Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Answer to Christmas Quiz!

“They are like panda bears. Everybody’s just watching them, waiting to see if they’ll survive.”
Claire Danes, on the Olsen Twins.

Wednesday's blog....

Perhaps more than a hundred thousand dead, and the earth jolted on its axis, but Jet Li and supermodel Petra Nemcova have survived. Whew.

Don’t get me wrong.
I LOVE Jet Li. And I’m sure Ms. Nemcova is a wonderful person in her own right.

The real news
A man, claiming to have a couple tablesoons of water allegedly sipped by Elvis Presley in 1977, has sold this alleged liquid on eBay for $455. I’ve got some of Johnny Rotten’s spit. Anybody interested?

Why is it eBay? Why not E-bay, or ebay? What is “bay”-ish about it anyway? People “fishing” for crap? I dunno. It’s one of life’s little mysteries.

Oh, if anybody wants a box full of toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals, make me an offer. Most of them are in the original packaging! And have been spat upon by Johnny Rotten. That’s my personal guarantee!

Found on Yahoo
“Authorities are investigating a mysterious laser beam that was directed into the cockpit of a commercial jet traveling at more than 8,500 feet.”

My question for the FBI: Was there a cat in the cockpit? Cats go nuts over those laser pointers, you know.

I love this word. I always thought it was a special hospital for kangaroo babies (aka joeys), but it turns out that it’s a synonym for fraud. It’s a confusing world.

Speaking of words….
Don’t the words “shaving system” denote “razor?” And when a weatherperson describes “blizzard-like conditions,” doesn’t he or she mean a “blizzard?” Also: is “nature’s fury” a genuine phemenon, or is it just “nature?”

Ducks DVD
Frankly, I’m still devastated by the passing of Jacques Derrida, not to mention the sense of foreboding that the recent tsunami has engendered, but we will be moving forward in 2005, to make sure that each and every one of you will get a copy of the 30th anniversary Duck’s Breath commemorative DVD, whether you want one or not. In the process, we hope to measure the effect global warming is having on retail. Join us, won’t you?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

New! Improved! Blog!

Coming Soon!
The Ponder Bears are on the way!

They’ll entertain you. They’ll fill your mind with Important Thotz™. They’ll leave you helpless with laughter.

And they’ll fill your heart. With dreams.

From ABC News, The Children’s Television Workshop, Jim Henson Productions, and PBS comes a synergy that finally pays off. Big time.

Here’s a Sunday morning roundtable discussion the whole family can enjoy.

Meet the Ponder Bears
If you’re been waiting for feisty commentators with souls as big as their brains, well, your wait is over. The Ponder Bears are four puffy pundits with a can-do spirit. They’ll get your head crammed and your toes tapping.
The Ponder Bears are:
--William Three, gruff neo-conservative.
--Chase Bowtie, savvy Boston preppie. He knows Latin!
--Jeanette Finley Arlington is the daughter of a senator! Her stuck-up exterior masks a heart of gold. Her hair strikes fear into the hearts of evil doers everywhere.
--And Boomer? Well, Boomer just wants to have fun.

They’re all bears!

--Lennie the Liberal! Grizzly Grant and the Focus Group! Ponder Pup! Advizer™! And the Ponderoso Players!

They’re all bears too! And they’re all yours.

Every Week!
When you tune into the Ponder Bears, you’re plugging into much more than the greatest assemblage of informed opinion the world has ever known. You’re plugging into adventure. Comedy. Statistics.

You’ll emerge from the other side of their half-hour knowing exactly what you need to know to have an informed opinion on everything from nuclear waste disposal to auto repair.

You’ll view in-depth profiles of world leaders like Ariel Sharon, Abdurrahman Wahid, and the current president of Venezuela, all in full three-dimensional all-digital real time animation! You’ll see pie charts - with actual pies.

You’ll get real footage of wartorn regions of the world, doctored heavily to give you the full impact of news-- as it happens-- without disturbing your digestion.

But Ponder Bears will also give you breakthroughs in the worlds of personal hygiene, cosmetic surgery, and family entertainment.

Every week, they’ll save the world from pesky supervillains with magical powers, though not so magical as to suspend belief or offend. (P.S. They’re bears too!)

Not only that, your kids will learn the alphabet, counting, and Reading Through PonderFonix™. Not to mention the basics in civility, self-esteem, and-- most important-- learning to care.

And maybe, just maybe, you might have a tune or two stuck in your head as well.

Like Boomer says, “That’s a bad thing?”

That’s Not All!
News. Comedy. Songs. Important life lessons.

Guest appearances by the likes Bill Cosby, Condoleeza Rice, Ted Koppel, Elmo, and Anne Heche.

Musical guests like Yo Yo Ma, Blink 182, David Byrne, the Four Tenors, and Elvis Costello.

Our Personal Guarantee
Ponder Bears is not a desperate ploy to boost sagging ratings for news programs in a dwindling niche-driven television market.

This is a BOLD NEW DIRECTION for what the Ponder Bears call Newzertainment™.

Our research has shown that small children do not like puns, clowns, or George Will. Therefore there will be no appearances by George Will, no clowns, and NO puns, unless they involve frogs.

There will be no funny monkeys. Dinosaurs will be used sparingly. No parodies of Broadway tunes will be allowed. There will be no “boy bands,” and no “street” slang (though the Ponder Bears may occasionally refer to each others as “dog” or “homes,” if the situation is deemed appropriate).

How Is It Possible?
This program is made possible through a unique new combination of advertising, sponsorship, pledge drives, underwriting, private donations, grants, and product sales.

In addition to subtle product placement, and retail partnerships (Burger King, Verizon, EverReady, Borders, and Ortho have already signed on), Ponder Bears Ltd also has its own line of toys and adult collectibles.

The Ponder Bears Play Set includes camera, couch, monitors, laser, and secret trap door.

The Ponder Bears Reception Area is made of genuine mahogany, brass, and leather. Accessories include cigars, cosmopolitans, and shrimp appetizers, all built to scale.

