Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Year Summed Up In 10 Words

1) integrity, 2) refugee, 3) contempt, 4) filibuster, 5) insipid, 6) tsunami, 7) pandemic, 8) conclave, 9) levee, 10) inept.

From Merriam-Webster Online, The Most Looked-Up Words of 2005.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Coldplay to Audiences: Buy Our CD. But Don't Listen to It.

Coldplay's latest CDs have "anti-piracy" features that prevent the owner from ripping mp3s of the music, which basically means that the CDs won't play in many car stereos, CD-RW combo drives, portable CD players, Macintosh computers, or basically anything other than a stand-alone CD player or Windows Media Player, if you let the Auto-Run software on the CD muck around with your Windows Registry (we know enough to know "mucking around with the Windows Registry" is bad for your computer).

Should you buy one of these CDs, you will only find all of this out after you open the package, where an insert explains these rules and also proclaims that refunds will only be considered for manufacturing defects.

Since most Coldplay audiences prefer concerts where they are expected to sit quietly in their seats with hands folded in their laps or the band will stop playing, this should go over well.

Question: How does preventing a CD from playing on a Mac prevent piracy?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"Christian" "Education"

To mark the Christmas holiday--even though Limbaugh wants you to think they are part of the "War on Christmas"--the NYTimes reviewed a handful of books on Christianity's attitudes toward thinking. Reason and religion have had an on-again, off-again relationship for all of history; Judaism has a vigorous respect for the mind and a great love of the written word, and, following this, Christians too are supposed to respect the mind and love the word. This was the tradition the medieval church drew on when it founded the universities of Europe to seek the mind of God. But then the same church then chewed up Galileo and spit him out. (Hey, we can't be right all the time.)

Jon Meacham starts by pointing out that "[the notion] that Christianity is a matter of both intellect and imagination, however, has fallen from popular favor." You think? As obvious as this is, we put some effort into googling the state of Christian education today to demonstrate how much better off you'd be in a medieval university.

We found The Jubilee Academy, where, for the low price of $399 per class, you can do all the work of teaching your children that "the Bible is God's infallible written Word," along with English classes with themes like, "Christian Fantasy and Fiction" and "Writing with Wisdom," the requisite "Creation Science" curriculum, "Heritage Social Studies," "Wonderfully Made Health and Physical Education," and electives such as "Christian Manhood" and "Christian Symbolism in Art." If you do a good job--and your $399 per course does not get you any guarantees--your kids may pass the GED and "make a positive impact for Christ" at a Christian college. O judgment, thou art fled to brutish wingnuts.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

We are "home" in Flowery Branch, GA, where, we are told, just two weeks ago citizens carried a "Have a White Christmas" banner in the town's Christmas parade without any reference to the Bing Crosby song whatsoever. We find it difficult to celebrate a holiday about Peace and Joy in the setting of such hatred. The natives, however, are quite pleased at themselves for disingeniously holding a public event that both celebrates racism and a sectarian holiday on the public budget.

May your Christmas be whatever color you please and may you and yours find a greater joy that you were you looking for this Christmas.

--The Management

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Next Wikipedia?

Larry Sanger, founding editor of Wikipedia, and Joe Firmage, a networking dork and Carl Sagan fan, are hoping to launch an ambitious project that sounds like the HuffPo of wikis, Digital Universe. The Digital Universe project aims for more than just an encyclopedia; the site will comprise a series of Yahoo!-like portals with content on earth/the environment, health, astronomy, and so on. Each portal will be edited by a supposed expert in its realm and incorporate submitted encyclopedia articles as well as peer-reviewed, expert-written explainer articles and links to books, other websites, and a mix of multimedia content developed both inside Digital Universe and elsewhere.

The merits of Wikipedia's "anyone can edit [almost] any page" philosophy notwithstanding, Wiki is just a bunch of text. Boring. An open-source site that uses 3D-maps a la Google Earth, video clips, and all that jazz will be way cooler. The problem is that they propose to pay their expert "stewards" while giving away the content; the money has come from donations so far, but there will be DSL service available from to help pay the bills and lots of PBS-style pledge drives, from the looks of things. According to the FAQ page, alma mater Boston University is a major donor of the project and partner in the content creation--cool, but we can't figure out why BU would be involved in something that will probably never make any money.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Casting A Wide Net To Catch Terrorists Doesn't Work

Hannibal over at Ars Technica has put together an interesting post about why large-scale surveillance to catch terrorists simply won't work, although it will transfer significant funds from the US Treasury to the bank accounts of well-connected defense contractors.

He notes a parable from an ancient religious text to demonstrate his point, which blew our minds. Seems there was this king in the Middle East who heard, on the basis of the most technologically advanced intelligence gatherers of the day, that a male child would be born in his kingdom who would one day rule all the earth. The king freaked out, fearing for his throne and his life, and summoned the intelligence offers to tell him more. Finding out only the approximate date of birth of the child and the town where his parents lived, the king endeavored to have every male child in the province under two years of age slaughtered. Ah, safe at last.

Unfortunately, the terrorist boy and his parents escaped under cover of night to a neighboring non-extradition treaty country so all those kids died for nothing. And, get this: the rumor that the boy would grow up to become king of kings and rule forever was apparently spoken in some kind of code and meant no direct threat to the king's throne or his life. Huh. Well, sometimes you have to slaughter a few thousand little boys for good measure.

Reason Triumphs Over Absurdity

Today, Judge John Jones ruled against teaching intelligent design in Pennsylvania:

The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision [to tell students that intelligent design is a alternative theory to evolution] is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
This is the only country in the world where a cockamamie substitute for creationism would be taken seriously enough to have a day in court, but the level-headed Jones patiently listened to it before putting it in its place. May it rest in peace. Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2005

One For The Speed Dial

Free 411 (1-800-FREE-411), paid for by 12 second commercials. Snopes says the directory service works flawlessly; we're trying it out now.

Freakonomics in Practice

Leavitt and Dubner wrote a great little book, but they did not venture into the possibilities of making use of the freaky knowledge found by mining economic data. put the real estate chapter to use and made a killing on the sale of their home. Way to go!

It Is Almost Unreal

As Bush melts down, he has been repeating his usual line that if we give him the power to spy on us, search us without a warrant, and generally rape us whenever he pleases, he will only spy on, search, and rape terrorists who really, really deserve it. Like Ted Kennedy said, "Give me a break."

