Friday, December 29, 2006

Best Of 2006, Part 2

Every six months I do a Best Of post as much for me as for my readers. My Best Of for January thru June can be found here. I often lose track of when I wrote something I want to link to again. It also makes for a nice button on my sidebar for newer readers to realize what they’ve gotten themselves into so they know to avoid me in the future.

I’ve noticed that most of my posts fall into recognizable categories, so that is how I’ve organized the notables for the second half of 2006.


My wife and I drove over 7500 miles cross-country and back this summer. This trip gave me tons of memories, over a thousand pictures, and blog-ammo for nearly two months. Pretty much all my posts in July and August came out of that trip. My favorite travel post is the Brewery Tour Battle from our layover in St Louis and not just for the hidden link to the aroused Clydesdale. I also took a lot of video, some of which has been posted to my YouTube account. The Graceland Tour overview is the best of these and the blog post has more detail about my pilgramage to the home of The King.


The daily funnies page, dead tree and virtual, is still one of my most compulsive obsessions. I jumped on the good-bye to For Better Or For Worse bandwagon early with my predictions for The End of the Foobiverse. Expect more foobsnark in the very near future. I like to excel in fields with little competition, which is why I am the self-declared biggest fan in the world of Sally Forth. My latest entry is about Hilary Forth and her best friend Faye. The subtext of the post is a little, uh, mature and I may have stepped over a line, but I’m still proud of the work I put into it.

Studio 60

I eagerly anticipated the latest incarnation of Aaron Sorkin’s Altmanesque Random Rantings Set In A Tension Filled Work Place also known as Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. As part of my summary of the pilot, I invented a Drinking Game that thanks to some blogwhoring and a mention on Defamer went viral and became the most hit blog post I have ever written by a long shot. I should have quit while I was ahead but I have gone to the Studio 60 well several more times including comparing it unfavorably to 30 Rock.

Personal Stuff

The blog has been light on the purely confessional slice-of-life stuff lately, but I did do a nice write-up for my 20th anniversary about my wedding that my wife might never read. I’ve also lived vicariously through my son and his rocketry club.


It wouldn’t be Foma* without a post about my number one long-term traffic generator, Brandi Britton. A year after her misdemeanor prostitution arrest, she has yet to have justice served. While I did an update right before her latest court non-appearance, it is the comment section from a much earlier entry that has become an emergent phenomenon that I try to police as lightly as possible.

Future Trends

After being accused of being the Whitest Blogger Ever, I have decided to take off the kid gloves and delve in politics a little more when I can come up with a unique angle that hasn’t been beaten to death in the other echo chambers on the web. My comparison of the Iraq War with Red Dawn ignited some genuine controversy. Hopefully my readers know it is all in good fun and they will always be welcome no matter what beliefs they hold. Or how big of a jerk I become.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: This is where I ask you to stroke my ego by mentioning something I’ve overlooked. I also let you turn the blogwhoring table and link to the favorite post you’ve written recently.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Christmas Elf

Christmas memories are tricky. They are so tied up in wishful thinking, pop-culture and the collective unconscious that they really can’t be trusted. Joel Achenbach falsely remembered a childhood of watching Christmas specials with his mom. His mom refused to collaborate this fantasy. I’d get a new mom.

I have a rather vivid memory from my early elementary school days, back when kids quit believing in Santa Claus but want to keep the game going. I had been an elf in a school Christmas pageant. I saved the elf costume and hid it at a neighbor’s house. Early Christmas morning I woke up before everybody else like I always do and went to the neighbor’s and changed my pajamas for the elf suit.

I then returned home and woke everybody else up insisting that I was one of Santa’s helpers left behind to help with the presents. Everybody played along but kept trying to trick me into admitting I wasn’t an elf. At first they wouldn’t let me open ‘my’ presents, because some elf-imposter shouldn’t be opening someone else’s gifts. Eventually they relented and accepted my convoluted reasoning. I had a great time playing along and helping keep the Christmas magic going.

