the 2 was running on the 5 line -- but the 5 was running on the 2 line!!!! Exactly what possible benefit could this have conferred? So Rose turned up at Times Square, and took the shuttle to Grand Central, where we took a 4 uptown to a point where we could transfer to a train that would actually get us to the zoo, where we finally arrived at about 4:00.

I hadn't been to the zoo since I was in grade school, and honestly I remember next to nothing about what it was like back then, but I feel pretty confident it looked nothing like it does now; there was no twinge of recognition anywhere in my head. Rose commented that theories about what zoos should be like have changed a lot in 25 years; I guess they have at that. Although they still have the National Collection of Heads and Horns.

As for the bat mitzvah party, it was very cool indeed to be in the zoo after closing time, having finger food while checking out adorable little slow lorises and a big honking tapir. (And I mean "honking" literally, although "amplified peeping" might be more descriptive; the thing sounded like a giant bird.) It was like "The Bronx Zoo: After Hours!" We received party favors either adorable (knitted animal finger puppets) or delectable (zoo-themed candy bars) or both (one of the candy bars has a panda on it). Oh god I was so full when we left. Excellent little tiny desserts (small enough to eat too many of), and the cake, for which the newly mitzvahtized girl had designed her own decorations; they were terrific. Colorful and loud, just my sort of thing. Oh, and it turned out a friend of hers had attended "We're All Dead" at Chashama and was inspired to create "Metahamipus", another musical adaptation of Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, and Kafka's Metamorphosis, except this one presented all three stories simultaneously (and to the music of Belle & Sebastian). I'm hoping to see a video.

Moment of inappropriateness: a room full of 13-year-old girls singing along at full volume to "Stacy's Mom", having been egged on by the preternaturally peppy party ringers -- a profession I had until this weekend been entirely unaware of. Apparently it is these folks' job to get all the teens at the party up and dancing by cajoling the wallflowers, inciting the less self-conscious kids, that sort of thing. Rose had just read an article about people with that job, and said there is a very small pool of people who are appropriate for it: they have to be cool enough for teenagers to want to do what they're doing, but nonthreatening enough for parents to not be freaked out by them, and they have to think that spending entire evenings on a regular basis with packs of 13-year-olds they have never met would not make them insane, as it would you or me.

Midnight Madness was scheduled to start at 9:00, so we left the party at about 9:45 (it apparently never starts on time). We did miss the first puzzle, but were heading down the West Side Highway in time to learn that this year's location would be the Brooklyn Heights and Metrotech area -- incredibly convenient, since it meant we could use Yarnivore as an ad hoc HQ for brainstorming and bathrooming.

In brief, Midnight Madness was about what I expected it would be: a less well-run version of the Haystack with less interesting puzzles, poor organization, mistakes, bad communication, and endless annoyances. And yet it was fun! I'll certainly be up for trying it again next time. One of the frustrations was not the fault of the organizers at all -- it was the fault of the scoldy society we live in. One puzzle required us to keep trekking up and down the Fulton Mall looking for stickers on the pulled-down metal gates of storefronts. We couldn't find one of the stickers, and as I was dashing back over to have a second look at one store, a policeman (or maybe he was just a security guard; I'm not sure) asked me what we were doing. This being hard to explain, I said it was sort of a scavenger hunt. He asked if we had "cleared it" with anyone. I'm sure I had my "impatience with unimaginative authority figures" face on when I said, "Uh, no" (and replied with a "No idea, sorry" when he wanted to know who had organized it) and went off on my merry way. He then stopped more people from our group and basically told us to clear off. Rumor had it that after we left, he busied himself by trying to find the stickers and remove them.

One highlight was when Tarl and I found a clue in a previously searched and abandoned location. In front of the NYC College of Technology, there's a big open courtyard surrounded by slightly raised trees, and then there are two big sunken areas flanking the walkway to the front door; as you look over the low wall, you can see office windows and a tree for the benefit of the mole people who work down there and whatnot. I was looking over the edge for our next puzzle (checking just on the other side of the wall to see if anything was taped there) and Tarl and I simultaneously spotted a packet of paper that looked like it was hanging from an office window. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be attached to a long, long string that was tied to one of the courtyard trees (the string was well hidden by the tall grass).

