Sunday, April 05, 2009

What's Up With That? #74: Why do you think they call it "dope"?

You could get more idiotic than this, but not much.

At the same time that this story is being reported:
Farrah Fawcett hospitalized; family gathers at bedside
This story is only one headline away:
Son of Ryan O'Neal arrested in LA on drug charge
In case you don't immediately tumble to the connection, Ryan O'Neal's son Redmond is also the son of Farrah Fawcett.

According to the Associated Press, the younger O'Neal — who just last week was kicked out of a rehab facility after failing a drug test — was visiting an incarcerated friend at a county jail in Castaic (northern Los Angeles County) when he admitted during a routine search that he was carrying methamphetamine. Redmond is currently being held on $25,000 bail.

Dude... your mom is in the hospital dying of cancer, and you're busted smuggling dope into a jail?

I believe Mr. T. said it best... I pity the fool.

And I hope that Ms. Fawcett, who's been battling the Big C for several years, survives this latest setback — at the very least, long enough for her son the moron to get out of the hoosegow to say goodbye.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

What's Up With That? #73: Eating from the bottom

In the aftermath of my less-than-complimentary — yet entirely accurate — St. Patrick's Day comment regarding the quality (or lack thereof) of Irish cuisine, I got to thinking...

Why is it that the further north of the equator one travels, the lousier the food becomes?

In the so-called Old World, this principle is eminently obvious. The North Africans — the Moroccans, Ethiopians, Eritreans, et al. — have amazing food. (When they have food, which is a whole other issue.)

Their neighbors on the northern seaboard of the Mediterranean — the Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italians, and Greeks (having lived in Greece for two years, I can attest personally to the latter) — are legendary for their culinary prowess.

But then, as you continue up the continent, things start to get dicey. German and Polish food, outside of the occasional sausage? Not all that delectable. Russian cuisine? Unless you're a huge fan of beet soup, nothing to write home about.

English food? Notoriously awful. Dazzling language, superlative literature, a world-changing culture. But you wonder how they came up with those great traditions while stuffing their bellies with boiled beef and mashed peas. Irish cuisine? As previously noted, the less said about that, the better.

By the time you've traveled into Scandinavia, people are eating reindeer innards and fish soaked in lye, for pity's sake. That's not food — that's chemical warfare.

The same phenomenon occurs in the Western Hemisphere.

Anywhere you go in the Caribbean region and Central America, you're going to find spectacular dining — spicy, diverse, and flavorful. Mexico? Well, there's a reason for all those taquerias and faux-Mexican chain restaurants that proliferate north of the border. Our neighbors to the south know how to cook.

Here in the United States? Well, much like our language, our cuisine mostly cobbled together from stuff other people cooked before us. Still, we make do, especially across the nether region of this great country of ours — from the fiery specialties of the Southwest to the manly barbecue of Texas, from the Cajun and Creole delights of Louisiana to the deep-fried comfort food of the Deep South.

But here again, as you move north, the eating gets shaky. The Upper Midwest? They'll sneak some lutefisk on the steam-table smorgasbord as soon as look at you. And have you ever tried to get a decent meal in New England? I've been to Maine, and aside from the lobster, it wasn't pretty.

Canada? Does the phrase "back bacon" ring any bells? How about moose jerky? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Even the Far East — to use that dated and Caucasocentric term — suffers from the same pattern.

A quick whirl across southern Asia reveals one culinary wonderland after another: India, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines — all incredible places to grab a bite, as evidenced by the abundance of eateries featuring delicacies from these locales.

China? Hello? I'll bet you've got some of those little white paper cartons fermenting in your kitchen trash at this very moment.

Then you get up to Japan. Love that sushi, sashimi, and soba... but they're also eating some ghastly stuff. Have you ever smelled natto? Trust me, you don't want to, much less attempt to consume any. And in what other country is eating poisonous blowfish that could kill you with a single nibble someone's idea of a fun date?

You might as well stop at Japan, because progressing any further north into the Asiatic tundra will land you in the realm of yak loin and Lord only knows what else.

So, again, I'll pose the imponderable...

Why does food get so much better as you head south toward the equator, and so much more inedible as you leave it going north?

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Monday, March 16, 2009

What's Up With That? #72: Sci Fi? I thought you said Hi Fi

In what must surely be one of the most ludicrous marketing gambits of all time, the Sci Fi Channel announced today that it is rebranding itself as "Syfy."

Umm... what?

According to Bonnie Hammer, president of Sci Fi's — excuse me, Syfy's — parent company, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment, "We couldn't own Sci Fi; it's a genre. But we can own Syfy."

Gotcha, Bonnie. Glad you've got your priorities in order.

Fanboys, geeks, nerds, and other societal rejects will be relieved to learn that Syfy (the channel) will continue to present Sci Fi (the genre), and that most of it will suck swamp water, in keeping with the channel's long-standing tradition.

In related news, the Food Network revealed today that it, too, is changing its name, after network executives discovered that "food" is a generic term for "stuff you eat." Henceforth, the channel will be known as the Guy Fieri Network.

Said a spokesperson, "We can't own food. But we can and do own Guy."

Also, FOX is reported to be searching for a pithy, trademarkable brand, now that evidence has come to light that "fox" is actually a small, furry, dog-like animal that lives in the woods.

More on this development is forthcoming.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's Up With That? #71: London calling

There's this telemarketer who calls my business line roughly three or four times a week.

Every time he calls, he leaves a voice mail message that's simply his name — which I presume is a company pseudonym — and (long-distance) telephone number, and requests that I call him back.

I don't know what he's selling (I suspect that it's credit card payment processing services, which I neither use nor need), or what company he represents.

Dude, if you're out there, here's your challenge.

First, I have Caller ID, and never answer the phone if the number is blocked or unknown to me. No matter how many times you call, you're never going to get me on the line.

Second, I never return calls (especially not long-distance calls) from people I don't know, or who don't provide me a detailed rationale for my doing so. You can leave messages from now until the next ice age, and I'm not calling you back.

Stop wasting your employer's time and money.

Find other fish to fry.

As I was going up the stair
I saw a man who wasn't there;
He wasn’t there again today --
Oh, how I wish he'd go away!

-- from "Antigonish" by William Hughes Mearns

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's Up With That? #70: Doctor Wu and the Royal Scam

Until I was in my early 40s, I never took maintenance medication of any kind.

Now, I swallow enough junk every day to cover my pharmacist's greens fees.

I think it's a racket.

I take two different medications to control my blood glucose level — one every morning, the other twice every day with meals.

Here's the weird thing about that. Every time I have blood work done, my A1c — I forget what the abbreviation stands for, but it's a measure of long-term glucose levels — is well into the normal range.

My nurse practitioner says that means the medication is doing its job.

But how does she know that it doesn't mean that I don't actually have a blood glucose problem, and therefore don't need the medication?

I smell a scam.

I now take three different medications to regulate my blood pressure. My doctor added another one after my most recent checkup.

My wife has metastatic breast cancer. My only child is leaving for university this fall. I'm trying to start a new career direction at age 47. I'm a self-employed small businessperson in a lousy economy.

Maybe there's a reason why I have high blood pressure.

Another scam.

In addition to the prescription drugs, I take a multivitamin, an aspirin, and — this was another recommendation from the last exam — a fish oil capsule. That last is supposed to keep my Omega-3 up.

I didn't even know I had an Omega-3. I don't wear a watch.

Scam number three.

And we wonder why health care is so doggoned expensive.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's Up With That? #69: No cake for Hitler

What kind of whack job does one have to be to name one's children "Adolf Hitler" and "Aryan Nation"?

If this (cross-)burning question has been plaguing you, friend reader, you now have a resource. Direct your inquiries to Heath and Deborah Campbell of Holland Township, Pennsylvania.

The Campbells made news this week when a ShopRite supermarket refused to inscribe "Happy Birthday, Adolf Hitler" on a cake intended for the Campbells' three-year-old son, Adolf Hitler Campbell. The same store previously refused to personalize a cake for the couple's two-year-old daughter, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell.

Go figure.

Fortunately for the Campbells, a Wal-Mart in nearby Lower Nazareth Township happily complied with their request. (Wal-Mart. Owned by Republicans from Arkansas. Draw your own conclusions.)

The Campbells, who display swastikas in each room of their home — which, before you ask, is not a double-wide on cinder blocks, at least not according to the Easton Express-Times — "say they aren't racists but believe races shouldn't mix."

Perhaps a dictionary is in order.

Although, looking at this photo of Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, I'm guessing that reading is not a family priority. Maybe not even a family capability.

I wonder whether Deborah Campbell knows that her own first name is the Hebrew word for "bee."


You know... Jewish.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What's Up With That? #68: Unkempt afterwards

This struck me as a rather peculiar news item.

Sean Avery, a player with the National Hockey Association's Dallas Stars, made the following statement to a group of reporters covering the Stars' game earlier this week against the Calgary Flames:
I am really happy to be back in Calgary. I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight.
As the sporting press dutifully acknowledged, Avery's ex-girlfriend, actress (and as an ardent fan of 24, I'm using that word with extreme accommodation) Elisha Cuthbert, is dating a Flames defenseman named Dion Phaneuf.

Apparently, Avery disapproves.

But perhaps not as much as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman disapproves of Avery's choice of metaphor. Bettman suspended Avery indefinitely for "inappropriate public comments."

Now, this seems weird to me on several levels. Allow me to elucidate.

When I first heard about Avery's indiscretion, the news account simply stated the charge, without publishing Avery's exact words. I presumed that he had used one of the two four-letter Anglo-Saxonisms for the female reproductive anatomy (let's call them the "C" word and the "T" word) in reference to Ms. Cuthbert. I was taken aback somewhat when I learned what term he'd actually used.

Is "sloppy seconds" profane? Crude, yes. Uncomplimentary, without question — though I think I may have used stronger terminology to critique Ms. Cuthbert's acting talents (or utter lack of same) on at least one or two occasions. (All right, you've got me — every week for the first three seasons of 24.)

But a chargeable offense? Seems extreme to me.

Unlike the "C" and "T" words, however, I'm fairly certain that you could use the expression "sloppy seconds" on primetime network television. (Not that you should. I'm just saying.) It was the title of a Dr. Hook album way back in 1972, for crying out loud. If you could put it on the cover of a pop album (not to mention the cover of the Rolling Stone) 36 years ago, I'm sure you could probably get away with it on Two and a Half Men today. (If anyone would know about "sloppy seconds," it would have to be Charlie Sheen.)

I was also puzzled by the fact that Avery tossed this remark off (no pun intended) in an interview with journalists in a locker room. (Do they call it a locker room in hockey, or is it a clubhouse? Not sure. Not caring. Moving on...) Was this really the first thing Sean could think of to say when confronted with a battery of microphones? Whatever happened to, "We've gotta play 'em one game at a time... the guys are really pulling together... that's the way the puck slides sometimes... sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes the Zamboni breaks down"? Did this man never see Bull Durham? Crash Davis to the Stars' locker room, please.

For that matter, why are there reporters in a hockey locker room, interviewing players? Does anyone care what hockey players have to say? I mean, the Sharks might be the best team in the NHL right now, and you don't hear Joe Thornton or Jonathan Cheechoo babbling inanities about their ex-girlfriends — or anything else — on the local sports talk station. We know how to keep our Canadians under control here in the Bay Area.

And one other odd thing...

There's an ice hockey team in Dallas?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

What's Up With That? #67: That's why it's called the Big House

Because it's essential that Sonoma County continue to solidify its reputation as the pedophilia capital of North America...

A teacher at one of the local high schools was arrested this weekend, charged with allegedly engineering an illicit rendezvous with a teenage girl.

