January 31, 2006

Too much information

So this afternoon at work I went to the drug store on the corner to buy myself a candy bar. (I needed the candy bar because I was falling asleep at my desk after last night's insomnia, and I had to go down to the drug store to get it because our office candy machine is still broken.) I was bemused when I got back upstairs and realized the receipt was longer than the candy bar wrapper. This seemed like overkill to me.


Posted by Francis at 11:32 PM | Comments (8)

Things Congress has been doing besides handing Judge Alito his hat (an incomplete list)

#1: Abusing Wikipedia.

(Thanks to Tisiwoota for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 05:19 PM | Comments (0)

I think maybe that coffee I had might not have been decaffeinated

...because I tried to go to sleep, like, two hours ago and it just didn't take. So here are some links and things.

A friend of mine (not sure if he wants to remain anonymous or not) has started a new blog with a very narrow, but funny, focus. And, hey, Poor Man, I'm right there with you on January 24th. (Although I did like Quarterflash. I even went to see them in concert at the Arizona State Fair.)

Of course I feel bad for the people getting injured by the bull here (look for the "rampaging bull" link in the right-hand column), but I also hope that a few of them thought to themselves afterward, "Huh, maybe bloodsports aren't such a good idea after all." (Read on if you prefer to look at animals that neither weigh 1,000 pounds nor have the ability to stomp people into smithereens.)

I had completely forgotten about Cute Overload until Rose reminded me today. How much cute? This much.

A while ago, I entered a poetry contest; the poetry form used in the contest was called "hay(na)ku". It's kind of like a haiku, but instead of being syllabic, it's organized by word count. Three lines: first line, one word; second line, two words; third line, three words. Oddly, most of the winning entries (you'll have to scroll down; the permalink doesn't seem to work) consist of multiple stanzas -- the thing that I like about short poetry forms is, well, you know, the fact that they're compact! (Although I do like the running-through-the-alphabet wordplay in the first one.) Anyway, this was mine. Not the deepest poem by a long shot, but I like it.

car alarm
that will do

I did get a prize for participating, though -- they sent me a copy of the Hay(na)ku Anthology.

I know, I know, I post about Holy Tango way too much, but I'm superjazzed to see in my referral log that I got a link from songwriter Lida Husik (on her "Love" page). She's up there with Amy Rigby on the list of singers who should be more famous than they are. Her "Fly Stereophonic" CD is particularly excellent, and a used copy will only set you back $3-ish plus shipping over at Amazon if you're feeling like trying something on spec. Lida, if you ever want to cowrite a song, let me know!

Posted by Francis at 03:06 AM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2006

If the cartoon's not funny, it didn't cost you any money

Six things.


Posted by Francis at 10:16 PM in Six Things | Comments (6)

January 26, 2006

Advance advance revolution

Turns out the reason we all think Sting is lame may be because we simply haven't evolved enough. Did Sting write this?

(Thanks to Erin for the link!)

Posted by Francis at 01:27 PM | Comments (3)

January 25, 2006

Think they'll figure it out in time?

So the Senate is on the verge on confirming Alito, and thus signing away some percentage of their power, since Alito feels that the president should be able to do anything he wants whether Congress likes it or not, based on his understanding of the Constitution. Explain to me again how someone doesn't get flunked out of law school if he argues that the founding fathers of America obviously fled the U.K. in order to create their own crypto-monarchy? Whatever.

Anyway, no Republicans are opposing the nomination. Swell. But let's look over here at this article about the White House refusing to provide requested documents about the Katrina response:

...Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, objected when administration officials who were not part of the president's staff said they could not testify about communications with the White House.

"I completely disagree with that practice," Ms. Collins, chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in an interview Tuesday.

Well, get ready for more of it, Susan!

Posted by Francis at 01:37 AM

January 24, 2006

Six-month-old celebrity news: just as irrelevant as it originally was

I'm happy to report that I no longer have any reason to own this T-shirt. And so, now that my microyears as the official Radar ticker writer are over, I thought I'd provide a look back at some highlights from the summer, for those of you who didn't have the patience to sit there while the ticker...scrolled...by...incredibly...slowly.