And then solving that puzzle took us to a location where we were expected to root around in a tub filled with raw chicken livers. So we did get some use out of the spare rain slicker they gave us at the Bronx Zoo after all.

I had only gotten four hours of sleep the night before and bailed on Midnight Madness at 7:00 a.m., as did most of my teammates. One doughty soul stuck it out, and it turned out we were much closer to finishing than we thought we were, or we probably would have toughed out the last 90 minutes. But our solo solver said finishing by himself was highly satisfying, so I guess it all worked out!

In any case, after a night of that, it was good to get back to the much-more-solidly constructed extravaganza that I started solving on Thursday: the Puzzle Boat (or the Floating Time Sink).

Posted by Francis at 01:48 PM | Comments (6)

October 21, 2005

The purplefect tense

I just remembered another anecdote from my trip to the Sheep and Wool Festival that I wanted to relate. First, I will point out for those of you who do not know, Rose has purple hair. Or partly purple hair, anyway. This means that she gets a lot of "Oh, your hair is purple -- you must really love purple," especially if she happens to be wearing some other purple garment. Well, on Sunday I was wearing my new purple corduroys, and I wandered up to Rose as she was having a conversation with a woman she'd just met, and the woman remarked, "Oh, you're wearing purple pants -- is that to match your wife's hair?" I was a bit nonplussed, and replied, "No...the pants do match Rose's hair, it's true, but that is incidental, and will happen every time I wear these pants." Somehow no one makes this sort of remark when I wear something brown, a color which matches the nonpurple parts of Rose's hair.

Posted by Francis at 01:31 AM | Comments (11)

October 20, 2005

Two-pic sentences

Two signs spotted recently. Saw this one in Park Slope on the way to dinner last week, and thought it had a certain surreal quality.

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I passed this campaign poster on the way home from this month's meeting of the CD-of-the-month club:

Bloomberg.jpg

You'll notice the sign was posted on top of another sign, changing (perhaps inadvertently) the meaning of the slogan. "Mike Bloomberg. Leadership for Manhattan? Who can say?" Also ambiguous: is the fact that Bloomberg's poster is partly concealing a cigarette ad significant, given that Bloomberg is known for his antismoking laws and that the East Village is known for being filled with smokers who don't like to follow rules, maaaaaaan?

Posted by Francis at 01:17 AM | Comments (3)

October 18, 2005

JC, do see

In case any of my New York-based readers lack plans this evening, may I suggest checking out Jonathan Coulton, who's playing at the Apocalypse Lounge in the East Village at 8:45. I will most likely be there. In other Coulton-related news, you can vote for your favorite "Shop Vac" solo on his main page. And while stuffing the ballot box on my behalf would bolster my ego, I suggest you vote with your heart; heck, I didn't vote for myself! If you want to hear more melodica, just wait around long enough and I'm sure to write a song that features it prominently.

Finally, if you're one of the two people on the internet who hasn't heard it, don't miss Baby Got Back.

Posted by Francis at 05:25 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2005

Clothing and bunnies and Swedes, oh my

This weekend was much more recreational than many I've spent lately (others having been filled with freelance work; this one was only about one-third full). On Friday night, Rose and I went to a party at Erin's hotel room (she frequently comes to NYC on business), and then on Saturday morning I grabbed a quick breakfast with Erin on my way to do said freelance work at the Cargo office (the manuscripts I was working on were huge, and I didn't feel like dragging them home). I know spending five hours on Saturday copyediting doesn't sound very recreational at all (and isn't), but I was getting it all out of the way so I didn't have to think about any of it for the rest of the weekend.

When I wrapped up for the afternoon, Rose prodded me to continue my quest for more-interestingly-colored pants; I've been wanting something besides blue jeans and black and brown khakis, and, you know, most stores do not believe men want anything besides those colors (and they are probably largely correct). On the way to see "Curse of the Were-Rabbit", we had looked in a Banana Republic and asked a saleswoman, so, we're looking for jeans or maybe corduroys, but in nonstandard colors, do you have anything like that? And she said, well, we have more pants downstairs, and we do have some colored corduroys, like, oh...brown. (She may have said "taupe", I'm not certain.) And so I said, no, colors, like they have in the rainbow, and she gave a bit of a shrug and was like, yeah...we don't have those. But she suggested I try Daffy's, which turned out to be a good tip (purple corduroys!); after Daffy's we checked Eddie Bauer, where I found a dusty pinkish-purple pair of girl jeans that fit me (I am a size 12, apparently), although the jeans have no pockets. Or, rather, they have pockets, but they are like an inch deep and thus entirely useless. Rose "volunteered" (a certain amount of puppy-dog eyes on my part was involved) to give them real pockets.

