Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rififi Closes

Rififi, the alternative comedy hotspot in the East Village had its final show last night, and I happened to be around to catch it after its closing was announced a mere 24 hours before, it seems. Very fun to see comedians and regulars converge for one last hurrah at the favorite hangout - even though it was only my second time there. Highlights included Eugene Mirman as John McCain and shouting requests to Jon Glaser, John Mulaney trying out some new jokes and a Star Wars Pez dispenser lip-sync to Les Miserables. Chewbacca's head partially detached.

It was great to maybe perhaps be a little part of something that might possibly go down as something somewhat big. Here's hoping another good indie room opens in NY.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Earthquake in Southern California

I may have been in Brooklyn when it struck, but I can sure feel it.

Some quick thoughts:

1) The news stations apparently think this is the perfect time to get in the helicopters and survey the extensive......uh, usual traffic, it seems.

2) I saw this on CNN: "Stuff Comes Off Shelves in Chino Hills Store"

3) A brief glance at Facebook updates from friends back home suggests the whole thing was a bit "whoa" but nothing serious.

4) I hope everyone is safe and not too spooked...let's also hope that buildings, bridges, pipes and overpasses aren't too damaged.

5) The L Train just went by and shook the building. NOT FUNNY L TRAIN. NOT FUNNY.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Profiles in Startups

A Who's Who of the Dotcom Crash. There were a lot of "Whatever happened to _____?" questions that were answered for me on this list. It was also strange to realize that I have been using the Internet is some capacity since late 1994 and made my first website in 1997 - 11 years ago. I started using instant messaging in 1997, as well. Weird. What will it be like in 11 more years?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Famous Last Words

Randy Pausch, he of the "last lecture" has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 47. Sad and uplifting story all at once.

Quote of the Day 2 - Master Splinter Edition

New York is yielding some outrageous comments today. I overheard this from a guy talking to a girl on the street near a sewer grate:

Man: You know, people always say that rats are filthy, but I think it's amazing that a rat can crawl through something like that and be as clean as it is.

Woman: What?

Man: I mean, they must have a good cleaning system down.

Woman: They're still dirty...their fur is dirty colored.

Man: Nuh uh!

(Both of them miss the light to cross the street)

Man: Rats.

Quote of the Day

At Princeton Junction Station, while I was stirring some cream into my coffee with a very thin stir stick:

Older man in heavy Yiddish accent, watching me: "Mix!"

Me: "Oh, I's taking me forever..."

Man: "It's because it's too thin! You need to use a finger, you do!"

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stewart/Colbert/Conan Feud Outtakes

I found this very entertaining clip of outtakes from the Stewart/Colbert/Conan feud over who "made Huckabee" from earlier this year. It's a cool glimpse of their off-screen personalities and how they work together to make something funny. Seeing these guys do straight-up physical comedy for a few minutes is wildly refreshing.

A Fantastic Error

The Valley News spells its name incorrectly on the front page and prints a correction.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Facebook Facelift

You can check it out here.

Batman Arrested

Yikes...Christian Bale arrested on assault allegations in London. Apparently, he's accused of assaulting his mother and sister before The Dark Knight premiere. Who does that?

UPDATE: Bale issues a statement.

UPDATE 2: All explained, I think. I don't know when this site became a gossip beat.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tonight with Conan O'Brien

I like the sound of that. The date is set!

Heaven or Hell?

A Pew survey finds that there are more Americans who believe in heaven than those who believe in hell. Really not that shocking, is it? The results seem to reflect the role of religion in American life, which I think tends to be self-affirming and provides moral justification. Also, hell is icky. No one ever wants to think that someone they knew could possibly end up in a place like hell. It doesn't jive with the ideas of forgiveness, second-chances and benevolence that mainstream Christianity has placed in the American consciousness, for better or for worse.

Religion seems to get distilled down to the things that are easier to deal with. What does that say about religion? To quote a gay character from Futurama who paired same-sex animals together on a reimagined Noah's Ark: "There are parts of the Bible I like and parts I don't."

