Friday, September 30, 2005

Hottest. Woman. Ever.

The Washington Post has two new writers, Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, for it's "gossip" column, The Reliable Source. To make sure that they got some attention right out of the gate, their very first column covered Angelina Jolie testifying to Congress about something or other. In the article, they notice that "everyone is doing a valiant job of pretending that the Sexiest Woman Alive is not sitting at the table." The Washington Post has very high journalistic standards and they cannot make bold declarations like that without some sort of confirming source.

I will vouch that Angelina Jolie is the living embodiment of ideal female beauty. Two years ago, while on vacation in southern California, we decided to do the full tourist thing and see a real Hollywood red carpet movie premiere. The big movie opening that week was the critically despised Tomb Raider II: The Cradle of Life.

For a Hollywood premiere, they close off the main block of Hollywood Boulevard for the red carpet arrivals which snarls traffic worse than usual. We managed to park in the Kodak Theater garage and elbow our way to the front of the crowd, only to hear that Angelina had already gone in. We did stick around to see the rest of the "celebrities" arrive, the biggest two being Colin Ferrell acting like a drunk Irish ass and David Spade looking like he stepped off the set of Joe Dirt II. We were slightly disappointed but philosophical about missing the main attraction.

We overheard a fellow stalker movie buff mention that it's a lot easier to catch the stars coming out of the theater after the premiere. So we ate dinner at a wierdly themed Wolfgang Puck restaurant and then staked out a place behind the security rope across from Manns Chinese Theater. As soon as people start spilling out of the theater we waited and were rewarded. Angelina and her entourage walked right in front of us no farther than ten feet away as the paraded over to the post-premiere party. As hot as Angelina looks on the silver screen, she is twice as hot in person. We are talking 100% pure premium, not-from-concentrate H-O-T hot.

She was wearing a very tasteful black backless dress that clung to her like nobody's business. The only surprise was that she is amazingly petite. Five foot-two inches tops. No more than 100 pounds soaking wet. And we're not talking Lindsay Lohan/Nicole Ritchie coke-fueled scrawny. Every ounce of her was in exactly the right place.

I'm not the only one with this opinion. In an Ask Amy column, Amy Dickerson warns an insecure young lady:
But remember that even for beautiful people, there's always someone more beautiful across the room. Unless, of course, you're Angelina Jolie.
In a Saturday Night Live bit, Amy Poehler rants:
It was reported that while vacationing together in Kenya, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie made so much noise while making love, the hotel staff rushed to the room because it sounded like a wounded animal. OK, we get it, Angelina Jolie, you're better than every woman at everything! You're prettier, you're sexier, you're covered in exotic tattoos.
Angelia Jolie is the gold standard for hot women when you need to make a point. But with great power comes great responsibility. Anyone who can make Brad Pitt (who I hear is no slouch in the looks department) drop Jennifer Anniston like congealed monkey vomit, should not toy with mere mortals. She played Alexander the Great's mom, but Helen in Troy would have been better casting.

On the plus side, her much publicized work for awareness of some of the world's most ignored and poverty-stricken disaster regions has to negate some of her home-wrecking bad karma. But like those goo-goo eyed congressmen, is anyone listening when she moves those African-Killer-Bee level pouty lips? We should. Don't ignore her just because she is beautiful. She deserves the same chance to voice her opinion as any other preternaturally beautiful celebrity with a cause. Listen to her well considered plea for greater justice and compassion towards the less fortunate of the world. And try to maintain eye contact.

Oh, and did I mention that she's hot?

Here's a link to more pictures of the Tomb Raider II premiere, but they hardly do her justice.

Update (5/8/06): See this post for my latest take on Angelina.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Testing, Testing

If you came here looking for my really brilliant post about Internet meme quizzes, I had to take it down for repairs because it was fracking up my blogger template something fierce. When I get it fixed I will put it back just the way it was, except right. And pretty.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

History of the Foobiverse, Part 1

In the late seventies a wave of new writers, like Jim Davis, Cathy Guisewite, and Mike Peters brought a breath of fresh air to the comics pages. Their irreverent sense of humor livened things up and added new voices and perspectives to the rather ossified strip of the day. They then set up camp in the Style section of the paper for the next 25-30 years proving once again that the new boss is the same as the old boss. These strips may not sound fresh and innovative to people who have been reading them all their literate lives and are now used to edgier, more daring fare, but then cultural context is the key. Knotts Landing, Eight Is Enough, and BJ and the Bear were still on the air when these strips were getting their shore legs. How many other relics of the late seventies have stayed continuously popular for so long?

The den mother of these Young Turks was Lynn Johnston, whose comic strip For Better Or For Worse is arguably on of the most popular strips in print, appearing in over 2000 newspapers around the world, having outlived far brighter but quicker burning fare such as Bloom County, Calvin & Hobbes, and Farside. Her strip is also notable as one of a handful in history where the characters live and age in real time. They have real birthdays where the calendars actually roll over. They graduate from school, get jobs, and start families of their own.

