Friday, November 30, 2007

The Life of Reilly

"I was told that I would never be allowed on television, and now I gotta try to figure out, who do you have to fuck to get off?"

I must see this. Review here, official site here. Check out the trailer.

"It's that kind of show."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Charmin Story

A few summers ago, when we rented a cottage in the English countryside, Tesco was a happy discovery. They had just about everything we needed, including gas. Didn't see one of these, though.

Plugging Away at Crafts

I generally regard crafts with a fair amount of scorn. Gluing macaroni onto a cigar box is fine for kindergartners, but if you're doing that kind of thing in your 30s, you might want to expand your horizons. I know, I know -- your découpage hatbox is très soignée, but it's really the same thing.

There's a fine line between hobby and obsession, and when someone calls it "crafting," I know they've crossed over. These are the ones who never pause to consider whether those pinecones really need the glitter. The ones who get pissy if you don't lavish enough praise on their popsicle-stick crèche.

Imagine my surprise when a subscriber passed along this link. Such creativity! I'd give it a try, but you'd probably rag me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"There is no sin except stupidity."

Oscar Wilde

My Point Exactly

One of my pet arguments was well stated in this letter in today's Post:
Michael Gerson's excitement about the two recent reports of stem cells being created from skin cells is widely shared ["Stem Cells, the Right Way," op-ed, Nov. 23]. But I find his implicit distaste for obtaining stem cells from human embryos hard to understand. He wrote that "it is not a superstition of the Dark Ages to believe that [an embryo] should be valued, instead of discarded like cracked pottery."

In fact, unused embryos from fertility clinics are often disposed of by being incinerated. I invite Mr. Gerson or anyone who shares his opinion to explain why incinerating unused embryos is morally superior to using them as a source of stem cells.

St. Louis

Opponents would have you believe that evil scientists are trying to snatch the very embryos that (churchgoing Republican) couples want to "adopt," which is not the case. The "controversy" is a specious manufacture, and there's nothing pro-life about it.

These people don't believe in evolution, so I shouldn't be surprised that they're still peddling the same junk they were six and a half years ago, when I wrote this:

So I dragged my tired carcass over to Capitol Hill yesterday on an especially muggy afternoon for a hearing on stem-cell research convened by some House subcommittee whose obscurity was matched only by the length of its name. The session was so packed that I had to sit in an overflow room upstairs.

I knew it wasn't going to be smooth sailing the moment I realized the subcommittee was chaired by Dan Burton of Indiana, who is not exactly known for his progressive views. Still, most of the members who spoke were strongly in favor of government funding, including Orrin Hatch, who'd made a special trip over from the Senate just to make the point. Last year I was astounded to find myself on the same side of an issue as Arlen Specter, about the last thing I ever expected to happen, and now I've woken up in bed with Orrin Hatch. It's a funny world.

The real fun began after the members' interminable thank-you-so-much-for-holding-this-important-hearing speeches. Two starry-eyed women explained how they had conceived children – all named after saints, of course – from frozen embryos that might instead have been destroyed in the genocide of evil stem-cell research. (Apparently they didn't realize that the embryo donors would have had to sign a release in order for that to have occurred. Oops.) It seems that their God finds it more natural for the embryos to incubate in a petri dish with all sorts of chemicals while the mothers are shot full of hormones, then injected with the embryos, some of which will die, instead of finding ways for thousands of living people to continue doing so. Their God might want to sit down and have a chat with mine, because they're not on the same wavelength.

That wasn't the best part, though. The highlight was when Mary, Mother of God, asked to introduce her husband. It was totally out of order, but they allowed it. They shouldn't have. Dad held up Matthew and Luke, the miracle babies, and demanded, "Which one of my boys would you kill? Which one?" I was so offended by this cheap ploy, I swear, if I'd been in the hearing room, I would have raised my hand and asked, "Which one cries more?"
©2007 Caroline Stopyra Leibovitz

Monday, November 26, 2007

¡Viva Zapata!

Socialite, tyrant,
Love sponge and whippetmaster
Zap’s thirteen today

The senators were in a state of intense frustration and kept asking what we thought they could do to prevent the President from further escalation. One's suggestions were lame -- a fund cut-off bill; demanding a meeting with the President; going to the country. One can understand their sense of impotence and their rage.

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., May 11, 1972

Why anyone ever supposed that Vietnam so involved the American national interest or so threatened the security of the United States as to justify the frightful slaughter and destruction we have brought to this remote and alien country And what it also displays, at interminable length, is the frightening combination of certitude, misjudgment and ignorance that went into the making of decisions. . . . It is not a record of wickedness or criminality; it is rather a record of glibness, illusion and intellectual mediocrity.

