Friday, July 31, 2009


Could M&Ms--specifically, blue M&Ms--harbor healing properties? In cases of paralysis, quite possibly. Says National Geographic:
Fifteen minutes after [a] rat was paralyzed, researchers injected the rodent with Brilliant Blue G dye, a derivative of common food coloring Blue Number One. The dye reduced inflammation of the spinal cord, which allowed the rats to take clumsy steps—but not walk—within weeks, a new study says.
That lack of side effects may also help make the blue dye a boon to paralyzed humans down the road. "The beauty of it is that it wouldn't harm you," Nedergaard said—unlike previous compounds used to treat spinal cord injuries, which had toxic effects.
How blue is blue? Check it out:
Kind of looks like a furry Smurf. Do they come in any other colors? You could probably put together a pretty festive-looking menage à rat.

Jeff Bezos Ate My Homework

Remember last week when Amazon reached out its electronic tentacles and deleted copies of (heh) George Orwell books from customers' Kindles? Well, what if those e-books had been part of someone's homework? Don't take the law into your own handset, you take 'em to court:
A class action lawsuit filed today takes to task after the company deleted George Orwell books from customers Kindles.
The suit is being brought by Justin D. Gawronski, a 17-year-old high school student who had purchased Orwells 1984 to complete a summer homework assignment.

When Amazon deleted the book from his Kindle, it rendered the electronic notes he had taken worthless.
It suppose it's silly to point out that he could always just buy the print edition.

Crossword L[v]overs

This is pretty cool, via Gizmodo: an apartment building in Lvov, Ukraine, on whose edifice is painted an enormous crossword puzzle.
And the clues? Well, they are
located in different point of interests of the city, like monuments, theaters, fountains etc. So people while walking around the city can try to answer the questions and writing down the answers.
If you're stumped, all you have to do is wait until dark; the grid has actually been filled in with fluorescent paint that glows in the dark.
I wonder if being able to complete the puzzle is a requirement for living there. I can see it now: being evicted for not knowing 41-across.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Importance of Being Ernest Borgnine

Over at Movie Mis-Treatments, the latest is the utterly loathsome "action" movie Laser Mission.
Say you had a computer system into which you could feed all the elements of every successful action-adventure-espionage movie and, through special software algorithms, have it automatically write the action flick to end all action flicks. This is no doubt the dream of every Hollywood studio executive, but my theory is that 1989’s Laser Mission was actually written by such a computer system. Unfortunately, it was written using the beta version of the software. Well, okay, not even the beta version. More like the alpha version. I take that back. Pre-alpha. So pre-alpha it has reverted back to the omega version.

Anyway, the movie is a non-stop stream of every bad action movie cliché, stuck together with a super-adhesive glue of sheer stupidity.
Still, it co-stars Ernest Borgnine.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lost in the Supermarket

I have found that a good place to have a complete nervous breakdown is a supermarket. There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, there are far too many choices. While attempting to buy breakfast cereal, I’ve been known to fall to the floor in Price Chopper, curl into the fetal position, and start weeping uncontrollably. Does the universe really need more than one type of Frosted Flakes? Rice Krispies? (Snap, crackle, and freak out.) And the first person who can tell me that there is any difference between Wheat Chex, Rice Chex, and Corn Chex is going to get beaten with an ear of corn.

When trying to pick out toothpaste, I can make Hamlet look like the very model of decisiveness and action. Tartar control, or not tartar control? That is the question. It’s reached the point where I blindfold myself, run into the toothpaste aisle, grab a tube of something at random, and flee as quickly as possible. Okay, so once I accidentally grabbed a tube of Preparation H instead. The only trouble is I think my teeth are shrinking. But I digress.

For a good exploration of why consumer products companies are making us all completely insane and miserable, I recommend a good book by Barry Schwartz called The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.)

Tangentially, I was once in Price Chopper and saw a sign that advertised “semiboneless leg of lamb.” Semiboneless? Isn’t that like “slightly pregnant”? I mean, it’s a binary state—yes/no. On/off. 0/1. Bone/no bone. Must this be so difficult?

But for true supermarket anxiety, nothing can beat trying to read nutrition labels. I will admit that I do pay fairly close attention to comparing food labels, and I think by now I could easily obtain a Ph.D. in Advanced Mathematics. The trick is to find the number of calories per serving, find out what they consider a serving, and then--and this is the tricky part--determine how far removed from reality their estimate of a serving size is.