Consider this UMass/Darthmouth student who earned himself a visit from two trenchcoats from the Department of Homeland Security when he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's Little Red Book via interlibrary loan. "The student was told by the agents that the book is on a 'watch list,' and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further." One of his professors has reconsidered teaching a course on terrorism in the spring, saying that if he asks his students to seek out original materials to research the topic, they will almost certainly end up in the same situation.

Bush today described the New York Times as "shameful" for printing information about the illegal, unconstitutional spying he's been doing and vowed to make Big Brother bigger "as long as [I] am commander in chief." From his track record, I think we can see that he will just do it. We can also see that he will not actually bring any terrorists to justice. So maybe he shouldn't be commander in chief anymore, you think?

UPDATE: The Mao-leads-to-DHS-Investigation story appears to be a hoax.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Modern Technology Left Us Out in the Cold

After a day in Boston, we came home to find our computer had apparently been zapped by a power outage of some sort; the thing was off when we left and remains that way as we speak. Numerous attempts to resurrect it have been unsuccessful, although we may attempt burying it under a new moon and digging it up when the full moon rises a fortnight later. Until then, posting will be light, as we are now having to trudge into campus in the 20-fkn-degree cold to check email and blog.

Monday, December 12, 2005

101 Cookbooks for the Holidays

Starting with these pepperminty things we've never heard of, Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks has a Christmastime roundup of all the sweets we'd like you to bake for us. As Gubbins will tell you, peppermint is huge this year. The rest of Heidi's menu is just as big.

Free Delwin

Princeton students have banded together in support of one of their own: Delwin, who has been targeted by the RIAA to pay $5000 for downloading and sharing music. Princeton students at are selling t-shirts and taking donations to help Delwin meet the RIAA's demands. Fkn bullies.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

This is Powazek: Awesome Pics. Nice Site, too.

Photo by Derek Powazek,
Go check this action out! People like this make us think that we, too, need to get a digital camera and start creating something worth looking at. This blog was supposed to foster that kind of creativity... but you have been reading it, and surely know that there is little originality going on here.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Marketing Research Shows People Buy Music Out of Convenience

Surprise, surprise. 98% of people who listen to music don't give a flip (sign in required; see link to ars technica below for synopsis) about Sony's intellectual property "rights." Ars also discusses the hidden costs of DRM music files, which consumers with two grains of sense should incorporate into their online music purchases. We accept that we will end up buying lots of music again on the Next Big Format (how many of you own the same album on vinyl and CD already--the prospect of paying for the AAC file from iTMS this year and then .mp5 or whatever next year is not so pleasant), but thanks to Sony, you also have to consider that the next CD or mp3 you buy may crash your computer.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Greatest Generation, Indeed

A new documentary presents the internment of nearly 1000 Aleuts in Alaska during World War II. As described in the Guardian, the Japanese invaded several western Alaskan outposts in 1942, and so the Greatest Generation figured the only course of action was to lock up everyone who looked vaguely Japanese-looking person they could find to protect the national security. 881 Alaskans were detained in camps with no running water or medical care and allowed to leave only to fight in the army or work in forced labor projects, such as hunting seals for the government's profit. And when they were allowed to return home in 1945, they found their homes and churches looted. The film was partly funded by reparations paid by Congress to the survivors in 1987.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

New Gawker Blog: Consumerist

Like everyone else, we are addicted to Gawker and Wonkette. Let's be honest, here: We lust after Jessica Coen like nothing else. So here's the obligatory link to the Gawker for Shoppers, Consumerist. BoingBoing described it as "Consumer Reports written by someone who's just been on hold with customer service for an hour," which is tasty enough that we'll nibble.

The Consumerist tells of his aversion to NyQuil, which has recently been reformulated to its detriment in the name of thwarting would-be bathtub crystal meth makers:

When once we were Tiny Consumerists who ate dirt, our sniffling noses and mild fevers were accompanied by dread. Would we be subjected to that foul syrup Nyquil, the vile tincture that tasted like candied anise melted between the assfolds of Sammy Davis Jr’s scotch-soaked corpse? Even with a milk chaser and the (inexplicably effective) soothing sound of a running tap, we could barely choke it back. This quickly bred our propensity for bucking up, which will be useful come the day when we are dying of lung cancer and Gawker Media still doesn’t offer insurance.
Good stuff.

Gingerbread House--hah!

Try an entire gingerbread city for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree is now available from Urban Outfitters, whom we are sure Chuck would detest, in typically gloomy style, as having no respect whatsoever for the true meaning of Christmas (cue Linus reading the Gospel of Luke, Vince Guaraldi playing in background). Good grief.

Monday, December 05, 2005

John Derbyshire: No Woman Over 20 Is Worth Seeing in the Nude

Derbyshire at the National Review on Jennifer Aniston's "unsupported bust":

Did I buy, or browse, a copy of the November 17 GQ, in order to get a look at Jennifer Aniston's bristols?** No, I didn't. While I have no doubt that Ms. Aniston is a paragon of charm, wit, and intelligence, she is also 36 years old. Even with the strenuous body-hardening exercise routines now compulsory for movie stars, at age 36 the forces of nature have won out over the view-worthiness of the unsupported female bust.

It is, in fact, a sad truth about human life that beyond our salad days, very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff. Added to that sadness is the very unfair truth that a woman's salad days are shorter than a man's — really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20. The Nautilus and the treadmill can add a half decade or so, but by 36 the bloom is definitely off the rose.

** Bristols. Cockney rhyming slang. There is a well-known soccer team in England named Bristol City.
The evidence (we can't seem to find scans of the GQ pics--which are sublime--at Google. Please leave links in the comments if you've got 'em):
So not only is he dead wrong, there is the bigotry that borders on pedophilia in his statement that women's "salad days" are over at 20. We think it perfectly captures the conservative's sentiment: "Unless we've lost some war--and last tahm Ah checked, we hadn't--there is no reason why we should be looking any model who is a day over 18." This explains, among other things, the preponderance of "WE BARE ALL" and "CAFE RISQUE NUDES" along the side of interstate highways down South where 16 year old trailer park girls jiggle it for lecherous-looking Congressmen.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lava flows as Hawaiian Cliff Falls Into the Ocean

This weekend, a 44-acre chunk fell off Mt. Kilauae and lava poured out of the broken cliff face into the sea. Awesome.

In case, like us, you don't remember, Kilauae has been erupting more or less constantly since 1983; this is all going on in a national park, so no one really cares if it all falls into the ocean.

