"Honey, maybe you should see a doctor. Your eyes are bigger than my tits." -- J.D.
"I can't figure out where my asshole is." -- David
"Fuck you and your sweater vest. Stop being such a cheapskate and turn up the thermostat." -- A. Jorgensen
"The doctor with the shadow puppets said it's supposed to smell like fish." -- mike
"Honey, don't you see? One tit in the last issue, my luscious breasts in this issue. By next week, the readers will be ready for some camel toe, and it won't be long until the readers will expect nothing less than graphic girl-on-girl lovin and hair-tearing all-nude catfights!" -- Barb
"Fuck the rules! This week, I'm showing my tits in the New Yorker and submitting more than 5 captions to the anti-caption contest." -- mypalmike
Suck up to the judge award:
"The whore here is piscine." -- J.D.
The "Fuck the rules!" / "50th time's the charm" award:
"I'm getting tired of the same old routine, Yuvie. You read, I show my tits, and morons propose clever captions and anti-captions until some deadline passes. How about we take a stance...end it right now...shake things up: LET'S GO ANAL TONIGHT!!!!" -- m hartman
Lest you all think I'm a total Grinch when it comes to holiday music, I thought I'd share a few songs that have caught my ear over the last week or two.
It's Christmas So We'll Stop. I'd never heard of Frightened Rabbit before coming across this song on the All Songs Considered Holiday Music Mix earlier this week, but I've probably listened to this song about a dozen times since then. A bit melancholy, but still beautiful.
I Wish It Was Christmas Today. I don't have any fond memories of the original SNL version of this song, but Julian Casablancas and the Roots make it rock.
Christmastime for the Jews. Another SNL song I missed the first time around. Cute animation, some good jokes, and the still-amazing voice of Darlene Love. Plus it's much better than what Jews used to do onNittel Nacht. (Hulu's giving me some errors on embedding this, so if there's no video below, just click here for the song.)
Little Drummer Boy. One of my least favorite traditionals – almost nobody can sing "pa rum pum pum pum" without sounding like an idiot – but any pairing of David Bowie and Bing Crosby is too incredible to miss out on. Bing was 74, and died just a month after taping this, but you'd never know it from his voice.
Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating, and Happy Friday to everyone else.
Where Han really showed his knowledge of game theory was when he chose to shoot Greedo first
Ilya Somin at volokh.com has an interesting analysis – via a Freakonomics post – of why it made sense for Han Solo to join the Rebellion against the Empire, but why it rarely makes sense for citizens of real totalitarian states to do the same. The important difference? "Marrying a princess and becoming a general are not likely outcomes for your average potential North Korean or Iranian dissident."
I generally agree with his analysis of real-world situations, but my own view of the Star Wars situtation, which I offered in a comment on Ilya's post, is that the entire analysis is moot. Han has already become a member of the Rebellion as far as the Empire is concerned, so his dilemma is not whether he should fight – to ensure that the Rebellion will protect him from the Empire, he really has no choice but to fight with them – but how to do so in a way that maximizes his value to the Rebellion.
(While reading the original posts, please remember that any comments that refer to Episodes I - III should be ignored, as those movies don't really exist.)
32-year-old Brittany Murphy died this weekend. Probably best known for her role in Clueless and her 12-year gig voicing Luanne on King of the Hill, she also starred with Ashton Kutcher in Just Married. And how did Kutcher memorialize his co-star on Twitter? Like this, of course:
"2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine, my deepest condolences go out 2 Brittany's family."
Sadly, as you can't add art to a Twitter post, he was unable to include a picture of a unicorn standing in front of a rainbow.
Ugh. Please, celebrities, unless you're a 14-year-old girl starring in a Nick at Night sitcom, don't do this.
While I wasn't actually at MediaBistro's eBook Summit last week, I gleaned from the tweets that I was not alone in being surprised to find out that CAPTCHAs -- those annoying little words you have to type to prove you're human -- are being used to transcribe old newspapers and books for Google, which recently acquired the company that came up with this ingenious crowd-sourcing concept. There is poetry, to be sure, in the fact that you now have to be willing to work for free on the Internet (even if unwittingly) to verify your humanity -- since even robots are too smart to join blog farms -- but it occurred to me that there might be even greater literary possibilities here. Why stop at a few distorted words? Perhaps we should require customers to write sonnets or short stories or monographs, just so we can be really, absolutely sure that they are human and not machine. And instead of these grainy words, they can be given trending topics out of which they'll be be required to fashion their works. "To help fight spam, please write a novelette about Tiger Woods and mesothelioma in the space provided," a typical prompt might read. Then the work-product would stack up pretty quickly, not like this meager transcription plan. It would fill volumes and shelves and whole libraries that could be merchandised at great profit -- even at e-book rates -- since it would all be produced free of charge. A special, iTunes-like service could be set up to allow readers to access this vast store of CAPTCHAture at a reasonable flat rate. And if they forget their password? No problem. "Please paste a roman a clef about Barack Obama and vampires in the space below." And the wheel will turn and turn, smoothly and delightfully spam-free. Just a thought.
