March 30, 2006

Snakes in a Car!

Well, one snake, anyway. And thus we learn that a one-to-one snake/human ratio is more than sufficient to wreak a significant amount of havoc.

(Thanks to Jason for the link!)

Posted by Francis at 02:40 PM | Comments (1)

In the clearing stands a bald guy, a producer by his trade

Okay, after "You're the One" I was just about ready to write off Paul Simon, but I have to say I'm excited about his new album, which I've just learned is a collaboration with Brian Eno. This isn't a guarantee of automatic brilliance -- I mean, that last Eno album was a yawner -- but given Eno's track record of great collaborative albums (my favorites include Bowie's "Low" and "Lodger", Talking Heads' "Remain in Light", and "Wrong Way Up" with John Cale), this is certainly cause for some well-piqued interest.

Posted by Francis at 11:38 AM | Comments (4)

March 29, 2006

I'm sorry, I tried to think of something better, but the cartoon was already late, and...

Six things.


Posted by Francis at 03:40 AM in Six Things | Comments (21)

March 27, 2006

Snakes on a Sudoku!

Six Things will be delayed this week (because I spent the weekend at the crossword tournament), but perhaps this will hold you over. Ladies and gentlemen, as jokingly suggested (and graphically aided) by Alex, I give you...Snakes on a Sudoku!


(Go here to see the image on its own page, for ease of printing out.)

This puzzle works just like a regular sudoku, except the internal 3x3 squares have been replaced with snakes! Snaaaaakes! Each row, column, and snake contains the numbers from 1 through 9 exactly once. (Answer next week.)

Update! Snakes on a Sudoku is now an honest-to-Samuel-L.-Jackson book (available here and here):


If you enjoyed this somewhat far-fetched sudoku/movie tie-in, you may also enjoy The Sudoku Code.

...and don't miss Snakes on a Sudoku 2!

Posted by Francis at 02:30 PM | Comments (14)

March 26, 2006


Just got back from this year's crossword tournament -- and am trying to get myself off the day's emotional roller coaster. On day 1 of the tournament, I solved all six puzzles perfectly and had excellent times on all but one (the brutal puzzle 5 by Byron Walden, which took me just under 21 minutes to hack my way through, eight minutes slower than my traditional next-door neighbor, Ellen Ripstein). I figured my crap showing on puzzle 5 would have left me somewhere around 12th-15th, which is where I've finished the past few years I've competed.

But then this morning I woke up to discover that I was actually in 7th place going into the last puzzle! This was my best placement ever (my best tournament finish was 9th place in 1999). I was super psyched! Aaaaaaand then when the top ten finishers were announced at the awards banquet, I was not actually among them. Apparently I made a careless error in puzzle 7. I checked the answer grid and didn't see anything other than what I thought I had written in, so apparently in my haste I wrote a different letter in one square than what I thought I was writing. This sometimes happens when I'm writing in one answer and reading ahead to another clue -- I'll write in a letter from the next word I need to write in -- but I thought I had checked all the crossing words. Apparently not.

So anyway, I'm quite ticked off at myself for not solving more carefully, since if I had finished without an error I would have ended up in 6th place, instead of 13th. The thing that's stupid about this is that if I had woken up to discover I was in 13th place after 6 puzzles and then stayed there, I'd be perfectly content, instead of very very very very very discontent. At least I've come down from my original position of hating everyone and wanting them all to die, and have returned to my usual level of mid-range misanthropy -- so that's something.

Posted by Francis at 05:04 PM | Comments (7)

March 24, 2006

You are the snakes beneath my wings

More evidence that Snakes on a Plane has the most brilliant marketing plan in movie history: they shot five additional days of footage, making a special point of including a line that appeared in a fake web audio trailer for the film (created by a fan). This is going to be the best movie about snakes on a plane ever!

(Thanks to Alex for the tip. Read more Snakes on a Plane coverage than you ever thought possible here.)