I recently spent an evening at Borders thumbing through Suddenly Silver, her latest retrospective, which has sample story lines from the 25-year history of the strip with Lynn writing little essays about how the strip has changed over the years. I was completely underwhelmed with how little has actually happened. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Mike gets a crush on little Deanna.
  • John buys a sports car.
  • Ellie goes back to school. (What did she do with that degree?)
  • Ellie gets pregnant and gives birth to April.
  • Ellie goes through menopause.
  • John and his brother get lost on a camping trip. No one squeals like a pig.
  • Mike’s pal Gordo is revealed to be the victim of domestic abuse from his violent dad.
  • Farley the family dog dies after rescuing April from drowning.
  • Mike and Deanna hook-up again and get married.
  • John buys a vintage sports utility vehicle.
  • And that’s about it. I think more happens in a season of According To Jim than in all 25 years of FBOFW. Even the more controversial storylines, like where Lawrence, Mike’s other boyhood pal, comes out of the closet, would barely make interesting afterschool specials.

    There’s also a strong strain of old-fashioned values that underscore the stories. When Liz’s boyfriend Eric suggests she share his room at college, she makes his other roommate sleep on the couch instead. Mike and Deanna secretly get married rather than live together because she’s “not that kind of girl”. April’s pal Becky learns the hard way that senior guys don’t respect the trashy underclassmen they go “roadside” with.

    The strip treads a fine line between slice-of-life and soap opera with the strip getting a little sudsier every year. A recent storyline has grown daughter Elizabeth become the victim of a sexual assault only to then have to shoot down the advances of her unhappily married high school sweetheart in the same day. A real opportunity to give a message about sexual harassment in the workplace is used merely as a springboard to close out a long simmering plot thread.

    The creepiest parts of Suddenly Silver are the testimonials from Lynn’s family about how great it has been to be a comic strip character. I’m not sure if this is to atone for years of airing family laundry on the funny pages or a misplaced sense of our interest in Johnston’s inspirations, but the whole theme has a little whiff of rationalization about it. It’s like Lynn is saying “It’s all right that I have strip-mined the personal lives of my children and closest relatives for a quarter century because they really, really love me.” As long as everybody is OK with that, who am I to snipe?

    Lynn threatens/promises to end the strip when her current syndication contract ends in 2007, causing (in comic-geek circles at least) a lot of speculation of how the strip will end. Based on the low-key pace of the past 25 years, I’m predicting whimper rather than bang.

    Or more likely a long syrupy sweet “AWWWWWW!”

    The next installment of my FBOFW vivisection is Meet The Foobs. For a fuller hagiography of Lynn Johnston, see this article. There is also an extremely candid interview about her traumatic childhood here.

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    Saturday, September 24, 2005

    To Meme Or Not To Meme?

    When I first starting running across the "tag, you're it" memes, I felt those were a little beneath my dignity. What I really thought is that no one would ever bother to tag me, so I could feel smuggly disdainful of the whole phenomena. This is a defense mechanism finely honed by years of being picked last in gym class after the fat girl with her hand in a cast.

    Then of course, I got "tagged" and had to reasess my smugness. A loyal reader, mercuryfern tagged me with this meme:

    1. Go into your archive.
    2. Find your 23rd post.
    3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
    4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
    5. Tag five some other people to do the same.

    This particular meme was more intriguing than the typical "truth or dare" tell-me-someting-about-yourself meme because it forces you to look back at what you have written in the past. So in a way, it is a self-referential meta-meme. And here at Foma Central we are all about meta.

    So I played along and found my 23rd post, and the fifth sentence was:
    We haven't had any new roll-outs of Cafe Press items in a while which has to mean there can't be that much cash in them.
    which is pretty meaningless out of context. But, like mercury fan, I decided to cheat because the sixth sentence
    The difference between a job and a hobby is that a job is what people pay you to do and a hobby is what you pay to get to do.
    is so profound that it can't be possibly be original to me. But since I can't remember where I stole it from, you have to take my word on this.

    I guess the second part of "tag" memes that I have trouble with is forcing people to do things that they may not have wanted to do. In which case, I offer that memes have the moral authority of a chain letter. You have no obligation to play along unless you find it interesting enough to follow through.

    I hereby in a non-binding, no-recriminations-if-you-don't way, "tag" trusty getto, mean girl, wickwire, geekwif, and any volunteers that care to play. Don't wait to be tagged if you want to go ahead and join our reindeer games. Leave a comment saying, "OOOOH! OOOOOH! Mr. Kotter! Tag me too!" and I will add you to the tagees in the main post. Thanks for playing along and not picking me last.

    Update: Keb had the best Ron Palillo impression and gets added to the tagged list. I'm glad everybody had fun.

