Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Home Depot, Iraqi style...

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Hours after British troops handed over a military base to Iraqi forces, hundreds of Iraqis -- some with their faces covered and wielding guns -- looted it, police and army officials told CNN Friday.

The base, Abu Camp Naji, is in the southern city of Amara in Maysan province.

The looters took materials such as doors, window frames, corrugated roofing and metal pipes and loaded them onto trucks.

Save your receipt, Achmed, I hear the return policy is brutal.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Joan Collins emerges from crypt intact

OK, I realize it takes makeup, hairspray, dental veneers, special padding, scalp retractors, titanium plates, kevlar webbing, carbon-fiber supports, some tile grout and half a roll of duct tape to make this happen, but by golly... she's 73!

Now, that's amazing.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Maynard Ferguson Dead

For about 10 nanoseconds in the 70's Maynard Ferguson was big. Bigger than the BeeGees, bigger than Farrah Fawcett even. He had a huge hit with a disco version of the Rocky theme "Gonna Fly Now" featuring his screaming trumpet high-notes. And just as every teenage girl adopted "Farrah hair", every teenage trumpet player adopted the "Maynard Pose", seen above. The object was to make playing the trumpet appear like one of the labors of Hercules.

For a while he made the trumpet seem as cool as the guitar and those of us who played something else in the junior high band could only dream that a messiah would come along for our instrument too.

I saw Ferguson live at a high school band festival our band went to. I recall being impressed by his flute player who could play two notes at once. But although he was really a jazz player, his one hit had left him with a base of fans who only wanted to hear him screech out high notes on "Gonna Fly Now".

I also recall seeing him on Tom Snyder's old Tomorrow program in the early 80's. The band he had with him looked like it might be in violation of child labor laws. As the camera panned across them during a number, they had that terrified "what's the count?" look musicians get when they can't remember if they've counted 32 measures of rest or 42 or 52 or 22 or...

UPDATE: link to some video of Maynard Ferguson performing
Them be high notes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fifth-Column Mouse

Monday was Friz Freleng's (possibly) 100th birthday and we're supposed to blog about one of his cartoons.

Fifth-Column Mouse is a WWII-era propaganda cartoon about the lurking threat that collaborators and enemy sympathizers pose on the home front. It's a cat and mouse cartoon, but the thing that struck me most about it was this was the first time I had ever heard "double-talk".

Since then I've spotted it in several other movies from the 1940's. A guy will start out speaking normal english and gradually drift into a collection of syllables that have the rhythm and flow of normal speech but mean nothing. I dont' know who invented it but it was very disorienting the first time I heard it.

Hey... what did that mouse just say?

Fifth-Column Mouse is a great cartoon; it makes you nostalgic for the time when wars had clear good guys and bad guys and a definite end. It was on a VHS collection of wartime cartoons once, I'm not sure about the DVD status.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Apologies to America

The MSNBC segment below is a typically superficial look at our President.

But there was one interesting note: the notion that George W. Bush had appeared much more able as Governor of Texas.

Is that why he came so close to winning the 2000 election? Because people believed he had successful executive experience behind him?

Note to fellow Americans: do not vote for someone because they were "good" at being Governor of Texas. Here in Texas the Governorship is practically an honorary position. Unlike most states where the governor appoints the people in the executive branch below him, in Texas those positions are filled by direct election. They owe nothing to the Governor and spend most of their time serving their own interests. If the Gov has plans, they need neither listen nor obey.

A Governor of Texas may or may not be a fine and effective person but it doesn't really matter either way. The Governor of Puerto Rico exercises more power.

The real authority in Texas is the Lieutenant Governor (elected separately from the Governor) who actively presides over the state senate and controls all committee appointments. No bill can even get considered in the Texas senate without the Lt. Gov's backing.

George W. Bush was never Lt. Governor here. His previous leadership experience was being the son of George H.W. Bush and and being a minority owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team.

I apologize to the nation for not making this clear earlier.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Snacks on a plane

Tip for travelers: When you get your in-flight yogurt, check to see if the foil lid is bulging up or down. Maybe it's the cabin pressure, maybe it sat on "the tarmac" in the sun all day, but if it's bulging up, yogurt is going to come spraying out when you peel the top back.

Don't peel the edge facing you; peel the edge facing the passenger next to you.

