Monday, September 29, 2008

This Week's Nature Scoreboard

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From the Nature/Sports Desk...

Nature/Sports correspondent Sedro Woolley phoned in to give us a quick rundown this past week's wildlife scoreboard and highlights.

All scores final.

Lions: 171 - Zebras: 0

Lions: 201 - Water Buffaloes: 1
A Namibian water buffalo scored a lucky horn to the abdomen of a lioness for their only point this week.

Mongooses: 3 - Cobras: 3
Some tight, bitterly fought matches resulted in a draw.

Mountain Lions: 1 - Hikers: 0

Dragons: 4 - Centaurs: Nil

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Great White Sharks: 742 - Seals: 0
From the opening kick, the seals really never got the offense moving. In nature's version of the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals, the seals overall record now stands at 0 and 91 million.

Cock-Fighting Roosters: 27 - Cock-Fighting Roosters: 28
Close match from Guadalajara Mexico.

Nile Crocodiles: 73 - Wildebeests: ½

11-Year-Old Boys With Slingshots: 2 - Robins: 0

Chupacabras: 11 - Goats: 0

Pet Pythons: 4,971 - White Mice: 1
A ball python named Jack Sparrow from Hot Coffee Mississippi choked and lost.

Hawks: 1,227 - Rodents/Snakes: Nil
Not even a combined rodent and snake squad could stop this desert blowout.

Humans: 702,478 - Delicious Cows: 3
Delicious cows got on the board after a brief stampede in Green River Wyoming. Memorial services for local cowhands Henry "Hank" Harrison, Luther Pearce and Samuel "Chainsaw" Bernstein will be held at the Green River First Episcopalian Church of Our Lord. Light refreshments will be served.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Political Analysis From The South

With Tim Russert sadly passing away this past summer, these Rhodes Scholars from Kentucky have become serious contenders to take over the Meet the Press desk.

Their insight into the upcoming Presidential election is pithy, sharp and to the point. I have no idea why people make fun of the South...



It's the final declaration of "these colors don't run!" that made this art. Quite a capper.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it George Stephanopoulos!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saying Goodbye To Paul Newman


Though we knew he has been sick for quite some, time, it was still sad to dial up the interwebs this morning to see that screen legend Paul Newman passed away last night. It's a bummer of a story. He was 81-years-old.

Newman starred in two of my favorite films; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. I've watched them countless times. I'll watch them many more times in the future.

Newman was admirable for a few reasons. He was one of the most natural and skilled actors in the history of the talkies. In an environment where relationships are often as phony as the backlot sets they work on, Newman had a 50 year love affair and marriage to Joanne Woodward. That is an admirable achievement. Perhaps most important, Newman used his wealth and celebrity to raise over $200 million dollars for charity. Newman's Own has been making salad dressing, salsa, popcorn and other products since 1982. Newman runs the Hole In the Wall Gang, a summer camp and community center for seriously ill children. He has also donated hundreds of thousands to war refugees and college scholarships.

Off the screen, away from the cameras, Paul Newman was a hero and a gentleman.

I will miss him.

A little tribute...


The card game from The Sting.


The fight, my favorite scene, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.


Paul strummin' the old banjo and singing "Plastic Jesus" from Cool Hand Luke.

R.I.P. Mr. Newman.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rent-A-Fan: Cubs Loyalists, For One Month I Am With You

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From The Sports Desk…

“Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game.”
Eddie Vedder

Since my pathetic Seattle Mariners have been out of contention since about the third week of the 2008 season (they may have negative wins at this point, I stopped reading about them in June.) I have not paid as close attention to baseball as I usually do this summer.

The M’s have a bloated, underachieving roster that is peppered with bums who hit well before the Mitchell Report. When “The Juice” stopped flowing, so did dingers and RBI’s.

But come on, it’s the baseball playoffs, of course I’m going to watch. Jack Bauer doesn’t return until November and the Seahawks are only on once a week, what the hell else am I gonna do?

So. I have made a decision. A borderline fan violation. For the 2008 MLB Playoffs, I am kind-of-pulling for the Chicago Cubs. That’s right Windy City residents! For the month of October I am sort-of-hoping you will win the World Series!

Notice I said “pulling” for them. Not rooting for the Cubbies. That is a self-created loophole to help me justify this. The fact they are in the National League was the only way I could pull the trigger on this momentous decision. The AL? I hope they all get syphilis.

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I have no real ties to Chicago. Never stepped foot out of O’Hare. Had a layover once. However, I admire your city a great deal. The working class mentality. Great architecture. Chicago blues. Stories of Al Capone and Elliot Ness. I still miss Sweet Lou Piniella chucking bases around the Safeco infield, he’s a great manager. There is a respect for a great sports town. Love Ernie Banks. Walter Payton was a childhood idol of mine. Still love Sweetness, bless his soul.

Wrigley Field is a marvel. I like the traditions you guys have. “Throw it back! Throw it back!” Chicago residents know how to be fans. They’re educated and loyal. Loyal to almost a fault.

The Cubs last championship? (Cubs Fans: You may want to skip this paragraph. Just scroll down. It’s okay.) That would be 1908. Stop counting on your fingers, that’s a hundred freaking years. Since then there have been collapses and curses. That damn billy goat! The Cliff Notes version of the Curse of the Billy Goat goes like this; Billy Sianis, owner of the local Billy Goat Tavern, bought two seats for Game 4 of the 1945 World Series. One for him. One for a bloody goat. Billy and the goat (see what I did there?) were admitted into Wrigley. But when the stink of the goat kicked up, complaints began to be filed and Billy and the goat were given the heave ho. Billy then somehow channeled evil spirits of Beelzebub and “cursed” the Cubbies. The Cubs lost the Series and Billy wrote to team owner Philip Wrigley from Greece, “who stinks now?” There has been a curse hanging over the stadium ever since.

