Sunday, July 27, 2008

Are you there blog? It's me, Merle.

From “Good Morning Silicon Valley”
Quoting a Project for Excellence in Journalism study:

"Meet the American daily newspaper of 2008.

"It has fewer pages than three years ago, the paper stock is thinner, and the stories are shorter. There is less foreign and national news, less space devoted to science, the arts, features and a range of specialized subjects. Business coverage is either packaged in an increasingly thin stand-alone section or collapsed into another part of the paper. The crossword puzzle has shrunk, the TV listings and stock tables may have disappeared, but coverage of some local issues has strengthened and investigative reporting remains highly valued.

"The newsroom staff producing the paper is also smaller, younger, more tech-savvy, and more oriented to serving the demands of both print and the web. The staff also is under greater pressure, has less institutional memory, less knowledge of the community, of how to gather news and the history of individual beats. There are fewer editors to catch mistakes.

"Despite an image of decline, more people today in more places read the content produced in the newsrooms of American daily newspapers than at any time in years. But revenues are tumbling. The editors expect the financial picture only to worsen, and they have little confidence that they know what their papers will look like in five years."

The San Francisco Chronicle recently jumped to 75 cents for the daily paper. And yet, strangely, the suckiness factor has also risen on a daily basis.

From a press packet I read this week.
"Layla, a young blues siren! She reached deep into her guts to hit some of the notes. She had the audience in the palm of her hands."

Where did she reach for the rest of the notes?

The Belgrade butcher…
…hid out for years as a new age healer. Weird.

Hitchens, God bless him.
“It seemed somehow profane that Sen. Jesse Helms should have managed to depart this life on the 232nd anniversary of the declaration of American independence. To die on the Fourth of July, one can perhaps be forgiven for feeling, is or ought to be a privilege reserved for men of the stamp of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom expired on that day in 1826, 50 years after the promulgation of the declaration. One doesn't want the occasion sullied by the obsequies for a senile racist buffoon.”

On the other hand, if Christopher Hitchens is an atheist (and – let me check – he is), what does “profane” mean to him? And how can you "reserve" the Fourth of July, or any other day as far as that goes, as an expiration date? So: his whole point is negated, in a way. Except for the “senile racist buffoon” part.

PS: Note to self: Never use “promulgation” in a sentence.

Talulah Does the Hula in Hawaii…
…was granted the right by a judge in New Zealand to change her name to something else. Other names blocked in New Zealand included Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit.

This strange election.
So Obama goes to Germany to speak to thousands of Germans. McCain goes to a German restaurant in Columbus, Ohio to speak to… somebody. Is there a strategy there?

Bizarre media takes on Obama’s world tour.
(1) He might be TOO POPULAR in Germany. Hitler was popular in Germany, remember?
(2) His trip may have been too presumptuous. That is, he’s acting presidential, when in fact he’s not the president.

Our Whining Nation
On July 9, former senator Phil Gramm made some remarks to the Washington Times that wound up costing him his role as adviser to John McCain, and very nearly eclipsing the furor over the New Yorker cover of the Obamas.

He said, “You’ve heard of a mental depression, this is a mental recession.” He added, "We have sort of become a nation of whiners."

Phil Gramm has always struck me as sort of a Grumpy Dad type, the kind of guy who comes home after a hard day’s work, and just wants a highball, a leather chair, the Wall Street Journal, and a chilled alcoholic beverage to tide him over until Mom gets the roast out of the oven. He wants a little peace and quiet after a hard day of chewing out underlings.

What he doesn’t want is a den full of children running around with their Bobby-pushed-me’s, and their No-I-didn’t’s. Why, it’s enough to make a man build a woodshed, just so he can take the kids behind it and give them something to whine about.

But is America really a nation of whiners? Perhaps. But whiners whine for a variety of reasons. Is America overstimulated and cranky because it missed its nap time? Maybe America is whining because it has an owee.

If that’s the case – even if it’s just a mental owee – wouldn’t America be better served by a Daddy who puts down the newspaper for two lousy minutes to ask, “Where’s it hurt, champ?” Get out of the chair, get a band-aid and some hydrogen peroxide. Maybe make a little medal out of card stock and tin foil, pin it on America’s jammies. Then a pat on the head, and warm “That’s my little soldier,” and back to the Wall Street Journal op-ed page.

Where Daddy might read….

From the Wall Street Journal
“A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds ...

“Oh, wait a minute. That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like ... a ‘W.

“There seems to me no question that the Batman film ‘The Dark Knight,’ currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.”