Don’t forget about the Ponder Bears Book Lovers Club! And the Ponder Bears Pundit Cards. Swap ‘em. Collect ‘em all.

And the Ponder Bears Pontificator puts you in the opinion game with two clicks of a mouse.

Action Figures
Every Ponder Bear figurine comes with three outfits and, at the push of a button, will utter one of three distinctive catchphrases.

William Three:
“For once, the Democrats get it right.”
“It’s broke, people. Let’s fix it.”
“We have a laser. I say let’s use it.”

Chase Bowtie:
“I think not.”
“I believe Milton put it best.”
“I’m sorry, but that is incorrect.”

Jeanette Finley Arlington:
“We need a level playing field.”
“We need to put on our game face and forge ahead.”
“My father was a senator, as you know.”

“I’m hungry.”
“It’s all good.”
“Does this look like ringworm to you?”

Remember: batteries are always included. The Ponder Bears insisted upon that. It could have been a deal breaker. The Ponder Bears are there for you.

Watch. And Learn.
Everything is in place. We’re all on the same page. All you have to do is join us.

Somebody once said you can’t have it all. Well, the Ponder Bears know better. And soon you will too. The whole world will know better. Give us half an hour, and we’ll give you everything: Unity, diversity, hegemony, and good clean fun.

The Ponder Bears. Where Saturday morning meets Sunday morning. Their time is now.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Holiday countdown

Xmas Visit
So my Aged Parents and sister, brother-in-law, and nephew descended upon the Kessler household on Boxing Day. My nephew, David, is now making up jokes. This is one.

There was a war. The General called his Soldier, and said, "Launch the missiles!'
The Soldier checked, and reported back: "The missiles have already been launched."
So the General said, "Fire the torpedos!"
The Soldier reported: "The torpedos have already been fired."
"Scramble the jets!"
"The jets have already been scrambled."
The General throught" "Bring me a cup of coffee."
The Soldier quickly returned with a cup of hot coffee. The General congratulated the Soldier for his quick thinking.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Boxing Day Blog

Critic at work, New York Times
“The Christmas morning yule log special on WPIX - a four-hour tape of a log blazing brightly in a fireplace - is not for the fainthearted. The unextinguishable electronic hearth is a beloved New York tradition, but it would be a stretch to call it soothing. Even with Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby crooning carols on the audio track, the pulsing flames mesmerize, but less like a snifter of brandy than like a double dose of methamphetamine.”

Sex scandals
The sex scandal in India has provoked high-level government resignations. British Home Secretary David Blunkett has resigned, partly as a result of a sex scandal. A sex scandal is brewing in the Congo, involving
pornographic videos shot by a United Nations logistics expert. Hey, I thought the United States was the world leader in this sort of thing! Paris Hilton, Dr. Laura, Pamela Lee Anderson, come on! We’re lagging behind!

Last Christmas news for 2004
Two from AFP:

Little white lies - The British medical journal "Psychiatric Bulletin" argues that children's belief in Santa Claus "encourages their moral development as they believe he knows which children are good or bad." Psychiatrist Lynda Breen says the myth "is a useful ace up a parent's sleeve."

Another shrink freaks out - "The imagination which created Father Christmas is being destroyed by a society which holds rationality above anything else," says English psychiatrist Mark Salter.

And from the London Times…
If you see Santa, run - The "world's biggest gathering of Santa Clauses", a charity run of 4,250 people dressed as Father Christmas in Newtown, Wales, took a wrong turn when some of the Santas stopped by a pub, leading to a street brawl, involving 30 perhaps-too-jolly old elves. Police had to break it up with tear gas and clubs.

Who said it?
“They are like panda bears. Everybody’s just watching them, waiting to see if they’ll survive.”

Okay, one more Xmas story….
The AP informed me that when a church group put up a nativity scene on public property in Bartow, Florida, officials warned that it might lead to other religious displays. Well, displays since went up honoring Zoroastrianism and Festivus, the holiday featured on “Seinfeld.”

Conservatives are right! Christmas is going to hell in a handcart! Watch for the hell/handcart display next year on a county fairground near you.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Throw another blog on the fire.

The night before the night before Christmas
‘Twill be a meager Christmas here in the chilly Kessler house. Using coal from the stockings (if the lumps don’t fall through the holes in the toes), we will drawing a picture of a Christmas tree, and put Post-its beneath it, with brief scrawled descriptions of the presents we wish we had the money to give. It will be very much like O’Henry’s “Gift of the Magi,” as re-imagined by Franz Kafka, we hope.

By the way, the short film “Franz Kafka’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE” is well worth seeing, if you ever get the chance. Richard E. Grant, the wonderful British actor, stars.

Bad Santa?
In Hampton, Maine, a boy showed up at his junior high school dance dressed as Santa Claus, and was told he had to leave.

Principal Fred Muscara told the Hampton Union: "It was a holiday party. It was not a Christmas party. There is a separation of church and state. We have a lot of students that go to Hampton Academy Junior High that have different religions. We have to be sensitive to that."

His statement leaves many questions unanswered. For which holiday was it a party, if not Christmas? Sort of a Hanukah/Kwanzaa combo? How is Santa Claus church-related? Since when is a school dance a "state?" What "different religions" are offended by Santa Claus? And what about Santa-worshippers? Don't they need to dance too?

An extra-special gift just in time for Christmas!
Lloyd Grove, who writes “Lowdown” for the New York Daily News announced today that he is banning Paris Hilton from his gossip column: “If she discovers a cure for cancer, wins the Nobel Peace Prize, launches herself into outer space - or even gets her high- school diploma - I'll be happy to revisit the issue. But until then, this is the last time you'll see Paris in Lowdown.”

More room for Britney, I say!

Bad Santa 2?
In today’s Los Angeles Times, I learned that being Santa is no bed of roses.

"When the last gig of the season is finito," says Victor Nevada, 61, a professional Santa Claus in Calgary, Canada, "I have a bottle of rye whiskey and some Diet Coke by the bed, and a couple of novels, and I'll phone in for pizza, and I won't get out of bed for two days, and if I don't see another child again till next Christmas — that's OK with me."