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    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Birth Control and Boobs

    I am very easily confused. A post by my blog-buddy trusty getto got me thinking about some newspaper articles I had read in the Washington Post recently and things didn’t add up. Try to follow this with me:

    August 31, 2005: The FDA indefinitely defers the approval of “Plan-B” or “morning-after” birth control pills as an over-the-counter drug for women 17 and over because it would remain by-prescription only for women under the age of 17 and the FDA can't figure out how to keep 16-year olds from buying it over-the-counter. Susan Woods, the FDA director of the Office of Women’s Health resigned in protest.

    September 20, 2005: The FDA announces that Norris Alderson, a FDA staffer whose specialty is animal husbandry, would replace Susan Woods as the director of the Office of Women’s Health. This announcement is met with universal derision, and the Ministry of Truth erases all evidence of the announcement.

    September 19, 2005: The FBI announces the formation of a task force aimed at the prosecution of companies creating pornography involving consenting adults. This is met with snickering and eye-rolling. By FBI agents.

    September 22, 2005: The FDA approves, on appeal, to allow a second company to manufacture and market silicone gel breast implants, which previously had been banned for over a decade.

    To summarize:
  • Over-the-counter birth control: Bad
  • Appointing people to jobs outside their expertise: Good, until caught.
  • Pornography: Bad
  • Big boobs: Good

  • Is this all part of a sinister agenda, or is it merely bumbling incompetence?
    Does anyone else see anything inconsistent or hypocritical here?
    Wouldn't banning breast implants destroy the porn industry without an FBI task force?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    Update: In a Friday afternoon news dump, FDA chief Lester Crawford resigned after only being confirmed to the job two months ago. No word if the reason for his departure was that he found the recently announced porn squad openings too enticing to pass up.

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    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    Warning To Parents

    Parents have a lot of worries as children get older and become more independent. We do our best to alert our children to the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and risky sexual behavior. We teach them about dealing with bullies and how to resist the temptations that fill the world. But sometimes it’s the things we aren’t vigilant about, or even aware of that trip them and us up.

    As the parent of a fifteen year-old, I want to alert you to an activity that while not as dangerous as the more common fears, is far more prevalent. We all think we have given our children the tools to make good choices and act responsible, yet they still go ahead and do things that simple announce to the world their immaturity. The phenomena I am discussing crosses all sorts of lines by class, race, religion, and geographic location. There is no part of the country or any school, middle, junior high, senior high, public, private, or parochial, which is not affected.

    You are probably even unaware that your children are even doing it. You think they are researching homework or harmlessly chatting on IM, but they are actually doing something far more frightening. Many start at about 14 or 15, but some are actively involved as young as 11 or 12. If your children are younger, don’t deceive your self into thinking that your children wouldn’t ever do it. The peer pressure is just too great. And they will succumb. I guarantee it.

    Parents, your children are keeping the most hideous and ugliest blogs ever written. Like their rooms, these blogs are messy, disorganized, loud and frightening to visit. They defy all rules of grammar, spelling, good design and clean HTML coding. These pages blink, scream, flash, and generally assault all the senses that can be damaged across a broadband connection.

    Their tool of choice, or weapon as the case may be, is Xanga. You may be a veteran blogger and be completely unfamiliar with this site. I travel in fairly family-friendly cyber-circles and have yet to run across anyone old enough to drink legally with a Xanga page, yet it is nearly ubiquitous with the teen and tween set. Another bizarre example of network effect in action.

    Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s take a tour of some typical pages. Out of a completely unappreciated respect for my son’s privacy, I am not linking to his or any of his friends’ sites, to the best of my knowledge. Like grown-up blogging, kids can make associations all over the world based on all sorts of random connections.

    Warning: If you are in a work environment or a public place where you could draw unwanted attention, do not click on any of these links.

    Let’s start with LYSS_X3. Get over the word “Sex” in the header, that’s just shock value. One post talks about how excited she is about her upcoming mission trip right underneath a GIF extolling the uses of lemons as bra stuffers. Try to read any of the posts over this garish background. And that background isn’t even as bad as this one or this one or this one. You get the idea. In fact, don't even bother reading the posts, most of them read like long form IM chats spun through a rot-13 filter.

    Do you control your children’s viewing habits? Are you aware that their 11-year old friends are streaming MTV-worthy videos to all comers? Don’t let them listen to heavy metal? Kids they never met are more than eager to share THEIR taste.

    Blogging is a rite of passage and a natural part of growing up. If you act too judgmental, you will just alienate your child. I know of one girl who started a new secret blog because her mom found her old one. Just grit your teeth and do your best. Like teaching drug awareness or sexual responsibility, at some point you have to trust their judgment and hope the values you have instilled take root.

    Respect their taste, but use your time together to explain that sometimes the medium is the message. People make decisions about you based on how you look and act and talk. It may not sink in at first, but they may eventually remember and heed your advice.

    Above all, remember that this is all just a phase. Eventually, they will graduate to LiveJournal, and then to Blogger or MovableType. Give them time. Give them trust. Give them space to share their thoughts and feeling with their friends in their own style. And then secretly subscribe to their site and laugh your ass off.