Scott Dietlin, a 34-year-old history and economics teacher at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, was arraigned today in San Mateo County on three felony counts.

According to Burlingame police, Dietlin made a connection with two underage female residents of that community via their MySpace page. When the girls reported Dietlin's untoward e-mails to local authorities, a police detective continued the conversations until Saturday's scheduled meeting.

I'm guessing that Mr. Dietlin was a tad surprised when his online dream date turned up wearing a badge and Police Special.

Ironically, Casa Grande High's nickname among local kids is "the Big House," a pun on its Spanish name. As my daughter KM said of Dietlin's misadventure...

"He'll be going from the Big House to the Big House."

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

What's Up With That? #66: Design on a Dyme

This apparently happened several months ago, but I first read about it yesterday over at Rocketship of the Mind (thanks, Sean!). So it's not really news, but if I'm just now hearing about it, it's news to me, right?

My wife KJ loves watching the endless array of home improvement programs on HGTV. One of her favorite shows there is Design on a Dime, in which teams of interior decorators reinvent rooms in people's homes using a maximum budget of $1,000. (I know, they should have entitled it Design on a Grand. Don't ask me why they didn't.)

At least, KJ used to enjoy that show until a year or two ago, when several of the featured designers were replaced with newer talent whom she didn't like as well.

Now, I've come to find out that one of Design on a Dime's former stars, one-time Disney Imagineer Lee Snijders, has embarked on a new career... a purveyor of Internet pornography.

Lee and his paramour, a porn star-turned-photographer who goes by the name Jett Angel (I say "goes by the name" because I'm making the not-too-audacious leap of logic that there isn't a Mr. and Mrs. Angel somewhere in the American heartland who named their offspring Jett, thereby predestining her to a future in adult entertainment) have launched a Web portal called Goth Rock Girls, which according to a published press release, is:
an 'all-girl' punk rock porn site shot in hi-definition with a high end 'reality' format that shows the two producers as a power couple who bring these girls to life as they hold their cameras and direct the action.
Which is probably more than you wanted to know.

One can only wonder what thought process would take a guy from successful ventures in amusement park design, domicile decor, and mainstream cable television to creating... well... whatever that description was in the preceding paragraph. Fortunately, Snijders hastens to explain:
I tried to continue my relationship with HGTV by pitching them show ideas, but unfortunately they were not interested and the company did not renew my contract. I found myself auditioning for design shows with models and actors posing as designers while my competitors got their own shows on HGTV. With the housing market crash and being stereotyped as a budget designer, I stayed flexible, open minded, and moved on.
That's quite a move, all right.

I'm hoping that Lee didn't intend "flexible" as a double entendre. Then again, perhaps he did.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

What's Up With That? #65: Bring me the head of Drew Carey

Just when I think I've heard everything, my beloved San Francisco takes the insanity to another level.

The SFPD evacuated a Battery Street building this afternoon because a man walked into a law office with a make-believe bomb strapped to his waist.

The reason for this act of urban terrorism?

Apparently, the perpetrator was incensed because he had been turned down as a participant on The Price is Right.

No one knows what connection, if any, exists between the targeted law firm, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and the popular CBS game show.

Upon hearing the news, TPIR host emeritus Bob Barker reportedly said, "This is why you should have all your rejected contestants spayed or neutered."

The yodeling mountain climber from the Cliff Hangers game could not be reached for comment.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What's Up With That? #64: What, me read?

In an interview aired last evening on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin either couldn't or wouldn't give a specific answer to Couric's question about the news sources she reads. Here's the exchange:
Couric: And when it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?

Palin: I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.

Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, "Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?" Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.
I'm guessing that the governor wasn't certain whether Field & Stream, Guns & Ammo, The Hockey News, and Pageantry qualified as "news sources."

In the interest of full disclosure — and in the event that I am ever called upon to serve as the Vice President of the United States — my campaign is releasing the following list of online news sources I check regularly. I don't read everything on these sites — who has that kind of time? — but I do scan all of the headlines, and read each article that seems pertinent to me.
  • SFGate, the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle, is the first site I review every day.

  • For world and national news, I read The New York Times and the network news sites, in order of preference: MSNBC, CBS News, CNN, ABC News, and FOX News.

  • For Sonoma County news, there's the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (which, continuing the full-disclosure theme, is owned by the New York Times) and our homegrown alternative weekly, the North Bay Bohemian.

  • For political updates, I'll check Politico. I don't read a lot of political blogs, but my daily review includes The Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and yes, The Drudge Report, because everything's better with cheese.

  • For an aggregate sampling of everything — but mostly for entertainment, pop culture, and just plain bizarre news that I might never ferret out or stumble upon otherwise — I use TotalFARK, the expanded, subscription-only edition of
I'm SwanShadow, and I approve this message.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What's Up With That? #63: So that's what they mean by "Down Under"

And we Americans think our politicians are insane.

Troy Buswell, a member of the Australian Parliament and the leader of Western Australia's Liberal Party, tearfully admitted the veracity of rumors that he smelled the chair of a female staffer shortly after she vacated it.

Apparently, Mr. Buswell did inhale.

According to The Australian, in 2005:
Mr. Buswell allegedly lifted the woman's chair and started sniffing it in front of her, and later repeated the act in front of several staff members.
The paper further notes that last year, Buswell snapped a staff member's bra strap during a "drunken escapade," and frequently made "inappropriate comments" to female colleagues.

In an emotional public statement, Buswell acknowledged that his behavior was "unacceptable." He had no ready explanation for the white cotton underpants seen dangling from his hip pocket.

So far, there is no confirmation of the report that Buswell's favorite '70s radio hit was "Driver's Seat" by Sniff 'n' the Tears.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

What's Up With That? #62: Ain't no party like an Uncle Sam party

Pop diva Alicia Keys opines that gangsta rap was created by the United States government as "a ploy to convince black people to kill each other."

Umm... what?

I'm trying to envision a collection of Caucasian policy wonks holed up in a bunker in Washington, D.C. writing the material for N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton. The imagery just isn't working for me.

Even if we assume, for the sake of ludicrous argument, that shadowy figures at the Justice Department did in fact concoct the idea of gangsta rap, there's an element that I still don't comprehend:

How did the government persuade the performers who ostensibly began the gangsta rap phenomenon to begin recording this stuff?

Maybe the conversation went something like this...

FBI Guy: Hello, Mr. Ice-T. Thank you for meeting with us.

Ice-T: Whatever.

FBI Guy: Mr. Ice-T — may I call you Mr. T.?

Ice-T: Naw, man, that's the brother with the Mohawk and the bling. Just call me Ice.

FBI Guy: All right, Ice. Recognizing that you are a loyal American and a decent, law-abiding citizen, your federal government would like to make you the point man on a unique public relations project.

Ice-T: I'm listening.

FBI Guy: Your government is taking note of this hip-hop — do I have the term correct? — business that's all the rage with the young African-Americans these days. We believe there's a wonderful opportunity here to accomplish something very special for this country, and for the black community in particular, utilizing this exciting medium. And we would like for you to take a leading role.

Ice-T: What do I have to do?

FBI Guy: Our crack staff — no pun intended, Ice — has been composing some funky-fresh — did I say that properly? — lyrical material for the hip-hop genre, which we want you to record. We believe that if you were to make this material popular with the African-American youth, other performers would follow suit.

Ice-T: A'ight. Lemme see what you got. (Pause.) "Six in the mornin', police at my door..." Are you kidding me, man? (Another pause.) "Cop Killer"? What the [expletive deleted] is this?

FBI Guy: We realize that some of this material may seem — how should I put it? — extreme. However, it's our position that...

Ice-T: This crap has me advocating the murder of police officers! Man, some of my best friends are cops!

FBI Guy: I know, it sounds somewhat counterintuitive. But...

Ice-T: I can't record this. It'll incite people to violence. I'm a lover, not a "cop killer."

FBI Guy: Ice, are you familiar with the concept of reverse psychology? That's what we're going for here.

Ice-T: I don't know, man. This seems like crazy talk.

FBI Guy: This isn't crazy, Ice. It's your federal government at work. Some of the brightest minds in Washington are hard at work on this project.

Ice-T: Whatever. So what's in all this for me, man?

FBI Guy: International fame and a multimillion-dollar recording career, for starters.

Ice-T: You gotta give me more than that. I'll lose all my friends in the 'hood once they find out I'm working for The Man.

FBI Guy: How would you feel about a permanent costarring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit?

Ice-T: Dick Wolf? I'm down.

FBI Guy: You're a true patriot, Ice.

Ice-T: Whatever.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What's Up With That? #61: Worst Effen branding concept ever

Most people who know me at all well know that I don't drink alcohol.

Therefore, the following statement should not come as a surprise to anyone:

I do not want any Effen Vodka.

If you were thinking of giving me any Effen Vodka — say, as a token of esteem for a blog post well done — please keep your Effen Vodka to yourself.

And, while I respect your right to drink all the Effen Vodka you want (assuming that you're of legal drinking age in your jurisdiction), please don't drive after you've had your Effen Vodka. I don't want to see you injure anyone — including yourself — while under the influence of Effen Vodka.

I trust that I have made my position on this Effen Vodka as clear as... well... Effen Vodka.

Thank you.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

What's Up With That? #60: What part of a non-chicken is a Chicken-Free Nugget?

I spotted this product in a supermarket yesterday...

Chicken-Free Nuggets.

Now, that's just wrong.

Plain old chicken nuggets (we'll leave the "Mc" out of the discussion, lest we cloud our minds with anticorporate prejudice) are terrifying enough. Who knows what the devil they're putting in those things? It's my suspicion that they're made of ground-up chicken heads, held together with the gelatinous renderings of boiled chicken feet. (I couldn't prove it in a court of law. I'm just telling you what I think.)

But chicken-FREE nuggets?

I don't even care to contemplate what might be in these.

Perhaps one of my militant vegetarian readers can explain this to me. Why does this product even exist? If you're of a mind that it's wrong to slaughter innocent animals for human consumption, why would you wish to pretend to be engaged in that very activity? After all, no one goes to the frozen foods section hunting for: "Faux Human Nuggets: Like cannibalism, only without the life sentence."

And just look at the list of supposed ingredients:
Hydrated textured soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate. Contains less than 2% of: rice starch, salt, toasted onion powder, flavorings, spices, maltodextrin, dehydrated celery, sea salt, garlic powder, carrageenan, natural spice oils, spice extracts.
Can anyone honestly believe that unnatural amalgamation is somehow healthier for you to eat than good old poultry, fried fresh on the drumstick?

Me, I'll stick to my local megamart's boneless, skinless chicken breasts. At least I know those were sliced from the carcass of a real, once-live gallus domesticus.

I mean...

I think they were.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's Up With That? #59: Mary Ann, meet Mary Jane

Now, sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful ride;
That ended with a Dawn Wells bust --
Her car had weed inside.

Who would have suspected that sweet, innocent, fresh-faced Mary Ann Summers was a midnight toker?

Gilligan's Island star Wells, today a sprightly 69-year-old, was sentenced to six months probation this week following an arrest in Idaho last October, after a deputy sheriff observed Wells driving erratically.

Upon pulling Wells over, the officer detected the unmistakable aroma of combusting cannabis wafting from the vehicle. A subsequent search turned up four partially consumed doobies, and two cases commonly used for storing marijuana. Wells also failed a field sobriety test.

In addition to the probationary stint, the television legend was slapped with a five-day jail sentence and a $400 fine. (That's the inflationary equivalent of a ticket on a three-hour Hawaiian cruise in 1965.)