In the feature, reporter J.R. Moehringer writes, “What used to be a three-week gig has become a two-month grind, from the day after Halloween to New Year's. Often you answer to three equally demanding bosses — the parent, the mall, the photographer — and one all-powerful overseer, the child, who has come to view Santa as a cross between a birthday party clown and a miracle worker.”

Grim news!

“Maybe all this added pressure isn't the reason a Santa in Atlanta earlier this month knocked a woman cold with a 2-by-4. Maybe it's not why 30 Santas got into a drunken street brawl two weeks ago at a charity fundraiser in Wales. (Five Santas were arrested.) But it's undoubtedly why so many professional Santas sound edgy, spent, as if they might come down with the flu before they come down the chimney.”

Stocking stuffer?
For $9.99, the trade paperback, COOKING WITH A SERIAL KILLER: RECIPES FROM DOROTHEA PUENTE, by Shane Bugbee, can be yours. She ran a boarding house in Sacramento, you might recall, where she not only murdered her boarders, and buried them in the back yard, she also made fabulous home cooked meals!

Or you can order the Duck’s Breath DVD! Here!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Jolly Old Blog

I read it in Pravda. It must be true.
…Everything was absolutely fine in the beginning. The problem came up later, in the middle of the flight, when passengers felt numbness in their legs and arms. A horrible odor, comparable to stagnant marsh gases, appeared in air. Panic gripped the passengers, who were sitting close to the source of the stench. Some of them asked air hostesses for help - they begged them to remove the object, which was emitting the unbearable evaporation.

“The disturbing object was found immediately. The smell was coming from a pair of shoes, which were left in the center of the liner's saloon. As it turned out later, the shoes belonged to America's pop princess Britney Spears. The bravest air hostess approached the star and kindly asked Britney to put her lovely shoes back on her feet. Otherwise, the hostess added, the passengers would have to continue the flight with oxygen masks on.

“Britney Spears showered her apologies and tried to joke a little to ease the confusion. The pop star said that those shoes were not good on her feet. If shoes don't match feet, they start producing awful smell.”

If it’s not cell phones, it’s unbearable evaporations. Why do people fly at all any more? Especially when we’re frequently asked to remove their shoes at the security checkpoint, and everybody is not only subject to our personal evaporations, but humiliatingly aware of the fact that our shoes don’t match feet.

Do they know it’s Christmas?
My new friend John Gorenfeld posted an interesting story on Gadfly (re-posted on AlterNet):

“This wintry season, as the faithful continue to receive alarming reports from the news that Republicans are all that stand between them and the outlawing of Christmas itself by hordes of secular humanists, the two presidents Bush have endorsed a powerful conservative interest group specializing in removing the cross – not from schools or courthouses, but from churches.”

It seems that an outfit called the American Clergy Leadership Conference “sponsored a nationwide ‘Tear Down The Cross’ day for Easter, 2003. Last week, leaders in this radical cause presided over a Washington prayer breakfast featuring messages of thanks from the presidents.”

Why are they tearing down crosses?

One of the tearer-downers, preacher John Kingara, explained, "The fact that the cross is a symbol of division, shame, suffering and bloodshed prove that it is not of God but Satan. On this 18th day of April 2003, we are beginning a new history. Pastors, please, help me to bring the cross down, because it is not of God but the devil."

He did his explaining in the pages of the Unification News, and the thank-you breakfast this December was co-sponsored by the International and Interreligious Federation of World Peace and the American Family Coalition, both of which were founded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon in 1984.

President Bush . taped a message for the breakfast, President Bush 2 extended his regrets, and Bob Dole was there.

More Christmas cheer!
In France, a group of teenagers mugged Santa Claus, and tried to steal his bag of presents. In Pennsylvania, a 17-year-old was accused of firing a pellet gun from a second-story window, hitting a man dressed as Santa Claus.

Not Very Christmass-y, I’m afraid.
The Mexican city of Villahermosa has passed a law banning indoor nudity. Apparently, it gets very hot in Villahermosa, and strollers can be subjected to glimpses of flesh better left unseen.

I don’t know how you enforce something like this, though. Door-to-door searches?

Duck’s Breath DVD
It is still here:

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A blog of Christmas cheer! Ho!

Does victory cause insanity in Republicans?
This is Peggy Noonan, from a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece:

“… I know something the Democratic Party can do right now that will improve its standing and increase its popularity. It can be done this week. Its impact will be quick and measurable.

“It is this: Stop the war on religious expression in America. Have Terry McAuliffe come forward and announce that the Democratic Party knows that a small group of radicals continue to try to "scrub" such holidays as Christmas from the public square. They do this while citing the Constitution, but the Constitution does not say it is wrong or impolite to say "Merry Christmas" or illegal to have a crèche in the public square. The Constitution says we have freedom of religion, not from religion. Have Terry McAuliffe announce that from here on in the Democratic Party is on the side of those who want religion in the public square, and the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall for that matter. Then he should put up a big sign that says "Merry Christmas" on the sidewalk in front of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters on South Capitol Street. The Democratic Party should put itself on the side of Christmas, and Hanukkah, and the fact of transcendent faith.”

Um, what the hell is she talking about? The fact of transcendent faith? Faith is not contingent upon fact. Isn’t that why they call it faith?

And I’ll bet that Democrats spend just as much time decorating trees as holier-than-thou Peggy Noonan.

Have Peggy Noonan open her ears. What does she hear? Christmas carols everywhere, Christmas songs in every store. Open her eyes, what does she see? Clerks in Santa hats. A Santa in every front yard. Sad men with tattoos selling Christmas trees in vacant lots.

There’s no assault on Christmas. On the contrary, Ms. Noonan, Christmas assaults us. Maybe if I could get “Frosty the Snowman” out of my head I might feel differently.