"At first blush, the idea of a God who rewards good but does not punish evil seems counterintuitive, after centuries in which one of the key benefits of eternal salvation, and one of the promises of conversion to Christianity, was the avoidance of eternal damnation.

But hell experts — and yes, there are scholars who spend this life studying the next one — say the underworld has been losing favor for some time.

Since the Enlightenment, a liberalizing trend in religion has favored conceptions of God as benevolent, rather than judgmental. But also, there are peculiarly American characteristics to this emerging hell gap: an insistent optimism, perhaps a kind of cultural self-contentedness, and a tolerance born of diversity that makes damning the other more problematic."

Frankly, I don't think the idea of an afterlife is a very positive thing. It downplays and cheapens the significance of our current existence, something that we are sure of. The Egyptians spent centuries building monuments to aid the deceased kings in an afterlife no one believes in anymore. Now, we crash into their tombs and say, "Look at these beautiful things that were never meant to be disturbed! Glad we believe in sensible things now!"

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Just another Pluto.

A Twist for "Life of Brian" in Aberystwyth

The town of Aberystwyth in Wales banned Monty Python's Life of Brian in 1979 when the film was released. An actress from the film wants the ban overturned.

So? Well, the actress, Sue Jones-Davies, is now the mayor of Aberystwyth.


One way to accessorize a MacBook.

What the Sphinx Sees

One Hundred Billion Bucks

Zimbabwe decides to print a 100 billion-dollar bill. Can someone with a better economics background explain this to me? 2.2 million percent inflation? Is this like one of those tidbits in my history textbooks in which money isn't worth the paper it's printed on? My head asplode.

This is evidence towards something I have long suspected: economic indicators and statistics are fiction. "The gas prices keep going up! There's nothing we can do about it!" Couldn't we just change the price signs at the station?

I'm done with you, economics!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What's the deal, Wie?

Golfer Michelle Wie is disqualified after forgetting to sign her scorecard.

This is one of those things about golf that annoys me. She could have thrown her club at a spectator and received the same result.

Obama the Unjokable?

The Financial Times tackles the difficulty in joking about Obama.

On The New Yorker cover:

"The problem with the cartoon is not that it violated the amour propre of the Obama camp or bumped up against any taboos about race but that it was an artistic failure. First, its message was alien to its genre. The cartoonist, Barry Blitt, assured readers he was mocking certain "ridiculous" paranoid attitudes about the Obamas, not the Obamas themselves. But a picture cannot convey the mental states of people who are not in it, any more than a sculpture can rhyme."
I think both McCain and Obama are making it difficult for satirists, comedians and late-night hosts. Last night, McCain was asked by Conan if there was anything else to joke about aside from his age. McCain pretended to nod off.

The Dark Knight - Reaction

It felt a little rushed at times, but a very satisfying film overall. The praise for Heath Ledger's Joker is well-deserved. A lot of thought went into this film - it's laced with moral dilemmas and the psychology of fear. Perhaps the film could have been a little more fun, but it will please almost everyone, I think.

I love the way Batman disguises his voice when talking - it's a small touch that makes sense for a well-known billionaire in costume.

Scenes that never occurred in the movie that I wouldn't mind seeing:

1) Batman stops at Starbucks to pick up a grande vanilla latte. "And your name?" "I'M BATMAN!"

2) Batman feels a tickle in his throat and goes to the doctor. When someone comments on his raspy voice, Batman says, "I HAVE STREP!" and head-butts the questioner.

3) Bruce Wayne breaks his leg. Michael Caine puts on the Batsuit and wreaks havoc on Gotham's criminal underworld. No one seems to notice that Christian Bale never appears in the rest of the film.

England v South Africa 2nd Test

Exciting action in the world of cricket today:

"Prince (134no) and de Villiers (70no) led their side past England's 203 and to 322-4 at the close, a lead of 119.

The pair were seldom troubled by an England pace attack that failed to generate movement through the air or off the seam and, in Monty Panesar, a spinner who toiled on a pitch offering little to no turn."

I have no idea what's going on.

Quote of the Day

"News broke today that two policemen were attacked in Croydon on Wednesday by 30 people after they asked a teenage girl to pick up some litter she dropped. One officer was bitten and needed hospital treatment. It's as if we've pretty much done society and now we're experimenting with taking it apart."