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(Cubs Fans: Maybe skip one more paragraph.) My personal theory is that Billy may have used the possession of a pet goat to his advantage. Perhaps the beast was used to summon the goat demon Baphomet. Entirely possible.

(Cubs Fans: Welcome back.)

Another reason I am justifying a little Cubs support is my loyalty to Chicago native Eddie Vedder. I know he wants them to win more than anything. Ed has been an outspoken fan since his youth. In fact, Ed just composed and performed a song just for Cubs fans. It’s great.



Sing it, Eddie.

A Cubs victory would be good for baseball. Good for history. Well, American history anyway. If I have to watch a World Series with the Tampa Bay verses Milwaukee I’ll lose it. No way I could watch more than two games before shutting off the telly and picking up my book. Give us Chicago/Boston. Or Chicago/Los Angeles. At least that’s interesting and watchable.

Chicago, we need to rid your great city of curses once and for all. Personally, I don’t see how blowing up the “Bartman Ball” and then serving the remains in pasta sauce didn’t work. If that was ineffective, man, what do you do? That should have guaranteed at least one ring. They blew the damn thing up and ate it. It should of worked. Science.

Admittedly, I am going to be really apathetic through all this. Really half-assin’ the whole thing. May even fast-forward through an inning or three. I won’t be pacing the floor in the bottom of the ninth or stewing after a loss. But I’m kind-of hoping this goes well for you.

Don’t sneer at my the power of my fanship, Cubbies. Don’t take it for granted. You should be excited. You are bringing aboard – on short term loan – a fan that witnessed a Supersonic championship at three years of age. Almost remember that. I was a cog in the machine that led to a Washington Husky national title in 1991. Sure, they crapped the bed for years after that, but I was there when we won.

It’s true Seattle teams were upset by the Nuggets when they had the best record in the NBA and pissed away a 116 game winning season and got blown out by Michael Jordan in an NBA Finals and lost in a recent Super Bowl, but I was integral to those near achievements.

Certainly, I can’t make things any worse.

Let’s go Cubs. I guess…

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Colbert Settles the Great Roosevelt Debate Once and For All

Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of American history knows the two Roosevelt's were titans of their time. Teddy the rough ridin' model of masculinity, who hunted wild game, made the country aware of conservation and put Lincoln on the penny. (That's true.) And FDR who despite a crippling illness that confined him to wheelchair, led the nation out of the Great Depression and to victory in WWII. All the while comforting millions with his revolutionary fireside chats.

But who is the greatest Roosevelt? Stephen Colbert used a scientific approach to settle the matter. Would the question finally be settled?



Damn. The debate will rage on.

How often do people get to use the word "foppish?" Great word.

"Jetman" Soars Over English Channel

After two weather delays earlier in the week, Swiss adventurer Yves "The Jetman" Rossy has flown over the English Channel powered only by jet-propelled wings.

Just moments ago, Rossy jumped out of airplane at 8,200 feet, fired up his jet-pack and flew the 22 miles from Calais France to the white cliffs of Dover. He accomplished the feat in about ten minutes.



I've watched this story for months. I honestly feel this is an incredible achievement. A feat of human ingenuity and bravery.

With the impeding financial doom we are facing later today, we need a few happy stories to serve as a distraction.


(Click on that "white cliffs of Dover" link and you'll hear one of the great songs of all time. A personal favorite that very nearly made my Desert Island Disks.)

Papa's Cats Are Okay To Stay


In 1935 Papa Hemingway was given a six-toed cat named Snowball. Adorable, innit? That cat lived at Papa's Key West Spanish colonial home and estate. Snowball procreated over the years and now the kitty's progeny has grown to over 50 mostly-six-toed cats. When my Father and I visited the house when I was a teenager the six-toed beasts were everywhere.

Years later, enter the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They threatened to fine the Hemingway Museum $200 a day. Per cat. This was because the cats aren't caged. The Museum had to negotiate with the bureaucrats to stop them from removing the kitties. This was a four year legal struggle.

Once again, government agencies really know how to pick it's battles.

Uncle Sam, leave Papa's kitties alone.

When Sarah Palin Is Off the Prompter

The McCain campaign has tried to keep Sarah Palin away from reporters, microphones and interviews. Here's why:


Watch CBS Videos Online

Bloody hell...

It's not as if Katie Couric is the late and missed Tim Russert. She's a lightweight. The pocket fluff of prime time news anchors. Even Katie has the way-in-over-her-head-and-chosen-to-pander-to-women vice presidential candidate flummoxed.

Once the novelty of the former beauty queen and failed sportscaster wore off and the public has seen how out of her depth she really is, the polls have corrected themselves. This is the person that should John McCain die -- which at 72-years-old and already having skin cancer numerous times is not much of a stretch -- that could be the leader of the free world. A vastly under-qualified person who needs to rely on memorized catch phrases and buzz words to get through an interview.

Sarah Palin has gone from radical running mate pick to punchline in record time.

It's going to get worse.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Triumphant Return of Jack Bauer

I'm thinking about crafting a chain calendar like kids make before Christmas. Then cut off one ring until Jack Bauer returns to my telly.

Watch the trailer:

Halloween Masks Predict Presidential Elections?


Believe it or not, maybe.

Last week TIME magazine columnist Nancy Gibbs mentioned that "in the past seven elections, the candidate with the best-selling Halloween mask has won." This is a topic that has popped up the last few elections.

Seven in a row. That's quite a streak.

This tidbit makes one wonder. Was the top selling mask purchased and worn as a tribute to a respected political leader? Or ... is the mask worn in sarcastic mockery of the current or soon-to-be Commander in Chief? I would bet the latter.