On August 10, 1948, "Candid Camera" made its television debut, inexorably leading to "Punk'd." Thanks a lot

Jennifer Aniston, re Brad Pitt: "Billy Idol called, he wants his look back." Tired comedic tropes called, Jen! They need some space!

Most amusingly named part of the human olfactory system: the sphenoidal sinus

Recent Wikipedia update: Entry for "washcloth" created. The full text: "A cloth for washing or wiping. See also: wipecloth"

From Amazon user review of new R. Kelly CD: "sadly he didnt include the best song of his career, the true to life 'i wanna pee on you'"

Did you know? Even people who generally like you find certain things about you annoying

Mimi Rogers says Tom Cruise wouldn't sleep with her during their marriage, to "maintain his celibacy."

From Amazon user review of "The Incredibles": "Why on earth do they have a character that speaks French (with subtitles). Kids can't read that."

K-Fed hasn't stopped smoking cigs near pregnant Britney, ensuring his child will be weak and unable to defeat him in combat

Recent Wikipedia update: Someone had capitalized "of" in a song title. I fixed it

If Michael J. Fox can't convince Bush to ease restrictions on stem cell research, who can? Seriously, who? Maybe some hot Christian babe?

"Sometimes I feel like I'm carrying the whole of hip-hop myself."--Kanye West. Such a burden! Common, can't you cover for him for the weekend?

From Amazon user review of "Sideways" DVD (translated from German by Google): "Waste! Bad smell! Ugly thing! Unpleasantly!"

Ten years ago today: There were several Disneyland attractions that had no movie tie-ins whatsoever

Recent Wikipedia update: Gawker does not have a "funny, sarcastic voice"; does have a "supposedly funny, sarcastic voice" [Note: this edit was made by someone with a Conde Nast IP address -- Ed.]

Did you know? Many of the items on this ticker have been fact-checked

Possible tenth planet is discovered, providing new way for you to seem clueless when talking to schoolchildren

Spoiler alert: A spoiler is not really necessary on most sports cars

Man shot by London police turns out to not have been a terrorist at all! But nothing got blown up on the day they shot him, so maybe the system works

You know, Jude Law is getting a lot of flak these days, but what everyone forgets is that nannies are totally hot

According to American dossier on Hitler, he loved the circus but wasn't interested in animal acts "unless there [was] a woman in danger"

People want to know! Is Tom Cruise a total freaking psycho? Our libel-avoiding answer: mmmmmaybe

In the original version of the game Clue, the weapons included a bomb and a hypodermic syringe

Autopsy proves Terri Schiavo could not have recovered. GOP unconvinced she couldn't have led productive life as political pawn

Correction: Radar magazine does not literally use radar to track the movements of celebrities. Radar regrets the error

Abstinence Clearinghouse, a group urging Hollywood to make sex-free movies, is hosting a conference with the theme "Lights, camera, no action"

From Amazon user review of new Bill Maher book: "In order to charge $24.95 and call an item a book, there must be a text to blank space ratio of at least 1:1"

Josh Hartnett admits that his supposed relationship with Kelly Clarkson was a publicity stunt. A publicity stunt that I missed completely

The four Banana Splits were Bingo, Drooper, Fleegle, and Snork. (Note to young people: someday you will reminisce about crap no one else remembers either, so shut up)

Russell Crowe song lyric of the day: "I'm told cowgirls know when to sing and when to listen"

The smallest size of egg regulated by the USDA is "Peewee"

Producers of "The Island" blame Ewan MacGregor and Scarlett Johansson for film's failure. Man, writers really don't get any credit in Hollywood!

Ten years ago today: the names of romantically involved stars were not routinely combined into a single word

The full name of the Shakers sect is "United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing." Which explains why they need a nickname

Recent Wikipedia update: incorrect punch line in "Double Entendre" entry amended to actually be a double entendre

Did you know? The difference between regular people and TV characters is that no one ever tells TV characters to stop saying the same phrase all the time

Celebrity haiku: Anna Nicole Smith / Will be forgotten someday / Probably Friday

More later, perhaps.