Wells reportedly told the arresting officer that the marijuana had been left in her car by three anonymous hitchhikers she had picked up earlier in the evening. Following sentencing, Wells's attorney changed the story, saying that a friend of Wells had borrowed her car on the day in question, and absent-mindedly left his stoner supplies behind. (Memo to Mary Ann: The old "it's my car, but it's not my stuff" gambit played out ages ago. Ask Lindsay Lohan.)

Gilligan fans will recall that Wells's late costar Bob Denver was no stranger to the allure of tetrahydrocannabinol. Denver was busted in 1998 after a package containing marijuana was delivered to his home. At the time, Denver claimed that the package had been sent by his old friend Dawn Wells. Given recent events, that story takes on a fresh new light of relevance.

By the way... the age-old "Ginger or Mary Ann?" debate, does anyone ever pick Ginger?

Perhaps now we know why Mary Ann was so popular.

At least, one of the reasons why.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

What's Up With That? #58: Monica du jour

Senator John McCain says:

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman... there an echo in here?"

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Monday, January 07, 2008

What's Up With That? #57: Chester the Molester

Meet Beth Ann Chester, a physical education teacher at Moon Area High School near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Actually, Beth Ann is now a former physical education teacher, since her arrest on a slew of charges relating to her sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old male student.

Beth Ann got busted sending inappropriate text messages and nude photos of herself to her underage paramour's cell phone, thus ending what I'm certain was a promising career in adolescent development.

According to at least one report, Ms. Chester — who is 26 years of age, and married — confessed to engaging in sexual congress with the boy in her car in the school parking lot. I suppose the local Motel 6 was full.

Perhaps Beth Ann was merely confused as to the academic boundaries of "physical education."

That, or she missed that whole Mary Kay Letourneau business.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What's Up With That? #56: Jonesin' for Conan

The headline reads like a comedy bit from the subject's late-night TV show: "Priest arrested for stalking Conan O'Brien." But according to the usual news sources, it's for real.

David Ajemian, a Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, reportedly harassed the red-headed comic for the past year, sending O'Brien sinister e-mails and letters — on official parish stationery, no less — and threatening his parents. Ajemian referred to himself as one of Conan's "most dangerous fans."

This story is bizarre on so many levels. Of all the celebrities and semi-celebrities in the entertainment world, a guy's going to fixate on Conan O'Brien? The only person I can envision wanting to hassle Conan is Jay Leno, whose show O'Brien is scheduled to take over in a couple of years.

Besides which, at age 44, isn't Conan a trifle old to land on a priest's hit parade? I thought they mostly savored the younger flesh.

I haven't watched Conan much since he replaced David Letterman back in 1993. (Who'da thunk he'd last 14 years, much less wind up being groomed for the Tonight Show?) I've flipped past Late Night on rare occasions over the years, but Conan's style of humor still doesn't hold much appeal for me.

Apparently he's big with the seminary crowd, though.

Must be an Irish thing.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

What's Up With That? #55: Moon over my county

As if things weren't weird enough around these parts, a local youth league soccer coach mooned his team's opponents over the weekend.

Perhaps the man's a plumber in everyday life.

Two teams of 14- and 15-year-old girls — one from Petaluma, to the south of us, and one from Windsor, the town to our north, where KJ works — played a rather acrimonious game in Saturday's Windsor Cup soccer tourney. After the game concluded, the adult male coach of the Petaluma team... how about if I let Sgt. Steve Brown of the Windsor P.D. tell the tale?
After the game [the coach] goes to the center of the field and drops his pants and hangs a B.A. to the Windsor team and crowd.
Nothing like showing the young ladies an example of class, character, and sportsmanship, coach. That, and your pair of pasty glutes.

(I'm struggling to recall the last time I saw the phrase "hangs a B.A." in the local newspaper. Or anywhere else, for that matter. So far, I'm coming up empty.)

Mooning (or "hanging a B.A.," if you prefer) is a time-honored method of expressing contempt for one's enemies. Way back in 1346, during the Battle of Crécy in northern France, a battalion of soldiers from Normandy bared their buttocks to the onrushing English forces. Unfortunately for the Normans, the English archers found those rosy French rumps prime targets for their arrows.

Meanwhile back in the 21st century, the Petaluma soccer coach (whose name is not being reported, since he hasn't yet been arrested or charged with a crime) may take comfort in the knowledge that a circuit court judge in Montgomery County, Maryland recently determined that mooning is a Constitutionally protected form of free expression, even in the presence of minors. In his decision, Judge John W. Debelius III wrote: "If exposure of half of the buttock constituted indecent exposure, any woman wearing a thong at the beach at Ocean City would be guilty."

So, let the moon shine, America. Just watch out for those English longbows.

In related news, a representative from our city's Pee-Wee Baseball league called this morning to see whether I might be interested in sponsoring a team.

I didn't say this to the woman on the phone, but I'm not sure that anything involving children should be using the name "Pee-Wee." You might see coaches dropping trou every game in that league.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What's Up With That? #54: Care to handle my wand, Mr. Potter?

Before we get started: The first one to crack a "headmaster" joke has to sit in the corner until this post is over.

My reaction to the big "Dumbledore was gay!" revelation by J.K. Rowling takes the form of an classic Chicago song (back when they were good, before Peter Cetera turned them into yawn-inducing elevator music for baby boomers):

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

Seriously — the sexual orientation of a fictional character in a series of fantasy novels? Who's getting worked up over this?

He doesn't exist, people. Simmer down.

I'm not even sure what Rowling's purpose was in outing the ancient wizard, who was played on film by Michael Gambon and the late Richard Harris. The Harry Potter series is done; Rowling has repeatedly declared that herself. She's not going to write any more Potter books. So it's not as though Dumbledore's practice of the Love That Dares Not Speak At Hogwarts is going to impact future events in the Potter storyline, because there aren't going to be any.

If Rowling wanted to make a statement, and include a gay character in her books, why didn't she, you know, include a gay character in her books? I'm not a Potterite myself, but I understand that old Albus's sexuality never raises its head — so to speak — in the stories themselves. If it wasn't important enough for Rowling to characterize Dumbledore as gay when she was actually writing the books, what possible difference could it make now? How does it add anything to what she's written if it isn't on the page?

This whole business reminds me of the final episode of Law & Order in which Serena Southerlyn, the assistant district attorney played by Elisabeth Röhm, appeared. In her exit scene, Serena asks her soon-to-be-former boss Arthur Branch (in the guise of future GOP Presidential contender Fred Dalton Thompson) if he's firing her because she's a lesbian. (Arthur says, "No, of course not," because no Republican would ever fire anyone because he or she was homosexual. Ahem.)

In the four seasons Serena had appeared on the show, there had been not one whit of implication that she was gay; if anything, the several mentions of her previous relationships with men would have suggested that she was straight. It was as though the writers, as they wrote Serena's last line of dialogue, suddenly decided, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if she were a lesbian?"

The French have an expression: esprit d'escalier, "the spirit of the staircase." The Germans have one like it: treppenwitz, "staircase wisdom." Both refer to that flash of genius we all experience when it's too late for it to matter; the brilliant riposte we only think to throw back at an opponent after we've already walking down the steps toward the door.

I suspect Rowling's notion about Dumbledore's preference for the fellows is, like that of the Law & Order scripters, a classic case of staircase wisdom.

Sorry, girlfriend, but Albus has already left the building.

If not the closet.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What's Up With That? #53: George 1, Kids 0

Just when I think the current resident of the Oval Office can't ascend to greater heights of lunacy than he's already reached, he vetoes health insurance for lower-income children.

Ye gods.

The bill President Bush vetoed would add $35 billion to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) over the next five years, enabling an additional four million kids to participate in the program. (About seven million children are presently enrolled, mostly from families earning more than the Medicaid maximum, but who can't afford private health insurance.) The additional money would come via a 40-cent-per-pack increase in the federal cigarette tax.

Because wealthy tobacco company executives and lobbyists are more valuable to the current administration than poor kids in need of health coverage — many of whom, if allowed to grow up healthy, would probably vote Democratic anyway — George put the kibosh on the legislation.

Bush can spend countless billions sending America's dedicated servicemen and servicewomen to their deaths in his pointless family vendetta in Iraq, but he can't stand to see a few bucks going to keep American children healthy.

The mind boggles.

The Prez's argument against the SCHIP upgrade is that it's a step in the direction of government-run health care. Again, government-paid death and destruction, good; government-paid health care for lower-income kids, bad. In a word: Huh?

Here's hoping that enough Congressional Republicans realize that poor people vote — especially when the interests of their children are at stake — and get off their partisan dime to overturn this indefensible veto.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

What's Up With That? #52: Here's the story of two lovely ladies

One-time teen heartthrob Maureen McCormick (I was always a Susan Dey man, but that's just how I rolled in the '70s) reportedly reveals in her upcoming autobiography that she and her Brady Bunch costar Eve Plumb shared Sapphic bliss back in the day.

The National Enquirer — and you know that if it's in the Enquirer, you can take it to the bank — quotes an unnamed source inside the publishing industry as saying that McCormick's expose, entitled Here's the Story, will blow the lid off the former Marcia Brady's struggles with drug abuse, clinical depression, and eating disorders. She also drops a dime on her girl-crush on Plumb, who played middle Brady daughter Jan:
While Maureen is not a lesbian, she reveals there were some sexual hijinks going on behind the scenes.
Sort of lends a new meaning to Jan's trademark cry, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" doesn't it?

Given what we already know about the carnal goings-on behind The Brady Bunch's innocent facade — eldest Brady son Barry Williams dated both his TV sister McCormick and his on-screen stepmother Florence Henderson; Brady dad Robert Reed lived a closeted existence gayer than any of his fictional wife's Day-Glo frocks — I suppose the news that Marcia and Jan practiced the sisterly affection that dared not speak its name should come as no great shock.

I just pray that word never comes to light about the torrid backstage tryst between Alice the housekeeper and little Cousin Oliver.

My childhood nostalgia can only withstand so much.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What's Up With That? #51: A hole in the bucket

I'm no rocket scientist — the wags among you are shouting, "No [insert vulgar reference to excrement here], Sherlock!" even as I type — but here's what I don't understand about the current situation with Space Shuttle Endeavour.

First, let's set the scene. When Endeavour launched last week, a piece of debris from the main external fuel tank — either insulating foam, or ice, or a combination of the two — struck the underside of the shuttle, causing a small gouge (3.5 by 2 inches) in one of the orbiter's heat shield tiles. Similar damage, on a considerably larger scale, resulted in the post-reentry destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia five years ago.

Now to the source of my confusion. NASA knows all too well that debris flying off the fuel tank and striking the shuttle can cause damage that puts the orbiter and its crew at risk. And apparently, numerous post-Columbia attempts to eliminate this flying debris have proven unsuccessful. (It's my understanding that NASA has been able to minimize the castoff of foam and ice somewhat, but due to the nature of the fuel and equipment being used, can't curtail this entirely.)

So why doesn't NASA devise a shield of some sort to protect the underside of the shuttle from flying debris?

The first guy who drove any distance in a primitive automobile surely said to himself, "You know, I love this machine, but getting smacked in the face by bugs, raindrops, and other airborne junk really sucks." That's why we have windshields on our cars to this very day. How hard could it be to invent a lightweight panel that attaches to the base of the shuttle, between the orbiter and the fuel tank, that deflects hurtling detritus in the same way that a windshield does? The device could be jettisoned at the same time as the fuel tank, and the shuttle would speed on its merry way unharmed.

Surely I can't be the only person who's thought of this. I'm not even an engineer, but it seems perfectly obvious to me.