Take recent Presidents for example. We have seen the go-to Bush mask accompanied with the dunce cap. Easy. Funny. There was also the hall of fame costume of Slick Willy wielding a huge plastic cigar. A classic.

We'll check who has the best selling latex mask and see if it predicted our next President.

Who would you rather be for All Hallows Eve? I asked my 5-year-old nephew Jackson what I should be for Halloween. He said, "Be a Mummy or a Vamp-Pirate." A Vamp-Pirate? "Yeah, that would be awesome. Or be a ninja. I'm going to be a ninja."

When considering either being McCain or Obama, I think the 5-year-old is right. Be a ninja instead.

I bet there are a few of you that can't stop picturing what a "Vamp-Pirate" looks like. Could be a future blockbuster franchise. "In a world where vampires and pirates have combined forces..."


"The 'Have's' have not, a clue."


(Curious who is wearing the Nixon mask at the head of the post? That would be the immortal Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.)

Kids: Don't Fart On Cops

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Pictured is West Virginia resident Jose Cruz. Jose had a tough week. He was driving with his headlights off and was pulled over by the 5-O. It appeared to officers that Jose was three sheets to the wind so a sobriety test was administered. Jose failed. Off to the clink.

While being fingerprinted, Jose thought it would be really funny to horse around with the officers. Little scamp that he is, Jose "lifted his leg and passed gas loudly on Ptlm. Parsons. The defendant then fanned the air with his hand in front of his rear onto the officer." Hilarious. What law enforcement officer doesn't enjoy some good old farty hijinks?

Jose admitted to the fart and told reporters he said, "Here, put that in your Breathalyzer!" Again, hilarious.

Jose posted bail and is facing misdemeanor charges.

Letterman Lambastes McCain

Last night Senator John McCain was scheduled to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman. (Where I was once an employee.) At the last minute, McCain phoned up Dave and cancelled. He needed to rush back to Washington to fix the imploding economy. Uh, good luck with that.

The problem in the story? McCain actually went a few blocks north to be interviewed by lame duck anchorwoman Katie Couric.

Keith Olbermann was called out of the bullpen to fill in.

Letterman took the opportunity to fire a few shots over the bow.



Letterman in vintage form.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Desert Island Discs

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Desert Island Discs is a British institution. First broadcast on January 29, 1942. According to folks at Guinness – the Book of Records, not the alcoholic beverage, you lush – Desert Island Discs is the longest running music program in the history of radio.

Six United Kingdom Prime Ministers have participated. Politicians and scientists. Athletes and actors. All have given their selections of what they would bring with them to a desert island. Johnny Cash, Stephen Hawking, Stephen King, Paul McCartney, J.K. Rowling, Ricky Gervais and Yoko Ono are just a few of the hundreds that have made their selections.

I’m modifying the rules a bit. It’s my column and I’ll amend if I want to. (Try singing that last sentence. It works.)

You select 11 songs, (up from the 8 D.I.D’s allows), 7 films, (D.I.D. doesn’t have films, I felt like having them), one book besides The Bible or other religious text – The Torah, Koran, Dead Sea Scrolls, On the Origin of Species, etc., and one “luxury item.” The luxury item can be anything.

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My selections:

11 Songs:

1. “Desolation Row” – Bob Dylan
2. “Death Letter” – Son House
3. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – The Beatles
4. “Ball and a Biscuit” – The White Stripes
5. “(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais – The Clash
6. “Over the Hills and Far Away” – Led Zeppelin
7. “When I Paint My Masterpiece” – The Band
8. “Flesh and Blood” – Johnny Cash
9. “Tom Traubert’s Blues” – Tom Waits
10. “Yellow Ledbetter” – Pearl Jam
11. “My Way” – Frank Sinatra

7 Films:

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
2. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
3. Hoosiers
4. The Empire Strikes Back
5. The Sting
6. His Girl Friday
7. Miller’s Crossing

1 Book:

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I am cheating a little here. However, my justification is this; Professor Tolkien intended the books to be one long epic. The publishers broke the book up into three chapters. In fact, Tolkien did not approve of the decision and hated the title of the third installment being The Return of the King. Technically, it’s one book.

1 Luxury Item:

This one is hard. I considered cheese and crackers, Coca-Cola, one of my guitars, a basketball and hoop and Sportscenter. I settled on something more simple; A stack of 100 Mead Composition Notebooks and 100 Pilot Precise Grip - Bold pens. My weapon of choice.

I’d be pretty content with those selections on a desert island. Of course I’d also want a talking volleyball.

Thanks for playing our game. We have some lovely parting gifts for you. They can be claimed after the show.

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Goodbye...



Yogi says goodbye to an old friend. So do I.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

YouTube Gems Volume #6

Five video selections that caught my eye this week.


In 1973, the National Lampoon comedy troupe had the "Lemmings Roadshow." You'll see John Belushi and Chevy Chase. And a very young Christopher Guest on the cusp of comedy genius. Chris does one of the greatest musical impersonations I have ever seen. That of James Taylor and a song called "Highway Toes." He also did an amazing Dylan impersonation at the same show. Chris Guest is one of the funniest men of my lifetime.


Think you know what a leopard will do with a baby baboon? Think again.


Cab Calloway is one of my favorite performers of all time. The man was a genius. Here he does his signature tune "Minnie the Moocher."


Harry Houdini performs a rope escape in the early 1920's.


Tom Waits. 1977. "Tom Traubert's Blues."

You'll come a' waltzing Matilda with me,

JCW

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Jack White's 007 Ditty


Want to hear the new James Bond theme written by Jack White? Click here.

Jack wrote and produced the song. Alicia Keys also sings on the track.

