Archive for the 'strange news' Category

Vatican announces release of iPope 1.0

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Here is an Actual News Item:

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict will text message thousands of young Catholics on their mobile phones during World Youth Day in Sydney in July, hoping going digital will help him connect better with a younger audience.

Even though I’m not Catholic, I think it’s great that the Pontiff is adapting to 21st century technology. Since Joseph Ratzinger became Benedict XVI, many spiritually progressive types have been hoping that he would embrace a historic opportunity for the church to finally get with the times, modernize, shake off the dust, roll some bones, and pry open some of those old dungeon doors. Well according to the Reuters article, that seems to be exactly what’s happening, and I can only guess that an IM from His Holiness might look something like this:


Note: Translation Of Papal Message For Anyone Over The Age Of 16:

“Good Heavens! Hello brothers and sisters, it is I, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. I’m so sorry I cannot meet with you face-to-face, but it is certainly great to talk to you nevertheless. Are you aware of my age, sex, and current location at this very moment? I am parked right in front of your house in my Papal Vehicle! Oh my, that is so funny, but I’m only kidding you, I have a message from Your Savior Jesus Christ the Son of God: Don’t be a person who hates others. I’m chuckling to myself now. You should always bless your girlfriend or boyfriend with many hugs and kisses … but be sure to do the right thing! What do I mean by this? I mean don’t smoke any marijuana, or watch pornography, and most importantly, always remain celibate. Honest to God, I mean it, and not only because your parents are watching you, but remember God is watching you too. So if you are sitting in front of your computer without any clothing on, put your pants back on and stop that sinful activity right now, young man! Oh my, that is so funny! Seriously, I must leave you now but I hope you will heed my helpful advice. Remember that you will always be in my prayers. Farewell, and I hope to send you another message at some point in the future.”

If Pope Benedict is able to get some props from teens as a result of this approach, I hope he will use his newfound street cred to go after Christian Rock, which is an oxymoron if ever there was one. (When Jesus returns, I personally think He might be a big fan of Pearl Jam.) And if this unorthodox method of reaching out to young people on World Youth Day succeeds, I can only assume that His Holiness would then take the next logical step: (Click on image for more detail.)

Oh yeah, I am definitely going to Hell for this.

Cheese Closure of the Pygmy Love Queen, and Other Favorites

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Since a number* of readers of this blog are known to spend lots of time in Libraryland, I figured y’all might be interested in the following news item which I ran across today:

The Bookseller magazine has announced the shortlist for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. Here are the titles:

  • I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen
  • How to Write a How to Write Book

  • Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues

  • Cheese Problems Solved
  • If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs
  • People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood

Vote for your “favorite” in this poll; you may also wish to alert your acquisitions staff, as no doubt you’ll be getting lots of requests for these titles at your own local library.

I’m certain that it was difficult for the editors to come up with only these six finalists, as there are so many to choose from every year. Who could resist curling up at night with last year’s odd-title winner, the thrilling “Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification”. Then there’s the classics, like “Fish Who Answer the Telephone” (1937), “Explosive Spiders and How to Make Them” (1881), “Manhole Covers of Los Angeles” (1974), or 1981′s “New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers: Tales of Parasites and People” by Robert S. Desowitz, of which one reader says, “Parasites are not only interesting study objects, but you can write very funny stories about them as well.”

Turning to the ever-popular self-improvement category, we have such page-turners as “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” (1995), “My Invisible Friend Explains the Bible” (1971), “Teach Yourself Alcoholism” (1973), and the intriguing “Sex After Death” (1983).

My personal favorite, however, has to be a lightweight treatise from 1954 entitled “The Coming Disaster Worse Than the H-bomb, Astronomically, Geologically and Scientifically Proven, The Coal Beds, Ice Ages, Tides, and Coming Soon, a Great Wave and Flood Caused by a Shift of the Axis of the Earth From the Gyroscopic Action of Our Solar System”. I can’t wait for this one to come out on DVD.

* I believe that number is “two”

Love, and other forms of temporary insanity

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Today is the day many people have been waiting for all year: the day to tell their dearly beloved sweethearts how much they mean to them and how important they are, and buy them presents, candy and/or flowers. They might also get a cheap card for their husband or wife from Walgreens while they’re at it.

Yes, today is the favorite holiday of cynics (who nearly always refer to Valentine’s Day as “V.D.”), those who believe in their hearts that the significance of the day is way overblown, hyped beyond all common-sense reality by a greedy floral and greeting-card industry who are trying to turn every calendar event (St. Patrick’s day? Arbor Day, anyone? Bueller? Anyone?) into in excuse to purchase cards and gifts. These skeptics are quick to point out that Valentine’s Day is the only holiday that features a weapon-wielding angel as a mascot, and will make comments such as:

“Valentines day is just another stupid holiday created by the manufacturing companies in compliance with jewelry, candy, and cards. They make you feel obliged to get something for the ones you love. PUH LEZZE! It’s just another corrupt system using guilt on the people.”


“I hate Valentine’s Day with a passion. I would even go so far as to say that we should dig up Saint Valentine and martyr him all over again just for the fun of it.”

Of course, it could be argued that these are simply the bitter words of sad, lonely, twisted souls who have failed in their relationships due to their own selfishness, and want to ruin the holiday for everyone else. Or, they might possibly have been subjected to this example of romance run amok, which cannot be watched for more than thirty seconds without one wanting to claw out their own eyeballs.

Another possibility could be that they have seen any of numerous recent items in the news which would tend to discourage even the most optimistic of romantics. For example, consider this story from Germany involving a woman who is suing a web site at which she auctioned herself off to the highest bidder for sex. Six men were “winners” of the contest, and one got her pregnant. Unfortunately, she didn’t bother to get any of their names, so she’s suing the site’s operator for their identities so she can force the men to take paternity tests.

