Thursday, December 31, 2009

Overflowing with Bombast

Rush Limbaugh's recent trip to the hospital reminded me to post the Limbaugh-Shatner interview, which is really fantastic. Even if you dislike Limbaugh (I can't imagine any of you disliking Shatner), you may enjoy this interview, as Shatner and Limbaugh's styles play off each other quite well.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What the hell is a "Stanford situation?"

Warning: Post contains football.

When ex-BSU coach Houston Nutt was acclaimed as the "inventor" of the Wildcat formation, those of us who are total nerds thought, "Wait a minute, isn't this just the single wing?"

The single wing was the dominant football offense well into the 1960s, and like the Wildcat, it featured an unbalanced line, long snaps, and an emphasis on running. (Note that single wing formations are different than shotgun: shotgun snaps are high, with the center looking ahead, whereas single wing snaps are line drives, with the center looking beneath his legs.)

You can watch Michigan use the single wing (along with some line shifts that are utterly illegal today) to demolish USC in the 1948 Rose Bowl here.

Fortuitously, you can read Michigan's playbook for this game right here. You can get another exposition of how the offense works from Iowa State's 1968 playbook, devised by future Pittsburgh and Tennessee coach Johnny Majors. The Majors playbook also contains an interesting strategy section, so you'll always know what to do when the defense lines up in a Stanford situation and when to call a first down punt.

Monday, December 21, 2009

An idea someone else will make money off of

Self-help books written by the mentally ill. If done correctly, they could make for funny reading, as well as provide insight into abnormal thought processes, in much the same way you can learn about autism by reading A Class in Spookville or Sonichu*

You could start with Seven Habits of the Highly Effective Sociopath, then move on to Who Moved My Cheese, and Who is He Working For? (from the paranoid), I'm OK, I'm Not OK, I'm the King of Alaska (bipolar I), He's Just Not That Into You, Probably Because of Something You Did, Now He's Leaving You Just Like Daddy Did, He Can't Do This! (borderline personality), Everything You Would Want to Know About Sex, If You Cared (schizoid), and What Color is Your Parachute? Mine is Red. You Know, Leonardo da Vinci Designed a Parachute in the 1600s, But The First Successful Parachute Was Tested in 1783 by Louis-Sebastien Lenormand… (Asperger's)

*note that this particular rabbit hole goes down quite deep, and contains some non-work-safe material

Friday, December 11, 2009

A story for your kids

Do you know why the government that's bigger than a city but smaller than a state is called a "county?" It's because every one has its own count.

And like most counts, these counts are vampires. But they're friendly vampires. The count for each county (Count Ada, Count Canyon, Count Payette, etc.) is only allowed to travel around his county and is responsible for chasing away ghosts, Frankensteins, and other monsters. When a count dies, the county commissioners get together and pick a new count, who moves into the secret hidden castle that you might be able to find on Google Maps if you look hard.

This is true in every state except Louisiana (where the French settlers entrusted supernatural defense to priests, hence "parishes") and Alaska (vampires like to live there because of the long nights in the winter, so they have whole colonies of friendly vampires who live in underground burrows, so the counties are replaced by "boroughs").

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Were You Aware Of It?

Many of the seven hundred hobo names presented in my long-lost twin brother John Hodgman's book The Areas Of My Expertise would be good names for roller derby participants?

10. Whispering-Lies McGruder
17. Name Withheld
27. The Damned Swede
29. Ol' Barb Stab-You-Quick
33. Sweet Daddy Champagne
70. Slow Motion Jones
77. Stun Gun Jones
82. Stick-Legs McOhio
93. Bathsheba Ditz
95. Lolly Hoot Holler
102. Chrysler LeBaron
125. Zaxxon Galaxian
175. Commodore Sixty-Four
178. Fast-Neck Nell
212. Cecilia Graveside
243. Lord Winston Two-Monocles
260. Mastiff Mama
271. Laura Delite
283. Professor Challenger
315. Maury the Monsoon
326. The Railbender
348. Itinerant Jane
429. Four-Fisted Jock Socko
455. Battling Joe Frickenfrack
468. Dr. Nobel Dynamite
477. Unshakably Morose Flo
512. Bum-Hating Virgil Hate-Bum
545. Andrea Clarke, the Human Shark
628. Stinging Polly Papercuts
630. The Wisconsin Scourge
662. La Grippe
694. Mallory Many-Bruises

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What is the dumbest thing?

Some people think that sexting is the dumbest thing. Other people think that backyard wrestling is the dumbest thing. Still others would nominate the Word of Faith movement, or the nine-hundred-page racist rape-promoting roleplaying game, or Mike Huckabee's clemency process, or panties with Robert Pattinson's face on the inside.

A new nominee comes from the Washington Court of Appeals in State v. Thompson.

Eighty-year-old Shirley Crawford gave her friend Judith Thompson a power of attorney to handle her financial affairs while she was in a nursing home. Judith and her husband James promptly funneled about $400,000 worth of funds (including money she got from selling Shirley's house) into their own pockets. But that's not the dumbest thing.

The dumbest thing happened when Adult Protection Services got involved. The Thompsons showed up with a videotape. And the contents of the tape?

On the video, Judith and James and other members of the Thompson family are shown gathered in Crawford's nursing home room. Judith Thompson hands a typed statement to Crawford. James Thompson tells Crawford that he wrote it from things that she said. Judith Thompson reads from the statement, which is written in the first person as if Crawford were speaking. It includes statements such as, "I wanted Jim and Judy to have my house." The video shows Crawford nodding and agreeing with the statements.

The Thompsons were shocked when they were charged with witness tampering. Judith testified at trial:

She said they had gifted Crawford's estate to themselves in order to protect it from would-be thieves....

I think that deserves consideration as the dumbest thing.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New pix

I was in Seattle over Thanksgiving, and my cousin and I went down to the old part of town for a short photo tour.

View the results here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Not gay if it's football!

Scholars at the University of Bristol are trying to determine if there is a relationship between good looks and athletic ability, so they polled Dutch women to determine who they thought were the best-looking quarterbacks in the NFL.

The winner was...

...Tom Brady, and that's clearly because good looks were part of the package he received when he murdered Chandra Levy and sacrificed her remains to Satan. But the second-place finisher was...

...Ben Roethlisberger? Huh?

I'm no expert on what women like, but I would think that there are other quarterbacks in the league who are better looking than Ben Roethlisberger, such as, say, Drew Brees...

Matt Ryan...

or Kyle Orton...

(Okay, maybe not Kyle Orton.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The City... of the Future!

I'm sure that when you were 13 years old, you probably had a really cool idea that you thought was going to fix the future. Most of us have since grown up and realized that 85% of the ideas we have when we're 13 are crap.

And then there's Orville Simpson II.

Orv had an idea for the City of the Future in 1936. He grew up, became a landlord, and in 1960, he started drawing Victory City.

It contains all the standard utopian promises (houses 350,000 people in 3 square miles! costs 1/10th of a regular city! free education and health care! even goddamn monorails!) and it's as beautiful as it is practical:

Despite the fact that my surname approximately means "victory city," I'm too much of a cynic to be convinced. But if your life doesn't have enough of the "Jetsons" aesthetic in it and you're ready to make the dream happen, why not invest a few bucks? (Note: I strongly suspect that his $100 million estimate to build a Victory City hasn't been adjusted for inflation since 1936.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

December is National Novel Criticism Month

I know at least one of my readers is writing a novel this month, and more of you may be doing so. (I'm not, largely because I can only come up with a two-paragraph plot summary, and I'd have to futz around for 40,000 words to get from the setup to the conclusion.)

Anyway, here's an essay by George Eliot entitled "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists," the point of which applies to most first-time novelists, be they lady or gentleman. Namely, novels that are written as your wish fulfillment fantasy are not going to be any good, and perfect heroes are boring.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The New York Times is a classy bunch

So New York's got an abusive boyfriend in its Senate. Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) allegedly slashed his girlfriend with a piece of glass across her face when he found another man's business card in her purse. He then dragged her back to his apartment and refused to call 911.