The above may be the dumbest thing I have ever read. Mind is boggled, jaw dropped. Note to self: never use "paean" in a sentence.

Another side effect of global warming
More kittens. Apparently, longer and warmer weather cycles are fooling feral female cats into going into estrus more often.

Nouri Al Maliki Iraq's prime minister stated that he would consider setting a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals from his country.

Iraq has had a great time, America, but now it’s getting kind of late. Iraq is sneaking looks at its watch, looking longingly at the bedroom door, stifling yawns. Last call, America. Drink up. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

More from the Wall Street Journal
“Now that Starbucks Corp. has disclosed the 600 locations it wants to shutter, a phenomenon is taking hold: the Save Our Starbucks campaign. In towns as small as Bloomfield, N.M., and metropolises as large as New York, customers and city officials are starting to write letters, place phone calls, circulate petitions and otherwise plead with the coffee company to change its mind.”

You can close the one that’s kitty corner from the one over there, but please please please don’t close the Starbucks that’s two doors down from that Starbucks. We must have our next soy decaf, if we don’t have our next soy decaf, I tell you we must die!

Oh Moon of Alabama...
We now must say good by.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Blog does not pay

Obamas on The New Yorker
Apparently, many people found the recent cover offensive. Come on, America. Let’s keep that satire bland! Don’t you know there’s a war on?

Another downside of the recession.
The American Journal of Medical Pathology reported that in one Alabama County seven thieves died of electrocution between 1991 and 2001.

In 2006, a New Mexico a man was electrocuted while trying to cut copper wiring from a live transformer.

In Dallas, a man cut into a live power line, knocking out power to thousands and ending his own life.

Just last week, in Garland Texas, the son of the guy who owns Bargain Town Variety and Furniture Store shot a copper thief dead on the roof of their store.

And so forth…

Downside redux
AP “Grave robbers, a curse of burial grounds for centuries, are back for new valuables: metal ornaments that can be melted down for quick cash as copper and other metal prices climb. In West Virginia, it was vases bolted to headstones. In Washington State, it was bronze markers on veterans' graves. In Chicago, it was nearly half a million dollars' worth of brass ornaments.”

And so forth…

Supreme Court ruling aftermath
USA TODAY op/ed: “Edwin Sotomayor is the crash-test dummy in an upcoming legal collision between the National Rifle Association and Disney World. The 36-year-old was fired last week from his job as an unarmed security guard at the Orlando theme park after he took his .45-caliber handgun to work, the Orlando Sentinel reported.”

Security guards with firearms at Disney World? Wow! Bring the kids!

No Dowd about it….
I was about to write something about this myself, but John McQuaid (Curse you, McQuaid!) at the Huffington Post beat me to it: “Not sure why I bother, but what is it about Maureen Dowd, Barack Obama, and food?”

He then begins to tick off items proving her obsession, from her columns:

July 13: He looked frustrated when Sasha revealed that "my dad doesn't like sweets" and that he preferred "minty gum" to bubble gum. She then began singsonging "Everybody should like ice cream" before pointing a finger at the person who doesn't: "Except Daddy!"

(Her Obama impression, ladies and gentlemen) May 21: "… I've made sacrifices in this campaign. While you've been fake-eating and losing weight, I've had to stuff myself with all that greasy working-class junk food and chase it with Boilermakers."

May 4: Checking out what the vets were drinking, he announced, "I'm going to have a Bud." Then, showing he's a smart guy who can learn and assimilate, he took big swigs from his beer can, a marked improvement on the delicate sip he took at a brewery in Bethlehem, Pa.

April 27: Hillary is not getting much sleep or exercise, and doesn't, like the ascetic Obama, abstain from junk food and coffee and get up at dawn to work out on the road...He dutifully enthused about carbs, assuring reporters that when he had dinner as a child with his Kansas grandparents, the food "would have been very familiar to anybody here in Indiana. A lot of pot roast, potatoes and Jell-O molds."

April 23: In the final days in Pennsylvania, he dutifully logged time at diners and force-fed himself waffles, pancakes, sausage and a Philly cheese steak. He split the pancakes with Michelle, left some of the waffle and sausage behind, and gave away the French fries that came with the cheese steak.

April 2: At the Wilbur chocolate shop in Lititz Monday, he spent most of his time skittering away from chocolate goodies, as though he were a starlet obsessing on a svelte waistline.

McQuaid concludes: “Of course, this is all meaningless nonsense having nothing to do with what Obama might do as president, how he might do it, or even whom he might hire as White House chef. But even on its own terms -- as an attempted insight into Obama's alleged finickiness or his supposed distance from the Applebee's set -- it doesn't make sense. A presidential candidate is apparently attempting to eat right while having a mix of fried road food and catered campaign meals shoved at him eight times a day. He should be hailed as a role model, not damned for failing to wolf down every last fry.”