- a post from Douglas Ayling's entertaining Scribbled Atom feed yesterday

Loud Music = More Drinking?

So says a study.

"They said it was not clear why louder music appeared to increase alcohol consumption but said it might make conversation more difficult, forcing people to drink more and talk less."

I think that's exactly why.

Blade Runner Falls Short

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics, despite posting a personal best time of 46.25 in the 400m (qualifying time needed to be 45.55). Pistorius has been involved in court battles regarding his prosthetic blades and whether they give him an unfair advantage over other runners.

As a former track athlete, I can understand the cries of unfair advantage, but how exactly do you deal with an athlete born without fibulas in both legs? Maybe this is our first real foray into the ethics of human cybernetics. Some athletes argue that because Pistorius has no legs, he doesn't have to deal with lactic acid build-up in his muscles. Then again, athletes with legs don't have to worry as much about rain messing up their traction or having one-third the spring of a real human leg. The controversey continues, with some scientists finding that Pistorius does indeed have a clear advantage. Regardless, it's an amazing story of willpower and a prelude to what could become a much wider debate.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Is Your Starbucks Closing?

Starbucks has a PDF listing the 600 stores it plans to close nationwide. Of note, they just opened one across the street from me when there's already one in the mall across the street and one just up the street already. Not to mention the Barnes & Noble that serves Starbucks on the other street near me and the Starbucks coffee machine in the apartment lobby...also near me. Lewis Black, take it away:


(From xkcd)

Row, Row, Row

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
We all know it. It's especially effective as a round. I woke up this morning with this song in my head. Maybe I was dreaming about it. The last lyric is intriguing. Mr. Rogers performed another version of the song on his show one time:
Propel, propel, propel your craft,
Unforcefully down the liquid solution.
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically,
Existence is merely an illusion.
This confirms something I had long suspected - Mr. Rogers is crazy. So, what is this song really about? A quaint round promoting diligence in the face of life's challenges or an angst-ridden existential nightmare? Do we toil against the universal burden that what we do may not matter? Or do we stare nihlistically into the void between life and otherwise? Does The Matrix, as the 90s tale suggests, have us?

Whatever it is, I won't be getting to sleep very easily tonight if this is still in my head. And Mr. Rogers is crazy.

George W. Bush Sewage Plant

It's on the ballot in San Francisco - to rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant after the well-known president. CNN reports:

"Supporters say the idea is to commemorate the mess they claim Bush has left behind by actions such as the war in Iraq. Local Republicans say the plan stinks and they will oppose it."
Get it? Because it's a sewage--nevermind. CNN is very clever. I can't even keep up with them anymore. Sometimes I start looking for a joke in headlines that aren't intended to be puns or subtle digs. Like "Homeless man's beating shakes up hippie haven." I look at this and think, "Ah ha! Uh...actually, no, I guess that's what really happened."

You may have also noticed that CNN now sells t-shirts of certain headlines - those meant to be humorous or shocking or bizarre. For example, you can buy a t-shirt with the headline "Cow's No. 2 is No. 1 on this farm" but you can't buy a t-shirt of "Ashcroft defends waterboarding."

Which is funnier? Let CNN decide, apparently. I think they should be consistent and let people buy a t-shirt of any headline rather than pushing certain "this'll get a laugh" blurbs.

But back to Bush. Ouch. I see an eleventh-hour pardon/reversal/executive order/military action to prevent it just before he steps out of office.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bill Clinton to Obama: Call Me!

Bill Clinton is waiting for Obama to call after he decides that he likes him.

"Whenever he asks — that is, we had a good talk, and he said he wanted me to campaign with him, and I said I was eager to do so," Clinton told reporters in New York Thursday. "He's busier than I am, with politics anyway, so I just told him that whenever he wanted to do it, I was ready."
This sounds eerily similar to a middle school scenario. "Can you ask her if she like likes me or just likes me?" And then the girl has to "think about it" because she thinks he's actually kind of a nerd and would really bring her pop cred down with the other prissy girls she wants to get in with so she stalls or something. So I guess Bill Clinton is sitting at home or in his Harlem office staring at the phone, waiting for that one special call that will ignite a long-forgotten Democratic Party passion. Growing up is such a confusing time.