Meanwhile, in Seoul, South Korea, mobile phone provider KTF is offering their customers a service called the “Love Detector” which analyzes the voice patterns of the person you’re speaking to, and displays a “love meter” bar on the screen of your handset during the call. “We created this service because we thought people would want to know what others were feeling about them,” said Ahn Hee-jung, a KTF official. After the call is finished, the user receives an analysis of the conversation that breaks down the amount of affection, surprise, concentration and honesty of the other speaker.

In Charleston SC, WKLC-FM, also known as “Rock 105″, is observing the holiday with a special Valentine’s Day contest (as radio stations often do). The prize? A free divorce. The winner’s name will be drawn at random from all entries, and Charleston lawyer Rusty Webb will handle the actual filing. “Sure we can give away concert tickets, and we do,” said station Program Director Jay Nunley. “That’s going to make you happy for a little while. This is the chance to make someone happy for the rest of their life.”

Finally, if you happen to be one of those jaded, cynical, Anti-Valentine type of folks, I’ve got just the perfect job for you: UK Honey Traps, a private detective service based in Worcestershire in the heart of England, is looking for new recruits. Your work will take you to nightclubs and bars, where you’ll be looking to strike up conversations, flirt, give out your phone number, and try to make future dates. The hitch is, you’ll be targeting the husbands or wives of clients who pay you to test the loyalty of their partners, and will document the entire shameful affair for the client with hidden cameras and audio recorders. According to the web site, the agency is looking for “confident, bubbly, outgoing men and women with an ability to think on their feet.” Becoming a honey trapper demands reliability, honesty and accuracy, it says, and because most of the trapping takes place outside office hours, it can offer “an ideal second career.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Joy to the world

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

Yes, once again it’s that special, exciting time of year when people celebrate the “season to be jolly” by floating around their yards in invisible boats, breaking into strangers’ homes to rearrange the furniture, and threatening to knock each other’s teeth out. The following are actual excerpts from this week’s “Police Report” section of our local newspaper:

• Terroristic threat: A woman reported that she was confronted by the wife of the man she is dating. The wife displayed a jack handle, and threatened to harm her, the report said. The woman wishes to file charges.

• Assault: A man said that he was assaulted at his home by another man who was visiting his girlfriend. The man who filed the complaint suffered minor injuries. The suspect fled the scene. A warrant was requested.

• Harassment: A woman said that her “former lover” was calling and harassing her. According to the report, the “former lover” said he would knock the woman’s teeth out. A warrant was requested.

• Criminal trespass: A man reported that while he was away on business, his neighbor’s children built a fort on his property. The children built the fort with materials they found on his property. The man did not file charges.

• Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle: A woman reported that her car was missing, and she thinks her neighbors may have been involved.

• Credit card abuse: A woman reported that a credit card that is in her husband’s name was used by her daughter-in-law to make purchases without their consent.

• Disturbance: A boy reported that his parents were in the living room fighting. The mother asked the father to leave, but he would not.

• Aggravated assault: A man walking to work said he was stabbed by two men who confronted him about the color of his clothing. The man walked to the hospital where he was treated for the stab wound.

• Family violence: A man and a woman threw food at each other at a restaurant during an argument.

• Interference with an emergency call: A man and a woman accused each other of assault and of disconnecting the phone whenever either tried to call the police.

• Assault/family violence: A woman said she was assaulted by her boyfriend on two separate days. According to the report, the woman said the man became upset because she would not “cater to his needs.” The woman had multiple bruises and swelling on her face, and she said he also slammed her finger in a door. A warrant was requested for the man.

• Suspicious activity: A woman reported that someone turned the water on in her yard and was floating around in a boat. A deputy checked the yard, but no boat was found.

• Disturbance: Two brothers got into a verbal argument over a beer. The brothers were separated and sent home to sober up. No arrests were made.

• Criminal trespass: Someone reported to police that an unknown person had entered the complainant’s house and rearranged the furniture. No items were stolen.

This final item is my hands-down favorite, displaying a curiously detailed narrative rarely seen in your typical police report. I swear I am not making this up, this is exactly how it appeared in the paper:

• Officers were dispatched to a residence where it was claimed a gun had been recovered. Upon their arrival, the deputies met with complainant Mr. H, who stated that a Mr. L had come to his residence and dropped off a shotgun. Deputies recovered the weapon and proceeded to Mr. L.’s residence. Upon their arrival, Mr. L. exited his residence with his hands above his head yelling, “Don’t shoot, I am unarmed.” Mr. L. advised he had been at Mr. H’s residence earlier in the evening, when Mr. H had become angry after having a bipolar mood swing. Deputy was then told that Mr. H. picked up a stick and began to swing at Mr. L., but Mr. L. also brandished a stick and they then began exchanging blows with one another in a mock sword fight like Sir Galahad and the Black Knight. Mr. H. then advanced his bipolar mood swing up a notch and went inside his residence and returned with a shotgun at which point Mr. L, using his quick and cunning cat-like skills, was able to wrestle the weapon away from Mr. H and proceed in a hurried retreat away from the residence down State Highway 7 like a ghost in the night. Mr. L ran or rather unsteadily stumbled to his 3rd, 4th or possibly 5th cousin’s residence (the complainant) and deposited the weapon on their back porch, gave a quick synopsis of the evening’s adventures and then departed like a thief in the night once again before law enforcement could be summoned. The officers, who realized that no major offense had been committed this evening during one of Mr. L.’s many life adventures, telephoned the poor mother of Mr. H and explained that Mr. H could retrieve his weapon the next morning at the Sheriff’s Office, once the odor of alcohol had ceased to emanate from his body. The case is closed.

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men!

You want a McSubpoena with that?