Posted by Francis at 07:58 PM | Comments (3)

January 23, 2006

Symantec is in the house

Why does so much rap music have to be about guns, drugs, murder, or sex? Why can't it just be about sex? Or, failing that, why can't it be about something else that everyone can relate to, like...antivirus software? Symantec asked themselves that very same question. Read more about the song they produced ("Symantec Revolution") here, then download the song here because the link at the first site is dead.

I can also say from personal experience that this song makes for a very amusing segue into Kid Ory's "Tiger Rag".

Posted by Francis at 04:42 PM | Comments (1)

Girls, uninterrupted

Six things.


Posted by Francis at 12:16 AM in Six Things | Comments (14)

January 20, 2006

Oh, did you have things to do? I'm sorry

Debby pointed me to a new game (or, apparently, an updated version of an old game, or something -- feel free to clarify my muddy understanding of this in the comments, Debby), which has been destroying my productivity quite nicely: Enigma. It's not a Web-based game -- you actually have to download and install it (I know, how primitive, right?) -- so getting started playing it will take a little more energy on your part, which may mean that the bar for getting yourself addicted is a little higher than it was with, say, Weboggle. But it's worth it. It's sort of a cross between Marble Madness (if Marble Madness weren't in that fucking impossible perspective) and my beloved Heaven and Earth (which you can get here).

Posted by Francis at 11:35 PM | Comments (4)

January 19, 2006

The rumors are true

Trader Joe's really is coming to Manhattan! Now if they would only decide to start delivering a la Fresh Direct, life would be perfect.

Posted by Francis at 02:35 PM | Comments (2)

January 18, 2006

The other James Frey controversy

One thing I learned about James Frey from the whole controversy over the veracity or lack thereof in "A Squillion Kadillion Eensy-Tiny Pieces" is that he has a tattoo that reads FTBSITTTD, which is an abbreviation for "Fuck the Bullshit, It's Time to Throw Down" (if that's even what it really stands for). This tattoo bothers me, because although "BS" is common shorthand for "bullshit", if you're creating your tattoo by taking the initial letters of words, I think you ought to be consistent and render it as FTBITTTD, just as one would abbreviate "My Friends Got Me Drunk and Took Me to Pennsylvania and All I Got Was This Damn Tattoo" as MFGMDATMTPAAIGWTDT and not MFGMDATMTPAAAIGWTDT. But I could be in the minority in caring about this, or in even being willing to consider caring about this.

Posted by Francis at 02:04 PM | Comments (9)

January 17, 2006

I will arise and tango now

Emmis's new distributor has finally gotten things sorted out, which means that Holy Tango is finally available from Amazon again. (Also, Amazon reviews? Those things actually do help sell books. If you enjoyed the book, please consider writing one.) Now that the book can be readily bought without scouring used bookstores, it seems like a good time to reflect on this "giving books away" experiment.

In the 3 weeks or so between offering the book for free and Christmas, the book sold 130 retail copies, which is not going to get me on any best-seller lists, but is significantly better than the 3 copies I sold the week before releasing the eBook. Also, that number doesn't include any used copies (of which Amazon also sold out), or copies sold through Daedalus (which bought a block of books in bulk from Emmis), so the total number is probably closer to 180. And lots of people ended up spreading the word about the book. All in all, I consider the experiment a success.

In other news, author Carl Lennertz (founder of BookSense, now in marketing at HarperCollins) recently started a blog, and it turns out he's a Holy Tango fan -- he's been featuring excerpts from the book. Cool!

Posted by Francis at 02:24 PM | Comments (8)

January 16, 2006


Six things.


Posted by Francis at 09:53 PM in Six Things | Comments (2)

Brief update

Am back from Boston. My (awesome) team won the MIT Mystery Hunt, and you can expect a fuller update on that later. But for now, before I go to bed, a few choice quotes from the weekend.