I would also like to use this platform to publicly denounce acne once and for all. Thanks for nothing hormones!

The Douglas "Wrong-Way" Corrigan Story

The Dark Knight

I probably won't be catching this one at midnight, which would be appropriate, but I'm still excited to see it tomorrow. Some early buzz from John says "good, not great" and "Pretty much whatever you thought of "Batman Begins" is what you'll think of "The Dark Knight."

I consider that to be a pretty good feat, then. It's rare for a sequel to match the original feel and vibe of the original, so I'm hoping John is right. I enjoyed Batman Begins, primarily for its mood and realism. Plausibility heightens the sense of story and makes the bursts of action all the better when they happen.

I'll let you know what I think after seeing it.

Oprah 4 Life

A 35 year-old woman tries an experiment:

Check out the blog here. She originally intended to do this anonymously, but was forced to divulge her name in order to get some publicity from an interview for NPR's All Thing's Considered.

I have thought about trying similar life experiments myself. I have also ruled out similar life experiments. Anyways, I'll be following her to see what happens.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Do You Believe in Gosh?

Mitch Hedberg's third comedy album, "Do You Believe in Gosh?" will be released posthumously on September 9th. The material is all previously unreleased and was recorded shortly before his death in March 2005. His widow, Lynn Shawcroft, assembled the tracks for the album and took its title from a note Mitch scribbled in one of his notebooks. Dead-Frog has a cool photo of one of his set lists. Nifty handwriting.


New AD for ND

Jack Swarbrick will be introduced today as Notre Dame's new athletic director. I can only assume he's already busy working on The USC Question and The Michigan Issue.

(Hat tip: Blue-Gray Sky)

The Rules of RPGs

I'm more of an action-RPG person (Zelda or Landstalker rather than Final Fantasy), but I still enjoyed and related to these. A sampling:

Nostradamus Rule
All legends are 100% accurate. All rumors are entirely factual. All prophecies will come true, and not just someday but almost immediately.

Selective Paralysis
Your characters must always keep both feet on the ground and will be unable to climb over low rock ledges, railings, chairs, cats, slightly differently-colored ground, or any other trivial objects which may happen to be in their way. Note that this condition will not prevent your characters from jumping from railroad car to railroad car later in the game.

Bed Bed Bed
A good night's sleep will cure all wounds, diseases, and disabilities, up to and including death in battle.

Zelda's Axiom
Whenever somebody tells you about "the five ancient talismans" or "the nine legendary crystals" or whatever, you can be quite confident that Saving the World will require you to go out and find every last one of them.

Law of Cartographical Elegance
The world map always cleanly fits into a rectangular shape with no land masses that cross an edge.

Figurehead Rule
Whenever someone asks you a question to decide what to do, it's just to be polite. He or she will ask the question again and again until you answer "correctly."

Adopt Me! Not Like THAT!


Bad Starts

So maybe your day isn't getting off to that bad of a start...

Police officer Tim Pochron of Indiana managed to have his squad car wrecked 29 minutes into the job. Turns out the squad car was parked and hit by a driver who tested quite positive for drugs. Just what a 26 year-old dude needs on his first day as a rookie.

This isn't quite as bad as the 17 year-old rookie plumber who burned down a $12 million mansion on his first day about a year ago.

Me? I set the printer to make 20 color copies of a pamphlet when I only needed 10 copies in black and white. I know, try to contain your sympathy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Skylines - Dubai

In case you're wondering about all these skyline pictures, I should mention that I have a fascination with urban development and skyscrapers. I also don't know anything about these things. If you find a cool image of a city, skyline or urban scene, let me know!

Monday, July 14, 2008


Quote of the Day

My brother, Kyle, approaches me

Kyle: Can I be somebody?

Me: What?

Kyle: I just want to use your computer to look up movie showtimes quick.

Me: Oh, right. Sure.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Illegal Snake Bust

I love headlines with phrases like "illegal snake bust" or "pumpkin caper gone awry" or "snowman meets maker in late March."