Then there’s the O’Reilly Factor…
In his “The Memo” feature, O’Reilly also is worried about the future of Christmas and Christianity. But he seems to be even more worried - obsessed I would say- about Canada:

“The fall of religion in Canada has corresponded to the rise in progressive public policy. Most Canadians now favor gay marriage. The age of consent for sex is 14 years. That means if you're an adult and you have sex with a 15-year-old, that's fine.Welfare's double what it is in the USA. And the Canadian military is almost non-existent. Drug decriminalization is a reality, as is any kind of abortion. The Canadian model is what progressive Americans are shooting for. Thus, Christian displays like Christmas must be scaled back because the connection with Judeo-Christian beliefs is bad for the secular agenda.”

I never thought that a strong military presence was necessarily Christ-centered, but then again I don’t have the subtlety of thought that Bill O’Reilly possesses.

Take the above syllogism, for instance.

(A) Drug decriminalization is a reality, as is any kind of abortion (Any kind; Canadians aren’t very picky apparently when it comes to abortions.)

(A) The Canadian model is what progressive Americans are shooting for. (You know, health care, back bacon….)


(A) Thus, Christian displays like Christmas must be scaled back because the connection with Judeo-Christian beliefs is bad for the secular agenda.

Aha! Progressives are scaling back Christmas because they want to be Canadian! Q.E.D.

The REAL secular agenda
The Washington Post has bought Slate from Microsoft.

This just in!
Just in time for Christmas, there’s a new internet worm, called “Perl Santy A,” or “Santy.” It uses Google to search for hosts, which are servers rather than individual computers. Once a server is infected, the worm finds and overwrites files with extensions. Merry Christmas!

Duck’s Breath DVD
It’s too late to get it for Christmas, my friends, but you can still get it. There are no elves, no Santa Claus, no Mel Gibson-y tortured Christ, no melting snowmen - there was a Christmas song, but it got deleted. If you’re anything like me, that’s a selling point in itself. It is, however, very funny. Order it here, please:

Monday, December 20, 2004

Blog n Nog

Rummy rumblings
It seems that Donald Rumsfeld has been using a signature stamp to sign letters of condolence to the families of those killed in action.

In a statement, Rumsfeld stated that he "wrote and approved the now more than 1,000 letters sent to family members and next of kin of each of the servicemen and women killed in military action….While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter."

He not only wrote, he approved the letters, and he has directed that in future he sign them personally. I can only hope that he personally approved the direction that he has given himself.

And if you’re on a plane…?
Reuters: “Radio waves from mobile phones harm body cells and damage DNA in laboratory conditions, according to a new study majority-funded by the European Union, researchers said on Monday.”

But who talks on cell phone in laboratory conditions?

Bumper comes a cropper

“Country singer Chely Wright said yesterday she was dismissing the head of her fan club and shutting down a team of volunteers after The Tennessean learned that some of them posed as members of the military or their families to promote her latest song.”

Members of her fan club were apparently instructed (by… somebody) to call radio stations, posing as soldiers or relatives thereof, urging them to play her single, “The Bumper of my SUV.”

The song was written by Wright, and tells the story of how she was driving her SUV in Nashville, when someone saw her bumper sticker supporting the troops, and gave her the finger. The song asks us to support the troops no matter what we think of the war itself.

Whether it asks us to support fake troops as well, I do not know.

Merry Christmas anyway, darling.
“This is the first published case of a possible 'Christmas tree aspiration' of which we are aware," says Dr. Natalie Yanchar, a pediatric general surgeon at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The case involves a toddler, age 2 1/2, who was puzzling physicians with ongoing pneumonia. He was referred to their department last season having "a history of recurrent right lower lobe pneumonia from the age of 10 months, beginning a few months after his first Christmas," according to the report.

After further tests, the child underwent surgery, and doctors found a "foreign body" looking conspicuously like a small sprig of an evergreen tree. It measured three centimeters long, and a half-centimeter around.

Long story short: the physicians removed the spring and the boy is fine. So: remember not to breathe as you open your presents.

Happy holidays!

John Leo, weighing in as he is wont to do:

“The purge of Christmas is … in full bloom at Bloomingdale’s…. A minuscule Christmas section is tucked away on the fifth floor. ‘Any Christmas music?’ I asked a clerk, as a sad Billie Holiday song filled the air…. ‘Oh, it goes in cycles,’ the clerk said…. Sure enough, a few minutes later, right after ‘Let It Snow,’ ‘The Christmas Song’ came on, or as it is generally known, ‘Religion-Free Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Secular Fire.’ I heard no carols though, and saw no ‘Merry Christmas’ banners.”

Let me get this straight. This guy is complaining about a LACK of Christmas music? I’m as anti-PC as the next lug, but why would you WANT more Christmas music? Isn’t it already embedded in our very genes?

And since when is “The Christmas Song” an indictment of Christmas carols?

Oh shut up, all of you, just shut up.

I mean “Merry Christmas!”
We have wrapped up the Christmas mailing of the Duck’s Breath DVD, and are moving on to the next phase, TBD. You know, merry and bright days, white Christmases, roasting chestnuts, and good King Wenceslas, whoever the hell he was.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Fried Day

Overheard conversation on public transportation.
Man in three-piece suit talking to woman in tailored pants-suit: “They have actuaries embedded in their organization. You didn’t hear that from me.”

Sign in coffee shop

The image of a fast-moving mountain of snow and coffee about to engulf me was not sufficient motivation to purchase this coffee-flavored beverage.

Sign on an ATM
“Please do not insert garbage here. Thank you.”

The eyes of Texas are upon you!
The City Council of San Antonio has approved an ordinance requiring strippers to wear their permits while performing.

Um. Where?

Sorry, folks, but adultery was MY idea.
According to Court TV, a British production company is suing Fox Broadcasting, claiming that the Fox reality show, TRADING SPOUSES: MEET YOUR NEW MOMMY, is a rip-off of its show WIFE SWAP (described in the article, by the way, as “award-winning”).

Fox claims that it already had plans for a show involving husband swaps and valuable prizes.

Either mediocre minds think alike, or some people will steal anything.

Say, I have an idea! PUT A STICK IN YOUR BUTT! Real people are asked to put a stick in their butts for money. Steal it from me, Fox. I dare you.