We were going to list reasons why this is cooler than the Astronomy Pic of the Day, but we'll just enjoy the pretty pictures. More pics and maps of the involved area are at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Rushdie for Christmas

As huge fans of Rushdie, we feel compelled to give Rushdie's books as gifts. Midnight's Children, our favorite, is too thick--they are as likely to read it as they are to eat that fruitcake. We have come to the conclusion that we're not going to understand Satanic Verses until we read our free Qu'ran, so that's unlikely to meet with wild success as a gift, either.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories, the novella about a boy's fantastic journey to the source of all stories (our eponymous Ocean of Notions), is just right to introduce the unsuspecting to Rushdie. Full of sing-songy, witty wordplay without silliness. Quick enough reading for a weekend. And since it was written in reply to the infamous censure of Satanic Verses, even the ignats on our giftlist can figure out who he is with a little prodding.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

God, we hope this really happened

Professor Acephalous tells the tale of walking into his office one morning only to find two half-naked undergrads in media res. Or in flagrante delicto. Or whatever Harvard-speak is for gettin' it on. We won't spoil the rest of the story for you--and you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing. Like we said, we suspect he might be making this up, but we really hope it is a true story.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Body Farms

The Tennessee Body Farm never ceases to amuse us. Rotting bodies spread out over a 30 acre parcel near Knoxville--WAY more interesting than that 266-foot gold-plated golf ball left over from the 1982 World's Fair.

Now there are plans to open a similar, uhm, installation, in Iowa, which would allow forensics researchers to see how a body rotting in a Midwestern cornfield might be different from a body rotting in the Appalachian foothills. We are all for this. For one thing, if we were ever beaten half to death and buried alive in the middle of a cornfield, like Joe Pesci in Casino, we'd want the Iowans to catch the fkn fks who did it. For another, we are nearly certain there is nothing else so interesting going on in all of Iowa.

Monday, November 28, 2005

DC's First Hot News Anchor

Among the many curses of DC is the herd of cows that staff the local news shows. Every other city on earth has a handful of hotties to tell you that the Supreme Court is falling apart, a kid got shot twice over his North Face jacket, and other headlines of the day. Not the capital of the free world. We like our news ugly and our reporters uglier.

Things are beginning to look up, though. The local NBC station now has one Lindsay Czarniak doing sports on weekends and filling in for the regular nobodies every once in a while. And yes, we know that web page says she has been here since June, but we just saw her for the first time the other night.

Narnia on the Big Screen

Sore from kicking themselves for passing on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Disney is bringing Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia to the masses, starting with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Seems that after the success of Harry Potter, the studios can't find more British children's lit fast enough--but Lewis's Christian Indoctrination for Children could cause problems for Disney:

In fact, there are some Hollywood observers who seem to believe that there is a good reason Lewis is among the last of the classic children's authors to be adapted for the movies, and that in taking on Narnia, Disney has backed itself into a corner. If the studio plays down the Christian aspect of the story, it risks criticism from the religious right, the argument goes; if it is too upfront about the religious references, on the other hand, that could be toxic at the box office. Disney, which is producing "Narnia" with Walden Media, the "family friendly" entertainment company owned by the politically conservative financier Philip Anschutz, is hedging its bets and has, for example, already issued two separate soundtrack albums, one featuring Christian music and musicians and another with pop and rock tunes.
Well, they can release two soundtracks, but we don't see how the Righteous Christian Forces of Aslan and the Immoral And Ultimately False Popular Culture can both win The Good Fight. Maybe they filmed two endings, one to show in red states and one for the blue states?

UPDATE: Polly Toynbee rants, "Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion" at the Guardian.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Baltimore = Ghetto

We were amused to learn that somebody is cutting down street lights in Baltimore and selling the metal for scrap because it reminded us of Mr. Burns's attempt to darken the streets of Springfield. That, and it reminds us what a cesspool Baltimore is: The sewers clog every time it rains, the roads haven't been paved since cobblestones went out of style, and the police are so lazy you can cut down a 30 foot street light pole and cart it off without getting caught.

Colored Bubbles

Remember blowing soap bubbles with those little plastic wands when you were a kid? Wouldn't it be awesome if they came in colors?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Reese Witherspoon is June Carter

As Johnny Cash fans, there was never any doubt that we were going to see Walk the Line. And no matter how slow it felt at times or however unfairly it may portray Vivian Cash, we were going to like it, so there is no point in us telling you how good it was.

We are going to tell you, though, that Reese Witherspoon steals the show. Witherspoon is, of course, a hot country girl with considerable wits; she inhabits June Carter--another hot country girl with considerable wits--to the point of taking over Carter completely. When Carter and Cash meet backstage on the first Sun tour, she gets the bows and ribbons on her comically American-as-apple-pie dress tangling in Cash's guitar strings. As the MC is warming up the crowd for her, she calls out to the audience, from behind the curtain, "Jus' a sec. Ah'm jus' tanglud up in thu stran'gs a' Johnny Cash's get-tar," as if her backstage delay is part of the act, and then whispers to Cash, "Don't worry. Ah can keep this funny for at least two menuts." We don't know if that was Carter's humor or Witherspoons. ...the intertwining of these two beauties in this one character reminds us of a buxom blonde college girl from Tennessee who called Dolly Parton her childhood idol... Oh, and did we tell you Witherspoon does her own vocals? Her voice isn't exactly June Carter's, but Carter wasn't the world's greatest singer, so there is no loss there. And at least she sings better than Joaquin Phoenix.

Previous Post: Joaquin Phoenix is Johnny Cash

Friday, November 18, 2005

Turkey Day

We're taking the week off to enjoy homecooking, etc, so posting will be very light.

Check out Shandy's new digs, or hang out with the Percolator, or get something to eat over at Gubbins.


How To Increase Your Hit Count

With free sex, of course. This livejournal-ish blog includes links to three softcore galleries with each post, for no reason we can see other than to increase his hit counts, since the galleries have no apparent relation to his posts. Well, we only read a couple posts before getting totally distracted by uhm, other material. Genius.

Google Logos

BoingBoing pointed us to this repository of Google Holiday logos, which also includes this great Dilbert Google Doodle. Hah ha.

There Is Nothing Wrong in This Whole World

One year ago, Chris Cobb--whose previous work includes mashed potato sculpture a la Close Encounters of the Third Kind--transformed Adobe Bookstore's shelves into his art project, There Is Nothing Wrong in This Whole World (photos at Flickr).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

He Lied, He Lied!