I suppose I had some awareness of the underground exotic animal trade, but I never thought to connect the snake-handling fundamentalist Christian churches with it. Of course, it makes sense if you're the pastor of a place like the Right Hand Of Jesus With Signs Following Church in Alabama.

"You can purchase anything off the Internet except common sense," zoo director Jim Harrison said. "A venomous snake isn't a pet. You don't play with it. If you do, you're an idiot."

The Weight - Weezer Cover


"Fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Newspaper Deathwatch

The Gray Lady struggles, along with most other papers.

Just a second, I have an alien in my head...

The Village Voice has an article about Scientology losing a major legal thingy (I didn't go to law school, I don't keep track of the official terms). Anyways, here's a good snippet about it from Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

"The article contains a lot of information, including details about Scientology's "OT III", the secret things that only a select few Scientologists get to learn (only after spending a fortune on earlier "auditing" sessions). In OT III they learn that their body is inhabited by the soul of an alien banished to Earth by Xenu, the galactic overlord."
Other than that, it was a good day.

Improv Everywhere Strikes Again

A very cool mission in New York involving twins!


Monday, July 07, 2008


Heading somewhere this summer? Touring far-flung continents and countries? A new survey finds that American tourists aren't perceived that badly in the world.

The survey notes the American effort to at least try speaking the native tongue. I think the real reason we do this is an attempt to justify our minor in college, or in my case, my secondary major in Japanese. When I was in Paris touring the museums, I found myself conversing with Japanese tourists whenever I could. At one particular exhibit, I overheard a Japanese couple talking about the color of an outdoor sculpture. Before I thought about it, I said something like, "Yes, it certainly is a strange color."

The couple looked at me aghast, as if to say, "You didn't hear that part where we were making fun of your pants did you?" At that point, I remembered my Japanese professor mentioning that a lot of people might be thrown off or weirded out if you, as a foreigner, go up to a Japanese person and start speaking their language. If anything, it's almost better to stumble over the pronunciation or make it seem like you're reading from a phrasebook.

The French were funny, too. My girlfriend and I bought a French phrasebook and would at least try to order food or say things like, "My milk is very toasty, please? Thank you! Tour Eiffel?" The French would sort of acknowledge the effort and then launch into a perfected form of broken English good enough to communicate with any tourist.

Words is hard.

Overheard En Route

On my flight from Philadelphia to Phoenix today (on the way back to California):

Marine (to older woman sitting next him): Wow! You're the first normal-looking person I've sat next to all day!

Woman: Oh, I...well....

Marine: I mean, everyone else is always weird or sneezing or rolling over my armrest.

Woman: Yes, yes I suppose so.

Marine: Thanks for making my day.

Woman: You're very welcome.

Voicemail: End of An Era?

I've never been a fan of it. Someone else had the same idea. I can certainly see how voicemail was a big deal when it first appeared in the 80s and solved a number of business staffing and communications problems, but I think it's quite clear that email has rendered much of that moot.

I remember my Dad cycling through what appeared to be scores of voice messages every night after getting home from work. The problem is obvious: with voicemail, you have to listen to every single one without a way of scanning or previewing to ascertain importance.

Is there a way of leaving voicemails via email or Internet? I think there has to be, I'm just too lazy to look it up.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hitler Beheaded

Some brave soul broke through enemy lines, found his way to Berlin and beheaded the Fuhrer...63 years too late.

Definitions - 7/5/08

ribald - of or pertaining to a kind of bread toupee

cruise-control - Scientology

catalyst - an organized record of various felines

carburetor - an automobile freezer

spirit - primitive hunting command

inherent - typical monthly payment that lice make for room and board

Venus Beats Serena at Wimbledon; Kevin Confronts Past

I don't follow tennis that closely, but I do follow sibling rivalry with particular zeal. Venus, after losing five of her last meetings with Serena, restored sibling order. Their father, Richard, flew back home because he can't stand to watch his daughters play each other.