I have no evidence this ever happened. I have never seen pictures of me in the elf costume and my parents never bring it up as one of their fond memories. They prefer to remember the year I woke everybody up at 12:30 am thinking it was 6:00 because the clock hands were straight up and down. Still, that memory of Christmas morning as an elf is as real to me as Santa Claus and his flying reindeer.

Thanks to the good folks at Office Depot, I can recreate that magical morning on the internet. Click here or on the elf for my special Christmas production exclusively for readers of this blog. Or go here and make one of your own.

Merry Christmas

from Yellojkt

Blatant Christmas Cheer Spreading™:
Share a memory from your childhood or link to your own Christmas story.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Presence

I hate to sound curmudgeonly in the run-up to Christmas, but it’s a pretty well established maxim that up to a third of all money spent at Christmas is wasted. The recipient either doesn’t like it or doesn’t want it or would not have paid as much as you did for it. Even gift cards aren’t a true solution. The get lost or forgotten, or they expire or aren’t good with other discounts. I have a real problem with this. At some point, someone used real money to buy the gift card and why should money be less useful because it is on a card instead of a piece of paper with a picture of a president.

On the other hand, gifts have value more than the price of the item. A recent Washington Post article told of a study that determined people (well, college students, but they are close enough) thought something they were given was worth more than the same item if they had to buy it. A coffee mug was worth up to four more dollars more in their minds if it had been a gift. I think it just reflects the buyer/owner divide. A quick glance through Craigslist will reveal people think their used stuff is way more valuable than it really is.

Sentimental value goes to the heart of the real purpose of presents. My parents visited recently and we had a discussion about gifts. My dad and I thought you should give people something you think they would like. My mother insisted that you gave a present because it was something you want the person to have. That is a really, really, big difference and explains a lot of gifts over the years.

Some presents just scream that there was no thought whatsoever. The lamest present I ever got was from my brother. Still wrapped in the paper bag it came in, he gave me a copy of the Bhagavad Gita he had clearly picked up from a Hare Krishna in the airport on his way home. Nothing like last minute shopping from religious fanatics with shaved heads.

My wife has a lot of experience with useless gifts. She is a teacher and every Christmas she is bombarded with tacky crap. There are just so many cliché teacher gifts. You only need so many Christmas tree ornaments featuring apples. She finally had to institute a no-candles policy because she got tired of hauling an entire bag of them to Goodwill every year. She is very appreciative of gift cards for places where she shops, which is about everywhere. Even that is subject to some horse-mouth checking. She tells her students she likes books, so they get her a gift card from OtherBigBoxOfBooks which is near where her students live but not as convenient as the OriginalBigBoxOfBooks near us. At least the kids' parents were thinking of her.

If you do subscribe to the silly useless presents school of throwing money away, nothing is better than the Dave Barry's Desparation Gift Giving Guide. My favorite on this list it the Electronic Message Brassiere. This $500 light-up lingerie lets a woman display a message across her chest right where men will most notice it most. My wife’s suggestion was to write “TAKE OUT THE TRASH”. She figures she might as well as ask me do something useful while she has my undivided attention.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: What is the worse present you ever got or gave? Start here to read some answers from the Achenblog.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Plagiarism Police: Sorkin vs. Spy

I’m a faithful watcher of Alan Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as any reader of this blog can tell since I invented the Studio 60 Drinking Game and held a Studio 60-30 Rock Face Off. I’m also a huge fan of the late lamented Spy magazine having just read and reviewed the coffee table tribute to that snarky pioneer.

This leads to the current case in front of the Plagiarism Police®.

Docket: Aaron Sorkin vs. Spy magazine

Accusation: Lifting fictitious factoids from snarky 90s magazines.

Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
"The Christmas Show"
by Aaron Sorkin
Spy, January 1991
"The Physics of Santa and His Reindeer"
by Bruce Handy et. al.
Matt: They calculated the number of homes with children and the average weight of two presents per child.

Danny: What did they find?

Matt: He would need 214,200 reindeer pulling a sled weighing 321,000 tons at 3,000 times the speed of sound.
This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound.

Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons…

We need 214,200 reindeer.