    Real Warning: The above is all tongue in cheek, but I found the Xanga site of a 13-year old girl that listed her full real name, the name of her very small hometown, a list of her friends by first name and last initial, and at least two contact phone numbers. Most kids know better than to give information to strangers, but don’t seem to realize that keeping a blog is like spray painting your diary on a truck stop overpass. Teach cyber safety and keep your children out of danger.

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    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Survey Says: People Have Sex

    I love reading the newspaper because there is so much smutty stuff in it. And that's not even counting the department store lingerie ads. Most of dirty stuff is usually crime associated, so there's a certain "Ewww!" factor associated with the typical run of stories about teachers seducing students, guys soliciting FBI agents over the internet, and governors knocking up their secretaries.

    This week a major survey of American sexual habits was released. I stay away from surveys taken by magazines that are sold at supermarket checkout lines because I know the statistics are completely demographically invalid. I've never met any women that read Cosmopolitan, let alone share 101 great bedroom tips with them. And I know there aren't enough straight readers of Details to come up with a sample size that would pass any chi-square test.

    This study was conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, which sounds very credible. The best part about reading new reports on sex studies is noting the facts that different news groups want to emphasize. Obviously, they want to emphasize the stats that will make you want to read the article.

    The AP newswire as carried by the Baltimore Sun went all Lesbian Chic by trumpeting that 11 percent of women between 18 and 44 and 14 percent of women under 30 have had a same-sex encounter at least once in their life. That's almost disappointingly low for those of us whose knowledge of female openness to experimentation comes from Forum letters. Especially when reading the find print and finding that what qualifies as a same sex experience for women is left to the respondent's interpretation, as opposed to the much more detailed breakdown for male-on-male action.

    The Washington Post instead focused on the teenage oral sex rate of 50% that rises to 70% for 18 and 19 year olds. And the breakdown between males and females isn't as one-sided as stereotypes would have you believe. Good to know college students are finding more than one way to get busy.

    The New York Times had the least sensationalistic headline, but hits both the bisexual and teen-sex parts of the survey pretty hard. They had graphs showing that a typical 15-year old has a 3 in 4 chance of being a virgin, but only 1 in 4 shot of staying pure until the age of 20. And guys have to wait a little longer than gals to get lucky. All this is based on the assumption that teenagers tell the truth to anybody, and survey takers in particular, about their sex lives.

    As a painfully straight married guy in his 40's, none of this had much relevance to me until I found buried in the report that 80% of the people surveyed had one or fewer sexual partners in the last year. I guess that just isn't sexy enough to put in a headline.

    Update: The online edition of the Times did not include the very cool graphs, so I have scanned them. Click on the image to see the full size version.

    Update 2:(9/22/05) if you think my post or the articles it links are too graphic, Slate has an article on the parts of the study the mainstream media are ignoring. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    100 Things About My Dog

    By a nearly 2 to 1 margin my readers are more intersted in my dog than me. By popular demand, here is more than you need to know about my pet. I would rather talk about ME, but vox populi has spoken.
    1. My dog is an English Cocker Spaniel.
    2. English Cockers are larger than American Cocker Spaniels
    3. but smaller than Springer Spaniels.
    4. He weighs about 30 pounds.
    5. His name is Chessie
    6. which is short for Chesapeake.
    7. He was named by his previous owner who discovered he was allergic to dogs.
    8. I adopted him from his previous owner when he was about five years old.
    9. That was over six years ago.
    10. He is AKC registered.
    11. But he has a bad underbite which would disqualify him from being a show dog.
    12. He has also been "fixed".

    13. I had an English Cocker Spaniel a long time ago that I had to give up when I moved for work reasons and couldn't find a place to rent that accepted pets.
    14. Adopting Chessie was karmic atonement for giving away my other English Cocker Spaniel.
    15. My other cocker spaniel was named Sunny, which is short for Sunshine,
    16. because he was tan.
    17. Chessie is roan,
    18. which is black, gray, and white with blueish highlights.

    19. Chessie does not get along with very small children or puppies.
    20. They are too "bouncy" for him and he snaps and snarls.
    21. We had to quit taking him to dog parks because he would guard me from other dogs.
    22. Larger calmer dogs he gets along with fine.
    23. Except for my neighbors golden retriever.
    24. Chessie snapped at him as a puppy and the retriever has held a grudge.
    25. Chessie gets along with the three other golden retrievers in our neighborhood.

    26. I walk Chessie twice a day.
    27. The morning walk is at 5:30 am.
    28. The evening walk is around 9 pm.
    29. He gets let out for just a couple of minutes a few times a day in between.
    30. We walk for one mile.
    31. Half a mile if we feel lazy, are pressed for time, or it starts raining.
    32. On weekend mornings we walk to the neighborhood school which is 1.5 miles round trip.
    33. I let him run off leash on the school grounds.
    34. I give him glucosamine for his joints.

