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
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"pre-raphaelite brotherhood" = LOSE
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"russian tennis" = LOSE
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"social alienation" = LOSE
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"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."