Monday, April 30, 2007

Turned Off

Energy-Savers a Turnoff for Wives

Apparently I'm the wife in this household.

I've often claimed that gay men are allergic to fluorescent light. As Kryptonite is to Superman, so fluorescence is to the homo. One of the first things I did when we bought this place was to rip down the huge fixture on the kitchen ceiling. Singlehandedly. I almost knocked myself out, but it was worth the risk because I was protecting us from a fate far uglier.

I know the planet's headed for disaster and this is a relatively easy step to take, but I hate the light from compact fluorescents. The engineers and marketers can boast all they want about advances; it's still a nasty, harsh, white light. Can't they coat the bulbs with yellow? Even pink would be an improvement.

If "only a man could have invented pantyhose," as my mom's been heard to grumble, then only a straight man could have come up with the compact fluorescent bulb. I'm coming along -- slowly -- but I wish they'd meet me halfway.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

God's House Has Many Names

I'm mildly intrigued by nonmainstream churches. The ones you glimpse out the car window as you pass through depressed downtowns and hopeless exurbs on your way to somewhere else. They tend to occupy storefronts in the former and shedlike industrial structures in the latter. Sometimes they don't have windows, which gives me the willies. The only thing they have in common is that their signs never contain the word Catholic or Presbyterian or any other familiar denomination. (Occasionally they're Baptist, but never of the garden variety.)

Who worships there, I wonder, and how can so many stay in business, especially without a central organization?

But my primary question, I confess, is a shallower one: Who names them? Six-year-olds? The clinically insane? Peyote-puffing parishioners? A lot of them just have too many words, often redundant, and some sound a bit like banks or dry cleaners.

One day, as I scanned the obits for unusual names, I began doing the same for houses of worship:

Seek and Save Baptist Church
Because He Lives Ministries
United House of Prayer for All People
Holy Christian Missionary Baptist Church for All People
Solid Rock Full Gospel Baptist Church
Touch of Love Bible Church
Jericho City of Praise
Newness of Life Bible Church
Faith Tabernacle United Holiness Church
Mission Temple Holiness Church
Integrity Church International
Free Gospel Deliverance Temple
New Rock Church of Fire
New Southern Rock Baptist Church
Beyond the Veil Worship Center
House of Prayer Church of God #1
From the Heart Church Ministries
First Church of Holiness
Church of the Great Commission
The Master's Touch Praise Ministries
Cornerstone Peaceful Bible Baptist Church
New Beginning Way of the Cross
Theocracy International Christian Center
Abundant Life United Holy Church
God's Universal Kingdom
Alive Gathering Ministries
Tried Stone Fire Baptized Holiness Church
Greater Triedstone Baptist Church
Shining Star Freewill Baptist Church
Truth, Righteousness and Love Ministries
Refuge Temple Church
Sword of the Spirit
New Homes Baptist Church
Edified Christian Ministries International
New Mt. Carmel Free Will Baptist Church
Rising Star Holy Temple Church
Solomon's Temple Holiness Church
First National Deliverance Center
New Born Church of God and True Holiness Church
Holy Temple Cathedral

Saturday, April 28, 2007

That's Why They Call It Discovery

Just now, while surfing, Dan happened upon the Discovery Channel's Dave Salmoni.

This guy could make me forget all about Jeff Corwin. Check out his video blog.

House of Horrors

Shiver me timbers! I just saw an ad touting the "plantation shudders" of a townhouse for sale. Which made me shudder -- and laugh out loud.

Not that I would ever generalize, but when it comes to property descriptions, the enthusiasm of real estate agents is matched only by their ignorance. More than the minor and major misstatements, it's the malapropisms that really get me. I've marveled several times at "palladium windows" and at least once at "parkay floors" (watch your step!), but plantation shudders might be my favorite yet.

Beyond Bridezilla

This made my head throb. I've heard of such people but thankfully haven't known any personally. If someone sent me their bridal portrait, they could expect to see it on the Internet, shockingly defaced.

Dear Amy:

Is it okay to send pictures of our bridal portraits to high school and college friends to let them know we are getting married, even though we cannot invite them to the reception?

We have a wedding Web site and we've sent links to our family and friends, inviting everyone to the ceremony. The reception is invitation-only.

Is it appropriate to keep updating our friends who are not invited to the reception about our wedding-related planning?

I feel that they would be interested and would like to know what's going on with the wedding planning, but I don't know if they are expecting to be invited to the reception or not, or how it would feel for them not to be invited when the time comes.