There is going to be a limited edition 7 inch vinyl released on October 6th. Give you three guesses who will have one of those...

JW

Sarah Palin Approves of Witch Hunts?

Reposted from YesButNoButYes...

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A little political weekend weirdness for you to gnaw on...

Pastor Thomas Muthee, who Sarah Palin credited with "awesome prayers" that helped her become the Alaska Governor, once led a witch hunt in Kenya. Figuratively, you may be wondering. Nope. Unfortunately not. In 2005 Muthee led an actual, old school, Salem-style witch hunt.

Details of the story are still being pieced together, but it appears the tale goes something like this: Muthee wanted to establish a church in the town of Kiambu, just outside of Nairobi. Wanting to make an impression right away, Muthee targeted a local fortune teller named Mama Jane. It appears Mama Jane had never caused any trouble, but Muthee had "proof" of witchcraft. That proof? Three car accidents that had occurred in Mama's neighborhood. She must have caused them. That's ironclad.

It gets worse from here.

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Pastor Muthee led three police officers to Mama Jane's home, burst in and arrested the "witch." During the raid, someone shot Mama's pet snake, a large python. Why? That snake was "a demon." Of course it was.

Mama was confronted by Muthee who allegedly yelled "Mama Jane either gets saved and serves the Lord or she leaves town!" It appears the witch did not comply and she was chucked into the hoosegow. After finally being released, Mama Jane feared for her life and got the hell out of Dodge.

Palin's church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, has praised Muthee because "He has established and pastors hundreds of churches in Kenya." According to reports "When Palin was beginning her campaign for Governor of Alaska, she had Muthee pray over her, asking God to make her Governor. On her June 8, 2008 speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God church, Palin suggested that she believes that Muthee’s prayer is responsible for getting her into the Governor’s seat."

Yikes.

Strangely Kenya does have a problem with witches. Maybe too many magic mirrors and enchanted broomsticks lying around.

Here's a report from earlier this year:



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Make of this what you will. But in 2005, more than 300 years after witches were burned and drowned in Massachusetts, the Vice Presidential nominee is closely tied to a preacher that not only believes in witchcraft, but actively "battled" it.

They believe in witches. Folks, you can mix all the eye of newt, snake blood, bat wing and wolfsbaine you want into a pewter cauldron, it ain't gonna do anything. The ridiculous hysteria that leads people to boycott Harry Potter and burn books on courthouse steps still goes on. "You must ban Harry Potter! It's teaching kids to become witches!" Do you ban C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien too, sir? No? Oh, right, they're professed Christians. Magic is okay then. (For the record, Lewis was an adamant atheist for many years.) Wizards and conjurers are acceptable under those conditions. The Force in Star Wars? How about a boycott there? Nah, that would just be silly.

Do your own research on this. Google "Thomas Muthee witch hunt" and see what comes up.

Here is Olbermann's take on this nonsense.



Have a good weekend.

JW

Hop On Your Pogo Stick

One wonders where this cat got the idea to start busting back flips on a pogo stick. And where do you get this powerful of a pogo stick?



Personally, I think the guy, like myself, has just seen one too many Disney cartoons. Goofy was doing these kinds of tricks long ago.


That Goofy. Just hilarious.

Pogo stick video via my boy Baierman at YesButNoButYes. Cheers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Saying Goodbye To The House That Ruth Built



Above you'll see opening day at Yankee Stadium. April 18, 1923. This weekend she closes her doors for the final time. It's terrible.

I am not a Yankees fan. Not by any stretch. However, Yankee Stadium is a sports cathedral. Living history. That the Steinbrenner's are tearing her down is shameful. For a few more luxury boxes. That's what history and tradition is worth. They really are going to knock the joint down. Sickening.

Earlier in the season I made sure I took the 4 train up to the Stadium one last time. The ticket stub was carefully taped into one of the Mead Composition Notebooks I obsessively carry around with me. So I'll always have it.

Long before humans had a real understanding of how important historical buildings would be, the Romans had enough sense not to knock down The Colosseum. She was built between 70 and 80 AD and had fallen into ruin by the 16th Century. Pope Sixtus V proposed in the 1580's to knock down The Colosseum and turn the grounds into a wool factory in the hopes of getting the cities prostitutes off the street. Luckily Pope Sixtus died before that could happen. In 1749 The Colosseum was declared a sacred site by Pope Benedict XIV. And thus protected from ruin. It's a shame that the Yankee organization doesn't have similar respect for a modern day coliseum.

Yes, the feats in those arenas were quite different. However in historical context they are equal. Both stadiums showed what was, at the time, heroes of sport.

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Across the street to a new ballpark with luxury boxes for Wall Street yuppies? To a stadium devoid of charm and character? Sadly, yes.

Gone will be the stomping grounds of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and Jeter. Gone will be that amazing smell as you walk through her gates. Gone will be baseball history. American history.

Fortunately what will survive is the memories of millions.


The Babe hits his 60th home run. Fueled by hot dogs and beer, not steroids.


The grace and power of Joltin' Joe DiMaggio.


How do you not love The Mick?


A Farewell to Babe Ruth


The immortal Lou Gehrig says goodbye.

So do we...

Animal Adventures

Forbes Traveler has an interesting piece about adventure abroad. There are details about seeing parts of the globe on the backs of burros, elephants, camels and other beasts of burden. Even African Serengeti tours from horse back.

While that sounds very exciting, I've seen lions take down zebras. Zebras are basically just cool looking horses. What if you bump into a hungry pride of lions and they decide to have a go? Could be trouble. And by "trouble" I mean grisly death. On the other hand, viewing of the video footage on YouTube could rival The Battle at Kruger. That's a coin flip scenario.