That evening, I had free tickets (won from Flavorpill) to see Dungen at Bowery Ballroom. James got the extra freebie -- I owed him a ticket after he gave me a spare to Tegan and Sara -- and his wife Tate and her friend Amy bought tickets as well, although Amy wasn't feeling well and had to leave before Dungen came on, which was too bad, because opening act Everlasting Boogie (aka The Blues Riff That Never Ever Stops) was not really a justification for attending. They took a while to set up (I pointed out the the boogie couldn't end if it never started), but then they did get to the boogie, jamming out loudly over a single chord progression for a long long time; after what I would estimate was about eight minutes of solos, the frontman leaned his wall of hair toward the mike and grunted a guttural "Ye-ah!" He sang sometimes, mostly using a Tuvan throat-singing style, which was sort of interesting. Honestly, after about 30 minutes of the ongoing boogie assault, I was kind of going with it, feeling like it was hypnotic in a good way...but I passed through that and went back to being tired of it a few minutes later. They played for about an hour, in which time they played four songs. Or at least they paused for applause four times. I suspect their fan base includes a high percentage of potheads.

Much better was the unannounced extra opening act that preceded them, Mia Doi Todd. She was Dungen's guitar tech, and I guess they told her she should play a few numbers for the handful of people that were dotting the room at 9:30. Anyway, I thought she was fab; she channeled Joni Mitchell for about four songs (without making me feel like she was just an imitator), and I was totally sold. I bought both of the CDs she had at the merch table and will probably end up buying more, knowing me.

As for Dungen, one reason I was interested in seeing them (apart from the fact that I like their music, duh) was that I wanted to if they could manage to translate the sound of their impossibly well-produced CD to the stage. And the answer was, well, no, they couldn't, quite. I enjoyed their performance quite a bit and the energy of their I-am-Jon-Anderson-reincarnate singer/songwriter (as well as his peerless thrashing of his long hair to the beat) was something to behold...but really I'm just as happy to listen to them on CD.

On Sunday, I joined Rose and our friend Cindy for a trip up to Rhinebeck for the Sheep and Wool Festival. Sadly, I missed the dogs-catching-frisbees and dogs-herding-sheep exhibitions (something to look forward to next year), but I had a fine time checking out llamas and sheep and angora rabbits nonetheless. GOD HOW I WANTED ONE OF THE ANGORA RABBITS. They were selling them for thirty dollars! Thirty! Christ! But our cat Twyla would terrorize a rabbit, I feel certain. Sigh.

Apart from yarn shopping (I was there in my capacity as color consultant, helping Rose pick yarns for a couple projects she had in mind), we bought fabric for a tie for me, wines from three New York wineries, some cheese, and snacked on and off throughout the day: candy apples, pumpkin cheesecake, and lamb -- which is, yes, slightly weird to eat when you are sitting next to a tent of bleating sheep, but what the hell man, it was delicious. (Although not everyone agreed that it was delicious; a guy near us complained to his friend that he thought his sandwich was "a little disappointing, actually." Rose looked him over and decided he was the sort of person who was probably disappointed a lot of the time. And his wife looked a little collagen-enhanced, which gave us even more fodder for speculating on their life.) And the weather was fucking gorgeous, especially in contrast to the preceding two million days of rain in a row. Overall, pretty darn fun.

Finally, I've started a new book -- Crossworld, by Marc Romano, which some of my fellow puzzle people have liked, and others have found thoroughly annoying. We got a promotional copy here at Cargo (although why it is signed to "Rose Marie" with love and affection I could not say), and I have been reading it, intending to review it here. I can say that I am falling quite securely in the "this book is annoying" camp; I started out by dog-earing pages on which I had written notes, but soon enough I realized I was writing notes on just about every page, so there was no point. So anyway, that'll be coming soon, only at Heaneylands near you.

