Saturday, February 17, 2007

I Know Where the Bull Is

While I was trying to eat my oatmeal this morning, the good folks over at Fox News were running this show called Bulls and Bears, hosted by Brenda Buttner. It's supposed to be an opinion program about investing and economics, which is interesting to me, but somehow, the topic of conversation turned to today's Senate vote on the Iraq war resolution, previously approved by the House.

Brenda led the way, saying that it was ridiculous and a "waste of time and money" to have the Senators in the Capitol on a Saturday - when they could otherwise be watching Fox News. Two of the panel members agreed (of course), but when one did not, she was quickly silenced so that Brenda could move to another panel member who would agree with her. They fell back on the usual arguments like how it would be better if they were debating real issues and how this was better because at least the legislators weren't harming the economy by wasting their time with this ... la de da.
Then they went for the jugular. They argued that having this come up for debate sent a signal to the troops that our government was not committed to the war [bang], and this would hurt morale [ka-pow]. Another signal that Democrats are terrorist-friendly [wham] and Republicans are the only people interested in keeping us safe [ouch].
I watched another few minutes, until I started to vomit in my mouth a little, then I switched over to That's So Raven, so I could actually learn something.

When I got home this afternoon, I switched on the TV to check on the progress. CNN had a reporter in Washington and was doing live coverage from the floor. MSNBC was there, and had a live feed. Apparently, those two networks did not share Brenda's and Fox News' viewpoint, and actually dispensed people to report on the events so that their viewers would be informed as to what was happening, instead of listening to claptrap and biased opinion. Go figure.
What was Fox News doing?

They had a reporter in Florida, doing live coverage of the Anna Nicole Smith paternity issue. After that hot-button issue was resolved, they had a panel discussion over the 2003 Pizza Bomber killings.

An informed electorate is a Republican's worst enemy.

Friday, February 16, 2007

What's on My Mind?

I'm glad you asked.

I believe that, in a few short years, Sandra Bullock will have won a "Best Actress" Academy Award and will be an established star in Hollywood.
I also think that the cellular phone is a fad and will soon be replaced by cups and string.

We did a lot of work today. We chased the American Greetings people off of their own web site and later, they abandoned the video version of that stupid card from its spot on YouTube. Myself and others received page hits from their headquarters in Cleveland and e-mail from their PR people who tried to spin the card as some sort of comic satire. Once it was discovered that a video version was posted on YouTube by "blmountain" (clever) some noise erupted and it disappeared, like the Monster from the Tar Pits. Nice going.

A doctor removed two moles from President Bush's face on Friday. They were expected to be benign. If they're looking for a malignancy, they should check the Vice President's office.

I got an offer in the mail from Comcast today, promising me that I could have a digital cable upgrade for the same price as my analog for a year, with HBO and Starz included. Right. And my name is Albert Einstein. Testing, one - two...
I tried holding the letter up to a black light to see if there was anything written in yellow ink. Nothing. Then, I waved it over a candle to see if it would spontaneously burst into flame like magician's paper. Nope. I haven't called yet, but I figure that the phone will just ring ... and ring .... and ring.........

NBA star Jason Kidd's estranged wife has charged that he physically abused her and cheated on her throughout their 10-year marriage. Kidd's lawyer said that "the bizarre allegations will be proven false." That's true. The bizarre ones are false. The believable ones however, are true, and that's a bigger problem for him.

Speaking of basketball, there's a so-called "All-Star Celebrity Game" this weekend at the real NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas. I say so-called celebrity because ... well ... dig the names on the list:

I guess celebrity ain't what it used to be. I can tell you right off the bat that they're giving up a significant height advantage with Bow Wow. And, I have no idea who Tony Potts is, but I want to buy his name. In this area of the country, a name like Tony Potts is huge. Tony Potts, Joey Bones, Jimmy Knees ...
Actually, I have no idea who most of those "celebrities" are, and I hope that isn't the best they could do, since ... well ...
...the game is in friggin' LAS VEGAS!

No celebrities there, I guess.