I was looking at a box of red beans and rice and according to the label, it contained only 190 calories per serving. Hey, that’s not bad! However, they considered a “serving” to consist of something like three grains of rice. Since I’m not a sparrow, I had to then work out what a realistic serving size for a human would be and then do the math.

Then there is comparing one product to another. The red beans and rice has 190 calories per serving, but it considers a serving to be 1/4 cup, but the rice pilaf has 150 calories per serving, but it considers one serving to be 1/3 cup. Okay, the lowest common denominator is 12... Help me, Spock!

Ah, but then there’s the Pasta-Roni option. The Olive Oil and Garlic Pasta has 220 calories per serving, but a serving size is 2.5 oz. Okay, 8 oz. per cup, four quarts in a gallon, 30 days hath September... The label also tells me that there are about 50 fewer calories “as packaged” than “as prepared.” That’s useful, because it lets me know that if I chomped down the dry pasta and had a few spoonfuls of the powdered mix, I can save some calories.

Oh, but the Three-Cheese Pasta has... And it’s usually at this point that the manager has me escorted out of the store, as I have been in the rice and pasta aisle for about 12 hours.

All that is bad enough, but then I read an article in New Scientist this week that found that the methodology used to determine nutritional information may be faulty--and could be off by as much as 25%! Well, that’s good to know. I have also discovered that screaming and pounding the floor with one’s fists is a good aerobic workout.

How do they determine how many calories are in a food anyway? In the same way that many of us prepare our meals: they burn it.

First of all, a “calorie” is a measure of heat. Specifically, it is a measure of the amount of heat that will raise the temperature of 1 gram of water from 14.5° to 15.5° Celsius. Making things even more confusing is that the “calorie” used by dietitians and nutritionists is actually a kilocalorie, or 1,000 calories, also referred to as a Calorie (with a capital C). (Yes, they hate us.) So if a food is said to have 200 Calories it actually has 200,000 calories. It would be pretty funny if labels listed the actual lowercase-c-calorie counts of foods! Well, maybe not funny ha-ha...

Anyway, the original method for measuring calorie (or Calorie) counts was developed by an American chemist named Wilbur O. Atwater. He used what was known as a “bomb calorimeter,” basically a fireproof container hooked up to a thermometer. He would put a food—say, a turkey leg or a piece of beef—inside it, burn it, and measure how much energy was released. Maybe it’s just me, but if I had been Atwater’s lab assistant, I would be burning with insatiable curiosity to put a human head in the bomb calorimeter. I mean, maybe if the Donner Party had had accurate nutritional information things might have tuned out differently.

But I digress.

As we all know far too well (particularly on long road trips) not everything in a food is absorbed by the human body, and the process of digestion itself burns calories (about which more later), so Atwater needed to add some extra steps, and through his research developed a series of tables that corrected the raw calorie counts based on type of food (protein vs. carbohydrate, for example). His research, while refined a tad over the years, is still the gold standard for generating nutrition label information. (A little bit of trivia for you: Atwater’s daughter Catherine married the famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith. It’s not particularly interesting but I thought I’d just throw it out there.)

Today’s calorimeters are a bit more advanced. As this article in Slate explains:
food laboratories often freeze their samples in liquid nitrogen and then blend them into a fine, monochromatic powder that can then be used in a variety of chemical analyses. In a Kjeldahl analysis, for example, lab techs remove nitrogen from the food powder and then use it to calculate the amount of protein the sample contains. A hexane extraction can gauge the amount of fat. Carbohydrates are usually measured by difference—they’re what is left over when you remove everything else.
Funny, I usually cook in that exact same way.

The methods developed by Atwater were useful, but new research suggests that it is still subject to a great deal of error. From the New Scientist article:
Nutritionists are well aware that our bodies don't incinerate food, they digest it. And digestion - from chewing food to moving it through the gut and chemically breaking it down along the way - takes a different amount of energy for different foods. According to Geoffrey Livesey, an independent nutritionist based in Norfolk, UK, this can lower the number of calories your body extracts from a meal by anywhere between 5 and 25 per cent depending on the food eaten. "These energy costs are quite significant," he says, yet are not reflected on any food label.
Take fiber (please!):
As well as being more resistant to mechanical and chemical digestion than other forms of carbohydrate, dietary fibre provides energy for gut microbes, and they take their cut before we get our share. Livesey has calculated that all these factors reduce the energy derived from dietary fibre by 25 per cent - down from the current estimate of 2 kcal per gram to 1.5 kcal per gram
Other nutrients such as protein are also subject to correction--and while this may not seem like a lot, it can add up over time. That is, as fat. The good news, I suppose, is that food labels tend to overstate the number of calories, although not consistently, and may give the impression that something that is actually healthier (the New Scientist article uses an oatmeal bar) has more calories than something unhealthier (a brownie).