There should be elephant tours through Manhattan. What better way to see the concrete jungle? Way better than those double decker buses. Someone needs to get on that.

Smartest Dog In the History of Dogs?

Perhaps.

If you were the owner of this crafty little guy, you'd have to be like Ron Burgundy after Baxter pooped in the refrigerator and ate an entire wheel of cheese. You can't get mad. That's amazing.



I love how at the end the others dogs seem to be confused. "How did he do that?"

My only complaint is the video could have used a soundtrack.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

90% of Icebergs are Underwater


That's what scientists say. 90% of an iceberg is hidden from view under the water. In this case, I don't think that's a good thing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Few Gotham Anecdotes


Today on the subway there was a dwarf. Not a magical one, nobody got any wishes or anything, a proper dwarf. This was during rush hour, about 7:00 pm. Everyone is crammed in there nuts to butts. I thought that has to be awful to ride the train when you are at crotch level. Not a nice view, is it? The real danger is a fellow straphanger not being aware of the little guy and breaking a little dirty wind right in your face. That's a bad commute. I looked at the dwarf and thought it would be nice if he actually had some wishes.

Also on the 1 train, this time earlier in the day, a guitar playing busker hopped on at 72nd Street. He was terrible. Really awful. His crappy guitar was way out of tune and there was an attempt to play "Time of Your Life" from Green Day. No response. Then the pitiful minstrel shifted into "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young. Even worse. It was like a musical beating with a sock full of nickels. When he mercifully stopped and held out his cap, nobody reached for their wallet. This rarely happens in Manhattan. Usually there are at least a few pity dollars. The car boycotted as a whole. Angry, the horrible performer opened the door to the next car, turned back and yelled "I hope you all die! Cheap bastards!" Never seen that approach before.

And finally...

The other night I couldn't sleep. Tossin' and turnin'. So I went for walk. This is about 3:30 or so. Middle of the night. Walking down my block I was stopped by a man. 40's, thin, white, bald. He seemed really panicked. "Can I ask you something?" "Sure," I said. He started into his tale of woe. He stepped outside to take out the garbage, the door shut behind him, and now he is locked out. It was a very detailed story. He then pulled out a piece of paper from his shoulder bag that had his address on it, "proving" he lived at the building he was locked out of. Now he asked for money "so when the locksmith opens up in a couple hours I can get back into my apartment."

My exact words: "Do I look like a tourist to you? You're kidding me, right?"

"Look I have proof I live there-" he started. I stopped him cold. "Your address is on 122nd Street. You're on 105th Street. So what happened was you went outside to take out the garbage, in the middle of the night, happened to have your shoes and shoulder bag but not your keys or your wallet, found you were locked out, then walked 17 blocks south to ask for money instead of sitting outside your building waiting for someone that lives there to go in and follow in behind them? Does this crap story actually work?" I might as well have just kicked him in the sweets. A little color drained from his face. "L-look," he said, stammering and stuttering, "do I look like I need to beg-" "No you don't. That's why you should shut up. Try a different story somewhere else." The con-man bristled and stormed off swearing at me over his shoulder. As he moved quickly further south. Away from the "apartment he is locked out of."

I love New York City like a fat kid loves cake...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jack the Railroad Signalman Who Happened To Be a Baboon



In South Africa in the late 1800's, a baboon named Jack worked as a signalman at a train yard.

I swear on the Good Book it's true. At least according to South African historians it's true.

Jack did much more than just work at the train yard. The little bugger also worked as a disabled persons assistant, ox driver, janitor, bodyguard and train yard security officer. Jack was true renaissance monkey.

Want to read the rest of the yarn? Of course you do. Click here.

More Ricky Gervais Podcasts Coming Tomorrow

My brothers and I have been chattering about Season 5 of Ricky Gervais's podcasts for weeks now. Eagerly anticipating them like children pining for a new bicycle on Christmas morning.

The reason being, the podcasts are one of the few genuinely funny bits of popular culture left. Ricky and Stephen Merchant are there to keep the show moving along, but it is the phenomenon that is the shaven chimp of a moron Karl Pilkington that we want to hear. Will Karl teach us about a monkey that robbed a bank and retired to Spain? Will he prattle on about ghosts and goblins? Nearly everything he says is funny. I can't freaking wait till tomorrow.

If you have not heard the podcasts. Trust me. Go to iTunes and buy Season 1. Just do it. You will laugh. Hard. You'll laugh so hard it's possible that a little pee may come out.

Fair warning.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

YouTube Gems Vol. #5: Beatles Edition


Since the last couple entries both had a connection to Mother England, and being the loyal Anglophile that I am, why not make it a theme? Thus, a Beatles chapter of YouTube Gems.


Paul performing "Blackbird" at the Queens Jubilee in 2002. There was a concert called Party at the Palace. Note to self: Someday throw a party for myself and call it a "Jubilee."


"Don't Let Me Down" from the roof of the Apple Headquarters on Savile Row. The boys broke up soon after.


At the Concert for George, a tribute a year after he died, Paul, Ringo, Eric Clapton and others perform a touching version of "Something." I believe the most beautiful song the Beatles ever put on wax.


John, along with Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience move through a ripping version of "Yer Blues." The band was called The Dirty Mac.


George was known as the "quiet Beatle," but he had a wry sense of humor few people saw. He was a huge fan of Monty Python and made a guest appearance to perform "The Pirate Song."

While my guitar gently weeps,

JW

Friday, September 12, 2008

Briton Claims He Invented iPod in 1979

Reposted from YesButNoButYes...


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Britain's Kane Kramer claims he invented the iPod. In 1979. He has drawings.

On his website, Kramer has the original drawings and schematics for the "first MP3 player." Also on his site is a PDF of a nine page document that speaks about a centralized server where music is stored.