    35. Our neighborhood has four pet waste trash cans.
    36. They do not keep the rolls of spare baggies stocked.
    37. I subscribe to two newspapers so that I never run out of "pet waste" bags.
    38. On our walks, when we get to one of the trash cans Chessie tries to turn around.
    39. He thinks he is done with the walk at that point.
    40. I have to drag him past the trash can and then he will walk the rest of the way just fine.
    41. He tries to eat the food he finds on the ground.
    42. Like french fries, biscuits, and chicken bones.
    43. I just take the food away from him.

    44. Chessie hates getting wet which includes rain and baths.
    45. If he gets wet, I have to chase him around the house while he barks at me.
    46. I don't know if he can swim.
    47. I don't think I'll ever find out if he can.
    48. He loves to play in the snow.
    49. He likes to eat snow too, but not the yellow snow.

    50. Chessie has a few personality quirks that my wife calls "neurotic."
    51. He has to be in the same room I am in.
    52. If there is a closed door between him and me he will howl until I let him in.
    53. If he is in the same room, he will go asleep and nothing will bother him.
    54. And I do mean nothing.

    55. Sometimes after I shower, he will come in and lick the water off of my knees.
    56. I find that a little creepy.
    57. Chessie eats used Kleenexes and other soiled paper products.
    58. My wife finds that VERY creepy.

    59. He is very playful and active for a dog his age.
    60. We have a lot of rabbits in our neighborhood that I let him chase.
    61. He never catches them.
    62. He never even comes close.
    63. Plenty of times he runs in the wrong direction from the rabbit, if he sees the rabbit at all.
    64. He does not fetch anything.
    65. The only game he plays is tug-of-war.
    66. He's real ferocious for about five minutes, then it bores him and he quits.
    67. He likes having his belly rubbed.
    68. and his ears scratched.
    69. He is prone to ear infections.

    70. When the family leaves the house, we give him a rawhide treat to chew.
    71. If he sees us getting ready to leave, he runs to the stair landing and waits for his treat.
    72. He will dance or roll over for a treat.
    73. Other times we give him ice cubes as "treat."
    74. When he hears the icemaker, he runs to the kitchen and begs for an ice cube.

    75. He howls when he hears the garage door open.
    76. Most other times he just whimpers until he gets what he wants.
    77. We started letting him on the bed and furniture.
    78. But he whimpers until we give him permission to jump up.
    79. He also needs permission to drink from his water dish.
    80. And to eat dinner unless he is really hungry.

    81. He only eats when other people are eating.
    82. He will skip meals if no one is home.
    83. He does not like dog food very much,
    84. but he has a sensitive stomach, so we don't let him eat table scraps.
    85. He loves to eat broccoli stalks, green beans, squash and other vegetables.
    86. If he hears a knife on a cutting board he will come whimper until you give him some carrot or broccoli or green bean stems.

    87. He doesn't wear a collar in the house.
    88. Because the rattling of the dog tags wakes up my wife.
    89. He has three dog beds in the house.
    90. Four, if you count the old bath mat under the desk.
    91. He also sleeps on our bed, the sofas, the stair landings,
    92. and the floor between my wife's side of the bed and the bathroom.
    93. which is not a safe place for him to be in the middle of the night.

    94. Everyday when I get home, he runs to the door and likes my face very enthusiastically for a long time.
    95. He doesn't do this to anyone else in the family.
    96. My family corrects me if I call him "our dog".
    97. They correct me and say he is "your dog."
    98. There is no more loyal devotion than the unconditional love of a dog.
    99. If I ever get divorced, I get custody of the dog.
    100. My wife insists on it.

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    More Cute Baby Pictures

    In the random jump cut movie that is my life, the morning after I spent the evening photographing costumed otaku, I piled the family into the car to go to up to my adorable little cousin's (once removed) pre-baptism celebration picnic. This branch of my family is prone to celebrations at the drop of a hat. Graduations, birthdays, weddings, babies. Anything that can be celebrated with a party and a cooler of cold beer will be memorialized.

    My aunt and uncle have a weekend home less than 90 minutes from my house and I see them more often my own parents. I have been mooching Thanksgiving off them for years. I bake a few pies and then show up with my way-too-small-for-a-turkey-just-for-us family and have a good time.

    My cousin lives in a hitherto unknown-to-me corner of Pennsyltucky about 200 miles from my house. I won't say it was in redneck territory, but you pass an ATV drag strip on the way to his house. With bad summer traffic that translated to 5 hours up and 4 hours back. All for some free food, cold beer, and a photo-op with the newest member of the family. Still, it was worth it.

    I will often say, "I have travelled farther for less." I think nothing of daytripping to Philly for an excuse to go to Tony Lukes for pork cheesesteak with brocolli rabe.

