Blather HQ is undergoing some
hellish, gut-wrenching, dust-raising, hammer-and-saw-based destruction renovations. Back next week.
Blather HQ is undergoing some
hellish, gut-wrenching, dust-raising, hammer-and-saw-based destruction renovations. Back next week.
David Blaine reportedly broke into tears on his release from a Plexiglass cube suspended over the Thames embankment, telling reporters: "This has been one of the most important experiences of my life." The reporters started to ask followup questions, then stopped, stared into the middle distance, blinked repeatedly, looked at each other out of the corners of their eyes, started to speak again, stopped, wetted their lips with their tongues, paused, scratched absently at their scalps with their pencils, looked at each other again, shrugged, then drifted away to their cars, trying to pinpoint the exact moment when their lives had turned so awful and empty and sad.
University of Cincinnati professor James Kellaris has given a name to the tunes that get stuck in our heads, and even found out the ones most likely to do so: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," "Who Let The Dogs Out" and Chili's "I Want My Baby Back" jingle. (His highly unscientific study surveyed 500 students, faculty and staff on the U of C campus.) Other findings: Women are bothered more by earworms than men, and people who are around music suffer them more frequently.
The Treasury Department has invested in one of those spiffy "web sites" to hip Americans to the new $20 bills. Accessible from the site are a press kit, a fact sheet, and links to current TV spots, all of which are apparently predicated on the assumption that average citizens will be so flummoxed by the slightly new color scheme and minor redesign that they'll stare slack-jawed at the new bills the first time they receive them in change, turning them over and over in their hands, folding them into awkward shapes and attempting to use them to start their cars or shampoo their hair.
There's nothing sadder than seeing two starry-eyed, deep-in-love kids, all goofed up on the romantic thrill of being young and besotted with each other, hit the rocks. But that seems to be what's happened with a couple of crazy dreamers named Liza and David, and it's ended up where all love stories eventually end up: In the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York. (God bless The Smoking Gun for this.)
Guys who popularize pop-unders sue X10, win $4.3 million. Millions wonder who, if anybody, to sympathize with.
1. I'm gellin' like Civil War general George B. McClellan (1826-1885)
2. I'm gellin' like Lake Chelan (north-central Washington; third-largest freshwater lake in the US)
3. I'm gellin' like Herman Snellen (1834-1908; inventor of the opthamological eye-testing chart which bears his name)
4. I'm gellin' like net melon (the fruit of a variety of muskmelon vine)
5. I'm gellin' like Integrelin (trade name for eptifbatide, a cyclic peptide derived from rattlesnake venom)
6. I'm gellin' like Sir Ian McKellen (British actor, 1939 - )
7. I'm gellin' like Excelan (manufacturers of Ethernet cards)
8. I'm gellin' like matfelon (a synonym for knapweed)
9. I'm gellin' like Margarelon (a mythological Trojan hero, son of Priam)
10. I'm gellin like Fran篩s de Salignac de la Mothe-F鮥lon (more commonly known as Fran篩s F鮥lon, 1651 - 1715: a Roman Catholic theologian, poet and writer, best remembered as the author of "The Adventures of Telemachus," a scabrous attack on the French monarchy, first published in 1699. F鮥lon was appointed Archbishop of Cambrai in 1695, but the publication of his "Explanation of the Sayings of the Saints on the Interior Life" was condemned and he retired, complaining to the end of his days about the sore arches he sustained during long hours of celebrating Mass. On his deathbed in 1715, he was reported to have cried out to God: "Mon Dieu! Why have You not yet invented a flexible, gel-filled insole with which to provide the cushioning support Your humble servants demand?")
The University of Minnesota ("A Darn Good Education at a Reasonable Price, Dontcha Know") hosts this wonderful archive of social-hygiene posters from the early part of the last century through the '60s. Even in those less-enlightened times, I suspect, prostitutes might have balked at being described as "bags of trouble."