July 13, 1971


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wet and Wild

A nifty little pictorial survey.
Sancho, an emperor tamarin, is on view at a Berlin zoo. The tiny primate with the big moustache was allegedly named for its resemblance to German Emperor Wilhelm II.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Gritty Look Back

Sesame Street before gentrification. This explains so much about my worldview.

Mirth and Mystery

Many moons ago, at my first real job, a colleague was reading Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, one of my favorite novels. My friend, like me a newly minted English major, saw parallels between the heroine's struggle to secure a place in society and our own efforts to make it as entry-level drones at a publishing company.

One day she left a note on my desk. While I don't think of myself as a pack rat, I've kept it all this time even though I lost touch with her years ago.

Michael --

Just a few quotes to help you keep everything in proper perspective.

"The truth was that her funds, as usual, were inconveniently low; and to neither Dorset nor his wife could this vulgar embarrassment be safely hinted."

"She had been brought up in the faith that whatever it cost, one must have a good cook and be what Mrs. Bart called decently dressed."

"Mrs. Bart's worst reproach to her husband was to ask him if he expected her to 'live like a pig'; and his replying in the negative was always regarded as a justification for cabling to Paris for an extra dress or two...."

-- The House of Mirth

Alas, there was no French couture in my life then or now, much less a cook.

A couple of summers ago, I was thrilled to visit The Mount, Wharton's estate in the Berkshires. What sparked this little reverie, though, was a fascinating article sent the other day by another Wharton-admiring friend. Check it out.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

Not that there was ever any doubt, but I knew my friend Caroline wasn't going to be a run-of-the-mill soccer mom when she planned her son Sam's first birthday party as a canned-goods drive and held it at a food bank.

I had the pleasure of escorting her mother's elderly next-door neighbor, who contributed some fruit cocktail with an expiration date in the Carter years. In the food line, she dug through the chicken nuggets with singular focus. "Can I help you, Nancy Ann?" asked Caroline's brother. "I'm looking for a drumstick," she replied, blissfully unaware of the futility of her quest. Nancy Ann has since retired to the great buffet in the sky, where I hope she has all the drumsticks she wants.

Those of you who know Caroline won't be at all surprised to learn how she teaches her boys the concept of Thanksgiving. Their tradition was captured by not one but two local TV stations. Printed article here. I couldn't be prouder to know her.

Jackals Annual Report

The pattern is predictable: Every November I get impatient waiting for the official Walk to D’Feet ALS tallies, and I go ahead and write my report. How can I pass up an occasion as appropriate as Thanksgiving? Maybe if I didn’t have good news to report – but thanks to you, I always do.

Each year the Jackals set a new record, only to surpass it the following year. For 2007 our goal was $30K. We reached it well before the walk and kept right on going. As of today, our team total is an astounding $44,631. (Last year, for reference, the figure was $39,108.)

For those of you who couldn’t be there in person, Walk Day was perfect – not a term I use lightly. The weather was warm and sunny, the mood equally so. First-timers are invariably amazed by what a cheerful occasion it is. Many of them become regulars, and so the Jackals grow. We also have an incentive that no other team can offer: the postwalk brunch at Jane and Barney Finn’s, which has become as much a tradition as the walk itself. (Truth be told, it’s probably the real draw.)

I’ve described ALS as a family disease, and the same is true of this event. The Jackals wouldn’t be so successful without our strong tribal network. Besides my family, Dan’s, and the Finns, there is Kay Adler, a fundraising force of nature. She and her mother, Karel, set a high standard for everyone else, and it works beautifully. Then there’s Caroline Stopyra, who not only drove up from North Carolina for the walk, she returned the following week to run the Marine Corps Marathon, also to benefit the Jackals. Her mother, Claudette, provided our team T-shirts for the fourth (!) time – a big hit this year in lavender. And of course, the Jackals themselves are a family, with some of the same people walking for eight years now and new ones always joining.

When you consider all that, it’s not so surprising that I’m still skulking around nearly 11 years after that onerous diagnosis. Thank you so much for supporting me and everyone else served by the ALS Association. May you have as much reason for gratitude this Thanksgiving as I do.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wisdom of the Ages

"What do you miss about the good old days?"

"My liver."

A friend sent me this link months ago, knowing I'd appreciate its name at the very least. The videos didn't work at the time, but now they do -- and I've learned so much.