And since we're on the subject, NASA has expended beaucoup time and effort conducting model tests to determine whether the damage to Endeavour is significant enough to require repair before reentry. I don't get that. If you can fix the problem — and NASA says they can — why would you not? Why go through all of this exercise in "cautious optimism" that the damage won't endanger the shuttle and its crew, when you could eliminate the worry altogether by just sending an astronaut out with a repair kit to patch the hole? Who wants to be sitting at the Johnson Space Center witnessing another Columbia-like disaster and thinking, "Maybe we should have run that test one more time"?

I guess that's why I'm not a rocket scientist.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What's Up With That? #50: That chicken's a Rhode Island White

As if we needed one, here's another example of how racism makes people stupid.

Ralph Papitto, chair of the governing board of Roger Williams University and namesake of Rhode Island's only law school, has resigned after using the N-pejorative during a board discussion about recruiting minorities and women.

Papitto says that the offending word "kind of slipped out." In his own defense, the 80-year-old former executive says, "I apologized for that. What else can I do? Kill myself?"

Hey, Ralph: Don't let me stop you.

But here's the truly stupid part of the whole affair. Papitto claims that he had never used the N-word before. He also says, "The first time I heard it was on television, and then rap music or something."

Come on, Ralph. Just because you're a moron doesn't mean everyone else you encounter is similarly challenged.

Let's examine this realistically. A man who's lived in the United States for eight decades had to learn the N-word from a TV program and a rap record? Where's he been for the past 80 years, hermetically sealed in a soundproof room?

Actually, no.

In addition to having led a prestigious university and getting a law school named after him, Papitto founded a Fortune 500 company — Nortek, Incorporated, which manufactures air conditioning units, security systems, and other building products. Does that ring true to you? The man started and ran a huge business in the rough-and-tumble construction industry, and he never heard the N-word? Puh-leeze.

Words that don't comprise a portion of one's daily vocabulary don't "kind of slip out." I can't recall the last time random quantum physics terminology just tripped off my tongue willy-nilly. I doubt you can, either, unless you're either a quantum physicist or a sci-fi geek.

Besides which, how many 80-year-old men — white, black, or maroon — do you know who listen to rap music, much less pick up and toss around lingo from that genre?

I guess that venerable saying still holds water: There's no fool like an old fool.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

What's Up With That? #49: Welcome to whine country

I don't know whether they've ever met, but here are two people who deserve each other: Paris Hilton and Billy Donovan.

Both of them have whining their way out of their mistakes down to a science.

As you've doubtless heard by now, Paris squeaked out of her 23-day jail sentence 20 days early by lapsing into crying fits at every opportunity. The Los Angeles County authorities released her to 40 days of house arrest, supposedly because they "feared for her health."

I'll give you the prescription Paris needs: Repeated swift kicks to her bony little butt.

Meanwhile, University of Florida basketball coach Donovan weaseled out of a freshly signed contract to helm the NBA's Orlando Magic before the ink even had time to dry. Quoth Billy Two-Face:
I realized in less than 24 hours after signing a contract with the Magic that I had made a mistake that had nothing to do with the Magic. Instead, I realized that, in my heart, I belonged in college basketball.
Translated: "I finally figured out how to leverage a whopping pay raise and cushy perks out of the university administration."

Donovan can get in line for the gauntlet, right behind Paris.

Let the butt-kicking commence.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

What's Up With That? #48: What's this green stuff in my Cha-Cha Bowl?

Thirty years after serving 10 months in federal prison for smuggling marijuana, former Giants star Orlando "The Baby Bull" Cepeda has been caught once again with the evil weed.

The CHP busted Cepeda the other afternoon, blazing down I-80 at 83 miles per hour. When the Hall of Famer rolled down the driver's window, a certain unmistakable whiff alerted the arresting officer to the fact that Orlando had been doing another kind of blazing as well. A search of Cepeda's Lexus by a drug-sniffing police dog turned up both ganja and a bindle containing a suspect white powder, believed to be either cocaine or methamphetamine.

Giants cognoscenti will recollect that Cepeda's much-deserved enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame was delayed by more than three decades, as the former slugging first baseman's drug conviction prevented him from garnering the votes necessary for election. Cepeda was at long last inducted by the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee in 1999, after an intensive PR campaign mounted by the Giants.

In recent years, Cepeda has been visible as a member of the Giants' public relations staff, and as the namesake of Orlando's Caribbean BBQ, a food concession at AT&T Park. This popular snack stand is the home of the world-famous Cha-Cha Bowl, a faux-Latin riff on the basic rice bowl. Being a dedicated hot links and nachos kind of ballpark diner, I've not had a Cha-Cha Bowl myself, but I'm told that they're mighty tasty.

Just don't try to smoke one.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What's Up With That? #47: Sympathy for the nasal

If this isn't the nastiest thing you read about today, I definitely don't want to follow you to the library.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones — a legendary connoisseur of all items pharmacological — admitted in an interview with the British magazine NME that he once intentionally aspirated the ashes of his deceased father, mixed in with his minimum daily requirement of cocaine.

That's right: Keith Richards snorted his dad.

If you need to go hurl, I'll wait.

Feel better? Okay — onward we go.

Here's what the Keefer had to say about this peculiar — and frankly revolting — excursion into the dark side:
He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared. It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive.
That's sick and wrong in more ways than I can count.

Richards will soon be appearing alongside Johnny Depp in the third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Richards plays the father of Depp's character, Captain Jack Sparrow — a character based, as Depp has stated numerous times, upon Richards himself. If Jack follows the example of his real-life model, the advertising tagline "Got a little Captain in you?" could take on a whole new meaning.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What's Up With That? #46: No Tiggers allowed

Over the hill in Napa, a lawsuit is brewing against the local school district because an eighth-grader got busted for wearing Tigger socks.

Considering some of the trouble Tigger's gotten his striped self into recently, perhaps this makes a peculiar kind of sense.

Toni Kay Scott, a 14-year-old honor student, has been cited more than a dozen times for wearing apparel in violation of the Napa school district's dress code, which forbids denim (the only fabrics permitted are cotton twill, chino, and corduroy) as well as clothing bearing words or images of any kind — including Pooh's lovable spring-tailed tiger friend. Napa's school-going youth are also prohibited from wearing any items outside a narrow color palette that includes blue, white, green, yellow, khaki, gray, brown, and black. (They're not exactly embracing sartorial diversity over in Napa.)

As a parent, I understand the school district's concern about gang colors, potentially offensive T-shirts, immodest clothing, and such like. But seriously, people — Tigger socks?

I'd hope the folks in charge of spending my tax dollars to educate my child and the other offspring of our community would have more important tasks on which to focus than punting a kid out of class for wearing Disney-print hosiery.

The last time I checked, the Crips and the Norteños weren't using Pooh and Piglet as insignia.

But wouldn't it be a happier world if they did?

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What's Up With That? #45: Baby, we were born to run

Sometimes, it's the little asides in a news story that catch my attention.

If you're a fan of American Idol — and perhaps even if you aren't — you've heard about the firestorm of controversy swirling around Idol contestant Antonella Barba (or "Barbarella," as I like to call her). As the Associated Press story goes, photographs of Ms. Barba can presently be viewed at various sites around this here Internet, showing the wannabe superstar topless on the beach, seated on the toilet, and — in some pictures whose veracity is apparently in dispute — engaged in activities that one does not discuss on a for-public-consumption blog like yours truly.

Personally, I couldn't care less about seeing Barbarella in flagrante delicto. It's bad enough that I have to listen to her uninspired attempts at vocal magic on Idol every week, until she gets voted off. I was, however, intrigued by this comment from Mark Dillon, a 17-year-old resident of Antonella's home town, Point Pleasant, New Jersey:
It's the way this town is: Everybody knows everything about their friends. At least half the people in this town have pictures of their friends on the toilet. I've personally seen at least 20. It's only because she’s on TV that they’re online.
Did I understand that correctly?

More than half the residents of Point Pleasant, New Jersey own pictures of their friends sitting on the toilet?

What the Jersey devil kind of town is this?

According to the city's official Web site, Point Pleasant has a population of 18,177. If young Mark Dillon speaks the truth, at least 9,088 of these folks are in possession of photographic evidence of their friends' excretory habits. If one extrapolates logically, it's fair to say that most, if not indeed all, of Point Pleasant's residents can therefore be observed with their trousers around their ankles, if one knows the right computers to search.

To which I can only say: Ewwww.

How did this peculiar local habit get started? Do Point Pleasanters take their own toilet photos, and then circulate them to their pals? Do they take toilet snapshots of each other? Is there a trading system? Do some folks' potty pics garner higher trade value than others? Do people in Point Pleasant emblazon their Christmas cards with images of themselves on the porcelain throne, instead of the family portraits common elsewhere in the U.S.?

Perhaps this isn't just a local phenomenon. Is this practice common where you live, gentle reader? Do you own pictures of your friends on the toilet? And, more importantly, do they have such pictures of you?

Your Uncle Swan wants to know.

He prefers, however, not to see.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

What's Up With That? #44: Tim Hate-Away

When he was a backcourt star for my beloved, perpetually frustrating Golden State Warriors, Tim Hardaway's signature move was the "killer crossover," a rapid-fire maneuver in which Tim dribbled the basketball between his legs from one hand to the other.

Now, Hardaway's going to be even more famous for his killer voiceover.

The Timinator, who now works in the NBA's front office, was being interviewed on Dan Le Batard's sports radio show in Miami when he offered his opinion about former NBA center John Amaechi's recent acknowledgment that he is gay. Quoth Hardaway:
You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States.
So tell us how you really feel, Tim.

Today, Hardaway issued a public apology, which didn't prevent the NBA from banning him from this weekend's All-Star festivities:"
As an African-American, I know all too well the negative thoughts and feelings hatred and bigotry cause. I regret and apologize for the statements that I made that have certainly caused the same kinds of feelings and reactions. I especially apologize to my fans, friends and family in Miami and Chicago. I am committed to examining my feelings and will recognize, appreciate and respect the differences among people in our society.
Hardaway's comments started me thinking about something that has always puzzled me. Why is it necessary for people to hate others who do things of which they themselves disapprove? Let's say homosexuality is contrary to your belief system. I can relate to that. But do you have to hate gay people, because you believe homosexuality is wrong? Does your disapproval of what gay people do — or what you might imagine they do — require that you hate them?

I can name many things people do that I think they should not. For example, I can't abide cigarette smoking. I can't comprehend why someone would want to roll dead leaves in paper, set the product on fire, and suck on it. I detest the smell of tobacco, I despise seeing cigarette butts scattered about the landscape, and I certainly don't want to share the carcinogenic air of those who smoke. But I don't hate smokers. I don't even dislike smokers — at least, not just because they're smokers. My antipathy for smoking doesn't cause me any animus toward the people who do it, as long as they aren't befouling my personal atmosphere. I certainly don't hate them.

Why does Tim Hardaway hate gay people? Again, my question is not why he believes what he believes about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality. Let's grant him his views so far as that goes. But even allowing for the fact that Tim may hate homosexuality, does that necessitate his hating gay people? What does other people's gayness (gayitude? gayosity?) have to do with him?

So Hardaway's afraid a gay teammate might scope out his twig and berries in the locker room. There are practical ways of dealing with that issue. I'm guessing that millions of females are ogled daily by males (and perhaps even by some females, 'cause that's how they roll) by whom they would prefer not to be ogled. As long as no one is harassed or harmed, it's a fact of life. If harassment or harm occurs, that's entirely another matter. But I don't think the overwhelming majority of those women getting ogled hate all men in general, just because some ogle.

Again, the question: Do you have to hate an entire group of people, just because you don't like something they (or even just some of them) do?