They both told the police that he tripped while carrying a glass of water, and now he says he wants to marry her.

Clyde Haberman of the Times decides to respond to the story by writing about what kind of glassware to get them for the wedding.

Whether you think this is funny or not (I don't - it's a rather lame attempt at dark comedy), it's not the sort of thing one would expect to see in the New York Times, which is supposed to be a paragon of journalism, not a staging ground for potentially offensive op-eds.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Boring blather re: megachurches

Today I went to an event at a large, non-denominational church in Garden City. Apart from the fact that it's not right next to a freeway, it fits all the characteristics of a megachurch.

The whole place made me vaguely uncomfortable. I am used to having coffee and donuts in a church basement, but I'm not used to having a full espresso bar and bookstore on site. (Yes, the espresso bar is called "Holy Grounds.")

Although I am not a religious person, I'm not really keen on the megachurch emphasis on inclusiveness and positivity above all things. (In fact, the idea of an inclusive community strikes me as an oxymoron - a "community" that doesn't have common beliefs and interests isn't a community at all.) Just as Charlie Brown thought that there was a difference between philosophy and a bumper sticker, I think there's a difference between holy scriptures and a self-help book, and a difference between a pastor and a motivational speaker.

While I was there, I was in a classroom for their home school cooperative, and I was reminded of one of the great mysteries of school: why they try to teach you to write a cursive upper-case "Q" like the number 2 when no adult actually does this. I think Ramona Quimby also had strong feelings on this issue.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Connie! Why don't you love me like you love this chocolate?!?

This week's blog find is Psychotic Letters from Men. If you enjoy cringing at the antics of creepy guys, this site will take up a lot of your time.

Many of these men appear to suffer from the delusion that it is possible to make anyone like you if you just try hard enough. I think some children's literature and programming feed that delusion by trying to encourage friendship above all things, when in reality, some people just have interests that diverge too widely, or personalities that clash too often, to make friendship (or romance) possible between them. If I were in charge of children's programming, I'd try to teach kids what to do with people who can't be friends with you, which is why I will probably never be in charge of children's programming.

The women in these stories frequently get restraining orders. In Idaho, most of them would not be eligible for civil protection orders. Idaho law only offers civil protection orders for people who were in domestic relationships (so if you just went on a couple of dates, you can't get one) and who are in imminent danger of domestic violence (so if he didn't hit you or threaten to hit you, you can't get one). If you're in Idaho and you're being stalked, but you're not eligible for a civil protection order, keep all the evidence (photos, text messages, voice mails, emails, Myspace/Facebook posts, whatever) and turn it in to the police. With enough evidence, you might be able to get the stalker charged with criminal stalking.

If you like the author of Psychotic Letters from Men, you can visit his other blog at Why Women Hate Men.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Adventures in sleep

I sleep next to my computer. It provides background noise that helps me sleep. That's important for this story.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, I saw a note in Stickies that hadn't been there when I went to sleep. It read "Vilsack noetimfy."

Clearly whatever I had been dreaming about was important enough that I felt like I had to noetimfy U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about it. (Stolen subsidy money? A new super-efficient fertilizer? A plot to poison America's crops? And is the latter actually Janet Napolitano's territory?)

When I woke up on Monday morning, I had two missed calls on my phone from a number I didn't recognize. They had been placed at 12:50 AM. According to Google, the number was a pay phone in Moscow. (Moscow, Idaho, not Moscow, Russia. If I'd had calls from a pay phone in Moscow, Russia, I would've wondered if I had actually uncovered a plot to poison America's crops.)

Stay tuned for future exciting tales, or tales that pass for exciting in my dreary excuse for a life.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

One Nagging Thing

The email edition of the British Psychological Society asked its members each to share one nagging thing they don't understand about themselves. Read their answers here.

Naturally, this segues into me thinking about one nagging thing I don't understand about myself.

Many psychologists have written about the phenomenon of illusory superiority, in which people are not only incompetent at certain tasks, but continue to believe they are average or above-average at those tasks. (Think Peggy Hill.)

So: am I really good at the things at which I think I am good, or am I bad at those things and unaware of it? And is there any way to find out if I'm right or wrong?

Feel free to think about this and post a nagging thing you don't understand about yourself, if you want.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Posted for posterity

Some of the rollergirls* have been bugging me about being one of the few non-inked league members. Those of you reading this blog certainly know that I kneel at the altar of the status quo, and that the money for a tattoo could probably be spent better on other things, like, say, a table or a bed frame.

Nevertheless, I will bow to peer pressure, conditionally:

If the Iowa Hawkeyes beat the The Ohio State University Buckeyes on November 14, I will get a tattoo. The design of said tattoo will be determined if it becomes necessary to do so.

*Speaking of rollergirls, Roger Ebert gives "Whip It" three and a half stars. If you're in the Treasure Valley, you can catch a showing with some of our local rollergirls tomorrow at 7pm at Edwards Theater on Overland in Boise or near the decaying remains of Karcher Mall in Nampa.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coming soon to Oprah's Book Club

Noted Internet autistic/OCD/generally weird guy Nick "Ulillillia" Smith, whose life consists mainly of eating cheese pizzas while sitting on the floor of his room, playing Sonic the Hedgehog and listening to the Baby Looney Tunes theme, has turned his life experience into a novel for the ages.

Well, maybe it's more like a screenplay. But either way, you can own The Legend of the 10 Elemental Masters in paperback for only $12.95.

Its opening passage is as riveting as they come:

May 27, 1999 at 4:07 UTC - 54 hours, 52 minutes remaining

Knuckles glides north 1500 feet above Lake Sakakawea at 800 mph following Highway 83. A small thunderstorm is somewhat visible to the south. The sky is 3/8 scattered with cirrus clouds and 1/8 scattered with altostratus clouds. The wind is 15 mph with gusts to 20 mph. A few small patches of snow in ditches, some with water, are visible but hard to see due to the speed. A 40-second pause in speech occurs while credits display on screen.

Knuckles resembles a human, but with differences. Knuckles is neither male nor female, though referred to as a "he". Three-quarter-inch-thick dark-violet-colored (FFA000E0) fur covers his entire body. He is only 25 1/3 inches tall, 4 inches wide, and 2.5 inches deep. Knuckles gets his name from his large hands, 40% bigger than a human his size would have. A reflective, glittery, greenish (FFA0FF00) haze half a millimeter across borders his pupil. Knuckles has no nose and a mouth 2/3 as big. Every other aspect of his is that of what a human would have for his size. For details on the numerical colors (in parenthesis), see appendix 5.

Will this be the first of a string of hits from Uli? Or will he retire from writing knowing that his first novel could never be topped, a la Harper Lee? Time will tell...

Friday, September 11, 2009


The trend of putting decals on the back of your vehicle that represent your family kinda snuck up on me. Granted, lots of trends sneak up on me - it's 2009 and I've never heard any music by Kanye West or Radiohead, and I'm not sure what "The Hills" is about - but this trend strikes me as a trend that's fraught with etiquette issues. For example:

1. When a family breaks up, which parent gets to display the child on the sticker?
2. When you have a blended family, should the children be shown next to the parent that sired them, or in a group with each other?
3. Can you keep the sticker on your car after Child Protective Services takes the child away?
4. Is it bad form to display decals for angel babies? Should said decals have wings and halos? Would it be the most obnoxious way to make money off of miscarriages? (Probably not.)
5. Is the next step decals of caricature portraits with giant heads and tiny bodies holding objects that represent one's personality?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hey, my work is topical!

White House official Cass Sunstein promoted opt-out organ donation in his book "Nudge." (Click here to read about it if you're a Democrat, click here to read about it if you're a Republican.)

Is that constitutionally permissible? Find out by reading this thrill-a-minute article I wrote in law school about this very topic.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fearless Prediction

By the end of the year 2010, at least one person will have filed suit against the manufacturers of the Tiddy Bear, claiming that the Tiddy Bear aggravated injuries the person suffered in an auto accident. Regardless of who wins the suit, the manufacturers will decide that the Tiddy Bear is too great a liability and will discontinue the product.