When we were kids, Mr Wizard told us that it is impossible to fold a piece of paper in half more than 8 times. A high schooler proved him wrong:

For extra credit in a math class Britney was given the challenge to fold anything in half 12 times. After extensive experimentation, she folded a sheet of gold foil 12 times, breaking the record. This was using alternate directions of folding. But, the challenge was then redefined to fold a piece of paper. She studied the problem and was the first person to realize the basic cause for the limits. She then derived the folding limit equation for any given dimension.
That's right, Don Herbert, not only did little Little Britney Gallivan prove you wrong for extra credit in high school math, she came up with lots of fancy calculusy-looking equations, too. She's also better looking. (via BoingBoing)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Laura Miller at describes a series of novella-length retellings of the classical myths, coming to a bookstore near you this fall. First up: Margaret Atwood on what really happened with Penelope and all those suitors while Odysseus was away. We're interested, if only to see if Atwood reports something racy enough to overcome a premise that could devolve into a sexist ("feminist," some will surely say) retelling of a perfectly good story.

To read Salon without subscribing, we recommend the Salon Premium Pass script for Greasemonkey (requires Firefox), which will automatically fetch a day pass without you having to watch the ultramercial. If only someone would find a similar hack for Times Select...

God Loves Us Like A Gay Husband

The student newspaper reporters covering a lecturer who gave a talk on "theology and sex" to a Catholic school audience presumably butchered the speaker's words when they printed this:

The biblical prophets spoke of God's love for us in terms of a man's love for his bridegroom.
We wonder: Is God a top or a bottom?

Monday, November 14, 2005

More on Picture Books

ORIGINAL POST: We thought this'd be a nice follow-up to our earlier post on Picture Books: The Print and The Book.

UPDATE: Screw that. Today we stumbled over IT IN place, the art blog by Alex Itin who draws on the pages of books:

I started ripping up books and drawing in the pages (it had been a warm-up exorcize I did in College). The only rule was that it had to be a book that I’d read and that I’d loved. There seemed no point in destroying something you were ambivalent about. I did thousands of drawings....most were terrible, but I began to find a new language of linked images.
The climbing fellow at right--which to us looks like either a painted pygmy or possibly a demon from Dante's Hell--is from the blog, and you should run over there right now for more. Itin is artist-in-residence at The Institute for the Future of the Book, which is itself worth checking out. Especially the if:book blog.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Introduction of Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate

From Isaac D'Israeli's Curiousities of Literature, a six-volume collection of miscellenea from the 1820s:

IT is said that the frozen Norwegians, on the first sight of roses, dared not touch what they conceived were trees budding with fire: and the natives of Virginia, the first time they seized on a quantity of gunpowder, which belonged to the English colony, sowed it for grain expecting to reap a plentiful crop of combustion by the next harvest, to blow away the whole colony.
If you read the rest of the wordy piece about the initial European reactions to hot drinks, you will learn that tea was touted as a panacea for the sole purpose of kindling a market for the weeds that were coming back in the sailing ships from China; that coffee only caught on because Parisian women were entranced by the cute little cups it was served in; and that monks were forbidden from drinking chocolate ostensibly because it inflamed the passions, but really just because everyone else wanted to make sure there was enough for the rest of us.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Apparently, NYTimes and the White House Use the Same Fact Checkers

The Times Magazine had commissioned author JT Leroy to write about Disneyland Paris back in September and had planned to bring him/her/it back in November to write a longer piece on what JT describes as the "Deadwood mentality." However, last week the Times pulled the plug on this, citing the fact that JT Leroy doesn't actually exist as far as anyone can tell. Well, "anyone," with the notable exception of Warren St. John, who profiled Leroy for the Times a year ago. (Apologies for that link to Times Select material.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Fishing for Music

Since the demise of Napster, mp3s have gotten harder and harder to find. When you just have to listen to something right now, there needs to be a better way to find a copy to download. Enter SingingFish. Type in a few keywords, tell it if you prefer mp3 or QuickTime or whatever, and hope for the best.

FOX cuts Arrested Development

Apparently, FOX doesn't have any patience for good TV. This fall, they moved their money-making, award-winning powerhouse Malcolm in the Middle (which we never really watched anyway) to Friday nights, which is like smothering grandma with a pillow.

Now, they are putting Arrested Development on hold. What will they be replacing it with, you might ask. Cops? Close. Try Prison Break reruns.

The Best of 2005 is doing us all the great favor of compiling Best of 2005 lists this fall. Books, music--even the Best Hospitals of 2005. They'll be adding as more lists come available.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


In addition to shamelessly consuming gubbins' edible news, we've been fattening ourselves on a number of food porn sites. Heidi over at 101cookbooks is vegetarian and so sexy a chef that for her, we'd even consider giving up meat. Today she treated us to pistaccio nut butter, which she recommends spreading on crepes, and there is just about nothing we wouldn't do for some of this chocolate mousse to go along with those pistaccio crepes. Whether or not recipes interest you, the photography rocks. We feel very insecure when we compare the talents on display at her site compared to our own, but the food fills our bellies and distracts us from the depression.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bibliophile Vacations

Shopping sucks our will to live. But book and music stores are different. So we totally sympathise with Slate's Jacob Weisberg who is spending his London vacation in the bookstores.

The Best Politics in the Land

"What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican Party? I'll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. . . . So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'liberal,' as if it's something dirty, something to be ashamed of, something to run away from, it won't work, because I will pick it up, and I will wear that label as a badge of honor."

Any guesses as to the author? Not Michael Moore. Not even Howard Dean. No, it's from The West Wing. Even in the post-Aaron Sorkin era, they can come up with rhetoric that heroic but the best the DNC can run against that Texas hick is, "We need to fight a smarter, better war."

Merle Haggard on Whores

One of our grandfathers has a pile of Merle Haggard records that he values more highly in life than anything except his rifle. So our eyes perked up when we saw Merle reflecting on his first whorehouse visit in today's WaPo:

One day in 1951, a runaway 14-year-old boy named Merle Haggard accomplished two memorable things: He bought his first pair of cowboy boots in a secondhand store and he lost his virginity in a whorehouse in Amarillo, Tex.

Interviewing Haggard for a wonderfully entertaining profile in the November issue of GQ, writer Chris Heath asked the legendary country singer and songwriter if his experiences in that whorehouse changed him.

Haggard pondered the question for a minute. "Not really," he replied. "I think the cowboy boots affected me more. I mean, the gal just affirmed what I already knew, but the cowboy boots made a new man out of me."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Picture Books!

We just recently learned that Salvador Dali illustrated Alice's Adventures in Wonderland back in the 60s. The pics totally blow our mind.