As the oldest sibling in my family, I did a small and quiet fist-pump to myself. Older siblings always have a tough graveyard spiral of an existence. We are in firm control until the first time the younger sibling(s) questions one of our bogus lies -- "Wait a second! There's no monster in this closet waiting to eat me!" From that point on, it's a long slide. The younger sibling finally beats you at basketball or chess or with a club. Maybe he/she does better than you did on some school test. A sense of impending dread sets in: the age advantage is vanishing fast.

When you're 10 and your sibling is 7, you are lord of all the world and several nearby galaxies. When you are 43 and your sibling is 41, you have nothing left. I'm in between those two arbitrary measuring points. My brother is two and half years younger and certainly has his own talents and successes. As the older brother, there is pride in this. Maybe it was something I taught him! But there is doubt too. Maybe I was holding him back with teasing or being an idiot when I was 12.

I'm sure Venus has had to grapple with these questions. She's had plenty of her own success, but it must have been hard to lose five straight times to her younger sister. There's always plenty of talk of the middle child getting Jan Brady-ed and forgotten or the younger sibling constantly living in a shadow, but there's also something that happens to the older kid who has to examine and compare personalities, achievements and success. I've always been proud of my brother and truly want the best for him, but it's nice to know that, like Venus, there's still some fight in the aged Sibling Who Would Be King.

So two cheers for the younger siblings. It would be three, but come on, we have to have something on you.

Friends to Go Film

Sex and the City's success may have had some influence on this. Meanwhile, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of boyfriends cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

But major questions hang over this! Where will they take the story? Are they actually going to have Ross and Rachel break up again and then get back together only to break up and get back together again....again? Are they all going to move back to the city and undo the whole point of the series' end? Maybe it will be some crazy art film where Joey wanders Manhattan and comes across a boarded up Central Perk, only to see the face of a younger, more attractive man staring back at him in a fragment of broken mirror. The film ends with Ross running for five minutes straight until he reaches the sea and turns to look at the camera with a weary look of existential angst before the fade. Fin.

I would see that.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Scary Door

I enjoyed some of Sci Fi Channel's Twilight Zone marathon today and it reminded me of Futurama's parody:

Man Hits His Head and Wakes Up Able to Play Piano

Quite a story.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Sticking Some Science to the Candidates

Science Debate 2008 draws up fourteen questions for the presidential candidates to answer. A cursory glance reveals no mention of androids, The Q Continuum, The Matrix, underwater aliens, asteroids, The Prime Directive, telepathy, UFOs or teleportation. Count me disappointed. When will our politicians address the issues that Hollywood and its consumers face on a daily basis?

What would McCain do if an asteroid decided to take a fateful turn and hurtle towards Earth? Will Obama settle the issue of telepathy once and for all? When will we confront alien threats and who, pray tell, will you trust when the Matrix has you?

OK, sure, I'm referring to more science fiction than science, but that's what things like landing on the moon were called before they happened.

Holographic Google Earth

OK, so it's still a 2D projection, but it looks great. I can't wait to see technology ten or twenty years from now.

Holographic Google Earth from Nicolas Loeillot on Vimeo.

Slaves to the Fads

Celebrities started a lot of stupid fads. Is it weird that I actually kind of like The Rachel?

To Idaho....and Beyond!

An Oregon lawn-chair pilot returns to the skies. This time, he's sponsored! He even has his own website with some good pictures. His next flight will be July 5, 2008 across Oregon and into Idaho, hopefully Boise. He also has plans to someday cross the English Channel or Australia by lawn-chair/balloons.

Kent Couch: A Hero for Our Time.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Some Decades (Like the 90s) Are Worth Repeating


As in a spin-off to Beverly Hills, 90210.

My earliest memories of the show, like many an 8 year-old boy, are of my friend's older sister tuning in every week. By the time I reached middle school, the show was starting to get wild - people were having babies and stabbing each other or something. All because Kelly Kapowski left Saved By the Bell and became evil Valerie! Fortunately, I was able to get my required cultural education about the show from reruns of the earlier sensation-inducing seasons. I was about 13 when I first caught a few episodes of 90210 in this syndicated time capsule and what I saw opened my eyes: high school was going to be so cool.