Interestingly, there is evidence that suggests that food texture can also play a role in weight gain. That is, a food that is harder to chew (and, ergo, digest) burns more calories during the digestion process than something softer and chewier. A Japanese study found that women who ate soft foods gained more weight than women who ate harder foods. Thus, look for my new book, The All Rock-Candy Diet, coming soon to a disreputable bookstore near you.

Oh, and ingredients can also make a difference:
the brownie is made from refined sugar and flour, making it easier for our bodies to extract the available calories than it would be from the complex carbohydrates of the oatmeal in the cereal bar.
Cooking also imparts more calories to foods, too. It never ends.

So, what are we to do? Cry, basically.

Well, no, but on the one hand, there is the suggestion that food labels—and the methodology used to derive nutritional info—be updated to reflect the latest science. After all, Atwater’s methods are more than 100 years old. We know a scosh more about chemistry and biology and nutrition these days. On the other hand, it would be costly to do so—and how much stock do consumers put in food labels anyway? And is the margin of error on the current labels such that anyone would change their behavior all that much anyway?

It’s been my experience over the past few years that worrying about 20 calories here and 30 calories there is less effective than just eating sensibly and using “common sense.” (That is, salad, vegetables--good; pizza, 90-ounce Porterhouse steaks--bad.) Portion control and, more importantly, exercise are far more valuable in terms of beating the battle of the bulge. Avoiding junk food also helps. In fact, my treadmill tells me how many calories I am burning (itself a guesstimate that is prone to error). While on line at the supermarket, if I see a candy bar or some other unnecessary snack item, I look at the guesstimate of its calorie count and can figure if it has 200 calories, it will take an additional 20 minutes of running to burn it off. Once you start measuring foods in terms of how much exercise it requires to negate them, random snacking starts to lose its appeal.

What also makes bad eating habits lose their appeal is the thought of outgrowing one’s clothes and having to buy new ones. Which brings me back to the “paradox of choice.” At what point did buying jeans become so complicated? They have Easy Fit, Loose Fit, Baggy Fit, Boot Fit, Relaxed Fit, Unrelaxed Fit, Downright Tense Fit, and something called “Standard Fit” which is the most unhelpful name for something since they invented “regular flavor gum.”

And this I find this even more nervewracking than grocery shopping.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

No Sanity Claws

Here's a headline to catch the eye, although it sounds like more of a surf-and-turf war:
Maine lobsterman charged in turf war shooting

PORTLAND, Maine – A turf war in the lobster-rich waters off Maine escalated into a dispute that left a lobsterman with a gunshot wound to the neck and another in jail, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
What a crab. To think, musseling in on someone else's turf like that. He put his whole heart and sole into that business. This sounds like something right out of The Codfather. They're all just prawns in a larger game. The police should really clamdown on this sort of thing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Site for Sore Eyes

I just revamped my proper Web site ( I tested it on a variety of browsers (naturally only Internet Explorer has problems with it, though they're pretty minor). If anyone else experiences anything weird, please do let me know.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It Might Still be Continuing

The saga It Might Have Been lumbers onward. We're up to Chapter 19--only nine chapters left!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Big Bother

You almost get the sense that Amazon did this more out of perverse humor than anything.
Some E-Books Are More Equal Than Others

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.
...’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.
What author and what titles? Oh, you can figure it out easily enough. Click the link if you're truly stumped.

A Hard-Scrabble Upbringing

Here's an interesting question (and perhaps a unique definition of "interesting"): how many words are in the English language? And how many of them do you think you know?

You may recall that last month the Global Language Monitor announced that the one-millionth word was added to the English language (and, it seems, another 411 have been added since then). By the way, that "millionth word" was Web 2.0. Great. So now even words have revision numbers. Anyway, according to the site, more than 14 words are added to English every day. And every one of them is a gem, of course.

Naturally, many professional linguists had no words to describe how outraged they were by such a seemingly definitive quantification of English words. But, hey, it's all a bit of fun, and it's best to take such estimates with a grain of salt.