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

News item: McDonald’s Corp. is lobbying the publishers of several dictionaries in the UK, including the renowned Oxford English Dictionary, to remove the word “McJob” from their pages. As Time Magazine tells it:

First used some 20 years ago in the United States to describe low-paying, low-skill jobs that offered little prospect of advancement, the term “McJob” was popularized by the author Douglas Coupland in his 1991 slacker ode Generation X, which chronicled the efforts of a “lost” generation of twenty-somethings to escape their dead-end jobs in an attempt to find meaning in life.

Oxford defines the word as “an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, especially one created by the expansion of the service sector.” The fast-food giant protests that the definition is “outdated and insulting”, and instead wants the word to “reflect a job that is stimulating, rewarding, and offers skills that last a lifetime,” according to a company representative.

Please. My very first job while still in high school was flipping burgers at my local Golden Arches (an “old school” McDonald’s like the one pictured on the right), and the only time the job was “stimulating” was when an especially good-looking girl would come up to the window to place an order. The window guys had a signal for this event, and would shout out “88 on the front window, please” to the rest of the crew. The customers had no clue what this meant, but to our fellow McEmployees this was code for “Hey guys, check out the gazongas on this babe.” I still occasionally use the phrase in jest to this day, so I guess you could indeed say that working at McDonald’s taught me “skills that last a lifetime.” However, I doubt this is exactly what the company had in mind.

It is well known within the industry that Mickey Dee’s has a trademark on any food item beginning with the prefix “Mc”, including their current menu fare as well as any other food item, irregardless of the likelihood of it being offered at the chain. Thus, not only could you not sell the public a generic “English McMuffin” or “McShake”, even a “McBanana”, “McTofu”, or a “McGrilled McPeanutbutter and McCheese Sandwich” would probably get you in hot water as well.

But does McDonald’s have the legal rights to any word beginning with the letters M-C, context notwithstanding? Probably not, but that’s not stopping the company from throwing its considerable weight behind an effort to pressure Oxford into changing the dictionary. They recently managed to convince a member of Parliament to introduce a motion condemning the pejorative use of the term, and have mounted a street campaign to gather thousands of signatures on a petition that will be formally presented to the publisher next month.

Current (and past) McDonald’s employees are less enthusiastic. One referred to the low pay; another complained of being on their feet for eight or more hours a day. Another employee, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated that serving customers beat his old position as a factory sweeper. But, he added, “it’s just a job.”

And for many people like me, it was the source of their first paycheck — and you can take that to the McBank.


This is just wrong

Saturday, May 5th, 2007

Yep, it’s for real … this was in a catalog from a company that sells high-quality tools and woodworking supplies to home craftsmen. Their customers tend to be the kind of people who custom-build their own furniture and have a shop full of power tools and equipment worth five figures or more. Some of these guys take their hobbies pretty seriously.

If I really stretch my imagination, I guess I can see how building a casket for a departed close family member can indeed be the ultimate “personal touch”. And I suppose a psychologist could make a case that doing so could help the survivor to deal with their grief. When someone close to you dies, you feel so helpless; but in this case, here’s one small thing you can still have control over, and that labor of love might help bring closure and acceptance.

Nevertheless, I still think a do-it-yourself casket is pretty bizarre.

A Rolling Stone gathers no ash

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

Perhaps you’ve heard the (latest) bizarre story regarding Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards?

Richards was recently quoted in an interview with the pop music magazine NME as claiming that he had snorted the ashes of his father, Bert, who died in 2002. In response to the question “what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever tried to snort?”, Richards replied:

“My father. I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn’t have cared, he didn’t give a shit. It went down pretty well, and I’m still alive.”

But the real story here is that it was later claimed the comments were an April Fools’ joke. Frankly, I’m not so sure; would anyone seriously be that surprised if it were true?

Meanwhile, executives at Walt Disney Studios have decided that Richards is apparently too unpredictable to promote the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End“, in which the rocker makes a cameo appearance alongside Johnny Depp as the father of Captain Jack Sparrow. A Disney vice president said, “When I heard the ashes story, I thought, ‘How are we going to spin this?’”

“Keith won’t be doing a lot of publicity for this movie.”

God, I love show biz.

The dangers of alcohol

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Forward: this weekend is St. Patrick’s day, a holiday celebrated by Irish and Non-Irish alike with the traditional drinkin’ o’the beer. For the benefit of those who might overindulge this weekend, here’s a cautionary tale in the form of a news item from the Wind In The Wire “what were they thinking?” department:

A flying leap from a Bahamas-bound vessel into the Atlantic Ocean resulted in a collapsed lung and hypothermia for a 35-year-old Orlando man. Michael Mankamyer was spotted taking a running leap off the Carnival cruise ship, “Glory” by a fellow passenger shortly before 1 a.m. Friday. The witness added that he (Mankamyer) was quite intoxicated at the time.

The Glory and another cruise ship in the area joined the Coast Guard cutter “Vigorous” and two helicopters in searching the water for the man. After cooperating with the Coast Guard, the cruise ship resumed its journey about 4 AM. The cutter continued searching, and found Mankamyer around 8:45 AM. Officials say he had drifted 15 miles north during his eight hours at sea, somehow managing to remain afloat.

About 3,400 passengers and crew were aboard the ship, including at least one traveling companion of Mankamyer. It was on a seven-day trip from Florida to the Bahamas that began last Saturday. Following his rescue, Mankamyer refused to speak with reporters.


The fact that this story involves alcohol does not surprise me. What does surprise me is that Mankamyer was not a college student on spring break.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

(Story/photo credit: Miami Herald)

On billionaire babies and space cheaters

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

baby-daddy2.jpgNEWS FLASH!

I have a stunning revelation to announce to the world: as can be seen in the actual, unretouched photo to your right, I am the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby daughter.