Defense: None, he has never been called on this before I just brought it up. My guess is that he would use Yellojkt Plagiarist Excuse® #4. The original Spy magazine article has been widely distributed on the internet with and without attribution. It is so you-biquitous that it merits its own Snopes page.

Closing arguments: If you are going to quote faux-facts, you should at least copy the source correctly. The article assumes two-pounds of presents, not two presents per kid. Sorkin in general plays so fast and loose with his factoids that nobody really expects him to acknowledge his sources. According to some, he barely acknowledges his co-writers.

Verdict: Dismissed for lack of interest.

Sentence: Community service is recommended. Give us more original sub-plots like the New Orleans jazz tribute and fewer ad hominem attacks on the bloggers and the internet that are Sorkin’s uncredited cowriters.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: What have you seen suspiciously cribbed from the internet?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

You-phemism Of The Year

Time magazine has named You as their Person Of The Year. And by 'You', they mean 'Us' - bloggers, podcasters, Youtubers, MMRPGers, SecondLifers, commenters, boodlers, lurkers, and anyone else with an online life no matter how desperate or lame our 'real' life is.

I'm sure this pick by Time staffers was hardly younanimous. The criteria for POTY is the person that has the most impact, for good or bad, on the news. They have increasingly relied on abstractions instead of actual people. Past winners have included Whistleblowers, American Soldiers, and Peacemakers, as well as inanimate objects like The Computer or Planet Earth.

Time has been shying away from picking ostensibly evil people out of fear of bumming people out. Who really believes that Rudy Guilliani had more impact in 2001 than Osama bin Laden? When pressed they do go with evil. Ayatollah Khomeini made the cut in 1979 and Dubya has been named twice.

My fellow boodler, bc, has already accepted this honor on behalf of himself, me, and you, but I feel youniquely qualified to represent the spirit of the honor. In addition to the blog you are reading now, I have accounts with Flickr, YouTube, GoogleVideo, LiveJournal, MySpace, Xanga, and Frappr, making my online presence nearly youbiquitous. I am youphoric over the honor Time has accorded me and feel that the internet is youniting the world in unyousually youniversal youphony.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: Enough about me, how do You feel about your award?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Plagiarism Police: McEwan vs. Andrews

Earlier this week, the Achenblog had a very wide ranging discussion about plagiarism accusations against Ian McEwen and his book Atonement. As a new feature, I am holding mock trials against the more egregious examples of suspiciously similar excerpts.

Charge: Stealing a passage from a memoir about nursing practices in World War II.

Evidence (from Slate):

Atonement by Ian McEwenNo Time for Romance by Lucilla Andrews
In the way of medical treatments, she had already dabbed gentian violet on ringworm, aquaflavine emulsion on a cut, and painted lead lotion on a bruise.Our "nursing" seldom involved more than dabbing gentian violet on ringworm, aquaflavine emulsion on cuts and scratches, lead lotion on bruises and sprains.
…only after the second change of washing water should the freshly soaped back flannel and back towel be passed to the patient so that he could "finish off for himself."…the freshly soaped "back" flannel and "back" towel were to be handed the patient with the words, "I am sure you would like to finish yourself off now…

The Defense: (Yellojkt Plagiarist Excuse® #3) Ian McEwen in a long article that invokes his dad the military veteran, he concludes with, “For certain long-outdated medical practices, she was my sole source and I have always been grateful to her. I have openly acknowledged my debt to her in the author's note at the end of Atonement, and ever since on public platforms…”

Closing Arguments: I'm not familar with Atonement, but I have read (well, listened to the unabridged audiobook) of Saturday. The novel Saturday covers one day in the life of a twee British neurosurgeon who gets in a fenderbender and has his life fall apart. If this sounds like a tough premise, you’re right. I found the book absurdly plotted and had a tough time sympathizing with his upper-class twits. Still, the medical scenes were very well researched and clearly beyond the scope of expertise of a novelist.

I expect a writer to have to rely on more knowledgeable sources a little bit because it’s so bad when they get it wrong. I lost all respect for Tom Clancy when MacDill Air Force Base got called Fort MacDill. You have to get the small stuff right. For McEwan to hew very closely to the written account is to avoid risking embarrassment by changing details that either didn’t or couldn’t happen. Also, the burden of proof against fiction writers is much higher than for historians and the like. Nobody wants to see tons of footnotes in a novel.