After all, the biggest question facing "word spotters" is, "well, what is a word anyway?" That is, take the word...take. That's obviously a word. But what about all the spin-offs of it, such as taking, taker, taken, or even took, for that matter? And take can be either a verb ("to get into one's possession") or a noun ("the act of taking"). There is a definition of take unique to filmmaking, and one to crime. And so on. Are all of these different words? Or the same word? Or what? Perhaps we could assign partial word values to these instances--so that, say, take itself could be considered 1 word, but taking is 0.5 word, taken another 0.5, and maybe took, because if its spelling, could be 0.75 word. Or something. Take as referring to a shot in filmmaking could be worth maybe 0.3759665 word. Or...

Okay, I'm better now.

Then of course there are written, two, three... Technically, the list of nunbers is infinite, so if someone wanted to write out every number and count each as a different word, that obviously means that English has an infinite number of words right there.

Then there are obscure scientific terms, plants, animals...heck, there are believed to be between five and eight million species of beetles alone, words all.

So there are all sorts of problems quantifying English.

It may be somewhat easier to quantify how many words a single person knows, but, after all, the same basic problems apply.

I ran across a way of coming up with a quick (well, kind of quick) estimate:
Professor David Crystal, known chiefly for his research in English language studies and author of around 100 books on the subject...suggests taking a sample of about 20 or 30 pages from a medium-sized dictionary, one which contains about 100,000 entries or 1,000 to 1,500 pages.

Tick off the ones you know and count them. Then multiply that by the number of pages and you will discover how many words you know.
Okay, I'm game. So I grabbed my large unabridged Random House Dictionary (Second Edition, published in 1987) and decided to, as the name Random House suggests, randomly pick one
page per letter and count how many words on that page I knew. I say "random" but not entirely; I tried to avoid pages that contained words all having the same prefix (like all the re-s, un-s or foot-s, etc.). I also avoided proper names, towns, countries, and pretty much anything capitalized. And, no, I didn't read the defintion of a word I previously did not know and then claimed that I knew it. Cynical are we?

Anyway, here's how the "raw data" turned out:
A (aggressive-ago): 29
B (bleeder-blind): 25
C (cognize-coinage): 31
D (defliate-degranulation): 43
E (esotharnax-essence d'orient): 32
F (ferule-fetus): 33
G (gaby-gain): 25
H (Hippo Regius-histocompatibility): 21
I (irregular galaxy-Isaac): 52
J (jet-jib): 28
K (knot-Kodály): 27
L (leathery-lederhosen): 23
M (minus-mirror writing): 22
N (Nesselrode-Neufchatel): 23
O (OPM-opsonin): 18
P (percolation-perfective): 30
Q (quadrillion-qualify): 28
R (rappel-raspy): 39
S (spokesman-spoonbill): 22
T (temporary-tenderable): 27
U (ugly-ulterior): 20
V (vespiary-vexillate): 31
W (War Between the States-warlock): 35
X (xenograft-xylene): 14
Y (Yarkand-yearling): 23
Z (Zola--zoon): 21
There were 26 pages, which works out to an average words-I-know-per-page of 27.77. The dictionary has a total of 2,214 pages. Which means that I know 61,481.08 words. That's probably far more precise than this little experiment warrants, so I'm prepared to say that I know somewhere between 60,000–65,000 words, not that use them all on a regular basis (despite what some people may think). And this dictionary was published in 1987, before the Internet and all the technological terms I use and abuse on a regular basis existed. Looking around my office, I see a variety of things that would not have been in a 1987 dictionary: WiFi, cellphone (although "cellular phone" is but not the shortened one-word term), iPhone, iPod, podcast, blog, thumb drive, USB, FireWire, cable-modem, optical mouse, MP3, Web browser, ...the list goes on.

It's not surprising that words are constantly being added to English. Unlike a lot of languages, English is a highly dynamic, democratic language in the sense that there is no central authority overseeing it and placing strict controls over what words can be added to the lexicon (like, say, French). As long as a word can be understood by some number of other people, it's fair game for the vocabulary. Sure, I complain about this as much as anyone, but that's the English language's great strength. One man alone—William Shakespeare—is responsible for adding more than 1,000 words to the English language (well, sort of; his works are often the first written instances of many words; surely his contemporaries knew at least some of them or audiences would have had no idea what his characters were saying!). Some of the words attributed to Shakespeare include "arch-villain," "bedazzle," "cheap" (as in vulgar or flimsy), "dauntless," "embrace" (as a noun), "fashionable," "go-between," "honey-tongued," "inauspicious," "lustrous," "nimble-footed," "outbreak," "pander," "sanctimonious," "time-honored," "unearthly," "vulnerable," and "well-bred.