"I shouldn't have eaten them...now they know about my insides." -- team captain Dan, non sequiturially

"Refresh, man! Refresh like the wind!" -- Mark, to someone waiting for new information to be accessible on a Web page

"Loved the cock, hated the conundrum." -- Jonaya, about a puzzle that we got stuck on

"Winners expect to win in advance. Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy." -- fortune found by Dan in his fortune cookie on Friday night

Posted by Francis at 04:41 AM | Comments (7)

January 12, 2006

Your page views are important to us. Please continue to click.

Note to my insurance provider: it is not necessary to tell me quite so frequently that my call is important to you and that I should please hold. For instance, I would say that every 20 seconds is slightly too often. For one thing, that only allows 15 seconds of music to play between announcements, which means that I never get to hear both the beginning and end of any four-bar musical phrase, which is irritating even when I'm listening to an instrumental version of "Memory" from Cats. Also, it means that I have had you say that sentence in my ear FORTY-SIX TIMES so far. Wait, 47.

Of course, this all goes toward reinforcing my theory that recordings like this are not meant to make people stay on the line, but to drive them away, so that companies won't have to put up with so many damn people, always needing things (and, of course, hiring people to talk to them).

Update: Phone actually started ringing after 17:20 (or 52 iterations of my call being important to them), which included interrupted versions of "Chariots of Fire", "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", "Memory", and "Nights in White Satin". Phone rang for 50 seconds, after which I was put on hold again, but this time without the repeating announcement. The music has started over again with "Chariots of Fire", however. Ah, here is a person now.

Later: Back on hold again. I don't bring her flowers anymore.

Final update: I didn't recognize the song after "Nights in White Satin". And it was a good thing I called, because, no, they hadn't in fact sent my insurance cards, due to some glitch or other, now fixed because I brought it to their attention. And this task dispatched, off I go to Boston.

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

Will the Alitos meet to treat the elite extra-sweet?

While Joe Biden may think that Supreme Court confirmation hearings are pointless, the New York Times has found some troubling comments hidden amid all the coached moderation.

Posted by Francis at 01:34 PM | Comments (1)

Rhetorical questions and answers

Blogging will be light to nonexistent from today on through the weekend, as I will be in Boston for the MIT Mystery Hunt. "Six Things" will update sometime on Monday, but until then, may I recommend you visit some of my fine fellow bloggers for your entertainment needs?

Need a dose of crankiness? Visit Planet Gordon and read about inconsiderate people at the post office. While you're there, get updates about his new book, The Engaged Groom, which I believe I may be quoted in somewhere.

Do you care about advertising? Read Encyclopedia Hanasiana and find out how much more Jim Hanas cares about it than you.

How do you tell if a mouse is depressed? Dangle it by its tail, of course. And if you don't know what part of the Stay Free! website to read after that, the blog has some suggestions.

How long has it been since you've wasted several hours in a row playing Weboggle? Oh, you'd finally kicked the addiction until I mentioned it again? Whoops, sorry!

Finally, there's always the Anti-Caption Contest, on the still-not-redesigned-but-at-least-being-updated-again Radosh.net. Daniel did miss a week on the Anti-Caption Contest, so I think I'll retroactively fill in for him here. Please suggest the worst possible caption for the following cartoon (and I will attempt to approve your comments as time permits):


Some captions to start you off:

"I should probably have mentioned I'm HIV-positive."

"I'm sorry, Larry, I thought this would be sexy. Do we still have the receipt for the costume?"

"Really, there's nothing wrong with your fangs. Of course they're long enough. Now come back to bed."

Posted by Francis at 12:20 AM | Comments (10)

January 11, 2006

Tango in the Night

Last night's Ritalin Reading was swell; the audience was very responsive and laughed even when the poems I read included words like "cetacean" and "endotherm". I sold no books, but I did get quite a few compliments after the show, which always does my fragile ego good (as you know, the bigger the ego, the more delicate). I was particularly pleased when two women told me they found "Skinny Domicile" moving -- a surprising but gratifying compliment to receive after a comedy reading.

Anyway, I also enjoyed getting the chance to meet more funny writers and performers; I found Todd Levin and Jon Friedman's sets (and Lindsay's rendition of a very heartfelt poem written at age 19) particularly funny, but really, the whole show was highly entertaining, and a good reminder of why I should make an effort to perform more.