Photo credit (for Sue): An artwork is displayed at Madrid's international contemporary art fair ARCO February 14, 2007.

Every Once in a While, These Tests Turn Out Right

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Man With the World's Smallest Penis

There are three sure signs that spring is coming:

1 - Baseball training camps have opened, and players are reporting.

2 - NASCAR's biggest race, and the first of the season, The Daytona 500, is Sunday.
3 - The LPGA kicked off their first tournament in Hawaii this week.

So, screw this f***ing cold and snow.

Bring on the gigantic trucks!

That's right, it's a truck. This appeared in the Inquirer's sports section on Thursday. That's a man (kinda) standing next to it, reaching up to open the door. Reaching up to open the door. He is reaching up. to. open. the. door.

He's Phillies pitcher Jon Lieber, and he just bought a new house ... er. .... truck.

It's a Ford F-650 (what's the "F" for?). It has 47-inch tires, a 200-gallon gas tank and cost $200,000. It is either a sign of the Apocalypse, or the guy has way too much money. For the record, he makes about $7.5 million a year pitching baseballs that a majority of players find easy to hit. Optimists among us would say that it's a great thing, because we live in a country where people can purchase such things and enjoy the fruits of their labor. It's a status symbol and he has every right to enjoy his life.

The rest of us - heretofore known as The Sensible Ones, would say that anyone who buys or drives something like that needs to have what's left of his head examined. A 200-gallon gas tank? On a passenger vehicle? I cannot imagine the possible utility of such a vehicle, unless he's planning on taking it to Iraq.

There's a small part of the sensible me who is glad that baseball players aren't the role models that they once were. We have come to dismiss them (and many professional athletes) as either egocentric clowns who are only out for their own profit OR phonies, who lie (sometimes) and cheat (sometimes) to get more hits so they can earn more money to use to buy junk like this. Either one.

Whichever you choose, sometimes it's easy to dislike someone. A general rule of thumb is that you can hate them when they show up with a vehicle that could be used to carry my car. It is wretched excess, and it is all too popular. I suppose it will never go out of fashion, because when you pay someone so much money that his children and grandchildren will never know what a "late fee" looks like, they have to find something to do with the money they have left over.

Generally, It's either a huge truck or a case of drugs. I find myself having sympathy for the drug users.

A Special Shout-Out to American Greetings

Dear American Greetings,

Welcome to my little space on the Internet. As you know, some of us were none too happy to find that your Blue Mountain subsidiary posted a so-called greeting card that was biased politically. Something you called Love Democratic Style.

While it is not generally my fashion to conduct boycotts of products, I feel that in this case it is both easy and justified. Why is it easy? Because my local greeting card emporium is loaded with cards of all sorts. Some are made by a company you may know as Hallmark. Occasionally, I like to buy a blank card and (egad!) do the writing myself. Imagine that. Some people do not need greeting cards. Whatever will you do?

As for the e-greetings, e this. I can do my e-greeting via cleverly crafted e-mails or by stopping by a place like The Nature Conservancy, who will happily send an e-greeting to the recipient of my choice. Free too.

The next time you consider putting politically biased cartoon e-greeting cards on the Internet, perhaps you will remember these things and think twice about whom you offend with your greeting card satire.

Thanks for stopping by.

P.S. For those of you who may be innocent bystanders and are wondering what in Hell I'm talking about; you can find the answer here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

20 Million Days to Spring

I was peacefully enjoying (and mocking) 20 Million Miles to Earth at a friend's house tonight, unaware that outside in the cold distance, my car was getting nature's glazing. Yes, another shower of ice from God's great beyond. As faithful readers know, my wipers are shit in the ice, so a 30-mile drive home took over an hour. To top it off, I feel crappy since I missed American Idol. No.

If you've never seen this movie, do. It isn't that it's a cinema classic, because it's not. It's so utterly ridiculous, and funny in its ridiculousness, that it's fun. It must have wowed movie audiences
in 1957.