News from all over
FROM AP: “A fire has gutted the five-room cabin in Athens, Georgia, believed to be the inspiration for The B-52's song ‘Love Shack.’”

And the rock lobster has been boiled and served with garlic butter and a little lemon.

Little things that drive me nuts.
This is a new feature to this blog, and one that I hope is instructive.

“…gets it right.”
Here’s a sampler:

UW gets it half right. USC basketball finally gets it right. WiPro gets it right in Kalkota. A California Zinfandel that gets it right. Palm One finally gets it right. Macromedia gets it right with Dreamweaver. Shaftesbury gets it right on property. The governor gets it right. AvantGo gets it right. The CIA gets it right. Microsoft gets it right.
Get WHAT right? What is “right?”

“…doesn’t get it.”
A sampler:

Wal-Mart just doesn’t get it. Netscape still doesn’t get it. Condescending Dems still don’t get it. Bush doesn’t get it. CBS just doesn’t get it. What Gore doesn’t get. CNet doesn’t get it. The left doesn’t get it. Gary Schare doesn’t get it. The Christian Dominionistas just don't get it. Why Yahoo and Google still don’t get it.

This irritating little trope pre-supposes that the writer DOES get it, though the writer never condescends to tell the reader what IT is. Everybody's just supposed to know IT, even though IT changes constantly depending on the bias of the writer.

Everybody: stop using this turn of phrase right now. Don’t make me come up there.

Duck’s Breath DVD
It gets it right, and gets it. Please buy one:

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Stop the blog, I want to get off.

This is heartwarming, I guess.
According to Reuters, Marie Ellis has passed away in London at the age of 105, of natural causes. She was a smoker since the age of 15, and the staff at the nursing home sent her off with a wreath in the shape of a cigarette (composed of chrysanthemums), and played “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” at the memorial service. She was cremated with a pack of Benson and Hedges, and plans have been made to erect a memorial ashtray in the nursing home garden, where her ashes will also reside.

In her new home, will she be considered a ghost, or second-hand smoke?

Won it by the short lists.
Before he became a scold, I loved Tom Wolfe. I got about ten pages into BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES before I threw it on the bonfire. His new one, I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS, sounds dreadful, so dreadful in fact that the author has just received the award for best bad sex in fiction, an honor bestowed annually by the English publication, Literary Review.

He faced some fierce competition: "(It was) like a large exotic mushroom in the fork of a tree, a little pleasure dome if ever I've seen one, where Alph the sacred river ran down to a tideless sea. No, not tideless. Her tides were convulsive, an ebb and flow that could take you very far, far back, before hurling you out, wildly and triumphantly, on a ribbed and windswept beach without end." (Andre Brink, describing a vulva, in his novel BEFORE I FORGET.)

But he aced the competition with; “But the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns -- oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest -- no, the hand was cupping her entire right -- Now!"

I’ve explored a few otorhinolaryngological caverns myself in my time, but I don’t believe I’ve ever had the words “otorhinolaryngological caverns” pop into my head at a moment of passion. Come to think of it, even in a moment of boredom have those words popped into my head.

Those obsessed with creating a missile that can take out other missiles hit a serious challenge to their expensive delusions this week.

In a test today, the target missile launched just fine from Alaska, but the interceptor didn’t even get off the ground. DOD officials blamed an “anomaly,” and the test set us back $85 million.

Niche market radio
WFED, out of Maryland, is a new talk radio station that caters specifically to federal employees. Earlier this week, so the Washington Post informs me, there was a lively discussion “about the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program with two senior officials from the Office of Personnel Management. The OPM guys really got going about the FEHBP, detailing its FSA and HSA features, plus the HMO component, and its relationship to FERS. They also warned people to stay away from HDHP programs….”

And as far as putting your HDHP program into an otorhinolaryngological cavern, well, don’t even think about it.

Duck's Breath DVD
It does not feature HDHP programs, otorhinolaryngological caverns, or anti-missile missiles. Order yours today!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The day's Tuesday. I wear a badge.

Adventures in shopping.
So I’m walking home from the Mom n’ Pop in my neighborhood, that one that has frozen spinach and pepper jack cheese. I’m a little unkempt, in my paint-spattered sneakers, brown pants, and outsized green coat. I'm carrying a large canvas bag somewhat the worse for wear.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a cop car come to a stop beside me.

“Hey you,” says the cop, pointing. I look around. Uh-oh. He’s pointing at me.

“Come over here and keep your hands where I can see them.”

It’s been my experience that it’s best to obey the orders of men who have both uniform and gun, until other options reveal themselves. I walk over to him.

He asks, “Been in a fight?”

“A fight?”

“Let me see your hands.”

I show him my hands.

“What were you fighting about?”

“I wasn’t in a fight.”

“You got in a fight with a young woman in a red car.”

“No, I didn’t.”

Nervously, I put my hands in my pockets, as I am wont to do.

“Keep your hands where I can see them!”

Nervously, I take my hands back out again.

“You carrying a weapon?”

“No. Frozen spinach,” I tell him.

“Let me see your i.d.”

I reach for my back pocket.

“Careful,” he says.

I hand him my driver’s license.

“Sir, would you lean against the back of the car, please?”

Part of the problem is, that despite having viewed several episodes of COPS, I am not entirely sure of the protocol here. Do I put my hands behind my head? Do I brace myself against the car? I lean with my back against the trunk of the car, with my hands held loosely at my sides.

He opens the trunk, takes out some form or other, goes to the front of the car, and starts writing down my license number.

“Have you ever been arrested in San Francisco?”


Another cop car pulls up. My first cop is a young guy with an earring and one of those hiply shaved heads. My second cop is slightly older, maybe thirty, bulky, with shaved head. He looks like a pro wrestler, while the first cop looks like he should be wrangling code.

Second cop, who may or may not be the bad cop, asks me, “What were you fighting about?”

“I wasn’t fighting,” I say. “I was getting dinner.”

“You can tell me,” he says. “Tell the truth.”