Gangs! Jealousy! Affairs! Kelly Kapowski! The Peach Pit! Self-absorbed teenagers in their 30s! This was going to be so awesome!

And then high school was really more like middle school but with a lot of homework. Maybe this time around, 90210 won't lie to me.

Looking Under the Hood of Laughter

Humor continues to provide scientific fodder for psychologists. National humor genes? Natural selection criteria? It's all here.

I challenge this bit toward the end of the article:

"One popular field of research is the effect of humour on health, which is widely assumed to be positive. The results so far are inconclusive, and slightly disturbing for anyone who likes to laugh. Rod Martin points out that if humour is good for health, then it should be associated with longevity. Yet it appears that cheerful people live less long than their gloomier peers, perhaps because they are too jolly to worry about their aches and pains. It may be true, as the proverb says, that he who laughs last laughs longest. But it seems that he who laughs longest does not last."
But isn't there some other study out there that says laughter is good exercise? Yes! There is!

Instead of "everything causes cancer," we might be heading for an era of "laughter causes everything."

Angelina Jolie Twin Saga Continues

Angelina Jolie gives birth to twins for what appears to be the third time in the last month. You know, when she actually does give birth, no one is going to believe it. The media will be "the papers who cried twins." They're essentially sapping the story of its consumer value with every false positive.

That said, Caught on the Bound Celebrity Analysts can confirm that Jolie has given birth to twins, based on a reliable source who knows the cousin of the neighbor who lives next door to her attending nurse. We are standing by that story. Forever.

Death of a Melody: Did Art Kill the Pop Song?

Whatever happened to hummable, catchy melodies?

New Sherlock Holmes Movie

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."
Variety is reporting a new Sherlock Holmes movie starring Sasha Baron Cohen as Holmes and Will Ferrell as Watson. As some of you may know, I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. This is kind of a big deal. It will apparently be a comedic take on the classic duo and their adventures. So what do I think?

Well, since you asked, I think this could actually work really well. I have nothing against Will Ferrell, but I'm a little worried about how he might portray Watson - will he be buffoonish like Nigel Bruce opposite Basil Rathbone who couldn't go near a mop bucket without putting his foot in it, or will he be the strong, intelligent Watson of David Burke opposite Jeremy Brett in the more recent British television series?

My money is on the former, since this is a comedy, but this could be a fun take-off on the characters. My ultimate dream is to see a full-length serious and entertaining Sherlock Holmes film that weaves in several of the more compelling short stories, but I think this might do quite nicely.

(Hat tip: John)

The Presidential Race is Over

(Blogging to you live from Starbucks at 31st and 7th in New York.)

Obama tops McCain as the preferred barbecue guest. You may recall that President Bush performed well in the "barbecue guest" and "have a beer with" tests of yesterelection. I'm not sure about Bill Clinton, but I'll bet he led in this crucial question as well back in 1992.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

All Ears

On the personal front, I just returned from a slightly ridiculous doctor appointment.

Last year in April, I emerged from the shower to find one of my ears completely plugged. Waxy it seemed. Well, unlike any other time in life, I was unable to clear it. Doom. I couldn't hear out of my left ear and was feeling out of balance for several days. Finally, I went to the doctor and had my ear flushed out. Still didn't fix it. I was given some over-the-counter drops and a syringe. A few more days, still plugged. The second visit to the doctor did the trick. Instead of using the weak wussy irrigator, they were able to find the ultra atomic irrigator that had been misplaced during a recent office move. Within a few seconds, I could hear again. I learned some interesting things about ear wax, or cerumen, as the medical professionals call it. Q-Tips are generally a bad idea unless used on the very outer ear (which I knew) and there are two different kinds of ear wax. Africans and Caucasians have a brown, honey-like sticky kind while Asians and Pacific Islanders tend to have a gray, flaky kind (which I did not know).

Flash forward to last weekend. Exact same thing happens in the exact same ear. No idea why this happens. I go to the doctor today for help and find it to be an annoying process since I know exactly what needs to be done, but still have to fill out all sorts of papers, explain my family history of disease and have my height measured. The doctor was training a physician's assistant today and sent her in to look at me first. She seemed kind of puzzled by the whole thing, taking diligent notes and asking me questions like "So when did you first notice this?" or "Do you ever pour wax into your ears?" After this illuminating discussion, she decided to "take a look."