Radio morning show guys will seize upon the opportunity to talk about the Tiddy Bear, because it is funny to say "Tiddy," because "Tiddy" sounds like "Titty."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Plots for Potential Sequels to William Carlos Williams' Poem "The Red Wheelbarrow"

• A man arrives. He was planning to haul dirt in the red wheelbarrow and now he is frustrated that the wheelbarrow is wet.
• The rain continues until the rainwater becomes a breeding ground for mosquitos.
• The white chickens are startled when a dog runs by.
• The rain causes a flash flood. Both the red wheelbarrow and the white chickens are swept away.
• A Code Enforcement official cites the owner of the property for raising white chickens in a zone where animal husbandry is not permitted.
• Because the white chickens have two legs, Snowball declares that they are collaborators with the old regime, and they are executed. The red wheelbarrow is used to carry their bodies away.
• A tenth-grader raises her hand and says, "I don't get it."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A message from the Nampa Meridian Irrigation District

Listen up, everybody. Here's a puzzle to solve.

First, the facts.

Every year, young children, teenagers, and adults drown in Idaho irrigation canals.

Now, the question.

If you know that canals kill people, why would you ever go near a canal, or let someone you love get even close to a canal?

Take a few seconds to think about it. Your answer could mean the difference between life and death.

(tick-tock tick-tock)

Okay, here's the answer.

People drown in irrigation canals because they don't realize that irrigation canals are merciless, cold-hearted, murdering death traps that were erected partially to provide water, and partially to provide defense against invading Californians.

They don't realize how cold, swift, and deep the water is. The water may look like it's not flowing fast, but that's because it's actually flowing so fast that the human eye can't keep up with it.

They don't know that the chances of getting out of a canal are about... zero. The canals are filled with the angry ghosts of people who have previously died in them, and the spirits will drag you to the bottom. And when you die in a canal, you can't ever go to heaven. You become a canal ghost too.

Above: A picture of a canal ghost.

In fact, if you are in a canal, the rescuers won't even bother to try to save you. They'll just point at you and laugh while you are overcome by the hideous deluge.

They think it's OK for kids to go near canals as long as an adult is present. These people deserve it when their children die.

They ignore the cardinal rule of canal safety: If you see a canal, you should run screaming in the opposite direction.

But don't run so far that you fall into another canal.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Did Betsy Ross have this information?

If you have to get your clothes custom-made by the Department of Defense, you might want to know that there are six types of male posture: normal, erect, forward or stooped, half-stout, stout, and corpulent.

If you are a woman with a big bottom, the military will describe you as having a "prominent seat."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Step 1, admit there is a problem


I can't believe I'm watching pro wrestling again.

I first kicked the habit in about 2002 - or rather, the habit kicked me, because I got sick and tired of the lack of entertaining wrestlers and of Boring Invincible Triple H.

Three things have brought me back into the fold.

1. John Morrison. Not only does Morrison have an extremely entertaining gimmick with extremely entertaining interviews, but he also does stuff like this.

2. Grey Dog Software's wrestling management games. Total Extreme Wrestling 2005 was recently released as freeware, and I will generally play any sort of management game - hell, Championship Manager is what got me watching soccer. I highly recommend getting the 1983 scenario for TEW05. Who hasn't dreamed of being head writer for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling?

3. CHIKARA. Thanks to the Internet, I can watch footage of CHIKARA, a Philadelphia-based promotion that lives up to my personal creed, namely, wrestling should be fun. How fun is CHIKARA? Well, let's see.

• CHIKARA is home to the Osirian Portal, an Ancient Egyptian tag team with fantastic talent. Watch the signature moves of Amasis, the Funky Pharoah, and Ophidian, the Venomous and Vile Serpent from the Nile. (The Duat Driver is the best finisher since the Hangman DDT that I used as my finisher back in WWF No Mercy for N64.)

• "Wait," you may be asking. "Was Amasis just wrestling a guy with a Nintendo controller on his tights?" Yes, that's Player Uno of the Super Smash Brothers. He's been known to use Koopa shells and fatalities. Watch Delirious get under his skin here.

• And what about Los Ice Creams, the wrestling ice-cream cones? Problems arise when they face the lactose-intolerant Colin Olsen.

• Then check out Darkness Crabtree, wrestling octogenarian, in a series of matches against time-traveling knight Lance Steel. (Note: Lance Steel would later form a tag team with… Lance Steel, another time-traveling version of himself.)

• But what is a knight without a dragon to fight?

• If you're a fan of extreme-style wrestling, you'll enjoy the occasional grenade-throwing at CHIKARA matches.

• If you prefer serious technicians, you might enjoy Claudio Castagnoli.

I've only scratched the CHIKARA surface, but beneath it you'll find evil space mantises, patriotic gorillas, sea monsters, impromptu kicking lessons, and spontaneous dance-offs. All the things wrestling should be.

Friday, August 7, 2009

...and a Divorce Tip

Before you get divorced, make sure you are married.

Marriage Tip from the Divorce Lawyer

Hot tip for those of you who are thinking of getting married:

Make sure that you are not currently married to someone else.

In my four months as a divorce lawyer, I have handled two marriages that were annulled due to bigamy and one case where the client took a deal that wasn't necessarily in her best interest in order to finish her divorce before her wedding date.

I know it's no fun to be single, especially if you're a needy person like so many of us are, but you might think about just not dating anyone between the time you separate and the date you get divorced. The opposite sex will still be there when you get your decree.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The only place in the world where I'm a Humane Internationalist is putting together a survey of what will destroy America. I encourage you to participate.

The above-mentioned Humane Internationalist rating is probably because I think that America will be destroyed largely by Americans and the rest of the world will outlive America (if not necessarily in good shape).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Professionalism in Action

A local family law attorney, who shall remain nameless, uses a picture of Babs Bunny from "Tiny Toon Adventures" on the "About Me" page of her firm's web site.

Those of you with sharp pattern recognition skills may be saying to yourselves, "I bet this is the part where he says what would be worse, and then says what he would've done instead." Give yourselves a pat on the back.

What Would Be Worse: Tweety Bird with "attitude." I don't know when or why Tweety Bird became a mascot for the extremely obese, and yet it happened.

What I Would've Done Instead: Animated .GIF of Don Music banging his head on the keyboard. (Big Ups to you if you can find this .GIF somewhere.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sliming nostalgia

Les Lye, who played every adult character on "You Can't Do That On Television," died Tuesday in Ottawa. (Which is a sensible alternative to living in Ottawa. RIM SHOT!)

This is the time when a lot of my readers will think to themselves, "Man, 'You Can't Do That On Television' was awesome!" Those readers are advised not to watch any clips of the show on Youtube if they want their memories to remain fond.

I clearly remember one female cast member being the frequent butt of fat jokes. That's fine and dandy in grown-up shows with grown-up casts: after all, once you turn 18, you should be aware that the world is full of people who will say mean things about you for their own amusement, whether you deserve them or not. However, a different standard applies to preteens*. Especially if the show's writers were adults. Perhaps the show was in worse taste than it intended to be.

*Every time I write "preteens" I get an excuse to link to "Pre-Teen World," from a much funnier Canadian sketch comedy show.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Options to replace the retiring Car Czar

• The Car Pope
• The Car Commissar
• The Car Shogun
• The Car Junta
• The Car Archon
• The Car Ayatollah
• The Car Lawgiver
• Il Duce delle Automobili
• His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Car Administrator, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Cars of the Highway and Trucks of the Road, and Conqueror of the Automotive Market in General and America in Particular
• Lord Humungus

Thursday, July 9, 2009

But things are still going well for Empire Man and Menards Guy

If you haven't spent substantial time in the Midwest or watched a lot of WGN, then the name Bob Rohrman probably doesn't mean much to you. But if you are a member of one of those demographics, you read the name "Bob Rohrman" and thought, "Hey, Bob ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHRman of used car commercial fame!"