Posted by Francis at 01:34 PM | Comments (2)

March 23, 2006

I will probably not be doing any readings to promote this one

Since writing esoteric anagram-based literary parodies has not exactly turned out to be the quickest road to massive wealth (or, indeed, any wealth to speak of), I have turned my attention instead to...sudoku.

Of course, I don't actually write sudoku, so the only reason for me to have my name on a sudoku book would be by coming up with an interesting twist on the trend. So I created a framework for a book of sudoku puzzles which contains a secret message hidden in 9-letter blocks throughout the book, finding which will lead you to another, even more hidden clue, which in turn gives you a final answer which you can send in (with the traditional SASE) to receive a button proclaiming your sudoku studliness. I wrote the hidden messages and drew up a description of the various constraints under which the puzzles would need to be constructed, and sent that to my coauthor Frank Longo, who then created the actual puzzles. I think the final result is pretty cool, honestly.

Anyway, it's now available for preorder at Amazon! Let me know if you want to buy the movie rights.

Posted by Francis at 05:05 PM | Comments (15)

March 21, 2006

What's the (package) deal?

So the other day I bought myself a KitKat from the vending machine at work. Not a traditional KitKat, with the four skinny little stuck-together chocolate-covered wafer sticks; but a single giant, distended KitKat enlarged to monstrous proportions, perhaps as a result of an accident with gamma rays.

Their hulking mutatedness aside, I am actually fond of the oversize KitKat bars, which used to be packaged like this. Now, "KitKat BigKat" seemed like a reasonable enough name, given the fact that the candy bar was a KitKat, but, you know, bigger...but I guess sales weren't good enough, because they have since changed the packaging to this:


The thing I love about this is the asterisk. "Twice the crisp!* *as regular Kit Kat." My first reaction to this was to think, huh -- I didn't realize crispness could be measured so precisely. Then I read more closely. It doesn't say twice the crispness; it says twice the crisp. So I think what they're trying to say is that a regular KitKat has three layers of crisp, and a big KitKat has six. The wafers themselves are not crispier...there are just more of them. Hence, extra crispy. Quantity trumps quality once again.

Posted by Francis at 01:30 AM | Comments (8)

March 20, 2006

And now the final confirmation that yes, last week's commenters were in fact picking up on my ever-so-subtle foreshadowing

Six things. (Just got here? See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)


Posted by Francis at 12:06 AM in Six Things | Comments (7)

March 17, 2006

Truth in advertising

I saw an ad for My Gym Partner's a Monkey on the subway this week, and I thought...huh, that is like the children's-TV version of the naming convention that is bringing us Snakes on a Plane. You know absolutely everything you need to know about that show and that movie from those titles. Here are some other movies and TV shows renamed in the same fashion:

Survivor --> Manipulative Jerks on an Island
Titanic --> Class Divisions on a Boat
Thelma and Louise --> Feisty Women in a Car
Curb Your Enthusiasm --> Larry David on an Unbroken Streak of Doing Things That Will Make You Feel Uncomfortable
The X-Files --> My FBI Partner's Always Spouting Dubious Conspiracy Theories
Arrested Development --> Another Actually Funny Show on Fox That the Network Has No Idea How to Promote and Will Cancel Within Three Years
Sex and the City --> Sex, in a City

Posted by Francis at 04:50 PM | Comments (6)

March 16, 2006

Note: please do not bother making one for Alex, as he will tear it apart and set fire to it before you can blink

Remember that furry lobster? Now you can make your own plush toy version.

(Via Making Light.)

Posted by Francis at 05:25 PM | Comments (1)

March 15, 2006

Alberta -- the final frontier

Turns out Truth or Consequences is not the only city with a deliberate TV tie-in -- there's also the Star Trek mecca of Vulcan, Alberta (although, unlike T or C, they already had the name; they just ran with it). I must say I'm very curious about their Spock Days Rodeo. This is the only photo I can find from it, and the picture is kind of too small to tell if the guy on the horse is wearing pointy ears.