I had been keeping this secret in deference to Mrs. Toast, but now that so many pretenders are stepping forward to claim paternity (we’re up to at least four now), I can no longer be silent with the truth. The blonde bombshell and I had a torrid affair when we both lived in Houston back in the 80′s, and it is now glaringly apparent that she must have kept my, er, “essence” safely frozen in the back of her Frigidaire (next to the Bird’s Eye Green Peas) and used it to impregnate herself. I can now claim my rightful share of the millions of dollars little DannieLynn stands to inherit.

Oh sure, you say, that sounds pretty bogus … but no more so than the surprise announcement by Anna Nicole’s half-sister, Donna Hogan, who claimed that the child’s father is none other than her sister’s former billionaire husband J. Howard Marshall, who’s been dead for ten years now. She alleges that her deceased sis froze the sperm of her 90-year-old hubby before he died, and used it to become pregnant as a “trump card” in winning the ongoing legal battle for the billionaire’s estate.

I may joke about being a baby-daddy, but all kidding aside, what bothers me most is that of all the players in this soap opera, the child is the one person most likely to be negatively affected in the long run. With so much at stake financially, she will be used as a pawn all her life and has virtually no chance of growing up to be “normal”. She will be forever haunted by her mother’s shadow.

This tragic story is no doubt destined to become a TV “movie of the week” soon; the public fascination fueling the media circus is enormous, and parallels to Anna’s idol Marilyn Monroe (who lived a similar short, sad life, but possessed considerably more talent than ANS) are inevitable. Ground zero for the latest bizarre twists and turns would have to be, where if you’re interested you can read about her final booze-fueled hours, or learn that her body has been moved to “a VIP area” of the hospital indefinitely pending further investigation into the cause of her death. However, there is no truth to the rumor that the body of James Brown (who is also yet to be interred) is with her there as well.

The implications for social commentary are enormous as well. While much of America laughed at Anna Nicole’s antics over the years — the billionaire sugar daddy, the weight gain and loss, the slurred public appearances, the physical attributes coupled with dubious mental prowess — her death now makes such satire difficult. If it was an acceptable joke to mock her as a bimbo while she was alive, is doing so now improperly disrespectful to the deceased? Does this very blog post cross the line of decency?

A good question … as is why her life and death have so fascinated the public while the lives and deaths of so many others (people who have made truly significant, lasting accomplishments) go unnoticed at the same time. We do love our myths — and our heroes, which probably explains the other item that has dominated the press this week. Over the years, how many people involved in love affairs gone wrong have driven cross-country to confront their romantic rivals with less-than-noble intent? Hundreds, perhaps thousands; it’s an unfortunate yet common human foible. But throw the word “astronaut” into the mix and suddenly it’s a news story, like those who train to work in space are somehow superhuman and not subject to the emotional weaknesses that plague normal earthbound folk.

Nope. We all live on this strange little planet.

Controversy For All

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Perhaps you’ve heard that the Mars Corporation, makers of Snickers®, have responded to protests by several Gay and Lesbian groups over its Super Bowl commercial (featuring two “manly men” who accidentally kiss while enjoying the candy bar) by yanking all further replays of the spot. The company also pulled the plug on a planned extensive follow-up campaign around the ad, which had been on the web at Protesters called the theme of the ad “violent” and “homophobic”, and in a statement announcing the cancellation, a spokesman for the candy maker said “We know that humor is highly subjective and understand that some people may have found the ad offensive. Clearly that was not our intent.”

You probably know as well that the American Association of Fast Food Workers also complained about the Kevin Federline Nationwide ad, saying it demeaned employees in that industry. Apparently, this means it is no longer politically correct to say “you want fries with that?” in a jocular manner. Remember that the next time you’re trying to be funny at a party.

But most amazing to me is that just when you thought it was again safe to watch the half-time show, religious conservatives and some journalists are complaining about Sunday’s acclaimed performance by Prince. It was not enough for them to decry the thousands of children who would forever be doomed to a life of crime and moral depravity by their 9/16-of-a-second exposure to Janet Jackson’s right breast in 2004, they are now upset that Prince’s silhouette, projected on a flowing curtain during his rendition of “Purple Rain”, contained (gasp!) phallic imagery. New York Daily News TV critic David Bianculli called it “a rude-looking shadow show,” and “embarrassingly rude, crude and unfortunately placed.” A spokesman for the NFL countered, “We respect other opinions, but it takes quite a leap of the imagination to make a controversy of his performance. It’s a guitar.”

Look at the photo and see what you think. All I can say is if the image is meant to be anatomically correct, the man must have a hard time picking out a pair of pants at Wal-Mart. (Not that Prince would shop there anyway.)

Anyway, I think what we’re seeing here is just the tip of the iceberg. If controversy can be sparked by this somewhat overzealous interpretation of Prince’s act, then a lot of other special-interest groups are missing the boat and should jump on the bandwagon of criticism as well. For example:

  • Atheists should be upset that Prince sang a portion of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” during his show, a direct reference to the official publication and website of The Jehovah’s Witnesses. Has no one else picked up on this? Prince became a Witness in the 1990′s, and obviously used his halftime appearance to deliver thinly-veiled religious propaganda to millions of Bowl viewers.
  • The National Association for Mental Health and Mental Retardation should be all over Prince for his song selection as well: his opening number, “Let’s Go Crazy”, is clearly a derogatory term and a stereotypical slur to the mentally handicapped. At the very least, they could force the Purple One to change the lyrics of the song from “Let’s go crazy/let’s get nuts” to “Let’s exhibit situationally inappropriate behavior/let’s have a learning disability.”
  • The NAACP can complain that Prince wasn’t a “black” enough choice for the Super Bowl crowd, while the Aryan Nation can be offended that he wasn’t “white” enough. Every other ethnic group could follow suit, including Asians, Hispanics, etc. NOW could protest that he’s not female, and the Anti-Defamation League could protest that he’s not Barbra Streisand.
  • Any person of British descent should be appalled by Prince’s choice of his own name, an obvious slap in the face of The Royal Family. Unfortunately, this is a no-win situation for the entertainer, as when he changed his name back to Prince some years ago, he received howls of protest from The Association of Artists Named After Unpronounceable Symbols at his defection from their ranks.
  • The Fashion Designers Guild must protest Prince’s choice of his outfit. I mean, a light orange umber shirt under a light-aqua-blue jacket? What was he thinking with that abominable color scheme? What horrible message does this send to our esthetically-challenged youth?
  • Finally, a newly-formed group, the Association of All Recording Artists On The Planet Except For Prince must no doubt find it highly discriminatory that sales of Prince’s album catalog jumped by an astonishing average of 653% after his Super Bowl gig. “The Very Best of Prince” moved from No. 710 to No. 71 on’s Top Sellers list, and following his soaking-wet rendition of the song, “Music from the Motion Picture ‘Purple Rain’” moved from No. 432 to No. 53 on the chart, an increase of 715 percent.

In a related story, the NFL announced today that due to the controversy over Prince’s halftime performance, there were only three “safe” acts left in the world being considered for future shows. Viewers of the 2008 Super Bowl will see either (a) Pat Boone, (b) Michael Bolton, or (c) The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

I feel safer from depravity already.

Freakin’ out in Boston

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

By now everyone has heard about the so called “terrorist scare” in Boston caused by promotional electronic devices placed at strategic locations around the city by a company promoting a TV show for the Cartoon Network. This story fascinates me from a couple of different angles: not only was I just writing about the highs and lows of promotional marketing, but I also have had some vicarious experience in the past with attaching stealth objects to public transportation fixtures in Boston (my former home town).

Had the same level of public paranoia existed back when my friend pulled off his prank, who knows what the reaction might have been. For most of the day yesterday, the city was virtually paralyzed after blinking signs with exposed 1-foot square circuit boards were found on bridges and other high-profile spots; highways were closed, the bomb squad blew up several of the devices, and the city reportedly spent over half a million dollars in police costs before realizing they were harmless.

To me, nothing quite so visibly shows how jumpy we’ve become in our post-9/11 world than to see a major American city thrown into utter panic over a promotion for a talking milkshake, a box of fries, and a meatball. The devices had been in place for two to three weeks in ten cities across the country, and no one gave them a second thought until yesterday’s mass hysteria. Now Boston’s mayor, Thomas Mennino, is saying “I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today’s incidents.”

Two local men hired by Turner to put up the signs have been arrested for disorderly conduct (a “catch-all” charge if ever there was one); one of them, a 27-year old artist by the name of Daniel Berdovsky, told the Boston Globe that he was “a little kind of freaked out,” by the furor. “I find it kind of ridiculous that they’re making these statements on TV that we must not be safe from terrorism, because they were up there for three weeks and no one noticed,” Berdovsky said. “It’s pretty commonsensical to look at them and say this is a piece of art and installation.” Berdovsky’s attorney told the press, “It’s very disturbing that what was just an employment for a struggling artist turned into some major misunderstanding.” A Turner company spokesperson said, “We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger.”

Other cities where the devices were placed did not appear to freak out quite like Boston did. In Seattle and several suburbs, removal of the signs was low-key. “We haven’t had any calls to 911 regarding this,” said a Seattle police spokesman. Police in Philadelphia said they believe their city had 56 devices. In New York City, local news broadcasts showed images of the devices being collected, and the New York Post reported that police confiscated 41 in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The whole thing reminds me very much of Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” 1939 Halloween radio broadcast, when panicked listeners believed we had been invaded by aliens. “Terrorists” are our new Martians.

But instead of, say, pointing out how vigilant they are about public safety (which should theoretically make the citizens of Boston feel more secure), officials are clearly so embarrassed by their over-reaction to the “threat” that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office is now investigating whether Turner Broadcasting and any other companies should be criminally charged and forced to pay restitution to the city.

Granted, this was probably not the smartest promotion in the history of marketing, although I think it’s highly ironic that nearly everyone in the country has now heard of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force“. Did you know there was an Aqua Teens movie? And that it is described as an “action epic”? And that it features a flaming chicken? You do now, so perhaps from that perspective the campaign was a smashing success.

However, yesterday’s incident also demonstrates that if our society has become this fearful, then the terrorists may have already succeeded in their mission as well. That bothers me a whole lot more than an ill-conceived publicity stunt.

Tasty News Bits

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Yes friends, once again it’s time for another rousing issue of…

Always on the cusp of current events, Wind In The Wire takes a look back at a few of the more bizarre news items from the first full week of the new year. Please note that while I did not plan it this way, it turns out that several of these stories are somewhat scatological in nature; so please, if you are a young, impressionable high school student whom your school board has deemed unfit to think about such things for yourself, click here and do not, repeat, do NOT read further. You’ve been warned.

All right, the rest of you may recall that earlier in this space, we reported on one Stephen Murmur, high school teacher and so-called “Butt Printing Artist”, who had been suspended by the Richmond VA school district where he was employed, for using his buttocks and genitals to create abstract artwork such as “Tulip”, shown above. These paintings sell for up to $900 on his web site. Word now comes that he has been fired, according to a spokesperson for the Chesterfield County School Board. Despite overwhelming support for Murmur from students, parents, and Wind In The Wire readers, the board stated that students have a right to receive their education in an environment free from distractions and disruptions”. (I guess this means that the gum-snapping, rubber-band shooting smart-ass who sits in the back of the room, constantly interrupting the class with wisecracks, will have to go too? After all, fair is fair.) Here is a comment from a parent of one of Murmur’s students:

“Stephen Murmur has been an inspiration to my daughter for the last 3 years. He has been her teacher and mentor and he is highly respected in the school where he was teaching. My daughter knew about his artwork years ago but it was no big deal to her – it was what he did. What message are we sending everyone when we say that you can’t have harmless creative outlets? We want to tell our children they can be anything they want when they become adults EXCEPT who they truly are? I don’t like that message. Are we saying that all people have to be “G” rated? How many people do you know that are like that? Uh oh, we better not talk about body parts, those very things we were born with. Stephen Murmur is a credit to the teaching profession and was wrongly fired. He inspires students to excel, they take him into their confidence and they trust him. We should all be so lucky as to have Stephen Murmur as a teacher in our schools.”