We've been told that by the end of elementary school, we should be able to read "serious novels," which seems to mean "long books without pictures." Hef taught us that this advice is not wisdom, though it may masquerade as such.

So, to feed our hunger for picture books, we burnt an Amazon gift certificate on illustrated "serious novels" this weekend. With the Dali edition of Alice out of print, this meant lots of Ralph Steadman's work, which not only complements Fear and Loathing and the aforementioned Alice but also the 50th anniversary edition of Animal Farm.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

On Indian Food

The International Herald Tribune has a few words on the rarity of classy eats in New Delhi. Apparently, one cook is making a lone stand for the new cuisine. We're game for a trip to India just to have a taste. Wanna come with?

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Doctor" Frist on Eugenics

The Editors have brought Bill Frist's Family Tree to our attention. Question: Can you imagine the hubris required to publish your family tree?

One reviewer described it as an insecure man's attempt to demonstrate that he is "melanin-free," which made us chuckle, but we think reading this inbred family tree might be darkly fun. There must be something to a family of doctors that can build a huge healthcare organization to bilk their patients and then send their son off to Washington to keep their conspiratorial way of life legal, only to have him make an ass out of himself over a vegetable in Florida, may her soul rest in peace.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Alice Walker: "I am no Condi Rice"

When Tavis Smiley compared Alice Walker to Condi Rice, Ms. Walker fired back:

I find it very objectionable because she is someone that has helped the president actually bomb people, kill people, starve people...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Physics of the Bra

The average American woman now wears a bra size 36C, up from an average bra size of 34B in 1990. This means more gravity in play, so some physicists have been called in to hold things up. We think their work is worthy of a Nobel.

UPDATE: The fruits of research? A Dutch firm has designed a wall of silicone breasts in all sizes to help men shopping for their significant others. The customer can go to the wall and squeeze the silicone models until he finds his wife/girlfriend's size.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Trick or Treat!

After Shandy introduced us to Gubbins, we have grown into fans. And Gubbins has the downlow on these new Mocha Almond Hershey bars. We haven't seen them at the neighborhood CVS (the closest thing we have to a candy store here in God-forsaken DC), but they sound so good we might dawn a pumpkin-head and go trick-or-treating tonight just to score some.

The Amateur Gourmet also has instructions on making your own candy today. Make us some and bring it over after the game, would you?

UPDATE: And now a new flavor of Hershey's Kiss. What a time to be alive!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Happy Halloween!

via Screenhead.

Google Print: Authors vs. Publishers

This "news" is two weeks old, but we're going somewhere with this...

To recap: Google Print is starting to scan the archives of libraries, which will provide the libraries with a digital back-up and provide Google users with searchable excerpts of the books. The publishing industry is pissed, because they think this will cause people to read books one snippet at a time at Google instead of buying copies, so they are suing Google. As Lawrence Lessig at Wired put it, "No one would have thought a library needed permission to create a card catalog."

Meghann Marco wants her book indexed in the hope that Google Print will drum up new readers for her work. Simon & Schuster told her no; they seem to think that they are doing her some kind of favor by keeping her book scarce. And besides, what would book publicists do for a living if Google drummed up new readers for free?

Of course, most of us flip through a book, whether physically in a store or with the help of Amazon's Look Inside/Search Inside feature, before buying it. Search Inside, btw, increases sales of books by 9%, according to Jeff Bezos. commenters make some great points beyond this, including an author who says she wouldn't dare to demand that her publisher put her book on Google, because she is certain that if she pisses off her publisher, she'll never get a book deal again. This reveals political savvy enough to survive in the real world, which we are glad to see in an author.

So what can be done if authors cannot win any ground against the publishers?

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Wired mag writes about Ted Breaux, a chemistry dork from New Orleans who has reverse engineered several anqitue bottles of absinthe to re-create 19th century recipes for the famous bohemian hootch, which he now distills, bottles, and sells at an old-school distillery in France. This stuff is apparently worlds different from the wormwood-laced mouthwash that parades as absinthe in Prague these days (for the price, it better be).

But wait--isn't the stuff illegal? Turns out the EU does not mention absinthe in its liquor regulatory statutes, so, by oversight of omission, the stuff is treated the same as every other 140-proof liquor in EU countries. That being said, it is illegal to sell absinthe in the USA. However, you may import a bottle and drink it without restriction, as long as you don't get caught by customs.

And from what we're reading, despite hundred-year old accounts of absinthism complete with epilepsy and "criminal dementia," the wormwood at this concentration seems to merely provide an herbal kick not unlike Red Bull.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Requisite Fitzmas Post

We'd be remiss if we let the first indictment of a White House official in 130 years go by without at least a dishonorable mention.

Remarkably, within minutes of the announcement on CNN, Fox announced that the newly indicted Libby was resigning. This tells us that he knew he was guilty but would only resign if caught--that's pretty obvious. So how many other guilty parties are staying at the White House because, so far, they haven't been caught?

From the Wires

A hanging-suicide along the side of a Delaware highway was thought to be a Halloween decoration for nearly a day before anyone went over for a closer look. Apparently, the body "looked like something somebody would have rigged up," according to the Mayor's wife.

Question: Was the deceased wearing a witch's hat? Or did she have a pumpkin for a head? Then maybe ya'll should have walked across the street to check this out a little sooner, huh?

Drinking Liberally

Discovered just today: Drinking Liberally. This sounds like the Dean Meet-ups, but with no pretense of doing anything more than drinking with liberals in a conservative-free zone. We're going next Monday. (via Eschaton)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers Withdraws

The Right successfully obstructs the GOP agenda.

At least Miers can still play the lottery.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Long Tail

Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired mag, has a blog-about-to-become-a-book about what he calls the Long Tail phenomenon. If you haven't heard of this concept, the idea is that the web, unlike brick-and-mortar stores cobbled by expensive storage space, makes such a wide range of products available that even if only a few people are ever interested enough to buy them, the seller can still turn a profit. Examples include the DVDs that NetFlix has but Hollywood Video won't stock ("We're sorry, sir, but we don't have the unrated version of Bad Santa because we are a family video store") and the thousands of niche market Lego kits only available online.

Gramophone Awards

This month Gramophone mag named the best classical CDs of the year, along with gratuitous "artist of the year" and the like.

We endorse their choice for CD of the year, the long-awaited first volume in a series of the Bach cantatas that John Eliot Gardiner began way back in 2000 on the 250th anniversary of Bach's death. It was an ambitious project: Gardiner and the Monteverdi choir wanted to record all of the sacred cantatas in big, old churches Bach would have known during the course of a year, playing the cantatas appropriate to the liturgical calendar each week. A subset of those recordings were released as the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, but Deutsche Grammophon was luke-warm on the project and only released about 10 CDs of what was to be an enormous set.