This carries over into numerous areas of conversation — religion, to choose one. If you disagree with the practices of someone's faith, should you have to hate them personally? If you're a Protestant, should you hate Catholic people because you dislike Catholicism? If you're a Christian, should you hate Jews because they don't embrace Christ? If you're a Muslim, should you hate Christians because they don't pray to Allah?

Take it another step. If someone engages in illegal or immoral activity that doesn't directly impact you, should you hate them? Even if a person is committing the most heinous, unspeakable act imaginable — pick one that offends you — but they're not hurting you or yours in any way, should you hate them? Does condemning the person's actions mean you have to hate the person?

I'm not saying my answer would be right. But I think the question's worth asking.

Just don't hate me if we disagree.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What's Up With That? #43: Some people call her the Space Cowgirl

In what is believed to be a first in the NASA ranks, an active-duty astronaut has been arrested on felony charges, including attempted kidnapping and attempted vehicle burglary with battery.

It's tempting to look at her mugshot and say, "She's obviously no rocket scientist." Except for the fact that she is.

U.S. Navy Captain Lisa Marie Nowak (to be referred to hereafter as "Yes-wack"), a NASA mission specialist who flew on Shuttle Discovery last July, drove from the Johnson Space Center in Houston to Orlando International Airport to confront a woman she believed was romantically involved with another astronaut. Nowak told police that she and the male astronaut in question, shuttle pilot William Oefelein, had "more than a working relationship, but less than a romantic relationship," whatever in tarnation that means.

Nowak apparently discovered — via e-mails she confiscated — that the other woman, an Air Force captain named Colleen Shipman, was involved with Oefelein. Incensed at the prospect of competition for Wild Bill's affection, Nowak blazed a 1,000-mile trail across the southern states, wearing an adult diaper so she wouldn't have to take potty breaks. (Listen, you don't want to have to stop to pee when you're already... well... you know.)

When she caught up with Captain Shipman in the OIA parking lot, Nowak was wearing a trenchcoat and wig, and was armed with a BB gun, a four-inch folding knife, and pepper spray, the latter of which she deployed in the startled Shipman's car. Shipman escaped and called the authorities, who corraled Nowak as she was disposing of the evidence of her sordid escapade.

As a member of the Discovery crew on Shuttle Mission STS-121, Nowak operated the shuttle's robotic arm during three spacewalks undertaken by two other astronauts — who right this moment are thanking their lucky stars that Lisa didn't "wig out" while they were pulling an EVA. An astronaut since 1996, Nowak gained notice at the time of her shuttle flight for being the first Italian American woman in space. [Insert your own ethnically insensitive, Godfather-derived joke here, if you have no shame.]

Nowak, incidentally, is married — though not to the aforementioned astronaut Oefelein. She's also the mother of three children, who will doubtless find themselves the subject of intense schoolyard buzz for the rest of the academic year.

According to her official NASA bio, "Lisa enjoys bicycling, running, skeet, sailing, gourmet cooking, rubber stamps, crossword puzzles, piano, and African violets."

They conveniently omitted her fondness for kidnapping, mayhem, unrequited love, and Depends.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What's Up With That? #42: Baby, it's cold outside

It's a brisk 28 degrees Fahrenheit today in our little burg. Still air, therefore no wind chill factor, but chilly nonetheless.

This morning, after I dropped my daughter at school, I saw a young woman walking onto campus wearing a paper-thin cotton shirt with three-quarter-length sleeves, and flip-flops on otherwise bare feet. Up the block, along came a girl in a sleeveless tank top with nothing covering it. Also joining the morning trudge to high school were several boys and girls whose only upper body garment was a T-shirt.

Now, this isn't a particularly affluent community, but neither do we have many residents living in extreme poverty. Even the poorest of kids owns at least one hoodie.

So why would these kids choose to freeze? Is a sweatshirt or jacket that uncool?

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

What's Up With That? #41: I don't know art, butt I know what I like

People amaze and amuse me.

Stephen Murmer, an art teacher at Monacan High School in Richmond, Virginia, has been suspended from work because the school board found out that he makes money on the side by painting with his butt.

I kid you not.

Apparently, Murmer's technique involves him dousing his hindquarters — and, when the muse so strikes him, his genitalia — with paint, then smearing himself onto a canvas.

Nice work if you can get it.

I'm not sure how a guy creating booty doodles in his spare time makes him any less qualified to teach high school art. If he were dropping trou and greasing up his glutes right there in the classroom, that would be a whole other issue. I don't know that the school board could turn the other cheek to that. (Ahem.)

But here's the truly bizarre part: People actually pay for this stuff. Murmer, who markets his creations on his Web site under the nom de posterior "Stan Murmur," gets upward of $900 for lithographs of his artworks. According to the Washington Post, Murmer's most popular print — cheekily entitled "Tulip Butts" — sells for $600 at a crack... if I may be so bold.

Who's buying this stuff? And for hundreds of dollars, at that? I know that some of you believe I'm a bit loony for hanging drawings of comic book superheroes on my walls. But at least most people recognize that form of art for what it is. I'm trying to envision the conversation that occurs when one of Murmer's customers has company over for dinner:
Guest: Say, Marge, that's an unusual painting. Is it new?

Host: Why, yes, Lucille. It's the latest work by Stephen Murmer. He painted it with his buttocks.

Guest: I beg your pardon. Did you say "with his buttocks"?

Host: Indeed. At least, I believe this is the one he painted with his buttocks. I think we hung the one he painted with his genitals in the children's room.

Guest: George, get my coat.
And you thought I had a tough time explaining the original Cully Hamner pinup of Mary Marvel that adorns my office wall. At least I know Cully didn't draw it with his butt.

I mean... I don't think he did.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

What's Up With That? #40: Garrison's Prison Break experience may come in handy

No one seems to be asking the essential question about last weekend's accident involving Prison Break star Lane Garrison, in which one of Garrison's passengers — a 17-year-old boy — lost his life, and two other passengers — both 15-year-old girls — were seriously injured.

So let me be the first.

The question isn't: Was Garrison intoxicated at the time of the crash?

The question is: What was a 26-year-old actor doing on a Saturday night with three teenaged minors — two of them 15-year-old girls — in his car?

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What's Up With That? #39: Sha Na Na no-no

A convicted child molester recently attended a Southern California charity fundraiser in support of abused children, posing as Bowzer, the gaping-mouthed greaser from the '50s nostalgia band Sha Na Na.

Bowzer himselfaka Jon Bauman — is reported to be "outraged beyond words."

I had to read this story several times before all of the implications fully penetrated my consciousness.

First: Of all the D-list celebrities in the world, who'd imagine that Bowzer is the one someone would choose to impersonate? You'd think this sex offender would have picked a star with more current cachet, especially if he's trying to get close to kids.

Second: Although Bowzer is understandably outraged at being impersonated by a child molester, deep in his heart of hearts he's got to be at least a little bit jazzed that a guy walked into a event and introduced himself as Bowzer, and everyone present didn't say, "Who?"

The last time I recall seeing Bowzer — the genuine article, not the sex-offending fraud — was about 20 years ago, when a fresh-scrubbed and degreased Jon Bauman hosted a short-lived revival of the game show Hollywood Squares. According to his official Web site, the Bowz still actively performs with a new nostalgia act, promotes oldies shows, and lobbies for legislation targeted against knockoff acts that tour using the names of musical groups from the '50s and '60s. (Now there's irony for you.)

As strange as the Bowzer's-pedophilic-doppelganger story is, it's only the second most bizarre fact connected with the formerly famous flexer. Top of the list? Sha Na Na was the penultimate act at Woodstock, immediately preceding Jimi Hendrix's legendary show-closing set. Of course, Hendrix once served as the warmup act for the Monkees, so I suppose turnabout is fair play.

Remember, kiddies: Grease for peace.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What's Up With That? #38: You want hash browns with that?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the $1.65 billion deal that made video site YouTube a part of the ever-growing Google empire took shape over breakfast at Denny's.

The Chron report states that YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen noshed on Grand Slam Breakfasts and chicken fingers with Google topkicks Eric Schmidt and Larry Page as they hammered out the megabuck merger.

Wait a second...

You own a company worth $1.65 billion, and you're eating at Denny's?

For the kind of dough Hurley, Chen, Schmidt, and Page are throwing around, they can come to my place for their next businessmen's outing, and I'll fix them a decent breakfast. I'll even make eggs Benedict with real hollandaise sauce, instead of that faux petrochemical Cheez Whiz crud Denny's slathers on theirs.

I will, of course, expect a sizable gratuity.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What's Up With That? #37: Dognapped!

The search is on for a stolen puppy belonging to an eight-year-old cancer patient at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

Chemo the puppy, a 15-week-old Chihuahua/Doberman mix belonging to young Kyle Wetle from Monterey, was taken from Kyle's parents' car on Saturday as it was parked in the medical center's garage.

Three questions arise from this story:

One: What kind of villain steals a dog from a car at a hospital? The first person to respond, "One sick puppy," gets spanked. Hard.

Two: How do you successfully breed a Chihuahua with a Doberman? I'm trying to imagine the logistics involved, and I just can't get there.

Three: Who feeds a puppy Skippy peanut butter and canned corn? Mr. and Mrs. Wetle, judging by the above photograph. (Apparently, Chemo prefers creamy over chunky.)

Here's hoping that whoever snagged little Kyle's dog — and you know who you are, Cruella — brings the pup back soon.

UPDATE, TUESDAY 9/5, 4:30 p.m.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported only moments ago that Chemo has been returned to a happy Kyle Wetle and his family, mere hours after I posted about the puppy's theft.

Once again, the power of the Swan sends the criminal underworld into cowering terror.

Now I just hope Kyle and his folks quit feeding the little mutt peanut butter and corn. Dogs are carnivores, people! At least switch him to chunky, for pity's sake!

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What's Up With That? #36: Deja voodoo

It's been a weird 24 hours for East Bay sports franchises.

Yesterday, the Oakland Raiders signed quarterback Jeff George, who last threw a pass in anger during an NFL game five years ago. George, now age 39, was the Raiders' starting QB for two tumultous seasons in 1997 and 1998, following which he was pretty much ridden out of town on the proverbial rail.

This is the same Jeff George of whom, during his previous tenure in Oakland, hostile Raiders fans often spoke with the same vitriol as Mel Gibson addressing an arresting officer. That's no exaggeration. Search though you may, you will not find more aggressively passionate sports fans anywhere than among the Raider Nation.

Then today, the Golden State Warriors — whose home court shares the same property as McAfee Coliseum, where the Raiders play — fired head coach Mike Montgomery and signed as his replacement 66-year-old Don Nelson, who previously helmed the Warriors during the glory days of Run-TMC (the storied backcourt triumvirate of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and current Warriors VP of basketball operations Chris Mullin).

This is the same Don Nelson who left Golden State halfway through the 1994-95 season, after a series of conflicts with prima donna big man Chris Webber. Most recently, Nellie enjoyed a highly successful six-year run as the head coach and general manager of Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks.

So, what — it's Old Home Week in Oaktown? Next thing you know, Reggie Jackson will be playing right field for the Athletics, and The Arena in Oakland will play headquarters to a hockey team called the California Golden Seals.

Both of these reunions — George and the Raiders, Nelson and the Warriors — possess all the potential for joyous harmony as the reunions of Kim Mathers and Eminem, and Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee.

We all recall how well those turned out.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

What's Up With That? #35: Scarier than Snakes on a Plane

Speaking of large, scary beasts — and we just were — pity poor Samuel L. Jackson.

Sam and his wife LaTanya Richardson just paid out $8.9 million to buy Roseanne Barr's mansion in Beverly Hills, only to have Roseanne tell them afterward that she has hidden nude photographs of herself all over the house.