Verdict: Misdemeanor cribbing. No real plot points or themes were stolen.

Sentence: The official epithet for McEwan shall hereafter be appended to be “Booker Prize winning author and alleged plagiarist” as a cautionary warning against writers wishing to cite him as a precedent.

Next case on the docket: Sorkin vs. Spy

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ornamental Memories

I’m having a hard time catching the Christmas spirit this year. I’m just going through the motions. My blogfriend, kb, put up a funny timetable of the stages of Christmas. The pace of the season makes it hard to just sit back and relax.

The one Christmas ritual that I find most comforting is to just sit in the dark and watch the lights blink on the Christmas tree. It just lets the tension of the day ooze away. Last year I wrote a post where I made a tree out of pictures of our ornaments. Most of the ornaments are souvenirs from our vacations. Since then we took our marathon cross-country round trip and added a few ornaments to the tree.


The St. Louis Arch was a blast. That was also where we saw the Budweiser Clydesdales including one that was very glad to see us.


At the Grand Canyon, there is a building done in the architectural style of the local Native Americans called the Hopi House. Inside they sell various crafts and souvenirs from local Indian. The condors like to hang out right outside as well.


This Alamo ornament is actually prettier than the real thing. After all, it was only a quirk of history that turned this particular mission into a national icon rather than one of the other ones in the San Antonio area.

Perhaps that is part of what I find so relaxing about watching Christmas tree lights. Knowing that there are so many memories hanging from the branches.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: What memories do you have on your tree?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Looking Golden

I love it when people agree with me. Not many do, but the Hollywood Foreign Press Assocation shares at least a few opinions of mine. The Golden Globe nominations were announced today. While most of the news stories will lead with the Leo vs. Leo and Clint vs. Clint drama in the movie department, I want to look at the television nominations because I have some dogs in those fights.

Alec Baldwin got nominated for Best Actor (Comedy or Musical) as the over the top exec in 30 Rock that torments Tina Fey and Sarah Paulson from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is up for Best Actress (Drama) for playing JesusGirl, a martini-swilling born-again love interest for Matthew Perry. These were both winners in their respective categories in my Studio 60-30 Rock Face-Off a few weeks back. Sadly, neither show drew a Best Show nod, so the final verdict will have to wait for Emmy season to see if either show can get recognized there.

Other highlights:

  • Matthew Perry got an acting nomination for a TV movie, but the halo effect from his fine work in Studio 60 may help him.
  • If you want a Best TV Actor Comedy nomination, it helps to be on NBC Thursday nights. Each show in the newly reformed Must-See-TV-Lite block got one nomination. Alec Baldwin is up against lead-ins Zach Braff, Jason Lee, and Stephen Carrell. Only Tony Shaloub is on another night or network.
  • Heroes trumps both S60 and 30R with nominations for Best Drama and Best Supporting Actor for Geek God Masi Oka.
  • The Best Show On Television, Battlestar Galactica is completely shut-out once again despite other cable shows like Big Love and Weeds getting multiple nominations.

The Golden Globes are the "fun" awards show since nobody, except the people with careers riding on it, really take it seriously. And maybe Drew Barrymore will show up with her Golden Globes again.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


There are ways to tell when a trend is over. It makes the cover of Time magazine. Your mother takes it up. And it becomes a punchline for the comics.

The egotism required to put your words unsolicited out on the internet attracts a certain naive narcissism.

I have no idea how many people in the real world have a blog or read a blog, but some comic strip writers think just putting the word 'blog' in a punchline is a sure fire gut buster. Like this one:

Hey, I wrote about my ACL repair surgery. That’s a cheap shot.

Mining the same bloggers-have-no-readers vein is this Pearls Before Swine.

I have to thank fellow Achenboodler and erudite blogger in her own right, kb, for passing along that last one. And least I think I should thank her. Maybe she was telling me something.