Gardiner put up his own money to produce and release the remainder of the recordings, and this first volume, released on his home-grown Soli Deo Gloria label, is absolutely incredible. (Take that, Deutsche Grammophon!)

Support Our Troops...

...Bring them home alive.

Bush has sent 2000 of them to their deaths, more than died anywhere since Vietnam.

How many times can a man turn his head and pretend he just doesn't see? How many deaths will it take before he knows too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

So are you going to raise this woman's baby?

A woman in Tuscon, AZ, was raped. She then demonstrated remarkable composure, we think, by setting out to prevent herself from getting pregnant, a task that, in Tuscon, AZ, requires a rape victim to visit every pharmacy in town in a vain search for Plan-B or similar "morning after pills." After visiting dozens of pharmacies, she found one that stocks Plan-B. The only pharmacist on duty refused to dispense it.

So, if she becomes pregnant, is this pharmacist going to adopt the child and rear the cute little bundle of rapist joy?

Some people have said this is a matter of women's rights or, even more degrading to everyone, that it is a matter of commerce. We think it is a matter of public health. When a patient takes a doctor's order to a pharmacist, the pharmacist should fulfill that order so that the patient can be healed. Now, in many circumstances, fertility is not a disease, and treatments to prevent it are silly in those instances. In some circumstances, it is not a desirabled condition, and if, after discussing it with her doctor, a woman does not desire to be fertile--and safe medicines are available for this purpose, as well all know--the pharmacist should hand over the pills.

This is not merely a matter of reproductive health. What if pharmacists want to withhold morphine from cancer patients, because people on death's doorstep should have every opportunity to share in Christ's suffering at the time of death? What if pharmacists withhold HIV drugs, because, as Jerry Falwell once said, HIV is the tool of God sent down to rid the earth of homosexuals?

We mention the raped woman in Tuscon for another reason: All those conservatives who say that abortions in cases of rape and incest are tolerable to them but all other abortions must be stopped are full of shit. They have no compunctions about endeavoring to make abortion so scarce that even in cases they say they would tolerate, abortions are not available, as Plan-B was not in this case.

So, if pharmacists refuse for non-health reasons to release on a doctor's order the medicines they keep under lock and key, we should take the medicines out from under lock and key.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A Movie To Tell Us What is Wrong With TV

We watched Good Night, and Good Luck this weekend and gladly report that it was enjoyed by all. George Clooney's work has been hit or miss, so we were naturally skeptical. What's more, we were reluctant to shell out $10 for a civics lesson from Ed Murrow.

It is a civics lesson, of course: Murrow's reporting was responsible for reigning in Sen. Joe McCarthy's communist witch hunt, and we should all remember that an aggressive, adversarial news media is one of democracy's few protections against demagoguery. That being said, most people likely to see the movie are liberals who feel this way already, so Murrow's ghost will preach to the choir. The movie seems to know this; when the CBS team is cutting together clips of McCarthy's grandstanding, they remark that by reporting on him with only his own words, they will only further endear him to everyone who loves him and further disgust everyone who hates him.

As an aside, compare Ann Coulter's keynote, at the Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans barbeque, that she "was never a big fan of the First Amendment," which met with applause and prompted Republicans to describe her speech as "hard hitting, but sometimes the truth hurts." Not only does this make our point beautifully, but also demonstrates that not a damn thing has changed in 50 years.

David Strathairn obviously enjoyed playing Murrow, and who wouldn't? He gets to repeat Murrow's brilliant if obvious editorial: "...dissent is not disloyalty; accusation is not proof; conviction depends on evidence and due process of law; and finally, as defenders of freedom abroad, the United States cannot desert it at home." Last week, Jack Schafer at Slate wondered what the New York Times could do to save itself. There is your answer.

Movie web site
/ Trailer from Apple

The Worst "Best" List

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so TIME pulled 100 talked about novels off the shelf and called them the best. This has already been done over at Random House/Modern Library, and, we think, well enough that any second attempt--especially any attempt by TIME--would just be a hack job. And it is.

Matthew Baldwin over at The Morning News went through TIME's 100 best and looked to see what reviewers at had to say about these "best" novels to create a Worst of the Best list. A Clockwork Orange "really pissed me off," said one Amazon citizen. Even better, the worst reviewer of Lord of the Flies introduces himself as a Survivor fan, 'cause that makes him totally qualified as a literary critic. (For the record, he was disturbed by the book, as "anyone with a conscience would agree.")

PS After linking TIME, we're going to need to shower over and over to wash off the filth. At least our technorati rankings will rise...

Tina Fey, Our Goddess, Returns

Tina Fey, the last good thing SNL has going for it, was back last night, and God, did we enjoy basking in the glow of her new MILF status. She made jokes about SpongeBob the TV show finally being aired in China, so that the sweatshop workers will now know what the hell they are making, and some other crap... we were too busy drooling over her to listen much. BTW, thanks to Shandy for the shout-out.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Johnny Cash in the Remainder Pile

The other day, we sighted All I Did Was Ask, a collection of Terry Gross interviews from her NPR show, in the remainder pile at the local bookstore staffed by stereotypically bookish lesbians in their coke-bottle lens glasses. "We'll wait for the audio book version," we thought to ourselves.

On closer inspection, though, Terry Gross interviewed Johnny Cash in 1997, at the height of his Rick Rubin Renaissance, which IS worth a listen. So go listen.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Unsung Heroes of Powerball

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) won nearly a million bucks in this week's lottery. According to the WaPo interview:

"I'm truly deserving," declared the New Hampshire Republican, who was one of 49 people across the country to win second place in a drawing Wednesday night. He collected his winnings yesterday at D.C.'s lottery claims center. "I feel this is the result of my ability and talent." He said this over the phone so it could not be determined whether his tongue was in his cheek.
We suspect it wasn't, as the good Senator gloated that he will be using the "majority of the money personally."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Stormy Weather

In anticipation of another dark, stormy, generally disgusting weekend, we'd like to suggest everyone join us for one of these, courtesy of Slashfood.