    Sometimes the trouble of a roadtrip doesn't payoff. We have all had trips where you seem to get there just to turn around and wonder why you came. My worst trip was in college where I drove two hours to go to a wedding that lasted 15 minutes tops. I'm not even sure the bride and groom came to a complete stop as they recited their vows when they passed the front of the congregation. And then we found out we weren't invited to the reception. It was a Baptist wedding, so we weren't expecting a lot. Just some juice and cake in the church basement. Instead, nada. Needless to say those people aren't on our Christmas card list.

    So to the peanut gallery: What is the farthest you have travelled for the least satisfaction? Anything counts. It's the lowest pleasure to travel time ratio that counts.

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    Vonnegut on Comedy Central

    Here I am with a blog named after a Vonnegut-coined word and I am about the last blogger in the world to see Kurt's appearance on The Daily Show. The video is available on their website.

    For an 82 year old guy he can still zip out the zingers. He hits evolution, Bush, Iraq and a few other topics. If you can't get the video to work, some good quotes are here. He only got six minutes of airtime but left behind a list of Liberal Crap I Never Want To Hear Again. Once again he has proven that he is the grand master of the art of pointed sarcasm.

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    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    Welcome, Guests

    I wasn't really expecting company. Come on in. Let me clear the sink and kick the dog off the sofa. Make yourself at home and I'll pull out a few leftovers to share. If you're here as part of michele's cyber key swap party, I may not be what you expect, but then she draws a pretty eclectic crowd herself.

    Let me serve a few choice leftovers that don't show up on the Recent Posts list any more. I'm running a one man campaign to spread the phrase alligator mouth, hummingbird rump, so please use it whenever polite company prevents harsher language. I'm also a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut. And be sure to check out my deliberately ambiguous blogrolling policy.

    While you're here, help me decide between some future blog post ideas that I have been kicking around for awhile. Let me know which of these topics intrigues you:
    • 100 Thing About Me
    • 100 Thing About My Dog
    • 100 Thing About My iPod
    • Ugly Xanga Sites
    • Why yellojkt?
    • The Real Me
    • History of the Foobiverse, Part 1
    • Ted Forth, My Hero
    • Bittorrent-Giganews Deathmatch

    Stick around as long as you want. Search the couch cushions for loose change. Read the labels in my medicine cabinet. Just be sure to come back soon, because everything will be all different.

    Monday, September 12, 2005

    The $27,000 Movie Ticket

    A while back I posted about Sony using a phony movie reviewer to try to entice people to see completely awful movies. There was a class action lawsuit and you had to sign an affidavit saying you actually paid money to see one of those stinkers. I said I had my dignity and there were some things I wouldn’t do for money.

    It seems most of America is with me on this. According to a Washington Post article, the final distribution has been made and an unlucky 170 moviegoing morons are getting a total reward of $5,085.00 or an average of $29.91 each. Figuring two tickets, a box of popcorn, and a soda, that’s about right for wasting 90 minutes of your life that you can never get back. Although for thirty bucks, you could probably have gotten Rob Schneider’s entire oeuvre in the cut-out bin at Blockbuster.

    The lawyers, not surprisingly, did a lot better. Their share of the take was $458,900, or $2699.42 per “victim.” Another way to look at it is that the lawyers got 99% of each cinematic sucker’s reward. In fairness, Sony did have to donate the balance of the half-million dollar award trust to charity, so some good was done.

    Sony spent an additional $250,000 for administrative fees to find and distribute the settlement, which is like paying $50 for FedEx to rush deliver $1 rebate checks. I don’t know about you, but I missed any full page ads in Parade or Entertainment Weekly publicizing the settlement. In fact, beyond a few wire service stories, the details of the lawsuit were amazingly difficult to track down. Almost like their heart wasn’t in it. There’s a shocker. The movie company that admitted they tried to trick people into seeing crappy movies not exactly trumpeting the refund offer with bold Pete Travers and Gene Shalit blurbs.

    I understand the deterrent value of punitive damages, but could someone explain how so much money can be spent with so little result. These people make the Air Force Hammer Procurement Office look like a model of fiscal responsibility.

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    Saturday, September 10, 2005

    Cute Baby Pictures

    If you are here as the result of a Yahoo search for "cute baby pictures", please read this post first and then use you back button to return to this post. Thanks.

    We live by lots of foma, the little untruths that help us through the day. Many we are not even aware of. One foma in particular, though, is essential to our survival as a species. It is "All Babies Are Cute." They better be. They wouldn't live very long otherwise. They are blobby, whiney, needy, and prone to ejecting material from at least four different orifices.

    But we love them anyways. And we think that at least most of them are cute. The one pictured here is particularly cute. Mostly because it probably has some genetic information in common with me. It is my father's sister's son's daughter. That makes her my first cousin, once removed, for those of you without Rainman-like skills at manipulating family trees.