Wedding Wondering

I know that this is almost impossible to believe, but nobody is interested in your wedding planning. When you're closer to the finish line, you're not even going to be interested in it. Please. Spare people. If you want to update your Web site, then fine. People can check in if they're interested. But regular updates e-mailed to friends and family? Lord, no.

Traditionally, engaged couples announce their happy news in the newspaper. Presumably, you are using a mass e-mail to this same purpose. Because you are spreading the word of your engagement far and wide, you're going to have to be very clear on a continuing basis that your reception is "invitation only" but you'd like to have friends witness your wedding if they're interested in doing so.

Separate weddings and receptions do occur in various churches and cultures, but it is unusual these days, so you're going to have to continually assert this. Some people will not understand what you're doing and will feel put out. Even if you feel you've been very clear about your wishes, expect confusion.

Brides, grooms, please read the first line of the response as many times as necessary until you feel your perspective return. Assuming you had any to begin with.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Life Lessons

"If you really want to earn your man, you need to learn your man."

"I have a master's degree in being played by men, used by men...."

There is so much knowledge to be gained from public-access television.

State of the Blog

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I started the blog last fall, but I did have a few aims:

1. I wanted it to be a repository of items that interested, amused, and/or annoyed me. Posting them in one place would save me from forwarding them individually -- and you from drowning in email. The first part has worked out wonderfully; I post everything I want to -- unless it has a video attachment or too many photos, in which case I resort to email.

The second part hasn't been as successful. Without even a traffic counter, I have no idea how many visitors the blog gets, much less who they are. So I've been emailing more than I intended: "Hey! I just posted something funny. Go look."

2. As handwriting became impossible, phone calls grew very difficult, and even typing got challenging, this seemed a great way to stay in touch with people. A visit to the blog would provide a glimpse into the dark, sticky morass of my mind for anyone so inclined. This has worked from my end; as for you, I have no clue. Which leads me to:

3. I'd hoped the postings -- some of them, anyway -- would spark occasional dialogue, or at least a bit of feedback. Boy, was I wrong. Aside from a small handful of diligent correspondents, most of them old friends, there's been barely a peep. The exceptions -- posted comments, private emails, and face-to-face remarks -- are like springs in the desert. (You know who you are -- thanks!)

I know, I know -- you're busy. So is my friend with three rambunctious young kids. Also the one who's almost completely paralyzed. And the one whose chronic fatigue is so debilitating, she has to lie down after taking a shower. Yet somehow they all manage to check in periodically and say, "I loved the post on X. Have you checked out site Y? I think you'd enjoy it." Sarcasm notwithstanding, I'm resigned to reality.

Early on I tried to link to a subscription service, but it wasn't at all user friendly. Yesterday a friend turned me on to FeedBlitz, which is as easy as the old service wasn't. Free, too, and I believe you can add all your favorite sites.

When you subscribe to Jacquoff (using the link in the upper-right corner of the screen), you get an automatic daily digest of new posts (assuming there are any) without having to make that onerous trek to the blog itself. You have total freedom to peruse the latest material (or not) and comment thereon (or not). Best of all, no more go-look-at-this emails from me.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I Feel So Cheap

This caught my eye in the paper this morning:

We know whom Alexandria is named after. We just don't know much about the guy. John Alexander was a Scottish planter who was living in Stafford County when he paid Robert Howson, an English ship captain, 6,000 pounds of tobacco for the land that would eventually take his family's name.

That was in 1669. Alexander died eight years later. From his will, we know he owned a horse named Black Beard and a "Colt that sucks of the Farling Mare" (whatever that means). He also slept in relative comfort. In his will he left a featherbed to Elizabeth Holmes, taking pains to note that "I do not mean the best bed but the Bed I brought out of England."

I don't know what tobacco costs these days, but a crappy little tract house in Alexandria can set you back half a million dollars or more.

But Wait ... There's More!

Phil de Vellis, the guy behind the Hillary Clinton "Big Sister" ad, turns his talents to Paul Wolfowitz in a new video: "The Bank." Brilliant.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wishing I Was There

From today's Post:

"Vice President Cheney exit[ed] his motorcade in Foggy Bottom to scattered boos from pedestrians as he went to visit his doctor at George Washington University."

Now and Then

As reported by Slate:

"For the majority leader of the United States Senate, in the time of war, with soldiers dying on the ground, announcing that we have lost the war, is very close to treasonous. I looked it up while we were driving over here, what the definition of 'treason' is. It's the betrayal of trust."
-- Tom DeLay, 2007

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy.... President Clinton has never explained to the American people why he was involving the US military in a civil war in a sovereign nation, other than to say it is for humanitarian reasons, a new military-foreign policy precedent. Was it worth it to stay in Vietnam to save face? What good has been accomplished so far? Absolutely nothing."
-- then-House Majority Whip Tom Delay, 1999, a month into the US mission in Kosovo

Deep, Dark Secret

Square One

I'm willing to make sacrifices to mitigate global warming, but not the one Sheryl Crow suggests.