I got this email today from Zimbabwe. Maybe you did too…
“I am Mrs. Susan Tsvangirai the wife of the Harare's ... Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai…. Now I and My Family Are In German Refugee Camp Near Harare.{Zimbabwe} In My Custody Is Part Of The Funds For Campaign And We Are In a Lost to Repartriate The Sum Of $52million Dollars which we were meant to be used for the election campaign Pending On When The International Community Will Arrange A Free And Fair Election by the next few months. May You Find This Intresting Please Contact Me Immediately So I can Let You Know How To Contact My Personal Aide To Help In Movement Of This Funds Outside Zimbabwe To Sierra-leone. To Asist Us We Shall Give You 2% of The Sum For All Your Help.”

Two per cent of $52 million is, like, more than a thousand dollars! And I’d be helping the people of Zimbabwe! All I have to do is give them the right bank information and that money will be deposited directly into my account. Finally, life is good again. But how did she know that I’m an expert in moving large sums of money over African frontiers? She must be psychic.

Wait a minute… Didn’t I read this story back in the early 1970’s?
Reuters: “Dozens of partygoers at an outdoor rave near Moscow last week have lost partial vision after a laser light show burned their retinas, Russian health officials said on Monday.”

Crime pays!
Reuters: “Thieves are breaking into tea gardens in India's northeast and plucking leaves, damaging tea bushes and hurting the industry, planters said.

“The thieves are believed to be villagers in the tea-growing regions of Assam, famed for its strong malty brew, some of whom struggle to produce saleable tea in their small backyard tea gardens created as part of an employment scheme a decade ago.

“‘These thieves are now so desperate, they come with bows and arrows, and homemade firearms,’ said Rupesh Gowala, who leads a tea workers association.

“’They clash with our workers whenever they are stopped from stealing. Two of our workers were also killed by them recently.’…”

More from the Huffington Post: “Phil Gramm May Be Gone, But His Porn Lives On”
Max Blumenthal: “Gramm's journey into porn began in 1973, when his brother-in-law, George Caton, rushed to tell him about an exciting low-budget soft-core production called TRUCK STOP WOMEN. A promo poster for the film boasted of its buxom stars: "No Rig Was Too Big For Them To Handle." Caton, who was in charge of fundraising for the production, asked Gramm to become an investor. To entice his brother-in-law, Caton showed him scenes of Playboy Playmate of the year Claudia Jennings displaying her bare essentials (she is naked throughout much of the film).”

Now, wait a minute…. I have seen TRUCK STOP WOMEN. It’s no GATOR BAIT, or even THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE, but it is an excellent motion picture. And if Claudia Jennings had not died in 1973 (car accident), I have no doubt she would have become Queen of the B’s.

Except we don’t have B movies any more. We don’t have drive-ins any more. All we have are sanctimonious progressives and phlegmatic rightwing dickheads. And are they even funding porn any more? The media are strangely silent on this.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Blog, in tooth and claw!

Shameless self-promotion! Nice write-up in the LA Times on Philosophy Talk, to which I am a regular proud contributor, though I wasn’t mentioned in the article, nor was Ben Manilla Productions, which suffers weekly to bring this program to the air…. Oh stop it, Merle. Very nice write-up. Read. Come listen!,0,7136636.story

When is a potato chip not a potato chip?
A judge in England has decreed that Pringles are only 42 per cent potato, and therefore not subject to a value-added tax. Procter and Gamble thanked the court.

On the lam!
From AP: “A 60-pound tortoise that escaped from a family's garage last month is back home after a 2 1/2-week adventure that took him through three northwestern Indiana towns. Tank, an 8-year-old African spur thigh tortoise, was returned Wednesday to owners Mark and Kim Hirchak after they called Munster police to report him missing.”

Cat calms down!
Again, AP: “A combative cat named Lewis who frightened the neighbors and got his owner into legal trouble two years ago has done so well under house arrest that the case has now been scratched. A judge dismissed a reckless endangerment charge against Lewis's owner, Ruth Cisero, on Thursday, concluding she had met terms of a special probation for first-time offenders. Lewis is now an indoor pet, allowed outside only in a cat carrier.”

“Had he gotten out, she (Ruth Cisero) could have faced up to six months in prison and Lewis could have been euthanized.”


Stop the presses!
AP headline: “US marks Independence Day with fireworks, revelry.”