Now I can see that the drawing resembles the basic design of the iPod. Rectangular in shape with a display screen and a 4-way directional touch pad. However, here is my beef with Kramer's claim; I drew pictures when I was a kid of saucer-shaped aircrafts. If tomorrow the chaps at Area 51 rolled out an experimental aircraft of a similar shape, I can't claim I already invented it.

H.G. Wells wrote in detail about a Time Machine. Doesn't mean he invented one.

The great Leonardo Da Vinci had sketches of flying machines, helicopters, armored tanks, hang gliders, parachutes and submarines. That doesn't mean Da Vinci invented any of those devices.

Seems pretty thin to me...

Early Reference to Baseball Found In England

For many years the myth that Civil War general Abner Doubleday invented baseball in 1835 was prevalent. It was widely accepted trivia. In fact, if you ask people of my father's generation who invented baseball, I'd wager many would still say it was Doubleday's creation, taking place at Cooperstown New York.

Writer Henry Chadwick wrote in the early 1900's that baseball's origins were English. Albert Spalding -- yep, he of the sporting goods giant -- led a charge to establish the origins of baseball were American. Spalding received information erroneously attributing the game to Doubleday. The myth grew and spread from there. Doubleday himself never claimed to invent baseball.

The truth is, baseball is a mutt. There are various bat and ball games that date back to the 14th century. American baseball borrowed and adapted components from cricket, rounders, stoolball and a Scottish game called dog and cat.

A British researcher has found a reference to "Base Ball" 50 years before the term was used in America. English lawyer William Bray wrote in 1755, "Went to Stoke Ch. This morning. After Dinner Went to Miss Jeale’s to play at Base Ball with her, the 3 Miss Whiteheads, Miss Billinghurst, Miss Molly Flutter, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Ford & H. Parsons & Jelly. Drank Tea and stayed till 8."



Yet another piece of cultural significance we stole from Britain. Like the tune to "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," Three's Company, The Office, the English language, sandwich's and irony. But we invented Coca-Cola, right? We did. Pretty sure. Yeah, Coca-Cola, take that ya bunch a' Redcoats.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Anniversary


Take a moment today to remember...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Largest Shark Ever Caught


As a lad, some of my interests weren't that different from what they are now. Sports, ninjas, candy. And wildlife.

In the library at Adelaide Elementary School, there was a few books that I was obsessed with. I knew exactly where they were in the stacks. There was huge book with color drawings of dinosaurs that I checked out quite often. One on monkeys that I would hide so I knew where it was. And a tome about sharks.

There was one picture that especially fascinated me. That of the "Largest Shark Ever Caught." (Pictured above.) I came across the photo, the exact one that amazed me as a kid, the other day by accident and a flood of memories returned. I haven't seen the photo in years. In the 40's, that shark was caught off the coast of Cuba. The giant measured 21 feet long and weighed over 7,000 pounds. I would stare at the photo, imagining the adventure the men must have had to catch the beast.

Now, the confession that has been long overdue. After a few years of fascination with the picture in the shark book, I stole it. It's true. It was the perfect crime. The library was bustling with youngsters, plenty of ambient noise. Then I snuck to a distant corner, away from the cranky librarians. The book was propped open to the appropriate page. Then, the genius part of my plan; a fake sneeze as I tore the page out. It was brilliant. The shark picture was slyly slipped into a Pee Chee folder and that was that. The shark book went back onto the shelf and nobody got wise to the theft. It was a diabolical caper. I was a criminal mastermind. Similar to the guy that boosted the Mona Lisa from The Louvre in 1911.

The picture was later trimmed and proudly posted on the bulletin board in my bedroom. So, if you are a retired librarian and have wondered all these years what happened to that shark book, you can rest easy. I did it. I'm sorry. But the statute of limitations on the crime has expired.

What memories a random picture stumbled upon on the internet can inspire...

For Sale: Michael Jackson's Unwashed Underpants

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There are reports that say a New Jersey businessman will be auctioning off a pair of Micheal Jackson's unwashed tighty-whities on ebay later today.

Hang on ... Need to throw up in a bucket ... Give me a sec ... Hold on ... Still honking ... I think that's pizza ... Oh man, some came out of my nose ... Anyone have an Altoid? ... Okay, I'm back. Sorry about that.

The undies in question were reportedly part of the evidence confiscated in 2003 by Santa Monica DA Tom Sneddon as part of their child molestation case against the former King of Pop and current King of Crazy. A pair of size-28 Calvin Klein underoos can be yours if you meet the reserve price of $1 million dollars.

For a million clams you can become the creepiest person on Earth. A bargain at twice the price.

Who do they think would be bidding on the underpants? A newly opened Hard Rock Cafe that wants to have a pedophile wing? "Here are Michael Jackson's dirty whites and Gary Glitter's leather chaps. Our specials today are the Herb Grilled Chicken Breast and the Hickory Smoked Bar-B-Que Combo. I can take your order whenever you're ready." And where has this disgusting piece of "memorabilia" been for the last five years? In some sort of hyperbolic decompression chamber? A safety deposit box? Never mind, I don't want to know.

Just thinking about that has made me queazy again. Where's my bucket?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Noel & Liam Attacked Onstage in Toronto

While Oasis was ripping through "Morning Glory" last night in Toronto, a nut ran onto the stage and attacked the boys from Manchester.

The lunatic shoved Noel from behind, knocking the guitarist into the monitors. The he went after Liam as security grabbed him. Once the younger Gallagher figures out what is going on, he tries to grab the assailant and beat the piss out of him.

Amateur footage caught the incident. The attack comes at about the 1:30 mark.



After a few minutes, Oasis came back out and finished the show. According the band's website, Noel was treated afterwards for a "suspected fractured rib and ligament damage."