I hope she's a diligent hand washer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Today's Top News

I always assumed that canine tail-wagging was a fairly straightforward phenomenon, but according to a study reported in The New York Times, there's more to it. Who knew?

Future enlightenment: Why dogs eat so fast, lick their naughty parts, and roll in disgusting substances.


As I combed the obits in today's Post for unusual names, I came across something even more striking. It was a notice for a woman who "extensively volunteered her time to Planned Parenthood." Memorial contributions, it was suggested, should be directed to that organization.

What was unclear was whether her interest in family planning was sparked before or after she had the six daughters also mentioned in the notice. Maybe they were all adopted.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Noteworthy Names

The latest installment from the ever-growing list of names that have caught my attention:

Pola McCorkle
Freda Love
Bavarian Manard
(Ms.) Arin Pusey
Wilder Treat
(Mrs.) Fleecy Smith
Justice Chang
Creola Cotton
Pearlie Boone
Jewel Angle
Tuppence Blackwell
Viola Belt
LeRoy and Hattie Dinkins
Hazel Drinkard Golden and Rosie Drinkard Goode (sisters)
Vertie, Vonna, and Vada Grimmett (sisters)
Wilma Lenz Glass
(Mr.) Skipper Weakly
(Ms.) Ronzell Pettaway
(Mrs.) Priss Ellingboe
India, Asia, and China Tilghman (siblings)
Star Ball
Ruby Rivers
Rev. John J. Bishop
Rev. Richard Crooks Jr.
Hettie Crooks
(Mrs.) Nova Piggott
Wanda, Wendy, Wayna, and Wylonda Zanders (sisters)
D. Rusty Shuffelton
Wilmer Kutsch
Grayson Fangmeyer
Ethel Mae Pankey
Shelley Lakes
(Mr.) Avon Waters
Gay Bedwell
(Mrs.) Gevada J. Buster
Ishtaire Worthy
Mamie Mack
Alden Mudge
Jack Assion
Gequetta Hicks
Maurice and Mauricecia Johnson (siblings)
Stark Sands
Fannie Manning
Cleon and Altravise Bagot
Felicity Swann
(Mrs.) Chevelle Masters Moore
Wallace D. Wattles
Easy Holland
Bianca Blackwood
(Mr.) Ivory Beidleman
Pastor Regretta Johnson-Ruffin
Lisa Claps Usher
Milandra Pfister
Delzenia Timmons
Sidonia Jett
Elmer J. Gamster
(Mrs.) Missouri Walker
Ted Todd
Cherie Perry
India Knight
(Miss) Love Boyles Monday
Clagett H. Pattie
Bunky Poole
Knox Witcher
Chuggie Owens
Amber Gallup
Laguna Harley and Tedero Crump (siblings)
Carleta "Beadie" Haggard
Yelverton Cowherd Jr.
Indianora Brown
Lorena Belle Ball
Tom Sawyer
(Ms.) Statory Booker
Eleve Amore Breedlove
LaBonnie Sneed
Willie Mae Tuggles
Josephine Brown Rumph
Rusty Raines
Broadus E. Shifflett
Honey Ho
Danielle Dong
Fransonia Littles
F. Robert Troll
G. Randolph Mook
Kitty Empire
Delphine A. Barkdoll
Myrtle K. Wipperfurth
Rev. Lester Butts
Milton D. Bittenbender
Monica Noise
Woodrow Wilson
Bonnie Bonnell
Kathleen Rust Bell
Wilda and April Berry
Iona Blood

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Other Other White Meat

The Whiff of Celebrity

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks about this.

A former coworker of mine had previously done P.R. for Gucci in New York. Brad Pitt, in town for an awards show or something, had agreed to wear a Gucci tuxedo to the event, and my colleague, a red-blooded gay man, jumped at the chance to deliver said garment. He was met by the star himself and reported sadly (with perhaps just a trace of glee) that Mr. Pitt was brusque and had ferocious body odor.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Ultimate Fixer-Upper

I looked up this place after reading an article about it.

The story is compelling: A honeymooning couple sees an ad for a castle in the Scottish Highlands. The 40-acre property includes 2.5 kilometers of shoreline, a couple of islands, and quite a few buildings, including its own train station and chapel. The castle itself, built in the 1860s, has 29 bedrooms and 15 baths.* After a long period of neglect, then 12 years of total abandonment, the place is in less than mint condition.