Well, Bob of used car commercial fame became suspicious that his wife was seeing another guy, and he's resorted to the archaic remedy of suing the other man for alienation of affection. This is the sort of suit you might have won before 1950 or so, but I would be shocked if he got his money's worth for this lawsuit.

I think Bob knows this. Many divorcing people think that a divorce order is supposed to be a judicial order that proclaims that you are a good person and your ex is a bad person, and they're willing to pay extra to make a futile attempt at getting such an order. Of course, in most occasions, if you're blowing through money in a futile attempt to get vengeance, that may, in fact, make you... a bad person.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Not news per se, but I missed it in '02

Science has taken another step towards creating birds that don't sing until a reasonable hour and mosquitos that choke on human blood: they've developed goats that produce spider silk.

The method by which they do it has a lot of potential for pornographic parody filmmakers.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Photos: Reno

I went to Reno with the rollergirls and here are the pictures I took.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A human tragedy

Now that Michael Jackson is allegedly dead, it's time for every pundit to reflect What Went Wrong. My theory: surrounded by syncophants all his life who continually took advantage of him, he overreacted to criticism and sought to hide beneath an ever-changing face, among the children he thought he could trust. But I'm probably wrong. All I know is that he's one of the few musical artists ever to make truly effective use of the orchestra hit.

Why not watch "Louis, Martin, and Michael," Louis Theroux's documentary on Jackson (which ends up being more about the people who have made Jackson what he was)?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Megachurches reek of awesomeness!

I'm almost tempted to move to Minnesota just so I can join the Edge Christian Worship Center.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I'm sure the correct answer can be found in "Clash of the Titans"

Legend has it that Perseus killed Medusa by getting himself a mirrored shield, and instead of looking at Medusa directly during the fight, he looked at her reflection in the shield.

I have no idea how this worked logistically.

If Perseus held the shield in front of him like most warriors held their shields, he probably wouldn't have been able to see much of the reflection (unless the shield was constructed of some metal that was designed to reflect up, a la black patent leather shoes).

Maybe he had a segmented shield, with various panels at various angles causing a series of reflections that would render Medusa visible. Of course, that shield probably wouldn't do him much good in combat.

The only other option I can think of is that Perseus walked backwards towards Medusa while holding the shield up over his head at an angle, like when you're trying to see the back of your head with a hand mirror and a bathroom mirror, and then when he got real close, he closed his eyes, spun around with his sword drawn, and slashed Medusa in half. This plan would fail spectacularly if Medusa was capable of any sort of fighting apart from her curse powers.

I think the "Medusa saw her own reflection and turned herself to stone" variation of the myth was designed to compensate for that narrative shortcoming.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I bet they have nightmares of the bird from the Trans Am hood decal attacking them

Do you remember visiting Grandma's house and finding her closet full of old boxes and coffee cans? Do you remember how she asked you to remove the wrapping paper on your Christmas presents very carefully so that she could re-use the paper next year?

Do you sometimes wonder what would happen if Grandma applied her Depression-fostered thrift to her car?

She'd probably post at Ecomodder, where the Bizarro "Big Daddy" Roths go to soup down their cars in an overzealous pursuit of gas mileage.

"But isn't that a laudable goal?" you ask. I guess you haven't clicked on the link yet, have you? Check their "65+ Vehicle modifications for better fuel economy," where you can learn how to drive happily without power steering, rearview mirrors, windshield wipers, or alternators.

Or perhaps you could benefit from one of their "100+ hypermiling / ecodriving tips to increase gas mileage." Here's one I'll be sure to try:

25) Pick up cargo "high", deliver "low"

If possible, shop at stores that are higher in elevation than your home. That way the extra weight you pick up (shopping items) is on board for the descending return leg where it's less of a penalty than it would be on an ascending return leg.

Maybe if crunchy-haired freegan chicks are your thing, then it's all worthwhile, but I think most guys would prefer the redheaded hot rod honey in fishnet stockings. (Me? I drive a Buick. I attract women over 35 like nobody's business.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

You never listen!

On the other hand, maybe fun isn't what you're looking for on your computer. Maybe awkwardness is more your thing. In that case, I've got stuff for you, too.

For one, check out Facade, which takes ELIZA technology in the opposite direction. In ELIZA, a computerized psychologist tried to help you. In Facade, you're a guest at Trip and Grace's place during a very uncomfortable marital spat. If you enjoyed watching Jan and Michael's dinner party on "The Office," this is going to be right up your alley. (Or if you're a bastard who likes to throw gasoline on the fire.)

For two, visit the Australian National University's Moodgym, the interactive cognitive behavioral therapist. I don't know much about CBT, and from what I've seen in the program, there are some elements which I think are wrong (it's supposed to get you to stop using "biased interpretations" of events, but aren't all interpretations biased?) but you can't beat the price, and if even one of you starts to improve your life because of something I linked, my blog will be more important than 94% of all other blogs in the universe.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Game Over? You're damn right Salieri's over

Due to league restructuring, my roller derby practices have been cut back, so I'm left with more free time and nothing to do during that free time. Thank goodness for free games on the Internet, eh?

For one, the classic Truck Dismount is now available for Mac. This is a fantastic timewaster and I highly recommend it to those of you who need to entertain children ages 5 to 10. Plot summary: stick man, truck, two ramps, wall. Drive truck into wall and hurt stick man.

For two, I've stumbled upon Extreme Warfare Revenge, the world's greatest pro wrestling booking simulator. Time to play out that Goldust/Tajiri feud I've been dreaming of!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

America the Beautiful, Breakfast Served All Day

I would never start up a Perkins restaurant, given that my food-preparation skills are markedly deficient.

However, if I were to start up a Perkins restaurant, I would try very hard to find a location next to a car dealership, just to say "My American flag is bigger than your American flag."

Both businesses would probably throw millions of dollars into patriotic one-upmanship until he had a full-sized replica of Arlington National Cemetary out back and I constructed a Hall of Animatronic Cabinet Secretaries.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You donated that thing? You're braver than I thought

Hey, thanks to whoever it was who donated the Millennium Falcon to the Family Justice Center playroom.

Thanks on behalf of the kids, of course.

Because they'll be the ones playing with it.

Not me.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Anybody going to Korea any time soon?

If so, then please pick up one of these for me.

Update: Now re-hosted.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Now I just need to write the rest of the novel

I think if I ever write a novel, no matter what it is about, there will be a scene where one character beats another up using a copy of "I'm OK, You're OK."

(No, this is not a fact pattern from one of my cases.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Because my readers are font nerds and Achewood fans

The creator of Comic Sans defends himself.

Part of his presentation shows the Portuguese national basketball team with Comic Sans jerseys. If I were a Portuguese basketball player, I'd consider defecting.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stick to a successful formula

All the "House" fans are going crazy right now speculating how they'll run the show with Dr. House in a mental hospital.

Here's my idea: the team has to break him out of the hospital every week to solve cases, then return him without anyone noticing.

Also, Dr. Cuddy should be mad about this and chase the team around whenever they do this.

Also, the patients should start arranging for care by meeting with Dr. Taub, who is in disguise.

Also, Dr. Foreman should be afraid to fly and they have to drug his milk whenever they fly.

Also, they should start a mobile diagnostic unit out of a van, preferably a black one with a red stripe.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Went to Berkeley in the 60s. Did a little too much LDS.

There's going to be a Rock Band Star Trek promo. I think this will involve "Bitter Dregs" and the space hippie song and "Life Forms" and the fight music and the Doctor's version of "La Donna e Mobile." And if you win the challenge, you can unlock a guitar shaped like That Rock.

I am relieved that Captain Kirk is still from Iowa. He's also an instructor in hand-to-hand combat: does that mean we'll get to see the legendary Starfleet two-fisted hammer blow?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Well, *I* thought it was profound.

Normally, a short update like this would go on my Facebook status, but I thought this was a clever enough phrase to appear in a slightly less ephemeral format.