"Wax" was the verdict. She then had me stand up facing away from her and administered a hearing test by rubbing her fingers together near each of my ears and noting how far away she could move them with me still hearing them. The right ear could still hear the rubbing fingers when they were three feet away. "Wow, that's pretty good" she said. Now, the left ear. "What was taking so long? Let's go!" I thought, before realizing that she had been rubbing her fingers together an inch away from my left ear. I was completely deaf in that one. "Wow, that's not good at all" she said.

At this point, I was ready to walk over to the sink, turn on the warm water and begin priming the syringe, when suddenly the doctor walked in. "Got some wax, eh?" This guy was obviously trying to show he was a seasoned veteran when it came to cerumen impaction. Now, I thought I would be getting the smooth, pulsing efficiency of the ear-igator like I did last time, but NO! This doctor brought out what can only be described as an industrial two foot-long metallic syringe monstrosity. This was going into my ear.

It was over soon enough. The physician's assistant peered inside my ear again and proudly proclaimed, "No more wax! I'll bet you can hear now!"

It was true. I could hear things like air, tongue depressors and t-shirt vibrations.

No More Terrorist Fist Jab?

UPDATE (7/2): Bogus.

We hardly knew ye. I think Obama should keep using it, personally. It might catch on the way Kennedy set a no-hat trend for American men. Incidentally, it would be kind of cool if we still had the hat thing, but the main point I'm trying to make is that we should embrace change, know hope and fist jab to our heart's content.

Wikipedia is full of wonder on the subject (italics mine):

"Time magazine wonders if it evolved from the handshake and the high-five. They cite knuckle bumping in the 1970s with NBA player Baltimore Bullets guard Fred Carter. Others claim the Wonder Twins, minor characters in the 1970s Hanna-Barbera superhero cartoon Super Friends, who touched knuckles and cried "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" were the originators."


Lost Beatles Interview to Air

"The British Broadcasting Corp. will air a long lost Beatles interview featuring John Lennon and Paul McCartney talking about the day they met and their songwriting partnership.

The precious film sat forgotten for 44 years in a garage in south London until film fan Richard Jeffs realized a piece of pop history was contained inside."

Why does this stuff always end up in a garage or basement or attic somewhere? Every home should have a treasure box instead. Cool stuff goes in the treasure box. How do you know if it's cool stuff?

Is it old?

If yes, do you know what it is?

If no, find out. If yes, does it involve the most influential musicians of the last century?

If yes, remove from garage/attic/basement and place in treasure box.

The people will be round to collect them once a week.

The Machine Stops

I have yet to see WALL-E, but found this post on Britannica Blog notable since it points out a "thoroughly worked-out allusion" to one of my favorite short stories, E.M. Forster's 1909 work The Machine Stops.

I've been familiar with Forster since high school when my class read A Passage to India, a novel exploring the subtleties and shades of misunderstanding and universality in the cultural mingling of British colonial India. During Notre Dame's summer London program, my English class read The Machine Stops, a nearly hundred year-old work exploring a dystopian future in which humans are lazy and disconnected, relying on machines to do most of their work. Most social interaction occurs through telescreens rather than actual physical contact (as the Britannica post notes, quite similar to Facebook and MySpace eh?) in a civilization that has long since retreated underground, leaving machines to manage the decaying surface of the Earth.

I look forward to seeing WALL-E more than ever now, especially since it seems to be the latest installment in the science fiction tradition of giving lifeless dystopian futures a pulse. And if there's one thing I love, it's lifeless dystopian futures. Um, with hope and love trying to break through. With a pulse. Or something.


Nerds Through the Ages

A review of Benjamin Nugent's book, American Nerd: The Story of My People. What makes a nerd a nerd? Where did they come from? Where are they going? And how did they get so ridiculously rich?

The Tunguska Event: 100 Years Later

A nice summary of the mysterious Tunguska event that flattened a good swath of Siberia on June 30, 1908.