That sure seems like something you should be legally required to disclose before the sale, doesn't it? I mean, suppose someone should stumble across one of those pics accidentally, without prior warning? No human heart should be subjected to that kind of shock, out of the blue.

Of course, it could be worse.

Roseanne could have hidden recordings of herself singing the National Anthem.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

What's Up With That? #34: Living in the land of short eyes

You know, I love living in Sonoma County, but sometimes, I have to wonder.

Thirteen years ago, we had the Polly Klaas murder.

In 1998, science fiction author Isaac Asimov's son David turned out to be the local king of child pornography.

In the early part of the current decade, revelation after revelation about pedophilic priests in the local Roman Catholic diocese made daily headlines in the local newspaper.

Now, one of our former residents confesses to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

It must be something in our water.

For the sake of the county's Number One industry, I hope it's not the same water they're using in the wine.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What's Up With That? #33: You can't overlove your innuendo

It's been on the air for more than a year now, apparently without protest. Which may suggest that I'm the only person in America who's creeped out by that pedophilic Fruit of the Loom underwear commercial.

You know the one I mean.

Tell me there's nothing uncomfortably eerie about grown men dressed up like fruit — in the literal sense of the word — singing longingly about "a boy in pure white briefs" (the boy in question being perhaps ten years old in the video), concluding with the line, "You can't overlove your underwear."

And the title of the ad is "Ripe for the Pickin'." Puh-lease.

What ad agency concocted this spot — NAMBLA?

Actually, it's The Richards Group, a billion-dollar agency based in Dallas, which represents top-shelf companies ranging from Hyundai to Home Depot. They ought to know better. (I suppose I've just shredded my chances of ever writing copy for them.)

And before you ask, no, it's not just the man-boy thing. The ad would be no less hackle-raising if the apple guy was crooning about prepubescent girls in white cotton panties. Or if an adult woman dressed like Carmen Miranda sang the praises of skivvies-clad minor children of either gender. It's the subtext that matters.

The infernal thing is, that jingle is awfully darned catchy. I find myself wandering absent-mindedly about the house, extolling in song the joys of pederasty.

It's icky. That's all I'm saying.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

What's Up With That? #32: Prince Albert in the can, redux

For the second time in the year since he became ruler of the tiny European principality of Monaco, Prince Albert II of the Grimaldis has 'fessed up to fathering a child out of wedlock.

Big Al's most recently identified progeny is a 14-year-old girl living near Palm Springs in the southern California desert. The teen's mother is a former waitress with whom Albert enjoyed a brief fling in 1991, while she was vacationing in France. Last summer, the prince acknowledged another illegitimate child, a son now age three, conceived by a former flight attendant from Togo.

I still have the same two questions I was asking last year about this time:

Question one: You're the billionaire prince of Monaco, and you're hooking up with flight attendants and waitresses?

Question two: Do they not sell condoms in Monte Carlo?

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Monday, May 22, 2006

What's Up With That? #31: Escape From Alcatraz (Elementary School Edition)

In local news today...

The big story is Braxton Bilbrey, the seven-year-old kid from Glendale, Arizona, who swam the 1.4 miles from Alcatraz to San Francisco this morning.

In icy-cold, shark-infested San Francisco Bay.

What were this kid's parents thinking? Are they that publicity-hungry that they would subject a second-grade child to that kind of dangerous stunt?

I guess it worked. Here I am, writing about it.


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Saturday, February 04, 2006

What's Up With That? #30: Putting the "Ho" in Tamahori

Just when your Uncle Swan thinks he's heard everything there is to hear in the world of celebrity bizarreness, something like this leaps up and gobsmacks him.

Lee Tamahori, the New Zealand-born filmmaker who directed the most recent James Bond 007 film, Die Another Day, got busted in Hollywood recently for prostitution.

Not for seeking prostitution, mind you. For soliciting acts thereof.

According to a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney's office as quoted by the Associated Press, the director of Mulholland Falls and The Edge...
...was dressed in a black wig and off-the-shoulder dress when he approached an undercover police officer in Hollywood on Jan. 8 and offered to perform sex for money. He was arrested for investigation of soliciting an act of prostitution and loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, both misdemeanors.
One can only hope that Tamahori was just doing research for an upcoming film project. You know, like Winona Ryder was when she boosted that gear from Saks.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

What's Up With That? #29: Hey, babe... care to see my Whopper?

First Hootie, now Hooters.

This just in, by way of The Superficial: That creepy Burger King and actress-model-Hooters spokeperson Brooke Burke have apparently made a love connection.

I'm warning you — the first one who makes a wisecrack incorporating the phrase "hot beef" is going to get a time-out.

You know, of course, that these human-mascot relationships never work out. But it could be even stranger. The Burger King could be hitting on Darius Rucker in his Brokeback Mountain cowboy outfit.

I just wonder...

Does the King let Brooke have it her way?

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What's Up With That? #28: David Letterman, cryptographic Casanova?

A woman in Santa Fe, New Mexico filed for a temporary restraining order against David Letterman, claiming that the host of Late Night has been directing secret code words toward her on his show for the past dozen years, in an attempt to seduce her over the airwaves.

As stupid as that sounds, this is even more ridiculous — a district court judge named Daniel Sanchez actually granted the restraining order.

Yo, Judge Sanchez: When someone tells you that a television talk show host whom she's never met is trying to hook up with her using secret code words... she's nuts, okay?

And yo, Colleen Nestler: It's called a remote control. Change the channel, psycho loser.

Fortunately, another judge with a lick of sense shredded the restraining order at the request of Letterman's lawyers.

As I've mentioned before, I met Letterman a couple of times 25 years ago, when I was broadcasting baseball games on the Pepperdine University campus radio station. To the best of my knowledge, Dave is not sending me any secret messages.

Jay Leno, on the other hand...


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What's Up With That? #27: Hot lips sink Pizza Hut's ship

A Pennsylvania woman and her husband are suing the Pizza Hut restaurant chain because she burned her chin on a hot popper.

(For the non-snack-savvy in our reading audience, hot poppers are jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese, battered, then deep-fried.)

The plaintiffs allege that Pizza Hut "failed to warn Sorana Georgescu-Hassanin the appetizers were hot."

Umm... they're called "hot poppers," right? What part of the word "hot" did Ms. Georgescu-Hassanin not understand? "When they said 'hot,' I didn't know they meant, like, you know, hot."

I know that "bad" sometimes means "good," and "wicked" sometimes doesn't mean "evil," but I'm unaware of any regional or colloquial usage in which the word "hot," when applied to food, doesn't mean hot, either with heat or capsaisin or both.

The ludicrous part of the lawsuit — as though it weren't risible enough on its face — arrives when the husband of the injured woman, Hatem Hassanin, wants the restaurant to pony up $25,000 for "the loss of companionship and comfort of his wife."

What "companionship" and "comfort" could this guy not get from his wife because she burned her lips on a stuffed pepper?


If husbands can successfully sue for the lack of that, I predict long lines at the courthouse.

And what's Mr. Hassanin going to do with the $25 grand? Hire the services of, shall we say, working professionals until his wife's mouth heals up? Is that even legal in Pennsylvania?

Chalk up another victory for creative attorneys, and knock a few more points off the collective American IQ.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

What's Up With That? #26: Hurricanes, and the people who don't avoid them like leprosy

Now that hurricane season is pretty well over, and time has extended us a modicum of distance from the horrors of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma (and let this be a lesson to you people at the World Meteorological Organization — naming storms after one-hit-wonder pop singers, 1940s pinup queens, and characters from The Flintstones really sends Mother Nature off, so knock it off pronto), I believe I can say this without causing undue offense to too many folks:

People who live in places where hurricanes occur are crazy.


I could say the same for those who live in tornado-prone areas, but since we all know that tornados mostly strike at trailer parks and therefore are probably providing a valuable public service, I don't have quite the same complaint.

But you people on the Gulf Coast? Wackos.

Now, I can hear some of you bellowing, "But you live in earthquake country, you moron!" True enough. In fact, I live almost literally a stone's throw away from the Rodgers Creek Fault, which seismologists consider one of the most unstable and potentially dangerous faultlines in the United States.

But how often do major earthquakes occur? We last had one here in the Bay Area in 1989. My 16-year-old daughter was an infant then.

Hurricanes happen every year. Oodles of them. So predictably that they even plan names for them in advance. This year, they ran out of names, and had to resort to letters of the Greek alphabet, for crying out loud. The very same people in Biloxi and Key West and similar environs who were gobsmacked by humongous cyclones this summer can count on getting more of the same again next year. And the year after that.

Why don't you people move?

Just don't come to California.

Remember... earthquakes.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What's Up With That? #25: Matt 'n' Heath, sittin' in a tree...

Here's a screen shot from the San Francisco Chronicle's excellent Web site,, and its celebrity gossip blog, The Daily Dish.

Note the headline: "Damon Asks Barroso to Marry Him."

Now note the accompanying photograph: That's Heath Ledger, Matt Damon's costar in Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, at the actor's side, not Damon's fiancée Luciana Barroso.

Was the online copy editor at the Chron asleep at the switch today? This was the only picture of Matt Damon the newspaper had on file? Yes, they added a caption to correct the obvious misperception, but why create the misperception in the first place?

This, people, is how rumors get started.


We all know Matt prefers brunets.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What's Up With That? #24: The official beverage of the booboisie

Here's the latest sign of the end of the universe as we know it:

Diet water.

Please — for the love of all that's right and decent — tell me no one is going to be stupid enough to buy this.

According to its official Web site, Jana Skinny Water is "a no-calorie water." Hello? It's water. Water has no calories.

Furthermore, the advertising copy says, "Jana Skinny Water is ephedra-free and contains no preservatives, caffeine, calories, or sugar." Hello? It's water. Water has no ephedra, no preservatives, no caffeine, no calories, and no sugar. That's why it's called water.

Only someone with a skinny brain would buy diet water. Therefore, Jana Skinny Water will probably be the best selling product in the history of mankind.

Somewhere, H.L. Mencken is laughing hysterically.


Friday, August 05, 2005

What's Up With That? #23: "My little stoner"

A Montana woman was slapped with a five-year prison sentence for giving her 18-month-old daughter bong hits while a friend took photos of the event.

No, that's not a typo. 18 months old.

According to the mother — and I'm using that word in the biological sense exclusively — smoking marijuana helped the child's appetite. The woman also referred to her daughter as "a little stoner."

I've heard of people doing some pretty asinine things with their kids in the name of permissiveness. Here in our county recently, two teenagers were killed in an accident by a girl who was driving with a suspended license, but whose mother had continued to allow her to drive.

But teaching a baby to toke up?

Someone needs a foot applied to her butt. Swiftly, firmly, and repeatedly.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What's Up With That? #22: Worst. Product. Name. Ever.

In my guise as an advertising and marketing copywriter, I am frequently called upon to help clients name products and programs, occasionally even companies.

I would never let a client do this.

I don't care if the name is legitimately attached to a recognizable celebrity, and that the controversy alone would help the product gain public attention.

I would just say no.

And if they insisted, I would walk away.


Lest someone suppose it was my idea.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What's Up With That? #21: Cruising for teenyboppers

Is there some good reason why every actress being considered for the role as Tom Cruise's love interest in Mission: Impossible 3 is practically a stone's throw north of jailbait?