English words can come from anywhere. It's all about communication. As long as we understand each other, anything goes. However, I draw the line at pwn and text as a verb.

Still, I find that any discussion of lexicography can't ignore the episode of Black Adder the Third, featuring Edmund (Rowan Atkinson) and Dr. Samuel Johnson (who compiled the first dictionary and whose house I visited a couple years ago) and this classic exchange:
Dr. Johnson: Here it is, sir: the very cornerstone of English scholarship. This book, sir, contains every word in our beloved language.
Edmund: Every single one, sir?

Dr. Johnson: (confidently) Every single word, sir!

Edmund: (to Prince) Oh, well, in that case, sir, I hope you will not object if I also offer the Doctor my most enthusiastic contrafribularities.

Dr. Johnson: What?

Edmund: 'Contrafribularites', sir? It is a common word down our way...

Dr. Johnson: Damn! (writes in the book)

Edmund: Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I'm anispeptic, frasmotic, even compunctuous to have caused you such pericombobulation.

Dr. Johnson: What? What? WHAT?

Prince George: What are you on about, Blackadder? This is all beginning to sound a bit like dago talk to me.

Edmund: I'm sorry, sir. I merely wished to congratulate the Doctor on not having left out a single word. (J sneers) Shall I fetch the tea, Your Highness?

Prince George: Yes, yes! And get that damned fire up here, will you?

Edmund: Certainly, sir. I shall return interfrastically. (exits) (J writes some more)
But no matter how we quantify our language, we should always make sure that in our word counts we never forget to include sausage.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Matter of Fact, It's All Dark

Unless you live in an underwater pyramid, you are aware that Monday marks to 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing. Apollo 11, however, launched 40 years ago this morning, and you can follow the mission in "real time" (+ 40 years, of course) over at There is Flash animation, "live" transmissions in "real time," downloadable desktop mission tracking widgets, photos, and more. It's pretty cool.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Not Since Budokan

How's this for knowing who your audience is: Cheap Trick's latest album--cleverly titled The Latest--is available on 8-track tape. I'm not sure which is more surprising: that it's available on 8-track, or that Cheap Trick actually has a new album out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Either prescription drug costs have gotten way out of hand, or there was some sort of system error:
The embarrassingly-named VISA BUXX card is a debit card for teenagers: parents get reports, control, etc. My daughter has one.

My lectures about financial responsibility appear to have failed: yesterday she charged $23,148,855,308,184,500.00 at the drug store. That's 2,000 times more than the national debt, which is a paltry 11 trillion.

The ever-vigilant folks at VISA added a $20 "negative balance fee," and have suspended the card.
But by using the CVS ExtraCare card she could have cut that $23 quadrillion by $10.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Word Up and Down

Over at The Guardian, a quintessentially English topic: what words make you wince? Some respond to the way they sound, some to their meaning, and some to the way they are abused. Some of the words I 'm not fond of:
  • Anything from "corpospeak," such as "synergy," "leverage" (especially when used as a verb), or "disconnect" when used as a noun.
  • "Bling."
  • "Peeps," when not used to refer to those yellow polymer-based Easter treats.
  • The suffix "-gate" appended to any type of scandal. "Watergate" was called that because it involved the Watergate Hotel. Likewise, the suffix "-holic" "or "-oholic" added to any kind of addict, like "chocoholic" or "workaholic." Someone who drinks excessively is called an "alcoholic" because alcohol is involved.
  • "Text" as a verb, but I suppose I shall have to learn to live with it. Same with "friend" as a verb.
  • The phrase "[x] is the new [y]."
  • I really can't stand emoticons, or any other form of Instant Messaging shorthand, such as lol, btw, etc., especially when they seep into actual writing. I can see how they are useful on handheld devices that are unwieldy to type on, but when typing on a proper keyboard it's just uncalled for.
  • Other Internet-coined words such as "meh" and "pwn" (instead of "own") make me want to chew my own head off.
  • "Proverbial" when used to refer to something that is not mentioned in an actual proverb.
  • "Literally" when used in place of "figuratively" (i.e., "he literally exploded with laughter," which would be rather messy).
  • I used to have no problem with "segue" but then that dorky scooter came on the market and now everyone spells it "segway."
  • I also am not a big fan of the word "blog" on strictly aesthetic terms but, again, I suppose it's something I shall have to live with. Same with "podcast."
  • I've also never liked profanity all that much, except under extreme circumstances. Lately I've taken to reverting to quaint and archaic interjections like "egad," "dang," and "zounds," primarily for my own amusement.
Matt Groening has put out yearly lists of "forbidden words" (and phrases) that sensible people would do well to avoid. I'm embarrased to admit that at times I use some of these, usually when I'm just being lazy.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pipe Dreams