“I wasn’t in a fight.”

“She says you were involved in an altercation with her.”

“She’s mistaken me for somebody else.”

“Do you have any, ah…?”

Weapons, drugs?

“Are you carrying…?”

Drugs, weapons.

I shake my head. “I have a shopping list,” I say.

“Do you want to get in the back seat?”

No, I don’t. But I do.

"Have you ever been arrested?"


There is no seat, per se, just a hard metal surface. I start to slide onto it, visions of handcuffs, a holding cell smelling of urine, filled to the brim with un-lawyered-up perps, dancing in my head.

“You don’t have to go all the way in,” the second cop tells me.

I swivel, put my feet on the street. Another cop car has pulled up, on my right, with a woman cop this time. She’s in her early forties, short iron-colored hair with blonde tips.

She says something.

The frst cop says, “He says no. And he doesn’t have a car.”

She makes some wisecrack sotto voce. The first cop laughs, and the woman cops drives on.

Second cop says to me: “The young woman says you were fighting with her.”

“I wasn’t fighting.”

The first cop rejoins us: “You seem very nervous.”

Well, yeah, I think. “Yeah,” I say.

A fourth cop car pulls up. This one’s a guy my age, maybe a little younger, with all his hair, unnaturally brown. He gets out of the car, walks up to us.

He asks, “What were you fighting about?”

“I wasn’t fighting,” I say. “I was getting groceries.”

The weirdest thing about this experience is it doesn’t seem like I’m necessary to it. I’m just there because the cops need somebody for their questions. It could be anybody.

Just as I am preparing myself mentally for a trip to the stony lonesome, the first cop hands me my driver’s license.

‘She pointed at you,” he said. “She said you were the guy. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

As I put the driver’s license back in my wallet, I say, “Is this going to show up in Police Blotter?”

The second cop says, “Don’t worry about that.”

The first cop laughs and says, “I don’t think so.”

“Too bad,” I tell them. “That would have been cool.”

Duck’s Breath DVD
I’m sorry. I’m just too traumatized to talk about that right now. Buy one! Calm me down! Cheer me up!

As sand through the hourglass....

Sunday diversion.
My good friend Joshua, my lovely wife Amy, and I went to check out a potential venue for musical venting. We journeyed to Berkeley, where we experienced the lovely barbecue of Everett & Jones, the exquisite browsability of Moe’s bookstore, and finally an open mic, kind of, at a place that shall remain nameless.

The second act on this kind of open mic (see, it wasn’t really an open mic; performers were there by invitation and backed up the “headliner,” the woman who “produced” the event; I won’t pretend to understand it) was a guy I’ll call Robbie D, not his real name, who sang a song of such generic blandness, it had my wife giggling helplessly in her seat. It was about a rainstorm in the mountains, and contained the line: “It’s like a hurricane blowin’/Lifts me up and sets me free.”

I’m more familiar with tornadoes and earthquakes than hurricanes, but do hurricanes actually lift people up and set them free? I think not. I think rather they lift people up and dash them on rocks. Correct me if I’m wrong.

That the singer had these intense Charles Manson eyes as he sing this hippie paean to the transcendental underpinning of natural disasters, well, it was icing on the cake really.

Unfortunately, someone (I’m not naming names) left the cake out in the rain. Rats. Another venue lost to us.

Monday diversion.
My good friend Joshua is musical director for a new opera (in progress) by our friends O-lan and Kathleen, and a performance of its first scene occurred (once again, in Berkeley – two nights in a row!), involving pretty much every woman singer we know (including my lovely wife). It’s about a nun in the Middle Ages, volunteering to have herself walled up at the local church, and her subsequent path to self-discovery, self-annihilation, and enlightenment. It was quite lovely.

Truly these are the latter days….
From Sunday’s New York Times:

“Imagine rolling up to your favorite fast-food restaurant in the family minivan, kids in the back. As you pull into a parking place, a camera on the roof of the burger joint silently zooms in on your vehicle. By the time you've opened the door, a computer has analyzed the image and, based on previous encounters with vehicles the size and shape of the one you're driving, classified you as a likely consumer of, say, chicken nuggets and fries. The computer then instructs the kitchen -- via flashing computer monitors -- to start preparing your supposed favorite dishes before you walk through the door.”

Why even leave the house? Soon, your front door will be pelted by chicken nuggets, whether you know you want them or not. As a matter of fact, soon we won’t even be necessary for the experience. The chicken nuggets will devour themselves, in a demographically correct manner, and we will be billed accordingly.

Wall yourself up in a church. Now.

The fixed grin of Miss Botox
I thought America was the world’s leader when it comes to incredibly lame “reality” ideas, but the commies in China may soon leave us in the dust.

According to Reuters, this Saturday China is going to host the first Miss Artificial Beauty pageant, in which every contestant has had cosmetic surgery.

I haven’t really perused Karl Marx and Chairman Mao for their thoughts on liposuction, but I’m sure their thoughts will be penetrating, profound, and, uh, ageless.

If you want to order the Duck’s Breath DVD, comrades, now is the time. Do not indulge in false consciousness! Duck’s Breath is the one true way to world revolution! Go here to order:

By attending a learning center for computers you can get lots of help.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Stop the presses!
Michael Jackson’s fingerprints have been found on porn magazines.

Hold the front page!
Apparently, the man who shot four and himself at a heavy metal concert was insane.

Another sign of the end times.
The New York Times: “Federal regulators plan next week to begin considering rules that would end the official ban on cellphone use on commercial flights.”

Are we channeling the Borgias?
It’s official. Doctors today said Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin. And Arafat’s nephew claims that the late terrorist may not have died of natural causes.

More Christmas scandals from the mother country.
“A Christmas campaign for an ‘immaculate contraception’ morning-after birth control pill has been scrapped by a drug company in Britain after causing offence on religious grounds.

The poster, which appeared on London Underground trains, asked: ‘Immaculate contraception? If only.’”

Trust me.
Gallup’s annual survey of professions was released on Tuesday.

Regarding ethics and honesty, nurses got the top marks, followed by grade school teachers.