The supreme law of the land isn't the Constitution. It's the law of unintended consequences.

(Don't believe me? Remind me sometime to tell you the story about how the Ottoman Empire caused the American health care system.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Some ways to leave your lover Paul Simon didn't mention

Flee from the state, Kate
Leave no forwarding address, Jess
Slip her a dose of arsenic, Nick
Wait for the extinction of the human race, Chase
Spend more time with your model railway, Jay
Replace your entire wardrobe with faded Spider-Man t-shirts, Mert
Come down with catatonia, Sonya
Try to make a difference in Palestine, Caroline
Tell her you aren't going to sacrifice your dignity by getting a job, Bob
Stop taking your Thorazine, Jean
Escape this dying planet in a space ark, Mark
Start hitting on girls on Ventrilo, Joe
Go stalk your ex, Rex
Become morbidly obese, Denise
Post on your Myspace pretending to be a friend whom you instructed to tell the world that you'd secretly been dying of a mysterious disease for months and didn't tell anybody because you didn't want to hurt them and you passed away in your sleep last night at the hospital and "I LUV U" was the last thing you said, Ned

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n Fruity is out of the question

Yesterday I had lunch at Denny's, and I finally decided that my desire to have a sourdough scrambled egg and ham sandwich outweighed my lifelong aversion to having to say the words "Moons Over My Hammy." (Don't ask how a guy who can perform a racy drag routine and who gets knocked on his ass weekly by rollergirls who are at least fifty pounds smaller than he is can be too embarrassed to do anything, much less order something at a restaurant.)

The secret was to say it very quickly and kinda sorta drop the "h." Also, I was eating alone. If I'd had a friend there, I probably would've just ordered an omelet.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I don't remember this happening in "1984"

So Fiji's new military government is trying to prevent the newspapers from talking about politics. Fijian newspapers, driven by their desire to fulfill their public duty to bring them the news that matters, have devoted themselves to presenting apolitical news.

I don't know how the Pulitzers work, but I think the Fiji Daily Post deserves one for its hard-hitting reports on paint drying, men getting on buses, and staff breakfasts.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jaysus, Mary an' Joseph

I have never met an actual Irish person. I have been in the same room as one, and I have met many Americans who identify as Irish even though they couldn't tell you what a taoiseach is* or what the best Irish band is**.

I suppose that if I ever get an Irish friend (and before anyone out there objects that I don't drink enough to make any Irish friends - I'm looking at you, Mr. Linnan - you should remember that De Valera rarely drank either), the time will come when I will ask said Irish friend, "What is about your heritage that is such a magnet for goddamned..."

...and here's where the problem comes in. I can't really make a proper description of the kind of sad bastard American who gloms onto Irish mythology without using a word that is also a slur against gays. Frankly, the gays I know tend to have too much taste to get involved in robe-wearing forest-romping pennywhistle-tootling nonsense, so when I say that Irish heritage is a magnet for goddamned fruitiness, I mean that in a totally non-homophobic (and non-Hibernophobic) fashion.

Take, for instance, the world of Winter Rose, who has decided that she's some kind of unholy combination of "Garden State" and "The Black Cauldron." Her home page is a little like that of your average teenager with a "You Laugh Because I'm Different, I Laugh Because You're The Same" bumper sticker, but the more you read of the "Blessed Solstice" and "Immortal Beloveds" and "Current *Pretties* Rose Covets," the more bumper stickers appear on the car you envision her driving. By the time you start reading her embedded Livejournal, her Passat is shrouded in half-illegible fonts proclaiming "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" and "Blessed Be" and maybe even "For the Horde!"

By the time you read "Musings Upon My Faerie Blood And Traits....." you will, if you have not had your spleen removed and all negativity washed away from you, feel your eyes narrowing and the corners of your mouth tightening. Don't believe me? Try this on for size.

So As A Whole, I'm Selkie, BeanSidhe, LeananSidhe, Rusalka, And Gwragedd Annwn/Vila....... Strongly Tied To Sirens, Mermaids, Naiads, And Kitsune........

I Have A Very Deep Connection With Shape~Shifting *Faerie Bride* Maidens.......

Selkies {Seal Maidens} Valkyrie {Swan Maidens} Kitsune {Fox Maidens}
And Also Shapeshifting Deer Maidens

My Patron Goddesses: Blodeuwedd, Cliodna And Fand Are All Faerie~Bride Shapeshifters.......

I Also Have A Powerful Affinity For Vampires And Ghosts {Especially Spectral Maidens/Ladies}

They Seem To Actually Seek Me Out!

And Last, But Never Least, I *KNOW* That I'm Elven.......Something About The Elvish Languages And Culture Totally Captures Me! I Am Obsessed With Tolkien And Convinced That There's More Fact Than Fiction In His Works! I Feel An Extremely Deep Connection To Elven Princesses.......Especially Melian, Lúthien And Arwen.......

If you are like me and use the Internet as an opportunity to become the bully you never got to be in high school, then perhaps you'll be willing to move on to her entry in National Novel Writing Month, entitled "BeanSidhe's Wail." It appears to be some kind of goddamn fanfiction for her goddamn Renfaire choir full of goddamn freaks using "elegant" Irish names like Moira and Rowena and Cerys (they're never Bláthnaid or Gormflaith or Dearbháil) who are also goddamn fairies who were the goddamn inspiration for everything every brilliant artist ever did (I am going to try that sometime and say that one of my ancestors is the real genius behind the "Washington Post March"). Every time she writes something like "Enchantment" or "Shimmering" or "Magick" I feel like a leprechaun is smacking me in my temples with a shillelagh***.

So, Ireland, I bear you no ill will, but you're really going to have to do something about these losers or else you'll soon find me marching the streets on St. Patrick's Day wearing a Rangers kit and a giant medallion of Oliver Cromwell.

*it's the Prime Minister
**it's Thin Lizzy
***spelled correctly on the first try - who's Irish now, you narcissistic loon?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Putting the "God" in "Godawful"

In his review of "Manos Hands of Fate," Keith Ellison of Teleport City explains the appeal of cult films.

"...cult films are the place you can go and be taken by surprise, to see something completely outside of the expected. We watch these films for the thrill of discovery, for the joy of witnessing something that would not be done in any other film, by any more talented and predictable filmmaker. Cult films are the places where true vision and madness find free reign, unfettered by industry and commercial training. In that freedom, yokels like me find great entertainment. Manos appeals to me because it is so wrong, because it is so unlike what any of us expect from a movie. It is the breath of fresh air in a stale environment full of movies in which damaged, quirky people try to reconnect and cold, disillusioned suburbanites struggle for feeling in a sterile environment. In an industry laden with clumsy messages and delusions of importance, the utterly baffling nonsense of Manos has more to say to me than any dreary lesson taught to me by a more competent film."

Why have I just quoted this block of text? Because I have recently encountered a trailer for a film that I believe is so incompetent, so head-scratchingly baffling, that if it wasn't for the shadow world of Christian film (motto: "We don't have to try real hard on this, so long as we're moral") then I don't know how it would ever be made.

Behold! "C Me Dance," from Uplifting Entertainment. It's the story of a ballerina who gets cancer (that's uplifting?) with "Law & Order" titles superimposed over her life, and then AAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA WTF.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Challenge!

Today I encountered the phrase "Malibu Sprinkles."

Your Monday Challenge is: In what context did I encounter the phrase "Malibu Sprinkles?"

(also, if you didn't get the memo, Treasure Valley Rollergirls, streaming LIVE from the Qwest Arena in DOWN-TOWN Boise tomorrow night at 7pm MDT. Link's here.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ben Silverman, watch your back

New brilliant idea for a TV show:

Reality TV competition genre, a la "The Apprentice" and "Hell's Kitchen."

The prize: a job at an art studio (or a scholarship to a prestigious art school)

The competitors: popular DeviantArtists.