Frankly, I’m having a hard time determining exactly what the school board is worried about. Not only did Murmur practice his craft totally removed from his class and on his own time, but these are high school kids, for heaven’s sake. They are regularly exposed to a lot more material with the potential to warp their minds than this. The lesson, if any, that they will learn from this is that you must conform, you must submit to authority, and that art, individuality and creative expression is wrong. Shame on the School Board. Murmur’s attorney Jason Anthony summed it up perfectly when he referred to the Board’s decision as “a bad day for the first amendment.”

Speaking of art, let’s move on to our next story. It’s no secret that we are a nation of celebrity worshipers who delight in the exploits of Britney, Paris, Brangelina, and other high-profile star types. Now, as if Ms. Jolie isn’t famous enough, a painting of the actress as the Virgin Mary hovering over a Wal-Mart check-out line is on sale for $50,000. The artist, Kate Kretz of Burlington, NC, says that the work “addresses the celebrity worship cycle.” She said she chose Jolie for the subject “because of her unavoidable presence in the media, the worldwide anticipation of her child, her unattainable beauty and the good that she is doing in the world through her example, which adds another layer to the already complicated questions surrounding her status.” Even more exciting is the fact that Ms. Kretz has a Blogger Blog where she is relating the daily adventures of her sudden notoriety, and her blog has gone from near obscurity to thousands of hits a day since her Jolie painting. So now not only can you be pop icon by being a star, you can be one for painting a picture of a star, and blogging about it. Isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing?

In Columbia, South Carolina, the body of James Brown has yet to be buried, and remains in a sealed casket inside a funeral home while attorneys for various relatives fight over where he is to be laid to rest. Security guards are watching over the late singer, who died of heart failure on Christmas Day at the age of 73. His will has yet to be filed, and legal wrangling over his estate continues. Brown’s home has been locked since hours after his death to protect his memorabilia, furnishing, clothes and other personal items, according to his attorney. “Just imagine what would have happened,” said Buddy Dallas. “Items of James Brown would have left there like items off the shelves of Macy’s in an after-Christmas sale.” What a sad end for the Godfather of Soul.

Meanwhile, we can authoritatively report to you that executed former Iraqui dictator Saddam Hussein is, in fact, still dead. We’ve seen the video. (What, not what you were expecting?)

Across the pond in Lancashire, England, police are stumped following an incident where a man broke into a woman’s home, put on her clothing, and proceeded to, er, make himself happy on her bed. According to the BBC, the prosecutor in the case claimed that he “could not find an offense for the case to proceed”, in that burglary was out, since the man never tried to steal anything. The best they could come up with was that the defendant had “intruded appallingly on someone’s privacy”. Can we charge Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell with this, I wonder? Please, anything to make them both shut up.

If you’ve ever considered converting to Hinduism, this may change your mind: in the largest religious pilgrimage on the planet, over the next six weeks some 75 million Hindus will make their annual journey to bathe in the sacred waters of India’s Ganges River. Problem is, it’s more like holy sludge than holy water, due to the millions of gallons of raw sewage and thousands of sacrificial animal carcasses that are dumped in the river. Levels of fecal coliform bacteria are up to 3,000 times the accepted Indian standard and 1.5 million times the safe level in this country for drinking. Think aboout that the next time you slug down an AquaFina.

Finally, here’s a related story that hands-down earns the Wind in the Wire “What Were They Thinking?” award for this edition: in suburban Miami, a 20-year old man showed up at an emergency room complaining of rectal pain. Upon closer examination, doctors found “
a stony hard, vertically oriented, low-lying radiopaque object in the rectum.” After being questioned further, the man finally admitted that he and his boyfriend had been “fooling around”, and had stirred up a batch of concrete mix which had then been poured into his rectal cavity using a funnel. After surgically removing the hardened object, the physician’s report further stated “Examination of the specimen revealed a perfect concrete cast of the rectum, measuring 12 X 7 X 5 cm and weighing 275 grams. Grooves in the mass were consistent with rectal mucosal folds. A layer of concrete was chipped off the upper part of the specimen and revealed a white plastic ping-pong ball.” Click here, if you dare, for a photo of the object.

There’s really not much else that can be said after that, is there?

Oh Come, All Ye Faithful

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Promoting “global peace through global ecstasy”, today, December 22nd, is Global Orgasm Day. This is not a joke. The organizers of this event believe that it will be possible “to effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy, a Synchronized Global Orgasm.” The site even features a handy countdown clock to enable you to coordinate the timing of your actions leading up to the big, er, climax. Even if you miss the earth-shattering moment at approximately 10 AM Eastern time, you can still participate “at the time of your choosing, in the place of your choosing and with as much privacy as you choose.”

The 22nd was chosen because it is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and a day associated with high levels of spiritual energy by many world cultures, both past and present. The ancients heralded it as a turning point — the day marking the return of the sun. Many observed fertility rituals on the Solstice, because it is so linked to the theme of nature’s rebirth.