While we're on the subject of alcohol, here's an oldie worth re-linking: The Esquire Drinks Database. Follow the rules, but mostly just drink the drinks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tater Tomater

Okay, this is a WEIRD one. A moronic girl working in some backwoods diner in what appears to be the Carolinas stands over the steam table all day, offering "tater? tomater?" to customers. Moronic to start with, the rhyme seems to be rotting her brain. The film is only about 15 minutes long (although after you watch it you'll think it was much longer), but the complete weirdness of it along with the plight of a girl driven crazy by the hell of a mind-numbing job make it, well, endearing. That, and the portrayal of the Southerners in the diner is spot on: "Any employee what's got har has to war a har net." Unfortunately, we do not know where to find the video outside of the cult-like website.

Scopes Trial 2005: Update

To follow-up earlier posts on creationism and the tree of life, we'd like to direct your attention to Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al, which we prefer to think of as the latest attempt by Christian right wingers to undermine what is left of American superiority in the sciences by replacing high school biology classes with pseudoscience.

How would you like it if you went to the doctor and he told you that you have cancer. "A lot of work has been done directed at a cure in animals," he goes on. "But I don't believe any of that atheist 'science'. In fact, I know in my heart that anyone who thinks animals and humans share anything other than the air we breathe is going to hell, so I am sure you wouldn't want any part of that. I'll pray for you, though, and if your heart is pure, God will miraculously heal you."


The Elements of Style Illustrated? (via NYTimes)

UPDATE: The Institute for the Future of the Book, if:book, who are more enthusiastic about an illustrate Elements than we, have info on operatic music based on Prof. Strunk's admonishments.

The Tree of Life

No, not that Qabbalah crap.

We're reading, with pleasure, Richard Dawkin's Ancestor's Tale, which describes what would happen if we walked back in time to meet our evolutionary ancestors: the great-grandparent who would become ancestor to both Homo sapiens (Homo insipiens?) and the Neanderthals, then further back to meet the ape who became ancestor to both us (all Homo species) and the chimpanzees, back to the creature that became ancestor to both apes and monkeys, and so on, back to the pond scum that became ancestor to all life on Earth.

This Chaucerian pilgrimage is a neat little way to survey evolutionary theory, and Dawkins tells enough tales along the road that it is no where near as dry as it sounds. That, and he has cautionary (almost threatening) footnotes to creationists who would misquote him and he includes biting criticism for American conservatives who wield nukuler power while having the IQ of a chimpanzee.

Anyway, we didn't set out to review the thing. We set out to find illustrations, because Dawkins's fragments of the ancestral family tree make it hard to see the structure of the whole. So here it is, the Tree of Life on the web.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Katrina and Guns

America loves her guns. Taking up arms, which is to say, empowering yourself to take another's life for the simple reason that they make you uncomfortable, is a great aphrodisiac. And there is nothing as addictive as sex, right?

So Instapundit figures that with the reports of armed gangs that roved over New Orleans after Katrina, many will arm themselves "to be prepared next time." Coming from a family of mentally unstable hunting gun owners, we know that a large segment of middle America agrees: Because guns caused so much additional misery during the disaster, we need more guns for when the next disaster comes a-knocking.

We'd like to quote Dr. Berggren of the now-defunct Charity Hospital, New Orleans, who wrote in this week's New England Journal of Medicine:

The real Katrina disaster was not created by the elements but by a society whose fabric had been torn asunder by inequality, lack of education, and the inexplicable conviction that we should all have access to weapons that kill.

That's right: hurricanes and earthquakes are not real problems in our society. Our racism, our ignorance, and our guns are real problems in our society.

IMDb Turns 15

We did not realize IMDb has been around so long... but it has been. 15 years, to be exact.

To celebrate, they have--what else--put together top 15 lists of their favorite movies since 1990. We're glad to see The Shawshank Redemption, LA Confidential, and Memento receiving props. But Tremors? And The Passion of the Christ? And we wish Pixar had never Found Nemo. Batman Begins deserves any one of those spots and there is simply no excuse for leaving out O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Best Magazine Covers Ever

The best 40 magazine covers of the last 40 years, or so they say.

Question: Is this pic of two camels going at it really the best we can do?

Book Nerd Moment

We'd like to introduce The Little Professor (no, not that one), who has a wonderfully bookish blog going on. It is going to take us weeks to surf through her nerdy collection of links, but we got a good start with LibraryThing, which can now be seen at right. Well, what you see to the right is just the tip of the iceberg; LibraryThing now contains most of our books and will link you to a random sampling. We smell the potential for something more interesting things to come of it...

Anyway, Little Professor shares our short patience with those who cannot write in English to save their lives. (The Elements of Style should be required reading, and any one breaking its rules should be shot on sight.) Of course, as a teacher of reading and writing, she is a better person that we are, since we tend to mock anyone who can't write articulately and leave it at that.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Free Piglet!

In the past coupla weeks, rumors that Britain plans to all pig-related cultural icons from Animal Farm's fascists through Charlotte's "Some Pig," and yes Piglet, too, have grown to meme-status. While we're skeptical that all this porcine paraphernalia will actually be sent to the slaughter, we're interested to see what becomes of this.

Christian Exodus (The Words of Christ in Red Version) wants to concentrate evangelical 'Christians' in South Carolina so that they can enact all sorts of quack laws in the name of the Lord. "So what?" you say, "I don't live in South Carolina, cradle of the Confederacy."

Consider this: The organizers, in addition to encouraging armed resistance if the government should ever plan to confiscate firearms (If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other one also [Mt 5:39]), diverting public money to 'Christian' schools on the grounds that public schools have done nothing but teach "generations of school children to hate America," and, in a move to return to the heyday of Christendom, requiring property ownership as a prerequisite for the privilege of voting (Amen I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God [Mt 19:24]) within the South Carolina, they promise that once they amass a 'Christian' majority in the State, they will pursue similar national legislation.

As outlined at their convention, they have a handful of national reforms in mind, specifically the removal of certain amendments from that once-pure-but-now-sullied document, the US Constitution. They suspect the 14th, 16th, and 17th amendments to the U.S. Constitution were not legally ratified, so they plan to suspend them until a genuine 'Christian' accounting can be made and the amendments either truly ratified or permanently discarded. We slept through most of US History 101, so we looked up the amendments in question for you, dear reader...

Amendment 14 promises citizenship, the right to vote, and basic civil rights to freed slaves. Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. [Mt 25:40]

Amendment 16 allows the federal government to collect income taxes. Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and unto God what belongs to God. [Lk 20:25]

Amendment 17 provides for popular election of Senators, which is just a pain when you are trying to artificially assemble create a ruling majority.
In other words, these folks, as our born-again President would call them, want the exact opposite of everything Christ taught them. Bless them.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Holy Shit!

Dear Harriet,

Thank you for the card and a happy 52nd to you. I appreciate your friendship and candor- never hold back your sage advice-

All my best
George W.