At the risk of being pegged as "that new guy who cares way too much about holiday music," I have a few follow-ups to last week's post.
Thanks to the encouragement he received from people who are either tone deaf or evil, Orrin Hatch is hoping to ruin other Jewish holidays in song, starting with Purim. I'm not that troubled by this, since few gentiles have any idea of what – or even when – Purim is, and all good Jews, following the dictates of the Talmud, will be too drunk to care. [The actual commandment is "to make oneself fragrant [with wine] on Purim until one cannot tell the difference between 'arur Haman' (cursed be Haman) and 'barukh Mordekhai' (blessed be Mordecai)." And if you can't tell those two statements apart, you're certainly not going to notice Orrin Hatch singing in the background.]
But Hatch isn't the only Christian with musical gifts for the Jews. Garrison Keillor has his own suggestion for a New Year's song:
Grab your loafers,
Come along if you wanna,
And we'll blow that shofar
For Rosh Hashanah"
If Ben Stiller still had his variety show I'm sure he'd be dressing up as Bruce Springsteen and belting that out to the tune of Born to Run on the very next episode. Or not, because bloggers and tweeters across the country are up in arms about this, though that may have more to do with the context surrounding those lyrics:
Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.
I'm on record as agreeing that most of the Christmas songs out there are dreck, but the chatter is not about defending the songs, but rather about defending the Jews. It's possible that Keillor actually does hate NPR listeners Jews, but I don't see it in that paragraph. Keillor's pretty much a crank in these essays, and this is a pretty tame comment compared to what he has to say about Unitarians, who have found far fewer defenders online. [It's worth noting that the Unitarian translation he objects to dates to the 1870s, which means the song is even older than Keillor is. Also, while many Unitarians are Jewish, the church does have some Christian members.]
In fact, the whole piece reads as a joke that doesn't quite work. Even more than most defense-of-Christmas screeds, Keillor's piece is muddled on exactly what the threat is or what we should be defending. Is he seriously arguing that gingerbread cookies are intrinsically connected with the birth of his savior, while a yule log and caroling are abominations that threaten the entire season? I know the man had a stroke, but he's still too sharp to actually believe that logic.
Finally, for those of you do like having songs rewritten, check out Rachel Sklar as "Lady Jew-Ga" singing Bad Shiksa. Sklar's costume is a little too demure compared to what Gaga herself wears in the video, but at least this atones for the fact that it's been almost a year since this site has had a photo of Rachel Sklar.
"Despite wealth estimated at $600 million, Disney remained shy and outwardly unpretentious, according to people who knew him. His main indulgences were a castle in Ireland, a jet, sports cars and financing a passion for sailboat racing." -- LA Times obituary of Roy Disney
Ah, December, that magical month when normally pleasant-looking building are hidden behind garish holiday Christmas decorations, slow-moving tourists and shoppers clog the streets, and you can't turn on the radio or enter a store without hearing the same dozen Christmas holiday songs on endless repeat. True, some of these songs are quite catchy, but it is asking too much to hear something new? The most recent addition to the holiday canon is Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas Is You, and that's 15 years old now. It seems unlikely that a new tune will ever be added into the rotation.
And yet, every year artists across the musical spectrum release more holiday albums, confident that, even if these songs will have no lasting impact on the culture, they will at least make some money. This year's more interesting options include Chirstmas In the Heart, Bob Dylan's much-discussed benefit album; A Cherry Cherry Christmas, a mix of reissues and new releases in which Neil Diamond tries to erase all the goodwill he built up with his recent Rick Rubin-produced albums; Joy To the World: A Bluegrass Christmas, one of those releases where the title tells you everything you need to know; If On a Winter's Night, Sting's take on old English carols; and Midwinter Graces in which Tori Amos abandons her attraction to sin in favor of some reimagined carols.
And yet, as artists like these search ever more desperately and futilely for some new take on Christmas song – the Bluegrass Christmas is one of over a dozen such albums from the last decade alone – with the exception of Diamond's cover of Adam Sandler's Chanukah Song, they continue to ignore the open field that is Hanukkah music. Is there no hope for this holiday that owes its prominence solely so that Jewish children can get some presents in December? Is there not one of us who will come forward to save future generations from having to rely on the Dreidel Song as the token Hanukkah entry thrown in among the standard noels? (Novelty songs, like the LeeVee's Hanukkah Rocks don't count.)