    Neoteny and the human response to cuteness would definitely explain the prevelence of "cats in sinks" pictures on the web. Stephen Jay Gould famously explained that even cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse "evolved" to become cuter and more likeable. Several years ago, Hanna Barbera and company took this to heart and Saturday morning cartoons were over run by "{insert source cartoon} Babies" including Flintstone Kids, Tiny Toon Adventures, and most cynically obvious of all, Muppet Babies.

    Everything can be taken to an undesireable extreme. No amount of neotenic cuteness can ever excuse inflicting the world with the unbearably obnoxious Scrappy Doo.

    Update (8/24/08):
    The Stephen Jay Gould link went bad so I replaced it with another one. The Mickey Mouse essay also appears in The Panda's Thumb.

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    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    Barbara Bush Lets Them Eat Cake

    Barbara Bush said somethings on the radio that make you suspect that foot-in-mouth disease is at least partially hereditary. This is as complete a quote as I can find (from Editor and Publisher):
    Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to
    Houston. What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them.

    I'm not sure what scared her so much, but for the record here are some things she wasn't quoted as saying:
      "As long as they don't move into my neighborhood."
      "If they had no water at the Superdome, why didn't they drink iced tea?"
      "This place has been going downhill since A-Rod got traded."
      "This is a great idea. It's like a underpriviledged youth summer camp, except for old sick people that no longer have homes or personal posessions."
      "Thank goodness we don't have empty sports arenas in Kennebunkport."
      "I find that Dave Chapelle guy kinda scary too."
      "I'm so glad all these people got to visit Texas for free. We ought to do this every year."
      "If people get bored, I know my boy never finished clearing out all the brush at his place. He got called back to Washington for some silly reason."
      "Think twice before moving here. James Byrd got shown some Texas hospitality too. Just sayin'."

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    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    This Is A Public Service Announcement....With Guitar

    OK, there are no guitars. At least not until I ask my fifteen year-old how to embed multi-media links. Which I won't do. Like Bill Cosby playing Theo in basketball, I want to harbor some illusion that I still have an edge on him geek-wise.

    Early in my blog, like here and here, I started a naive "How To Blog" series, which is like Paris Hilton teaching an Abstinence Works seminar. When I realized no one was paying attention, I decided I had better build a blog worth reading before I went on the lecture circuit.

    Lo and behold, I ran across this little gem and all the wind left my sails. This is so dead-on funny, that I just can't get it out of my mind. It seems a lot of people get Blog Depression like this person (who at least has good taste in templates). If nobody reads my blog, is it worth writing? If I don't post a couple of times a week am I a failure and an even bigger loser? What hope do I have? This Blog Depression is contagious. Go tell the fine folks at the nonist how badly they are discouraging rookie bloggers like me.

    But then, I think that's their goal.

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    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    Penguin Love

    Last week Gene Weingarten used his nationally syndicated newspaper column to profess his love to his wife of twenty-five years. I don’t have quite that big an audience, but here is my tribute.

    Today is my wedding anniversary. When people ask me how long I have been married, rather than doing the math, I just say, “All my adult life, and then some.” I met my wife when we were fifteen, and we started dating seriously at the end of our junior year in high school. We’ve had fights, some as recently as last week, but we have stayed together all that time, even when we were apart.

    This is actually our nineteenth anniversary. Bill Cosby once wondered why anniversaries divisible by five are more important than other years. I think making a big deal out of prime number anniversaries would make more sense. Look at the sequence for the first fifty years:

    Fives: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50
    Primes: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47

    Not only do you get more. They’re front-loaded towards the early years, which may help couples through the hard early years.

    If you have seen The March of the Penguins, you know that penguins don’t celebrate anniversaries because they are serial monogamists. They mate for only one season, but for that season, they are the some of the most self-sacrificing devoted parents in the animal world.

    Women seem to like the fact that the males actually hatch the eggs while the mothers go off and gorge themselves on fish. But once the mating season is over and their chick is self-sufficient, the penguin parents part ways forever and seek out new mates the next season. I don’t see penguins replacing swans or other mythically monogamous creatures as wedding cake toppers anytime soon.

    Two of the most cherished foma in our society are that true love lasts forever and that everyone has one true soulmate. The divorce and remarriage statistics give lie to this. We are closer to the penguin serial monogamy than we care to admit. I prefer to look at the 50% divorce rate in glass-half-full mode. LOTS of marriages do last a long time and survive the raising of children. I intend to make my marriage one of those.

    My son leaves for college in three years, but I am not going to go searching for another penguin. I’m too in love with the one I have.

    Monday, September 05, 2005

    AAA Mystery Numbers

    I had an hour to kill waiting yesterday, so I was reading the Washington City Paper and ran across an article about the scientific rigor of the AAA travel prediction statistics. We've all heard them. "AAA predicts record numbers of travelers this {major holiday} weekend." Substititute any holiday between Memorial Day and Christmas and you have a precanned news story. The City Paper article quotes some newspeople that went to the trouble of figuring out where the numbers actually came from. The technical answer is a little more rigorous than "just pulled them out of our ass", but not by much. Mildly entertaining.