100 people a day wake up during surgery, paralyzed and unable to call out for help, according to a new study. The chairman of anesthesia and critical care medicine at the University of Chicago issues a pointed harrumph at the research, which was sponsored by makers of a system that monitors levels of operative sedation: "These studies have not been vetted through the peer-reviewed process," says Dr. Jeffrey Apfelbaum. "We are all anxious to find a way to minimize the incidence of this problem, but we need to do it through sound science." Ummm... Hey, doc? You know what I need to do? Not wake up during surgery with a freakin' tube down my throat. And with all due respect, you know what you need to do? Make sure I don't wake up during surgery with a freakin' tube down my throat. Why don't you make that your first priority -- you know, in your capacity as a professional anesthesiologist and all -- and worry about the niceties of peer review later, mmmkay? Thanks a bunch.
Greg Daniels is a talented guy -- I've often thought about the irony that the animated "King of the Hill" has some of the most recognizably human characters in prime time -- but jeez, does American TV really have to USAify everything that works a little bit somewhere else in the world? Yes, bad offices and bad bosses are universal. But American pop culture has already produced a definitive statement on the soul-deadening that can take place in a cubicle. And now so have the Brits, who have had the smarts not to push the joke too far, limiting production thus far to 12 episodes over two seasons. Can an American version, which will start life with an initial order equal to The Office's entire history and immediately start to feel pressure to do whatever it takes to get an order for more, meet that same standard of angry brilliance? History isn't on its side.
Reader Jessi Buchanan passes along this story about a new advance in monkey-brain technology, which is fascinating for both its content and the weird poetry of its headline: "Monkey mind moves robotic arm". (I also like it because it allows me to use the phrase "monkey-brain technology.") I'm no scientist, but if I were I'd stuff this research deep into the same drawer where I hide the data on wireless underwear. Call me a Luddite -- I'm just not sure monkeys should have the power to control anything with their minds, let alone powerful gripping instruments.
Gizmodo reports today on wireless underwear that monitors a user's heart rate and can automatically call an ambulance in the event of a heart attack. Putting aside for a moment the insane, mind-bending greatness of the phrase "wireless underwear," we should pause to consider other potential uses of this technology. Why, for example, should the things be hardwired to dial an ambulance? Is there any reason they couldn't be coded to call, say, "Larry King Live," 1-800-DENTIST, or an old girlfriend from college? What if they just want to call other underwear? Is there a variety of truss that can be programmed to call Domino's when telltale stomach-rumbling is detected? I wonder these things. Then I look again at the phrase "wireless underwear" and laugh uncontrollably.
It's easy to feel sorry for the city fathers of Sayre, OK, which recently lost its biggest cash cow, a privately-run prison, in an arcane dustup over long-distance phone rates charged to inmates. (In a demographic twist that probably makes perfect sense in the world of for-profit penology, the facility housed 989 prisoners from Wisconsin.) Then you read down to the part of this New York Times story that contains the financial details: AT&T and the town split, roughly 60-40, the revenues from the prisoner calls, which ran to $3.95 for a connection and 89 cents per minute, or about $22 for a 20-minute call.
Researchers at UCLA report that the social "pain" of being snubbed or passed over affects precisely the same areas of the brain as visceral pain, like the pain of being punched in the stomach. Continuing research is expected to prove a similar connection between social pain and so-called "comedy pain," which results from being hit in the groin with a medicine ball or stepping on a rake and having it spring upward and whap you across the nose, and also "cartoon pain" (e.g., being driven deep into a silhouette-shaped hole in the sidewalk by a falling piano).
No less a religious scholar than Billy Graham (or the underpaid low-level PR lackey who writes the column that runs under Graham's name) declares that no matter what we do, we can never ever please God or live up to His demanding standards, like that time when we were 17 and God told us to quit hanging out at Sam's Pizza and spending our allowance on pinball and cheesesteaks. Theologians have ruled this interpretation of the human-divine relationship a "tremendous relief."
Psychology Today reports that breast-augmentation surgery is generally held to be safe, if by "safe" you mean "more likely to result in suicide."
J. David Davis was named president and GM of WABC-TV New York yesterday. The move comes after what MediaWeek describes as "the abrupt departure Tuesday of Thomas Kane." Reached for comment, Kane told reporters: "I had a doctor's appointment Tuesday. I've been what?"