It features a tiny fishing village in Sicily, where the people are apparently unaware that there is a planet called Venus - hence the continual asking, "The planet Venus?" when they are told that a mission to Venus just returned. I imagine that there is no newspaper, radio or television there, since the United States was able to secretly send up a rocket to Venus right under the noses of Europe. There was no CNN in 1957.

There's a horny, chain-smoking astronaut chasing after a woman who is "almost a doctor", and specializes in dressing patients in clean shirts and neckties for their hospital stays. She has no compunction toward touching the diseased skin of the dead astronaut, then picking up her bag and leaving the room, presumably with the disease ready to spread to Sicily and beyond.

When the ship crashes into the sea, two fishermen pull a survivor out of the wrecked spacecraft. While they're making a fuss over the rescued astronaut, a kid steals an embryo and sells it to a local biologist for 200 lire - for which he pays the kid out of his change purse with something approximately the size of a quarter. Good deal, kid. A shame you didn't have Ebay.
The kid is apparently some sort of sea-urchin/orphan, who hangs with two fishermen and occasionally breaks into a Brooklyn accent while scrounging for alien cocoons. While the U.S. government officials are debating the whereabouts of the cocoon, the kid clues them in, and in rapt amazement, they decide to follow him to the trailer of the local biologist - after the astronaut enjoys a cigarette. Really.

Three days after the ship crashes, the military leaps into action. We are taken to the Pentagon (I know this because the screen says PENTAGON) where a General is saying that the ship has crashed [pointing at a map] "in this vicinity" [waving his arm in an area that takes in everything from the east coast of Africa to Hawaii]. The military is the only thing in the movie that hasn't changed in 49 years.

The creature changes size several times (both intentionally and unintentionally), and after it breaks out of a steel cage, the Italians try to lure it into a rickety wooden cart - the strategy being to contain the creature in progressively weaker structures until it is completely on its own. Gratefully, the film climaxes with a battle with an elephant (that's right) and a death-leap off the Colosseum in Rome. I don't remember how he got to Rome.

All of this takes place in front of two people from the military and fifteen media people. I was barely alive in 1957, but I can reasonably assume that a manned flight to Venus, a crash, rescue and hatching of a Venusian embryo would attract more than 15 people from the news media. My, how the world has changed. I only wish we had such a cavalier attitude toward space-related catastrophes around here. An astronaut can't even drive from Houston to Florida without a thousand people following her.

We stuck with this loser for an hour and a half, waiting for the big moment of sci-fi wisdom that sums up the plot and brings things to a nice thought-provoking conclusion. As the creature is lying dead on the street, the camera cuts to Dr. Uhl for the witty remark that will send movie audiences thoughtfully moving toward the exits ... Ready?

"Why is it always … always so costly for man to move from the present to the future?"

Gee, I don't know. Maybe because you had fishermen in charge of a rescue operation, let a seven-year old run around with Venus embryo, allowed a medical student to treat astronauts, kept a giant lizard in a flimsy metal cage, failed to transport the thing to the United States, sponsored a fight with an elephant and shot away pieces of the Roman Colosseum in an effort to contain a creature that you should have left alone in the first place. I'm just saying.

Immediately, I was ready to start scraping the ice glaze off my car, and meet the challenge of the icy drive home to the future, where I will need costly wiper blades.

An Historic Debate

The image of Cleopatra on the silver denarius of dated to 32 BC, being displayed at Newcastle University, Newcastle, England. Wednesday Feb. 14, 2007. So maybe Mark Antony loved Cleopatra for her mind. That is the conclusion drawn by academics at the University of Newcastle from a Roman denarius, which depicts the celebrated queen of Egypt as a sharp-nosed, thin-lipped woman with a protruding chin.
In short, a fair match for the hook-nosed, thick-necked
Mark Antony on the obverse.
(AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

Not at all like Elizabeth Taylor. Yikes.

Does that mean that 2,000 years from now, historians will be debating the image of Barbara Bush on the dollar bill, and wondering whether she was as beautiful as George and his drunken relatives thought she was?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Here Comes Mr. Sunshine!