At the bottom of the list, trustwise, were car salesmen, advertisers, television reporters, newspaper reporters, auto mechanics, and nursing home operators.

I wonder where pollsters place on this list.

Wal Mart under siege!
A group of consumers is suing Wal-Mart for selling a CD that contains a cuss word. Plaintiff Trevin Skeens told the Associated Press, "I don't want any other families to get this, expecting it to be clean. It needs to be removed from the shelves to prevent other children from hearing it.''

I only hope this group is not using trial lawyers in its lawsuit. You know where that leads.

Homeland Security Alert!
Candidate Kerik has pulled a Zoe Baird and dropped out of the running, citing nanny issues, personal issues, and the desire to spend more time with his family and Taser business.

Keep watching the skies! Erm. I mean this space. Should you wish to purchase the Duck’s Breath DVD, go here:

Friday, December 10, 2004

Bloggers Need Armor Too.

The Tact of Rummy
Donald Rumsfeld was apparently surprised when soldiers asked him some tough questions on his recent little visit to Iraq. Asked why there wasn’t more armor for the vehicles they were driving, Rumsfeld responded, "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

This doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing you want to say with the army standing right in front of you. Besides, given the way this war originated, and given the fact that he was in charge of it, couldn’t he have waited until he DID have the army he wished to have?

He continued, "If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up." Well, jeeze, why even have tanks at all then? Why not send the soldiers out naked?

Apparently, the soldier who asked the question had been coached, or something, by a reporter embedded with his outfit. Some conservatives are upset about this, and are accusing the media of manipulating the military to sandbag Rummy. That’s a question, certainly, but not as big a question as, “Where’s the damn armor?” Maybe the media have it. My money’s on Rummy though. He seems awfully thick-skinned to me, kind of like a rhinoceros with no exit strategy.

Kind of like sleepwalking only….
I read yesterday in Reuters that a Norwegian man accused of raping a woman while she slept was acquitted on the grounds that he was also asleep at the time. He was awakened, he claimed, by her screams for help.

His lawyer “…declined to speculate about how the man, who had been drinking, could have had sex in his sleep, apparently after undressing the woman. But he said an ex-partner of the man had testified by telephone that similar things had happened to her.”

This latest "biopic" is not getting the props that RAY and BEYOND THE SEA are getting (well, RAY anyway).
Various conservative groups are way upset that this movie has even been made, perhaps because they would prefer a world in which Alfred Kinsey had never existed.

''For those who think of people of faith as poor, uneducated and easy to command, I'm sure it would be amusing to see people praying outside of theaters,'' Focus on the Family spokeswoman Kristi Hamrick told the Miami Herald. “But we want to have a serious intellectual conversation about who Kinsey was and what he did.'' With whom? Beats me.

Robert Knight, director of the conservative Culture and Family Institute in Washington, said, ''Just as Reagan was not content to contain communism but announced a rollback, pro-family organizations are not content to protest the latest outrage anymore, but will seek legislation and will punish sponsors of lewd entertainment.''

Outrage? Lewd entertainment? KINSEY isn’t porn, is it? It’s a movie about a guy who made a study of people’s sexuality. That's not quite the same thing.

Oh, the movie was made by Fox. Mr. Knight said, ''Fox has a schizophrenic personality. Conservatives appreciate Fox news channel for bringing balance, but the Fox entertainment network, on the other hand, has clearly been the leader in driving TV into the sewer with its nonstop sexual emphasis.”

So are they going to boycott Fox movies and SOME of its television? What’s a moralistic evangelical ethical relativist to do?

Can't you folks just quietly hate a movie like everybody else?

Bill drove up late this morning with fifteen boxes of DVDs, which we unloaded, and then proceeded to send to those who paid good money for them (and a few to relatives as well). Names on the mailing labels included ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, people with whom we worked in the past, old fans, show biz contacts, and people who we don't even know!

Surprisingly efficient, we wrapped up the packaging end by mid-afternoon. The last I saw of Bill he was backing his car out of the driveway, a car bulging with boxes and packages. He was off to the postoffice and UPS. By by Bill! See you soon!

My house is the official mailing station for the Duck’s Breath DVD. We are calling it the Ducks Fulfillment Center. Look for it on a return address label near you!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

At Bloggerheads

Wednesday already?
I tried to blog over the weekend, but I experienced a server error, which means, well, I couldn’t. I was out of town Monday, and too fried yesterday to do much of anything. So: here we are.

Overheard while waiting to get on the plane home.
A five-year-old girl was standing behind me with her mother. The mother asked her if she was excited to be flying, and her daughter said she was, but she had flown before, you know. And what did she know about flying?

The little girl said: “Don’t be dead on the plane. Don’t be loud on the plane. When people are sleeping, you should too.”

Flashback: Friday Night
Amy and I went to see Ben Manilla, producer of the House of Blues Radio Hour (for which I am a writer), and harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite, at a book signing for ELWOOD’S BLUES, a new collection of interviews gleaned from the thirteen years HOB has been on the air (I have a few bits in it, and ghost-wrote a little of it as well; shh, tell no one). Ben elected to play audio snippets of some of the interviews, and got Mr. Musselwhite to talk a bit about his life in the blues. He has some great stories, including the tale that he got into the blues professionally when he moved to Chicago from Memphis. He had to leave Memphis in a hurry, it seems, because his career as a bootlegger wasn’t really working out.

Flashback: Monday
I am off to Portland, Oregon, to emcee a fundraiser for a literary magazine, GOBSHITE (you got a problem with that?), a publication to which I am a contributor. I hope to find time to get to Powell’s, the Elvis of bookstores, but we shall see. Will be back Tuesday.

[NB: I did not go to Powell’s, and no actual funds were raised; there you go.]

When you blog using MSN Space
"For materials you post or otherwise provide to Microsoft related to the MSN Web Sites (a "Submission"), you grant Microsoft permission to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission, each in connection with the MSN Web Sites, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. Microsoft will not pay you for your Submission."