Originally Scarlett Johansson (age 20) was slated to costar opposite America's favorite grinning Scientologist. (Oh, please, don't write me letters — I'm actually a Cruise fan.) When Johansson abandoned the project due to scheduling conflicts, Lindsay Lohan (who won't be 19 until July, but has already been lapping the track with Bruce Willis) was rumored to be in line for the part. Now Tommy Boy's new main squeeze, Katie Holmes (26, but capable of sneaking back into high school like Cameron Crowe did while researching Fast Times at Ridgemont High), is reported to be the front-runner to ace out Lohan, with Elisha Cuthbert (22, and with all the acting talent of a Brillo pad, as any regular viewer of 24 can attest) hot on her heels. (For the record, I'm six and a half months older than Tom Cruise, so I'm on solid ground to talk here.)

Does any filmgoer, of any age, really enjoy watching middle-aged guys making time with girls in their teens and 20s? I mean, any filmgoer other than a middle-aged movie studio executive who would really like to be making time with girls in their teens and 20s himself.

Asked it before, will ask it again: Can we please stop assigning all the good female film roles to the Junior Miss Pageant? Many of us in our 40s still watch a ton of movies, and some of us actually find mature women more attractive (and, generally speaking, more talented, though that's not my issue with either Scarlett Johansson or, to a lesser degree, Katie Holmes) than the kids.

Hook us up, Hollywood.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

What's Up With That? #20: Wild, wild West

Let's say you're the 53-year-old mayor of Spokane, Washington. Now let's say you're picking up 18-year-old guys in gay chat rooms on the Internet.

But I repeat myself.

Here's what I can't figure out. James West has for years been one of the most outspokenly conservative politicians on the West Coast when it comes to sexual issues. In 1986, he authored failed legislation that would have prohibited gays from working in schools and day-care centers. In 1990, he proposed a bill that would have made all sexual contact between teenagers a misdemeanor punishable with jail time. He has ardently opposed homosexual rights for more than two decades in public office.

And he's gay? With a taste for teenaged males?

That's like a black man joining a Klan rally.

Or becoming Ward Connerly.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

What's Up With That? #19: There once was a man named Oedipus Farrell

Colin Farrell tried to seduce his 70-year-old costar?

Dame Eileen Atkins says the Irish rake, with whom she shares the screen in the upcoming Ask the Dust, recently spent more than two hours putting the moves on her in a hotel room. The grame dame alleges that she respectfully declined Mr. Farrell's persistent invitations to carnal bliss.

But think of the story if she hadn't.

Then again, as Benjamin Franklin — the Colin Farrell of his day — once put it, "In the dark, all cats are grey."


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What's Up With That? #18: Intolerance in the most unexpected places

Two unrelated stories that struck me as similarly ironic:

Irony Number One: A gay bar in San Francisco has been charged with racial discrimination by the City's Human Rights Commission. The owner of the Badlands bar, apparently unaware that Jim Crow died a while back, referred to African Americans as "non-Badlands customers" and instituted admission policies designed to deny blacks entrance to the popular nightspot.

Discrimination? In a gay bar? Who'da thunk?

I guess at the Badlands, the rainbow connection only comes in shades of white.

Irony Number Two: Apple Computer yanked all books published by John Wiley and Sons from the shelves of its company-owned stores, because Wiley showed the temerity to publish an unauthorized biography of Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

This, from the company whose billboards trumpet its maverick independence, and whose motto is "Think Different"? Not if "different" means "different from Apple corporate propaganda," it seems.

I hear the next iteration of the Macintosh OS is being codenamed "Fahrenheit 451."

All of which goes to show you:

It's one thing to talk the talk, and entirely another to walk the walk.


Monday, April 04, 2005

What's Up With That? #17: Spring forward, my sweet aunt

I love daylight.

I hate the start of Daylight Saving (no "s" at the end — look it up) Time.

Why do we call it "springing forward" when its functional effect is to make us feel less springy, inasmuch as our circadian rhythms are kicked into a cocked hat and we're robbed of an hour of sleep, to boot? We should call this end of the process "falling back," because that's what I feel like doing the first few mornings of April madness.

Conversely, when we gain back an hour of blessed rest in the autumn, that should be called "springing forward."

It's high time we disposed of this clock-altering foolishness and simply left the "more usable daylight" schedule in place year-round.

Now back to the kitchen for the extra jolt of coffee I'll need to get motivated today. Thanks a lot, Congress.


Saturday, March 26, 2005

What's Up With That? #16: Hootie and the King

And you thought the spongmonkeys were creepy...

Has there ever been a weirder commercial than that Burger King spot with Darius Rucker, the lead vocalist of Hootie and the Blowfish, singing the praises of the King's new chicken sandwich (the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch) while duded up like the love child of Cowboy Curtis from Pee Wee's Playhouse and the Cowboy from the Village People?

That's the stuff nightmares are made of.

The first time I saw this monstrosity, I felt as though I'd stepped into that scene in Undercover Brother in which the staff of The Brotherhood watches the offensive fried chicken commercial starring the Colin Powellesque character played by Billy Dee Williams. You remember that reaction shot where their jaws are hanging agape in disbelief? That was me, watching Darius Rucker croon about "(presumably chicken) breasts that grow on trees" and "a train of ladies comin' with a nice caboose."

Oh, my.

Working as I do in the advertising industry, I understand that a major part of the job is getting people's attention. Usually, though, it's helpful to get people's attention in a way that will make them want to buy your client's product or service, not stare at the screen in horror.

There are really only three ways the colorful singing cowboy bit works:
  1. You're the ghost of Roy Rogers or Gene Autry.
  2. You're one of the Riders in the Sky.
  3. You really are Cowboy Curtis from Pee Wee's Playhouse, or the Cowboy from the Village People.
If you're the frontman for a (once-)popular rock band, it ain't happenin', dawg.

I rarely dine at Burger King anyway — maybe once or twice a year I'll cruise through for a BK Fish sandwich. But just the thought of Darius Rucker in rhinestone rodeo garb perverting the lyrics of "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" will keep my foot on the accelerator the next time I get the urge.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

What's Up With That? #15: Things that make you go "Ewwww!"

So Steven Spielberg is seriously considering matching the craggy and decrepit sexagenarian Harrison Ford with fresh-faced 20-year-old Scarlett Johanssen in the next Indiana Jones movie (which I believe has a working title of Indiana Jones and the Race to the Bathroom).

This news comes on the heels of speculation that Demi Moore — who's almost my age, for crying out loud — is carrying the love child of her 15-years-junior boytoy Ashton Kutcher, and reports that Demi's ex Bruce Willis — who recently qualified for AARP membership — has been spotted swapping oral bacteria with 18-year-old Lindsay Lohan, who can't legally drink or gamble for another three years.

In the immortal words of Mr. Hand: "What are you people? On dope?"

That's just...icky.

Speaking of Ashton Kutcher, he's essaying the Sidney Poitier role in the upcoming remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Oh yeah. That'll work. What, Pauly Shore was busy that week?

Sidney Poitier must be turning over in his grave. I know you're thinking, "Sidney Poitier isn't dead." Trust me — he'll keel over from apoplexy just as soon as he finds out that a no-talent pretty boy was cast in one of his best-known roles.

Next up, Andy Dick stars in the remake of They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!

(This article is cross-posted to my film/television blog at DVD Verdict.)


Thursday, March 03, 2005

What's Up With That? #14: Your tax kroner at work

At last: positive proof that ours is not the most insanely spendthrift government on the planet.

The government of Norway funded a study at the University of Oslo to determine whether lobsters experience pain when boiled.


Lobsters are giant bugs that live in water. Bugs, I say. Arthropods. Multilegged crawly things. That we cook and eat what are essentially humongous aquatic insects is far creepier, and infinitely more worthy of study, than the issue of whether the giant bugs are capable of the higher-level nervous system function necessary to process pain, and whether on this basis the critters might object to our practice.

The answer, by the way, was "no."

Glad that's settled.

Still, I smell a scam here. (Or maybe that's just the lobsters.) How many lobsters do you suppose the scientists at the University of Oslo had to boil in the service of their research? And surely, once the creatures were boiled, it would have been wasteful — perhaps even disrespectful — to simply throw the remains away, wouldn't it?

Pass the drawn butter and lemon, there, Olaf.

I am currently writing a grant request to the Norwegian government, seeking funds to study whether human consumption of freshly harvested coconut causes pain to coconut palm trees. I anticipate the research for this project will require me to travel to, and spend inordinately lengthy amounts of time in, tropical and subtropical locales wherein coconut palms thrive. I'm compiling a list of destinations for the finance minister's review.

Wish me luck.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

What's Up With That? #13: A Hitch in complexion means no screen connection

According to an interview Will Smith gave to a British newspaper while on a publicity tour for his new film, Hitch, Latina actress Eva Mendes was cast as Smith's love interest in the film because casting either a black or white actress would have hurt the picture's box office.

Here's what Big Willie Style told the Birmingham Post:
"There's sort of an accepted myth that if you have two black actors, a male and a female, in the lead of a romantic comedy, that people around the world don't want to see it. We spend $50-something million making this movie and the studio would think that was tough on their investment. So the idea of a black actor and a white actress comes up — that'll work around the world, but it’s a problem in the U.S."
How bizarre is it that we're still reading this sort of story nearly half a decade into the 21st century?

The apparent distaste in foreign markets for all-black casting...well, not much we can do there. There are vast portions of Europe and the Far East where folks of African ancestry aren't part of everyday life, so we can chalk up their limited world view to basic ignorance.

But here in the United States, humanity's melting pot, the land of the free and home of the colorblind, where all men (and, at least in the subtext, women) are created equal, we still can't get over our cultural horror that folks of varying melanin content do, in fact, find it possible to love one another.



Deeply, even.

And that it's okay. Really.

Perhaps it's because I, myself, am of biracial parentage that I have always been baffled by racism in general, and man's fear of man gettin' jiggy wit' woman of variant pigmentation in particular. As the product of a assignation that occurred 44 years ago between two members of the U.S. Armed Forces — a woman of Scandinavian extraction and a man of African descent — I am living proof that the biology works. Differently colored folks can mate and produce fine, well adjusted, morally upstanding model citizens (though my adoptive parents deserve the lion's share of the credit for the latter). Fully functional. Capable of rational, even intellectual, thought (want to see my Jeopardy! tapes?). Equipped with the complete complement of fingers, toes, and other accoutrements. Without horns, tails, hooved feet, or other marks of genetic mutation or defect. (Although, having been a lifelong reader of X-Men comics, I can name a few mutations I would dearly enjoy having.)

And it's okay. Really.

What's even more bizarre is that, while the onscreen union of black and white still bears the stamp of taboo, it's perfectly all right for black or white to hook up with people inhabiting the color wheel somewhere in between. Hence, while apparently some folks would take umbrage with seeing Will Smith romancing, say, Téa Leoni or Linda Fiorentino (female actors of the Causasian persuasion who have costarred with — but not played romantic scenes with — the erstwhile Fresh Prince), these same people would hand over their cash to buy tickets to see Will nuzzling with, say, a señorita linda such as Eva Mendes, who as an American of Cuban heritage is not dark enough to be "black" yet not fair enough to be "white."


And lest anyone suppose that this is merely a problem on the part of our melanin-challenged citizenry, it isn't. Plenty of African-Americans harbor equally passionate displeasure with "miscegenation," to use an archaic term. It's an open secret in Hollywood that one of our most highly regarded and honored actors — yes, Denzel Washington, I'm talking about you — declines to perform love scenes with Caucasian costars for fear of alienating his fan base in the black community. (I'm told there were sequences shot for Man on Fire featuring Denzel and Radha Mitchell that Mr. Washington personally requested to have edited out of the theatrical cut.) So stupidity isn't the exclusive province of any ethnic group.