(Thanks to Lorinne for the link!)

Posted by Francis at 11:53 AM | Comments (4)

March 14, 2006

Who's gonna drive you home tonight? Not Ric Ocasek

I just learned (via Stereogum) that the Cars are reuniting...except, as with many bands that reunite, they will have a different lead singer. Unlike most bands, though, their new lead singer is arguably better than the old one. Yes, instead of Ric Ocasek, the New Cars (as they are in fact called) will feature Todd Rundgren. Sweet.

Posted by Francis at 03:18 PM | Comments (5)

March 13, 2006

Bet you thought I'd forgotten about this

This week's Six Things is part of a series. (Here's where to read part one and part two if you're not caught up with the very complicated plot.) And I know it was a total lie the last time I said it, but this storyline will continue (and conclude) next week. Really.


Posted by Francis at 03:00 AM in Six Things | Comments (11)

March 12, 2006

Why I am not a news correspondent

Chile elects a female president, and the main thing I notice when I read the article is this:

Ms. Bachelet was pictured laughing as she received a gift of a charango guitar from Mr Morales on the eve of the inauguration, and the two exchanged compliments.

My thoughts on reading this: "A charango? I want one of those!"

A charango, you see, is an Andean instrument -- similar to a ukulele, but double-stringed like a 12-string guitar -- which is traditionally made out of an armadillo shell. I took a music class in college where we got to play with Andean instruments, and I got to borrow the charango for about a week. Fun.

Unlike the one pictured above, however, the charango I used was a little...furry. Did you know armadillos had hair? I had not previously given the matter any thought. But they do! They grow out between the plates of the shell. (You can sort of see what I mean in this picture, or perhaps the side view here is better.)

Anyway, I suppose I don't need a charango, but it did have a unique sound, and having a hairy little guitar around was sort of like having an alternate version of this.

Posted by Francis at 10:34 AM | Comments (7)

March 09, 2006

There are furrier things in heaven and earth...

I saw this yesterday; this morning, my officemate Alex informed me that he'd had a nightmare about it last night. I think it's freaky cool, myself -- and it made me wonder if these creatures could be the missing link between the lobsters of today and the furry old lobsters of yore.

(Also, via Making Light, there's the "musical furry lobster", but it doesn't really look all that furry to me.)

Posted by Francis at 05:57 PM | Comments (3)

March 07, 2006

Sunday in the Parking Lot with Pimps

I didn't see Crash, so I can't really offer an informed opinion about whether it deserved to win Best Picture. But I did see performances of the three Best Song nominees, and seriously now, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" was not the one I thought was going to come out on top.

Anyway, this morning, Lorinne (who was equally underwhelmed by the Academy's choice) came up with an idea for an alternate-universe version of the Best Song winner, and between us, we thought it might go a little this.

It's Hot Up Here (for a Pimp)

Pimp 1:
It's hot up here.
Acting rotten is monotonous.
I'm dodgin' bullets.
These are not my best bitches.

Pimp 2: (whiny)
I can't even find my bitches.

Pimp 1:
I hate this street.

Whore 1:
Our clients have forgotten us.

Whore 2:
The rats are squeaking.

Pimp 2: (spoken)
My outfit is slightly more garish than necessary.

Whore 1:
Hello, pimp.
You know it's hard for both of us
Out here, pimp,
With cops, pimp.
They stop, pimp,
In cars beside the curb
And wave me in
And they don't tip me, pimp.

But cops can not be found
Any time a gun gets pulled
That's when you come around
And bash the bastard's skull.
Yes, thank you, pimp, for that --
Your baseball bat.

All Pimps:
Well, there are worse things than pimpin' in an alley on a Sunday.
There are worse things than pimpin' in an alley
While you're hatin' on the playas
Who are ridin' in their Caddys
And are stealin' all your clients --

Pimp 2:
And I lost my bitches!