To tackle the £500,000 purchase price, the £600K in renovations, and the labor itself, the couple turns to their clan: the husband's parents as well as three siblings and their own families. A 3-generation, 17-member family sharing a decrepit castle while renovating it -- what could go wrong? Better still, winter's a-comin', and they have no hot water and no central heat.

Sounds like a reality show, doesn't it? As a matter of fact, it is: "The Dobsons of Duncraig" (which unfortunately doesn't seem to be available here). But why settle for TV when you can experience the real thing? Duncraig Castle is now accepting guests.

When I looked at the map, I realized I've been within a few miles of the place. So I can attest that the scenery is hauntingly beautiful. Just don't go in the winter, even if they've fixed the heat and hot water.

* The Scots take their castles very seriously, and many would assert with a dismissive sniff that, as a Victorian structure, Duncraig is not a castle -- merely a rich man's country house.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Power does not corrupt men. Fools, however,
if they get into a position of power, corrupt power."
George Bernard Shaw

"America is a land where a citizen will cross the ocean
to fight for democracy and won't cross the street
to vote in a national election."
Bill Vaughan

Lee Launches a Bomb

Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

Michael Moore? Bill Maher? Keith Olbermann? No, Lee Iacocca.

A former corporate titan seems an unlikely author for such a rant, but that makes it even more powerful. It's from Iacocca's new book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? You can read the full excerpt here.

Dirty Old Goat Finds Bride

A Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his "wife" after he was caught having sex with the animal.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pleasanty Surprise

There was an amusing article in The New York Times on the efforts to spiff up Beijing for next year's Summer Olympics. They still have a way to go on expectorating:

Public spitting is a frequent practice in Beijing and even more common elsewhere in China. (The sinus-clearing, phlegmy pre-spit hawking sound is so common that one foreigner wryly dubbed it “the national anthem of China.”)
And of course those tricky translations:

Headline du Jour

Butte blast blamed on leaking gas

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"The reason the mainstream is thought of as a stream
is because of its shallowness."
George Carlin

"Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half
never voted for president. One hopes it is the same half."
Gore Vidal


It's a fundamental paradox of American culture: Everyone likes to think they're both exceptional and normal.

This was on prominent display in the last two presidential campaigns, when we were informed ad nauseam that George W. Bush, unlike his rivals, was a "regular guy" and therefore more likable.

The first problem with that assertion is its demonstrable falseness. Regular guys don't grow up in rich and powerful families. They don't go to Yale and Harvard. (Bush's grades could support the argument that he wasn't fully present, but so could John Kerry's.) And regular guys don't start their careers with millions of dollars from family friends, only to be bailed out again after each loss.

The second problem is its relevance. You might find a wisecracking frat boy likable; I generally don't. Regardless, we were choosing someone to lead the country, not the office softball team. Why on earth would we want a regular guy? Al Gore was pedantic, I grant you, and John Kerry wooden, but so what? I'd much rather have a know-it-all in the White House than a know-nothing. Despite what CNN might suggest, the president is unlikely to join you for a drink (even a club soda) at your neighborhood bar.

In this brilliant clip, Bill Maher asks what's wrong with wanting distinguished people to fill important positions.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Legacy of Literalism

There's a death notice in today's Washington Post for a man who was one of nine siblings. He had 5 children, 18 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren. The family name: Breedlove.

A Decade of Devo

Devolution Martinez Igljack
d.b.a. Devo
Est. 1997

Celebrating 10 years of dogged devotion, peerless protection,
quizzical quirkiness, and everlasting ennui

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

Two Reasons Not to Wear Low-riding Jeans

1. They look stupid.

2. If you wear them to the dog park, someone's whippet might pull them down when he jumps up to get a closer look at that puppy you're carrying. Then you'll look even more ridiculous.

Better Ways

Subtlety has its uses, but sometimes it's more effective to be direct.

This billboard is for a German job-hunting site, and I bet it's attracted plenty of attention:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Remember, Kids ...

This cozy little clan is, of course, the Duggar family of Arkansas.

If you're interested in -- or horrified by -- conservative Christians, home schooling, and/or freakishly large families, check out the Duggars' Web site. You'll find plenty of tasty (not to say healthy) recipes to satisfy your double-digit brood. You can even order a set of DVDs explaining the "Bible-based" financial planning with which the family claims to support itself. They should call it the Playtex plan: No visible means of support.

Seeing Red and Feeling Blue

Libs are generally more socially conscious and hence tend to actually give a modicum of thought to what it means to pop out a brood of children in this modern overstuffed age....