I know I've picked on DeviantArt recently, but that was before I discovered this hilarious incident in which one of DeviantArt's most popular artists ventured into a forum for professional artists and flipped out at any sign of criticism.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Except it was in the rain

This right here is a pretty good depiction of how I suspect I looked while walking home today after learning that I finally got a job.

Now I can start thinking about things I need to spend money on, like furniture and CLE credits and new wheels for my skates and a new computer and USARS and a real mattress and a new vacuum...

Monday, March 30, 2009

This is my "A" material

I think that if you have a spaceship and you're flying around and somebody shows up and holds you up at laserpoint and steals your spaceship, it should be called a "starjacking."

Because it rhymes with "carjacking."

…I'll show myself out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Musical hypothesis

The awesomeness of a band that shares its name with a geographical location varies inversely with the population of said region.


1. Boston, pop. 574,283
2. Kansas, pop. 2,688,418
3. Chicago, pop. 2,836,658
4. Alabama, pop. 4,447,100
5. Europe, pop. 731,000,000
6. Asia, pop. 4,050,404,000

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sandpoint in one piece

I went back to Sandpoint for another job interview, and this time I didn't crash my car (because I didn't take it). Photos here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

For maximum effect, imagine this post presented by a bland enthusiastic white Floridian

How many times has this happened to you? You're packing for a trip, and you've got everything ready to go, you've found room in your bags for all your clothes and all the kids' toys and your magazines, and then you realize:

"I JUST don't have ROOM for my TOOTHBRUSH!!! AAAAAUGH!" [staged chuckle of empathy]

Well, now you can replace that bulky nightmare of a toothbrush you've been using with a slim, svelte, fashionable TRAVEL TOOTHBRUSH!

Yes, the fabulous Travel Toothbrush, developed by the scientists at the Toothbrush Institute, has a revolutionary design that allows it to shrink from four inches long when in use to a mere two inches when in storage! WOW! That's two inches of room you can use for all your other travel essentials! And here's the best part - it doesn't cost any more than a regular toothbrush! Can you believe it? A miracle of science!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Of course it's from Japan

If you are a big fan of 2D fighting games a la Street Fighter II, and if you are a big fan of Broadway musicals, then perhaps you'd like Arm Joe, the 2D fighting game based on "Les Miserables." And yes, there's a download link.

Above: I think this is Eponine using her fire-summoning attack on Marius. You go, girl!

If anyone else is inclined to turn musicals into fighting games, may I humbly suggest "West Side Story?" ("Press X to snap fingers!")

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shouldn't affect Garry Trudeau

While I am generally in favor of giving greater power to state legislatures and less power to the federal government, I am under no illusion that it will lead to better law-making. All legislatures are capable of incredibly stupid acts. But the beauty of federalism is that every state is free to be incredibly stupid in its own way. Can you imagine an America where we all had to abide by Oregon's Communist gas-pumping laws?

Idaho's legislative stupidity has ranged from a Basque homeland resolution that sparked an international incident (sponsored by Boise's current mayor) to a proposed bill that would have allowed for the instantaneous firing of any teacher who said it was OK to be gay. (The AG's office said it was "virtually certain that the bill would be the subject of protracted and costly litigation. Oh, really?)

Iowa is getting into the act with House Bill 229, a bill which would prohibit distribution of campaign materials that contain cartoons or photographs of opposing candidates, or from discussing prior votes of the candidate on bills that passed with the approval of the other party. Says the bill:
"It is not the intent of the general assembly to lessen political debate that furthers the ability of the public to understand the issues and positions of candidates for public office."
Of course not: and such an act could never be discriminatorily enforced to give the majority party an advantage in elections, I'm sure.

And then there's Connecticut's "Henry VIII Act," which would replace the temporal powers of Catholic bishops with boards of directors.

Friday, March 6, 2009

This is going to be worse than the FedEx arrow

I went 27 years (24 of them in Iowa) before I took a good look at the Iowa state flag...

...and thought, "Wait, what happened to the eagle's feet?"

Don't turn this courtroom into a circus

It's too bad CourtTV isn't around any more, because I'd like to see a case featuring Philadelphia's Steven Leventhal, who is both a lawyer and a magician illusionist. His act is well-enough known that at least one opposing counsel has moved the court for an order to prevent him from doing any magic tricks in front of the jury. Mr. Leventhal's reply can be found here, and is an example of the collegiality frequently found in big-city practice:

Taking away the undersigned's unique style of litigating in a sophomoric attempt at leveling the litigation playing field would be as ridiculous as the undersigned filing a motion in Limine requesting that plaintiff's counsel be ordered to refrain from wearing pants at time of trial.

Can't get enough of lawyers and their magic acts? Try this one.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A game for the stout of heart

This game has been going on at the SA forums for a few weeks now, and I've decided to share it with both of my readers.

The rules:
Go to Deviantart and enter any two-word English phrase in the search bar. You win the game if your result:
a) returns more than 10 hits
b) contains no furries
c) contains no anime/manga/generally Japanese-lookin' cartoons


"wells fargo" = LOSE
Image Hosted by

"pre-raphaelite brotherhood" = LOSE
Image Hosted by

"russian tennis" = LOSE
Image Hosted by

"social alienation" = LOSE
Image Hosted by

"calcium atom" = WIN!

Monday, February 23, 2009

What is James Earl Ray's major malfunction?

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

I know this quote is supposed to inspire me in a no-man-is-an-island, one-world, feed-the-children, let's-pitch-in-'n-get-cracking-here-in-Louisiana-doing-right-eh sort of way, but it strikes me as more of the universal equivalent of boot camp: whenever Private Pyle fucks up, the rest of us are doing push-ups.

It does, however, allow me to deflect criticism away from myself. From now on, if anybody asks why I'm unemployed, I'll use the "interrelated structure of reality" to blame it on some thirty-eight-year-old in Winnipeg with a fedora and a dragon shirt who got canned from Gamestop after unleashing a tirade of curses on a kid who beat him at Super Smash Bros. Melee. Or possibly on Raul Mondesi.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Create Your Own Dubuquer Name

Your Dubuquer name is:

(note that your Dubuquer name does not become official until it is inscribed on a brick or a stained-glass window at St. Raphael's, St. Mary's, St. Patrick's, St. Anthony's, Sacred Heart, or St. Columbkile's)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Salieri Reads Literature

Most of you are aware (or could probably guess) that I read a lot. Almost everything I read is non-fiction. I think it's because I'm not very good at suspending disbelief. When reading fiction, I don't imagine the characters, living and struggling and loving: I imagine the authors, telegraphing plot points and fleshing out their outlines. Nevertheless, I decided to give some Real Literature a chance, instead of my usual diet of history and reference. Here are the results.

Flashman, George MacDonald Fraser
"I take some pride when I think back to that moment; while the others started forward instinctively to aid McNaghten, I alone kept my head. This was no place for Flashman..."
Harry Flashman (not to be confused with Flash Man) is a drunken bully who gets kicked out of Rugby in 1839. With nothing else to do, he buys a commission in the Royal Army, and begins his meteoric rise, in which he serves in practically every military conflict of the 19th century and distinguishes himself with his cowardice, cruelty, and whoring. The first book covers his service in Afghanistan, and I don't think I'll be reading the rest of them. "Flashman" gets its comedy from its situations, and I prefer authors who make the words funny.

Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh
"I thought we were all driving round and round in a motor race and none of us could stop, and there was an enormous audience composed entirely of gossip writers and gate crashers and Archie Schwert and people like that, all shouting at us at once to go faster, and car after car kept crashing until I was left all alone driving and driving - and then I used to crash and wake up."
Our hero, Adam Fenwick-Symes, is a writer who's looking for enough money to marry the aristocratic Nina Blount. They drift from extravagant party to extravagant party as their social circle of Bright Young Things shrinks. I'd read Waugh's short stories before, and the most striking thing about his style is that his protagonists are practically blank slates. They don't talk much, and we never hear their thoughts. It's strange and alienating, but once you get used to it, his books are entertaining (but watch out for occasional racism).