P.S. No more public scatology

Life Inside a Water Bottle

On the whole, bottled water is pretty stupid: A dollar a quart for something that normally sells for a fraction of a penny a gallon. What's more, the number one reason your grandparents wear dentures and you don't is that your teeth grew in with the benefit of fluorinated municipal water; rear up your children on bottled water, and they'll end up smiling like your grandparents.

All that aside, this guy shot VR-style film of his house from "inside" a water bottle, which is, we have to admit, pretty fkn cool.

A Brief History of Cronyism

TNR has excerpts of the illustrious history of presidential suck-ups. Most are more subtle than Harriet Miers's assertions that G W Bush is "cool" and "the greatest," but that leaves a lot of room to practice the art of ass-kissing. (Via Shandy.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

More on the Cruise-Holmes Shotgun Wedding

Rat-faced bastard Tom Cruise and talentless fiance Katie Holmes, who recently got knocked up out of wedlock, were taken down a notch by Katie's Dad. Martin Holmes, a devout Catholic (that would be a real religion, Tom), stated the obvious to Cruise: "You're no good."

Cruise has pledged to marry Holmes in time to make an honest woman of her before she becomes a mother, but her family says "Katie is being controlled by the Scientologists." Can somebody rent her a copy of Rosemary's Baby?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

King Kong!!!

When Peter Jackson saw King Kong at the impressionable age of 9, he knew right away that he wanted to be a filmmaker. We don't think the movie is much to write home about, but it does pretty much capture Hollywood life: Desperate hottie is exploited by movie producers, then hooks up with possessive monster who is even older than her daddy until his recklessness does him in, and finally ends it all after being spit out the bottom end of the porn industry. Okay, so that last part isn't actually in the script, but we know that is how it turns out.

Riding the success of the Lord of the Rings, Jackson is about to release his own remake of the mother of all monster movies. Universal is paying him $20 million up-front for his trouble, so you can imagine he is enjoying himself. Along the way, he has the webmasters of the fansite keeping track of production with a series of video diaries, basically the kind of behind the scenes stuff that Special Edition DVDs are for. Go check out Naomi Watts in Kong's hand as he runs through the streets of NY. It's enough to make us want to be exploitive movie producers, too.

Monday, October 10, 2005

George Bush Wants To Blow Up The Smurfs

UNICEF is running ads in Europe that depict the bombing of the Smurf Village as part of a fundraiser to benefit the children of wartorn areas.

We would like to thank George Bush for blowing these lovable, child-like cartoons to hell. After all, if we weren't fighting the blue kiddos abroad, we'd be fighting them here.

UPDATE: The conservative blogosphere, always eager to back up their "compassionate" president, is accusing the Smurfs of being communists. Followers of Jerry Falwell are reportedly praying right now, thanking God every time one of the little bastards burns alive.

Great Silliness in the Name of Fiction

As we've alluded to before, we are great Rushdie fans. Even so, we are disappointed by Shalimar the Clown.

First, the book is too thin to support episodes in LA, Kashmir, and Austria, let alone visits to France, London, and San Quentin. Midnight's Children was The Novel of 600 Pages Maximum; The Moor's Last Sigh was The More Modest Novel of 400 Pages Minimum, and both stayed in India. Shalimar barely makes 400 pages, leaving us with the feeling that we were only allowed one trip to the buffet with a pitifully small plate. A polyglot should not run out of words so quickly.

Then there is the problem of the plot. We can allow that Rushdie, who is the literary world's greatest target of terrorism, wants to write about the fantasies that swim around in the terrorist mind, which he does beautifully, including an astute portrayal of the scorned lover feigning religious fervor so as to become a jihadist who can kill with both passion and God's blessing. His terrorist also gives him a springboard for a discussion about the differences between a society whose creation myth obsesses on transgression and redemption and a society without original sin that must instead obsess over honor and shame. More generally, we agree that any story about the beauties of Kashmir must mention the uglies of Kashmir.

The reality of Kashmir's devils combined with the magic of a circus clown and tightrope walker who can truly walk on air is not magic realism, though. It is silliness in the name of fiction.

UPDATE: The NYTimes has finally reviewed Shalimar, two months after its release, which just reinforces how silly the thing is. Salman, get your act together before you go the way of George Lucas.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Red Light District

As anyone who has ever parked in Washington, DC, knows, the District relies on parking tickets for its primary source of income. Lately, they have expanded their business into the traffic violation racket: they have installed 75 cameras atop stop lights, ostensibly to catch people running red lights. We have seen the tell-tale flash of pictures being taken several times, usually on the yellow light.

WaPo reports that the intersections with cameras have seen an INCREASE in the number of accidents at those red-lights since the cameras went up. And in many cases, the increase is greater than the increase in accidents over the same period at nearby, unmonitored red-lights. Well done, DC.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Soy Nuts

We're on a bit of a food run, today. Be that as it may, the "soy nuts" in question are the nutjobs who try to substitute soy for everything. Tofurkey, for example.

But this crosses some sort of line into the absolutely, incredibly, unbelievably ridiculous: Roasted soy beans for brewing soy "coffee." They advertise it as having "a magnificent bouquet with no acidity or caffeine."

We'll just have a cup of luke warm water, thanks, and delude ourselves into thinking it is a hot chai.

The Taste of Stars

Some guy found a way to carbonate fruit. Carbonate, as in "loading a beverage with carbonic acid to create bubbles." Apparently, the technique involves little more than putting dry ice and fresh fruit in a sealed container and keeping it in the fridge until the dry ice turns to CO2; the pressure in the container drives the gas into the fruit. According to taste-testers, the fruit comes out bursting with soda-water--laced juice and tastes like, well, fruit with a sprinkling of soda water.

Judging by the looks of the product website, they plan to market this to kids, who will have their parents (and their school systems) paying exorbitant prices for fruit with gas. Forget that. We want some of this stuff, and now! After paying $5 for a handful of grapes, the novelty will wear off real quick, but this fruit with bubbles is something we've got to try.

What's more, this seems to be the beginning of a new food fad: Wired also reports on dairy with fizz, starting with milk and yogurt.

Making Atomic Fireballs

When we were in third grade, the teacher we had a crush on would hold "atomic fireball contests" for the whole class, which basically consisted of nothing more than everyone trying to keep the fireball in their mouth longer than the rest of the class. (We cannot remember what the prize was.) Okay, so the Georgia public schools need work.

But get this: It takes two weeks to make a batch of atomic fireballs!