Conservative Christians, of course, have no such conscience. Among the right-wing God-lovin' set, there is often little real awareness of planetary health or resource abuse or the notion that birth control is actually a very, very good idea indeed, and therefore it's completely natural to worship at the altar of minivans and SUVs and megachurches and massive all-American entitlement and have little qualm about popping out six, seven, 19 gloopy tots to populate the world with frat boys and Ford F-150 buyers and food court managers.

Mark Morford ponders the future of the cultural divide.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fun for a Girl and a Boy

Speaking of accessories ...

Is nothing sacred anymore? Taking liberties with an icon of 20th-century childhood.

Beyond Personal Training

Ready to get serious about self-improvement? There's a new must-have accessory.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Where's the Beef?

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that two correspondents sent me this article yesterday. It's not like I'm known for having an adventurous palate.

Years ago I was startled to learn that a local pet shop sold dried bull penises as chew toys for dogs. I brought one to the office to share the wonder, and it ended up getting tossed behind the couch of a despised boss, infested with bugs. (The penis, not the boss. Actually, he probably was too.) I wonder if it's still there.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Peeps Show

The Post editors had no idea what they were starting when they decided to hold a competition for dioramas featuring Peeps.

The creativity and detail of the entries are impressive. I think my favorite is "Peeping Peeps":

Story here. Slide show here.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Alter Egos

A friend with far too much time on his hands recently informed me that 279 people in the United States share my first and last names. According to How Many of Me, my given name is the fourth most popular (no surprise), while my surname ranks 1,664th. (The most common first name in the country: James. Most common last name: Smith.)

More amusing were his efforts with anagram Web sites, of which there are many. My first and last names, he reported, can be rearranged as Jackal Chime or Camel Hijack. Throwing in my middle name yields something truly special: Aha! Jerk clean climaxed!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Fresh Faces in Butt Hollow

On the typical weekday, my human contact is limited to a dog walker, a pair of house cleaners, and/or my mother, with occasional cameos by a nurse or other medical-type professional. This week was a little busier than usual.

My favorite aunt was in town to give a presentation -- telling important people things they didn't want to hear, I gather. She came over on Wednesday, and we indulged in a pastime of great interest to us, if to nobody else: cataloguing the quirks of various relatives, then assigning appropriate psychological diagnoses.

It's fertile ground, God knows. As my aunt once noted, "Every family is weird, but yours is extra weird." I joined the clan by fate, she by choice -- which probably says something revealing about her, if only I could figure out what.

Yesterday's visitor was a very nice University of Maryland student who's taking a class on disabilities. (They teach that in school? I wonder if I can still get credit.) He contacted the ALS Association, which in turn contacted me. I help with outreach whenever possible, and I'm a shameless whore for attention, so he came over and spent a couple of hours learning the glamorous details of my daily existence. He even got to meet the cleaners and the dog walker.

In one respect, I fear that I disappointed him -- and myself, once I thought about it. He asked if I'd experienced any handicap-related discrimination, and I couldn't recall a single significant instance. I never miss a chance to feel aggrieved, but the only thing I could think of was the pervasive infantilization of wheelchair users. When people look down at you physically, the mentality usually follows suit, and suddenly you're a retarded child. When you also sound the part, as I do, good luck trying to change their minds.

My reaction, I explained to my visitor, is to run with it. If people think you're a kid -- and a slow one at that -- you're almost expected to act out. Might as well enjoy yourself.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Morality is moral only when it is voluntary."
Lincoln Steffens

Whence Morality?

... [T]he values of many -- maybe most -- Americans feel rooted in religion. As a society we need to have conversations about right and wrong. But in this increasingly pluralistic country we also need to uphold the idea that morals are not the exclusive property of any one religion. More controversially, we need to welcome the idea that values are not the exclusive property of religion itself.
Yet another excellent column from Ellen Goodman.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pigtails and Peril

Some lives are more interesting than others.

"Little Sweetie" was like Pippi Longstocking as conjured by Danielle Steel. Or Imelda Marcos's long-lost sister.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Shot From the Right

"For all the Rove-built facade of his being a 'strong' chief executive, George W. Bush has been, by comparison to even hapless Jimmy Carter, the weakest, most out of touch president in modern times," Gold writes. "Think Dan Quayle in cowboy boots."

Gold is even more withering in his observations of Cheney. "A vice president in control is bad enough. Worse yet is a vice president out of control."

Yet another conservative speaks out. Interesting story.

"Victory and Happiness"

Thoughtful friends are always sending me odd things, and this is among the oddest yet.

I'm not sure how it promotes victory or happiness, but it certainly is mesmerizing. Perhaps I'm missing out on some trenchant philosophical statement. Let me know if you figure it out.