Posted by Francis at 10:56 AM | Comments (2)

January 09, 2006

Better the wonk you know

While plugging the phrase "holy tango" into Technorati (as one does), I was startled to discover a recent Wonkette item that used the phrase in a way that had absolutely nothing to do with my book -- as if "holy tango" were a phrase in common parlance. The item notes that Jack Abramoff and Monica Lewinsky both attended the Hawthorne School and Beverly Hills High, and then adds:

It's like a Holy Tango of Taint, y'all, but it reminds us of a constant complaint we have with the Harry Potter universe: why don't they just tear Slytherin down?

I will be mightily impressed if "holy tango" actually catches a wave of semantic drift and comes to mean something besides "a phrase I made up because it was an anagram of 'anthology' and sounded funny".

Posted by Francis at 06:33 PM | Comments (11)

A gift idea you're probably glad you missed

Who wouldn't want a whole year of guys not being into them?

Posted by Francis at 02:30 PM | Comments (6)

Also, 50 years from now, if your grandchildren are bothering you, you'll be able to make them go away if you start saying, "Yes, I remember the winter of ought-five..."

Six things.


Posted by Francis at 12:35 AM in Six Things | Comments (1)

January 07, 2006

From the album "Some Fantasy Girls"

For a limited time only (in an effort to not get sued), I have a new mash-up for you folks to download, featuring John Lennon and the Rolling Stones.

Download "Woman's Burden".

Posted by Francis at 04:36 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2006

Spammers are not of language smoothity

Here are two choice bits of spam phrasing that have cropped up in my inbox recently. First, an excerpt from the gajillionth Paypal spoof e-mail I have received today:

It has come to our attention that your PayPal account information needs to be updated as part of our continuing commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance of fraud on our website. If you could please take 5-10 minutes out of your online experience and update your personal records you will not run into any future problems with the online service.

I love that "if you could please take 5-10 minutes out of your online experience". So colloquial! Also, I would still be online while the spammers were harvesting my personal information, so it would actually remain part of my online experience.

The second excerpt is the subject line of an e-mail about some adult thing or other -- chat lines, or personal ads, or meeting people for illicit sex, or claiming that that's what you'll be doing when really you'll just be looking at porn, or something. I feel a little self-conscious about scrolling too much further down into the e-mail to try to get the details while I'm here at work. Anyway, here is the subject line:

Add up considerable spicery to your liveliness

Also, the top image in the e-mail is not displaying, but the text in the placeholder for it reads "come here at this point". Seems a little early in the process to me for that, honestly.

Posted by Francis at 11:08 AM | Comments (2)

A reminder

I will be performing excerpts from Holy Tango of Literature next Tuesday at 8:30 as part of the Ritalin Readings, at Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction at 34 Avenue A (between 2nd and 3rd Street). It is $7, and surely you would pay that much just for the opportunity to see if cohost TMFTML can really pound them back as much as he says he can.

Posted by Francis at 10:37 AM | Comments (1)

Showdown showcase

Those who were once geeks for superhero comics will remember how totally fucking exciting it was whenever there was a DC/Marvel crossover. Well, feast your eyes on the crossover to end all crossovers.

(Thanks to Jim for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2006

Once more, with flavor

At work, things often appear in the kitchen with no explanation. Usually this is welcome enough that I don't think too much about it. Petit fours? I don't care where they came from, I'm just glad there are enough left for me to eat six of them. But today there were three single-serving bags of Doritos. That doesn't so much strike me as a festive, sharing-the-bounty kind of thing to leave in a communal kitchen. More like "the snack machine spat too many of these out, and I kind of had mixed feelings about the one I was actually buying in the first place."

I took one nonetheless -- not because I was interested in eating them (I'll be bringing them back to work tomorrow and leaving them in the kitchen again for someone who is), but because I thought the burst on the front of the bag was blogworthy:


"Now better tasting!" I love the implication behind that, namely: "We're sorry they tasted like crap before! We fixed it! With...electricity!" (Yes, when I think "tasty", I think "power strip".)