I, Claudius and Claudius the God, Robert Graves
"This is a confidential history. But who, it may be asked are my confidants? My answer is: it is addressed to posterity."
Emperor Claudius leaves an account of the events from the establishment of the Empire to his reign (in "I, Claudius") and the events of his reign (in "Claudius the God"). Graves makes use of one of my least favorite narrative devices, the prophecy. It's the clumsiest form of foreshadowing ever invented, and when the Sibyl tells Claudius that his story will be heard "some nineteen hundred years from now," I rolled my eyes. That said, "Claudius the God" is the better book. "I, Claudius" is plagued by Livia, the invincible villainess, whose inevitable victories drag the plot down. "Claudius the God" features Herod Agrippa, whom Graves portrays as a kind of ancient Jewish Han Solo - and really, any book could use a Han Solo type.

Prejudices, 1st Series by H.L. Mencken
Okay, Mencken's not really literature so much as he's a literature critic, but his criticism is full of what I like to see in writing - zingers. Try some of these on for size:
• On Vachel Lindsay: "…his elephantine college yells have ceased to be amusing."
• On Ezra Pound: "Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."
• On Thorsten Veblen: "The learned professor gets himself enmeshed in his gnarled sentences like a bull trapped by barbed wire, and his efforts to extricate himself are quite as furious and spectacular… at times he seems to be at the point of yelling for the police."
• On America: "Our function, we choose to believe, is to teach and inspire the world. We are wrong. Our function is to amuse the world."
He's also a good guide to authors you may not have heard of. He pointed me to George Ade, whose "Fables in Slang" is kind of a predecessor to James Thurber's modern fables. And it's a great window into the past - especially when you see Mencken argue very seriously against democracy.

Uncle Tungsten, Oliver Sacks
"'The sound of tungsten,' Uncle Dave would say, 'nothing like it.'"
Again, not strictly fiction: it's a strange combination of memoir (Dr. Sacks, growing up in a family of scientists in the UK in the 30s through the 50s - the titular uncle runs a light bulb manufacturer) and chemistry textbook (the stories of famous scientists and their experiments, many of which inspired the young Oliver). If you liked Mr. Wizard, you'll probably like this book.

Petropolis, Anya Ulinich
"Just under the buildings' cornices, meter-high red letters spelled: GLORY TO THE, SOVIET ARMY, BRUSH TEETH, AFTER EATIN, WELCOME TO, ASBESTOS-2, and MODEL TOWN! Whoever painted the slogans had been less concerned with their meaning than with the finite number of bricks in each facade."
Our heroine this time is Sasha Goldberg, a black Jew from Siberia. Her father snuck away to America many years ago, and she becomes a mail-order bride and goes in search of him. As far as I can tell, the portrait of Siberia is genuine, and the portrait of the immigrant experience is genuine, but the book starts to run off the rails as soon as Sasha arrives in Chicago. There's no way an immigration lawyer makes enough money to support the lifestyle the one in the book does, and the romantic subplot just plain sucks.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Download your way to word power

A recent trip to Project Gutenberg uncovered a 1919 book entitled "Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases: A Practical Handbook Of Pertinent Expressions, Striking Similes, Literary, Commercial, Conversational, And Oratorical Terms, For The Embellishment Of Speech And Literature, And The Improvement Of The Vocabulary Of Those Persons Who Read, Write, And Speak English."

I was tempted to keep this a secret, because if I didn't, I'd be able to fill the blog with lightning phrases, as if shot from the quiver of infallible wisdom, and you wouldn't know the difference. But now, whenever you see such a phrase, you'll be able to look to the source to determine if it was the product of a cunning intellect patiently diverting every circumstance to its design, or whether I made it up.

I especially recommend the "Public Speaking Phrases." If you're ever writing historical fiction about a turn-of-the-century politician, make sure to use many of these phrases; if you're writing any of your own essays or speeches, it's a great example of what not to do.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

DeNardo Update

Many of you, including long-time readers of this blog, may have heard me tell the tale of Daniel DeNardo, Alaska's one-man frivolous litigation factory. Check this post if you need a refresher on his attempt to blow up the world.

I looked into recent Alaska Supreme Court cases today, and yet another DeNardo decision came down on January 30. DeNardo v. Maassen is, like so many of his cases, a sequel to previous litigation. In an earlier case, DeNardo presented the theory that if your neighbor smokes, your apartment is uninhabitable and your neighbor and the landlord have both committed battery against you. Didn't work. Case dismissed. Affirmed on appeal.

Naturally, the only way Dan DeNardo can lose a case is if his opponent lies, so he brought another suit, naming the same defendants, plus their lawyers and the judge, accusing them of things like notary fraud (a DeNardo favorite). The most unique argument is that because landlords have to go through a court-supervised eviction process, landlords can be sued under the Civil Rights Act.

No points for guessing the outcome of this case.

Incidentally, DeNardo ran for the House this past election cycle, and took to YouTube to present his case for election. Go here to find out all about the kommunist kriminal konspiracy that's dominating Alaska politics and how Anchorage's sister city in Siberia is really a front for the treasonous lawyers to sell the state out to the Russians (or something).

(p.s. I haven't seen DeNardo file any defamation actions, but if you're reading this, Dan, I'm judgment-proof.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Stand back, this could be dangerous!

Yesterday a friend of mine said he'd been rummaging around my Facebook photo page and found the picture of The Atomic Attorney.

He wanted to know the backstory. I confessed that I hadn't thought of one. I hadn't really intended the character to be anything more than a stylized representation of me. But, at his request, I've come up with one.

The Atomic Attorney is F. Lee Sokolove, formerly an employment attorney for the U.S. Department of Energy. He was assigned to defend a lawsuit against the Department by former employees who had been exposed to radiation and had developed unpleasant superpowers. In the course of handling thousands of mildly irradiated documents from the plaintiffs, Sokolove himself developed the powers of teleportation and precognition.

Leaving the DoE, Sokolove entered private practice, where he uses his powers to get to the scene of accidents before the ambulance does. He also teleports into the secret lairs of villains to uncover their secret identities and expose them to civil liability.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

...and the French are the engineers

Car Models Since 1980, Sold In The U.S., With Names Designed To Sound Like They're From A Romance Language (French/Italian/Spanish)
Aerio (Suzuki)
Alero (Oldsmobile)
Allante (Cadillac)
Altima (Nissan)
Amanti (Kia)
Amigo (Isuzu)
Armada (Nissan)
Aveo (Chevrolet)
Azera (Hyundai)
Baja (Subaru)
Beretta (Chevrolet)
Bonneville (Pontiac)
Bravada (Oldsmobile)
Cabrio (Volkswagen)
Cabriolet (Audi)
Calais (Oldsmobile)
Capri (Mercury)
Caprice (Chevrolet)
Catera (Cadillac)
Cayenne (Porsche)
Ciera (Oldsmobile)
Concorde (Chrysler)
Cordoba (Chrysler)
Corolla (Toyota)
Corrado (Volkswagen)
Corsica (Chevrolet)
Cressida (Toyota)
Del Sol (Honda)
DeVille (Cadillac)
Diamante (Mitsubishi)
Durango (Dodge)
Elantra (Hyundai)
Eldorado (Cadillac)
Festiva (Ford)
Forenza (Suzuki)
Grand Marquis (Mercury)
Grand Prix (Pontiac)
Grand Vitara (Suzuki)
Hombre (Isuzu)
Impreza (Subaru)
Integra (Acura) (and, indeed, Acura itself)
LaCrosse (Buick)
LeBaron (Chrysler)
Leganza (Daewoo)
LeMans (Pontiac)
LeSabre (Buick)
Loyale (Subaru)
Lumina (Chevrolet)
Maxima (Nissan)
Milan (Mercury)
Millenia (Mazda)
Monaco (Dodge)
Montego (Mercury)
Monterey (Mercury)
Montero (Mitsubishi)

keep reading, there's a point to this

Murano (Nissan)
Nubira (Daewoo)
Optima (Kia)
Paseo (Toyota)
Passat (Volkswagen)
Previa (Toyota)
Protege (Mazda)
Quattro (Audi)
Reatta (Buick)
Rendezvous (Buick)
Riviera (Buick)
Santa Fe (Hyundai)
Sedona (Kia)
Sentra (Nissan)
Seville (Cadillac)
Sienna (Toyota)
Solara (Toyota)
Sonata (Hyundai)
Sonoma (GMC)
Sorento (Kia)
Spectra (Kia)
Stanza (Nissan)
Supra (Toyota)
Tempo (Ford)
Terraza (Buick)
Toronado (Oldsmobile)
Vandura (GMC)
Veracruz (Hyundai)
Verona (Suzuki)
Versa (Nissan)
Vitara (Suzuki)

Cars Actually From A Romance-Language Nation (France, Italy, Spain) That Americans Would Consider Buying
Alfa Romeo

...maybe a Fiat, I guess. But you know what "Fiat" stands for, "Fixed Or Repaired Daily."