PC Alert
I read in Reuters that The Global Language Monitor (sounds ominous, doesn’t it?) has announced its top 10 list of “politically charged words and phrases.”

The list includes “master/slave,” as used in the computer industry, “non-same sex marriage,” “waitron,” “higher being,” “Red Sox lover,” “progressive,” “incurious,” “insurgents,” “barista,” and “first year student.”

And when did "terrorist" become "insurgent?"

PC Alert2?
I learned from the Associated Press of “…a Nativity scene at a London wax museum featuring soccer star David Beckham and his wife Victoria, a former Spice Girl, as the parents of Jesus.”

But wait! There’s more!

“The waxwork tableau at Madame Tussauds museum included U.S. President George W. Bush as one of the three Wise Men, actors Hugh Grant and Samuel L. Jackson as shepherds and Australian disco diva Kylie Minogue as an angel.”

Reverend Jonathan Jenkins, spokesman for the archbishop of Canterbury, responded, "There is a well-understood tradition that each generation interprets and reinterprets the Nativity ... but, oh dear!"

Here in the United States, of course, the wax museum would probably be firebombed.

Bill returns this week, at which time he and I will get together and start mailing.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Wal-Mart is doomed!
Retail giant Wal-Mart is stumbling, and may soon crash to the ground, cracking the pavement, sending SUVs flying into the air; children will run in fear, clutching their discounted videogames as they scamper for the safety of Sears.

We are all doomed!
Missile manufacturing giant Raytheon has invented a heat ray, called the Active Denial System (!), which uses (according to the Boston Business Journal) a "focused, speed-of-light millimeter wave energy beam to induce an intolerable heating sensation.'' People caught in the path of the beam, in other words, feel very, very uncomfortable. The weapon may be used in Iraq as early as next year.

Gay books are doomed!
A GOP legislator in Alabama wants to ban “gay books.” Rep. Gerald Allen told the Alabama News that if his bill passes, “novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.”

“I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them,” Allen said.

Teen sex is doomed!
Rep. Henry Waxman, according to The Washington Post, has issued a report stating that many of the federally funded abstinence-only sex ed programs out there are spreading misinformation, including:
--Abortion can lead to sterility and suicide.
--Half the gay male teens in the United States have tested positive for AIDS.
--Touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy."
--A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person."
--HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.
--Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.
--the Active Denial System can safely be used to discourage unwanted attention from the opposite sex.

According to the Post: “Some course materials cited in Waxman's report present as scientific fact notions about a man's need for ‘admiration’ and ‘sexual fulfillment’ compared with a woman's need for ‘financial support.’”

The Internet is doomed!
The Media Center at The American Press Institute has issued a study which finds that, despite increased variety in media consumption, television remains the very favorite of the Content Generation (a term the Media Center made up to make themselves sound hip).

This is from their web site:

“The Content Generation emerges. It creates, produces and participates in news and information in a connected, informed society. The revolution is being captured in text and on digital still and video cameras, many embedded in cell phones. Its manifesto spreads by global networks that allow anyone to post and share their thoughts, ideas and images - in text through blogs, IM and other Web tools; and in text, audio, photo and video messaging to mobile devices. The message resonates and vibrates through multiple mediums shaping our always-on lives. Media multi-tasking is now the way to get through the day.”

Do you think the folks at the Media Center are always this gushy and self-important, or only when they’re christening (or dooming) a new generation?

According to their press release, the “Simultaneous Media Usage Survey (SIMM IV) conducted by BIGresearch in May 2004, reading the mail while watching TV tops the list of simultaneous media usage.”

Watching television while reading mail: it’s a media revolution! I think I’ll talk on the phone while surfing the Web. It might make me feel young again.

The DVD of comedy giants Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre, alas, is not available at Wal-Mart, not can it be used to induce burns, or promote a homosexual agenda. It is completely harmless, and hilarious. It can be found here:

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Blog Drain

Found prose
This is from a book my wife bought some years ago, THREE PICASSOS BEFORE BREAKFAST, by Anne-Marie Stein, published in 1973, a memoir about her life with an art forger.

This sentence, about her affair with a married man (not the forger), is remarkable for the amount of unnecessary information crammed into it, superfluous words, self-contradictions, and the glorious clumsy galumphing to a halt of its final phrase. Read it and you’ll agree!

“I had known from the beginning that it was an impossible situation, yet the fascination of cavorting clandestinely with such a man, fifteen years older than I but so incomparably cultured and romantic, prompted me to succumb to my own better judgment and to ignore the lessons imposed on me by a strict mother and a disciplinarian-minded father who had served with distinction in the diplomatic corps.”

Merriam Webster on-line has listed the most looked-up words of 2004.

1. blog
2. incumbent
3. electoral
4. insurgent
5. hurricane
6. cicada
7. peloton (for you Lance Armstrong fans)
8. partisan
9. sovereignty
10. defenestration

Who said that?
"He danced on a small table for about two hours. He was calling out the whole time, not to the people in the room, but to the other world. My job was to sit near the table and make sure he did not fall off."

Plant your call.
A new bio-degradable cell phone comes with a sunflower seed embedded in its casing.

Found prose 2
From a review of THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES in Slate, by Paul Berman:

“The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time.”

Maybe, but I’ll bet he looks cuter on a motorcycle than Paul Berman does.

Good news for doomsayers!
From Reuters: “The Optimist Club of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, is disbanding after 24 years, citing lack of interest.”

He said that.
Ber Xiong, explaining that his friend, accused hunter killer Chai Soua Vang, was considered a shaman in te Hmong community.

DIY Science
New Scientist magazine has compiled a list of scientific things to do before you die, and even after.
These include:
--learn Choctaw.
--swim in a bioluminescent lake.
--boil an egg with a mobile phone.
--achieve multiple orgasms.
--take a trip to Florence to see Galileo’s middle finger (preserved)
--make world’s smoothest ice cream with liquid nitrogen.
--after you die, have the carbon in your ashes turned into a diamond.
--defenestrate a peloton.

Bill is out of town for a week; in the meantime, twiddling.