The Royal Diamond

In pictures.
Charles Lawson, an electrical engineer of Kettering, lights his
"robot's" cigarette, January 1939. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Great Gift Ideas

"I can't believe that I didn't get this from you," said the friend who sent this:

Now you can't say the same. Until next time.

P.S.: What is it about Japan, anyway?

Guns and Buddha

A Thai soldier stands next to a giant Buddha statue in Thailand's restive southern Narathiwat province, 19 November 2007. More than 2,700 people have died in four years of conflict between government forces and Muslim separatists.
(Saeed Khan/AFP)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Try This at Home

Many people were captivated by the towel critters that appeared on our beds each night of the Alaska cruise.

Now the secret's out -- part of it, anyway. One of my shipmates has come across instructions for making an elephant. There are how-tos for various other varmints, but not the stingrays that greeted us the day Steve Irwin met his dramatic demise. That still makes me chuckle.
(It's animated if you click on it.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cracking Nuts

I know several people who'd gleefully exchange this* for Christmas. I've never understood where all the venom comes from. There's a good op-ed on the topic in today's Post, but I have yet to find a thorough, convincing explanation.

* Is it my imagination, or did they make her look remarkably like Ellen DeGeneres?


Bush can bust the budget for Iraq, but God forbid that we spend a little more on education.

Mommy Longlegs

Louise Bourgeois's sculpture Maman on display on the South
Bank, just outside the Tate Gallery, London. (Alicia Merrett)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Podge and Pudge

I think Riley, who is both a friend and a Friend, subscribes to just about every news service on the Net. Especially the ones that specialize in news of the weird. Many of the British items I post come from him, as do the vintage images like that below.

Today he sent two BBC stories that have nothing to do with each other but are both intriguing. The first is charming, the second decidedly not.
An elderly fisherman on the south coast of England plays
a whistle with a cat sitting on his shoulder, circa 1935.
(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"You are not superior just because you
see the world in an odious light."

Le Vicomte de Chateaubriand

Coppertone Girl

I may be mostly homebound, but my essential nature hasn't changed. I'm still a snoop; I just rely on proxies now.

Repairmen, I've found, are repositories of human-nature anecdotes. With access to so many homes, they see the whole glorious gamut of domestic pathology, and they're often happy to share.

We recently had the gasket replaced on our freezer door. It's only five years old, which for some reason led the repairman to tell us about a call he'd received to look at a 28-year-old refrigerator.

The appliance, he quickly determined, needed several new parts and would have cost at least $1,500 to repair. The bigger problem was that said parts were no longer available. By some miracle, the homeowners still had warranty coverage, and the repairman announced the good news that they'd get a brand-new $1,400 fridge gratis.

The husband's response was the same as yours, mine, or any sane person's: "Thank God!"

The wife, on the other hand, dissolved into hysterics, weeping and imploring the repairman to fix the ancient icebox. Why? Because the thought of breaking up her cherished set of coppertone appliances was just too much to bear.

Her poor spouse gamely offered to paint the new fridge to match. I'd love to know if he did.

Special coppertone thanks to Derek for finding this classic picture after I gave up in frustration.

Holy Hotcake

A tortilla, a grilled-cheese sandwich, and now a pancake.

As I watched this tasty item, served up by a diligent contributrix, it occurred to me that Jesus seems to appear disproportionately on the bread products of working-class Christians. Much the way UFOs are sighted only in rural areas, often in the South. If He really wanted to make a splash, He'd pop up on a brioche or a matzo. That would be newsworthy.

I love when the daughter is asked, "Why do you think that God would want to put that message on a pancake?" Duh. It was obviously the best way to get her attention. Worked, didn't it?
Two ladies modelling a winter dress and a suit with a pleated skirt
during a 1955 fashion shoot. (Chanloner Woods/Getty Images)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Meet the Cleavers

Books can be unwieldy when your hands don't work, and I have far too many tomes sitting around unread. So I've stopped reading reviews and would have missed this one had it not been forwarded by a friend who knows how much I enjoy sordid sagas of domestic dysfunction.

Sometimes the review's a better read than the book:
There are object lessons aplenty here: Be nice! Especially to your family. Don't kill anybody. And if you do, for goodness sake, think it through! Anyone who reads this rancid drama will be smarter than its protagonists.

Ebony and Irony

When this image appeared in my in-box, sans explication, I naturally assumed it was a joke. It was not.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hell on Wheels

Like most people, I find cripples repulsive and depressing. If they won't stay home, as the good Lord so clearly intended when He smote them, they should at least limit themselves to dark and out-of-the-way places. As for them being sexually active -- well, that's something I can't even contemplate. Next thing you know, someone will be telling us that old people do it.