(note: "Chevrolet" may or may not count, as Monsieur Chevrolet was born in Switzerland, but grew up in France.)

More hits from the Mayor's Hotline


"Fireworks which have been a part of fireworks and social activity since ancient Asia, let alone here in this country for decades and decades into the last century. It’s not going to work. It’s just people being in control of other people. I understand because I study politics at Boise State. I have triple emphasis in the political science department there."

Fire truck give you a heart attack? Call the Law Offices of Craig Swapp.

"Mr. X called the office today to express his deep concern for the stress and nervousness that occurs when a fire truck is right behind you at an intersection with its sirens on and you are not in a position to move and get out of the way for them. He felt that is was very dangerous for seniors, like him, who may become so stressed that they may suffer from a heart attack or worse during those moments. He assured me he was fine and was strong enough to get through one of those moments but was concerned for others."

When ice rink employees go bad:

"I was at the Gowen Texaco Friday night, the 10th of November at about 12:30am getting gas. What appeared to be 2 zambonis, I’m assuming from Idaho Ice World, were coming down the road. They came into the parking lot and went through the drive through at Burger King. I’m very concerned as a taxpayer this is a huge misuse
of tax money."

The people prosper under the loving care of the fatherly leader.

"My comment is that Mayor Bieter, I would like to see you canonized right along with Mother Teresa. I just think you and your staff are doing such a terrific job. I noticed that during the holiday season how often you are the topic of conversation and the conversations always lack such good will and concern and compassion and fairness in this community. I just want to see that I think you are exemplary politician and what a stunning job you do to make this world a better place."

The City of Boise has a non-domestication policy.

"Where is the justice in this state? I’ve lived in this state my whole life and I’ve never seen a state like this. Everything goes to the women; all we ever hear on TV is domestic violence against women. What about men? I feel like I got domesticated against. This state is so screwed up and we brag about how good this state is, well it ain’t that good of a state."

The Mohammedans don't go 'round wavin' bells at us! We don't get Buddhists playin' bagpipes in our bathroom, or Hindus harmonizin' in the hall! The Shintoists don't go shatterin' sheepglass in the shithouse and shoutin' shlogans...

"My problem is that the Boise Depot bells are off. At midnight it rings 8 times; at 4:00 a.m. it rings 12 times, and at 9:00 it rings 5 times. Anyway, this is disrupting my sleep; it’s been going on for at lest three days, and I would like to have somebody do something about it. Thank you."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Thoughts on a visit to Idaho Falls

How can a city of 55,000 people have only three coffee shops? Hell, Moscow is half this size and has just as many.

Oh, wait...

"76.35% of the people in Idaho Falls, ID are religious, meaning they affiliate with a religion. 11.37% are Catholic; 9.25% are Protestant; 54.13% are LDS; 1.55% are another Christian faith; 0.00% in Idaho Falls, ID are Jewish; 0.05% are an eastern faith; 0.00% affilite with Islam."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This, on the other hand, requires no explanation

Great video... or greatest video?

The ferryman doesn't take American Express

When I heard there was a song called "Don't Pay The Ferryman," I reckoned that it had something to do with Charon, the legendary operator of the ferry across the river Styx, who demanded payment for his work. Surely, I thought, the song would bear some sort of life-affirming message, telling the listener not to give up on life (i.e. paying Charon) before time is up.

And then I heard the song, and my theory was thrown into shambles. The imagery is a little creepy, but is not explicitly connected with Charon - a guy on a quest hops the ferry, the ferryman demands his money because "there will be trouble ahead," and Chris De Burgh exhorts the listener not to pay until "he gets you to the other side." Perhaps the ferryman isn't supernatural after all. Maybe he's just a con artist, who takes you halfway across the river, gets his payment, then yells "Sucker!" and jumps off the boat, leaving you to drift onto the rocks and lose 3 oxen and a wagon tongue.

According to accepted canons of construction, doubts about a song's meaning can be resolved by the video. The video's setting appears to be Regency: there's an empty church with a bride in it, which would explain why the subject of the song has been waiting a lifetime for the journey. The ferryman is hooded and cloaked, but I have no idea if that was common during the 1810s. (I am pretty sure, though, that most people in this era did not have Steve Perry haircuts, nor did they emphasize dissent with the "pass incomplete" hand signal.)

The meaning of the song is not revealed until the last scene, in which the ferryman vanishes by means of jump-cut. Apparently, De Burgh has taken it upon himself to create a new bit of folklore. The ferryman is some kind of trickster ghost (but not Charon). He carries passengers across rivers, but as soon as he's paid, he disappears. Naturally, he tries to get people to pay him as soon as possible, so that they can be left to die on the river. But if you follow De Burgh's advice, you'll be safe.

Next week I'll analyze the Edgar Winter Group's unique take on Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hidden truths

Things that lead secret lives, according to the Internet:

• Badgers
• Dentists
• Catalysts
• Books
• Citizens
• Alien volcanoes
• Archie's wife
• Gingerbread men
• Hedge fund lawyers
• Demonic mirrors
• Servants in Niger
• Fonts
• British birds
• Otaku
• Goat parasites
• Manic depressives
• Unicode
• Lapland

(Not including bees, the American teenager, women, or Walter Mitty, as their secrets have become so well-known as to destroy their secrecy.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy new year

On Sunday I drove eight hours from my apartment in Boise to interview for a job in Sandpoint, ID. The interview took place on Monday morning, and on Monday afternoon I drove five hours back towards Boise. Then this happened.

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday wandering around La Grande, OR, waiting for a Greyhound that would take me (sans car, which is now probably gone forever) back to Boise.

And today I found out I didn't get the job.

So how was your week?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

When you're sick of browsing Wikipedia to kill time... what I do. Go to the U.K. newspaper of your choice and search for "Obituary." Click on any entry that contains a title of nobility. Find out what the idle and eccentric rich do with their lives. A sample from the obituary of Lady Rumbold:

...when Pauline was a girl of 15, her mother stood back, looked her only daughter up and down and declared: "I don't know how you're going to get through life with those legs."

Dylan Thomas often came to stay (the mantelpiece cleared of ornaments in anticipation of his visits).

Pauline, a natural linguist, never forgot the compliment a man in a Spanish café paid her, when he asked her to give him one of her eyelashes, so that he might make her a belt with it.

She did not consider that ordinary rules applied to her. Visiting the Cotswolds one winter, she was surprised to find all tea-shops shut by 3.30pm. Wanting a cup of tea at four o'clock, she simply walked into a darkened establishment and pressed the startled proprietor's arm: a tray was brought and the lights switched on. This was typical.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Possible future roles for Sean Penn

• Remake of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," in which he is dragged off the Senate floor by NSA goons halfway through his universal health care filibuster and imprisoned without a trial. He dies in prison and inspires a revolution.

• Gandhi, who also cares very much about global warming and abortion rights.

• The Liberation Theology version of Jesus.

Billy Jack.

• Special Edition of "Shanghai Surprise," with a CNN-style ticker at the bottom displaying the cost of the war in Iraq and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.