Mi hermano told me this morning that in his hometown of Watertown, MA (appropriate), a plumbing museum has recently opened. And, indeed, it has: Apparently, it has been around since 1979, but only recently moved to its new location and reopened. I confess, I am intrigued. I am certain that one of the things they would mention is that the term "plumbing" comes from plumbum, the Latin word for "lead," which was what the original pipes were made of.

The museum features a history of plumbing, as well as "hands-on workshops." One shudders to think. Although I do wonder how often museum security has to yell, "That's not the restroom, that's an exhibit!"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Free Willy

Over at Movie Mis-Treatments, Peter Lupus (Willy in Mission: Impossible and Norberg in Police Squad) stars as the titular strongman in Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon, making, as Jon Stewart might say, a mess o'potamia.
One of the more dubious film genres of the 1950s and 60s was the so-called “sword and sandal” epic. Technically called pepla, these movies were usually (but not always) made in Italy, often on a shoestring (or sandalstring), and starred burly American bodybuilders as heroes from antiquity, the Bible, or Greco-Roman mythology. Often, a single movie could have many different titles (Hercules Unchained was also called Ercole e la regina di Lidia and Hercules and the Queen of Lydia), and movies were occasionally named after heroes that weren’t actually in them (Maciste and the Queen of Samar was also called Hercules Against the Moon Men, for some reason, while Maciste at the Court of the Czar was also known as Samson vs. the Giant King as well as Atlas Against the Czar). I suspect it was all a diabolical plot to crash the Internet Movie Database.

Perhaps the most famous “actor” in these movies was the original Hercules, Steve Reeves, although others included Reg Park, Gordon Scott, Mark Forest, Brad Harris, Dan Vadis, and many others. For some reason, even though everyone else in the cast was Italian, audiences (or at least the producers) preferred leads with American-sounding names. So Sergio Ciani had to be credited as “Alan Steel,” which should have been a bit of a giveaway (his first choice of nom de film was Sidney Applebaum).

The movie was directed by Domenico Paolella, which is also the name of a delicious Italian rice dish.

Anyway, the "plot" concerns an evil trio of Babylonian rulers apparently named Salmon Oscar, Azure, and Tennille (there is even a Captain). Tyranny will keep them together.

Died in the Wool

Some days, it's very hard to choose whether one wants to abuse animals or children. Decisions, decisions... But here's a fun way to do both simultaneously: mutton-busting.

How I wish I weren't making that up.

Essentially, it combines the horror and sadness of rodeo with the terror of having children tossed from hyperactive and freaked-out sheep. Fun for the whole family! Probably not so much fun for the sheep. There is a plethora of upsetting video at the link.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Creeped Out

If you thought that today's ads were vile and loathsome, in some ways they're nothing compared to some of the "vintage" ads from purportedly quainter times. Remember when wife-beating was used to pitch such diverse products as coffee and postage meters? (Postage meters?) Does the sight of a pig smiling and graphically disembowling himself make you hungry for sausage? Remember those "man in the Hathaway shirt" ads that inexplicably featured guys in eye patches to sell shirts to either pirates and/or Cyclops? They're even more surreal when the one-eyed guy is holding a Bengal tiger kitten...the aftermath of a tragic zoo mishap, methinks. ("Aww...what a cute little kitty...what's that he playing with...Oh, my god!!!")

Anyway, if you want to be creeped out by vintage advertising, be sure to check this site out.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Oldies But...Not So Goodies

Via Boing Boing, I came across a great little blog called Awful Library Books--examples of old, quaint, or downright silly titles from the past that can plague library shelves if librarians don't practice what is apparently referred to as "weeding." One doesn't like to get rid of books, but some, well, you know... Top candidates: flash-in-the-pan biographies of temporarily famous people--or worse: how-to/self-help books from temporarily famous people, such as:
Then there are how-to books on really old stuff:
Maybe that kid who couldn't figure out the Walkman could use one of these.

Then there are the quaint books that obviously hearken back to a simpler time:
Then there's the just plain weird:
Curiously, my primary care physician has this book.

Anyway, it's an enoyable blog, especially for those who are amused by obsolete typography.