I wish Liam would have gotten ahold of the bastard. I met Liam at an Oasis show in New York at the Roseland Ballroom. He's an intimidating presence. While I'm a little taller than he is, Liam would kick my head in. Mancunians are tough dudes.

Best wishes to Noel.

Run For Your Life at Kruger Park

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Hippopotamus's are often called the "deadliest animals in Africa." Supposedly killing more men a year than lions, leopards or crocs. Hippos are mean buggers. Especially, so I'm told, if they are "wiggling their ears and blowing bubbles."

There also is the story of an Austrian circus dwarf taking a bad bounce off a trampoline and a hippo ate the little guy whole. Caught the dwarf like a fly-ball in centerfield. The story isn't true.

This picture is mesmerizing. What led to this scene? Did the game warden stop tourists from chucking pumpkins into the bathing pool? Was the hippo protecting a child? Whatever happened, I'm pretty sure that man was in the wrong.

The Great Moon Hoax of 1835

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An Odd History Lesson...

No, we're not talking about the idiocy of NASA faking the 1969 Moon landing on a soundstage. ("That rock has a 'C' on it! The flag is waving when it's not supposed to wave!" Moses smell the roses you're a dope.) This was an actual hoax.

In 1835, a serialized article appeared in The New York Sun boasting an incredible discovery. The periodical claimed they were reprinting findings from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. There was no such thing as the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The Sun's headline read:

GREAT ASTRONOMICAL DISCOVERIES

LATELY MADE

BY SIR JOHN HERSCHEL, L.L.D. F.R.S.

At the Cape of Good Hope


Herschel was a real astronomer and quite well known at the time. The article claimed that through a new, extremely powerful telescope, the British scientist had discovered ... LIFE ON THE MOON!

In detail that may have made H.G. Wells envious, the screed spoke about lunar topography, huge forests, vast seas and oceans and "lilac-hued quartz pyramids."

That was just the beginning.

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Through Herschel's alleged uber-telescope, bustling life was seen knocking about on the Moon. There were round, amphibious creatures rolling around sandy beaches. Herds of bison. Gangs of "blue unicorns" grazing on the rolling hills. A tribe of fire-spewing bipedal, tailless beavers that lived in huts. And the most amazing discovery; winged, bat-like humans that lived in a golden-roofed temple. The creatures were dubbed "Vespertilio-homo." The Man-Bat. This was about a hundred years before The Dark Knight graced the pages of DC Comics. Not bad.

Along with the articles were detailed lithographs. Supposedly depicting this awe-inspiring Moon culture. The pictures showed the great architecture, luscious landscapes, walking beavers, and flying man-bats.

Some editors at rival papers panicked, said they too had access the original non-existent articles from the non-existent Edinburgh Journal of Science and just reran the Sun's stories.

Some reports say the Moon Hoax boosted the Sun's readership. Thousands believed the tale. And not just the common man. Almost twenty years later a reporter wrote that students and staff at Yale bought it hook, line and moon boots. It read:

Yale College was alive with staunch supporters. The literati--students and professors, doctors in divinity and law--and all the rest of the reading community, looked daily for the arrival of the New York mail with unexampled avidity and implicit faith. Have you seen the accounts of Sir John Herschel's wonderful discoveries? Have you read the Sun? Have you heard the news of the man in the Moon? These were the questions that met you every where. It was the absorbing topic of the day. Nobody expressed or entertained a doubt as to the truth of the story.

Though it was eventually discredited, the Sun never publicly admitted the hoax.

Sir John Herschel initially was amused by the story, saying he wished he could see such an unusual world, but he became increasingly annoyed when he was asked about it over and over again for years after.

The Great Moon Hoax of 1835 makes the reports of water molecules on Mars seem pretty lame. Where's the blue unicorns and flying man-bats? Boring.

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Google Earth's View of Area 51

While following the Game Cast of the Seahawks game on the computer like a pathetic addict, I was doing some random reading. News, sports, monkeys, etc. I was curious what Google Earth showed of Area 51. The legendary "secret" military base in Nevada. While I don't know what is going on at the base nor do I put much stock in the crazy rumors that float about, it is funny that the United States Government didn't even confirm the base existed until 2003.

So what does Google Earth show of the super-secret Area 51?

Click on the images for a better look.


At first glance, just what you'd expect. The outlines of buildings and large hangars. Airstrips. Parked aircraft.



Then you zoom in a little more. There's some jets, F-15's maybe. Hang on. What the ... What is that next to them?


Of course. It's an alien barbecue. It appears that some rascals at Google Earth have a sharp sense of humor and added a little hello to the curious.

There you have it. Stories of storing alien corpses from the Roswell crash, reverse engineering spacecrafts and the development of weather control and time travel devices are horse-apples. The little guys are just having a cookout. Who doesn't enjoy a lovely cookout?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

YouTube Gems Volume #4

Some great clips I have seen lately.


The Dead Parrot sketch is still just as funny as it ever was. "Beautiful plumage innit?"


A rare interview with Slowhand demonstrating different sounds from a Gibson SG. That 'stache is the mutt's nuts.


The Smothers Brothers performing "Boil That Cabbage Down." I can hear my Dad laughing watching this. The "pumas in the crevices" just kills him.


That monkey is riding a motorcycle.


Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson perform "Pancho and Lefty."

Be sound...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Reason #7,733 I Love My Nephews


A couple times a week my nephews (Jackson, 5 and Luke, 2 1/2 years old) ask to talk with me on the webcam. Part of the process is I tell them stories. Then they repeat the story and tell it back to me. This weeks story was E.T. landing his spaceship in the backyard, then going to swimming lessons with the boys and living in the playroom forever. Two boys and an alien: pals. The story was a big hit. Universal Pictures is trying to option the tale. We're negotiating.