As I write, my car windshield is icing over with layer upon layer of freezing rain that will require me to get up a half hour early Wednesday morning to begin the scraping process and slide to work.
On my way home tonight, a favorite long-sleeve t-shirt was dangling one sleeve out the passenger side door, and when I got home, the sleeve was black with road junk and ruined beyond repair.

My driver-side windshield wiper is leaving a streak about an inch wide that travels at the exact level of my eyes as they watch the road.
When I got home, I poured out a nice bowl of Vanilla Yogurt Cheerios and discovered that I had about 2 ounces of soy milk left in the refrigerator. Turns out that you can eat Cheerios semi-dry.

But, it could be worse.
Couldn't it?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Is Anybody Listening?

In between the "Messy Mix" (formerly known as the Blizzard of the Century) and the release of the new dollar coin falls something we humans refer to as St. Valentine's Day.

I work with "men" (quotation marks intentional) and every time one of these romantic secular holidays comes around, I marvel at their total lack of commitment. Whether it's Christmas, some anniversary, birthday or other such couples event, their cluelessness astounds me.

The general question: "What are you getting [her] for [event]?"


Perhaps I shouldn't be so astounded, but my astonishment comes from the fact that they have been with this woman for enough time that an answer should come quickly, and the problem should not be what to do, but rather which of the many choices should they pick. Especially since these holidays do not just pop up. They are carefully planned Hallmark holidays, heavily advertised and promoted. I place their confusion in either of two categories:

(1) Being "men", they do not want to seem less manly to the other men by seeming to be able to pick out a proper way to celebrate the day, or...

(2) They aren't paying enough attention.

I pick #2.

Since life can be reduced to a Seinfeld episode, I turn to the one where Elaine is analyzing George's relationship with his girlfriend. When Elaine cannot figure out why George is with this girl, Jerry tells Elaine that "he doesn't like her as much as he likes it." There you have it. The little head thinking for the big head. Pay attention, men. It isn't that difficult.

Meanwhile, I will subdue my yearning to hit you with a chair, since some of us cannot be close to the one we love on Wednesday. Consider yourselves privileged, and stop whining about having to do something on these days and enjoy the fact that you have something to do. Ungrateful bastards.


Speaking of people who do not listen:

WASHINGTON - A new version of the dollar coin, paying tribute to American presidents, goes into general circulation Thursday. Even though doing away with the bill could save hundreds of millions of dollars each year in printing costs, there is no plan to scrap the bill in favor of the more durable coin. Two recent efforts to promote wide usage of a dollar coin proved unsuccessful. A quarter-century ago, it showed feminist Susan B. Anthony on the front; then one in 2000 featuring Sacagawea, the Shoshone Indian who helped guide the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Hoo-boy, another new dollar coin! They keep making these things, and we keep not using them. Most people would prefer that we do away with the penny, too. It costs more than a penny to make one, and other such coinage has been done away with, like the half-cent, three-cent nickel and two-cent piece - but the penny remains. It seems as if the people at the mint aren't listening, either...

U.S. Mint Director Edmund C. Moy said he was encouraged by the initial demand for the new coin.

Edmund ... another "man". Wake the f*** up. I wonder what he's getting his wife for Valentine's Day?

So, c'mon guys, a little effort, please. Don't make me have to hit you with a chair. For those of us who have spent the last eight of these holidays essentially alone, take it from me. It isn't that difficult to step up to the plate, make an effort and show another person that you care. Neither does it make you any less of a "man" to show some emotion or show that you really are listening. Of course, if you really aren't, then maybe you should be hit with a chair.

Just let me know where and when. I'm not doing anything on Wednesday.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Weather or Not

The local weather people have been waiting for this for months. It's been so warm around here that they haven't had any excitement in their lives. But that's changing. It's a good thing they wear dark suits, because I bet they have stiffies as big as antenna towers - except for Cecily - her nipples are hard.
THE SNOW IS COMING! Finally. After months of unseasonably warm weather in Philadelphia, the groundhogs are seeing their shadows and the snowstorm is coming! Probably.
On Friday night's 11 o'clock news, channel 10 had the word SNOWSTORM! (with exclamation point) in its forecast for Tuesday. Meanwhile, the storm was still forming off the coast of California, but the computer models were telling them to add the exclamation points. A bit extreme, I thought.