There is another Time maxim that states it takes three examples to prove a trend. If this brief sampling is any indication, blogging will join the pantheon of lame comic strip jokes along with blinking clocks on VCR's and making up stuff on your Christmas newsletter. Because it's so original and it never gets old.

See you in the funny papers for more Ouroborosean blogging about comics about blogging.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: Post or describe your meta-blog-comic sightings.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My MySpace Friends

I'm trying to win an iPod Nano. The very popular podcast Keith And The Girl has torn a page from the broadcast radio playbook and is giving out prizes to loyal listeners. The rules are really easy:

  1. Have a Keith and The Girl logo in your MySpace picture.
  2. Keith and The Girl must be in the Top 4 on your MySpace page.
  3. A Keith and the Girl clip must be on your MySpace music player.
  4. Have more that 20 MySpace friends.

When I heard this contest, I knew my best shot would be on the first day, before everyone else got their webpages pimped up. Changing the logo was easy. I just clipped my face over the cartoon Keet and I was good to go. KATG was already in my Top 4 so I should get extra credit. The music player was tough to figure out because I hate music on webpages and had never done it to mine. Chemda in the KATG forums helped me out there.

Getting 20 friends was the tough task. I had about 14 friends and needed to six more in eight hours. I just sent friend requests to all sorts of people and got my list up to 21 in time for the drawing. I didn't win. They have given out about a half dozen more Nanos since then and I'm still waiting for my name to be called.

Next week (Dec 11-15) they are giving out a Nano a day in the Christmas run-up. I feel lucky. Since getting friends is a big part of the contest, I figured I might as well analyze my friends list, which is now up to 42.

Keith and The Girl is a very funny and extremely politically incorrect 'couplecast'. Keith is a stand-up comic. Chemda is "the Girl". If your name was Chemda, you'd go by "the girl" too if you expected people to say the name of your show. She is an erstwhile kid's party clown and an excellent singer. They have a lot of recurring guests that give the show the feel of a huge floating party. Patrice is their gossip columnist who is on most Thursdays and is the highlight of the show. Max is a young cute magician who is also very funny. SexyPotatoE (the 'E' is deliberately ironic) is their high-school intern that has a fund drive to buy herself a laptop.

Keith And The Girl And Friends
Keith and..

Sexy PotatoE
Sponsor A..

Most of my early friends were people that I met through my association with comic strips. Some are fellow comic strip junkies. Some are spoof sites. Some are legit promotional pages. I leave it to you to figure out which are which.

Comics and Comics Fans
Aldo Kelrast
Sheraton ..

A lot of friends from MySpace just accumulate. Since the contest started, I haven't been turning down friends requests. I've even made friends requests to people just because they were on pages of people already on my friends list.

Other Bloggers and Random Strangers
Kevin Zee..
Aj Davis

There all sorts of bands and celebrities with MySpace pages since a few bands have ridden MySpace to fame. These are easy friends to get since the groups have people that do nothing but approve requests. Some of these are famous and some are up and coming. And Pela RAWKS!
Bands and Celebrities
Lisa Rinna

And last, but not least:

Dane Cook

Dane Cook is the hacky but wildly successful comedian that Keith and The Girl hate, but since he brags about how many MySpace friends he has, I figured he was easy pickings.

I also have a lot of other KATG fans in my friends list because of the contest. I'm not linking to any of them. Let them win their own Nano.

BlantantMySpaceWhoring™: You can be my friend, but if you win a Nano before me, I'm cutting you off my list. Ooooh, snap!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


“If there were foreign forces in New Jersey, Tony Soprano would be an insurgent leader.” – The Iraq Study Group Report
I beg to differ. If there were foreign forces in Colorado, Patrick Swayze would be an insurgent leader. The premiere right-wing paranoid fantasy of the 80s (and I call it that with the greatest respect) was the movie Red Dawn which described the guerilla war waged by a group of red-neck high school kids. In the film, a Soviet-Cuban alliance has moved up Central America domino style and finally invaded a gun-controlled United States.