"Tarmac" is an odd word. I don't think I ever heard anyone speak it until some TV reporter used it in decribing where a body landed after being pushed out of a plane by a hijacker. Now I can just about count on overhearing "the tarmac" every time I go to the airport.

But it seems to be a misnomer. Tarmac is not a location at an airport. Tarmac is an early method of paving with tar and gravel, and very few airports employ any tarmac in their construction.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Idea for new ride at Disneyworld

I used to think flying into Chicago's Midway Airport was scary. Stuck in the middle of the city, it has absolutely no undeveloped buffer around it. Even though there was a surprisingly steep dive to the runway on approach you were still skimming so low over peoples' houses that you could look down on their backyard picnic and tell whether they were having hamburgers or hot dogs.

But to paraphrase Al Jolsen... "that ain't nothin'" compared to a regularly scheduled airline flight into Baghdad International Airport. Time reporter Aparisim Ghosh explains:

...Sister Benedetta smiles politely when I joke that many of our fellow passengers will be calling to their maker when the plane begins its hellish descent. To avoid being shot down by Iraqi insurgents, the pilot must stay at 30,000 ft. until the plane is directly over Baghdad airport, then bank into a spiraling dive, straightening up just yards from the runway. If you're looking out the window, it can feel as if the plane is in a free fall from which it can't possibly pull out.


During one especially difficult landing in 2004, a retired American cop wouldn't stop screaming "Oh, God! Oh, God!" I finally had to slap him on the face--on instructions from the flight attendant. Another time the man in the window seat was a muscular, heavily tattooed Polynesian ex-commando who spent an hour telling me of his life as a mercenary in a succession of South Pacific island nations--stories that often ended with his punching, stabbing or shooting somebody. When the Fokker began its steep descent, he began whimpering to Jesus and grabbing my forearm so tight, I felt my palm go cold from lack of circulation.

You can read his whole article, Life in Hell: A Baghdad Diary on Time's website. From reading it one can't help but conclude that we've taken a bad but stable situation and converted it into a far worse and more unstable catastrophe.

Obviously a catastrophe for the 100,000+ innocent dead, and a catastrophe for those still living through it, and (self-centered american here) a catastrophe for our country's standing in the world. We've been dealing dirty in the arab/islamic world for decades but I can't imagine them ever forgiving us for this.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Forever Forty-Seven

If my boyfriend Monte were still here I'm sure we'd still be having fun but I'm sure he'd be horrified at turning 54 today.

I'd probably just put 49 candles on his car cake.

Monte and I spent alot of time working on cars. One day we were working on his 1962 Cadillac. Without warning... POOF!... the whole top surface of the engine looks like a barbecue grill after you toss a match onto the lighter fluid.

Monte ran to the garage, then ran back carrying an aerosol can with no markings on it at all (of which he had many). He starts spraying it all over the engine and the fire goes out.

"I'm glad I picked the right can," he gasped, "I wasn't sure this was the fire extinguisher."

So the cadillac coupe lived to drive another day...

...until it caught fire again, just in time for the insurance money to finance the downpayment on a house.

There was another unlabeled can in Monte's garage that seemed like magic. It was something his father (a former FAA pilot) had acquired from he-wouldn't-say-where. If you've never struggled with rusted bolts in painfully inconvenient spots on 40 year-old cars this will be meaningless to you, but you could spray this stuff on anything, and no matter how solidly rusted in place it might be, it would come loose.

Banned for brain cancer-causing fumes? Salvaged from a wrecked alien starship? I don't know, but we never found anything else like it and we were heart-broken when it ran out.

Peace-maker wanna-bes

So here's one of the headlines today:

I wonder how the Israelis and Hezbollah feel about a couple of withered world powers (who aren't even doing the fighting) deciding how it will all turn out?

Let's build on this momentum, though...

Get New Zealand and Uruguay to end the Kashmir dispute and ask Iceland and The Caymen Islands solve that China-Taiwan thing.

Could it be any less effective?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Looking better every day

Only by comparison, of course.

But yes, he could actually play that thing. After he lost the 1960 campaign he appeared on the Jack Paar show and played a song he had composed himself. That's video I'd be curious to see.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Frontier beer goggles... the morning after

"Yeah, he's hairy, he's overweight and he has a hump on his back but it's not like I can be picky", explained the buffalo.