More animals in the news!
From Chronicle News Services: “Amsterdam police say 15 camels, two zebras and an undetermined number of llamas and potbellied swine briefly escaped from a traveling Dutch circus after a giraffe kicked a hole in their cage. “

Was that a Red Vine or a Twizzler?
AP once again: “A 42-year-old chimpanzee who is toilet-trained and can eat with a knife and fork is believed to be at large in a Southern California forest after escaping his cage.”

Moe, the chimpanzee, had been raised by a couple in West Covina. They had wanted to adopt him but lost a court case in 1999, when “… Moe bit part of a woman's finger off when she inserted her hand in his cage. The Davises said he mistook her red-painted fingernail for his favorite licorice. The incident also came after Moe mauled a police officer's hand.”

Moe, as of this writing, is still at large. Do not proffer a finger. If you have Red Vines, or Twizzlers, however, hey – give an ape a nibble.

"He meant the world to us," St. James Davis told the Associated Press. "He was the best man at my wedding."

Is this licorice? Nom nom.
AP comes through again! “An Illinois woman says her beloved miniature dachshund gnawed off her right big toe while she was asleep. Linda Floyd told the Alton Telegraph for a story Wednesday that her beloved Roscoe was euthanized because of safety concerns.”

Jesse Helms, and Larry Harmon, aka Bozo the Clown.

Endangered no more!
From Reuters, which is sadly ignoring the Weird Nature beat: “Film historians had doubted they would ever find the missing portions of "Metropolis" -- until three reels of the science fiction film made in Germany a long time ago, were discovered in a country far, far away.” That country is Argentina, where a complete version of METROPOLIS has recently been discovered. Once scratches have been digitally removed, I am looking forward to seeing this, one of my favorite movies of all time, by one of my favorite directors.

Fake tigers!
Reuters, leaping into the AP Weird Nature News gap!
“China has fired a number of government officials and arrested a man in connection with a set of fake photographs that local authorities had said was proof of the existence of a highly endangered tiger.”

Wee wife and I…
…decided to to the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens to witness the blooming of the Corpse Flower, aka titan arum. But it was uphill, and hot, and we wound up going to the Berkeley Art Museum instead. Blooming was over anyway, apparently. Might have to pay more attention to this next time.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, observers saw “…a phalluslike spadix the shade of a squashed frog jutting out from something that looked like an inverted skirt, lime-green on the outside and maroon on the inside.” It smelled like “dead rats,” according to the Botanical Garden director.

The Berkeley Art Museum was all right. Cavernous, if you know what I mean. William Wegman. Video installations. Yawn. Some terrific Chinese art though, and one installation, called "A Perfect Audience," though puzzling, had some great text pieces about hats-- little one-liners, like "Hat Pie," and "Is a halo a hat?" Good question!

We also perused various books which we couldn't afford to buy in the museum store, including a children's book called WHEN THE SILLIEST CAT WAS SMALL. It is extremely charming. The cats in the book are all elephants. Tiny elephants. Buy it for your child immediately, and confuse him/her. If not now, when? If not you, who?

Alternet sez:
“Watermelon is the New Viagra.”

Unfortunately, “The only problem is that you'd probably have to eat about 6 cups of watermelon to get enough of the active ingredient, citrulline, to achieve the desired effect. But that's where our friends at the Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center come in. It might be possible to modify melons to produce more citrulline, researchers say.”

From Think Progress:
“[O]n Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade called Jacques Steinberg’s June 28 New York Times article on Fox News’s declining ratings a ‘[hit piece,’ adding that Steinberg and Times editor Steven Reddicliffe are ‘attack dogs.’ During the segment, Fox aired blatantly distorted photos of Steinberg and Reddicliffe with their teeth yellowed, eyes blackened, and facial features exaggerated.”

“The Times' Culture Editor Sam Sifton said, ‘It wasn't a hit piece. It was straight news. This was a hit piece by Fox News. It is beneath comment.’ Asked if the paper planned to respond to Fox's actions, he said no: ‘It is fighting with a pig, everyone gets dirty and the pig likes it.’”

Missing pigs?
I have scoured the news, my friends, and pigs everywhere, at this moment, seem to be safe in their own slop.

One other thing...
The Berkeley Art Museum also had a mysterious and rather alarming exhibit called THE OTHER NIGHT SKY, which pinpoints and isolates the many spy satellites circling us. The artist, Trevor Paglen, according to the museum brochure, "looks upwards to the night sky, one of the oldest laboratories of rational thought, seeking answers about truth and democracy in the present moment."

Well, good luck with that, but the exhibition is pretty creepy. And pretty!