Patrick Swayze leads a rag-tag group of Brat-Pack also-rans including Charlie Sheen, C.Thomas Howell, and Lea Thompson. They run to the hills and wage an escalating insurgency while the occupying army futilely tries to pacify the civilian sympathizers. I’m not the first to recognize the ironic parallels, but I am stunned more people don’t realize the tragic role reversal we have placed ourselves in.

As popular as Red Dawn was among Young Republicans in the 80s, you would think that a few of the neocons predicting rose-strewn parades through Baghdad would have remembered the moral of Red Dawn: Nobody makes movies with the jackboots as the heroes.

I don’t want to make any moral equivalencies. I subscribe completely to the benefits of Western Civilization and the entire post-Enlightenment philosophy from Hume and Locke on. We need to work for a world where individual liberty and democracy are the norm.

Unfortunately, we are not serving our cause well in the Middle East. Our behavior in Iraq from the well-documented incompetence of the CPA to the repugnant atrocities of Abu Ghraib to our continuing status as the monkey-in-the-middle target in an increasingly ugly tribal civil war has not put the ideals of our nation in the best light.

Nobody ever professes nostalgia for the stability of Vichy France and every Iraqi that cooperates with us, no matter how patriotic or farsighting, will be eventually branded a collaborator. Instead, the country will fall sooner or later (and my money is on sooner) into the hands of groups that will hate us for generations. And we will bear some of the responsibility.

Reagan described America as a lighted city on the top of a hill. We need to lead by example and use our soft power to spread our values. We also need to remember what they are and apply them globally regardless of how much oil the inhabitants are sitting on.

Some enterprising Farsi John Milius wannabe will someday plagiarize the Red Dawn script and make an uplifting film about brave students that killed evil Americans to liberate his country. That movie will make me sick to my stomach. In my movies, the Americans are the heroes. We need to act like heroes.

Blatant LinkBacking™: E. J. Dionne defends democracy in his column today.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Last Waltz Foxtrot

I have talked about bad comics like For Better or For Worse before (well several times before), but I prefer to look at the comics that are good. I like comics that are clever and sly, like Sally Forth and Doonesbury and newcomer Watch Your Head. Newer, edgier comics like Pearls Before Swine and Frazz are making waves now. And despite the example of every loser strip in the Crappy Comics Competition, just because a strip is old enough to vote, that doesn’t mean it has lost its funny.

One comic that has stood the test of time is Foxtrot. This is a family comic that is not afraid to let it’s geek flag fly. It inspired my Comics Curmudgeon tagline. It takes chances on jokes that maybe 1% of its readership will get. I’m told that the binary in the cereal bowl reads “YOU NERD”. I’ll take the real nerds' word on it.

But alas, according to a press release, as of 2007, Foxtrot is going to Sundays only. The wear of actually being funny seven days a week as opposed to just phoning it in (we’re looking at you Guisewite and Davis) can be exhausting. It’s what drove Gary Larson and Bill Watterson to retirement.

Rather than quitting cold turkey, Bill Amend is slowing down. The history of success with this strategy is poor. Remember Outland anyone? Even the revived Opus will never touch the glory that was Bloom County. There is something about the pace of a daily humor strip stringing together a week of themed gags that deftly strikes the right balance between lame old school random gag a day strips like Beetle Bailey and B.C. and the interminably slow soap strips. The sequence of jokes makes the whole funnier than the sum of the parts. In a Sunday only strip any running bit would just become tedious.

Foxtrot is a stuck in amber strip where the characters never age, but the cultural references stay fresh. Over the years, Jason has geeked out over every nerd-boy trend.The strip often dared to break the fourth frame and go meta. Amend let us in on the gags and rewarded the reader that paid attention. Even the parody product names are hilarious.

My only hope is that the success of Aaron MacGruder has encouraged Amend to chase after those animated Boondocks Bucks. A Foxtrot themed cartoon could be some cross between The Simpsons and Clerks: The Animated Series. Or it could be Dilbert. Let’s hope for the best. I am going to miss Jason and Andy and even Paige at the breakfast table every morning.

Save the last dance for me.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: Can a Sunday only comic be as funny as a daily strip?