Did a screaming, hissy-fit-throwing Deborah Norville cost a 72-year-old security guard his job? It's unclear -- there are two sides to every story, and the Dallas Observer doesn't run Norville's take on the incident. If it isn't true, then the Observer has passed on a false rumor and maligned a beloved American TV news celebrity, and shame on them. Norville is best known for hosting "Inside Edition," and for a 1996 incident in which she beat a hobo to death with a tire iron. (Via Romenesko.)
It now seems like we have an answer to the question: "Is there any depth to which the new chuckle-happy CNN won't sink?" (Answer: No.) Reporting this story, about a British study into the flavor variations resulting from various thicknesses of sliced cheese, Headline News actually had sparkly-eyed anchorbabe Linda Stouffer say by way of intro: "It all depends on how you cut the cheese." Stouffer seemed blissfully unaware of the gag, which suggests that either a) she has never heard the expression, or b) she has, but the words that escape her mouth do so unmediated by any interaction with her brain. In the subsequent two-shot of the anchor desk, co-anchor Chuck Roberts briefly flashed an expression of the deepest existential pain, like a man who has found himself trapped in a remunerative nightmare from which he can never fully awake, then went to commercial.
MediaWeek reports that a petition filed with the FCC by Ralph Nader's Commercial Alert group may threaten product placement on TV. The petition asks the FCC to require that the networks "prominently disclose" placements in their shows. "It would diminish the very reason why we do product placement deals -- to integrate products into a show without calling attention to them as commercials," one media buyer said in a ringing, courageous defense of the practice, and speaking on condition of anonymity.
You've got to find this Reuters report on the Roy Horn mauling incident a little troubling: According to AP, Siegfried & Roy manager Bernie Yuman says the attack may have happened because "the tiger got distracted by something in the audience." Apparently the problem with white tigers isn't that they're wild carnivores and therefore somewhat unpredictable in a dinner-show context; it's that they're distractable. In fairness, no one in the Siegfried & Roy organization, which employs 267 people at the Mirage Hotel alone, could have been expected to predict that the tiger might be exposed to provocations like a guy with a pinky ring signaling for another Dewar's.
Scandinavians are naturally reticent, and the members of the Norwegian Nobel Institute are more close-mouthed than most. So it's no surprise that the Institute's director, Geir Lundestad, is reluctant to handicap this year's crop of 165 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Except when it comes to Michael Jackson.
If you're a pastor and you've been worrying that you're just not reaching 'em in the very back pews, it may not be your sermon that's the problem. Why, have you considered that it could be your PA system? Think now: Wouldn't the Word sound punchier and clearer and just more, I don't know, religious booming out of a new SLS International ribbon-driver speaker system? You bet it would! Just listen to these words of praise from pastor Patrick Kucera of Frontline Ministries Church in Overland Park, KS: "None of the other big brand name speakers that I have used during my many years as a minister even come close to the sound quality. I'm very pleased to have them in our Church." So get SLS International today! That's SLS -- "Louder, Crisper, and Saintlier Since 1966!"
RSVP -- it's all the gnawing social misery of a bad dinner party PLUS the trendy busyness of Flash animation! (And it isn't like it's cruelly addictive or anything. No way. I'm waaaay too smart for that.)
I'm not sure UPI is approaching the issue of papal mortality with the respect it deserves. Exhibit A: This piece (which is actually pretty interesting) about the protocol that attends the death of the pope. A ritual that's been abandoned in recent years is the one in which the Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church taps the late pontiff on the forehead three times with a small hammer to ascertain if he's actually dead. UPI's headline: "Dead Pope Will Not Be Hammered." (The second part of this discontinued ceremony, by the way, is the one in which the Chamberlain "[shouts the pope's] family name close to his ear." I swear I'm not making this up. Congratulations to UPI, at least, for not slugging their dispatch "Dead Pope Will Not Be Yelled At.")
Thanks to artist/social commentator/provocateur Jessi Buchanan for the link.