Or perhaps, since it was Jewish songwriters who created the Christmas classics, some nice goyim will come along and bless us with a nice Hanukkah song? Well, our prayers have been answered, in the form of Senator Orrin Hatch who has written – though thankfully does not sing – a new song titled "Eight Days of Hanukkah."
The Times describes this as "A Senator's Gift to the Jews, Nonreturnable" – which leaves open the hope that we might find a way to regift it – but it's more than that, as Jonah Jeffrey [Oops - Ed.] Goldberg notes in the article that introduces this musical shonda to the world:
"Hatch said he hoped his song would be understood not only as a gift to the Jewish people but that it would help bring secular Jews to a better understanding of their own holiday. "I know a lot of Jewish people that don't know what Hanukkah means," he said. Jewish people, he said, should "take a look at it and realize the miracle that's being commemorated here. It's more than a miracle; it's the solidification of the Jewish people."
That's one interpretation. Another, that Goldberg addresses, is that Hanukkah commemorates the victory of religious zealots over liberal reformers:
One of contradictions of Hanukkah—an unexplored contradiction in our culture's anodyne understanding of the holiday—is that the Maccabee brothers were fighting not for the principle of religious freedom but only for their own particular religion's freedom. Their understanding of liberty did not extend even—or especially—to the Hellenized Jews of Israel's coastal plains. The Maccabees were rough Jews from the hill country of Judea. They would be amused, if they were capable of amusement, to learn that their revolt would one day be remembered as a struggle for a universal civil right.
But not knowing all the details of the historical event that Hanukkah commemorates is different form not knowing what Hanukkah means; which is, of course, whatever you want it to mean. One of the many advantages Hanukkah has over Christmas is that we don't have millions of self-appointed experts and thousands of songs, movies and TV shows telling us how to properly observe the Festival of Lights. We are free to commemorate a great victory or merely note a minor miracle; to celebrate the Maccabees or to skip over their involvement; or – my preference – to just gather with friends and family to light some candles and eat and drink to excess. On second thought, we don't need any new Hanukkah songs; they'd only ruin the party.
One of the more annoying things about reading news online is when you come across one of those Time magazine articles that inserts contextually-generated links to other articles after every other paragraph.
"You're just a shadow of what you used to be, just like my wife." -- Rob
"Stop eating your own feces." --TG Gibbon
"Christ, what a shadow." -- The Confidence Man
"If this is your non-verbal way of pointing out that I have the lights mounted on the wall of my office instead of the ceiling and yet, strangely, I cast no shadow at all, I take your point." -- Joshua
"Mr. Foo-Foo, you have a repetitive stress fracture consistent with scooping up field mice and bopping them on the head. A regimen of Ben Gay and ibuprofen should have you back at it in no time." -- Rich Lather
On the internet, no one knows you're a family newspaper
The New York Times, stalwart bastion of awkwardly fudging quotes to avoid profanity, just posted an article featuring, in its online incarnation, an interactive timeline of the history of cellular companies pretending that talking on the phone while you're driving isn't dangerous. I'm strongly in favor of spreading the gospel of not veering onto the sidewalk and smashing me through the window of a laundromat because somebody needed to check their messages in case their sister-in-law called to say what time to meet for dinner on Thursday, but I'm just as much in favor of accidental profanity from the Gray Lady. Click on "2006: Homemade PSA's" in the timeline, or just watch the video here. The s-bomb lands about 19 seconds in.
So it would seem the venerable hip-hop group was merely ridiculing first responders for dilly dallying. Got it. The bottomline: Public Enemy may be reckless and mean spirited edgy, but they're not insensitive, As it happens 911 is a Joke is from their 1990 album Fear of a Black Planet
The other take-away here is that one character can make a world of a difference.The addition of an errant slash mark transforms 911 to 9/11. The piece in the Washington Post left the impression that PE had heartlessly denigrated a tragedy that actually occurred 11 years after the song debuted. Notably, it took WaPo a week to set the record straight.
Also, even assholes who will say anything about anything to get attention (See: Beck, Glenn; Flav, Flavor...et. al.) agree that 9/11 was anything but a joke.
While we're on the subject (and because no one else is blogging), another one-character gaffe is "now" instead of "not" (or visa versa). In the 80's as a reporter covering the Consumer Electronics Show, I once wrote "Sony said it will not introduce VCRs in the VHS format." It was published as "Sony said it will now introduce ..." The Sony flack was furious. (At the time, this was like saying PETA was getting ready to sell mink coats.) My magazine ran a correx but It turned out to be an inadvertent scoop: The company that pioneered the Beta format ultimately relented and added VHS hardward to its product assortment. So, unlike the Washington Post, I was right. (For other memorable correxs, including one by NYT 49 years after the fact, go here.)