The stated goal of the project is to add a concentrated burst of positive energy into the earth’s field that will “reduce the current dangerous levels of aggression and violence throughout the world.” Sensors at Princeton University, which reportedly are able to measure minute changes in the earth’s energy field, have shown that human consciousness can in fact be measured to have a global effect during widely-watched events such as 9/11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami. There have also been measurable results during mass meditations and prayers.

So be sure to do your part to participate today, and make a contribution to worldwide peace. This event is so ripe with opportunity for puns and other wisecracks that I’m not even going to try and touch it. But knowing the folks who read this blog, I can’t wait to read your comments.

An Engineer’s Christmas

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

We’re in Houston tonight, fortunately at a hotel with high-speed Internet access. After my post yesterday in which I spoke of The Engineer and the half-full glass, a fellow techo-geek sent me this gem. For anyone who’s ever wondered how Santa can leave presents for kids all over the world in one night, here’s the scoop from someone who has figured it all out:

There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist (except maybe in Japan) religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the population reference bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming there is at least one good child in each.

Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stocking, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get onto the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks.

This means Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second–3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.

The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized LEGO set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousands tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the “flying” reindeer can pull 10 times the normal amount, the job can’t be done with eight or even nine of them: Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).

600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance—this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would adsorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters much, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 mps in .001 seconds, would be subjected to acceleration forces of 17,000 g’s. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo. Therefore, if Santa did exist, he’s dead now.

Merry Christmas!

Oh boy, another web poll!

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

Once again I’d like to probe the inner workings of your mind with a survey … but this time, not on boring, inconsequential topics like “who would you like to see as our next president.” Nope, today we’re going to explore the deep philosophical implications of … butts.

Ah, now I have your attention!

You may have seen or heard about this story involving a teacher at Monacan High School in Richmond, Virginia, who was recently fired by the school district as a direct result of his extra-curricular activities. Stephen Murmur is a self-proclaimed “butt-printing artist” who creates floral and abstract art by plastering his posterior and genitals with paint and pressing them against canvas. He goes to great lengths to keep his work as an artist separate from that as a teacher, performing his activities outside of class on his own time, using a pseudonym and appearing in disguise to promote his art. He has never mentioned or involved the school in any way whatsoever, or shown any of his creations to his students in or out of class. In a recent interview, Murmur said in response to questions about his disguise: “I’m certainly proud of the ass painting. I do have a real job where I do have real clients and I don’t think they’d be too understanding if I was also the guy who painted with my ass.”

As it turns out, he was right. After officials at the school saw a YouTube video of Murmur (which is no longer available on the site) and word got around about it, they placed him on indefinite administrative leave, claiming: “In the school system, personnel regulations state that teachers are expected to set an example for students through their personal conduct. Additionally, the Supreme Court has stated that schools must teach by example and that teachers, like parents, are role models.”

Murmer contacted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after he was suspended late last week, and the case may go to court. He has been instructed by the school administration not to speak with the media, and did not return messages seeking comment.

But let’s get to the bottom of this issue! How do Wind In The Wire readers feel about this pressing matter? Do you think that the school board has the right to butt in on someone’s private life in this way? Are they being ass-inine? Can you get behind Murmur’s creative motivation? Or does this cheeky story merely make you crack a smile? Thankfully, I’ve run out of bad metaphors, so let’s put it to a vote:

Do you think the “Butt Artist” should be fired from his teaching job?

Your Answer
No, what he does on his own time is his own business.
Yes, he’s setting a bad example for the students. free polls

Thanks for your input!

And here we thought Americans were smarter

Monday, December 11th, 2006

Here’s a follow-up to the previous news item about the guy in Germany who asked police to help him get a refund on the “bad marijuana” he had bought: stupidity seems to be spreading world-wide. Last weekend, a Wichita, Kansas man called 911 to report that he had been the victim of an armed robbery. The theft? A pound of weed worth about $1,100 that he had been trying to sell at his home.

The victim told police that a buyer had pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and stole the drugs. Police said they’d be more than happy to help, and brought a drug-sniffing dog to the house. More marijuana and drug paraphernalia was soon located, and the victim was booked into Sedgwick County jail on several charges, including possession with intent to sell drugs.

The thief has not been found.

Again, one has to ask “what were they thinking”? Or maybe the problem was that they had been smoking their shit before getting the brilliant idea to call the cops. I guess it must have been pretty good.

Random News Tidbits

Friday, December 8th, 2006

Wrapping up a week when, it seems, trivial world events such as the war in Iraq and politics on the home front were pushed aside by the dramatic media appearance of Britney Spear’s cooch, (Related story: K-Fed — now known as “Fed-Ex” — says he’s “doing great“) here are a few other headlines you may have missed:

Bad Kitty

In Miami, a 7-year-old child’s birthday party went horribly wrong when a 62-pound cougar named “Georgia”, hired as part of an exotic animal show for the party by the child’s father, mauled a 4-year old guest. The declawed cat grasped the child’s head with her teeth, causing severe lacerations to her eyelid, left cheek and ear. Doctors sewed back part of her severed ear. Georgia was later euthanized as part of a rabies test, over the objection of the cat’s trainer, Cory Oltz. Oltz, the owner of “Wild Animal World”, says the child “sneaked up behind” the big cat and startled it, despite being cautioned to remain calm and still while the animal was being brought out. Oltz faces a misdemeanor charge of allowing injury to the public, as well as a lawsuit by the child’s family. According to an attorney representing the injured girl, who has not been identified, “the family wants this to be the last child who is attacked by these animals.” Two similar incidents have occurred in the last seven years.

Wild Animal World is a non-profit organization which offers a “wide variety of educational, exciting and professional interaction with exotic animals,” charging about $300 for a one-hour birthday party show, according to its website. Oltz, a former model, says on the site: “I always wanted to do a photo session with a big cat. They provided one on a modeling shoot and I was hooked!” Her least favorite part of the job: “The inevitable bites get tiresome.” While there are lots of cute pictures on the website of foxes, lemurs, monkeys and other animals posing with kids, oddly, none of the photos depict a big cat ripping a child’s face off. I guess that would be bad for business.