You can imagine how dismayed I was when someone sent me this clip. Not only are these "gentlemen" parading about in public, they're on stage. Singing! I'd heard that Scandinavia was permissive, but I didn't realize it extended to such shameless spectacles as this.
The world's tallest dog, Gibson, meeting Boo Boo, the world's smallest
dog, in Sacramento for Guinness World Records Day 2007.
(Richard Bradbury/Guinness World Records/PA Wire)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Heads Up!

Bear season starts tonight.

Grains of Wisdom

A young colleen (who should have been working) sent me this link with the warning that it was addictive. She wasn't kidding.

I haven't made it past level 47 ... yet.

Skeleton Staff

A skeletal typist "at work" circa 1940.
(FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blessed Occasions

I don't usually bother with themes, but sometimes they present themselves.

A couple of days ago I forwarded pictures of an ... unusual ... wedding cake. One correspondent came back with this, while another offered this. Very different but equally riveting.
A dog models a rain coat and a rescue jacket, designed to be used in emergency
situations, at the Security and Safety Trade Expo in Tokyo.
(Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Off the Mark

Niche marketing is a tricky thing. Sometimes it hits the target, but sometimes it goes far, far astray.

My mother recently received a complimentary copy of a new magazine. The cover letter breathlessly enthused that, given how well they knew her, they were certain she'd be enthralled by their offering and want to subscribe immediately.

The publication? Garden & Gun.

How well they know her. She's an avid gardener, true, but also a Quaker and all-around lefty. And the tagline ("21st Century Southern America") just made her laugh, which probably wasn't what they were aiming for. Oops.

I know what you're thinking -- and no, I did not put her on their mailing list. She was equally horrified and amused, and the only thing she can think of is that she once toured some new homes in a gated community in North Carolina when she was there for a nephew's wedding. (I was with her, but I use a fake name and address when asked to sign a registry. Clearly my loss in this case.)

What about you -- are you a Garden & Gun guy or gal?
Garden & Gun attracts men and women who embody the active, outdoor lifestyle, and have an eye for beauty, an ear for fine prose, a passion for the Southern landscape and waters.

One reader wrote recently, "I am a 44-year-old avid hunter and saltwater fly fisherman. I also like a great bottle of wine and 700 thread-count cotton sheets on my hunt camp bed."

I've stated my appreciation for bluntly named Web sites -- and this one, submitted by my friend Derek, is one of the aptest I've seen. The commentary's as good as the pictures.

Among the links at the first site was this one, also clearly named. Less than two weeks old, there's not much to peruse yet, but it invites submissions. I could fill up several screens without even thinking about it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bored at Work

But having a ball.

As Dan said upon viewing this, "There's so much talent in the world."

How to Get Your Ass Kicked

I received the same email twice in as many days. So captivating was it, I decided to track down the source, which was surprisingly difficult.

Now, if only someone could find me pictures of coppertone appliances. My own efforts have been completely fruitless.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Chicken, the Egg, and Larry Craig

I've refrained from Larry Craig posts for a while now. (You're welcome.) There just doesn't seem much to say until he takes the witness stand, a prospect I anticipate with unhealthy delight.

Today I received this link, which I was planning to share even before coming across this one. I have no idea which came first, nor does it matter (except, perhaps, to Tony Orlando and his attorneys). The guy in the first clip gets points for the live performance, but the lyrics in the second are inspired. Enjoy.

Globalization at Work

A fellow linguaphile sent this curiously hypnotic link showing who's editing what on Wikipedia -- as it happens.

Redneck Halter

Friday, November 02, 2007

But Wait ...

"It's like weighing a calf twice a day, but never feeding it."

In case the previous article wasn't sufficiently disheartening. Oh, and there's this too.

Bottoming Out

Seems it ain't such a small world after all. I have a feeling this is just the beginning of a long, depressing, downhill ride.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should share a painful memory. When I was six or seven, my prized "coonskin" cap, perhaps an hour old, went flying off my head on this very ride. Or maybe it was Pirates of the Caribbean. Anyway, the experience was deeply traumatic. Maybe if people had been heavier back then, the boat wouldn't have been able to go so fast.

See you in Tomorrowland, fatty.

"Can You Hear Me Now?"

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Clothes make the man, the saying goes. In this case they made me an insufferable one.

A Hole New World

Everyone should have a hobby.
A circus elephant balances on its front legs circa 1920.
(General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)