I think what they meant to say was "Now even better tasting." See, this is why everyone needs copy editors, if only to avoid being made fun of on the blogs of other copy editors.

Posted by Francis at 01:46 AM | Comments (18)

January 04, 2006

About a Squirrel

I looooove the latest game posted at Jay Is Games: Swoop to Nuts, in which you play a killingly cute squirrel that collects acorns, which become scarcer as the seasons change. (And just to keep my string of font dorkery going, I'll point out that the game features one of my all-time favorite fonts, Fink Heavy.) I currently have the high score of 231,250 (under my NPL alias, Lunch Boy), and am trying to talk myself into going to bed instead of trying for a higher one. We'll see how that goes.

Posted by Francis at 12:57 AM | Comments (3)

January 03, 2006

Lip-sync service

Rose and I have been watching Elvis Costello's "The Right Spectacle" DVD, which includes all his videos as well as a bunch of live TV performances. I had been slightly leery about buying it, since Elvis famously hates almost all of his videos, but Rose argued that even the bad videos would probably be entertaining -- and once I thought about it, I had to agree, especially when I saw that there were commentary tracks from Elvis on all the videos.

As it happens, yes, most of the videos are pretty piss-poor. Some are just benignly uninteresting videos in the band-pretending-to-play-their-instruments vein (although "New Lace Sleeves" is that sort of video, and manages to be pretty good), but some are quite stunningly bad. "Every Day I Write the Book" intercuts some pretty lame band-miming with vignettes of the home life of a Princess Di/Prince Charles look-somewhat-alike couple. Inscrutable, cheesy, and painfully forgettable.

Apart from the live TV performances, which are pretty swell, there are some good videos poking out of the heap of dross. "I Wanna Be Loved" (from the unloved-by-critics-and-Elvis-alike Goodbye Cruel World) is not just the best video on this DVD, but one of the best videos I've ever seen. Elvis explains in his commentary that director Evan English had him stay up all night before filming the video, which consists solely of Elvis sitting in a photo booth (sometimes audibly singing along to the song, sometimes speaking lyrics, and sometimes sitting silently) while strangers lean in and kiss him on the cheek, hug him, or blow in his ear. "Goodbye Cruel World" dates from an emotional low point in Elvis's life, and being strung out from no sleep apparently left him feeling quite fragile. He spends most of the video visibly upset. I found it powerfully affecting.

The videos after that are generally, at the very least, competent, with a few standouts -- "Veronica", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "So Like Candy". There is one big, big failure, though, and surprisingly, it was the follow-up to "Veronica" (which won an MTV Video Award!), "This Town".

Firstly, "This Town" is a terrible choice for a single. No song that features the phrase "the moody doomed love of the fish-finger king" is meant to be a radio hit. "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror", "Satellite", or "Pads, Paws and Claws" would all have been far superior picks. But if you absolutely had to go with "This Town", would you then make a video in which the devil (played by an unattractively made-up and be-horned Elvis) hosts a game show, and which hamfistedly attempts to make some sort of inarticulate social commentary about how greed is bad? With a hokey spoken-word intro and outro? Oh, how it made me long to see some musicians miming along. Truly, Elvis Costello is an example of someone who succeeded despite MTV, not because of it.

Posted by Francis at 05:28 PM | Comments (3)

The Helvetica you say

Turns out there was no font goof in Good Night, and Good Luck after all.

Posted by Francis at 10:40 AM | Comments (1)

January 01, 2006

And while we're on this subject, let me just say that I fucking hate the Jeopardy! screen display font

Following a series of links sent to me by Rose about period font accuracy in movies, I discovered this unexpected Jeopardy! erratum.

(See more movie fontinuity errors here.)

Posted by Francis at 09:18 PM | Comments (2)

You better have doubt, you better not cry

Well, it's 2006, and my goal for the new year is to run a Six Things every week. So here's the first one, only about a week too late to have been topical.


Posted by Francis at 01:28 AM in Six Things | Comments (5)