Flight Grounded by Giant Fart

Meanwhile, considering my recent post regarding the side-splitting humor of simulated flatulence around the ol’ Christmas tree, this story from Nashville seems especially apropos: An American Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing earlier this week after a passenger lit a match to disguise the scent of “a body odor”.

According to the Associated Press, the Dallas-bound flight was diverted to Nashville after several passengers reported smelling burning sulfur. All 99 passengers and five crew members were taken off and screened while the plane and luggage were searched. The FBI questioned a passenger who admitted she struck the matches in an attempt to conceal flatulence from an “unspecified medical condition.”

An airline spokesman said, “It’s humorous in a way, but you feel sorry for the individual. It’s unusual that someone would go to those measures to cover it up.” The flight took off again, but the woman, who was neither identified nor charged in the incident, was not allowed back on the plane. Apparently, authorities decided that the extreme mortal embarrassment she had already suffered was punishment enough.

Hot Panda Sex

In other news, from Hong Kong comes encouraging word from scientists who say that a plan to stimulate giant pandas to breed by showing them “panda porn” has paid off. They claim to have sparked a baby boom among the endangered animals by showing them DVDs of pandas mating.

“It works,” Zhang Zhihe, a leading Chinese expert, told the Xinhua news agency. “It is the same idea as chimpanzees seeing people smoke and then copying it.”

In the first 10 months of this year 31 cubs were born in captivity in China and 28 survived, said Zhang. That’s an increase from 12 births in 2005 and just nine in 2000.

Let’s hope the pandas are not shown the Britney Spears video.

Sorry, No Refunds or Exchanges

Finally, the Wind in the Wire “What Were They Thinking?” award for the week goes to a 52-year-old German man who tried in vain to get a refund for 400 euros worth of what he said was “bad marijuana” from his dealer by turning to the police for help.

“It is un-usable,” the man told police in the hope they would help him get his money back. Not surprisingly to anyone other than perhaps the man himself, police then charged him with violating drug possession laws and confiscated the 200 grams of marijuana he brought with him to the police station.

You can’t make up stuff like this. Have a great weekend!

Secret agents wanted

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Are you a thrillseeker? Fancy yourself as the next James Bond? The C.I.A. would like to talk to you. The agency is actively recruiting new employees, and has hired a PR firm to jazz up its image, including TV ads on the Discovery Channel. It also created this Personality Quiz on the CIA’s website, where you can determine for yourself if you’re potential spook material. The tongue-in-cheek quiz is designed to encourage job applications while dispelling some of the myths and preconceptions some people might have about working for “The Firm”. For example: “Myth #2: Everyone Drives a Sports Car with Machine Guns in the Tailpipes. Car chases through the alleyways of a foreign city are common on TV, but they’re not what a CIA career is about. And, they don’t compare with the reality of being part of worldwide intelligence operations supporting a global mission.”

According to my results, I am an “Impressive Mastermind”. I have no idea what this means, but it certainly sounds cool, so I may have to consider a second career with the CIA. Maybe I’ll get to wear a tuxedo to work while I sip on a dry martini, shaken, not stirred. The name’s Toast. Mister Toast.

Turkeys Try to Catch Train Out of NJ

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Note: Forget “Snakes on a Plane”; we’ve got “Turkeys on a Train”. This true story, spotted today on the Associated Press, seems appropriate following my previous post where WKRP’s Les Nessman says “it was almost as if they were organized”. Apparently New Jersey is such a hellhole that even wild turkeys want to leave. The birds are smarter than we think.

RAMSEY, N.J. – Some wild turkeys, it appears, were trying to get out of New Jersey before Thanksgiving Day. A spokesman for the NJ Transit said train officials reported a dozen or so wild turkeys waiting on a station platform in Ramsey, about 20 miles northwest of New York City, on Wednesday afternoon. The line travels to Suffern, N.Y.

“For a moment, it looked like the turkeys were waiting for the next outbound train,” said Dan Stessel, a spokesman for NJ Transit. “Clearly, they’re trying to catch a train and escape their fate.”

Transit workers followed the bird’s movements on surveillance cameras. “I have no idea how they got there,” Stessel said.

A Ramsey police dispatcher said the department had received three calls about the traveling turkeys who also were blamed for causing morning rush hour traffic problems on a roadway.

“From time to time, I’ve heard calls that there are turkeys on the loose,” said Erik Endress, president of the Ramsey Rescue Squad, a volunteer group. “Maybe they’re trying to make a break.”

Funny news item of the day

Monday, October 30th, 2006

FERN PARK, Fla. – (AP) — A 15-year-old boy was arrested when deputies stopped him driving a stolen bus along a public transit route, picking up passengers and collecting fares, authorities said Sunday.

Ritchie Calvin Davis took the bus Saturday from the Central Florida Fairgrounds in Orlando, where it was parked awaiting sale at an auction, a Seminole County sheriff’s report said. The bus belongs to the Central Florida Transportation Agency, which runs LYNX public transit services in the Orlando area.

Passengers and deputies noted Davis drove the bus at normal speeds and made all the appropriate stops on the route. One passenger, suspicious of the youthful looks of the driver, called 911.

There were two passengers on the bus when deputies stopped it in Fern Park, an Orlando suburb about 12 miles north of the fairgrounds where the bus was stolen. Authorities believe Davis picked up a total of three passengers and collected only a few dollars on his Saturday morning drive.

The teen was charged with grand theft auto and driving without a license. A court hearing was scheduled Tuesday to determine if he will be charged as an adult or a juvenile.