Perhaps one day, the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be a reality in our private lives as well as in our public venues, including the motion picture screen: that we will learn to judge one another entirely by the content of our character rather than by the color of our skins. I'm not holding my breath, but it's nice to dream.

And it would be okay. Really.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

What's Up With That? #12: Parents without a clue

This afternoon it was quiet in the office, so I switched on the TV for a little background noise. The set happened to be set to the station airing the Jane Pauley show, wherein Jane was doing a program about teenagers and steroids.

Here was the comment of the father of a teenaged son who died as a result of steroid use, describing his and his wife's reaction when their other son told them his brother was using 'roids:
"We were concerned...but I can't say we panicked about it."
Excuse me?

Your son tells you that his brother is ingesting illegal, biologically destructive drugs, and you aren't panicked about it? That's akin to someone finding an armed nuclear warhead in his backyard, and saying, "We're concerned...but I can't say we're panicked about it." What would it take for you to panic, mister? Al-Qaeda operatives in your living room, molesting your family at riflepoint?

As the father of a teenaged daughter, let me tell this you with certainty: If I even had reason to suspect that my child was using harmful and illegal substances, or engaging in any other activity that put her life and health at genuine peril, panic would set in so fast, the air would electrify around my body. Professional athletes can do what they will — they're adults, and if they sow the wind, they'll reap the whirlwind and be responsible for so doing. But my child is my child, and when it comes to her well-being, I panic.

I can't understand the mindset of a parent who wouldn't feel the same.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

What's Up With That? #11: Flaming death and other contact sports

I don't understand the logic of people who want to kill themselves by putting the lives of others in danger.

Take this clown in Los Angeles who parked his SUV on the railroad track in an effort to send himself to the Great Beyond, and wound up changing his mind at the last minute and slaughtering a dozen innocent citizens. Whatever happened to a .38 to the skull, or an overdose of barbiturates? If they were good enough for generations of celebrity suicides before you, pal, they're good enough for you.

Now, of course, they have the guy in L.A. County jail under suicide watch. You can cut the irony in here with a Miracle Blade. Just not your wrists, apparently.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

What's Up With That? #10: I'll take Law & Order characters for $1000, please, Alex

Law & Order executive producer Dick Wolf must have a superfine babe named Alexandra in his past.

NBC announced this week that Annie Parisse, who next month replaces Elisabeth Röhm's Serena Southerlyn as the show's junior assistant district attorney, will be playing a character named Alexandra Borgia.

For those of you not keeping score, Parisse's role will be the third female character named Alexandra in the L&O franchise. Stephanie March, also known as the girlfriend of Iron Chef Bobby Flay, played an ADA named Alexandra Cabot on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for several seasons before departing the show last year. On Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Kathryn Erbe plays a police detective named Alexandra Eames.

Now we have Alexandra Borgia.

For the love of mercy, someone please buy Dick Wolf a book of baby names for Christmas. Preferably, one with the "A" chapter discreetly excised.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

What's Up With That? #9: Angelina's Secret

This just in from World Entertainment News Network:
Angelina Jolie has become the latest star to suffer a "wardrobe malfunction" — she was mortified when she discovered her bra was on show to a crowd of photographers. The actress wore a black coat down the red carpet at a preview screening of her latest film Alexander in New York, but when she took it off inside the cinema, her top revealed flashes of her lingerie. A source told British magazine OK! that Jolie was so upset, she sent her publicists to make the photographers erase the offending photos. Then she adjusted her top and posed again.
Why the sudden burst of modesty, Ange? You've appeared what my grandmother used to call "butt-nekkid" in any number of films seen by millions of ticket buyers and DVD owners/renters, and you're panicked because a couple of paparazzi snapped photos of your brassiere?

At least you were wearing one, honey-chile. If you were Jennifer Aniston or Kirsten Dunst — whom I don't believe own a single bra between them — maybe you'd have cause for concern.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

What's Up With That? #8: Houses for the unholy

Officials at San Quentin State Penitentiary want to spend $220 million on a new prison housing facility for California's 629 Death Row inmates.

$220 million for living quarters for people we're eventually going to put to death anyway?

Maybe we ought to spend that $220 million on people we'd like to keep around for awhile — say, on education and job training in impoverished neighborhoods. If we did, perhaps we'd eventually have fewer than 629 inmates on Death Row.


Monday, September 06, 2004

What's Up With That? #7: Why is it called "Labor Day" if everyone's off work?

We should call it "Non-Labor Day." Or "Labor-Free Day." Or "Anti-Labor Day." Or something.

I didn't actually labor today, but I've been busy nonetheless. I edited a handful of reviews for DVD Verdict, and banged out the first draft of my MC script for the chorus performance on Saturday. The chorus is rehearsing tonight, despite the holiday, what with the performance in five days and District contest three weeks after that. I'm MC'ing this evening's rehearsal — which I did for two and one-half years before taking a hiatus — so it should be an interesting time.

Still hot, though. It'll be days before the fire up at The Geysers is under control.


Friday, September 03, 2004

What's Up With That? #6: Pointy-toed shoes

Ladies, help a brother understand: I don't get the pointy-toed shoe thing. Easily the dorkiest women's footwear innovation since those backless sneakers that were all the rage a few years ago.

Here's my take on pointy shoes:

They can't possibly be comfortable.
The human foot doesn't conform to a sharp, skinny point. Feet are naturally narrower at the heel and wider at the toe, not the other way around. (I've heard that some women are undergoing surgery to shape their feet to better fit these shoes. Seriously, if you're altering your body surgically to facilitate implementation of a clothing fad, you need professional help.)

They aren't attractive. Trust me on this. I've been male for nearly 43 years, and I have never said to myself, nor ever heard another male say, "Check out the hottie wearing the shoes that look like letter openers." (Incidentally, most of us couldn't care less about stiletto heels either, so you can get over those too.)

They're self-defeating. Women always think their feet are too big. Do you not realize, ladies, that those pointy shoes make your feet appear twice as long as they actually are? Some of you look like you're wearing kayaks on your feet, for pity's sake.

Bottom line: just because some Eurotrash clothing designer is selling your sisters a bill of goods with these ridiculous cockroach-killers, and just because the paparazzi snapped some Hollywood bimbo wearing them to an awards ceremony, don't you buy in. Fight the fashion. Your feet and your podiatrist will thank you.


Monday, August 30, 2004

What's Up With That? #5: Upside-down in Australia

Prime Minister John Howard, the leader of the government of Australia, has announced that the country's next national elections will take place on October 9, 2004. Already you're thinking, "Why do I care about Australian politics?" To which I reply, "No reason why you should, unless you're from Australia. Or from New Zealand, which is right next door, and might have something to worry about if the Aussies get crazy all of a sudden."

But there is a point to my mentioning this.

Mr. Howard represents Australia's Liberal Party, which has been the ruling Aussie party since 1996. Here's the weird part: the Liberal Party is actually the more ideologically conservative of Australia's two largest political factions. The opposition, known as the Australian Labor Party, is the truly liberal party, relatively speaking.

What? How did that happen? Maybe the Aussie conservatives were sitting around the barbie one day grilling kangaroo meat, drinking Fosters Lager, and singing rounds of "Waltzing Matilda," and some Outback Jack in the gang pipes up, "Oy, mates, 'ere's 'ow we'll fool 'em -- we'll call our party the 'Liberal' party, so all the liberals will vote for us, and we'll win the election." And everyone shouted "Huzzah!" or whatever it is they shout in Australia when they mean to say, "That's a capital idea, old bean." (Remember, Australia is a country that, before it was a country, was a continent-sized penal colony. Not only that, but they have that Crocodile Hunter guy, who has nothing to do with politics, so far as I know, but whom I personally find irritating.)

I thought only the American government pulled crazy stunts like naming things the exact opposite of what they are, the way the Department of the Interior is actually in charge of a whole lot of outdoor stuff, and not really much at all that's inside. Or the Central Intelligence Agency, which, as we've seen lately, has precious little genuine intelligence evident in anything it does.

One last item: the Australian liberal party, which as noted above is called the Australian Labor Party — apparently because the conservatives were already calling themselves the Liberal Party, as if that made sense — spells the second word in its name "Labor" even though everyone else in Australia spells that word "Labour," with a "u" in it, as the Brits do. Perhaps they figured if the conservative faction was going to do something as stereotypically American as name themselves the opposite of what they are, then the true liberals would at least spell their own name American style.

All of which just goes to prove that the stupidity of politicians knows no national boundaries.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

What's Up With That? #4: Esther Williams has risen from the grave

Three questions about synchronized swimming:

1. Why don't they call it "Swimnastics"? Shorter, punchier, more marketable. "Synchronized swimming" sounds like something that might be performed by watchmakers or accountants.

2. What's with all the face paint and sequins? If you want to attract an audience for this insanity, dress the performers in those two-piece sports bra-and-thong outfits the women's beach volleyball teams are sporting. (You don't really suppose those mammoth ratings are the result of America's insatiable hunger for the raw skill and athleticism of beach volleyball, do you?) And the nose plugs have got to go. Drown if you must, but look good doing it.

3. Why is this in the Olympics? It looks like a bad idea left over from the Splash production show in Las Vegas, back in the days when Splash actually involved water instead of ice skating and motorcycles.


Monday, August 23, 2004

What's Up With That? #3: The Big Bear Brotherhood of Hamms

Mia Hamm, U.S. soccer star and wife of baseball great Nomar Garciaparra. Last name pronounced "ham," like the popular and tasty meat.

Paul and Morgan Hamm, U.S. gymnastics stars and identical twins. Last name pronounced "hom," like the tall bald fellow on Star Trek: The Next Generation who played butler for Deanna Troi's mother.

Can't we get together on this, folks? It's confusing to have athletes on the same Olympic team favoring two pronunications of the same last name. Are the gymnast twins so swine-averse — we know they're not big eaters in that sport — that they'll do anything to avoid being associated with fine pork products? Come on, guys: embrace the pig within.

Sidebar regarding the controversy over Paul Hamm's gold medal in the men's all-around: he should tell the IOOC he'll give the medal back the day the 1972 U.S. men's basketball team gets the gold they were jobbed out of by the officials 32 years ago. That'd fix 'em.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

What's Up With That? #2: Unclear on the natural concept

This morning I passed a Jack in the Box restaurant with a poster in its front window announcing the arrival of "bigger, thicker, natural cut fries."

"Bigger," I understand. "Thicker," no problem. But what in the name of Mr. Potato Head are "natural cut" fries?

The last time I checked with Messrs. Merriam and Webster (ironically, just about 30 seconds ago), the word "natural" as applied to food meant, "growing without human care; not cultivated; existing in or produced by nature; not artificial." Has Jack in the Box discovered a potato that exists in nature already cut into fries? A potato that grows in long, thin strips, ready-made for the deep fat fryer? What else could "natural cut" possibly mean?

Someone alert the media — this may be the greatest find in modern botanical history. And to think it was made by a man wearing a big plastic clown on his head.


Monday, July 26, 2004

What's Up With That? #1: Do you swear to tell the truth?

KM was watching Judge Judy this afternoon (I know...educational television), and I found myself wondering aloud...

Why do courts — real as well as "reality" — still perpetuate the charade of "sworn testimony"? Has there ever, in any courtroom, been a witness who when asked, "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," replied, "No, Your Honor — I intend to lie like a bad toupee"? No perjurer is ever going to announce his or her fabrication in advance.

It seems to me, therefore, to make more sense to simply begin each witness's testimony with a caution from the judge, along these lines: "You are required to answer all questions truthfully, to the best of your knowledge. Giving false testimony is a felony, punishable by time in prison." The witness is then not put in the rather stupid position of lying about lying.

Then again, I'm not really a judge; I just play one on DVD Verdict.