Now, the forecasts are a bit less dire. There's a line of demarcation now. Most of the horrible snow will occur west of Philadelphia (as it usually does) while the rest of us get the freezing rain. However, that doesn't stop them from trying to scare us into running to The Home Depot for bags of salt and shovels.

Over on channel 6, the cartoon is telling me that there's a Major Messy Mix of some sort coming. I really wish they wouldn't use those technical terms. I'm not a scientist! Good thing the little guy is bundled up. What are his eyes attached to?
Luckily, the guy in the suit (with his eyes attached to his head) is also saying major mix.

The logo is covering up his snow-stiffy. It's there, though. Trust me on this.

All of these wonderful forecasts will be followed by scenes of salt trucks getting ready for the onslaught on Monday night's programs. Then, we'll be treated to video of anxious shoppers at local grocery stores stocking-up on eggs, milk and bread. When it snows in the Delaware Valley, we get an uncontrollable urge to make French Toast.

The big chain hardware stores will run out of shovels and salt. And, hey ... where are all those people who bought the snow blowers last year? For the money you spent, you could have gotten blown for real, and enjoyed it a lot more.

It's all part of February ratings sweeps, and the TV news guys are happy to scare us into thinking that the world is coming to an end. They're not all that concerned that they may be causing a mild panic in the streets, as long as we tune in for the latest forecast.

Grammy Schmammy

Tonight, the music industry pats itself on the back.
Tonight is the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, and the instrument has not been invented that can measure my indifference to the program.
I'm what most people would call a music snob. I've never been interested in popular music - mostly because it's popular. It's easy to turn on the radio and be spoon-fed music that some programmer has been paid to tell us we like. As for me, I prefer to do my own research and find musicians whom I feel are worthy of my attention, time and money.

I came of age during the so-called "progressive rock" era of the early 1970s, and my favorite musicians were bands like Gentle Giant, Focus, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson and Manfred Mann's Earth Band. They were acquired tastes, and the music was challenging to listen to, but to me, that made it so much better.

My Grammy hatred comes from the 1972 Awards show, when "American Pie" was nominated for Best Song of the Year. It was a slam dunk to win, right? I was 15 years old, and awards shows were a big deal. I wanted to see my favorite performers win awards. These days, I couldn't give a crap, but I was a kid. Anyway, the award went to "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", a song that was written in 1957, and appeared on Roberta Flack's First Take album in 1969. I figured that if it was really deserving of a Best Song award, it would have won either in 1957 or 1969. Why was it winning now? Roberta Flack is a pretty good singer, but DAMN - over "American Pie"? It's the landmark song of its time. I figured that the media was pissed at Don McLean because he would never tell people what all the references meant, and they were giving him the shaft by not giving him the award.

The night of the program, he performed "Vincent", and I vowed to never watch another Grammy Awards show. It's 2006, and every year, more nonsense is nominated, and they overlook better music that either is not popular, or is not paying the promoters enough money to play it on the radio. They should just call the show what it is - The Popular Music Awards - The PMAs.

So, The Police are re-uniting? OK, great. Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland can finally stop waiting by their telephones for Sting to run out of creative ideas and start cashing the checks. Just like the Super Bowl last week, this is just another TV show. It is not a celebration of great music.

It hasn't improved any since 1972, and I don't feel like I've missed a thing by missing all those shows. In fact, if a CD has a "Grammy Award Winner" sticker on it, I'm probably going to question my purchase, or figure that the award people have made some terrible mistake. These are the same people who thought Jethro Tull was "Heavy Metal" and created a category called "Alternative Music", and didn't put any alternative music artists in it. If they're popular enough to be nominated for a Grammy, they aren't alternative.

I'm very sensitive about music, and the hard work it takes to do it well. I hate when it is cheapened by stupid TV talent shows or ridiculous awards shows that fail to either award excellence or recognize great music.