All Pimps and Whores:
It's hot up here
Get shot up here
Clock Glocks up here

You got no time
For kicks out here
Turn tricks out here
All through the night

If you don't have
Street cred up here
You're dead up here

So make folks think
You're worst up here,
Then persevere
And hustle tight...
And it's a'ight!

Posted by Francis at 01:39 AM | Comments (8)

March 06, 2006

Something to think about the next time you're considering ordering from Domino's

My first reaction to hearing about this attempt to build a town governed by Catholic principles was "Well, if people want to restrict their own freedoms, I guess I don't see why they shouldn't be free to do that," but it didn't take me long to realize that not everyone in the town is going to be there wholly of their own free will. Do they think there will be no teenagers in that town frustrated by the lack of birth control (which is only going to lead inexorably to a much worse level of upset about the lack of available abortions)?

(Via America Hates Us.)

Posted by Francis at 11:48 AM | Comments (9)

Hearing things

So we were watching the Oscars tonight, Rose and Lorinne and I, and we swear that during the acceptance speech for Crash's Best Picture win, we heard producer Cathy Schulman thank "[her] husband and [her] wife." Anybody still got the show on their TiVo, so they can confirm or deny this? (And if that is what she said, what's the explanation? Just an odd slip of the tongue, or was this polyamory's big night at the Oscars?)

(Update, in case you're not the sort of person who reads comments: She meant to say "my husband and my daughter," according to her backstage interview. Thanks to Martha for finding the link.)

Posted by Francis at 01:11 AM | Comments (6)

Hot black-and-white-on-black-and-white action

Rose pointed me to this video, which will make you go "awww", or I will eat my hat (by which I mean "Luna bar"). Ladies and gentlemen, I give you panda kindergarten.

Posted by Francis at 01:10 AM | Comments (3)

March 05, 2006

If You're Feeling Six Things-ish

As a preface to this week's cartoon, I feel obliged to point out that the new Belle & Sebastian CD, The Life Pursuit is clearly going to be the album to beat for my best-of-2006 list. Cannot. Stop. Listening. That said:


Posted by Francis at 11:38 AM in Six Things | Comments (1)

March 03, 2006

You see, "separation of church and state" is clearly a typo for "separation of churches by the state"

Some (I assume "some", because they can't all be that stupid) Missouri state legislators want to name Christianity Missouri's official religion. (See bugmenot for login credentials.)

The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."

And here I thought that Christians (along with everybody else) already had the right to express their religious beliefs. Oh, the poor tyrannized majority!

(Thanks to Victoria for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 10:04 PM | Comments (11)

Good thing I paid off my student loan before the U.S. went batshit over terror surveillance

Did you know? Paying off credit cards = terrorism.

Posted by Francis at 05:33 PM | Comments (2)

March 01, 2006

Is this some brand-new fetish?

From Amber (who saw it at Bitch Ph.D.), it's the Sarong Theorem Archive.

Although I heartily approve of this page in concept, I feel that some of these people are not getting into the spirit of it, and are thus bringing down the overall quality of the enterprise. Draping a sarong around one's neck may be "wearing" it -- I'm looking at you, Noah Snyder -- but this is clearly an example of following the letter and not the spirit of the law. And what's going on with Brenda Fine? If the only way I can deduce that there is a sarong in a picture is that I have been told so, that is lame. Come on, people! I may not know much about higher mathematics, but I know hot sarong-wearing theorem-proving action when I see it, and Brenda Fine, that is not it. Look at Alice Medvedev! She is wearing the heck out of her sarong. I think we could all learn a lot from Alice (and not just about the compactness theorem).

(Side note: I am peripherally acquainted with Noah Snyder -- he helped run this year's Mystery Hunt -- and when I see him I will be sure to suggest that he be less timid with the sarong next time.)

Posted by Francis at 11:34 AM | Comments (7)