Posted by Francis at 01:14 PM | Comments (5)

October 13, 2005

Next week we plan to see Senerity and Copse Bridge

We saw Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit last night, and it was, as we expected, delightful. But apparently being the number one movie in the country doesn't mean that theaters will bother to check the spelling of your characters' names, as evidenced by our ticket stub:

stub.jpg

And ours wasn't the only ticket with problems.

Posted by Francis at 10:33 AM | Comments (8)

October 12, 2005

I have to say, I do love drawing monkeys

Don't know if I'll draw a Six Things this week, but I did draw a guest strip for Duck and Monkey:

duck_and_monkey_guest_strip.jpg

Posted by Francis at 11:09 AM | Comments (10)

October 11, 2005

This is exactly how Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach wrote "God Give Me Strength", I'm pretty sure

If you (like me) haven't been checking in on Jonathan Coulton's blog for a while, now is the time to become a regular reader, because he has quit his day job and is posting much more frequently, promising a new song (finished or un-) every week. This week features the Fountains-of-Waynesy "Shop Vac", for which Jonathan has asked his readers to provide the instrumental solo. Four people have sent solos so far, including me (with my new melodica; when you have a new melodica, everything looks like a nail that needs a melodica solo); you have until the end of the week if you'd like to submit one yourself. Whose audio stream will reign supreme?

Posted by Francis at 04:03 PM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2005

Foxes and boxes

The 2006 Sexy Coffins calendar has arrived. (Thanks to Rose for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 07:02 PM | Comments (7)

October 09, 2005

I think I found out all I need to know about Melanie Griffith right here, thanks

I love the way this news item unquestioningly takes Melanie Griffith's side, apparently not finding her behavior questionable in the slightest.

Posted by Francis at 10:18 PM | Comments (5)

And I thought the guys in Green Day seemed so nice and clean-cut

Are we getting closer to a day when mainstream ads can feature profanity? Because I just saw an ad for Yahoo! Unlimited Music that came just about as close as you can get to actually cussing without quite stepping over the line:

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Posted by Francis at 06:47 PM | Comments (4)

October 07, 2005

I was looking for a job and then I found a job

Six things.

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Posted by Francis at 07:43 PM in Six Things | Comments (6)

October 06, 2005

Back on the grid

Hello again. Sorry I've been quiet, I've either been busy or playing WEBoggle, thanks ever so much, Rick. I do have a new cartoon in the works which will hopefully be up tomorrow, but until then, a few links:

Who needs to see any documentation about Harriet Miers's past work when we have her blog? (Thanks to Emily for the link.)

For those of you who think spitting is gross, maybe you would prefer an anti-smoking activism approach that requires no bodily fluids. (Thanks to Orange for the link.)

This is a great article from the Atlantic on unpublished (and never-meant-to-be-published) magazine and newspaper stories. Isn't publishing stories like this what McSweeney's was supposed to be for? (Thanks to Kathryn for the link.)

Speaking of McSweeney's, here's the Aristocrats as performed by Bob Newhart.

We saw The Aristocrats last week, actually. Damn funny movie. It was the first movie I've seen in I just don't know how long that people walked out of. Two couples left, and the odd thing was, they left after the movie had been going on for, oh, I'm going to say at least 40 minutes. Two questions -- who goes into that movie not knowing what they're getting themselves into? And, if you are one of those unfortunate souls who didn't know and really ought not to be there -- how can it possibly take you that long to decide that maybe you're in the wrong movie? Is it possible that someone is having the thought process, "You know, the part where they were talking about the guy urinating into his wife's mouth while being sodomized by a dog was funny, but intergenerational gay incest is just going too far"?

Posted by Francis at 11:41 PM | Comments (4)

October 03, 2005

Fudging Brownie

Jason at Happyscrappy has the transcript of ex-FEMA chief Mike Brown's testimony. Or a very plausible paraphrasing thereof.

Posted by Francis at 01:05 PM | Comments (1)

October 02, 2005

Gaiman game on

If enough of you visit Hanasiana (which you should do anyway, it's a very funny and astute blog), and quickly enough, I will get a free copy of the new Neil Gaiman book, Anansi Boys (which is the only way I'm going to get a free copy, since he didn't ask me to blurb it).

Posted by Francis at 12:14 PM | Comments (5)