    Stuck in the middle of THE Washington Post comics page is John Kelly's Washington which I occassionally read if Ask Amy doesn't fill my craving for no heavy lifting required reading. On Mondays, John puts on his answerman hat and fields questions from the great unwashed. Today Vincent McDonald of Fairfax Station asked:
    The Labor Day weekend is upon us. We hear authoritative pronouncements from AAA Mid-Atlantic confidently predicting the number of persons in the metropolitan area who will be traveling over 50 miles outside the area during the holiday weekend. We hear similar predictions for Memorial Day and Thanksgiving. How do they know that? What methodology do they use?
    Now what do you think made Vincent McDonald so curious about the subject? Could it have been reading about it in the City Paper a few days earlier? Now John Kelly goes and does some real reporting and gets quotes from AAA spokespeople and everything. However, nowhere does he seem to have consulted the article that is at that very moment available for free on every street corner and in better-kept public restrooms in DC nor does he quote any of sources the City Paper article used.

    Now I had no idea that the validity of AAA news-hole filler stats where such a burning issue that the two major news publications (yes, I am ignoring the Times) in the same city were both serendipitously hot on the trail of this breaking news at the same time completely oblivious to each other.

    I could make some cynical joke about everyone sharing from the same straw at the giant wire service news trough, but we'll give everybody the benefit of the doubt and just be glad we can now be reassured that statistically suspect news releases are getting the glaring cross-examination they deserve.

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    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Blog For Relief Day

    Even though Wonkette ridiculed it, she is on board with the people that brought you the Adorable Rodents blog rating ecosystem scheme to have this Labor Day Weekend be Blog For Relief Weekend. I didn't even know about this effort when I made a pitch for Catholic Charities in my last post. I have given my meager amount and listed this board on their big list of paticipating blogs, not because I have a large devoted wealthy generous readership, but because every little bit does help and I feel I should do something.

    Now, the whole Blog Scoreboard seems a little self-congratulatory to me, particularly since contributers have to go to a form to fill out their donations for the blog to get credit. I really don't give a damn if anybody credits me or not, give to your favorite charity or your own church if you think the money is better used there. Just do something.

    There, I haven't felt so good about myself since I was 10 years old and getting doors slammed in my face by suspicious geezers that thought my impromptu neighborhood canvassing on behalf of Jerry's kids was a scam for ice cream money.

    Update 9/3/05: My friend in Mobile is doing well. They were out of power for 3-1/2 days starting as soon as the storm hit Monday morning. His house suffered minor damage, but less than the hurricane deductible. He thinks FEMA will reimburse him for the generator and chainsaw. He thanked me in advance for my contribution as a taxpayer.

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    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Katrina Chaos

    Every blogger in the known blogiverse has posted at least something about Hurricane Katrina and the associated damage. My personal connection to the disaster is minor and trivial. My sister has plane reservations for an upcoming vacation to New Orleans. I doubt that will happen.

    I also have a former coworker who moved to Mobile, Alabama, to get married and raise a family. He now has three children and works in Pascagoula (a town whose name always make me think of the Jimmy Buffett song). I do not even known if the phone number I have is current, since an out-of-service message could mean anything right now. And like all privacy-seeking people nowadays, his number is unlisted, so I cannot verify it.

    My wife and I went on one of our first vacations as a married couple to Mardi Gras in 1988. We lucked into a hotel reservation in the French Quarter one block off of Bourbon Street that normally requires reservations a year in advance. We also, on a whim, ate “Breakfast at Brennans” which remains to this day one of the best meals we have ever had. We were living a charmed life and have a lot of good memories that can’t be taken away by any storm.

    We were living in West Palm Beach when Andrew hit Miami. The friends we were visiting friends in Tampa asked us, “Are you prepared for the hurricane?” and we asked “What hurricane?” indicating we weren’t. My wife and I drove the four hours back to WPB to secure our townhouse which had four large sliding glass doors and pick up enough provisions for a few days. I took us eight hours to drive both cars back to Tampa. Fortunately, the damage to WPB was minor, but plenty of people in south Miami lived without basic services for days or weeks.

    The big discussion currently, aside from shooting looters on sight or after a trial, is whether and how to rebuild New Orleans. People always have and always will live in very unsafe places. On the sides of volcanoes. Over seismic fault lines. Below sea level. The force and power of nature mocks our best efforts to adapt an inherently unsafe world to our needs.

    A recent Straight Dope column discussed the magnitude of various disasters and pointed out something I have noticed myself. Disasters in the US do a lot of property damage, but, from a global perspective, are relatively light in casualties. Let us hope the same holds true here. For relief efforts I recommend Catholic Charities which can always relied on to be wherever people need help.

    Update(9/2/05): For live in New Orleans blogging see interdictor's LiveJournal site. He is in the downtown New Orleans area giving some horrifying first hand accounts. Another blogger in Baton Rouge is also updating the situation from the other end of evacuation.

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