Jackson told me about the first week of kindergarten and Luke told me how "motorcycles need a drink." He means when you put gas in the tank, that's a drink.

Anyhoo, last weekend the boys were staying and their Grandfather's Whatcom County cabin. A big deal. The younger Luke is still trying to perfect potty training. His Dad thought that "peeing in the woods" would be a fun adventure. It was. Luke was chugging juice boxes just go outside to pick "what tree I'm gonna pee on."

Cut to four days later. I'm on the phone with my brother talking about the upcoming NFL season. Mid sentence, my brother stops. "Huh ... You're not going to believe what your nephew is doing," he said. I get excited when that sentence is said. "Luke is standing in the middle of the back yard, pants at his ankles, peeing. Swaying back and forth." The outdoor urination excursions had made an impression. My saint of a sister-in-law gave my brother a half smirk and a shake of the head. Which is code for "my sons are half well behaved, half rascals and we know which half you are responsible for." Bless her heart.



"Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable."
Plato

Gohn Makane Rooning Fer Prisideent


While watching John McCain's convention speech online (is he still going?) I saw something strange. The camera caught an enthusiastic supporter in the crowd. I did a quick "screen grab" to make sure I wasn't seeing a comedy mirage. The chap was proudly holding a homemade sign highlighting one of McCain's attributes. He's a maverick.

The problem? Magic Markers don't have spell-check. "Mavrick." Well, he did sound it out.

Damn. So close.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Naughty Elephant Sent to the Gallows

This is a new feature we'll try. The Odd History Lesson.

They will all be true. No tellin' tales out of school. I swear. We'll see how they go.

In 1916, an elephant named Mary was hanged for her bad behavior. The only time we know of this kind of madness occurring.

Mary was a performer for the Sparks World Famous Shows Circus. The circus hired an inexperienced assistant elephant trainer named Red Eldridge. Red had no idea what he was doing. Before a performance in Tennessee, Red was taking Mary to a local watering hole for some refreshment, Mary stopped to nibble on a watermelon rind she spotted on the ground. Red stuck a hook behind the ear of the pachyderm. Mary reacted to the mistreatment, grabbing Red with her trunk, tossing him into a concession stand and stepping on the trainer's head. Of course killing the man.

Onlookers turned into a villagers-in-Frankenstein-like mob. Shouts of "kill the elephant" rang out. A local blacksmith fired a dozen shots or so from a rifle. To little effect.

Two days later, circus owner Charlie Sparks bowed to local pressure and decided to kill Mary in public. A crowd of 2,500 - that included many children - gathered to watch the execution. A chain was put around Mary's neck. The chain was connected to a railcar-mounted industrial crane. The first attempt to hang Mary resulted in a broken chain. Mary crashed to Earth, breaking her hips. Children screamed and ran away in terror.

The second attempt at a hanging killed the poor elephant. She was buried beside the Tennessee railroad tracks.

There has been other elephant executions, but not by hanging from the gallows. Topsy the elephant killed three men in 1903 and was electrocuted. In fact, Thomas Edison filmed the event. You can see the footage here. It may be disturbing to some. Fair warning.

So we don't end on a total bummer, here's some happy elephant footage. An Asian elephant painting a self-portrait. The footage is real.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

If Not For You

During the soundcheck for The Concert for Bangladesh, Bob Dylan and George Harrison performed a casual version of "If Not For You." One of my favorite songs. A beautiful and simple tune. Four chords and some poetry. I play this song on my guitar often.


Sing it lads.

If not for you,
Babe, I couldn't find the door,
Couldn't even see the floor,
I'd be sad and blue,
If not for you.

If not for you,
Babe, I'd lay awake all night,
Wait for the mornin' light
To shine in through,
But it would not be new,
If not for you.

If not for you
My sky would fall,
Rain would gather too.
Without your love I'd be nowhere at all,
I'd be lost if not for you,
And you know it's true.

If not for you
My sky would fall,
Rain would gather too.
Without your love I'd be nowhere at all,
Oh! What would I do
If not for you.

If not for you,
Winter would have no spring,
Couldn't hear the robin sing,
I just wouldn't have a clue,
Anyway it wouldn't ring true,
If not for you.

Nazis + Bears = Best Buddies



Belgium. January, 1945 -- During the Siege of Bastogne, Nazi forces were huddled around a fire, trying to keep warm in the bitter cold. Temperatures in the Belgian forest that winter reached dangerous temperatures. Frostbite was common on both sides of the battle.

As the Axis troops were rubbing their exposed hands together, sharing cigarettes, a large bear waddled out of the woods. The Nazis panicked. They scrambled to grab automatic weapons to defend themselves against the bear. Right before the German troops opened fire, the bear stood up on his hind legs and flashed a Nazi salute. Some reports indicate the bear made a noise that could have been interpreted as a mumbled version of "Heil Hitler."

The Nazis lowered their weapons. Slowly, they approached the beast. The bear lowered his massive head to be patted and stroked. The Germans knew they had a bear sympathizer.

During the next few days, the bear -- who had come to be known as "Adalbert" -- assisted in securing the border of the Nazi camp. Adalbert was then named "Minister of Security" for the Bastogne encampment by General Heinrich Freiherr von L├╝ttwitz. The bear patroled the ground for another seven days. On the eighth day, the Nazi's and the bear found the time to pose for one picture. The only proof of Adalbert that exists.

Soon after, Allied troops broke through the Nazi ranks. Adalbert was shot in the head by Private Allan Konigsberg of Brooklyn New York. American soldiers enjoyed bear burgers for the next week and half.


"Nazis. I hate these guys."
Indiana Jones


(Photo via YBNBY)